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A Note on the Status of Origen's De Principiis in English

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The standard English translation of Origen's De principiis, translated by G.W. Butterworth and published in 1936, is based upon the earlier critical edition of Paul Koetschau. Origen's text survives through the Latin translation of Rufinus, a version that Koetschau fundamentally distrusted: Rufinus had admittedly expurgated Origen's text and could not, accordingly, be trusted. Hence the job of the editor and translator was judged to be the reestablishment—as far as was possible—of Origen's original text. Such suspicion of the text led to, among other problems, the awkward printing of parallel Greek and Latin passages in columns in Butterworth's English edition. Greek fragments and Origenistic material—that is to say, passages that were not direct quotations of De principiis, nor even directly Origen's—were inserted into Koetschau's text based upon presumed doctrinal parallels between those fragments and Origen's 'authentic' thought.

We cannot reconstruct the Greek text; what we have inherited for better or worse is Rufinus's Latin translation of Peri archôn, a text that the more recent scholarship of G. Bardy and others have significantly rehabilitated confidence in. With the notable exception of English, translations of De principiis have been made in French, Italian and German, based upon more recent and more balanced critical editions. The author proposes a new English translation of Rufinus's Latin text based upon the critical edition of Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti, published in the Sources Chrétiennes series.

Affiliations: 1: Washington Theological Union, 6896 Laurel Street, NW, Washington, DC 20012, USA


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