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(about A.D. 240)
Origen was an influential teacher in Alexandria, the chief city of Egypt. His canon is known from the compilation made by Eusebius for his Church History. He accepted Hebrews as Scripture while entertaining doubts about its author. The Greek text below is from the edition of Migne, the English translation is from Metzger.
τὸν μέν γε πρῶτον ἐξηγούμενος Ψαλμόν, ἔκθεσιν πεποίηται τοῦ τῶν ἱερῶν γραφῶν τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης καταλόγου, ὧδέ πως γράφων κατὰ λέξιν· «οὐκ ἀγνοητέον δ' εἶναι τὰς ἐνδιαθήκους βίβλους, ὡς Ἑβραῖοι παραδιδόασιν, δύο καὶ εἴκοσι, ὅσος ἀριθμὸς τῶν παρ' αὐτοῖς στοιχείων ἐστίν». εἶτα μετά τινα ἐπιφέρει λέγων· «εἰσὶν δὲ αἱ εἴκοσι δύο βίβλοι καθ' Ἑβραίους αἵδε· ἡ παρ' ἡμῖν Γένεσις ἐπιγεγραμμένη, παρὰ δ' Ἑβραίοις ἀπὸ τῆς ἀρχῆς τῆς βίβλου Βρησιθ, ὅπερ ἐστὶν «ἐν ἀρχῆι»· Ἔξοδος, Ουελλεσμωθ, ὅπερ ἐστὶν «ταῦτα τὰ ὀνόματα»· Λευιτικόν, Ουϊκρα, «καὶ ἐκάλεσεν»· Ἀριθμοί, Αμμεσφεκωδειμ· Δευτερονόμιον, Ελλεαδδεβαρειμ, «οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι»· Ἰησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυῆ, Ιωσουεβεννουν· Κριταί, Ῥούθ, παρ' αὐτοῖς ἐν ἑνί, Σωφτειμ· Βασιλειῶν αʹ βʹ, παρ' αὐτοῖς ἕν, Σαμουὴλ, «ὁ θεόκλητος»· Βασιλειῶν γʹ δʹ ἐν ἑνί, Ουαμμελχδαυιδ, ὅπερ ἐστὶν «βασιλεία Δαυίδ»· Παραλειπομένων αʹ βʹ ἐν ἑνί, Δαβρηϊαμειν, ὅπερ ἐστὶν «λόγοι ἡμερῶν»· Ἔζρας αʹ βʹ ἐν ἑνί, Εζρα, ὅ ἐστιν «βοηθός»· βίβλος Ψαλμῶν, Σφαρθελλειμ· Σολομῶνος παροιμίαι, Μελωθ· Ἐκκλησιαστής, Κωελθ· Ἆισμα ἀισμάτων οὐ γάρ, ὡς ὑπολαμβάνουσίν τινες, Ἄισματα ἀισμάτων, Σιρασσιρειμ· Ἡσαΐας, Ιεσσια· Ἱερεμίας σὺν Θρήνοις καὶ τῆι Ἐπιστολῆι ἐν ἑνί, Ιερεμια· Δανιήλ, Δανιηλ· Ἰεζεκιήλ, Ιεζεκιηλ· Ἰώβ, Ιωβ· Ἐσθήρ Εσθηρ. ἔξω δὲ τούτων ἐστὶ τὰ Μακκαβαϊκά, ἅπερ ἐπιγέγραπται Σαρβηθσαβαναιελ». ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἐν τῶι προειρημένωι τίθησι συγγράμματι·
ἐν δὲ τῶι πρώτωι τῶν εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον, τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν φυλάττων κανόνα, μόνα τέσσαρα εἰδέναι εὐαγγέλια μαρτύρεται, ὧδέ πως γράφων· «ὡς ἐν παραδόσει μαθὼν περὶ τῶν τεσσάρων εὐαγγελίων, ἃ καὶ μόνα ἀναντίρρητά ἐστιν ἐν τῆι ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι πρῶτον μὲν γέγραπται τὸ κατὰ τόν ποτε τελώνην, ὕστερον δὲ ἀπόστολον Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ Ματθαῖον, ἐκδεδωκότα αὐτὸ τοῖς ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ πιστεύσασιν, γράμμασιν Ἑβραϊκοῖς συντεταγμένον· δεύτερον δὲ τὸ κατὰ Μάρκον, ὡς Πέτρος ὑφηγήσατο αὐτῶι, ποιήσαντα, ὃν καὶ υἱὸν ἐν τῆι καθολικῆι ἐπιστολῆι διὰ τούτων ὡμολόγησεν φάσκων· ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτὴ καὶ Μάρκος ὁ υἱός μου. καὶ τρίτον τὸ κατὰ Λουκᾶν, τὸ ὑπὸ Παύλου ἐπαινούμενον εὐαγγέλιον τοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνῶν πεποιηκότα· ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην».
καὶ ἐν τῶι πέμπτωι δὲ τῶν εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην Ἐξηγητικῶν ὁ αὐτὸς ταῦτα περὶ τῶν ἐπιστολῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων φησίν· «ὁ δὲ ἱκανωθεὶς διάκονος γενέσθαι τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης, οὐ γράμματος, ἀλλὰ πνεύματος, Παῦλος, ὁ πεπληρωκὼς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἀπὸ Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ κύκλωι μέχρι τοῦ Ἰλλυρικοῦ, οὐδὲ πάσαις ἔγραψεν αἷς ἐδίδαξεν ἐκκλησίαις, ἀλλὰ καὶ αἷς ἔγραψεν, ὀλίγους στίχους ἐπέστειλεν. Πέτρος δέ, ἐφ' ὧι οἰκοδομεῖται ἡ Χριστοῦ ἐκκλησία, ἧς πύλαι Ἅιδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν, μίαν ἐπιστολὴν ὁμολογουμένην καταλέλοιπεν, ἔστω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν· ἀμφιβάλλεται γάρ. τί δεῖ περὶ τοῦ ἀναπεσόντος ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος λέγειν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, Ἰωάννου, ὃς εὐαγγέλιον ἓν καταλέλοιπεν, ὁμολογῶν δύνασθαι τοσαῦτα ποιήσειν ἃ οὐδ' ὁ κόσμος χωρῆσαι ἐδύνατο, ἔγραψεν δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἀποκάλυψιν, κελευσθεὶς σιωπῆσαι καὶ μὴ γράψαι τὰς τῶν ἑπτὰ βροντῶν φωνάς; καταλέλοιπεν καὶ ἐπιστολὴν πάνυ ὀλίγων στίχων, ἔστω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν καὶ τρίτην· ἐπεὶ οὐ πάντες φασὶν γνησίους εἶναι ταύτας· πλὴν οὔκ εἰσιν στίχων ἀμφότεραι ἑκατόν».
ἔτι πρὸς τούτοις περὶ τῆς Πρὸς Ἑβραίους ἐπιστολῆς ἐν ταῖς εἰς αὐτὴν Ὁμιλίαις ταῦτα διαλαμβάνει· «ὅτι ὁ χαρακτὴρ τῆς λέξεως τῆς Πρὸς Ἑβραίους ἐπιγεγραμμένης ἐπιστολῆς οὐκ ἔχει τὸ ἐν λόγωι ἰδιωτικὸν τοῦ ἀποστόλου, ὁμολογήσαντος ἑαυτὸν ἰδιώτην εἶναι τῶι λόγωι, τοῦτ' ἐστὶν τῆι φράσει, ἀλλ' ἐστὶν ἡ ἐπιστολὴ συνθέσει τῆς λέξεως Ἑλληνικωτέρα, πᾶς ὁ ἐπιστάμενος κρίνειν φράσεων διαφορὰς ὁμολογήσαι ἄν. πάλιν τε αὖ ὅτι τὰ νοήματα τῆς ἐπιστολῆς θαυμάσιά ἐστιν καὶ οὐ δεύτερα τῶν ἀποστολικῶν ὁμολογουμένων γραμμάτων, καὶ τοῦτο ἂν συμφήσαι εἶναι ἀληθὲς πᾶς ὁ προσέχων τῆι ἀναγνώσει τῆι ἀποστολικῆι». τούτοις μεθ' ἕτερα ἐπιφέρει λέγων· «ἐγὼ δὲ ἀποφαινόμενος εἴποιμ' ἂν ὅτι τὰ μὲν νοήματα τοῦ ἀποστόλου ἐστίν, ἡ δὲ φράσις καὶ ἡ σύνθεσις ἀπομνημονεύσαντός τινος τὰ ἀποστολικὰ καὶ ὥσπερ σχολιογραφήσαντός τινος τὰ εἰρημένα ὑπὸ τοῦ διδασκάλου. εἴ τις οὖν ἐκκλησία ἔχει ταύτην τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ὡς Παύλου, αὕτη εὐδοκιμείτω καὶ ἐπὶ τούτωι· οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆι οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες ὡς Παύλου αὐτὴν παραδεδώκασιν. τίς δὲ ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολήν, τὸ μὲν ἀληθὲς θεὸς οἶδεν, ἡ δὲ εἰς ἡμᾶς φθάσασα ἱστορία ὑπὸ τινῶν μὲν λεγόντων ὅτι Κλήμης, ὁ γενόμενος ἐπίσκοπος Ῥωμαίων, ἔγραψεν τὴν ἐπιστολὴν, ὑπὸ τινῶν δὲ ὅτι Λουκᾶς, ὁ γράψας τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καὶ τὰς Πράξεις». ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ὧδε ἐχέτω·
When expounding the first Psalm he gives a catalog of the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament as follows: "It should be stated that the canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them down, are twenty-two, corresponding with the number of their letters." Farther on he says: "The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the following: That which is called by us Genesis, but by the Hebrews, from the beginning of the book, Breshith, which means 'in the beginning'; Exodus, Welesmoth, that is, 'these are the names'; Leviticus, Wikra, 'and he called'; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy, Eleaddebareim 'these are the words'; Joshua the son of Nun, Josoue ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in one book, Saphateim; the first and second of Kings, among them one, Samoel, that is, 'the called of God'; the third and fourth of Kings in one, Wammelch David, that is, 'the kingdom of David'; of the Chronicles, the first and second in one, Dabreiamein, that is, 'records of days'; Esdras, first and second 1 in one, Ezra, that is, 'an assistant'; the book of Psalms, Spharthelleim; the Proverbs of Solomon, Meloth; Ecclesiastes, Koelth; the Song of Songs (not, as some suppose, Songs of Songs), Sir Hassirim; Isaiah, Jessia; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the Epistle 2 in one, Jeremia; Daniel, Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job; Esther, Esther; And outside of these there are the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel." 3 He gives these in the above-mentioned work.
In the first book of his Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, defending the canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing somewhat as follows: "Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first written was that according to Matthew, who was once a tax collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language. Secondly, that according to Mark, who composed it in accordance with the instructions of Peter, who in the catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, 'She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you, and so does Mark, my son.' And thirdly, that according to Luke, for those who from the Gentiles came to believe. After them all, that according to John."
And in the fifth book of his Expositions on the Gospel according to John, the same person says this with reference to the epistles of the apostles: "But he who was made sufficient to become a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, that is, Paul, who 'fully preached the gospel from Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum,' did not write to all the churches which he had instructed; and even to those to which he wrote he sent but a few lines. And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, left one acknowledged epistle; possibly also a second, but this is disputed. Why need I speak of him who leaned back on Jesus' breast, John, who has left behind one Gospel, though he confessed that he could write so many that even the world itself could not contain them? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, being ordered to keep silence and not to write the voices of the seven thunders. He has left also an epistle of a very few lines; and, it may be, a second and a third; for not all say that these are genuine but the two of them are not a hundred lines long."
In addition he makes the following statements concerning the epistle to the Hebrews, in his Homilies upon it: "That the character of the diction of the epistle entitled 'To the Hebrews' has not the apostle's rudeness in speech, who acknowledged himself to be rude in speech, that is, in style, but that the epistle is better Greek in the framing of its diction, will be admitted by everyone who is able to discern differences of style. But again, on the other hand, that the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged writings of the apostle, this also everyone who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit." Further on he adds: "If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the style and composition belong to someone who remembered the apostle's teachings and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this also. For it is not without reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. Yet the account that has reached us is twofold, some saying that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and others, that it was Luke, the one who wrote the Gospel and the Acts." But let this suffice on these matters.
From Origen's Commentary on Matthew, xvii. 30.
... The epistle in circulation under the name of James . . .
From Origen's Commentary on John, xix. 6.
... And if indeed one were to accept the epistle of Jude . . .
This work exists only in a Latin translation, probably by Rufinus (d. 410). Some scholars think that Rufinus has contributed to the passage. The latin text here is copied from the text given in Christopher Wordsworth's On the Canon of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and on the Apocrypha (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1848), Appendix A, p. 8.
Veniens vero Dominus noster Jesus Christus, cujus ille prior filius Nave designabat adventum, misit sacerdotes Apostolos suos portantes tubas ductiles, praedicationis magnificam coelestemque doctrinam. Sacerdotali tuba primus in Evangelio suo Matthaeus increpuit, Marcus quoque, Lucas et Joannes, suis singulis tubis sacerdotalibus cecinerunt. Petrus etiam duabus epistolarum suarum personat tubis. Jacobus quoque et Judas. Addit nihilominus atque et Joannes tuba canere per epistolas suas et Apocalypsim, 4 et Lucas Apostolorum gesta describens. Novissime autem ille veniens, qui dixit: Puto autem nos Deus novissimos Apostolos ostendit, [1 Cor. 4:9] et in quatuordecim epistolarum suarum fulminans tubis, muros Jericho et omnes idololatriae machinas et philosophorum dogmata usque ad fundamenta dejecit.
So too our Lord, whose advent was typified by the son of Nun, when he came sent his apostles as priests bearing well-wrought trumpets. Matthew first sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel. Mark also, Luke and John, each gave forth a strain on their priestly trumpets. Peter moreover sounds loudly on the twofold trumpet of his epistles; and so also James and Jude. Still the number is incomplete, and John gives forth the trumpet-sound in his epistles and Apocalypse; 4 and Luke while describing the acts of the apostles. Lastly however came he who said, I think that God hath set forth us Apostles last of all, [1 Cor. 4:9] and thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his epistles threw down even to the ground the walls of Jericho, that is to say all the instruments of idolatry and the doctrines of philosophers.
From Origen's Homilies on Luke.
As once upon a time among the Jewish people many engaged in prophetic discourse, but some were lying prophets (one of them was Ananias the son of Azor) whereas others were truthful prophets, and as among the people there was the gift of grace to distinguish spirits, whereby a section of the prophets was received, but some were rejected as it were by the "expert bankers," so now also in the New Testament have "many taken in hand" to write gospels, but not all have been accepted. That there have been written not only the four Gospels, but a whole series, from which those that we possess have been chosen and handed down to the churches, is, let it be noted, what we may learn from Luke's preface, which runs thus: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to compose a narrative." The phrase "have taken in hand" implies a tacit accusation of those who rushed hastily to write Gospels without the grace of the Holy Spirit. Matthew and Mark and Luke and John did not "take in hand" to write their Gospels, but wrote them being full of the Holy Spirit . . . The Church has four Gospels, heresies very many, of which one is entitled "according to the Egyptians," another "according to the Twelve Apostles." Basilides also has presumed to write a Gospel and to call it by his own name. Many indeed have taken in hand to write, but four Gospels only are approved. From these the doctrines concerning the person of our Lord and Saviour are to be derived. There is I know a Gospel which is called "according to Thomas," and one "according to Matthias," and there are many others which we read, lest we should seem to be unacquainted with any point for the sake of those who think they possess some valuable knowledge if they are acquainted with them. But in all these we approve nothing else but that which the Church approves, that is, four Gospels only as proper to be received.
1. That is, Ezra and Nehemiah.
2. It is strange that the apocryphal Epistle of Jeremiah is listed without any mention of the book of Baruch, which it followed. The Epistle was often subsumed under Baruch as a sixth chapter. Some scholars surmise that "the Epistle" here may refer to Baruch and the Epistle together. Others suspect that this is a later addition to the list.
3. Whether this sentence closed Origen's discussion of the Old Testament canon, or whether he went on to mention the other apocryphal books, we cannot tell.
4. The words et Apocalypsim are missing from some manuscripts.
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