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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

They who wish to rightly understand the Divine Scriptures must of necessity be acquainted with the logical principles adapted to their use; without these they cannot conceive the exact meaning of the thoughts expressed, as they should do. From Volume III. of the Commentaries on Genesis

1. “God made the two great lights, the greater light for rule of the day, and the lesser light for rule of the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth and to rule the day and the night.” We must, then, inquire whether for rule of the day means the same as to rule the day, and for rule of the night the same as to rule the night, in the ordinary acceptation of the words; for Aquila preserved the parallel, making for authority the equivalent of for rule, and to have authority the equivalent of to rule. And we are told by those who carefully investigate the meaning of words, where they deal with the relation of names and predicates, that the things bearing the names previously exist, and that predicates follow the names. Prudence, for example, they say is a name with a predicate, and the predicate is to be prudent. Similarly, moderation is a name, and to be moderate is a predicate; and they say that prudence pre-exists, and that from prudence is derived the predicate to be prudent. We have made these observations, though some may think we are going beyond the intention of Scripture, because God Who made the lights makes the greater for rule of the day and the lesser for rule of the night; but when He places them in the firmament of the heaven it is no longer for rule of the day and of the night, but to rule the day and the night. The orderly and systematic arrangement of the passage, the names coming first and then the predicates, roused our suspicions that the matter was so understood by the servants of God, and all the more because Aquila, who strove to interpret most literally, has only distinguished the name from the predicate.

2. If any one doubts the soundness of this reasoning, let him consider whether a problem in ethics, or physics, or theology, can be properly conceived without accurately finding the meaning, and without close regard to the clear rules of logic. What absurdity is there in listening to those who determine the exact meaning of words in different languages, and in carefully attending to things signified? And we sometimes through ignorance of logic fall into great errors, because we do not clear up the equivocal senses, ambiguities, misapplications, literal meanings, and distinctions. Take, for example, the word world. Through not knowing that it was an equivocal term, men have fallen into the most impious opinions concerning the Demiurge: men, I mean, who have not cleared up the question in what sense “the world lieth in the evil one,” and have not realised that the “world” there denotes earthly and human affairs. Supposing the “world” to be literally the complex whole of heaven and earth and things therein, they exhibit the utmost audacity and impiety in their conceptions of God; for with all their efforts they cannot show how the sun and moon and stars, with their wonderful orderly movements, “lie in the evil one.” If, again, we study the passage, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and attempt to show that “world” is here the scene of sin abounding, that is, the different localities of the earth, they will candidly admit what is said, but from a spirit of foolish contention they will cling to their detestable errors, which they have once embraced, simply because they do not understand the equivocal meaning of the word. If, again, we read that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” they will no longer, certainly not consistently with their own principles, succeed in showing that the word denotes the whole world, that is, the contents of the whole world; on their own showing the word must be examined as being equivocal. And as for detestable interpretations caused by ambiguity, punctuation, and countless other things, a keen student may find abundant illustrations. But we have digressed thus far in order to show that even we ourselves, who wish not to err concerning the truth in our understanding, of the Scriptures, are bound to be familiar with the logical principles involved in the use of them. Such principles we just now required to discover the difference between the two expressions with which we began, the lights being said to have been created for rule of the night, and to rule the day and the night.








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