Friday, October 10, 2008

Origen on Understanding the Gospel of John


As anyone who has studied the New Testament or the Gospel of John knows, modern Biblical scholars love to quote the early Church Father Clement of Alexandria's comment that the Gospel of John is a "spiritual Gospel." It is interesting that you never see the similar comments of the great biblicist, Origen, who had this to say:

"No one can grasp the meaning of the Gospel (of John) unless he has rested on the breast of Jesus, and unless he has received from Him Mary, who becomes his mother also." (Origen, Commentary on John, 1:6)



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

*awesome*!!! i hadn't read that one before! we've been thinking a lot over here about our Blessed Mother, since we just celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary with our little ones on tuesday-- and celebrate we did, too!
:-)
God bless you guys, and keep up the great work.

--"the woman at the well"
www.myspace.com/donna_ellis

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ken & Carol said...

Does the second anonymous post have anything to do with anything? The volume was high enough to result in garbled mutterings on my screen. Is there an executive summary available?

Michael Barber said...

Wow, what a quote!

You're right. I can't remember seeing that in any commentary I've read. I wonder why?

Maybe it's because after reading Origen, New Testament scholars have decided he isn't interesting.

Or maybe it's because New Testament scholars DON'T READ the early church fathers at all!

What evidence might there be for this? Your Marian quote is a great case in point. I don't think scholars neglect to quote this because there is a big conspiracy to cover up all the interest in Mary in the earliest Christian writings. I actually think scholars just don't know it's there.

Here's how you can test that hypothesis: without citing the author, just read the passage and ask 10 scholars which era the passage came from. I bet you that 10 out of 10 of them will date it post-4th century.

Why? Because it sounds so much like Bernard of Clarvioux?! No. They haven't even read Bernard. But nor have they ever actually read through the apostolic and early fathers--they've only read snippets. They've "heard" that Marian thought was just a much later development--perhaps just the result of post-Constantine pagan influences.

That's not patristic scholarship--that's just classic Protestant anti-Catholicism run amok.

A similar situation relates to apostolic succession or the primacy of the Petrine office. Everyone just assumes that it is a later development. Why? Because they have never really read 1 Clement--a vitally important 1st century document. Read 1 Clement and all of a sudden your whole view of the early Church and their view of the transmission of the Jesus tradition will never be the same.

(And who the heck posted that ridiculous rant above?! Stick to the topic people--let's focus like a laserbeam!)

Anonymous said...

Michael,
You're right...as a Baptist with an M.Div. in biblical studies from a well known evangelical seminary I was never asked to or suggested to read the Apostolic Fathers.

Recently though, I picked up a copy of Holmes Apostolic Fathers with the Greek and English in order to continue my Greek study beyond the NT. I keep having to remind myself that these documents are mainly pre-150 AD, because they are full of strong references to the authority of the bishop (Ignatius seems to say the church should submit to the bishop every other paragraph).

These readings have truly confused my Baptist world...

Alex said...

I'm reading Paul Maier's translation of Eusebius right now and I feel like I remember him mentioning in a footnote that Eusebius was a bit anachronistic in calling the early church leaders bishops. I know that's not the point of the quote you posted, but I'm responding to the latest comment. Of course, Maier could be totally wrong.

Anonymous said...

Alex,
I agree that translating the term as "bishop" might in some way be anachronistic in that we read our concept of bishop back into the text.

With that said, it doesn't change my point that the authority of that position (whatever we term it) in the letters of Ignatius has no equivalent in modern day evangelicalism, and definitely not in my Baptist heritage. If one Baptist pastor told the congregation of another church that they should submit to their bishop as to the Lord, we would consider it heresy...yet that's exactly what Ignatius does, and it seems to be the normal stance throughout the rest of the Apostolic Fathers as well.

Anonymous said...

I'l go looking but is there an easy link for Clement 1?
Martin

Anonymous said...

Is that a real icon of Origen ?