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