Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.16-17: Origen's Hexapla

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 6, chapters 16-17. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters discuss perhaps Origen’s most celebrated work, the Hexapla.

Chapter 16 notes how Origen learned the Hebrew language and collected editions and translations of the Hebrew Bible, including that of the Septuagint (the “Seventy”), Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotian.

This was his celebrate Hexapla. Oulton notes that is was arranged in six columns: (1) the Hebrew; (2) a transliteration of the Hebrew into Greek letters; (3) Aquila; (4) Symmachus; (5) the Septuagint; and (6) Theodotian.

Eusebius says that in the Psalms of this edition three other Greek translations were added (a fifth, sixth, and seventh).

He also produced an edition that only held the main four Greek translations, called the Tetrapla.

Chapter 17 provides further details about Symmachus. He is described as part of the Ebionite heresy. The Ebionites denied the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, as well as advocating the strict keeping of the Jewish law. Eusebius says that Symmachus’ memoirs were extant and in his writings he opposed the Gospel of Matthew. He adds that Origen had gotten his material by Symmachus from a woman named Juliana.


Origen’s Hexapla was indeed a key work in the history of early Christianity. Its production reflected and influenced the centrality of Hebrew as the authoritative original language text for the Old Testament, by which Greek translation of it were to be measured. This would, in turn, influence Jerome in his translation of the Hebrew Bible into Latin, and this view would eventually influence the Protestant Reformers who saw Hebrew as the immediately inspired language for the Old Testament.


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