Origen on Psalm 123 (122 in LXX)

Steven Avery

Sister post:
Origen Psalm Scholium

Wikipedia (data put in by Steven Avery)

Origen's scholium on Psalm 123:2

Psalm 123:2
Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters,
and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress;
so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God,

until that he have mercy upon us.

In the scholium on Psalm 123 attributed to Origen is the commentary:

spirit and body are servants to masters,
Father and Son, and the soul is handmaid to a mistress, the Holy Ghost;
and the Lord our God is the three (persons),
for the three are one.

This has been considered by many commentators, including the translation source Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall, as an allusion to verse 7.[SUP][69][/SUP] Ellsworth especially noted the Richard Porson comment in response to the evidence of the Psalm commentary: "The critical chemistry which could extract the doctrine of the Trinity from this place must have been exquisitely refining". Fabricius wrote about the Origen wording "ad locum 1 Joh v. 7 alludi ab origene non est dubitandum".

69 The Church Review p. 625-641, 1874., The Genuineness of I John v. 7, Scholium on pp.634–635
70 Richard Porson, Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, p.234, 1790.
71 Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, p.544 first published in 1703.

Fabricius astutely saying that Origen was, without a doubt, using 1 John 5:7.

Similarly, Charles Forster writes:

... the Scholion on Ps. cxxiii. ascribed to Origen, which Porson affects to slide over, I observe, that it is the essence of the seventh verse, entitled to rank as a tacit reference.

New Plea p. 5-6

Next we use and enhance the Facebook PureBible posts that discuss Grantley McDonald, to show the contra handling (more common from the contras is simply to not mention the reference):

Origen's usage of the heavenly witnesses

Here we see one of the only informed members of the contra "gang who can't think straight" discussing the Origen reference: This is Grantley McDonald in The Ghost of Arius:


ORIGEN REFERENCE ON PSALM 122 (123 in our Bible)


We also find Origen applying 1 Jn 5:8 to the Trinity, significantly in the context of an allegorical reading of Ps 122:2 (LXX):

“The servants to their lords, the Father and the Son, are the spirit and the body; and the maidservant to the mistress, the Holy Spirit, is the soul. Our Lord God is these three things, for the ‘three are one.’”27

Psalm 122 b.jpg

Notice that this is a straightforward use of Father, Son (==Word) and spirit, and there is ZERO mention of water and blood.

The contras can't however, as with Cyprian, speak the simple sensible conclusion -- the heavenly witnesses was used for the text. Without a smidgen of evidence, they have to fabricate about a supposed "allegory"

Then, to add humor to the mix, Grantley actually quotes a diversion footnote comment from the heavy-drinking skeptic Richard Porson, where, instead of simply discussing the verse and text, Porson makes a flying leap into Trinity doctrine issues (how did the doctrine develop, a total irrelevancy). Grantley is happy to join Porson in upside-down thinking.


This passage is mentioned by Porson, 1795, 234, who was doubtful that this could be interpreted as a reference to the comma: “The critical chemistry that could extract the doctrine of the Trinity from this place, must have been exquisitely refining.”

Psalm 122 Porson.jpg
Porson got away with this nonsense diversion until the writing of Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall, who noted the "feeble stroke of raillery" (mockery) and gave an excellent and helpful analysis.

Church Review (1874)
The Genuineness of 1 John, v 7

Church Review 1.jpg

Church Review 2.jpg

Porson extract (emphasis and formatting added):

And therefore one of the admirers of that invention, Porson, with a great show of magnanimity, reminded his antagonist, Travis, of that extract from the works of Origen, translated it after a fashion of his own, correctly upon the whole, but not very strictly, and then thought to dispatch it with this feeble stroke of raillery :

“The critical chemistry which could extract the doctrine of the Trinity from this place must have been exquisitely refining'’ (p. 234).

But since all chemistry is critical, he probably meant to say chemical criticism, and got bewildered in the attempt to use a far-fetched figure, from a department of science in which he was not at home. However, that language of Origen, or some writer nearly contemporary with him, like most of the language of Christian writers of that period, will bear and well requite the most searching analysis
Then Cornwall discusses the early Greek evidences in general:

In connection, then, with the common remark of the assailants of verse seven, that it is not cited by Greek Fathers to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, the frequent assertion that verse eight affords, by itself, a sufficient statement of that doctrine, suggests a question which is to the point. It is this: How many of the Greek Fathers cited the eighth verse ? It would be amusing to find, after all that has been said upon this point by Biblical critics and the commentators who implicitly follow them, that the Greek Fathers cited the seventh verse as often as the eighth. It is safe to assert this, and to challenge disproof of it, from the Greek Fathers. In the meantime, their neglect to cite either the one or the other, more than two or three times in all their extant works, makes just as much against the eighth verse as it does against the seventh. And that argument of the assailants of the disputed passage, which shows them so eagerly catching at a single straw, to get the balance of numbers on their side, need not give its defenders much trouble.

But it is further suggested by some, with that same curious uniformity of expression, which betrays neglect of independent investigation, and sometimes it is boldly asserted that the disputed passage was introduced into Greek copies of the New Testament from Latin versions. To all such suggestions and assertions it would be a fair and logically a full reply, to ask: How did that passage get into Latin versions, if it was not first in Greek copies, from which those versions were made ? For, prima facie, from the very nature of the case, Latin versions of a certain age are as good evidence of the genuineness of certain passages which they purport to translate, as the Greek copies of the same age
Then Cornwall continues with an explanation that should be placed in the section that deals with grammatical, translational, internal and stylistic evidences. So I will forego it here and link to it when it is up as a separate post or page, which is planned for:

Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall - grammatical, translational, sytlistic and internal evidences
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Steven Avery

KJV Today and Jeroen Beekhuizen on the Origen Psalm scholium

And KJVToday



Origen (c. 184 - c. 253 AD) or Pseudo-Origen quoted the Comma in Selecta in Psalmos (PG XII, 1304):

"Ἰδοὺ ὡς ὀφθαλμοὶ δούλων εἰς χεῖρας τῶν κυρίων αὐτῶν, ὡς ὀφθαλμοὶ παιδίσκης εἰς χεῖρας τῆς κυρίας αὐτῆς, οὕτως οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἡμῶν πρὸς Κύριον Θεὸν ἡμῶν, ἕως οὗ οἰκτειρήσαι ἡμᾶς, κ. τ. ἑ. ∆οῦλοι κυρίων Πατρὸς καὶ Υἱοῦ πνεῦμα καὶ σῶμα· παιδίσκη δὲ κυρίας τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἡ ψυχή. Τὰ δὲ τρία Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐστιν· οἱ γὰρ τρεῖς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν."
"Behold, the eyes of bondservants in the hands of their lord, as the eyes of a bondwoman in the hands of their lady, so are our eyes towards the Lord our God, until he may pity us; spirit and body are the bondservants of the Lord Father and Son; but the soul is the bondwoman of the lady Holy Spirit. And the Lord our God is three, for the three are one." (Translation by KJV Today)
The quote "οἱ γὰρ τρεῖς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν" is cited as an authority ("γὰρ") for the Trinity. Thus it bears the mark of a scriptural allusion.
Since Origen does not use the term Trinity here, it is better if we do not, as it has an anachronistic element. The word was barely in use, and Origen was very much a subordinationist, not what would be an orthodox Trinity defender today.

This is a solid allusion.

Added Sept 3, Jeroen Beekhuizen takes a similar approach to KJVToday (it is a reasonable conjecture that Jeroen used KJVToday as a source), formatting is added:

1. Origen (third century) quotes the Comma in his commentary on Psalm 123:2. This verse reads in the Septuagint:

"Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their lords, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God."

Triggered by the facts that 'servants' with 'lords' is masculine plural and 'maid' with 'mistress' is added in the feminine singular and a comparison is drawn with the Lord our God in the singular, Origen cannot but think that this is a reference to the mystery of the Trinity. He explains:

"The servants of the Lords Father and Son are spirit and body; the maid of the Mistress Holy Spirit is the soul. These Three are the Lord our God, for the Three are One (Τὰ δὲ τρία Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐστιν· οἱ γὰρ τρεῖς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.)."

To grasp how Origen is here actually quoting the Comma two things must be especially noted.

(1) With 'spirit, body and soul' Origen alludes to the 'spirit, water and blood' of 1 John 5:8 (blood commonly symbolises the soul, Lv. 17:11). Note that he is careful to stick to the order of the words in 1 John 5:8 and connects these three to the other Three Witnesses of 1 John 5:7.

(2) Especially noteworthy is the switch in grammatical gender. After stating that these Three are the singular (not plural) Lord our God in neuter (Τὰ τρία), he confirms it through a reference to Scripture (γὰρ) which says that the Three (οἱ τρεῖς, masculine) are One. He switches to masculine gender in order to stick to the precise wording of the Comma, just as he sticks to the precise order of the witnesses before
It looks like Jeroen is reading too much into a natural gender shift, as well as again being a bit anachronistic in making it a Trinity reference. However, the strength of the allusion reference stands even without the attempt to strengthen it in interpretation.
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Steven Avery

history of the Origen Psalm reference - Cordier, Fabricius, Burgess

Historically this reference has been frequently mentioned since about 1675.

On this post I plan an historical review.

KJVToday gives us the searchable Greek:


Fabricius (editions including 1719, 1743, 1790 and 1804 are online) gives us the source in the early 1700s as:

Catena Graecorum Patrum ad Psalmos Tom.3. pag.548

Also given by Thomas Burgess in 1823 here:

Expositio Patrum Graecorum in Psalmos /
à Balthasare Corderius.
Main Author: Corderius, Balthasar, 1592-1650.
Imprint: Antverpiae : ex officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1643, 46.
Belgium Antwerp.

So Fabricius likely uses the edition of Balthasare Corderius.

Which is here in Google for Vol 2 in 1640 (we want Vol 3)
Expositio patrum graecorum in psalmos, Volume 2

Expositio Patrum græcorum in Psalmos, Antverpiæ, Officina Plantiniana, 1643; 1646;

A 1972 edition of
Catena graecorum patrum in Psalmos

This should be the Vol 3, perhaps with commentary by Cordier

Found it! Greek and Latin.

Expositio patrum graecorum in Psalmos, à Balthasare Corderio Soc. Iesu ex vetustissimis Sac. Caes. Maiestatis & sereniss. Bauariae ducis mss. codicibus anekdotois concinnata; in parapharasin, commentarium & catenam digesta; latinitate donata, & annotationibus illustrata. Tomus primus tertius Tomus tertius; qui tertiam quinquage (1645)



The later edition used in the 1800s is:

Origen, Selecta in Psalmos, Ps. CXX1I.2, PG 12:1633:
https://books.google.com/books?id=-_M9A6M3WKUC&pg=PA452 (1784) check p. 453-454

“Δούλοι κυρίων Πατρός και Ύίοϋ πνεύμα και σώμα· παιδίσκη δέ κυρίας τού άγιου Πνεύματος ή λ|/υχη. Τα δε τρία Κύριος ό Θεός ημών έστιν· οί γάρ τρεις τό εν είσιν.”

Some later editions from 1841 to 1862 are found with this search.
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Steven Avery

additional notes and Origen's other extant writings

[TC-Alternate-list] Origen's Homilies on Psalms - heavenly witnesses evidence
Steven Avery - June 17, 2012

[TC-Alternate-list] Origen and the heavenly witnesses - Richard Porson diversion attempt
Steven Avery - June 20, 2012



Origen has a commentary on the Johannine Epistles, however it is lacuna in this section of 1 John 5.


In the Gospel of John he has a section that references 1 John 5:8. However, the section is on water baptism, so that sheds no light on the heavenly witnesses.

Origen, discussing water baptism in his commentary on the Gospel of John, references only verse 8 the earthly witnesses:

"And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in his epistle of the spirit, and the water, and the blood, as being one."
Nathaniel Lardner says

Having quoted Matth. iii. 11 ; John, vi. S3, Luke, xii. 50, he adds: 'And agreeably hereto his disciple John writes in his epistle, of the Spirit, the water, and the blood; these three are made one'
However we can see the context is water baptism:

Now, it may very well be that some one not versed in the various aspects of the Saviour may stumble at the interpretation given above of the Jordan; because John says, "I baptize with water, but He that cometh after me is stronger than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit." To this we reply that, as the Word of God in His character as something to be drunk is to one set of men water, and to another wine, making glad the heart of man, and to others blood, since it is said, "Except ye drink My blood, ye have no life in you," and as in His character as food He is variously conceived as living bread or as flesh, so also He, the same person, is baptism of water, and baptism of Holy Spirit and of fire, and to some, also, of blood. It is of His last baptism, as some hold, that He speaks in the words, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in his Epistle of the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, as being one.

Credibility of the Gospel History


A reference is given by Nolan, in the context of a Porson discussion of tria and neuter grammar it might be one of the above.

Nolan neuter.jpg


This is from the Gospel of Matthew commentary, 12th chapter

But consider.if you can also say this with reference to the details in the passage, that the disciples, having understood that the Son of God had been holding conference with Moses, and that it was He who said, “A man shall not see My face and live,"1 (Exodus xxx:30) and taking further the testimony of God about Him, as not being able to endure the radiance of the Word, humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God ; 2 (1 Peter v:6) but, after the touch of the Word, lifting up their eyes they saw Jesus only and no other.3 (Matthew xvii:8) Moses, the law, and Elijah, the prophet, became one only with the Gospel of Jesus ; and not, as they were formerly three, did they so abide, but the three became one.
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Steven Avery

Lorenzo Perrone on Origen

An Academia.edu note, like email, from Origen scholar:

Lorenzo Perrone:

...the passage in PG 12 (which reprints Cordier’s catena). It is a rather curious scholion, as far as I can judge. At first sight, it does not look very «Origenian» to me, if I may trust my impression (the body and pneuma as «douloi» of the Father and the Son, the soul as «paidiske» of the Spirit!?).

According to «Biblia Patristica» Origen has a reference to 1 Jn 5, (7-)8 in ComJn VI,43,224 and his use of «Tria» clearly displays an arithmological interest, that could have left some traces also in this scholion. Besides, the interpretation of «cheires kyrion» is remarkable in the light of Origen’s interpretation of the creation (and the role of the Logos and the Spirit and/or the angels).

After this preliminary and rather rough examination, one might find an «Origenian» substance in the scholion
Thanks to Professor Perrone. It looks like the Commentary in John, Book Six, has alternate chapter or section numbers, you can see above that chapter 26 is referenced, and the standard English works do not have a 43. And that book has the fascinating use of the earthly witnesses. However, I have not found the use of «Tria» there, as implied by Lorenzo, so research continues.
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Steven Avery

Looking closer at Fabricius and Burgess ref to Fabricius (also will add Knittel)


Note the earlier p. 361 does not seem to add relevance



A Letter to the Reverend Thomas Beynon, Archdeacon of Cardigan,: In Reply to A Vindication of the Literary Character of Professor Porson, by Crito Cantabrigiensis: and in Further Proof of the Authenticity of 1 John, V. 7 (1829)
Thomas Burgess


Additional Burgess reference

The Greek Original of the New Testament Asserted: in Answer to a Recent Publication Entitled Palæoromaica [by John Black]. (1823
p. xxx



Add NOTES from Knittel
- check if elsewhere in PBF - this is not Fabricius, although he is used elsewhere by Knittel, e.g. Clement Alexandria

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