10 April 2007


One of the things that really stuck out to me about Origen's commentary on Lamentations was the constant reference to Jerusalem as a woman. This is apparent right away in the text of the commentary, first when it is referred to as "she" and later when he takes the metaphor and runs with it, equating "her" to a "widow" and several other things.

While I understand that referring to cities (and other things) in the feminine is sort of a common practice, and I agree that extending metaphors beyond what some consider reasonable is fun, I wonder if this is perhaps too much of a stretch. Origen seems to be committing the same deed as anyone who interprets literature, in that he somehow manages to pull a page of meaning out of a sentence, when I don't really think the author himself put in much symbolism beyond alef bet.

But I do think that this tendency for people to read in "too much" stems from the same impulse that drives us to want and need religion, our need for there to be something beyond our everyday experience, for there to be underlying reason and causality, even for randomness. It seems appropriate, then, that this detailed examination is of a religious text.

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