Sunday 29 March 2015

Heretical typos: von Balthasar's Origen

Where copyists are concerned, Origen was the unluckiest of all the church fathers. Rufinus complained that heterodox copyists had cunningly inserted heresies into Origen's writings. They "poured the poisonous filth of their own doctrines" into the texts of Origen in order to give their ideas a false aura of authority and antiquity (Rufinus, On the Falsification of the Books of Origen, 2). When Rufinus translated Origen into Latin at the end of the fourth century, he scrupulously omitted or erased anything that looked like a heretical interpolation. As he says in the preface to his translation of First Principles: "Wherever I have found in Origen's books anything that contradicts the devout statements he makes elsewhere about the Trinity, I have either omitted it as a corrupt and interpolated passage, or reproduced it in a form that matches the doctrine that he often affirms elsewhere." And then Rufinus adds that he has also made some interpolations of his own, inserting "explanatory comments" wherever Origen's "obscurity" calls for expression "in a fuller form" (Rufinus, Preface to First Principles).

Poor Origen! Interpolators on every side! Well, Christian reader, I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but the bad luck of this great teacher has continued right down to our own time. One of Origen's greatest modern defenders, Hans Urs von Balthasar, inserts a very peculiar heresy into Origen's soteriology:

"... and by his death destroyed life."
Quotation from Origen in Balthasar, Origen: Spirit and Fire, p. 184.
To be more precise, it is Balthasar's English translator Robert J. Daly who has inserted this latest heresy into Origen. I am not certain, but I believe it may have something to do with Daly's unwholesome fascination with sacrifice.

If only Rufinus were here, he would have tidied things up quite nicely and removed every trace of heresy – something like this (translated freely from Rufinus' Latin):
For although the only-begotten Son of God, whom the holy church acknowledges homoousios with the Father before all worlds, became truly human and suffered for the salvation of the human race, and by his death destroyed death (for let all those who claim that Christ's death was a destruction of life be accursed), and by his resurrection restored life, just as marvellous, apart from the incarnation of the eternal self-subsistent Word, were the things brought about by the Holy Spirit, who is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son, world without end.


Unknown said...

You would have made a wonderful Rufinus, Ben.

Scipio said...

I will try to check the German original later today.

Scipio said...

The German edition (3rd edition 1991), page 220, says:
"Wenn auch der Einziggeborene Sohn Gottes für das Heil des Menschengeschlechts Mensch wurde und litt und durch seinen Tod den Tod zerstörte und durch die Auferstehung das Leben zurückgab, so wird doch nichtsdestoweniger auch abgesehen von der Menschwerdung, durch den Heiligen Geist Herrliches vollbracht."

By his death destroyed death - orthodox enough...

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