Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:06 pm

Morton Smith wrote:
Apparently he [Origen] never mentioned Clement, since Eusebius, attempting to prove that Clement was Origen's teacher, is forced to argue by inference from their temporal proximity (HE VI. 6) and to quote a letter of Alexander of Jerusalem to Origen in which Alexander refers to Clement (then deceased) as formerly known to Origen and as one through whom he himself had made Origen's acquaintance (HE VI. I4.8f). But this only makes Origen's silence about Clement more significant. It would seem that the two were not close, and that if Clement ever was Origen's teacher, it was only for a short period when Origen was fifteen or sixteen. Consequently Origen's ignorance of the longer text [of Mark] is understandable. [Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark p. 285]
While it is true that there is little evidence to support the fact they were close, there is at least some evidence that Clement and Origen might have been at odds over the proper interpretation of key points of scripture.

For instance while Smith seems to be right regarding Origen's knowledge of longer or 'secret' Mark which supposedly adds a story about a resurrected rich youth at Mark 10:41, the two seemed to throw barbs at one another with respect to the proper interpretation of a passage twenty or so lines earlier in the same chapter.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:49 pm

In the Rich Man Clement cites the story from the gospel of Mark and then adds the following cryptic statement arguing that the specific reference to 'selling all his riches' should be taken spiritually or allegorically. The standard translation of the section is:
These things are written in the Gospel according to Mark (Ταῦτα μὲν ἐν τῷ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγελίῳ γέγραπται) and in all the rest correspondingly although perchance the expressions vary slightly in each, yet all show identical agreement in meaning (καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἄλλοις δὲ πᾶσιν ἀνωμολογημένοις ὀλίγον μὲν ἴσως ἑκασταχοῦ τῶν ῥημάτων ἐναλλάσσει, πάντα δὲ τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς γνώμης συμφωνίαν ἐπιδείκνυται). But well knowing that the Saviour teaches nothing in a merely human way (ἀνθρωπίνως), but teaches all things to His own with divine and mystic wisdom (ἀλλὰ πάντα θείᾳ σοφίᾳ καὶ μυστικῇ διδάσκει τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ), we must not listen to His utterances carnally (μὴ σαρκί νως ἀκροᾶσθαι τῶν λεγομένων); but with due investigation and intelligence must search out and learn the meaning hidden in them (ἀλλὰ τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς κεκρυμμένον νοῦν μετὰ τῆς ἀξίας ζητήσεως καὶ συνέσεως ἐρευνᾶν καὶ καταμαν θάνειν). For even those things which seem to have been simplified to the disciples by the Lord Himself are found to require not less, even more, attention than what is expressed enigmatically, from the surpassing superabundance of wisdom in them
The passage is usually taken to confirm that Clement held all the gospels to the same value. However Petersen, after noting that the text of Mark cited by Clement is clearly a harmonized gospel, goes on to cite this same section as proof of a wholly different situation:
Obviously, from our perspective, Clement's text is a very complex harmonization. What is striking, however, is that after further quotations from this same story in Q.d.s. 4, Clement begins Q.d.s. 5,l by announcing that "These things are written in the Gospel according to Mark, and in all the others [the other gospels] in a slightly irregular fashion, perhaps each of the utterances modified, but all display identical agreement in intent." This clearly indicates that Clement knows written gospels, and is quoting from a written source; he is also aware of the differences among the gospels. He asserts, however, that here he is quoting the Gospel of Mark. Well, if that is so, then Clement's Mark is not our Mark of today. https://books.google.com/books?id=YLrKm ... 22&f=false
Why is this amendment important? Because (a) the true gospel i.e. Clement's variant text of Mark is clearly the one which perfectly captures the 'mystical' sayings of Jesus and (b) there is a noticeable shift when Clement's cites the 'other gospel' in the hands of his opponents who - instead of recognizing the 'mystical' nature of the true gospel, interpret Jesus's words 'carnally.'
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Aug 28, 2017 9:21 pm

Let me show you what I mean. In Clement's harmonized gospel of Mark, like our own canonical Mark, there are only references to 'the kingdom of God':
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he was rich, having great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith to His disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! More easily shall a camel enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, and said, Who then can be saved? bend He, looking upon them, said, What is impossible with men is possible with God. For with God all things are possible. Peter began to say to Him, Lo, we have left all and followed Thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel's, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brethren, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting. But many that are first shall be last, and the last first."
Yet what we would call the Matthean phrase 'the kingdom of heaven' appears with remarkable consistency as being associated the 'carnal understanding' of Jesus words - apparently from the 'other' gospel or gospels referenced in 5.1.

So in the lead up to the citation of Mark we should notice the manner in which 'the kingdom of heaven' is what the rich man who dreads giving up his wealth hears:
Perhaps the reason of salvation appearing more difficult to the rich than to poor men, is not single but manifold. For some, merely hearing, and that in an off-hand way, the utterance of the Saviour, "that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven," despair of themselves as not destined to live, surrender all to the world, cling to the present life as if it alone was left to them, and so diverge more from the way to the life to come, no longer inquiring either whom the Lord and Master calls rich, or how that which is impossible to man becomes possible to God. But others rightly and adequately comprehend this, but attaching slight importance to the works which tend to salvation, do not make the requisite preparation for attaining to the objects of their hope. And I affirm both of these things of the rich who have learned both the Saviour's power and His glorious salvation. With those who are ignorant of the truth I have little concern.

IThose then who are actuated by a love of the truth and love of their brethren, and neither are rudely insolent towards such rich as are called, nor, on the other hand, cringe to them for their own avaricious ends, must first by the word relieve them of their groundless despair, and show with the requisite explanation of the oracles of the Lord that the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven is not quite cut off from them if they obey the commandments; then admonish them that they entertain a causeless fear, and that the Lord gladly receives them, provided they are willing; and then, in addition, exhibit and teach how and by what deeds and dispositions they shall win the objects of hope, inasmuch as it is neither out of their reach, nor, on the other hand, attained without effort; but, as is the case with athletes -- to compare things small and perishing with things great and immortal -- let the man who is endowed with worldly wealth reckon that this depends on himself. For among those, one man, because he despaired of being able to conquer and gain crowns, did not give in his name for the contest; while another, whose mind was inspired with this hope, and yet did not submit to the appropriate labours, and diet, and exercises, remained uncrowned, and was balked in his expectations.
It is my guess that Clement is here referencing the rich man and Peter but I can't decide whom is whom.

The real question of course is if (a) Clement cites from Mark and (b) Mark does not use the expression 'the kingdom of heaven' why do references to 'kingdom of heaven' (11) outnumber 'kingdom of God' (2) in the main treatise? Clement is responding to an opinion of another Alexandrian who prefers or uses a gospel other than the Alexandrian text of Mark and this text has 'kingdom of heaven.'
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:02 pm

It is well established that Origen in what is now known as his 'Commentary on Matthew' puts forward two texts both of which have the expression 'kingdom of heaven' in this narrative. Origen's interpretation of this passage is unexpectedly literal as we shall see - unexpected insofar as Origen is virtually always 'literal' in his interpretations. He is famously allegorical in his exegesis. Nevertheless Origen stands against Clement in this passage, not only citing a different gospel than his master - one that speaks of 'kingdom of heaven' rather than consistently 'kingdom of God' - but which also leads him to conclude that Jesus demanded each of us give up all of our possession to join some sort of ritual communistic religious community viz. the Church.

Here is how Clement lays forth his 'mystical' understanding of Mark's gospel:
We must therefore renounce those possessions that are injurious, not those that are capable of being serviceable, if one knows the fight use of them (οὐχὶ τοῖς ἐὰν ἐπίστηταί τις τὴν ὀρθὴν χρῆσιν καὶ συνωφελεῖν δυναμένοις). And what is managed with wisdom, and sobriety, and piety, is profitable; and what is hurtful (ἐπιζήμια) must be cast away. But things external hurt not. So then the Lord introduces the use of external things (τῶν ἐκτὸς χρείαν εἰσάγει), bidding us put away not the means of subsistence, but what uses them badly. And these are the infirmities and passions of the soul (τῆς ψυχῆς ἀρρωστήματα καὶ πάθη).

The presence of wealth in these is deadly (literally death-bringing = θανατηφόρος) to all, the loss of it salutary ( ἀπολόμενος δὲ σωτήριος). Of which, making the soul pure (καθαρεύουσαν), -- that is, poor and naked (πτωχεύουσαν καὶ γυμνὴν), -- we must hear the Saviour speaking thus, "Come, follow Me. (‘δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι)" The way now he becomes to the pure in heart (ὁδὸς γὰρ αὐτὸς ἤδη τῷ καθαρῷ τὴν καρδίαν γίνεται).
We haven't reached the part yet where he introduces the non-Markan phrase 'kingdom of heaven' but it is clear that after mentioning the two rich men (cf above and compare Origen's citation of the Gospel of the Hebrews in Comm. Matt 15) and intimating that one is 'the rich man' here and the other Peter, Clement hints that there is a ritual path to salvation hidden in the mystic gospel which does not require one giving up one's property.

He intimates 'passion' (πάθη) brings death and the loss of salvation which can only be rescued through 'making the soul pure' presumably through a baptism which follows being naked and poor. Not only do these words echo the 'missing piece' which follows the narrative in mystic Mark where a rich youth 'dies' and appears 'naked' ready for purification associated with mystery of the kingdom of God Clement emphasizes words that reappear in the 'bridge' (i.e. Mark 10:32) to that 'mystic passage' viz:
we must hear the Saviour speaking thus, "Come, follow Me. (‘δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι)" The way (ὁδὸς) now he becomes to the pure in heart (γὰρ αὐτὸς ἤδη τῷ καθαρῷ τὴν καρδίαν γίνεται)
Compare that to Mark 10:32:
They were on their way (ὁδῷ) up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who following (ἀκολουθοῦντες) were afraid.


It is odd the way that two groups within the party following Jesus suddenly emerge - there are the 'disciples' who are 'astonished' and a new group "οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες" who seem to emerge after Jesus words "ἀκολούθει μοι" in the previous passage. One of the two men mentioned earlier in Clement's exposition who - with a pure soul - has heeded the call of Jesus and is prepared to ritually 'die' and be resurrected again 'naked' and ritually purified through the mysteries.

My point is that Clement's exegesis of the gospel of Mark - a text he explicitly calls 'mystic' in Quis Dives Salvetur - doesn't make sense unless this mystic Mark is the same as the mystic Mark of the letter to Theodore. Why does Clement deny that a man needs to give up all his material wealth? Because he knows that one of the men in the story of the 'rich man' ultimately dies, is resurrected and stands naked before God before being ritually purified through 'the mysteries of the kingdom of God.' If this narrative doesn't follow then Clement's exegesis is the most contrived argument in the history of Biblical exegesis.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:11 am

To continue in our reading of the Rich Man by Clement. We just saw that Clement's strange - 'mystical' -interpretation the Markan gospel story about the rich man necessarily requires the 'mystic' gospel of Mark he references in the Letter to Theodore. Otherwise his argument is unbelievably contrived. Nevertheless after hinting at a scenario that sounds remarkably like the one described in that letter (and for that matter Origen's use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews viz. two rich men who are understood in the gospel to have different fates) he goes on to attack I believe Origen's gospel exegesis which he ultimately describes as 'carnal.'

We read in what immediately follows our last citation where he describes the fate of the rich man with a 'pure' (καθαρεύουσαν) soul who is touched by Jesus's call to 'follow' he begins to speak of the other rich man saying by contrast that:
But into the impure (ἀκάθαρτος) soul the grace of God finds no entrance. And that (soul) is unclean which is rich in lusts (πλουτοῦσα τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν), and is in the throes of many worldly lusts (ἔρωσι καὶ κοσμικοῖς). For he who holds possessions (κτήματα), and gold, and silver, and houses, as the gifts of God; and ministers from them to the God who gives them for the salvation of men; and knows that he possesses (κέκτηται) them more for the sake of the brethren than his own (τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς μᾶλλον ἢ ἑαυτὸν); and is superior to the possession of them (τῆς κτήσεως αὐτῶν), not the slave of the things he possesses (μὴ δοῦλος ὢν ὧν κέκτηται); and does not carry them about in his soul, nor bind and circumscribe his life within them, but is ever labouring at some good and divine work, even should he be necessarily some time or other deprived of them, is able with cheerful mind to bear their removal equally with their abundance. This is he who is 'blessed' by the Lord, and called 'poor in spirit' (τοῦ κυρίου καὶ πτωχὸς τῷ πνεύματι καλούμενος), a meet heir of the kingdom of heaven (κληρονόμος ἕτοιμος οὐρανοῦ βασιλείας), not one who could not live rich ( οὐ πλούσιος ζῆσαι μὴ δυνάμενος).
It is amazing to me that scholars don't see the transition that takes place in the treatise away from Clement's 'mystic' gospel of Mark to a text resembling our canonical gospel of Matthew - the very treatise Origen seems to develop his Commentary from. It cannot be coincidence that Clement originally cites from Mark and then says that the other gospels have 'similar' but slightly inferior content.

Why would Clement transition from the 'right answer' in Mark to taking on those who promote an incorrect exegesis from Matthew or perhaps the Gospel of the Hebrews? The only answer to me is that Clement has Origen in his sights. He goes on immediately to note:
But he who carries his riches in his soul, and instead of God's Spirit bears in his heart gold or land, and is always acquiring possessions without end, and is perpetually on the outlook for more, bending downwards and fettered in the toils of the world, being earth and destined to depart to earth, -- whence can he be able to desire and to mind the kingdom of heaven, -- a man who carries not a heart, but land or metal, who must perforce be found in the midst of the objects he has chosen? For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure. The Lord acknowledges a twofold treasure, -- the good: "For the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good ("ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν") and the evil: for "the evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil: for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh ("ὁ κακὸς ἐκ τοῦ κακοῦ θησαυροῦ προφέρει τὸ κακόν, ὅτι ἐκ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ"). As then treasure is not one with Him, as also it is with us, that which gives the unexpected great gain in the finding, but also a second, which is profitless and undesirable, an evil acquisition, hurtful; so also there is a richness in good things, and a richness in bad things, since we know that riches and treasure are not by nature separated from each other. And the one sort of riches is to be possessed and acquired, and the other not to be possessed, but to be cast away. In the same way spiritual poverty is blessed. Wherefore also Matthew added, "Blessed are the poor." How? "In spirit." And again, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God." Wherefore wretched are the contrary kind of poor, who have no part in God, and still less in human property, and have not tasted of the righteousness of God.
Again notice the deliberate transition away from Mark to take on the 'incorrect' opinions of his adversaries. Matthew reads here - ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ ἐκβάλλει ἀγαθά, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ θησαυροῦ ἐκβάλλει πονηρά. Clement's citation is slightly different - ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν [καὶ] ὁ κακὸς ἐκ τοῦ κακοῦ θησαυροῦ προφέρει τὸ κακόν, ὅτι ἐκ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ. The introductory remarks pitting 'mystic' Mark up against 'other' gospels and the prevalence of the phrase 'kingdom of heaven' makes clear that Clement is transitioning to take on the exegesis of another using another gospel other than Mark. His point seems to be: Mark sets forth the mystic truth which can still be apprehended through a slightly inferior text like Matthew.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:45 am

So then after acknowledging that the 'mystic' message of Mark can still be confirmed through Matthew, Clement turns his guns on the 'wrong interpretation' through Matthew that presumably prompted the treatise. We read in what immediately follows:
So that "rich" in to be heard in a mathematical way (πλουσίους μαθηματικῶς ἀκουστέον) that with "difficulty shall enter into the kingdom" (τοὺς δυσκόλως εἰσελευσομένους εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν), is to be apprehended not awkwardly, or rustically, or carnally (μὴ σκαιῶς μηδὲ ἀγροίκως μηδὲ σαρκίνως). For if the expression is used thus, salvation does not depend on external things, whether they be many or few, small or great, or illustrious or obscure, or esteemed or disesteemed; but on the virtue of the soul, on faith, and hope, and love, and brotherliness, and knowledge, and meekness, and humility, and truth, the reward of which is salvation (ὧν ἆθλον ἡ σωτηρία). For it is not on account of comeliness of body that any one shall live (κάλλος σώματος ζήσεταί), or, on the other hand, perish (ἀπολεῖται). But he who uses the body given to him chastely and according to God, shall live (ἀλλ' ὁ μὲν τῷ δοθέντι σώματι ἁγνῶς καὶ κατὰ θεὸν χρώμενος ζήσεται); and he that destroys the temple of God shall be destroyed (ὁ δὲ φθείρων τὸν ναὸν θεοῦ φθαρήσεται). An ugly man can be profligate, and a good-looking man temperate. Neither strength and great size of body makes alive, nor does any of the members destroy. But the soul which uses them provides the cause for each. Bear then, it is said, when struck on the face; which a man strong and in good health can obey. And again, a man who is feeble may transgress from refractoriness of temper. So also a poor and destitute man may be found intoxicated with lusts; and a man rich in worldly goods temperate, poor in indulgences, trustworthy, intelligent, pure, chastened.

If then it is the soul which, first and especially, is that which is to live, and if virtue springing up around it saves, and vice kills; then it is clearly manifest that by being poor in those things, by riches of which one destroys it, it is saved, and by being rich in those things, riches of which ruin it, it is killed. And let us no longer seek the cause of the issue elsewhere than in the state and disposition of the soul in respect of obedience to God and purity, and in respect of transgression of the commandments and accumulation of wickedness.

He then is truly and rightly rich who is rich in virtue, and is capable of making a holy and faithful use of any fortune; while he is spuriously rich who is rich, according to the flesh, and turns life into outward possession, which is transitory and perishing, and now belongs to one, now to another, and in the end to nobody at all. Again, in the same way there is a genuine poor man, and another counterfeit and falsely so called. He that is poor in spirit, and that is the right thing, and he that is poor in a worldly sense, which is a different thing. To him who is poor in worldly goods, but rich in vices, who is not poor in spirit and rich toward God, it is said, Abandon the alien possessions that are in thy soul, that, becoming pure in heart, thou mayest see God; which is another way of saying, Enter into the kingdom of heaven. And how may you abandon them? By selling them. What then? Are you to take money for effects, by effecting an exchange of riches, by turning your visible substance into money? Not at all. But by introducing, instead of what was formerly inherent in your soul, which you desire to save, other riches which deify and which minister everlasting life, dispositions in accordance with the command of God; for which there shall accrue to you endless reward and honour, and salvation, and everlasting immortality. It is thus that thou dost rightly sell the possessions, many are superfluous, which shut the heavens against thee by exchanging them for those which are able to save. Let the former be possessed by the carnal poor, who are destitute of the latter. But thou, by receiving instead spiritual wealth, shalt have now treasure in the heavens.
As we shall see, there can be little doubt that Clement has Origen's literal - viz. 'carnal' - exegesis of the parallel material in his Commentary on Matthew in mind. To this end it opens up an even greater question - was this the reason why no EXPLICIT references to Clement are found in Origen's writings and vice versa?
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:40 am

So let's take a look at how closely Origen's commentary from Matthew lines up with Clement's strange - let's start with Mark and correct an opinion which uses Matthew - argument. Just before Origen cites the 'rich man' story he deals with what precedes the narrative in Matthew noting that while Matthew and later Luke have 'full narratives' "in like manner, Mark has set forth something approximate to these readings, especially the latter (i.e. verses from Luke σχεδὸν δὲ ταῖς αὐταῖς λέξεσι καὶ ὁ Μᾶρκος μάλιστα τὰ τελευταῖα ὡσαύ τως ἐξέθετο) . So Mark is not the original source of Matthew nor Luke. He goes on to cite the beginning of the rich man narrative as preserved in Matthew:
“And behold one came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do in order that I might attain eternal life?’,” etc., up to, “Many who are first will be last, and last first” (Matt 19.16-30). On the one hand, it is written in the Psalms, as though a man is able to do good, that, “The one who desires life, who loves to see good days let your tongue cease from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit; turn away from evil, and do what is good” (Ps 33.13 -15). Here on the other hand, to the one who says, “What good thing shall I do in order that I might inherit eternal life?,” the Savior says, “Why do you speak to me concerning what is good? There is one who is good” (Matt 19.17), as though “good” is, properly speaking, applicable to no one other than God. It is necessary to see, that here [the term] “good” is employed in its proper sense for God alone, but in other places by a misuse of language [is employed] for good works, a good man, and a good tree. Indeed you will find that [the term] “good” is also employed of many other things. One must not deem there to be a quarrel, therefore, between “Do what is good” and “Why do you speak to me concerning what is good? There is one who is good,” which is said to the one who inquires and says, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do?” On the one hand, therefore, Matthew has recorded “What good thing shall I do?” as though the Savior was being asked concerning a good work. Mark and Luke on the other hand have represented the Savior as having said, “Why do you call me good? None is good except one, God” (Mk 10.18; Lk 18.19) as though the term “good” applied to God may not be applied to any other thing. For God is not good in the same way that one might talk about “a good man who from the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ <τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ>« προφέρων τὰ ἀγαθά” (Matt 12.35; Lk 6.45).
What an interesting development! Both Clement and Origen - supposedly independent of one another - are drawn to Matthew 12:35 in the discussion of the 'rich man' narrative. As we saw earlier, Clement brought forward the passage to argue that the two men (the rich man and Peter) represent two paths - to and away from God. Clement says that the passage all comes down to what is in one's heart - the good man has God in his heart (regardless of whether he is materially rich or poor) and the evil man has materially things in his heart (again not withstanding whether he has material possession or not without:
For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure. The Lord acknowledges a twofold treasure, -- the good: "For the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good ("ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν") and the evil: for "the evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil: for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh ("ὁ κακὸς ἐκ τοῦ κακοῦ θησαυροῦ προφέρει τὸ κακόν, ὅτι ἐκ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ").
How interesting then is it that Origen denies that this parable has any relevance to the present discussion. After saying that Matthew stands apart from the other gospels in that it makes it seem that Jesus was asked about 'good works' he goes on to note that:
Mark and Luke on the other hand have represented the Savior as having said, “Why do you call me good? None is good except one, God” (Mk 10.18; Lk 18.19) as though the term “good” applied to God may not be applied to any other thing. For God is not good in the same way that one might talk about “a good man who from the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ <τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ>« προφέρων τὰ ἀγαθά” (Matt 12.35; Lk 6.45)
How interesting is it again that Clement begins his discussion of the pericope in exactly the manner Origen lashes out at, first including the words in his long citation of the entire narrative (note Origen begins only with the introduction of the rich man) and then recapitulating as follows:
And having been called "good," and taking the starting note from this first expression, He commences His teaching with this, turning the pupil to God, the good, and first and only dispenser of eternal life, which the Son, who received it of Him, gives to us.
So clearly it is Clement's interpretation of the passage which Origen goes out of his way to dispute. Since Matthew only speaks of 'good works' Origen argues that - in effect - Mark and Matthew are less correct to make the Father as 'the good' the anchor of the passage. God is not 'good' in the manner of a 'good man' is a most startling argument set forth by Origen, but he does so because he is (secretly) disputing Clement's reading throughout.

Indeed the emphasis of Mark and Luke is clearly - Jesus is subordinate to the Father i.e. proto-Arianism. In other words, Jesus is saying 'you have to have the Father, the Good god, in your heart.' Not surprisingly Origen hits out against that in what follows saying
You should observe and understand, then, that there is a greater degree of correspondence between the goodness of God in relationship to the Savior who is “the Image of his goodness” than between the Savior in relationship to a good man, a good work, and a good tree. For, insofar as he is “the Image of the goodness” of God himself, the supremacy [of goodness] in the Savior in relationship to those good things that are inferior is greater than the supremacy of God who is good in relationship to the Savior who says, “The Father who sent me is greater than me” (Jn 14.28), who is indeed [the] image of “the goodness” of God in relationship to other things
To this end, Origen concludes "so in the same way everything which might be called good in relationship to inferior things by a comparison of these things [to one another] may in no way be termed “good” before the good God (οὕτως οὐδὲ ἀγαθὸς χρηματίσει[εν] ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θεοῦ πᾶς)."

Now if all this discussion about 'the good God' has your ears perking up - especially as it emphasizes the Father as the 'good god' - you shouldn't be surprised that the discussion leads to the topic of heretics. But it is mostly left to the side by Origen acknowledging only that his attempt to explain Mark by Matthew has some inherent logical deficiencies:
Someone might suggest that, insofar as the Savior knows that the state and free will of him who inquires is clearly deficient for performing the good attainable by humans, he responds to him (who inquires, “What good shall I do?”) with “Why do you ask me concerning what is good?,” saying in effect: You who are not prepared [to do] the things communicated concerning what is good would inquire about doing “something good” [that] you may inherit eternal life?
And he ends the discussion leaving the reader hanging simply - and apparently dismissively - asserting suddenly "let one consider what we have been able to understand for this passage, concerning, 'Who is good?,' and in relationship to, 'What good shall I do?'"

It is very odd that Origen should willingly bring up the fact or make apparent that Matthew and Mark say too different things - even going so far as to deny that the narrative about the rich man can be 'clarified' by what immediately precedes it in Mark. Yet what is absolutely astounding is the fact that Origen's own explanation built around Matthew falls apart almost every step along the way. Notice what is said in what immediately follows:
But next it is to be contemplated how it is said that, “If you desire to enter into life, keep the commandments.” You will take note in this [text] that he speaks to the one who inquires concerning the “good” as though he is still outside of life [when he says], “If you desire to enter into life.” At
this point I could inquire as to how many ways there is to understand [what it means] to be outside of life and to enter into life. Nevertheless, therefore, with respect to one passage, he is outside of life who exists outside of him who says, “I am the life” (Jn 11. 25; 14.6), being a foreigner to him ... If, then, we also desire to enter into life, we must listen to Jesus who says, “If you desire to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19.17), and we, according to the proportion of [our] keeping the commandments, might enter into life, whether coming into its most inward and blessed parts, or the middle parts, or wherever the keeping of the more insignificant and more obscure commandments of life brings us.

Having heard [Jesus’ response], “Keep the commandments” (Matt 19.17), he replies, “Which ones?” (19.18), so that we might learn “which ones” are the more important “commandments” Jesus desires us to keep. For to [the question] “Which ones?” he replies, “You will not commit adultery; You will not murder; You will not steal; You will not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother,” and, “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 19.18 -19). Perhaps these [commandments] are in fact sufficient for some to enter into the beginning of life (if I may name it such), while these [commandments] and others similar to them are not sufficient to initiate some into perfection, inasmuch as one guilty of one of these commandments is not able to enter into the beginning of life. The one who desires to enter into the beginning of life must keep himself clean from adultery, murder, and all theft ... But, on the one hand, perhaps it is not at all difficult to master these commandments, yet with all that was introduced to him from the first commandments there is a work that is greater and more beneficial to fulfill [than the first], namely, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” since also according to the Apostle, “You will not murder; You will not commit adultery; You will not steal; and if there is some other commandment, it is summed up in this word, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom 13.9). If indeed every commandment “is summed up in this word, ‘You will love [K385] your neighbor as yourself,’” he is perfect who fulfills every commandment, that is to say, he who fulfills the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself” may be[come] perfect.

If this one is perfect, one might inquire how, after the young man says, “All these things I have kept from my youth; what yet do I lack?” (19.20), the Savior answers, “If you desire to be perfect, go, sell your substance and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; also, come, follow me” (19.21), as though [the young man] were not yet perfect in performing all these things, and as though agreeing with [the young man’s statement], “All these things I have done.” Consider, therefore, as to whether we may attempt to explain the present passage in one manner, that perhaps [the text] “You will love your neighbor as yourself” may be suspected of not having been expressed here by the Savior, but has been added by someone who does not understand the precision of the things said. The citation of similar things by Mark and Luke supports the suspicion that “You will love your neighbor as yourself” has been added here, since neither have added “You will love your neighbor as yourself” to the commandments expressed by Jesus in this passage. Indeed, the one who maintains that the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” has been included inappropriately might say that, if the same things were recorded by the Three [Gospels] with different readings, Jesus would not then have said, “One thing is lacking for you” (Mk 10.21), or “One thing still remains for you” (Lk 18.22), to the one who was announced to have fulfilled the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.” Even more [is this the case], if according to the Apostle, “You will not murder,” etc., “and if there is another commandment, it is summed up in this word, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself.’”

But since also according to Mark’s account, after observing this wealthy person (who says, “All these things I have observed from my youth” [Mk 10.20]), [Mark says,] “he loved him” (Mk 10.21), [Jesus] seems to have agreed with him who was announced as having fulfilled the things [Jesus] announced to perform. For after looking intently to his mind, he saw a man who, in good conscience, announces of having fulfilled the present commandments. [K387] Mark and Luke would not have omitted the chief-most and excelling commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” from was said in addition to the other commandments, except either someone might say that similar things have been recorded, or that this was not said concerning the same [person]. How indeed could Jesus say, “If you desire to be perfect, go, sell your substance and give to the poor” (Matt 19.21), etc., to him who is announced as having fulfilled the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” in addition to the other [commandments] as though he were not yet perfect?

Indeed, except for the fact that there are many disagreements in many other passages in the copies, such that the body of manuscripts for Matthew do not agree with one another—as is the case with the rest of the Gospels—one might seem to be impious in suspecting an addition in the present instance, the Savior having not spoken the commandment to the rich man, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.” Now it is clear that many differences in the copies have come about either from the indifference of certain scribes, or the misguided daring of some, or from those neglectful of the correction of the things written, or even from those who, in [their] correction, either added or subtracted those things according to their own opinions. The disagreement, therefore, in the copies of the Old Testament, we found to be cured, with God’s help, when making use of the rest of the copies as a criterion. For, with the doubtful matters in the LXX arising from the disagreement of the copies, we made a judgment from the rest of the editions, [and] we preserved the agreement among them, and we marked with an obelus those [passages] not found in the Hebrew (not daring to remove them completely), and we added other [passages] along with an asterisk, in order that it might be clear that we have added passages not found in the LXX from the rest of the editions in agreement with the Hebrew [text]. Indeed, he who so wishes may accept these things, but to one whom this matter causes offense he may do what he wishes (concerning their acceptance, or not).
[K390] The one, then, who desires not to cast aside here the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” but to [take it as] having truly been by the Lord at that time after the first [commands], [M1296] he might say that our Savior, desiring to gently and immediately reprove this rich person as not having truly kept the commandment that was spoken, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” he says to him, “If you desire to be perfect, go, sell your substance, and give to the poor.” For in this way the truth would appear concerning having kept the commandment, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.”
What a truly remarkable development! After attempting to justify Matthew's 'what good must I do' viz. a doctrine in keeping with the commandments being promulgated, Origen in the end basically says at least part of Matthew was likely corrupted by a scribe who wanted to assist this doctrine along. Really? So much for Origen being Matthew first!
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:26 am

So just to recap. In spite of the fact that Origen's is supposedly a 'Commentary on Matthew' Origen finds Mark as having the definitively correct retelling of the incident involving the rich man. First, Origen attempted - rather half-heartedly - to justify Matthew's 'what good thing must I do.' The strongest argument in the section nevertheless has to do with Origen's apparently refutation of Clement's reading in Mark 'who is good.' Secondly now, Origen prefers Mark's reading of the link between the commandments and the command that follows saying:
But since also according to Mark’s account, after observing this wealthy person (who says, “All these things I have observed from my youth” [Mk 10.20]), [Mark says,] “he loved him” (Mk 10.21), [Jesus] seems to have agreed with him who was announced as having fulfilled the things [Jesus] announced to perform
The manuscripts of Matthew have been corrupted by someone with an agenda - viz. trying to make the fulfillment of the commandments obligatory and entirely in keeping with Jesus's message. Indeed Origen attempts to use Mark to say that what is written in Mark is still compatible with the spirit of what we find in Matthew - in spite of the corruption(s).

Yet what a far cry is Origen's interpretation of Mark from what is found in Clement who writes of Jesus 'loving' the rich man:
But, nevertheless, this man being such, is perfectly persuaded that nothing is wanting to him as far as respects righteousness, but that he is entirely destitute of life. Wherefore he asks it from Him who alone is able to give it. And with reference to the law, he carries confidence; but the Son of God he addresses in supplication. He is transferred from faith to faith. As perilously tossing and occupying a dangerous anchorage in the law, he makes for the Saviour to find a haven. Jesus, accordingly, does not charge him with not having fulfilled all things out of the law, but loves him, and fondly welcomes his obedience in what he had learned; but says that he is not perfect as respects eternal life, inasmuch as he had not fulfilled what is perfect, and that he is a doer indeed of the law, but idle at the true life.
So for Clement fulfilling the commandments have nothing to do with attaining eternal life. Origen in so much as he uses Matthew is a bit of bind because the original question from the rich man has to do with 'what good thing' he must do for life. It simply does not make sense that with this lead question Jesus would follow up with questions about 'doing' commandments.

So if Mark's gospel represents for both Clement and Origen the purer better gospel here why does Origen bring out Matthew to combat Clement? Clearly it is because he knows Clement's understanding and recognizes it was authoritative - at least in his Mark-based community. Matthew has the advantage of framing the discussion in terms of action rather than 'what is good'? Indeed Clement's interpretation of Mark goes so far as to juxtapose 'the good' against the commandments. If the 'good' is eternal life - that is being the Father in realm above - then the 'doing the commandments' does not lead there.

Indeed if we look carefully at Clement's Matthew critique he goes much further than Origen in explaining away the extra-commandment found in the text in this section writing:
For since neither does one perish by any means by fearing because he is rich, nor is by any means saved by trusting and believing that he shall be saved, come let them look what hope the Saviour assigns them, and how what is unexpected may become ratified, and what is hoped for may come into possession. The Master accordingly, when asked, "Which is the greatest of the commandments?" says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;" that no commandment is greater than this (He says), and with exceeding good reason; for it gives command respecting the First and the Greatest, God Himself, our Father, by whom all things were brought into being, and exist, and to whom what is saved returns again. By Him, then, being loved beforehand, and having received existence, it is impious for us to regard ought else older or more excellent; rendering only this small tribute of gratitude for the greatest benefits; and being unable to imagine anything else whatever by way of recompense to God, who needs nothing and is perfect; and gaining immortality by the very exercise of loving the Father to the extent of one's might and power. For the more one loves God, the more he enters within God.

The second in order, and not any less than this, He says, is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," consequently God above thyself ... In both the commandments, then, He introduces love; but in order distinguishes it. And in the one He assigns to God the first part of love, and allots the second to our neighbour ... He then is first who loves Christ; and second, he who loves and cares for those who have believed on Him.
So Origen acknowledges that some editor corrupted Matthew to add the line from Deuteronomy "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" effectively to Mark's purer narrative; but Clement goes so far as to say that you can't use Matthew to argue for keeping the commandments because this commandment is of a subordinate authority. Why? Clearly it was because only the ten commandments came from God and the rest of the Pentateuch was man-made.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:19 am

Before I go any further I should note I uncovered another parallel between Clement's Quis Dives Salvetur and Origen's Commentary on Matthew. These will keep occurring in a random manner as the material is quite extensive. We saw Origen reference Crates quite extensively but Clement also makes reference to him:
Nor was the renunciation of wealth and the bestowment of it on the poor or needy a new thing; for many did so before the Saviour's advent, -- some because of the leisure (thereby obtained) for learning, and on account of a dead wisdom; and others for empty fame and vainglory, as the Anaxagorases, the Democriti, and the Crateses (οἳ μὲν τῆς εἰς λόγους σχολῆς καὶ νεκρᾶς σοφίας ἕνεκεν, οἳ δὲ φήμης κενῆς καὶ κενοδοξίας, Ἀναξαγόραι καὶ ∆ημόκριτοι καὶ Κράτητες). Why then command as new, as divine, as alone life-giving, what did not save those of former days? And what peculiar thing is it that the new creature s the Son of God intimates and teaches? It is not the outward act which others have done, but something else indicated by it, greater, more godlike, more perfect, the stripping off of the passions from the soul itself and from the disposition, and the cutting up by the roots and casting out of what is alien to the mind. For this is the lesson peculiar to the believer, and the instruction worthy of the Saviour. For those who formerly despised external things relinquished and squandered their property, but the passions of the soul, I believe, they intensified. For they indulged in arrogance, pretension, and vainglory, and in contempt of the rest of mankind, as if they had done something superhuman. How then would the Saviour have enjoined on those destined to tire for ever what was injurious and hurtful with reference to the life which He promised? For although such is the case, one, after ridding himself of the burden of wealth, may none the less have still the lust and desire for money innate and living; and may have abandoned the use of it, but being at once destitute of and desiring what he spent, may doubly grieve both on account of the absence of attendance, and the presence of regret. For it is impossible and inconceivable that those in want of the necessaries of life should not be harassed in mind, and hindered from better things in the endeavour to provide them somehow, and from some source.(QDS 11, 12)
Remarkably then Clement uses Crates in very much the same manner as Origen does - to argue that what the other guy is arguing for is nothing new.

Origen also says that what Clement is saying isn't anything new.
If someone, looking with human weakness, as though it were difficult for someone to do such things for the sake of the perfection in God, might despise the [literal] text, but turns away from allegory [as well], he will be put to shame by certain Greek histories, in which certain ones, because of Greek wisdom, are recounted to have performed what the Savior here tells the rich man [to do]. For Crates of Thebes undertook the simple life for the sake of his soul’s freedom and [as an] example, and (as he was supposing) desired to establish blessedness for himself among the Greeks, having no wealth “of this world.” They say he gave all his substance to the Theban people, upon which time he said, “Today Crates sets Crates free.” Now, if someone can do such a thing as freeing the soul of man through Greek wisdom and teaching, how is it not more possible that someone might attain the perfection of Christ in himself by being mindful of practicing these things?
It is interesting to note that Clement Crates's example represents a precursor for what Origen is advocating - the need to simply sell your goods, get rid of all material possessions and give to your fellow citizens. Origen acknowledges the facts of the case but he attempts to arguing that Crates really epitomizes what Clement is advocating - viz. a philosophical 'release from the passions.' The same example was used by both sides to belittle the 'newness' of the other point of view.

Yet I think we can take things one step further. Origen was aware of Clement's argument in Quis Dives Salvetur because he turns around and loosely references it in his work against Celsus or his 'Jew.' After the Jew makes the quip that "he did not show himself to be pure from all evil" (μὴ δείξαντι ἑαυτὸν πάντων δὴ
κακῶν καθα ρεύοντα). Origen reuses part of the aforementioned argument of Clement:
But if he deems poverty (πενίαν) and the cross to be evils, and conspiracy on the part of wicked men, then it is clear that he would say that evil had happened also to Socrates, who was unable to show himself pure from evils. And how great also the other band of poor men (πενήτων) is among the Greeks, who have given themselves to philosophical pursuits, and have voluntarily accepted a life of poverty (καὶ ἑκούσιον πενίαν ἀναδεξαμένων), is known to many among the Greeks from what is recorded of Democritus, who allowed his property to become pasture for sheep; and of Crates, who obtained his freedom by bestowing upon the Thebans the price received for the sale of his possessions.
Compare the statement again in Quis Dives Salvetur "and others for empty fame and vainglory, as the Anaxagorases, the Democriti, and the Crateses." Clearly Origen acknowledges in Against Celsus that Crates example was principally to demonstrate poverty. I believe that when he later writes the Commentary on Matthew and is forced to confront Clement's original argument against his reading of the 'rich man' narrative - viz. the demand for actually giving up one's wealth - he stretches the bounds of credibility saying that Crates was a precursor of Clement. In fact what Clement was arguing for - a mystery imbued spirituality which understood 'riches' and 'poverty' in wholly allegorical terms was not promulgated by Crates.
Last edited by Secret Alias on Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 7860
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Clement and Origen: Were They Really Friends?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:37 am

And then here is where Origen belittles Clement's exegesis (immediately following the last citation):
If someone, looking with human weakness, as though it were difficult for someone to do such things for the sake of the perfection in God, might despise the [literal] text, but turns away from allegory [as well], he will be put to shame by certain Greek histories, in which certain ones, because of Greek wisdom, are recounted to have performed what the Savior here tells the rich man [to do]. For Crates of Thebes undertook the simple life for the sake of his soul’s freedom and [as an] example, and (as he was supposing) desired to establish blessedness for himself among the Greeks, having no wealth “of this world.” They say he gave all his substance to the Theban people, upon which time he said, “Today Crates sets Crates free.” Now, if someone can do such a thing as freeing the soul of man through Greek wisdom and teaching, how is it not more possible that someone might attain the perfection of Christ in himself by being mindful of practicing these things?
Clearly Origen is attacking Clement's 'mathematical' (see earlier) or scholarly understanding of what 'rich' and 'poor' means. Yet when he sets forth his own explanation of the passage it is nothing short of advocating for religious communism.

Origen begins with Acts chapter 2 noting that:
If someone also desires to be persuaded from the divine Scripture concerning what it is that makes this possible, let him listen to those things recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles concerning those who were persuaded to believe by the power among the Apostles, and to live perfectly according to the word of Jesus. Thus, [Luke] has these passages: “And all those who believed [were] together [and] had all things in common” (Acts 2.44),35 etc., up to, “Praising God, and having favor towards all people” (Acts 2.47). Again in the same book, it is written a little farther down that, “The whole group of those who believed was one in heart and soul” (Acts 4.32),etc., up to, “He brought [his] property and set [it] before the Apostles”(Acts 4.37). Then there follows the [incident] concerning Ananias and Sapphira, who handed over their own “property,” but kept back “part of its value,” and set only part of it, not the whole thing, [K393] before the feet of the Apostles, and the things they suffered because of this sin are recorded.
Origen says that he cites the example from Acts "to show that the ability does exist for those who desire it to become perfect, having been persuaded by what Jesus says, 'Go, sell your substance, and give to the poor.' It seems to me, also, that those excellent men who together represent the episcopacy are to urge those who are able and are persuaded by [Jesus’] exhortation to this work, and to encourage others unto this because they hold the provisions from the community. For this happened as a kind of image of the harmonious life for those who believe in accordance with the apostles."

Origen's point is that Acts portrays the first Christian community as sharing all things in common with no distinction of private property. He wants to use Acts as a guide for how best to interpret the rich man pericope. But once he gets that out of the way he seems more than ready to take on Clement's arguments against his 'carnal' interpretation saying:
One might inquire consequently that, since it is the one who has all the virtues and no longer practices anything connected to vice who is perfect, how might he who sells his own substance and gives it to the poor be perfect? For should you present someone having done this, how might he become anger-free as a consequence, if he be easily susceptible to anger? How without grief, and better able to endure all such things which are able to evoke grief? How will he be outside of all fear, of that which concerns trials, or of death, or of those things such as are able to bring fear to the as-yet unperfected soul? Will the one who gives away [his] substance in such a fashion, and gives to the poor, be free from all desire (πτωχοῖς ἐκτὸς ἔσται πάσης ἐπιθυμίας)? For one might say that the ability to give away all one’s substance by itself could produce a certain kind of human suffering from poverty leading one to, on the one hand, repent of having done such a daring thing, and on the other to desire possessions equivalent [to that which was given away].And if indeed that which is called pleasure, being an irrational impulse of the soul, is a passion, how might one give away all substance and give to the poor at one time, and at the same time be released from being impelled irrationally?
This seems to be a very reasonable line of attack against Clement's 'mystical' interpretation of the gospel. Just how exactly is someone cured of passion through the mysteries? Clement talks a good game with many flowery phrases but the actual mechanics of how this ritual is supposed to perfect someone is never explained.

Yet what does shine through from the Commentary on Matthew is that Origen was writing against a dominant worldview which was Clement's interpretation of the passage. Look at what is written a little later:
After these things it is said that, “When the young man heard the word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (Matt 19.22). You will indeed see (as though in anagogical terms), we have become firmly fixed in thinking that the wealth is a certain figure of the good, rather than the opinion below (καὶ ὄψει γε (ὡς πρὸς τὴν ἀναγωγήν), τίνα τρόπον δυσαποσπάστως ἔχομεν τοῦ φρονεῖν τὸν πλοῦτον ἀγαθὸν εἶναι ἢ τὴν κάτω δόξαν).
'Anagogical' is another way of saying subliminal (how far are we removed now from Clement's use of 'mathematical' in relation to this passage?). It is worth noting that Clement does indeed identify 'wealth' in terms of 'the good' as we see repeatedly in Quis Dives Salvetur. It is absolutely explicit in chapter 17:
The Lord acknowledges a twofold treasure, -- the good: "For the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good;" and the evil: for "the evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil: for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." As then treasure is not one with Him, as also it is with us, that which gives the unexpected great gain in the finding, but also a second, which is profitless and undesirable, an evil acquisition, hurtful; As then treasure is not one with Him, as also it is with us, that which gives the unexpected great gain in the finding, but also a second, which is profitless and undesirable, an evil acquisition, hurtful; so also there is a richness in good things (καὶ πλοῦτος ὃ μέν τις ἀγαθῶν), and a richness in bad things, since we know that riches and treasure are not by nature separated from each other. And the one sort of riches is to be possessed and acquired, and the other not to be possessed, but to be cast away.
and again a little earlier:
Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbours, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they lie to our hand, and are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument. If you use it skilfully, it is skilful; if you are deficient in skill, it is affected by your want of skill, being itself destitute of blame. Such an instrument is wealth. Are you able to make a right use of it? It is subservient to righteousness. Does one make a wrong use of it? It is, on the other hand, a minister of wrong. For its nature is to be subservient, not to rule. That then which of itself has neither good nor evil, being blameless, ought not to be blamed; but that which has the power of using it well and ill, by reason of its possessing voluntary choice. And this is the mind and judgment of man, which has freedom in itself and self-determination in the treatment of what is assigned to it. So let no man destroy wealth, rather than the passions of the soul, which are incompatible with the better use of wealth. So that, becoming virtuous and good, he may be able to make a good use of these riches. The renunciation, then, and selling of all possessions, is to be understood as spoken of the passions of the soul.
Next Origen goes on to emphasize the correct reading of Matthew that the 'rich man' was in fact a 'rich youth':
But he was not introduced as an elder in a mature state, nor [as] a man slandering “the things of an infant,” but [as] a youth who hears the word and goes away grieving. For such is [the state of his] soul, since indeed after leaving Jesus he went away (for it is said for blame that, “He went away”) and “he went away grieving the grief” that is “of the world,” which produces “death” (2 Cor 7.10). For he had many possessions which he loved, loving to be angry and to grieve (since he went away grieving) and such things having been begotten by him from vice which have seized his soul. If then one remains at the literal level of explanation of things previously set forth, you would find half a measure of praise and half a measure of blame extended to this young man. For on the one hand in so far as he was not committing adultery, nor murdering, nor stealing, nor bearing false witness, but, being a young man, he indeed honored his father and mother, and he was grieved at the teachings of Jesus set forth about perfection and promised it [to him], if he would give away his substance, there would be something beneficial for him.
But notice this is the exact opposite from what Clement argues from the passage, his argument being based as it is on what appears in Mark:
If then the law of Moses had been sufficient to confer eternal life, it were to no purpose for the Saviour Himself to come and suffer for us, accomplishing the course of human life from His birth to His cross; and to no purpose for him who had done all the commandments of the law from his youth to fall on his knees and beg from another immortality. For he had not only fulfilled the law, but had begun to do so from his very earliest youth. For what is there great or pre-eminently illustrious in an old age which is unproductive of faults? But if one in juvenile frolicsomeness and the fire of youth shows a mature judgment older than his years, this is a champion admirable and distinguished, and hoary pre-eminently in mind.

But, nevertheless, this man being such, is perfectly persuaded that nothing is wanting to him as far as respects righteousness, but that he is entirely destitute of life. Wherefore he asks it from Him who alone is able to give it. And with reference to the law, he carries confidence; but the Son of God he addresses in supplication. He is transferred from faith to faith. As perilously tossing and occupying a dangerous anchorage in the law, he makes for the Saviour to find a haven. Jesus, accordingly, does not charge him with not having fulfilled all things out of the law, but loves him, and fondly welcomes his obedience in what he had learned; but says that he is not perfect as respects eternal life, inasmuch as he had not fulfilled what is perfect, and that he is a doer indeed of the law, but idle at the true life.
Already we can see that the chasm which exists between the two men goes beyond merely the particular reading in each gospel. Origen uses Matthew to make the case that 'the commandments' are not useless for attaining eternal life, whereas for Clement it is clear that these same 'commandments' are something totally removed for the pursuit of life in the hereafter.

How can this be explained? If Origen really was Clement's student how could he have developed a completely different understanding of the 'rich man' narrative from a completely different gospel? My guess is that when Origen left Alexandria he no longer had access to his old gospel and likely was forced to join a completely community in Palestine who not only used a different gospel but who also refused to see the 'commandments' as wholly detached from the pursuit of eternal life. This helps explain why Origen thinks that Matthew's inclusion of the commandment which is not part of the Decalogue viz. 'love your neighbor' was added by a later editor. There must have been a native Palestinian Christian community who took him in who had the views and used the gospel that Origen was now using.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Ben C. Smith, Bernard Muller, DCHindley, Google [Bot], JoeWallack, John2, Kapyong, MrMacSon, Peter Kirby and 43 guests