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Introduction to the Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew


Introduction to the Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew

According to Eusebius (H. E. vi. 36) the Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew were written about the same time as the Contra Celsum, when Origen was over sixty years of age, and may therefore be probably assigned to the period 246-248. This statement is confirmed by internal evidence. In the portion here translated, books x.-xiv., he passes by the verses Matt. xviii. 12, 13, and refers for the exposition of them to his Homilies on Luke (book xiii. 29). Elsewhere, he refers his readers for a fuller discussion on certain points to his Commentaries on John (book xvi. 20), and on Romans (book xvii. 32). Of the twenty-five books into which the work was divided, the first nine, with the exception of two fragments, are lost; books x.-xvii., covering the portion from Matt. xiii. 36 to xxii. 33, are extant in the Greek, and the greater part of the remaining books survives in a Latin version, which is co-extensive with the Greek from book xii. 9 to book xvii. 36, and contains further the exposition from Matt. xxii. 34 to xxvii. 66. The passages in Cramer's Catena do not seem to be taken from the Commentaries. Of the numerous quotations from Matthew only one (Matt. xxi. 35) can be definitely traced to this section of the writings of Origen; and as this differs greatly from our present text, and is moreover purely narrative, it is probably taken like the others either from the Scholia (commaticum interpretationis genus), or from the Homilies to which reference is made by Jerome (Prol. in Matt. I. iv). The majority of them may be ascribed to the Scholia. In addition to the mss. already referred to (p. 294) the old Latin version is often useful for determining the text, though it contains some interpolations and has many omissions. The omissions (cf. book xiii. 28, book xiv. x, 3, book xiv. 19-22) are not due to any dogmatic bias, but have been made by the translator or some subsequent transcriber on the ground that the passages were uninteresting or unimportant. The version is otherwise for the most part literal, and has in some cases preserved the correct reading, though it often fails just when it would have been of most service. For an estimate of the work and method of Origen as an exegete, see pp. 291-294; and for a fuller statement on some of the points here touched upon, see Westcott's article on Origen in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography (vol. iv.).

From the First Book of the Commentary on Matthew163

Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a publican and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first; and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, "The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son."164 And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by165 Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. Last of all, that according to John.

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