Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.03.30

Christoph Markschies, Origenes und sein Erbe: Gesammelte Studien. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 160.   Berlin:  Walter De Gruyter, 2007.  Pp. x, 283.  ISBN 978-3-11-019278-0.  $130.00.  



Reviewed by Shawn W.J. Keough, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (shawn.keough@theo.kuleuven.be)
Word count: 1197 words

[Table of contents below.]

This excellent volume collects thirteen essays on the life, work and legacy of the great third century Alexandrian theologian and biblical scholar Origen (ca. 185 - ca. 254) by the eminent German patrologist Christoph Markschies. These previously published essays span more than a decade of Markschies' career. Following a 1991 dissertation on the fragments of Valentinus and a 1994 Habilitationschrift on the Trinitarian theology of Ambrose, Markschies edited the fragments of Origen's homilies on 1 and 2 Corinthians in a volume forthcoming in the Origenes Werke subseries of Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, the ongoing Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften project of which he is the current director. He is also, along with Alfons Fürst, editing what will be a complete edition of Origen's works with accompanying German translation and commentary. Anyone acquainted with these details will expect this volume of essays to be of the highest quality. The book certainly does not disappoint.

The volume opens with an overview of Origen's career and legacy, entitled 'Origenes. Leben - Werk - Theologie - Wirkung' (p. 1-14), which is a brief but comprehensive overview and orientation not only to Origen but to Origen's reception through the centuries, concluding with the mention of the critical editorial work of Adolf von Harnack at the close of the nineteenth century and the renewal of Origen studies in the second half of the twentieth century associated with figures such as Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou and Henri Crouzel. The only other essay specifically devoted to an aspect of Origen's own history is also the only contribution previously unpublished, although it is forthcoming in the published acts of the Ninth International Congress of Origen Studies, which was held at the University of Pécs (Hungary) from 29 August - 3 September 2005. This essay, as Basil Studer commented in his introduction to Markschies' presentation at that conference, deals with Origen's famous 'special problem', that is, the tradition concerning Origen's self-castration. In 'Kastration und Magenprobleme? Einige neue Blicke auf das asketische Leben des Origenes' (p. 15-34), Markschies provides a thorough Stand der Forschung on the topic of whether or not Origen did in fact castrate himself before moving on to the topic of self-castration in its ancient medical, philosophical and juridical contexts, finally offering the conclusion that the historicity of this particular tradition must be questioned.

The topic of Origen as a preacher is taken up in '"... für die Gemeinde im Grossen und Ganzen nicht geeignet ..."? Erwägungen zu Absicht und Wirkung der Predigten des Origenes' (p. 35-62), in which Markschies takes issue with R.P.C. Hanson's contention that in his homilies one does not confront the 'the full, the whole Origen', arguing instead that "In diesem leidenschaftlichen Bemühen um die Auferbauung einer konkreten Ortsgemeinde durch eine gründliche Auslegung der Schrift ἐπ' εὐσεβείᾳ haben wir es eben doch zu tun mit 'dem vollständigen, dem ganzen Origenes'." Origen the biblical commentator is taken up in the two essays: 'Origenes und die Kommentierung des paulinischen Römerbriefs. Einige Bemerkungen zur Rezeption von antiken Kommentartechniken im Christentum des dritten Jahrhunderts und ihrer Vorgeschichte' (p. 63-90) and 'Der Heilige Geist im Johanneskommentar des Origenes. Einige vorläufige Bermerkungen' (p. 107-126). These essays are of value not only for their specific contributions but also for the broader methodological concern they share in uniting the discussion of Origen's technical biblical commentary with concerns related to Origen's preaching and Origen's philological research, so that the whole of Origen's biblical interpretation is held together under his overall 'heilspädagogischen Grundorientierung', apart from which any interpretation of Origen is bound to be flawed, partial and misleading.

The only other essay dealing with a specific theological topic in Origen is 'Gott und Mensch nach Origenes. Einige wenige Beobachtungen zu einem großen Thema' (p. 91-106); the remaining essays cover aspects of Origen's thought viewed in relation to its background and environment or its legacy. For example, 'Epikureismus bei Origenes und in der origenistischen Tradition' (p. 127-154) and 'Valentinianische Gnosis in Alexandrien und Ägypten' (p. 155-172) discuss the philosophical background of Origen's work and its relationship to Valentinian Gnosticism, arguing on the one hand that "die antiepikureische Polemik der christlichen Theologen im Kontext paganer antiepikureischer Polemik gesehen werden muß," and on the other that "Die sehr flächige Wahrnehmung der valentinianischen Gnosis durch alexandrinische Theologen wie Clemens und Origenes sollte allerdings auch davor warnen, diesen Einfluß zu überschätzen." Two further essays treat the relationship between Origen and Ambrose: 'Was bedeutet οὐσία? Zwei Antoworten bei Origenes und Ambrosius und deren Bedeutung für ihre Bibelerklärung und Theologie' (p. 173-194), and, 'Ambrosius und Origenes. Bemerkungen zur exegetischen Hermeneutik zweier Kirchenväter' (p. 195-222). These essays sensitively highlight areas of continuity and discontinuity between the two great theologians, arguing that "Der Unterschied zwischen Ambrosius und Origenes liegt nicht im Grundkonzept ihrer Exegese, in der hermeneutischen Methode, sondern in ihrer praktischen Umsetzung." Finally, 'Eusebius als Schriftsteller. Beobachtungen zum sechsten Buch der Kirchengeschichte' (p. 223-238) examines the famous sixth book of Eusebius' Historia ecclesiastica, which is the principal source for Origen's biography.

The final two essays, 'Origenes in Berlin. Schicksalswege eines Editionsunternehmens' (p. 239-250), and, 'Die Origenes-Editionen der Berliner Akademie. Geschichte und Gegenwart' (p. 251-263) narrate in exciting detail the origins of the series Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte under the leadership of Adolf von Harnack, its subsequent history through two world wars, and its current activities under Markschies' directorship.

This is an admirable collection which will be of interest to all students of Origen and Origen's legacy. Each contribution displays the scholarly rigour for which Markschies is well-known; these essays are dense with ancient source material and comprehensive in their treatment of previous research. Certainly each essay deserves much more attention than can be offered within the constraints of a book review. Suffice it to note that this indispensable collection of essays is, if possible, even more than the sum of its already formidable parts. These are superb essays, each and every one, and together they constitute an impressive contribution to the scholarly study of Origen's life, work and legacy.

Table of Contents

1. Origenes. Leben - Werk - Theologie - Wirkung; p. 1

2. Kastration und Magenprobleme? Einige neue Blicke auf das asketische Leben des Origenes; p. 15

3. "... für die Gemeinde im Grossen und Ganzen nicht geeignet ..."? Erwägungen zu Absicht und Wirkung der Predigten des Origenes; p. 35

4. Origenes und die Kommentierung des paulinischen Römerbriefs. Einige Bemerkungen zur Rezeption von antiken Kommentartechniken im Christentum des dritten Jahrhunderts und ihrer Vorgeschichte; p. 63

5. Gott und Mensch nach Origenes. Einige wenige Beobachtungen zu einem großen Thema; p. 91

6. Der Heilige Geist im Johanneskommentar des Origenes. Einige vorläufige Bermerkungen; p. 107

7. Epikureismus bei Origenes und in der origenistischen Tradition; p. 127

8. Valentinianische Gnosis in Alexandrien und Ägypten; p. 155

9. Was bedeutet οὐσία? Zwei Antoworten bei Origenes und Ambrosius und deren Bedeutung für ihre Bibelerklärung und Theologie; p. 173

10. Ambrosius und Origenes. Bemerkungen zur exegetischen Hermeneutik zweier Kirchenväter; p. 195

11. Eusebius als Schriftsteller. Beobachtungen zum sechsten Buch der Kirchengeschichte; p. 223

12. Origenes in Berlin. Schicksalswege eines Editionsunternehmens; p. 239

13. Die Origenes-Editionen der Berliner Akademie. Geschichte und Gegenwart; p. 251.

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