Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 22

In Joseph “Rick” Reinckens’s webpage A Lawyer Examines the Swoon Theory we get a short snippet from Origen: 

In his Commentary on Matthew, Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says the lance thrust to Jesus was administered “according to Roman custom, below the armpit.”  (See Humber, Thomas.  The Sacred Shroud. New York, Pocket Books, 1977)

Neither Reinckens nor Humber give us details about where this comment is to be found in Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  

Note that the quoted phrase “according to Roman custom, below the armpit” does not specifically mention the following: (a) crucifixion, (b) Roman soldiers, (c) spears, (d) lances, (e) spear wounds, (f) execution, (g) coup de grace, or (h) Jesus.  Nor does it say anything about how Origen obtained this information.  

Given the brevity of the quotation, one should not simply accept Reincken’s and Humber’s interpretation of Origen.  One ought to first examine the passage that this short phrase came from, to see the context and to form one’s own interpretation in view of that context.  That is why it is especially sloppy and careless for Reinckens and Humber to fail to provide a specific reference to where this phrase appears in Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.

Furthermore, there are textual and translation issues involved here.  I’m no expert on Origen, but I understand that he wrote his Commentary on Matthew in Greek in the final years of his life, ( around 246-248 CE).  Recall that the brief quote from Origen is from Latin, according to Humber:
     Origen, in the Latin translation of his Commentary on Matthew, says that the lance thrust was administered ‘according to Roman custom, below the armpit.’ …” 
(The Sacred Shroud, p.60)

If this commentary was written in Greek, then why are we given an English translation of a Latin translation of this passage from a work in Greek?  Why not translate straight from the Greek text?  

Apparently, a significant portion of this commentary no longer exists in Greek, but does exist in a Latin translation:

Of the twenty-five books of the Matthew commentary, eight survive in Greek (books 10-17), which comment on Matthew 13:36-22:33.  More of the work survived in an anonymous Latin translation of the late fifth (or early sixth century), … . The Latin version begins at the point of the Greek text that corresponds with Greek book 12, chapter 9 (relating to Matthew 16:13), but as it develops after that there is no way of telling where one is in terms of the original Greek volume structure.  The Latin version carries on more or less to the end of Matthew (Matt. 27:66) omitting Matthew 28. 
(Westminster Handbook to Origen, by John McGuckin, p.30)

Assuming that Origen’s comment occurs in the context of discussing the crucifixion scene in Matthew, it would be a comment concerning Chapter 27 of Matthew, and thus would indeed be from the part of Origen’s commentary that only exists in “an anonymous Latin translation of the late fifth (or early sixth century)…”.

The section of Origen’s commentary that only exists in the Latin translation is known as “the Commentariorum Series”.  One standard Latin text that is based on the ancient Latin translation is available in GCS (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte –  The Greek Christian Writers of the Early Centuries ). This is a series of German books with scholarly editions of ancient Greek works by Christian writers.  I was unable to locate the GCS volume with the Commentariorum Series in the state of Washington, but found a copy available at UCLA in California and arranged for an interlibrary loan through a local public library (in Bellevue, I think).

I don’t read German or Latin, but based on the headings that indicate what section of Matthew is under discussion, I was able to locate the pages that cover Matthew 27, and I then located the apparent source of the brief quote given by Humber in The Sacred Shroud.

To be continued…

INDEX of Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus posts: