Origen and the History of Justification
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Standard accounts of the history of interpretation of Paul’s Letter to the Romans often begin with St. Augustine. As Thomas P. Scheck demonstrates, however, the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 CE) was a major work of Pauline exegesis which, by means of the Latin translation preserved in the West, had a significant influence on the Christian exegetical tradition.

Scheck begins by exploring Origen’s views on justification and on the intimate connection of faith and post-baptismal good works as essential to justification. He traces the enormous influence Origen’s Commentary on Romans had on later theologians in the Latin West, including the ways in which theologians often appropriated Origen’s exegesis in their own work. Scheck analyzes in particular the reception of Origen by Pelagius, Augustine, William of St. Thierry, Erasmus, Cornelius Jansen, the Anglican Bishop Richard Montagu, and the Catholic lay apologist John Heigham, as well as Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and other Protestant Reformers who harshly attacked Origen’s interpretation as fatally flawed. But as Scheck shows, theologians through the post-Reformation controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries studied and engaged Origen extensively, even if not always in agreement.

An important work in patristics, biblical interpretation, and historical theology, Origen and the History of Justification establishes the formative role played by Origen’s Pauline exegesis, while also contributing to our understanding of the theological issues surrounding justification in the western Christian tradition.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 février 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268093020
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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and the History of Justification
The Legacy of Origen’s Commentary on Romans
Foreword by Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J.
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
Copyright © 2008 by University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
E-ISBN 978-0-268-09302-0
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at ebooks@nd.edu Manufactured in the United States of America Paperback edition published in 2016 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Scheck, Thomas P., 1964– Origen and the history of justification : the legacy of Origen’s commentary on Romans / Thomas P. Scheck. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-268-04128-1 (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN-10: 0-268-04128-8 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-268-04153-3 (pbk : alk. paper)—ISBN-10: 0-268-04153-9 (pbk : alk. paper) 1. Origen. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2. Bible. N. T. Romans—Commentaries. I. Title. BS2665.53S34 2008 227’.106092—dc22 2008000407 ∞ The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. -->
Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J.
Acknowledgments and Dedication
Chapter 1 Origen’s Doctrine of Justification
Chapter 2 Pelagius’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Chapter 3 Augustine’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Chapter 4 William of St. Thierry’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Chapter 5 Erasmus’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Chapter 6 Luther and Melanchthon’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Chapter 7 Post-Reformation Controversies over Origen’s Exegesis of Romans
Conclusion: Origen and Modern Exegesis
List of Abbreviations and Short Titles of Frequently Cited Works
Index of Passages Cited from Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Index -->
In the opening two or three pages of the introduction to his anthology of Origen’s writings, Hans Urs von Balthasar sketched, brilliantly and with compact elegance, the history of Origen’s thought up to his condemnation at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553, and beyond the council to the Middle Ages. Von Balthasar invoked two striking images to make his point.
Balthasar’s first image is a sad one: what we have of Origen’s writings is like the wreckage of an aircraft after a crash, twisted pieces of metal strewn randomly about a forest or a field. To reassemble the aircraft is difficult, if not impossible, and we can only guess at its original form and even beauty. Because of the ecumenical council’s rejection of Origen, most of his writings, in their original Greek, were lost or destroyed. More of his work survived in Latin translation, on the supposition that the saintly translators had removed the poison from these writings and made them safe and wholesome. But still, we piece the picture together only with difficulty and seldom with certainty.
The second image that von Balthasar proposes is more hopeful, and even intriguing: Origen was a vessel filled with precious perfume that was shattered into a thousand pieces, and the perfume has filled the whole house.
The latter image is the one that Thomas Scheck chose to follow. Students of Origen are familiar with the general outlines of the influence he exerted. Negatively, his thought was reduced to a system, and a somewhat heretical system at that, concerned mostly with the beginning and the end of things. It was this system, utterly unfaithful to Origen’s inquiring and restless mind, that was condemned in the middle of the sixth century. Positively, Origen’s writings, especially his writings on the Bible, were eagerly plundered—sometimes by those who acknowledged their source, and sometimes by those who did not. As a result, the exegetical tradition of the Church, in the West as in the East, owes far more to Origen than has generally been acknowledged in the past.
The last half-century or so saw a dramatic, and happy, growth of interest in Origen’s writings on Holy Scripture. Symbolically, at least, this revival goes back to a famous sentence that Henri de Lubac wrote: “Observe Origen at work.” What de Lubac meant to do, it seems, was to draw attention away from Origen’s speculative works, especially On First Principles , and to focus it on his sermons and scriptural commentaries. The Origen of the homilies and commentaries, especially the later ones, is far more pastoral, and more centrist, than the Origen of the earlier, speculative works. The decades since de Lubac wrote that famous sentence have been fruitful: many good translations of Origen’s writings on Scripture have been made, and scholarly study of these works has flourished.
One of Origen’s works, however, remained a sort of stepchild, neglected and disregarded—that is, his Commentary on Romans . A fresh critical edition of the Latin text became available only in the 1990s. Thomas Scheck has undertaken, almost singlehandedly, to bring about a broader knowledge of Origen’s Commentary on Romans and a greater appreciation of it. In 2001 and 2002 he published, in two volumes, the first English translation of the commentary, in the series Fathers of the Church. Now, in the book here presented, he follows, in a scholarly fashion, the perfume that spread throughout the house, the Church, from the shattered vessel of Origen’s learning.
A key word in most of his chapter titles in this book is “reception.” In theological usage, the word was first more common in German, in the form Rezeption . In this theological sense, reception differs markedly from acceptance. One accepts a material gift, and the acceptance does not change the gift: one accepts a vase and puts it on a shelf. But the reception of ideas, and of the texts that express them, is different. The receiver may ponder and exploit some passages attentively, and glide over others; he may understand them in a way that the author never intended; and he will fit the author’s ideas into his own world of thought. Reception, therefore, is a living, dynamic process. No one can simply take another’s idea and put it on an intellectual shelf; each idea is integrated into the receiver’s own universe. Thus, the study of the reception of Origen’s commentary is a complex and intriguing undertaking.
It is a privilege for me to write some “words beforehand” to Thomas Scheck’s impressive book. The book serves two great purposes: it brings into clearer light some of the key theological themes of Origen’s understanding of St. Paul, and it guides the reader and the theologian along the winding and sometimes bewildering road leading from the third century to the present, as generations of Christians struggled to understand and appropriate St. Paul’s great Epistle to the Romans, with Origen leading the way.
Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J.
Acknowledgments and Dedication
This book began as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Iowa (“The Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans in the Latin West,” 2004). I am grateful to the members of my interdisciplinary Ph.D. committee for their guidance and support. Thomas Williams was my thesis supervisor. James McCue and Dwight Bozeman were committee members, as well as John Finamore and Craig Gibson. I also received advice from Ralph Keen. The suggestions of all these scholars led to substantial improvements.
From outside the University of Iowa, I received direct help from Joseph Lienhard, J. Patout Burns, Steven Cartwright, and Mark Reasoner. The criticisms of anonymous readers from Brill Press and from the University of Notre Dame Press greatly improved both the structure and the argument of my manuscript. I am grateful to Ralph McInerny, who awarded me a postdoctoral research fellowship in the University of Notre Dame’s Jacques Maritain Center. The revision of the original dissertation took place during my two wonderful years at Notre Dame. The result reminds me of Tertullian’s prefatory words concerning his expanded edition of his treatise Against Marcion: “This present text, therefore, of my work—which is the third from the second, but henceforward to be considered the first instead of the third—renders a preface necessary to this edition of the work . . .” Finally, I am sincerely grateful to two colleagues, Bret Sunnerville and Jay Martin, who showed a keen interest in this research project and offered much intelligent feedback and encouragement. The work is dedicated to my wife, Susan, who is the mother of our six children.
In his magnum opus, Medieval Exegesis, Henri de Lubac stated that the full significance of Rufinus of Aquileia’s Latin translations of Origen for the development of Christian thought and Western culture has not yet been fully measured. 1 For me Lubac’s words constitute a challenge, and I hope that the following investigation will contribute in a small way to measuring the influence of one of Rufinus’s most important Latin translations, that of Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (hereafter CRm ). The following table shows the approximate length of Origen’s major writings.
Table 1. Approximate Length of Origen’s Major Extant Works (According to the Latin Text That Appears in Migne) 2
Title of Work (with ancient Latin translator)
Number of Columns in Migne (PG 11–17)
* Against Celsus
Commentary on Romans (Rufinus)
* Commentary on John

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