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Origene: Homelies sur les Psaumes 36 a 38.

The nine homilies on Psalms 36-38 (LXX numbering) which are contained in this volume are all that survive, apart from fragments preserved mainly in the catenae, of Origen's extensive writings on the Psalms. They are themselves preserved only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, made probably in the year 401 (cf. C. P. Bammel in vol. 28 of this Journal, p. 428). This edition reprints, without critical apparatus, that prepared by Prinzivalli for the series Biblioteca Patristica, and the translation and notes are the work of Crouzel and Bresard. The introduction, though relatively brief, includes a useful summary of each homily (pp. 19-22) and sections on Origen as `pasteur' and `contemplatif' (pp. 26-31), but no detailed study of his exegetical methods. In fact, as Crouzel points out (p. 18), Rufinus provides the best guide to Origen's treatment of the Psalms when in his preface he describes the exposition as `tota moralis'. Despite the lengthy flights of fancy to which Origen's exegesis is prone, he indeed sticks closely to the moral meaning of Scripture, discussing thoroughly such issues as amendment of life, penitence, justice, and judgement.

Two critical questions deserve mention. First, inevitably, is the question of the reliability of Rufinus' translation. The catena fragments (printed on pp. 408-53) offer the prospect of checking the Latin version, and have occasionally been used to help establish the text (p. 38); but an examination suggests that they usually preserve only the skeleton of the argument rather than the full homiletic development which is evident in Rufinus' version (and presumably reflects Origen's original). There is little in the subject matter of the homilies to arouse suspicion of any doctrinal alterations by Rufinus (though see p. 110, n. 1, for a reference to Origen's doctrine of apokatastasis).

Secondly, there is the question of the influence of Origen, through the translations of Jerome and Rufinus or through indirect channels, on Latin authors, including Augustine, who could not or did not read Origen in Greek. Dr Caroline Bammel, whose authoritative discussion of the dates of Rufinus' translations was referred to above, investigated the influence of Origen's Pauline exegesis on Augustine (see Augustinianum, 32 (1992), pp. 341-68, and Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 47 (1996), pp. 223-35). Her results prompt the question, whether the influence of Origen might be detected in Augustine's exegesis of other biblical books. I have failed, unfortunately, to find any obvious points of contact between Origen's nine homilies and Augustine's Enarrationes on Psalms 36-38 (none preached earlier than 401); but these homilies are only a small part of Origen's work, and the general question of his influence on Augustine is certainly not unworthy of further investigation.

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Author:Gould, Graham
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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