The Soul-Kidneys of the Lord: Origen on Christ’s Soul (Pt. 3)
Text and Translation
(From Hom. 2 on Ps. 15, section 3)
I am not surprised when someone applies the scriptures about the Savior not sinning to the Firstborn of All Creation. And yet the one who marvels over something like this acts astounded that the God who made heaven and the earth did not sin, while not realizing that it is in God’s nature not to sin. Likewise, it is in the nature of the Word of God not to sin, and so the Firstborn of All Creation cannot sin. By contrast, the praise about Jesus not sinning applies to the human being, who committed no sin and in whose mouth no deceit was found (v. 1 Pt 2:22; cf. Is 53:9).
And when you hear that “he made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us,” do not understand this as referring to the Firstborn of All Creation. Rather, understand the “one who knew no sin” as the soul of Jesus.
For we all have known sin who say mystically, “in lawlessness I was shapen, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 50:7) Therefore, the Father made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us and sent him from heaven to earth for our sake. He came possessing in his kidneys principles that taught and reminded him. They did not just teach him, but the phrase begins “in the night my kidneys instructed me.” The night refers to this life. For night is our life here. About this night it is said, “the night is far gone, the day is near … Let us walk uprightly as in the day” (Rom. 13:12–13). Since it is night, this life is darkness. For see how “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, and against the spirits of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Therefore, he says, “and in the night my kidneys taught me,” as if to say, “they were not just teaching and reminding me then about what I ought to do, but my kidneys taught me even after my coming into the night of this age, after coming into this darkness.”
“I would behold the Lord before me continually, because he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.” What sort of Lord does he mention? Does he mean the Father or the Firstborn of All Creation, who is always present to it to his soul? What do I mean by, “present?” I mean that the Firstborn has been united, so that the human being and the Firstborn of All Creation are no longer two different things. If you take offense at this union, take heed of the apostle’s words that may console you and heal your offense: “The one who is joined to the Lord is no longer two, but one spirit.” (I Cor 6:17) Since “the one who is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” are you not willing to grant that that sinless soul that willingly descended and did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited has become one spirit and been made one with the Firstborn of All Creation? Therefore, “I beheld my Lord before me,” because “my kidneys instructed me in the night.”
Ἐγὼ οὐ θαυμάζω, ἐὰν τὰ γεγραμμένα περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἡμαρτηκέναι τὸν σωτῆρα ἀναφέρῃ τις ἐπὶ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως. Ὁ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῷ τοιούτῳ θαυμάζων ὅμοιον ποιεῖ ὡσεὶ θαυμάζων ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν οὐχ ἥμαρτεν, μὴ εἰδὼς ὅτι οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ θεός. Οὕτως οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ λόγος ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως. Ἀλλὰ ὁ ἔπαινος περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἁμαρτάνειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀναφέρεται, ὃς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ.
Καὶ ἐὰν λέγηται τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, μὴ ἄκουε περὶ τοῦ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεως λεγομένου, ἀλλὰ τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, τὴν Ἰησοῦ ψυχήν.
Πάντες γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἔγνωμεν ἁμαρτίαν, οἵτινες λέγομεν μυστικῶς· ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήφθην καὶ ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ἐκίσσησέ με ἡ μήτηρ μου, καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ποίαις. Ἐκεῖνον οὖν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν ὁ πατήρ, πέμψας αὐτὸν ἐξ οὐρανῶν εἰς γῆν δι’ ἡμᾶς. Καὶ ἦλθεν ἔχων ἐπὶ τῶν νεφρῶν δὴ τὰ παιδεύοντα αὐτὸν καὶ ὑπομιμνήσκοντα αὐτόν, παιδεύοντα οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλ’ ὡς πρόκειται κατὰ τὴν γραφὴν τὸ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· νυκτός, ταύτης τῆς κατὰ τὸν βίον. Νὺξ γάρ ἐστιν ἐνταῦθα, περὶ ἧς λέγεται τὸ ἡ νὺξ προέκοψεν, ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤγγικεν· ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ εὐσχημόνως περιπατήσωμεν. Καὶ ἐπεὶ νύξ ἐστι, σκότος ἐστὶν ὁ βίος οὗτος. Ὅρα γὰρ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· οὐ μόνον καὶ *<τοτὲ> τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·
προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ. Ἡ ἀνθρωπίνη λέγει ψυχὴ Ἰησοῦ τὸ προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου. Ποῖον κύριον; ἆρά γε τὸν πατέρα λέγει ἢ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης τῆς κτίσεως ἀεὶ αὐτῇ παρόντα; Τί δὲ λέγω “παρόντα”; ἡνωμένον, ἵνα μηκέτι ἄλλος ᾖ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἄλλος ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως. Ἐὰν προσκόψῃς περὶ τοῦ ἡνωμένου, ἄκουε παραμυθίαν θεραπεύουσάν σου τὴν προσκοπὴν καὶ παραμυθίαν ἀποστολικήν· ὁ κολλώμενος τῷ κυρίῳ οὐκέτι ἐστὶ δύο, ἀλλὰ ἓν πνεῦμά ἐστιν. Εἶτα ὁ μὲν κολλώμενος τῷ κυρίῳ ἓν πνεῦμά ἐστιν, οὐ θέλεις δὲ τὴν μὴ ἁμαρτάνουσαν ψυχήν, τὴν ἑκουσίως καταβᾶσαν, τὴν μὴ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγησαμένην τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, ἓν πνεῦμα γεγονέναι καὶ ἓν γεγονέναι πρὸς τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως; Προωρώμην οὖν τὸν κύριόν μου, ἐπεὶ ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου ἕως νυκτός.
The edition and ms carry:
Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· οὐ μόνον καὶ τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·
This would translate to something like, “Therefore, he says, ”and in the night my kidneys taught me. They were not just both teaching and reminding me about what I ought to do, but my kidneys taught me even after my coming into the night of this age, after coming into this darkness."
I would suggest:
Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· <ὡς εἰ ἔλεγεν>, οὐ <τοτὲ> μόνον καὶ τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·
ὡς εἰ ἔλεγεν (“as if he said”) provides a nice transition from his citation to the explanation that follows, and is commonly used this way by Origen. The τοτέ (then) brings out better the distinction that Origen is making. Origen stresses that the “kidneys” of Jesus soul didn’t just teach him before his incarnation, but even after his incarnation. The τοτέ makes explicit what otherwise one may only surmise from the change from the imperfect to the aorist.