Origen In Jn., 10.4

In the case I have supposed where the historians desire to teach us by an image what they have seen in their mind, their meaning would be found, if the four were wise, to exhibit no disagreement; and we must understand that with the four Evangelists it is not otherwise. They made full use for their purpose of things done by Jesus in the exercise of His wonderful and extraordinary power; they use in the same way His sayings, and in some places they tack on to their writing, with language apparently implying things of sense, things made manifest to them in a purely intellectual way. I do not condemn them if they even sometimes dealt freely with things which to the eye of history happened differently, and changed them so as to subserve the mystical aims they had in view; so as to speak of a thing which happened in a certain place, as if it had happened in another, or of what took place at a certain time, as if it had taken place at another time, and to introduce into what was spoken in a certain way some changes of their own. They proposed to speak the truth where it was possible both materially and spiritually, and where this was not possible it was their intention to prefer the spiritual to the material. The spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in the material falsehood. As, for example, we might judge of the story of Jacob and Esau. Genesis xxvii Jacob says to Isaac, I am Esau your firstborn son, and spiritually he spoke the truth, for he already partook of the rights of the first-born, which were perishing in his brother, and clothing himself with the goatskins he assumed the outward semblance of Esau, and was Esau all but the voice praising God, so that Esau might afterward find a place to receive a blessing. For if Jacob had not been blessed as Esau, neither would Esau perhaps have been able to receive a blessing of his own. And Jesus too is many things, according to the conceptions of Him, of which it is quite likely that the Evangelists took up different notions; while yet they were in agreement with each other in the different things they wrote. Statements which are verbally contrary to each other, are made about our Lord, namely, that He was descended from David and that He was not descended from David. The statement is true, He was descended from David, as the Apostle says, Romans 1:3 born of the seed of David according to the flesh, if we apply this to the bodily part of Him; but the self-same statement is untrue if we understand His being born of the seed of David of His diviner power; for He was declared to be the Son of God with power. And for this reason too, perhaps, the sacred prophecies speak of Him now as a servant, and now as a Son. They call Him a servant on account of the form of a servant which he wore, and because He was of the seed of David, but they call Him the Son of God according to His character as first-born. Thus it is true to call Him man and to call Him not man; man, because He was capable of death; not man, on account of His being diviner than man. Marcion, I suppose, took sound words in a wrong sense, when he rejected His birth from Mary, and declared that as to His divine nature He was not born of Mary, and hence made bold to delete from the Gospel the passages which have this effect. And a like fate seems to have overtaken those who make away with His humanity and receive His deity alone; and also those opposites of these who cancel His deity and confess Him as a man to be a holy man, and the most righteous of all men. And those who hold the doctrine of Dokesis, not remembering that He humbled Himself even unto death Philippians 2:8 and became obedient even to the cross, but only imagining in Him the absence of suffering, the superiority to all such accidents, they do what they can to deprive us of the man who is more just than all men, and are left with a figure which cannot save them, for as by one man came death, so also by one man is the justification of life. We could not have received such benefit as we have from the Logos had He not assumed the man, had He remained such as He was from the beginning with God the Father, and had He not taken up man, the first man of all, the man more precious than all others, purer than all others and capable of receiving Him. But after that man we also shall be able to receive Him, to receive Him so great and of such nature as He was, if we prepare a place in proportion to Him in our soul. So much I have said of the apparent discrepancies in the Gospels, and of my desire to have them treated in the way of spiritual interpretation.


18. Now to see into the real truth of these matters is the part of that true intelligence which is given to those who can say, 1 Corinthians 2:16 But we have the mind of Christ that we may see those things which are freely given to us of God; and doubtless it is beyond our powers. For neither is the ruling principle in our soul free from agitation, nor are our eyes such as those of the fair bride of Christ should be, of which the bridegroom says, Song of Songs 1:15 Your eyes are doves, signifying, perhaps, in a riddle, the observant power which dwells in the spiritual, because the Holy Spirit came like a dove to our Lord and to the lord in every one. Such as we are, however, we will not delay, but will feel about the words of life which have been spoken to us and strive to lay hold of that power in them which flows to him who touches them in faith. Now Jesus is the word of God which goes into the soul that is called Jerusalem, riding on the ass freed by the disciples from its bonds. That is to say, on the simple language of the Old Testament, interpreted by the two disciples who loose it: in the first place him who applies what is written to the service of the soul and shows the allegorical sense of it with reference to her, and in the second place him who brings to light by the things which lie in shadow the good and true things of the future. But He also rides on the young colt, the New Testament; for in both alike we find the word of truth which purifies us and drives away all those thoughts in us which incline to selling and buying. But He does not come alone to Jerusalem, the soul, nor only with a few companions; for many things have to enter into us before the word of God which makes us perfect, and as many things have to come after Him, all, however, hymning and glorifying Him and placing under Him their ornaments and vestures, so that the beasts He rides on may not touch the ground, when He who descended out of heaven is seated on them. But that His bearers, the old and the new words of Scripture, may be raised yet higher above the ground, branches have to be cut down from the trees that they may tread on reasonable expositions. But the multitudes which go before and follow Him may also signify the angelic ministrations, some of which prepare the way for Him in our souls, and help in their adorning, while some come after His presence in us, of which we have often spoken, so that we need not now adduce testimonies about it. And perhaps it is not without reason that I have likened to an ass the surrounding voices which conduct the Word Himself to the soul; for it is a beast of burden, and many are the burdens, heavy the loads, which are brought into view from the text, especially of the Old Testament, as he can clearly see who observes what is done in this connection on the part of the Jews. But the foal is not a beast of burden in the same way as the ass. For though every lead of the latter be heavy to those who have not in themselves the upbearing and most lightening power of the Spirit, yet the new word is less heavy than the old. I know some who interpret the tied-up ass as being believers from the circumcision, who are freed from many bonds by those who are truly and spiritually instructed in the word; and the foal they take to be those from the Gentiles, who before they receive the word of Jesus are free from any control and subject to no yoke in their unbridled and pleasure-loving existence. The writers I am speaking of do not say who those are that go before and who those follow after; but there would be no absurdity in saying that those who went before were like Moses and the prophets, and those who followed after the holy Apostles. To what Jerusalem all these go in it is now our business to enquire, and what is the house which has many sellers and buyers to be driven out by the Son of God. And perhaps the Jerusalem above to which the Lord is to ascend driving like a charioteer those of the circumcision and the believers of the Gentiles, while prophets and Apostles go before Him and follow after Him (or is it the angels who minister to Him, for they too may be meant by those who go before and those who follow), perhaps it is that city which before He ascended to it contained the so-called Ephesians 6:12 spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places, or the Canaanites and Hittites and Amorites and the other enemies of the people of God, and in a word, the foreigners. For in that region, too, it was possible for the prophecy to be fulfilled which says, Isaiah 1:7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire, your land, strangers devour it in your presence. For these are they who defile and turn into a den of robbers, that is, of themselves the heavenly house of the Father, the holy Jerusalem, the house of prayer; having spurious money, and giving pence and small change, cheap worthless coinage, to all who come to them. These are they who, contending with the souls, take from them what is most precious, robbing them of their better part to return to them what is worth nothing. But the disciples go and find the ass tied and loose it, for it cannot have Jesus on account of the covering that is laid upon it by the law. 2 Corinthians 3:14 And the colt is found with it, both having been lost till Jesus came; I mean, namely, those of the circumcision and those of the Gentiles who afterwards believed. But how these are sent back again after Jesus has ascended to Jerusalem seated upon them, it is somewhat dangerous to say; for there is something mystical about it, in connection with the change of saints into angels. After that change they will be sent back, in the age succeeding this one, like the ministering spirits, Hebrews 1:11 who are sent to do service for the sake of them who will thereby inherit salvation. But if the ass and the foal are the old and the new Scriptures, on which the Word of God rides, it is easy to see how, after the Word has appeared in them, they are sent back and do not wait after the Word has entered Jerusalem among those who have cast out all the thoughts of selling and buying. I consider, too, that it is not without significance that the place where the ass was found tied, and the foal, was a village, and a village without a name. For in comparison with the great world in heaven, the whole earth is a village where the ass is found tied and the colt, and it is simply called the village without any other designation being added to it. From Bethphage Matthew says the disciples are sent out who are to fetch the ass and the colt; and Bethphage is a priestly place, the name of which means House of Jaw-bones. So much we have said, as our power allowed, on the text of Matthew, reserving for a further opportunity, when we may be permitted to take up the Gospel of Matthew by itself, a more complete and accurate discussion of his statements. Mark and Luke say that the two disciples, acting on their Master’s instructions, found a foal tied, on which no one had ever sat, and that they loosed it and brought it to the Lord. Mark adds that they found the foal tied at the door, outside on the road. But who is outside? Those of the Gentiles who were strangers Ephesians 2:12 from the covenants, and aliens to the promise of God; they are on the road, not resting under a roof or a house, bound by their own sins, and to be loosed by the twofold knowledge spoken of above, of the friends of Jesus. And the bonds with which the foal was tied, and the sins committed against the wholesome law and reproved by it—for it is the gate of life—in respect of it, I say, they were not inside but outside the door, for perhaps inside the door there cannot be any such bond of wickedness. But there were some persons standing beside the tied-up foal, as Mark says; those, I suppose, who had tied it; as Luke records, it was the masters of the foal who said to the disciples, Why loose ye the foal? For those lords who subjected and bound the sinner are illegal masters and cannot look the true master in the face when he frees the foal from its bonds. Thus when the disciples say, The Lord has need of him, these wicked masters have nothing to say in reply. The disciples then bring the foal to Jesus naked, and put their own dress on it, so that the Lord may sit on the disciples’ garments which are on it, at His ease. What is said further will not, in the light of Matthew’s statements, present any difficulty; how Mark 11:15 They come to Jerusalem, and entering into the temple He began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, or how Luke 19:41 When He drew near and beheld the city He wept over it; and entering into the temple He began to cast out them that sold. For in some of those who have the temple in themselves He casts out all that sell and buy in the temple; but in others who do not quite obey the word of God, He only makes a beginning of casting out the sellers and buyers. There is a third class also besides these, in which He began to cast out the sellers only, and not also the buyers. With John, on the contrary, they are all cast out by the scourge woven of small cords, along with the sheep and the oxen. It should be carefully considered whether it is possible that the changes of the things described and the discrepancies found in them can be satisfactorily solved by the anagogic method. Each of the Evangelists ascribes to the Word different modes of action, which produce in souls of different tempers not the same effects but yet similar ones. The discrepancy we noticed in respect of Jesus’ journeys to Jerusalem, which the Gospel now in hand reports quite differently from the other three, as we have expounded their words, cannot be made good in any other way. John gives statements which are similar to those of the other three but not the same; instead of branches cut from the trees or stubble brought from the fields and strewed on the road he says they took branches of palm trees. He says that much people had come to the feast, and that these went out to meet Him, crying, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, and Blessed is the King of Israel. He also says that it was Jesus Himself who found the young ass on which Christ sat, and the phrase, young ass, doubtless conveys some additional meaning, as the small animal afforded a benefit not of men, nor through men, but through Jesus Christ. John moreover does not, any more than the others, reproduce the prophetic words exactly; instead of them he gives us Fear not, O daughter of Zion; behold your King comes sitting (instead of mounted) on the foal of an ass (for on an ass and a young foal). The words Fear not, daughter of Zion, are not in the prophet at all. But as the prophetic utterance has been applied by all in this way, let us see if there was not a necessity that the daughter of Zion should rejoice greatly and that the greater than she, the daughter of Jerusalem, should not only rejoice greatly but should also proclaim it when her king was coming to her, just and bringing salvation, and meek, having mounted an ass and a young colt. Whoever, then, receives Him will no longer be afraid of those who are armed with the specious discourses of the heterodox, those chariots of Ephraim said to be destroyed by the Lord, Zechariah 9:10 nor the horse, the vain thing for safety, that is the mad desire which has accustomed itself to the things of sense and which is injurious to many of those who desire to dwell in Jerusalem and to attend to the sound word. It is also fitting to rejoice at the destruction by Him who rides on the ass and the young foal of every hostile dart, since the fiery darts of the enemy are no longer to prevail over him who has received Jesus to his own temple. And there will also be a multitude from the Gentiles with peace Zechariah 9:9-10 at the Saviour’s coming to Jerusalem, when He rules over the waters that He may bruise the head of the dragon on the water, and we shall tread upon the waves of the sea and to the mouths of all the rivers on the earth. Mark, however, writing about the foal, reports the Lord to have said, On which never man sat; and he seems to me to hint at the circumstance that those who afterwards believed had never submitted to the Word before Jesus’ coming to them. For of men, perhaps, no one had ever sate on the foal, but of hearts or of powers alien to the Word some had sate on it, since in the prophet Isaiah the wealth of opposing powers is said to be borne on asses and camels. Isaiah 30:6In the distress and the affliction, he writes, the lion and the lion’s cub, whence also the offspring of flying asps, who carried their riches on asses and camels. The question occurs again, for those who have no mind but for the bare words, if according to their view the words, on which never man sat, are not quite meaningless. For who but a man ever sits on a foal? So much of our views.


22. The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, John 2:20 and will you raise it up in three days? How the Jews said that the temple had been forty-six years building, we cannot tell, if we adhere to the history. For it is written in the third Book of Kings, 1 Kings 5:18 that they prepared the stones and the wood three years, and in the fourth year, in the second month, 1 Kings 6:1 when Solomon was king over Israel, the king commanded, and they brought great precious stones for the foundation of the house, and unhewn stones. And the sons of Solomon and the sons of Hiram hewed the stones and laid them in the fourth year, and they founded the house of the Lord in the month Nisan and the second month: in the tenth year in the month Baal, which was the eighth month, the house was finished according to the whole count and the whole plan of it. Thus comparing the time of its completion with the period of building, the building of it occupies less than eleven years. How, then, do the Jews come to say that the temple was forty-six years in building? One might, indeed, do violence to the words and make out the period of forty-six years at all costs, by counting from the time when David, after planning about the building of the temple, said to Nathan the prophet, 2 Samuel 7:2 Behold I dwell in a house of cedar, and the ark of God dwells in the midst of the tent, for though it is true that he was prevented, as being a man of blood, from carrying out the building, he seems to have busied himself in collecting materials for it. In the first Book of Chronicles, 1 Chronicles 29:1-5 certainly, David the king says to all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom the Lord has chosen, is young and tender, and the work is great, because he is not to build for man but for the Lord God. According to my whole power I have prepared for the house of my God, gold, silver, brass, and iron, wood, stones of Soom, and stones for filling up, and precious stones of many kinds, and all sorts of precious wood, and a large quantity of Parian marble. And besides this, for the pleasure I have taken in the house of my God, the gold and the silver I possess, lo, I have given it for the house of my Lord, to the full; from such supplies I prepared for the house of the saints, three thousand talents of gold from Suphir, and seven thousand talents of stamped silver. that the houses of God may be overlaid with them by the hands of artificers. For David reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem; 1 Kings 2:11 so that if it could be shown that the beginning of the preparations for the temple and of David’s collecting the necessary material, was in the fifth year of his reign, then, with some forcing, the statement about forty-six years might stand. But some one else will say that the temple spoken of was not that built by Solomon, for that it was destroyed at the period of the captivity, but the temple built at the time of Ezra, Ezra 6:1 with regard to which the forty-six years can be shown to be quite accurate. But in this Maccabean period things were very unsettled with regard to the people and the temple, and I do not know if the temple was really built in that number of years. Heracleon pays no attention to the history, but says that in that he was forty-six years preparing the temple, Solomon was an image of the Saviour. The number six he connects with matter, that is, the image, and the number forty, which he says is the tetrad, not admitting of combination, he connects with the inspiration and the seed in the inspiration. Consider if the forty cannot be taken as due to the four elements of the world arranged in the building of the temple at the points at issue, and the six to the fact that man was created on the sixth day.