The PostBarthian
11Jun/120

Origen’s The First Principles: De principiis vs Περὶ Ἀρχῶν

A papyrus fragment of Origen's commentary on Genesis Schøyen Collection MS 2634/2

Origen's The First Principles is a proto-Systematic Theology, and in Book III, Origen discusses Election with more scrutiny than in previous chapters. The Latin translation by Rufinus is a paraphrase and often softens the text to favor the later and more widely accepted views on Free Will and Justification and seem to contradict a literal translation Origen's Greek fragments. The original Greek text, Περὶ Ἀρχῶν, has only survived in fragments, and the complete extent text only exists from Rufinus's translation into Latin, De principiis, (see Rufinus' prologue). Unfortunately, the Latin text is not a literal word-for-word translation, and uses about twice as many words as the underlying Greek original; this is most unfortunately, because certain words and phrases in the original Greek has significant meaning such as kosmos, pysche, and other words that are lost by the looseness of the Latin translation. Side-by-side, the Greek Translation by Rev. Frederick Crombie, D.D. is far superior thought-for-thought translation of the Latin (but who would that surprise?).  

Rufinus' defended his translation in the footnotes:

Let such things, however, be lightly esteemed by him who is desirous of being trained in divine learning, while retaining in its integrity the rule of the Catholic faith. I think it necessary, however, to remind you that the principle observed in the former books has been observed also in these, viz., not to translate what appeared contrary to Origen’s other opinions, and to our own belief, but to pass by such passages as being interpolated and forged by others. But if he has appeared to give expression to any novelties regarding rational creatures (on which subject the essence of our faith does not depend), for the sake of discussion and of adding to our knowledge, when perhaps it was necessary for us to answer in such an order some heretical opinions, I have not omitted to mention these either in the present or preceding books, unless when he wished to repeat in the following books what he had already stated in the previous ones, when I have thought it convenient, for the sake of brevity, to curtail some of these repetitions.

Rufinus, The First Principles, Book III, Rufinus' Preface.

 Here is are two selections of the same section of The First Principles, translated from Latin on the left and Greek on the right:

De Principiis Περὶ Ἀρχῶν

Book III. Chapter I. Section 19. (Latin Text)

After this there followed this point, that “to will and to do are of God.” Our opponents maintain that if to will be of God, and if to do be of Him, or if, whether we act or desire well or ill, it be of God, then in that case we are not possessed of free-will. Now to this we have to answer, that the words of the apostle do not say that to will evil is of God, or that to will good is of Him; nor that to do good or evil is of God; but his statement is a general one, that to will and to do are of God. For as we have from God this very quality, that we are men, that we breathe, that we move; so also we have from God (the faculty) by which we will, as if we were to say that our power of motion is from God, or that the performing of these duties by the individual members, and their movements, are from God. From which, certainly, I do not understand this, that because the hand moves, e.g., to punish unjustly, or to commit an act of theft, the act is of God, but only that the power of motion is from God; while it is our duty to turn those movements, the power of executing which we have from God, either to purposes of good or evil. And so what the apostle says is, that we receive indeed the power of volition, but that we misuse the will either to good or evil desires. In a similar way, also, we must judge of results.

Book III. Chapter I. Section 19. (Greek Text)

Besides these, there is the passage, “Both to will and to do are of God.” And some assert that, if to will be of God, and to do be of God, and if, whether we will evil or do evil, these (movements) come to us from God, then, if so, we are not possessed of free-will. But again, on the other hand, when we will better things, and do things that are more excellent, seeing that willing and doing are from God, it is not we who have done the more excellent things, but we only appeared (to perform them), while it was God that bestowed them; so that even in this respect we do not possess free-will. Now to this we have to answer, that the language of the apostle does not assert that to will evil is of God, or to will good is of Him (and similarly with respect to doing better and worse); but that to will in a general way, and to run in a general way, (are from Him). For as we have from God (the property) of being living things and human beings, so also have we that of willing generally, and, so to speak, of motion in general. And as, possessing (the property) of life and of motion, and of moving, e.g., these members, the hands or the feet, we could not rightly say that we had from God this species of motion, whereby we moved to strike, or destroy, or take away another’s goods, but that we had received from Him simply the generic power of motion, which we employed to better or worse purposes; so we have obtained from God (the power) of acting, in respect of our being living things, and (the power) to will from the Creator while we employ the power of will, as well as that of action, for the noblest objects, or the opposite.

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Posted by Wyatt

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