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Origen and Thomas 3: Methodology

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  • Stephen C. Carlson
    This next excerpt reflects on some methodological concerns of analyzing Origen s use of Thomas. My next posting after this will be on Monday. ... Due to the
    Message 1 of 9 , May 6 6:14 AM
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      This next excerpt reflects on some methodological concerns
      of analyzing Origen's use of Thomas. My next posting after
      this will be on Monday.

      --- Begin Excerpt ---
      Due to the completeness of the surviving text of the Gospel
      of Thomas, Origen's use of it can be studied more intently,
      but there are some difficulties. For example, because Origen
      did not quote any text from the Gospel of Thomas in connection
      with his enumeration of "unapproved" gospels, it is admittedly
      conceivable that he could have been thinking of some other
      gospel with the same name. In fact, another "Gospel of Thomas"
      has managed to survive into the present: the Infancy Gospel of
      Thomas. It is highly unlikely, however, that Origen would
      have known it under that name. Though the Infancy Gospel of
      Thomas was probably composed in the second or third century,
      it originally circulated as an anonymous account of Jesus's
      childhood and did not acquire its attribution to "Thomas the
      Israelite" probably until some time between the sixth and
      eleventh centuries. On the other hand, the Gospel of Thomas
      had already been known and quoted under that name by Origen's
      older contemporary, Hippolytus (Haer. 5.7.20). As a result,
      it is reasonable to conclude that Origen is indeed referring
      to the Gospel of Thomas, known today from the Nag Hammadi library.

      Another difficulty is that Origen might only know of the Gospel
      of Thomas through hear-say. In other words, he may have known
      of the text, without knowing its text. This possibility,
      however, is unlikely in view of his subsequent statement that
      "We have read many others, too, lest we appear ignorant of
      anything, because of those people who think they know something
      if they have examined these gospels." Though this declaration
      does not appear among the Greek catenae extracted from the homily,
      it is probably original because a similar statement in Ambrose's
      commentary on Luke, which borrows heavily from Origen, is present
      in the same context. According to this statement, then, the
      Gospel of Thomas was one of the gospels Origen had read, so that
      he would be properly informed about it should someone appeal to
      it. Indeed, Origen's behavior in reading the works of his
      opponents was not particularly unusual for him or for his era.
      After all, he must have read Celsus, True Word, which he quotes
      extensively in his refutation, Contra Celsum; moreover, the
      contemporaneous Plotinus had been attacking Roman Christians
      based on careful study of their writings. Thus it can be
      concluded that Origen had not only heard of the Gospel of Thomas,
      but that he had also studied its contents.

      The next difficulty for studying Origen's use of the Gospel of
      Thomas is that the first homily on Luke is the only place in
      his surviving body of work where he explicitly mentioned the
      Gospel of Thomas by name. All his other uses of the text are
      anonymous. The fact that Origen did not elsewhere quote anything
      as explicitly coming from the Gospel of Thomas makes it necessary
      to establish some criteria in determining whether Origen is
      using the Gospel of Thomas. In general, the apparent use of
      the Gospel of Thomas must be sufficiently close to Thomas so
      as to exclude other possible sources. Because about half of
      the Gospel of Thomas parallels the synoptic gospels, this
      criterion makes it nearly impossible to identify Origen's use
      of the Gospel of Thomas from those of its synoptic parallels.
      Rather, the best hunting grounds for the clearest cases of
      Origen's use of the Gospel of Thomas lie in its non-canonical
      material.
      --- End Excerpt ---

      --
      Stephen C. Carlson
      Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University
      Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
    • Michael Grondin
      ... Hi Stephen, Could you explain a little bit about what s going on here? I.e., what are the Greek catenae extracted from the homily (would that be the
      Message 2 of 9 , May 6 11:38 AM
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        > "We have read many others, too, lest we appear ignorant of
        > anything, because of those people who think they know something
        > if they have examined these gospels." Though this declaration does
        > not appear among the Greek catenae extracted from the homily ...

        Hi Stephen,

        Could you explain a little bit about what's going on here? I.e., what are
        "the Greek catenae extracted from the homily" (would that be the homily
        on Luke?)? Do we have a version other than the catenae? Does the
        same situation, whatever it is, hold for all of Origen's works?

        Regards,
        Mike
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... Origen s homilies on Luke have mainly survived in a a Latin translation by Jerome. It has also partially survived in Greek, in the form of catenae or
        Message 3 of 9 , May 6 12:27 PM
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          On May 6, 2009 2:38 PM, Michael Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
          >Could you explain a little bit about what's going on here? I.e., what are
          >"the Greek catenae extracted from the homily" (would that be the homily
          >on Luke?)? Do we have a version other than the catenae? Does the
          >same situation, whatever it is, hold for all of Origen's works?

          Origen's homilies on Luke have mainly survived in a a Latin translation
          by Jerome. It has also partially survived in Greek, in the form of
          "catenae" or brief excerpts combined with other patristic quotations
          to constitute a "chain" of commentaries on a verse. In addition,
          Ambrose was so heavily dependent on Origen for his commentary on Luke
          that Jerome accused him of plagiarism.

          As for other works of Origen, some of them have survived in Greek, but
          many others come down to use primarily in Latin translations by Jerome
          and Rufinus.

          Stephen

          --
          Stephen C. Carlson
          Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University
          Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
        • Michael Grondin
          ... As you can tell, I don t know much about this, but if you don t mind, I have a followup question based solely on trying to follow your reasoning. If
          Message 4 of 9 , May 6 1:27 PM
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            > Origen's homilies on Luke have mainly survived in a Latin translation
            > by Jerome. It has also partially survived in Greek, in the form of
            > "catenae" or brief excerpts combined with other patristic quotations ...

            As you can tell, I don't know much about this, but if you don't mind,
            I have a followup question based solely on trying to follow your reasoning.
            If Origen's homilies on Luke (how many?) survived in a Latin translation
            by Jerome, why do you write about the Origen statement in question:

            > Though this declaration does not appear among the Greek catenae
            > extracted from the homily, it is probably original because a similar
            > statement in Ambrose's commentary on Luke, which borrows heavily
            > from Origen, is present in the same context.

            Do you ignore Jerome's Latin translation here because the statement
            in question isn't in it? In that case, wouldn't it be better to describe
            the situation as being one in which the declaration appears in
            _neither_ the Greek catenae nor in Jerome's translation (the latter
            being presumably more complete, hence if anything perhaps even
            more worthy of mention in this context than the catenae)?

            Cheers,
            Mike
          • sarban
            ... From: Michael Grondin To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 9:27 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Origen and Thomas 3: Methodology ... As you can
            Message 5 of 9 , May 6 2:27 PM
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Michael Grondin
              To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 9:27 PM
              Subject: Re: [GTh] Origen and Thomas 3: Methodology





              > Origen's homilies on Luke have mainly survived in a Latin translation
              > by Jerome. It has also partially survived in Greek, in the form of
              > "catenae" or brief excerpts combined with other patristic quotations ...

              As you can tell, I don't know much about this, but if you don't mind,
              I have a followup question based solely on trying to follow your reasoning.
              If Origen's homilies on Luke (how many?) survived in a Latin translation
              by Jerome, why do you write about the Origen statement in question:

              > Though this declaration does not appear among the Greek catenae
              > extracted from the homily, it is probably original because a similar
              > statement in Ambrose's commentary on Luke, which borrows heavily
              > from Origen, is present in the same context.

              Do you ignore Jerome's Latin translation here because the statement
              in question isn't in it? In that case, wouldn't it be better to describe
              the situation as being one in which the declaration appears in
              _neither_ the Greek catenae nor in Jerome's translation (the latter
              being presumably more complete, hence if anything perhaps even
              more worthy of mention in this context than the catenae)?


              Hi Mike


              The statement is in Jerome but not the Greek catenae.

              At first sight this would just mean that the statement was not one of the extracts selected for the catenae. However there is a general problem that Jerome and Rufinus 'translated' freely in line with the theological concerns of a later age. Hence there is a potential concern that 'orthodox' passages in the Latin translations not found in the Greek extracts may have been added by the Latin translator. However, the parallel in Ambrose seems to rule that out.

              Andrew Criddle





              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Stephen C. Carlson
              ... No, the statement is in Jerome s translation. I m just arguing that it wasn t something Jerome added during his translation. Stephen -- Stephen C. Carlson
              Message 6 of 9 , May 6 2:42 PM
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                On May 6, 2009 4:27 PM, Michael Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
                >Do you ignore Jerome's Latin translation here because the statement
                >in question isn't in it?

                No, the statement is in Jerome's translation. I'm just arguing that
                it wasn't something Jerome added during his translation.

                Stephen

                --
                Stephen C. Carlson
                Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University
                Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
              • Michael Grondin
                Thanks, Andrew. That clears up that question nicely, to my mind. (Confirmation from Stephen just came in, but I was already quite sure that it would be
                Message 7 of 9 , May 6 2:55 PM
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                  Thanks, Andrew. That clears up that question nicely, to my mind.
                  (Confirmation from Stephen just came in, but I was already quite
                  sure that it would be confirmed.) Stephen's SBL audience would
                  no doubt understand why that passage was written as it was. For
                  our audience, (including myself), I think it was good that it be
                  spelled out.

                  Mike
                • Judy Redman
                  Stephen, Thanks for your postings. I am finding them interesting. As I read this your treatment of whether Origen had only heard about Thomas or had actually
                  Message 8 of 9 , May 10 7:00 PM
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                    Stephen,

                    Thanks for your postings. I am finding them interesting.

                    As I read this your treatment of whether Origen had only heard about Thomas or had actually read it, it occurred to me that one of the possibilities was that he had had access to some of the oral traditions in circulation which Thomas used, rather than having read Thomas. This is because I am interested in the field, but so are quite a few other scholars.

                    Of course, Origen actually names "According to Thomas", rather than simply quoting material from it, so he is aware of the existence of the actual document and certainly implies that he's read it, so it is highly unlikely that he is quoting from orally traditions when he uses non-canonical Thomas material. This may be worth mentioning in passing, or storing in your mind in case someone asks. :-)

                    Judy

                    --
                    "Politics is the work we do to keep the world safe for our spirituality" - Judith Plaskow, Phoenix Rising, 2000

                    Rev Judy Redman
                    PhD candidate & Uniting Church Chaplain
                    University of New England Armidale 2351
                    ph: +61 2 6773 3739
                    fax: +61 2 6773 3749
                    web: http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~jredman2 and
                    http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
                    email: jredman2@...
                  • Stephen C. Carlson
                    ... Great question, Judy. As we ll see in the next excerpt, Origen explicitly said that he read the source. Stephen -- Stephen C. Carlson Ph.D. student,
                    Message 9 of 9 , May 11 12:07 PM
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                      On May 10, 2009 10:00 PM, Judy Redman <jredman@...> wrote:
                      >Thanks for your postings. I am finding them interesting.
                      >
                      >As I read this your treatment of whether Origen had only heard about
                      >Thomas or had actually read it, it occurred to me that one of the
                      >possibilities was that he had had access to some of the oral traditions
                      >in circulation which Thomas used, rather than having read Thomas. This
                      >is because I am interested in the field, but so are quite a few other scholars.
                      >
                      >Of course, Origen actually names "According to Thomas", rather than simply
                      >quoting material from it, so he is aware of the existence of the actual
                      >document and certainly implies that he's read it, so it is highly unlikely
                      >that he is quoting from orally traditions when he uses non-canonical Thomas
                      >material. This may be worth mentioning in passing, or storing in your mind
                      >in case someone asks. :-)

                      Great question, Judy. As we'll see in the next excerpt, Origen explicitly
                      said that he "read" the source.

                      Stephen

                      --
                      Stephen C. Carlson
                      Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University
                      Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
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