“If you ask what is to be sought, and what will be found by everyone who seeks for it, I say with all confidence: pearls”

To the seeker after fine pearls may be applied the words, “Seek and you will find,” and, “Everyone who seeks will find.” If you ask what is to be sought, and what will be found by everyone who seeks for it, I say with all confidence: pearls—especially that pearl which will be acquired by those who give their all, who sacrifice everything for it, the pearl Paul meant when he said: “I have accepted the loss of everything in order to gain Christ.” “Everything” means beautiful pearls; “to gain Christ” refers to the one pearl of great price.

Admittedly, a lamp is precious to people in darkness, and they need it until sunrise. Precious too was the radiance on the face of Moses—and I believe on the faces of the other prophets also. It was a sight of beauty leading us to the point of being able to see the glory of Christ, to whom the Father bore witness in the words: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” But compared with this surpassing glory, what formerly was glorious now seems to have no glory at all. We need at first a glory destined to be outshone by an all-surpassing glory, just as we need the partial knowledge which “will be superseded when that which is perfect has come.”

Thus, everyone beginning to live a spiritual life and growing toward maturity needs tutors, guardians, and trustees until the fullness of time arrives for him, so that after all this, he who at first was no different from a slave although he owned the whole estate, may on his emancipation receive his patrimony from his tutor, guardians, and trustees.

This patrimony is the pearl of great price, and the coming of what is perfect to supersede what is imperfect when, after acquiring the forms of knowledge, if we may call them so, which are inferior to knowledge of Christ, one becomes able to understand the supreme value of knowing Christ. The law and the prophets fully comprehended are the preparation for the full comprehension of the gospel and the complete understanding of the acts and words of Christ Jesus.

Origen of Alexandria

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1 Response to “If you ask what is to be sought, and what will be found by everyone who seeks for it, I say with all confidence: pearls”

  1. warland52 says:

    Interested if you have seen the following new english translation of ALL of the remaining Origen commentary on Matthew. Per blurb…”Only eight of these books have been preserved in the Greek language in which Origen wrote. A Latin translation made in the sixth century has preserved the contents of several additional books. There are, furthermore, numerous fragments from the commentary preserved in ancient writings. Of this mass of material, only five of the eight books preserved in Greek have ever been translated into English, plus one fragment. This new translation, therefore, is the first translation into English of the entirety of the Greek and Latin remains of this important commentary, including most of the fragments. The translation is in modern English and includes brief annotations.”

    Here is a link to a review and the money quotes from the review. Is it possible Origen pulled back from his views on the possibility of eternal punishment?


    “As a voluminous writer, Origen (AD 184–254) produced many exegetical works. What makes his Commentary on Matthew unique is that it may be his last exegetical work. It at least follows Contra Celsum as Heine argues (26–28). This means that the Commentary is “Origen’s last preserved exegetical work” (1). And so the Commentary presents “his mature thought” (1).

    Most know of Origen for his work On First Principles, but we should note that he wrote that work in his 20s while in Alexandria. The Commentary on Matthew and Contra Celsum were written in his 60s after he spent years preaching the Bible daily, teaching theological students regularly, and writing biblical and theological works for most of his life. Interestingly, due to the Commentary representing his mature thought, in it Origen changes his mind or rethinks positions that he had earlier held. In this sense, the Commentary provides a window into the last stage of his thinking.

    In short, the Commentary presents a measured and reflective Origen. For example, in his Romans commentary written sometime in the middle of his career, he pleaded a certain openness to the sense of the word eternal (CommRom 6.5.9). An implication being that eternal punishment could merely refer to our current life or a certain age or so on. All of this accords with the possible meaning of the word eternal in Greek. At the same time, theologically his explanation left open the possibility that hell was not an endless state.

    Things change in his comments in Matthew. He contrasts eternal punishment with temporal punishment, citing the difference between unending duration and a short duration. The point here for Origen is that eternal punishment has no end because it represents an invisible reality as opposed to our temporal and visible state that we now live in (Series 72).

    More could be said here since elsewhere Origen hopes for the salvation of all people, and perhaps the Latin translator made him seem more orthodox than Origen actually was. Yet Origen’s translation generally seems reliable if not perfect. Whatever we conclude, the key point to realize is that Origen’s Commentary on Matthew represents his mature thinking in which he revisits and rethinks through prior doctrine.”


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