Origen: Commentary on Revelation

A Work Discovered After the Ante-Nicene Fathers Set Was Compiled

The following is taken from an article written by the early church scholar, Dr. Edgar J. Goodspeed:

In July, 1911, Constantine Diobouniotis, a Privat Docent in the University of Athens, sent to Berlin a copy he had made of a short work on the Apocalypse which had been found in a tenth century manuscript in the Meteoron monastery in the north of Greece. The monastery is one of those so picturesquely situated on the summits of the rocky detached pinnacles of the Pindus Mountains, which have to be reached by the aid of basket, rope, and windlass. The commentary was anonymous, but Diobouniotis thought it might be the work of Hippolytus, one of whose treatises had already been found in the same manuscript.

The Berlin scholars at once recognized in it a work of Origen, the founder of Christian interpretation and of systematic theology, the leading theologian of Christian antiquity, and the father of ecclesiastical science. Origen was the most voluminous of ancient Christian writers. Ephiphanius says that he left six thousand works, but this enumeration must have included individual sermons, lectures, and addresses, as well as greater works, like the Hexapla, which was so huge that it was never copied. Part of Origen’s prolificness was due to his friend and patron, Ambrose, who supplied him with stenographers and secretaries so that he might have every facility to record the results of his studies. Ambrose so eagerly urged him on in his work that Origen calls him his ‘taskmaster’ who left him no leisure for meals or rest.

These thirty-seven paragraphs of the commentary on Revelation are a new and unexpected legacy from the first great interpreter of the New Testament. It is true that it had not been known that Origen ever wrote a commentary or even a set of scholia on Revelation. But it is an interesting fact that in his commentary on Matthew he expressed the intention of producing a commentary on it. More than this, the commentary on Matthew was one of the latest of Origen’s works, and falls between A.D. 245 and 249. It was in A.D. 249 or 250 that the persecution of Decius overtook Origen,and the tortures he then endured eventually resulted in his death in his seventieth year. It has been suggested that these comments on Revelation may have been his last work and  that they broke off before the whole book had been covered, because the outbreak of the persecution interrupted Origen in the midst of his task.

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