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Homilies on Jeremiah and I Kings 28


Presented in this volume are the remains of twenty-two homilies and a collection of fragments delivered by Origen around A.D. 240. The original texts of the homilies on Jeremiah have not come down to us completely; two of the homilies survive only in a Latin translation of St. Jerome. The homily on 1 Kings 28, while not a part of the homilies on Jeremiah, deals with the Witch of Endor and has been added to this volume in virtue of its own inherent interest. In this collection, Origen seeks understanding of the ...
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Presented in this volume are the remains of twenty-two homilies and a collection of fragments delivered by Origen around A.D. 240. The original texts of the homilies on Jeremiah have not come down to us completely; two of the homilies survive only in a Latin translation of St. Jerome. The homily on 1 Kings 28, while not a part of the homilies on Jeremiah, deals with the Witch of Endor and has been added to this volume in virtue of its own inherent interest. In this collection, Origen seeks understanding of the significance of the hostility of the Chosen People towards the Prophet Jeremiah before their captivity in Babylon. Origen in many ways identified with the great prophet and thought of Jeremiah as a type for Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. Origen realized that Jeremiah came at a crucial time in the history of Israel, the time of captivity, and he views this event and the events around it as pregnant with meaning for the people of his own time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813200972
  • Publisher: Catholic University of America Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Series: Fathers of the Church Series
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.39 (d)

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Copyright © 1998 The Catholic University of America Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8132-0097-2

Chapter One


Jeremiah 1.1-10

When did Jeremiah begin to prophesy and in the time of which kings did he prophesy and what was then said to him by the Lord?

God is ready to do good but hesitant to punish those who deserve punishment. In fact, though he can inflict punishment on those whom he has sentenced without saying anything, without prior warning, he never does. For when he sentences, he says so, and the speaking is a way to turn the person to be condemned away from the sentencing. It is possible to take many examples of these sentences from Scripture, but for now it will suffice to mention a few in order to arrive at the vision of the passage just read.

(2) The Ninevites had become sinners and were sentenced by God: Still in three days and Ninevah will be overthrown. God did not wish to sentence without saying anything, but giving them the opportunity for repentance and conversion, he sent a Hebrew prophet, so that, when he said, still in three days and Ninevah will be overthrown, those sentenced might not be sentenced, but would obtain the mercy of God by repenting.

(3) The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were sentenced, as is evident from the words of God according to Abraham. Nevertheless the angels have done their work, wanting to save those who did not want to be saved, by saying to Lot, Are there here with you some who are in-laws or sons or daughters? They realized that the others did not follow Lot but they still did the work of goodness and loving kindness of their own, and at the same time10 of the one who had sent them.

2. You will find the same in what concerns Jeremiah. The time of his prophecy is recorded-when he began, and until when he prophesied. Now, if the reader neither pays heed to the passage nor examines the intent of what was read, he will say that it is a history and it records when Jeremiah began to prophesy and how long before he stopped prophesying. What, then, does this history mean for me? When I read on, I learn that he began to prophesy in the days of Josiah, the son of Amos, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his kingdom. Then he emerged in the days of Joachim, son of Josiah, king of Judah prophesying to the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, son of Josiah, king of Judah. And I learn that his prophecy continued under three kings until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. What then do we learn from these words, if we attend to the reading?

3. God sentenced Jerusalem for her sins, and those condemned were to be delivered into captivity. Nevertheless, at the appointed time, the benevolent God sends this Prophet under the third king before the Captivity so that those who wish to consider it may repent by means of the words of the Prophet. He had charged the Prophet to prophesy under the second king also after the first king, and under the third king until the times of her captivity. For the patient God was offering a respite even, so to speak, down to the day before the Captivity, urging hearers to repent so that he may prevent the misfortune of the captivity. Hence it is written, Jeremiah prophesied until the captivity of Jerusalem, until the fifth month. The Captivity begins, and still he prophesied, saying something like this: "Become captives, provided in such circumstances you can repent! For when you repent, the misfortunes of the captivity will not transpire, but God's mercy will be realized for you." So from the record about the times of the prophecy we have gained what is useful, that God in his own love for man encourages hearers not to endure the misfortunes of the Captivity.

(2) So it is also for us. If we sin, we also are liable to become captives. For to deliver such a one to Satan is no different from delivering those captives from Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. For just as they are delivered to him for sins, so we are delivered for sins to Satan, who is Nebuchadnezzar. And I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme, the Apostle says concerning other sinners.

4. See then how very bad sinning is, that they may be delivered to Satan, who holds captive the souls of those forsaken by God-though God does not forsake without cause or judgment those whom he has abandoned. For when he sends the rain for the vineyard, and the vineyard bears thorns instead of grapes, what else will God do except order the clouds not to sprinkle rain on the vineyard?

(2) Thus a captivity is also imposed on us for our sins, and, if we do not repent, we are liable to be delivered to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in order that the spiritual Babylonians may torture us. As these things are imposed, the words of the Prophets, the words of the Law, the words of the Apostles, and the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, speak to us about repentance, encourage us toward conversion. If we hear, let us believe in him who said, I will repent of all the evil which I planned to do to them. These are comments regarding the preamble.

5. But after the preamble it is written, The Word of the Lord came to him, that is, to Jeremiah. And what does the Word of the Lord say to him? It is something special, beyond what is said of the other Prophets. For of none of the Prophets do we find such a thing said. Abraham was called a prophet in the passage, He is a prophet and he will pray for you. Yet God did not say to him, Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you. But later on Abraham was exalted, when he went out from his country and from his kindred and from his father's house. Isaac was born from a promise, and we do not discover any such word said to him. And what need is there to recount the rest? Jeremiah obtains a special gift, which is: Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you came from your mother, I consecrated you.

6. We are aware that some people refer these words, in that they surpass Jeremiah, to our Lord and Savior. And one can see that while many passages which I will cite accord with him and can refer to the Savior, a few of the words said about Jeremiah are troublesome for this interpretation, since they cannot be fitting, in the view of many, for the Savior. What, then, are those words which are fitting for the Savior? "To all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid before their face, for I am with you to take you away," says the Lord. It does not yet appear that these words refer clearly to the Savior, but the next do: Then the Lord extended his hand near me, and he touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: "Behold, I have placed my words in your mouth. Behold, this day I have placed you over nations and kingdoms, to uproot and demolish." What nations did Jeremiah uproot, and what kingdoms did he demolish? For it is written, Behold, I have placed you over nations and kingdoms, to uproot and demolish. And what power did Jeremiah have for causing destruction? This was said as if to Jeremiah in the passage and to destroy. And what sort of things did Jeremiah build, so that it could be written and to build? Jeremiah said, I did not help, and no one helped me. How then is it given to him to build and to plant? How can to plant be fitting for Jeremiah?

(2) Referring these words to the Savior is not troublesome for the interpreter, for Jeremiah in such passages is a prefigure for the Savior. Yet those words which will be cited next are much more troublesome for the interpreter-even one very intelligent-when he wants to show how they also can be fitting for the Savior: And I said: O you who are, Master and Lord, behold, I do not know how to speak. How then can I do not know how to speak accord with the Savior, the one who is Wisdom, the power of God, who brought to us the fullness of divinity which dwelt corporeally in him? But also the words I am a youth are rejected for the Savior, as he speaks inappropriately; for if the Lord says to him, do not say such a thing, it is clear that he rejects it because it is said inappropriately.

(3) These words then are not fitting for the Savior, and those above do not seem to be troublesome for the Savior. Yet it is easy to say that the latter words refer to Jeremiah while the former refer to the Savior. The person of good sense, however, will find it very troublesome in the context, when he realizes that it is senseless to separate in a series of statements words said either to Jeremiah or to the Savior, and state that these do not belong to Christ but to Jeremiah since they are less than appropriate for Christ, and that these, being greater than Jeremiah, do not belong to Jeremiah but to Christ. Let us refer the whole context then to Jeremiah, and explain what seems to be greater than Jeremiah.

7. Everyone who has received words from God and has the grace of heavenly words has received them in order to uproot and demolish nations and kingdoms. But, though everyone who has received words from God is said to uproot nations and kingdoms, it is not, it seems to me, said in a bodily sense. For when one has considered human souls which are ruled by sin according to the passage from the Apostle, Let not sin reign in our mortal body, and when one sees also the many kinds of sins, he interprets allegorically also the nations and the kingdoms as the bad movements in the souls of men which are uprooted and demolished by those words of God which are given either to Jeremiah or to whomever. And so one is able to apply to Jeremiah both the first words, which are troublesome for the text with respect to the Savior, and to apply also to Jeremiah the second, when viewed allegorically.

(2) Somebody among our hearers will say to me: "Explain also the other passage and try to clarify the whole passage as applicable to the Savior. With respect to the second, there is no struggle. For it is evident that the Savior uprooted the kingdoms of the Devil and has demolished the pagan nations by destroying the pagan life. Explain how the Savior in any sense is able to say there, in what seems insulting to the Savior, the word: I do not know how to speak, because I am very young and the rest."

(3) You see that the thought is embarrassing. We know the Savior as Lord. If we seek to bring these words up to the Savior according to the worthiness of the Word and according to the truth, it is necessary to take the Scriptures as witnesses. For without witnesses, our interpretations and exegeses are unfaithful. On the testimony of two or three witnesses shall every word be established applies more to discussions than to men ... so that I will establish the words of the interpretation by taking two witnesses from the New and Old Testaments, by taking three witnesses from the Gospel, from the Prophets, from the Apostles. For, in this way, every word will be established.

(4) How then can we apply these words to the Savior anagogically? Take the Old Testament as a witness. For before the child knows either good or evil, it must reject wickedness to choose good. And this is mentioned explicitly about the Savior in Isaiah: Behold the virgin will be with child and will bear a son and they will call his name Emmanuel, and after this comes, before the child knows. And if one needs to take an example from the Gospel: Jesus, before he became a man and was still a child, after he emptied himself, he progressed-for no one progresses if he has matured, but he progresses if he has need of progress. He not only progressed in stature, he progressed in wisdom, he progressed in grace before God and men. For if he emptied himself when he came down here, and after emptying himself he was beginning to acquire those aspects from which he emptied himself-since he emptied himself willingly-how amazing is it that he also progressed in wisdom and in stature and in grace before God and men. And what I have cited from Isaiah became true concerning him: Before the child knows either good or wickedness, he will choose the good and reject wickedness.

8. But someone will say: "Even if you are able to refer anagogically to the Savior the words, He does not know, and even if you can speak as one who understands the Savior as a child in some sense, is it not a mistake for you to speak this way about the Only-begotten, about the First-born of all creation, about the one who was proclaimed before conception according to the words, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you?" And does he say, I do not know how to speak? See if you can perceive something praiseworthy and great concerning the Savior in a passage which says that when he does not know something, it is better not knowing than knowing these things.

(2) I will even use his own voice testifying that he does not know some things. To those who supposedly say to him: "Is it not in your name we ate, and in your name we drank, and in your name we cast out demons and we did many mighty works?" he replies: Depart from me, for I never knew you. Does what is said here by the Savior, I never knew you, diminish his power? Or does it suggest something greater and more admirable, since he did not know the inferior and lost ones? For he knew what is distinguished and superior, and the Lord knew his own, and, if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Hence the sinner is not recognized by God.

(3) Someone listening will say to me: "You have shown that he does not know sinners, you have shown that he does not know those who have done iniquity, for they are not worthy of his knowledge. How indeed can you demonstrate that the statement, if made by the Savior, I do not know how to speak, is great and glorious?" To speak is a human trait, to speak is to use a language as one speaks the dialect of the Hebrews, for example, or that of the Greeks or some others.

(4) If you approach the Savior and know him as the Word in the beginning with God, you will perceive that he does not know how to speak since to speak is human, but he does not speak, since what he knows is greater than speaking. And if you compare the language of angels to the language of men, you will see also that he is greater than the angels, as the Apostle in the Letter to the Hebrews attested; you will say that he was greater also than the language of angels when he was God the Word with the Father.

(5) So he learns and in some sense takes on a knowledge which is not of great matters but of what is inferior and smaller. And just as I learn, when I exert myself, to babble when I converse with children-for since I, being mature, do not know exactly how to communicate with a child, I make an attempt to converse with children-in the same way also the Savior, when he is in the Father, and sharing in the magnificence of the glory of God, does not speak human words-he does not know how to articulate to those below him-but when he comes into a human body, he says, according to the initial words, I do not know how to speak for I am a youth. He is a youth because of his bodily birth, an elder according to the words, first fruit of all creation, a youth because he came at the completion of the ages. And ... he has appeared later in life.

(6) He says then, I do not know how to speak. I know some things greater than speaking, I know some things greater than this human voice. Do you wish that I speak to men? I have not yet adopted human speech; I have your dialect, O God, I am your Word, O God; with you I know how to converse; with men, I do not know how to speak, for I am a youth.

9. Do not say, "I am a youth," for to all those to whom I dispatch you, you shall go. Then he extended his hand and touched his mouth, gave to him words, and he gave him words for kingdoms, so that he might uproot. But he had no need of words of uprooting when he was in the Father; he had no need of words which demolish and those which destroy what is inferior. For there was nothing which merited destroying there, there was nothing which merited uprooting. Thus as the saying, I do not know you because you are workers of iniquity, is a great matter, said in this way by the Savior on account of the immeasurable greatness of his glory, the words, I do no not know how to speak, should be equated with: I do not know how to speak human words.


Excerpted from HOMILIES ON JEREMIAH HOMILY ON 1 KINGS 28 Copyright © 1998 by The Catholic University of America Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Select Bibliography....................ix
Homily 1 : Jeremiah 1.1-10....................3
Homily 2 : Jeremiah 2.21-22....................23
Homily 3 : Jeremiah 2.31....................28
Homily 4 : Jeremiah 3.6-11....................30
Homily 5 : Jeremiah 3.22-4.8....................40
Homily 6 : Jeremiah 5.3-5....................62
Homily 7 : Jeremiah 5.18-19....................68
Homily 8 : Jeremiah 10.12-14....................74
Homily 9 : Jeremiah 11.1-10....................85
Homily 10 : Jeremiah 11.18-12.9....................94
Homily 11 : Jeremiah 12.11-13.11....................103
Homily 12 : Jeremiah 13.12-17....................110
Homily 13 : Jeremiah 15.5-7....................130
Homily 14 : Jeremiah 15.10-19....................135
Homily 15 : Jeremiah 15.10 and 17.5....................157
Homily 16 : Jeremiah 16.16-17.1....................166
Homily 17 : Jeremiah 17.11-16....................180
Homily 18 : Jeremiah 18.1-16....................188
Homily 19 : Jeremiah 20.1-7....................207
Homily 20 : Jeremiah 20.7-12....................221
Homily 27 : Jeremiah 27.23-29....................245
Homily 28 : Jeremiah 28.6-9....................260
Fragments from the Philocalia....................277
Fragments from the Catena....................280
Homily on 1 Kings 28....................319
General Index....................337
Index of Holy Scripture....................348
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