Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Origen's Unrecognized Homosexual Reference to his Patron Ambrose

The place to start our analysis is to see that Photius mistakenly tells the story as if Hippolytus was the erastes of Origen.  We read in his Biblioteca:

Hippolytus is said to have addressed the people after the manner of Origen, with whom he was very intimate and whose writings he so much admired that he urged him to write a commentary on the Bible, for which purpose he supplied, at his own expense, seven shorthand writers and the same number of calligraphists. Having rendered this service, he persistently demanded the work, whence Origen, in one of his letters, calls him erastes (ἐραστὴς = beloved, the adult male lover in a homosexual relationship).  He is said to have written a large number of other works. [Photius Biblio. 121] 

Yet it is obvious what has happened here.  Photius has confused Hippolytus with Origen's patron Ambrose the former Marcionite.  The confusion undoubtedly arose in Photius's mind because an account of Hippolytus many books immediately precedes this statement in Book Six of his Church History:

At that time Origen began his commentaries on the Divine Scriptures, being urged thereto by Ambrose, who employed innumerable incentives, not only exhorting him by word, but also furnishing abundant means. For he dictated to more than seven amanuenses, who relieved each other at appointed times. And he employed no fewer copyists, besides girls who were skilled in elegant writing. For all these Ambrose furnished the necessary expense in abundance, manifesting himself an inexpressible earnestness in diligence and zeal for the divine oracles, by which he especially pressed him on to the preparation of his commentaries. [Church History 6.23]

It is easy to see what happened.  Photius remembers to include a homosexual reference from Origen to his master Ambrose but confuses who the intended person was.  The early twentieth century English translation (deliberately) mistranslates erastes as 'hustler.'  This was not the intended meaning obviously.  Still, this story pops another needle into that stupid balloon which says that the Letter to Theodore can't be authentic because Alexandrian Christianity 'couldn't possibly' have tolerated homosexuality.  

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