One surprise I have found in reading Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-253 AD) is that he believes that there are intentional mistakes, impossibilities, and strange things inserted into the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in order to conceal deeper meanings from the multitudes, and invite investigation from the wise. Origen’s allegorical interpretation of sacred scripture is well-known, but probably less-known is his contention that the divine inspiration of scripture was intentionally tricky. Consider the following quotations:
“This was to conceal the doctrine relating to the before-mentioned subjects in words forming a narrative that contained a record dealing with the visible creation” (PA [Peri Archon] IV.2.8).
“Consequently the Word of God has arranged for certain stumbling blocks, as it were, and hindrances and impossibilities to be inserted into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not be completely drawn away by the sheer attractiveness of the language…or else by never moving away from the letter to fail to learn anything of the more divine element” (PA IV.2.9).
“…whenever the Word found that things which had happened in history could be harmonised with these mystical events he used them, concealing from the multitude their deeper meaning…[T]he scripture wove into the story something which did not happen, occasionally something which could not happen, and occasionally something which might have happened but in fact did not” (PA IV.2.9).
It seems that Origen believes that the Word [Logos] was messing with us, as it were, to entice us to search for deeper meanings in the text. The Word looked for opportune places in the historical accounts of Israel to insert strange claims, to entice those with ears to hear. Is this not a reverse of the typical historical method? For the latter method, when one encounters strange elements in an ancient text, one assumes that we are missing some cultural, historical, or contextual detail that would unlock the meaning of the text. But for Origen, there are intentional oddities in the text to ground the possibility of future interpretations (This is actually an idea native to the New Testament, for example in 1 Peter 1:10-12).