Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Origen/Introductory Note/Critical Works

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Origen, Introductory Note
by Origen, translated by Frederick Crombie
Critical Works
156021Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Origen, Introductory Note — Critical WorksFrederick CrombieOrigen

(2)  Critical Works.

The great critical work of Origen was the Hexapla or Six-columned Bible; an attempt to provide a revised text of the Septuagint translation of Old Testament Scripture.  On this undertaking he is said to have spent eight-and-twenty years of his life, and to have acquired a knowledge of Hebrew in order to qualify himself for the task.  Each page of this work consisted, with the exception to be noticed immediately, of six columns.  In the first was placed the current Hebrew text; in the second, the same represented in Greek letters; in the third, the version of Aquila; in the fourth, that of Symmachus; in the fifth, the text of the LXX., as it existed at the time; and in the sixth, the version of Theodotion.  Having come into possession also of certain other Greek translations of some of the books of Scripture, he added these in their appropriate place, so that the work presented in some parts the appearance of seven, eight, or nine columns, and was termed Heptapla, Octopla, or Enneapla, in consequence.  He inserted critical marks in the text of the LXX., an asterisk to denote what ought to be added, and an obelus to denote what ought to be omitted; taking the additions chiefly from the version of Theodotion.  The work, with the omission of the Hebrew column, and that representing the Hebrew in Greek letters, was termed Tetrapla; and with regard to it, it is uncertain whether it is to be considered a preliminary work on the part of Origen, undertaken by way of preparation for the larger, or merely as an excerpt from the latter.  The whole extended, it is said, to nearly fifty volumes, and was, of course, far too bulky for common use, and too costly for transcription.  It was placed in some repository in the city of Tyre, from which it was removed after Origen’s death to the library at Cæsarea, founded by Pamphilus, the friend of Eusebius.  It is supposed to have been burnt at the capture of Cæsarea by the Arabs in 653 a.d.  The column, however, containing the version of the LXX. had been copied by Pamphilus and Eusebius, along with the critical marks of Origen, although, owing to carelessness on the part of subsequent transcribers, the text was soon again corrupted.  The remains of this work were published by Montfaucon at Paris, 1713, 2 vols. folio; by Bahrdt at Leipsic in 1769; and is at present again in course of publication from the Clarendon press, Oxford, under the editorship of Mr. Field, who has made use of the Syriac-Hexaplar version, and has added various fragments not contained in prior editions.  (For a full and critical account of this work, the English reader is referred to Dr. Sam. Davidson’s Biblical Criticism, vol. i. ch. xii., which has been made use of for the above notice.)