Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IX/Origen on John/Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John/Book II/Chapter 25
25. Argument from the Prayer of Joseph, to Show that the Baptist May Have Been an Angel Who Became a Man.
As we are now engaged with what is said of John, and are asking about his mission, I may take the opportunity to state the view which I entertain about him. We have read this prophecy about him, “Behold, I send My messenger (angel) before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee;” and at this we ask if it can be one of the holy angels who is sent down on this ministry as forerunner of our Saviour. No wonder if, when the first-born of all creation was assuming a human body, some of them should have been filled with love to man and become admirers and followers of Christ, and thought it good to minister to his kindness towards man by having a body like that of men. And who would not be moved at the thought of his leaping for joy when yet in the belly, surpassing as he did the common nature of man? Should the piece entitled “The prayer of Joseph,” one of the apocryphal works current among the Hebrews, be thought worthy of credence, this dogma will be found in it clearly expressed. Those at the beginning, it is represented, having some marked distinction beyond men, and being much greater than other souls, because they were angels, they have come down to human nature. Thus Jacob says: “I, Jacob, who speak to you, and Israel, I am an angel of God, a ruling spirit, and Abraham and Isaac were created before every work of God; and I am Jacob, called Jacob by men, but my name is Israel, called Israel by God, a man seeing God, because I am the first-born of every creature which God caused to live.” And he adds: “When I was coming from Mesopotamia of Syria, Uriel, the angel of God, came forth, and said, I have come down to the earth and made my dwelling among men, and I am called Jacob by name. He was wroth with me and fought with me and wrestled against me, saying that his name and the name of Him who is before every angel should be before my name. And I told him his name and how great he was among the sons of God; Art not thou Uriel my eighth, and I am Israel and archangel of the power of the Lord and a chief captain among the sons of God? Am not I Israel, the first minister in the sight of God, and I invoked my God by the inextinguishable name?” It is likely that this was really said by Jacob, and was therefore written down, and that there is also a deeper meaning in what we are told, “He supplanted his brother in the womb.” Consider whether the celebrated question about Jacob and Esau has a solution. We read, “The children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth, it was said, “The elder shall serve the younger.” Even as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say, then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” If, then, when they were not yet born, and had not done anything either good or evil, in order that God’s purpose according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, if at such a period this was said, how if we do not go back to the works done before this life, can it be said that there is no unrighteousness with God when the elder serves the younger and is hated (by God) before he has done anything worthy of slavery or of hatred? We have made something of a digression in introducing this story about Jacob and appealing to a writing which we cannot well treat with contempt; but it certainly adds weight to our argument about John, to the effect that as Isaiah’s voice declares he is an angel who assumed a body for the sake of bearing witness to the light. So much about John considered as a man.
- Rom. ix. 11–14.
- Isa. xl. 3.