Tag Archives: Origen of Alexandria

Now Available: Origen Of Alexandria: Exegetical Works on Ezekiel

origen on ezekiel

 

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This morning I received an email with exciting news. Roger Pearse now has a book on the translation of Origen’s exegesis of Ezekiel. Not only do I love the book of Ezekiel but also the Alexandrian school. The work includes the Greek fragments of 14 homilies by Origen and is 742 pages long. It can be purchased in paperback or hardcover.

Here’s the description:

“Origen of Alexandria was the most famous ancient commentator on the bible. Time has taken most of his works from us, but what remains is still interesting and valuable even today. Fourteen of his expository homilies on Ezekiel have reached us, in a Latin version by St. Jerome, and these are presented in this volume together with an English translation. In addition all the fragments of the Greek text of this and his other works on Ezekiel are collected here, and translated into English for the first time.

This is volume 2 of the series Ancient Texts in Translation, edited by Roger Pearse.”

You can purchase it here on Amazon.com:

Origen Of Alexandria: Exegetical Works on Ezekie (Ancient Texts In Translation)

On Alexandrian Christianity: A Few Principles

alexandria matrix

Out of jest, my former blogging partial pseudonym was “Rod of Alexandria” not because I have been anywhere near Alexandria, Virginia, but because at that time I was researching and writing a thesis on Clement of Alexandria. In the program for graduation formally, my thesis project was known to the general audience as “Black Theology and Alexandrian Christianity.” Years later I am re-reading some of the same texts I used for my thesis for renewed take on things, and I am making observations of things that never occurred to me in my research (the first time around). In Christian academic circles, there are women and men who embrace labels like “Augustinian” “Wesleyan” “Calvinist” “Kuyperian” “Yoderian” “Hauerwasian” and Barfian “Barthian.”

How come no one identifies themselves as “Alexandrian?” Isn’t Athanasius the Black supposed to be like the Superman of Church History according to some theologians? I’ll leave this all to your own speculation, but in a way if the Alexandrians were the 1980’s comic book world,

Justice League

Justice League (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and Athanasius is Superman, Clement has to Batman, and Origen, well, he’s Plastic Man sitting on the Justice League bench. I don’t know how in depth scholars have gone, but some research suggests that Clement’s work was read by the Cappadocians, specifically Gregory the Theologian.  If this indeed the case, the eclectic writing of Clement may need to be re-examined

English: Clement of Alexandria, from book 1, f...

English: Clement of Alexandria, from book 1, folio 5 recto of Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres grecz, latins et payens (1584) by André Thevet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think there are several markers of Alexandrian Christianity that are either dismissed or “misunderstimated.” These defining principles I see as a viable alternative, to lets say, oh, the ever popular Barthian or Augustinian proposals

1. Logos Christology: By Logos Christology, I mean not only the pre-existant Logos that that silly Gospel of Mark never mentions, but also Jesus as Word teaching his disciples in the past, as well as teaching his followers today. In other words, its a High (creedal affirming, participatory) Christology where Jesus’ own words and actions are taken seriously.  In this Logos Christology, the motions of the Word in both the “Old” and “New” Testaments are viewed as a consistent movement calling us to fellowship with YHWH and our fellow human beings.

2. The Persistent Defense of Both God’s Goodness and Human Free Will: The supremacy of God in Clement’s and Athanasius’ theology is found in God’s moral superiority. The God of Judaism and Christianity is of a supreme moral character, and has endowed humanity with a freedom to choose good or evil.  This freedom is important for a few purposes: first, God is good enough to give us space to repent, to change from our evil ways. Second. human beings testify to the One True Loving God, over and against the divinities found in the ancient world of Greeks and Roman Egyptians. A key evidence for this is Clement’s Exhortation To the Greeks.

3. Reliance on Allegorical Interpretation Of Scripture: This is where many critical thinking Christians must depart with the Alexandrians.  Allegorical interpretation is frowned upon in both liberal and conservative Christian communities. This is where I think we get the Alexandrians wrong. First, I am just recently noticing that Clement of Alexandria, UNLIKE SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, knows HEBREW. Why is this important? Whereas Augustine is the Latin-Onlyist, using only the Vulgate, Clement is familiar with the original languages used to record Scripture.  Contrary to critics of allegorical interpretations, language is really important to Clement, and so are Jewish sources (again, unlike Mr. Augustine). What also gets overlooked when it comes to the Alexandrians’ allegorical interpretation is their tendency to depend upon a metaphor when addressing their interlocutors.  For Clement, the reigning metaphor in his theology is Christ as Teacher, humanity as children. This plays out in much of the works of his that we have.

4. A Commitment To Nonviolence: Clement does not look upon war favorably; he argues that while war takes a lot of preparation, the way of the Logos is one of peace and simplicity.  I don’t think John Howard Yoder himself could have articulated it much better. Both Origen and Clement had much to say about the evils of violence. As for Cyril, and his violence towards the Jewish community in his day? He unfortunately had to get cancelled like the Blue Beetle in the New 52. #SorryNotSorry!

5. A Vast Knowledge of Other Cultures: In Alexandria, Clement had no choice in being monocultural or multicultural.  He HAD to be aware of others stories in order to communicate with  his Greek and Roman Egyptian (and maybe Judean and maybe Turkish) audiences.  EXHORTATION is a wonderful example (or not so wonderful if Clement’s citations of various mythologies bores you to tears) of both Clement’s vision of Christian particularity in dialogue with general society.

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Clement of Alexandria's Influence On The Cappadocians

Last week, Roland Boer wrote on From Transcendence To Transgression and once more thinking about Transcendence, I got to thinking about my friend Clement of Alexandria. I think I am the only person alive who’s a fanboy of his, his writings as they are. On the Theology Studio Facebook group, we had a short discussion on what was transcendence, where can one find it, especially in Christian thought. I still see transcendence as praxis, God’s doing better than us in the world, going before us, fighting our battles like in the Old Testament imagery of the Angel YHWH. With Clement and James Cone, I maintain that transcendence has the restart button set on history as we as humans are enlightened to reimagine what transcendence looks like when it is reconciled with immanence.

One of my pet peeves is when scholars tie Clement and Origen together, if they weren’t 2 separate people living in 2 separate times. If Origen believes this, than so must Clement. This could not be further from the truth. I maintain my resistance I made everyone aware in Liberating Clement: No Origen does not perfect Clement’s teaching. It was Clement’s own fault that he was not a systematic think, really random and practical at times, and very Greek and Platonist at others. Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment of CoA and OoA. I am re-reading Henny Fisk Hagg’s Clement of Alexandria and the beginnings of Christian apophaticism. Hagg regrets the reception of Clement in modern studies, much like I, and unlike me who believes hesitantly that Clement exiled himself to Athens, Hagg claims that CoA wound up somewhere in modern-day Turkey (Cappodocia). There’s very little evidence for either of our positions, but Hagg contends that Clement’s, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Philo’s shared exegesis of Exodus 19, YHWH wrapping Godself in darkness with God displaying divine inapproachableness and universality. Origen, on the other hand, believes quite the opposite, that the darkness refers to human ignorance, and that we only need to be enlightened to see God ever-present.

Jesus as the Light takes on a different meaning, then, in John 1. With Origen’s interpretation lies a history of colonial enlightenment being brought from the colonizer to the colonial subject. With Clement, Jesus, who is the Power of this God of Cloudy Darkness who becomes like light. God is everywhere, and can choose to appear anywhere God wishes, as well as to choose to depart from any place, and this is why human language is unable to capture fully this Most Moved Mover. I don’t think it’s a stretch that the writer of John’s Gospel namedrops Moses, in the passages following the Word not being overcome by the darkness. Is the darkness human sinfulness, or is it divine transcendence, YHWH as Moses encountered? I am starting to believe the latter.

If Haag is right (and my guesstimations are wrong, which I am open) and Gregory of Nazianzus read Clement’s work at Caesarea Maritima, with us not knowing the extent of Clement’s reach in the 3rd century C.E., then the fact of Gregory of Nanzianus and his opposition to slavery become a little more relevant to Clementine studies. Just as Gregory’s understanding of the darkness of the LORD, the Owner of all things, a concept he may have learned from Clement is a subversive theology, transcendence remains a divine praxis, something that Christians gain greater understanding of in the Incarnation.

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