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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXV.—His Review of the Canonical Scriptures.

1. When expounding the first Psalm, 1970 he gives a catalogue of the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament 1971 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:

2. “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, Bresith, 1972 which means, ‘In the beginning’; Exodus, Welesmoth, 1973 that is, ‘These are the names’; Leviticus, Wikra, ‘And he called‘; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy, Eleaddebareim, ‘These are the words’; Jesus, the son of Nave, Josoue ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in one book, Saphateim; the First and Second of Kings, among them one, Samouel, 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, Dabreïamein, that is, ‘Records of days’; Esdras, 1974 First and Second 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 in one, Jeremia; Daniel, Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job; Esther, Esther. And besides these there are the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel.” 1975 He gives these in the above-mentioned work.

p. 273 3. In his first book on Matthew’s Gospel, 1976 maintaining the Canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing as follows:

4. “Among the four Gospels, 1977 which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language. 1978

5. The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, 1979 who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus, my son.’ 1980

6. And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, 1981 and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John.” 1982

7. In the fifth book of his Expositions of John’s Gospel, he speaks thus concerning the epistles of the apostles: 1983 “But he who was ‘made sufficient to be a minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit,’ 1984 that is, Paul, who ‘fully preached the Gospel from Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum,’ 1985 did not write to all the churches which he had instructed and to those to which he wrote he sent but few lines. 1986

8. And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, ‘against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,’ 1987 has left one acknowledged epistle; perhaps also a second, but this is doubtful. 1988

9. Why need we speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of Jesus, 1989 John, who has left us one Gospel, 1990 though he confessed that he might write so many that the world could not contain them? 1991 And he wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep silence and not to write the words of the seven thunders. 1992

10. He has left also an epistle of very few lines; perhaps also a second and third; but not all consider them genuine, and together they do not contain hundred lines.”

11. In addition he makes the following statements in regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews 1993 in his Homilies upon it: “That the verbal style of the epistle entitled ‘To the Hebrews,’ is not rude like the language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself ‘rude in speech’ 1994 that is, in expression; but that its diction is purer Greek, any one who has the power to discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.

12. Moreover, that the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged apostolic writings, any one who carefully examines the apostolic text 1995 will admit.’

13. Farther on he adds: “If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic 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. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s.

14. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it.” But let this suffice on these matters.


Footnotes

272:1970

On Origen’s commentary on Psalms, see the previous chapter, note 3. The first fragment given here by Eusebius is found also in the Philocalia, chap. 3, where it forms part of a somewhat longer extract. The second fragment is extant only in this chapter of Eusebius’ History.

272:1971

On the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament, see Bk. III. chap. 10, note 1. Upon Origen’s omission of the twelve minor prophets and the insertion of the apocryphal epistle of Jeremiah, see the same note.

272:1972

I have reproduced Origen’s Greek transliteration of this and the following Hebrew words letter by letter. It will be seen by a comparison of the words with the Hebrew titles of the books, as we now have them, that Origen’s pronunciation of Hebrew, even after making all due allowance for a difference in the pronunciation of the Greek and for changes in the Hebrew text, must have been, in many respects, quite different from ours.

272:1973

Οὐελεσμώθ. I represent the diphthong οὐ at the beginning of a word by “w.”

272:1974

The first and second books of Esdras here referred to are not the apocryphal books known by that name, but Ezra and Nehemiah, which in the Hebrew canon formed but one book, as Origen says here, but which in the LXX were separated (see above, Bk. III. chap. 10, note 4). Esdras is simply the form which the word Ezra assumes in Greek.

272:1975

Whether this sentence closed Origen’s discussion of the Hebrew canon, or whether he went on to mention the other apocryphal books, we cannot tell. The latter seems intrinsically much more probable, for it is difficult to understand the insertion of the Maccabees in this connection, and the omission of all the others; for the Maccabees, as is clear from the words žξω δὲ τούτων ἐστὶ τὰ Μακκαβαϊκ€, are not reckoned by Origen among the twenty-two books as a part of the Hebrew canon. At the same time, it is hardly conceivable that Eusebius should have broken off thus, in the midst of a passage, without any explanation; though it is, of course, not impossible that he gives only the first sentence of the new paragraph on the books of the LXX, in order to show that the discussion of the Hebrew canon closes, and a new subject is introduced at this point. But, however that may be, it must be regarded as certain that Origen did not reckon the books of the Maccabees as a part of the Hebrew canon, and on the other hand, that he did reckon those books, as well as others (if not all) of the books given in the LXX, as inspired Scripture. This latter fact is proved by his use of these books indiscriminately with those of the Hebrew canon as sources for dogmatic proof texts, and also by his express citation of at least some of them as Scripture (cf. on this subject, Redepenning, p. 235 sq.). We must conclude, therefore, that Origen did not adopt the Hebrew canon as his own, but that he states it as clearly as he does in this place, in order to bring concretely before the minds of his readers the difference between the canon of the Jews and the canon of the Christians, who looked upon the LXX as the more authoritative form of the Old Testament. Perhaps he had in view the same purpose that led him to compare the Hebrew text and the LXX in his Hexapla (see chap. 16, note 8).

273:1976

On Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, see chap. 36, note 4. The fragment given here by Eusebius is all that is extant of the first book of the commentary.

273:1977

Compare Origen’s Hom. I. in Lucam: Ecclesia quatuor habet evangelia, hæresea plurima; and multi conati sunt scribere, sed et multi conati sunt ordinare: quatuor tantum evangelia sunt probata, &c. Compare also Irenæus, Adv. Hær. III. 11, 8, where the attempt is made to show that it is impossible for the Gospels to be either more or fewer in number than four; and the Muratorian Fragment where the four Gospels are named, but the number four is not represented as in itself the necessary number; also Tertullian’s Adv. Marc. IV. 2, and elsewhere.

273:1978

See Bk. III. chap. 24, note 5.

273:1979

See Bk. II. chap. 15, note 4.

273:1980

1 Pet. v. 13.

273:1981

See Bk. III. chap. 4, notes 12 and 15. Origen refers here to 2 Cor. viii. 18, where, however, it is clear that the reference is not to any specific Gospel any more than in the passages referred to above, III. 4, note 15.

273:1982

See Bk. III. chap. 24.

273:1983

This fragment from the fifth book of Origen’s commentary on John is extant only in this chapter. The context is not preserved.

273:1984

2 Cor. iii. 6.

273:1985

Rom. xv. 19.

273:1986

See Bk. III. chap. 24, note 2.

273:1987

Matt. xvi. 18.

273:1988

On the first and second Epistles of Peter, see Bk. III. chap. 3, notes 1 and 4.

273:1989

See John xiii. 23.

273:1990

On John’s Gospel, see Bk. III. chap. 24, note 1; on the Apocalypse, note 20; and on the epistles, notes 18 and 19 of the same chapter.

273:1991

See John xxi. 25

273:1992

See Rev. x. 4

273:1993

Upon the Epistle to the Hebrews, and Origen’s treatment of it, see Bk. III. chap. 3, note 17. The two extracts given here by Eusebius are the only fragments of Origen’s Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews now extant. Four brief Latin fragments of his commentary upon that epistle are preserved in the first book of Pamphilus’ Defense of Origen, and are printed by Lommatzsch in Vol. V. p. 297 sq. The commentaries (or “books,” as they are called) are mentioned only in that Defense. The catalogue of Jerome speaks only of “eighteen homilies.” We know nothing about the extent or the date of composition of these homilies and commentaries.

273:1994

2 Cor. xi. 6.

273:1995

προσέχων, τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῇ ἀποστολικ & 135·ν€γνωσις meant originally the act of reading, then also that which is read. It thus came to be used (like ν€γνωσμα) of the pericope or text or section of the Scripture read in church, and in the plural to designate the church lectionaries, or service books. In the present case it is used evidently in a wider sense of the text of Paul’s writings as a whole. This use of the two words to indicate, not simply the selection read in church, but the text of a book or books as a whole, was not at all uncommon, as may be seen from the examples given by Suicer, although he does not mention this wider signification among the uses of the word. See his Thesaurus, s.v.


Next: Chapter XXVI

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