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Origen and the Jews (de Lange, 1977)

by areopage on juillet 31st, 2015


L’étude de N. de Lange, Origen and the Jews : Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations in Third-Century Palestine (CUP, 1977) pourrait faire écho au sujet de notre précédent post concernant Eusèbe, particulièrement le chapitre un, « Origen’s Sources » (pp.15-28). Je ne soulignerai pour l’heure qu’un seul point (pp.58-59).

While on the subject of texts of the Bible and Jewish Bible-readings we should notice some important remarks of Origen about the tetragrammaton. He says that the Hebrews have ten names for God, one of which is Adonai, which is translated as Kurios. They also have a tetragrammaton, which is ineffable; it is pronounced Adonai, although this is not what is written, but among the Greeks (i.e. Greek-speaking Jews) it is pronounced Kurios. In the most accurate texts, he adds, the name is written in Hebrew letters – not in the modern Hebrew alphabet but in the oldest one. One likely source for Origen’s information about the tetragrammaton is Philo, Vit. Moys. 11.23 (114f.), but presumably he also encountered the practice of pronouncing it Adonai or Kurios among Jews of his acquaintance. The statement that Greek-speaking Jews pronounced it Kurios is confirmed by a fragment of Aquila from the Cairo Geniza, where at one point where there was insufficient space in the line for the tetragrammaton it is replaced by the contraction κυ. This same text also provided the first confirmation of Origen’s statement that in some texts the tetragrammaton was written in Old Hebrew letters, in the form YHYH. The practice of transliterating the sacred name rather than translating it is not unparalleled in other contexts: it was the common practice, after all, of the Latin Middle Ages to write the name of Christ in Greek. It has also been convincingly demonstrated that in some Jewish circles the Old Hebrew letter Tau was retained for the name of God, even when its meaning was no longer understood.’ The editor of the fragment of Aquila suggested that Origen’s `most accurate texts’ refers to Aquila, whom Origen frequently commends for his accuracy.? Since then other, earlier examples have come to light, notably the Dodecapropheton scroll published by D. Barthélemy, and there is no longer any reason to suppose that Origen was referring exclusively to Aquila.

Effectivement, les fragments d’Aquila retrouvés dans la Genizah du Caire présentent une curiosité troublante : à côté de mentions du tétragramme en paléo-hébreu, on trouve aussi un nomen sacrum (voir Fontaine, Le P52 contenait-il un nomen sacrum ?, 2012, p. 53, cf. p.25).


Mais l’affirmation de Lange doit être contestée : peut-on raisonnablement se fier à ce témoignage pour établir une pratique chez les Juifs ? Il y a deux problèmes :

  • 1. En fait le tétragramme est présenté sous une forme étymologisante, YeYa, qui fait penser à ce qu’on trouve dans la Mishna (cf. Delcor 1955). Le double yod du P. Oxy. 1007 atteste sans doute de la même réalité.

From → lectures, réflexions

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