Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IX/Origen on Matthew/Origen's Commentary on Matthew/Book XIII/Chapter 1

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IX, Origen on Matthew, Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XIII by Origen, translated by John Patrick
Chapter 1

Book XIII.

1.  Relation of the Baptist to Elijah.  The Theory of Transmigration Considered.

The disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?”[1]  The disciples indeed who went up with Jesus remembered the traditions of the scribes concerning Elijah, that before the advent of Christ, Elijah would come and prepare for Him the souls of those who were going to receive Him.  But the vision in the mountain, at which Elijah appeared, did not seem to be in harmony with the things which were said, since to them it seemed that Elijah had not come before Jesus but after Him; wherefore, they say these things, thinking that the scribes lied.  But to this the Saviour answers, not setting aside the traditions concerning Elijah, but saying that there was another advent of Elijah before that of Christ of which the scribes were ignorant; and, in regard to this, being ignorant of him, they “had done unto him whatsoever they listed,”[2] as if they had been accomplices in his having been cast into prison by Herod and slain by him; then He says that according as they had done towards Elijah so would He suffer at their hands.[3]  And these things indeed as about Elijah the disciples asked and the Saviour answered, but when they heard they understood that the words, “Elijah has already come,” and that following which was spoken by the Saviour, had reference to John the Baptist.[4]  And let these things be said by way of illustration of the passage before us.  But now according to our ability let us make investigation also into the things that are stored up in it.  In this place it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I should fall into the dogma of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God, and not handed down by the Apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the Scriptures; for it is also in opposition to the saying that “things seen are temporal,”[5] and that “this age shall have a consummation,” and also to the fulfilment of the saying, “Heaven and earth shall pass away,”[6] and “the fashion of this world passeth away,”[7] and “the heavens shall perish,”[8] and what follows.  For if, by hypothesis, in the constitution of things which has existed from the beginning unto the end of the world, the same soul can be twice in the body, for what cause should it be in it?  For if because of sin it should be twice in the body, why should it not be thrice, and repeatedly in it, since punishments, in respect of this life, and of the sins committed in it, shall be rendered to it only by the method of transmigration?  But if this be granted as a consequence, perhaps there will never be a time when a soul shall not undergo transmigration:  for always because of its former sins will it dwell in the body; and so there will be no place for the corruption of the world, at which “the heaven and the earth shall pass away.”[9]  And if it be granted, on this hypothesis, that one who is absolutely sinless shall not come into the body by birth, after what length of time do you suppose that a soul shall be found absolutely pure and needing no transmigration?  But nevertheless, also, if any one soul is always thus being removed from the definite number of souls and returns no longer to the body, sometime after infinite ages, as it were, birth shall cease; the world being reduced to some one or two or a few more, after the perfecting of whom the world shall perish, the supply of souls coming into the body having failed.  But this is not agreeable to the Scripture; for it knows of a multitude of sinners at the time of the destruction of the world.  This is manifest from consideration of the saying, “How-beit when the Son of man cometh shall He find faith on the earth?”[10]  So we find it thus said in Matthew, “As were the days of Noah so shall also be the coming of the Son of man; for as they were in the days of the flood,” etc.[11]  But to those who are then in existence there shall be the exaction of a penalty for their sins, but not by way of transmigration; for, if they are caught while still sinning, either they will be punished after this by a different form of punishment,—and according to this either there will be two general forms of punishment, the one by way of transmigration, and the other outside of a body of this kind, and let them declare the causes and differences of these,—or they will not be punished, as if those who were left at the consummation of things had forthwith cast away their sins; or, which is better, there is one form of punishment for those who have sinned in the body, namely, that they should suffer, outside of it, that is, outside the constitution of this life, what is according to the desert of their sins.  But to one who has insight into the nature of things it is clear that each of these things is fitted to overturn the doctrine of transmigration.  But if, of necessity, the Greeks who introduce the doctrine of transmigration, laying down things in harmony with it, do not acknowledge that the world is coming to corruption, it is fitting that when they have looked the Scriptures straight in the face which plainly declare that the world will perish, they should either disbelieve them, or invent a series of arguments in regard to the interpretation of the things concerning the consummation; which even if they wish they will not be able to do.  And this besides we will say to those who may have had the hardihood to aver that the world will not perish, that, if the world does not perish but is to exist for infinite periods of time, there will be no God knowing all things before they come into being.  But if, perhaps, He knows in part, either He will know each thing before it comes into being, or certain things, and after these again other things; for things infinite in nature cannot possibly be grasped by that knowledge whose nature it is to limit things known.  From this it follows that there cannot be prophecies about all things whatsoever, since all things are infinite.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Matt. xvii. 10.
  2. Matt. xvii. 12.
  3. Matt. xvii. 12.
  4. Matt. xvii. 13.
  5. 2 Cor. iv. 18.
  6. Matt. xxiv. 35.
  7. 1 Cor. vii. 31.
  8. Ps. cii. 26.
  9. Matt. xxiv. 35.
  10. Luke xviii. 8.
  11. Matt. xxiv. 37–39.