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Full name Origen
Born c. 185
Alexandria, Egypt[1]
Died 254
Caesarea Maritima, Palestine[1]
Era Ante-Nicene Fathers
Region Christian Philosophy
School Platonic

Origen (Greek: Ὠριγένης Ōrigénēs, or Origen Adamantius, c. 185–254[1]) was an early Christian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early of the Christian Church despite not being a Church father.[2] According to tradition, he is held to have been an Egyptian[3] who taught in Alexandria, reviving the Catechetical School of Alexandria where Clement of Alexandria had taught.[4] The patriarch of Alexandria at first supported Origen but later expelled him for being ordained without the patriarch's permission.[5] He relocated to Caesarea Maritima and died there after being tortured during a persecution.[6]

Using his knowledge of Hebrew, he produced Hexapla and corrected Septuagint.[7] He wrote commentaries on most of the books of the Bible.[7] In De principiis (On First Principles), he articulated one of the first philosophical expositions of Christian doctrine.[7] He interpreted scripture allegorically and showed himself to be a Neo-Pythagorean, and Neo-Platonist.[7] Like Plotinus, he wrote that the soul passes through successive stages of incarnation before eventually reaching God.[7] He imagined even demons being reunited with God. For Origen, God was the First Principle, and Christ, the Logos, was subordinate to him.[7] His views of a hierarchical structure in the Trinity, the temporality of matter, "the fabulous preexistence of souls," and "the monstrous restoration which follows from it" were declared anathema in the 6th century.[8]



His Greek name, Ōrigénēs (Ὠριγένης), probably means "child of Horus" (from Ὡρος, "Horus", and γένος, "born").[9] His nickname or cognomen Adamantius derives from Greek ἀδάμας, which means "unconquerable" or "unbreakable".


Origen was educated by his father, Leonides, who gave him a standard Hellenistic education, but also had him study the Christian Scriptures. In 202, Origen's father was killed in the outbreak of the persecution during the reign of Septimius Severus. Origen wished to follow in martyrdom, but was prevented only by his mother hiding his clothes. The death of Leonides left the family of nine impoverished when their property was confiscated. Origen, however, was taken under the protection of a woman of wealth and standing; but as her household already included a heretic named Paul, the strictly orthodox Origen seems to have remained with her only a short time.

Since his father's teaching enabled him also to give elementary instruction, he revived, in 203, the Catechetical School of Alexandria, whose last teacher, Clement of Alexandria, was apparently driven out by the persecution. But the persecution still raged, and the young teacher unceasingly visited the prisoners, attended the courts, and comforted the condemned, himself preserved from harm as if by a miracle. His fame and the number of his pupils increased rapidly, so that Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria, made him restrict himself to instruction in Christian doctrine alone.

Origen, to be entirely independent, sold his library for a sum which netted him a daily income of 4 obols, on which he lived by exercising the utmost frugality. Teaching throughout the day, he devoted the greater part of the night to the study of the Bible and lived a life of rigid asceticism.

Eusebius reported that Origen, following Matthew 19:12 literally, castrated himself.[10] This story was accepted during the Middle Ages and was cited by Abelard in his 12th century letters to Heloise.[11] Scholars within the past century have questioned this, surmising that this may have been a rumor circulated by his detractors.[12] The 1903 Catholic Encyclopedia does not report this.[13] However, renowned historian of late antiquity Peter Brown finds no reason to deny the truth of Eusebius' claims.

During the reign of emperor Caracalla, about 211-212, Origen paid a brief visit to Rome, but the relative laxity during the pontificate of Zephyrinus seems to have disillusioned him, and on his return to Alexandria he resumed his teaching with zeal increased by the contrast. But the school had far outgrown the strength of a single man; the catechumens pressed eagerly for elementary instruction, and the baptized sought for interpretation of the Bible. Under these circumstances, Origen entrusted the teaching of the catechumens to Heraclas, the brother of the martyr Plutarch, his first pupil.

His own interests became more and more centered in exegesis, and he accordingly studied Hebrew, though there is no certain knowledge concerning his instructor in that language. From about this period (212-213) dates Origen's acquaintance with Ambrose of Alexandria, whom he was instrumental in converting from Valentinianism to orthodoxy. Later (about 218) Ambrose, a man of wealth, made a formal agreement with Origen to promulgate his writings, and all the subsequent works of Origen (except his sermons, which were not expressly prepared for publication) were dedicated to Ambrose.

In 213 or 214, Origen visited Arabia at the request of the prefect, who wished to have an interview with him; and Origen accordingly spent a brief time in Petra, after which he returned to Alexandria. In the following year, a popular uprising at Alexandria caused Caracalla to let his soldiers plunder the city, shut the schools, and expel all foreigners. The latter measure caused Ambrose to take refuge in Caesarea, where he seems to have made his permanent home; and Origen, who felt that the turmoil hindered his activity as a teacher and imperilled his safety, left Egypt, apparently going with Ambrose to Caesarea, where he spent some time. Here, in conformity with local usage based on Jewish custom, Origen, though not ordained, preached and interpreted the Scriptures at the request of the bishops Alexander of Jerusalem and Theoctistus of Caesarea. When, however, the confusion in Alexandria subsided, Demetrius recalled Origen, probably in 216.


Of Origen's activity during the next decade little is known, but it was obviously devoted to teaching and writing. The latter was rendered the more easy for him by Ambrose, who provided him with more than seven stenographers to take dictation in relays, as many scribes to prepare long-hand copies, and a number of girls to multiply the copies. At the request of Ambrose, he now began a huge commentary on the Bible, beginning with John, and continuing with Genesis, Psalms 1-25, and Lamentations, besides brief exegeses of selected texts (forming the ten books of his Stromateis), two books on the resurrection, and the work On First Principles.


Conflict with Demetrius and removal to Caesarea

About 230, Origen entered on the fateful journey which was to compel him to give up his work at Alexandria and embittered the next years of his life. Sent to Greece on some ecclesiastical mission, he paid a visit to Caesarea, where he was heartily welcomed and was ordained a priest, that no further cause for criticism might be given Demetrius, who had strongly disapproved his preaching before ordination while at Caesarea. But Demetrius, taking this well-meant act as an infringement of his rights, was furious, for not only was Origen under his jurisdiction as bishop of Alexandria, but, if Eastern sources may be believed, Demetrius had been the first to introduce episcopal ordination in Egypt. The metropolitan accordingly convened a synod of bishops and presbyters which banished Origen from Alexandria, while a second synod declared his ordination invalid.

Origen accordingly fled from Alexandria in 231, and made his permanent home in Caesarea. A series of attacks on him seems to have emanated from Alexandria, whether for his self-castration (a capital crime in Roman law) or for alleged heterodoxy is unknown; but at all events these fulminations were heeded only at Rome, while Palestine, Phoenicia, Arabia, and Achaia paid no attention to them.

At Alexandria, Heraclas became head of Origen's school, and shortly afterward, on the death of Demetrius, was consecrated bishop. At Caesarea, Origen was joyfully received, and was also the guest of Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and of the empress-dowager, Julia Mamaea, at Antioch. The former also visited him at Caesarea, where Origen, deeply loved by his pupils, preached and taught dialectics, physics, ethics, and metaphysics; thus laying his foundation for the crowning theme of theology.

He accordingly sought to set forth all the science of the time from the Christian point of view, and to elevate Christianity to a theory of the Universe compatible with Hellenism. In 235, with the accession of Maximinus Thrax, a persecution raged; and for two years Origen is said, though on somewhat doubtful authority, to have remained concealed in the house of a certain Juliana in Caesarea of Cappadocia.

Little is known of the last twenty years of Origen's life. He preached regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, and later daily. He evidently, however, developed an extraordinary literary productivity, broken by occasional journeys; one of which, to Athens during some unknown year, was of sufficient length to allow him time for research.

After his return from Athens, he succeeded in converting Beryllus, bishop of Bostra, from his adoptionistic (i.e., belief that Jesus was born human and only became divine after his baptism) views to the orthodox faith; yet in these very years (about 240) probably occurred the attacks on Origen's own orthodoxy which compelled him to defend himself in writing to Pope Fabian and many bishops. Neither the source nor the object of these attacks is known, though the latter may have been connected with Novatianism (a strict refusal to accept Christians who had denied their faith under persecution).

After his conversion of Beryllus, however, his aid was frequently invoked against heresies. Thus, when the doctrine was promulgated in Arabia that the soul died and decayed with the body, being restored to life only at the resurrection (see soul sleep), appeal was made to Origen, who journeyed to Arabia, and by his preaching reclaimed the erring.

There was second outbreak of the Antonine Plague, which at its height in 251 to 266 took the lives of 5,000 a day in Rome. This time it was called the Plague of Cyprian. Emperor Gaius Messius Quintus Decius, believing the plague to be a product of magic, caused by the failure of Christians to recognize him as Divine, began Christian persecutions.[14] This time Origen did not escape.[15] He was tortured, pilloried, and bound hand and foot to the block for days without yielding.[citation needed][16] Though he did not die while being tortured, he died three years later due to injuries sustained at the age of 69.[17] A later legend, recounted by Jerome and numerous itineraries place his death and burial at Tyre, but to this little value can be attached.[18]


Exegetical writings

According to Epiphanius,[19] Origen wrote about 6,000 works (i.e., rolls or chapters). A list was given by Eusebius in his lost Life of Pamphilus[20], which was apparently known to Jerome.[21] These fall into four classes: textual criticism; exegesis; systematic, practical, and apologetic theology; and letters; besides certain spurious works.

By far the most important work of Origen on textual criticism was the Hexapla, a comparative study of various translations of the Old Testament.

The full text of the Hexapla is no longer extant. Some portions were discovered in Milan indicating that at least some individual parts existed much longer than was previously thought. The Hexapla has been referred to by later manuscripts and authors, and represented the precursor to the parallel bible.

The Tetrapla was an abbreviation of the Hexapla in which Origen placed only the translations (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Septuagint) in parallels.

He was likewise keenly conscious of the textual difficulties in the manuscripts of the New Testament, although he never wrote definitely on this subject. In his exegetical writings he frequently alludes to the variant readings, but his habit of making rough citations in his dictation, the verification being left to the scribes, renders it impossible to deduce his text from his commentaries. Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History 6.25.7 strongly implies Origen disputed the authenticity of the Letters of Paul when he wrote that Paul did not write to all the churches that he taught and even to the ones he wrote he only sent a few lines. However, Origen's own writings refer often to the words of Paul.

The exegetical writings of Origen fall into three classes:

  • scholia, or brief summaries of the meaning of difficult passages
  • homilies
  • "books", or commentaries in the strict sense of the term.

Jerome states that there were scholia on Leviticus, Psalms i.-xv., Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and part of John. The Stromateis were of a similar character, and the margin of Codex Athous Laura, 184, contains citations from this work on Rom. 9:23; I Cor. 6:14, 7:31, 34, 9:20-21, 10:9, besides a few other fragments.

Homilies on almost the entire Bible were prepared by Origen, these being taken down after his sixtieth year as he preached. It is not improbable that Origen gave no attention to supervising the publication of his homilies, for only by such a hypothesis can the numerous evidences of carelessness in diction be explained. The exegesis of the homilies was simpler than that of the scientific commentaries, but nevertheless demanded no mean degree of intelligence from the auditor. Origen's chief aim was the practical exposition of the text, verse by verse; and while in such barren books as Leviticus and Numbers he sought to allegorize, the wealth of material in the prophets seldom rendered it necessary for him to seek meanings deeper than the surface afforded. Whether the sermons were delivered in series, or the homilies on a single book were collected from various series, is unknown. The homilies preserved are on Genesis (17), Exodus (13), Leviticus (18), Numbers (28), Joshua (16), Judges (9), I Sam. (2), Psalms xxxvi-xxviii (9), Canticles (2), Isaiah (9), Jeremiah (7 Greek, 2 Latin, 12 Greek and Latin), Ezekiel (14), and Luke (39).

Extant commentaries of Origen

The object of Origen's commentaries was to give an exegesis that discriminated strictly against the incidental, unimportant historical significance, in favour of the deeper, hidden, spiritual truth. At the same time, he neglected neither philological nor geographical, historical nor antiquarian material, to all of which he devoted numerous excursuses.

In his commentary on John he constantly considered the exegesis of the Valentinian Heracleon (probably at the instance of Ambrose), and in many other places he implied or expressly cited Gnostic views and refuted them.

Unfortunately, only meagre fragments of the commentaries have survived. Besides the citations in the Philocalia, which include fragments of the third book of the commentary on Genesis, Ps. i, iv.1, the small commentary on Canticles, and the second book of the large commentary on the same, the twentieth book of the commentary on Ezekiel, and the commentary on Hosea, and of the commentary on John, only books i, ii, x, xiii, xx, xxviii, xxxii, and a fragment of xix. have been preserved. The commentary on Romans is extant only in the abbreviated version of Rufinus, though some Greek fragments also exist. The eight books preserved of the commentary on Matthew likewise seem to be either a brief reworking or a rough outline.

Codex Vaticanus, 1215, gives the division of the twenty-five books of the commentary on Ezekiel, and part of the arrangement of the commentary on Isaiah (beginnings of books VI, VIII, XVI; book X extends from Isa. viii.1 to ix.7; XI from ix.8, to x.11; XII, from x.12 to x.23; XIII from x.24 to xi.9; XIV from xi.10 to xii.6; XV from xiii.1 to xiii.16; XXI from xix.1 to xix.17; XXII from xix.18 to xx.6; XXIII from xxi.1 to xxi.17; XXIV from xxii.1 to xxii.25; XXV from xxiii.1 to xxiii.18; XXVI from xxiv.1 to xxv.12; XXVII from xxvi.1 to xxvi.15; XXVIII from xxvi.16 to xxvii.11a; XXIX from xxvii.11b to xxviii.29; and XXX treats of xxix.1 sqq.).

The Codex Athous Laura, 184, in like manner, gives the division of the fifteen books of the commentary on Romans (except XI and XII) and of the five books on Galatians, as well as the extent of the commentaries on Philippians and Corinthians (Romans I from 1:1 to 1:7; II from 1:8 to 1:25; III from 1:26 to 2:11; IV from 2:12 to 3:15; V from 3:16 to 3:31; VI from 4:1 to 5:7; VII from 5:8 to 5:16; VIII from 5:17 to 6:15; IX from 6:16 to 8:8; X from 8:9 to 8:39; XIII from 11:13 to 12:15; XIV from 12:16 to 14:10; XV from 14:11 to the end; Galatians I from 1:1 to 2:2; II from 2:3 to 3:4; III from 3:5 to 4:5; IV from 4:6 to 5:5; and V from 5:6 to 6:18; the commentary on Philippians extended to 4:1; and on Ephesians to 4:13).

Dogmatic, practical, and apologetic writings

Among the systematic, practical, and apologetic writings of Origen, mention should first be made of his work On First Principles, perhaps written for his more advanced pupils at Alexandria and probably composed between 212 and 215. It is extant only in the free translation of Rufinus, except for fragments of the third and fourth books preserved in the Philokalia, and smaller citations in Justinian's letter to Mennas.

In the first book the author considers God, the Logos, the Holy Ghost, reason, and the angels; in the second the world and man (including the incarnation of the Logos, the soul, free will, and eschatology); in the third, the doctrine of sin and redemption; and in the fourth, the Scriptures; the whole being concluded with a résumé of the entire system. The work is noteworthy as the first endeavor to present Christianity as a complete theory of the universe, and was designed to remove the difficulties felt by many Christians concerning the essential basis of their faith.

Earlier in date than this treatise were the two books on the resurrection (now lost, a fate which has also befallen two dialogues on the same theme) dedicated to Ambrose. After his removal to Caesarea, Origen wrote the works, still extant, On Prayer, On Martyrdom, and Against Celsus. The first of these was written shortly before 235 (or possibly before 230), and, after an introduction on the object, necessity, and advantage of prayer, ends with an exegesis of the Lord's Prayer, concluding with remarks on the position, place, and attitude to be assumed during prayer, as well as on the classes of prayer.

The persecution of Maximinus was the occasion of the composition of the On Martyrdom, which is preserved in the Exhortation to Martyrdom. In it, Origen warns against any trifling with idolatry and emphasizes the duty of suffering martyrdom manfully; while in the second part he explains the meaning of martyrdom. The eight books against Celsus, Contra Celsum [22] were written in 248 in reply to the polemic of the pagan philosopher against Christianity.

Eusebius had a collection of more than one hundred letters of Origen,[23] and the list of Jerome speaks of several books of his epistles. Except for a few fragments, only a short letter to Gregory Thaumaturgus and the epistle to Sextus Julius Africanus (defending the authenticity of the Greek additions to the book of Daniel) have been preserved.

For forgeries of the writings of Origen made in his lifetime cf. Rufinus, De adulteratione librorum Origenis. The Dialogus de recta in Deum fide, the Philosophumena of Hippolytus of Rome, and the Commentary on Job by Julian of Halicarnassus have also been ascribed to him.


Philosophical and religious

Origen, allegedly trained in the school of Clement and by his father, has long been considered essentially a Platonist with occasional traces of Stoic philosophy. While this might yet be the general scholarly consensus, it might be more useful to designate Origen a Middle Platonist (along with Philo of Alexandria), even if such a school never properly existed. Recently, Mark J Edwards has argued that many of Origen's positions are more properly Aristotelian than strictly Platonic (for instance, his philosophical anthropology). Nonetheless, he was thus a pronounced idealist, as one regarding all things temporal and material as insignificant and indifferent, the only real and eternal things being comprised in the idea. He therefore regards as the purely ideal center of this spiritual and eternal world, God, the pure reason, whose creative powers call into being the world with matter as the necessary substratum.

Origen's cosmology is complicated, but he seems to have held that souls existed prior to becoming embodied in an ideal state, and only on account of their own negligence did they fall. This is in fact the impetus for creation, and a repeated trope in Origen is his insistence that diversity is the by-product of the free-will of souls. Thus, material creation is at least implicitly of a lesser ontological category than the immaterial, or spiritual, and the heavy material bodies that man assumes after the fall will eventually be cast off. Origen, however, still insisted on a bodily resurrection, but in contrast to Athenagoras, who believed that earthly bodies would be precisely reconstituted in the hereafter, Origen argued that Paul's notion of a flourishing spiritual body is more appropriate.

He was, indeed, a rigid adherent of the Bible, making no statement without adducing some Scriptural basis. To him the Bible was divinely inspired, as was proved both by the fulfilment of prophecy and by the immediate impression which the Scriptures made on those who read them. Since the divine Logos spoke in the Scriptures, they were an organic whole and on every occasion he combatted the Gnostic tenet of the inferiority of the Old Testament.

In his exegesis, Origen sought to discover the deeper meaning implied in the Scriptures. One of his chief methods was the translation of proper names, which enabled him, like Philo, to find a deep meaning even in every event of history (see hermeneutics), but at the same time he insisted on an exact grammatical interpretation of the text as the basis of all exegesis.

A strict adherent of the Church, Origen yet distinguished sharply between the ideal and the empirical Church, representing "a double church of men and angels", or, in Platonic phraseology, the lower church and its celestial ideal. The ideal Church alone was the Church of Christ, scattered over all the earth; the other provided also a shelter for sinners. Holding that the Church, as being in possession of the mysteries, affords the only means of salvation, he was indifferent to her external organization, although he spoke sometimes of the office-bearers as the pillars of the Church, and of their heavy duties and responsibilities.

More important to him was the idea borrowed from Plato of the grand division between the great human multitude, capable of sensual vision only, and those who know how to comprehend the hidden meaning of Scripture and the diverse mysteries, church organization being for the former only.

It is doubtful whether Origen possessed an obligatory creed; at any rate, such a confession of faith was not a norm like the inspired word of Scripture. The reason, illumined by the divine Logos, which is able to search the secret depths of the divine nature, remains as the only source of knowledge.

Theological and dogmatic

Origen's conception of God is apophatic—God is a perfect unity, invisible and incorporeal, transcending all things material, and therefore inconceivable and incomprehensible. He is likewise unchangeable, and transcends space and time. But his power is limited by his goodness, justice, and wisdom; and, though entirely free from necessity, his goodness and omnipotence constrained him to reveal himself.

This revelation, the external self-emanation of God, is expressed by Origen in various ways, the Logos being only one of many. Revelation was the first creation of God (cf. Prov. viii. 22), in order to afford creative mediation between God and the world, such mediation being necessary, because God, as changeless unity, could not be the source of a multitudinous creation.

The Logos is the rational creative principle that permeates the universe. Since God eternally manifests himself, the Logos is likewise eternal. He forms a bridge between the created and uncreated, and only through him, as the visible representative of divine wisdom, can the inconceivable and incorporeal God be known. Creation came into existence only through the Logos, and God's nearest approach to the world is the command to create. While the Logos is substantially a unity, he comprehends a multiplicity of concepts, so that Origen terms him, in Platonic fashion, "essence of essences" and "idea of ideas".

The defense of the unity of God against the Gnostics led Origen to maintain the subordination of the Logos to God, and the doctrine of the eternal generation is later.[citation needed] Origen distinctly emphasised the independence of the Logos as well as the distinction from the being and substance of God. The term "of the same substance with the Father" was not employed. The Logos (and the Holy Spirit also) however, does share in the divinity of God. He is an image, a reflex of God, in which God communicates his divinity, as light radiating from the sun.

The Logos doctrine and cosmology

The activity of the Logos was conceived by Origen in Platonic fashion, as the world soul, wherein God manifested his omnipotence. His first creative act was the divine spirit, as an independent existence; and partial reflexes of the Logos were the created rational beings, who, as they had to revert to the perfect God as their background, must likewise be perfect; yet their perfection, unlike in kind with that of God, the Logos, and the divine spirit, had to be attained. The freedom of the will is an essential fact of the reason, notwithstanding the foreknowledge of God. The Logos, eternally creative, forms an endless series of finite, comprehensible worlds, which are mutually alternative. Combining the Stoic doctrine of a universe without beginning with the Biblical doctrine of the beginning and the end of the world, he conceived of the visible world as the stages of an eternal cosmic process, affording also an explanation of the diversity of human fortunes, rewards, and punishments. The material world, which at first had no place in this eternal spiritual progression, was due to the fall of the spirits from God, the first being the serpent, who was imprisoned in matter and body. The ultimate aim of God in the creation of matter out of nothing was not punishment, but the upraising of the fallen spirits. Man's accidental being is rooted in transitory matter, but his higher nature is formed in the image of the Creator. The soul is divided into the rational and the irrational, the latter being material and transitory, while the former, incorporeal and immaterial, possesses freedom of the will and the power to reascend to purer life. The strong ethical import of this cosmic process can not remain unnoticed. The return to original being through divine reason is the object of the entire cosmic process. Through the worlds which follow each other in eternal succession, the spirits are able to return to Paradise. God so ordered the universe that all individual acts work together toward one cosmic end which culminates in himself. Likewise as to Origen's anthropology, man conceived in the image of God is able by imitating God in good works to become like God, if he first recognizes his own weakness and trusts all to the divine goodness. He is aided by guardian angels, but more especially by the Logos who operates through saints and prophets in proportion to the constitution of these and man's capacity.



The culmination of this gradual revelation is the universal revelation of Christ. In Christ, God, hitherto manifest only as the Lord, appeared as the Father. The incarnation of the Logos, moreover, was necessary since otherwise he would not be intelligible to sensual man; but the indwelling of the Logos remained a mystery, which could be represented only by the analogy of his indwelling in the saints; nor could Origen fully explain it. He speaks of a "remarkable body", and in his opinion that the mortal body of Jesus was transformed by God into an ethereal and divine body, Origen approximated the Docetism that he otherwise abhorred. His concept of the soul of Jesus is likewise uncertain and wavering. He proposes the question whether it was not originally perfect with God but, emanating from him, at his command assumed a material body. As he conceived matter as merely the universal limit of created spirits, so would it be impossible to state in what form the two were combined. He dismissed the solution by referring it to the mystery of the divine governance of the universe. More logically did he declare the material nature of the world to be merely an episode in the spiritual process of development, whose end should be the annihilation of all matter and return to God, who should again be all in all. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body he upholds by the explanation that the Logos maintains the unity of man's existence by ever changing his body into new forms, thus preserving the unity and identity of personality in harmony with the tenet of an endless cosmic process. Origen's concept of the Logos allowed him to make no definite statement on the redemptive work of Jesus. Since sin was ultimately only negative as a lack of pure knowledge, the activity of Jesus was essentially example and instruction, and his human life was only incidental as contrasted with the immanent cosmic activity of the Logos. Origen regarded the death of Jesus as a sacrifice, paralleling it with other cases of self-sacrifice for the general good. On this, Origen's accord with the teachings of the Church was merely superficial.


His idealizing tendency to consider the spiritual alone as real, fundamental to his entire system, led him to combat the "rude"[24] or "crude"[25] Chiliasm (see Christian eschatology) of a sensual beyond. His position on the literal resurrection of physical bodies is difficult, but in both the Contra Celsum and On First Principles, Origen affirms some form of bodily resurrection, but eschews the notion that earthly bodies will be raised, on account of their gross materiality.[26] Yet he constrained himself from breaking entirely with the distinct celestial hopes and representations of Paradise prevalent in the Church. He represents a progressive purification of souls, until, cleansed of all clouds of evil, they should know the truth and God as the Son knew him, see God face to face, and attain a full possession of the Holy Spirit and union with God. The means of attainment of this end were described by Origen in different ways, the most important of which was his Platonic concept of a purifying fire which should cleanse the world of evil and thus lead to cosmic renovation. By a further spiritualization Origen could call God himself this consuming fire. In proportion as the souls were freed from sin and ignorance, the material world was to pass away, until, after endless eons, at the final end, God should be all in all, and the worlds and spirits should return to a knowledge of God, in Greek this is called Apokatastasis.


In Origen the Christian Church had its first theologian.[27] His teaching was not merely theoretical, but was also imbued with an intense ethical power. To the multitude to whom his instruction was beyond grasp, he left mediating images and symbols, as well as the final goal of attainment. In Origen Christianity blended with the pagan philosophy in which lived the desire for truth and the longing after God. When he died, however, he left no pupil who could succeed him, nor was the church of his period able to become his heir, and thus, his knowledge was buried. Three centuries later his very name was stricken from the books of the Church; yet in the monasteries of the Greeks his influence still lived on, as the spiritual father of Greek monasticism.

Origen's influence on the later Church

For quite some time, Origen was counted as one of the most important church fathers and his works were widely used in the Church. His exegetical method was standard of the School of Alexandria and the Origenists were an important party in the 4th century debates on Arianism.

Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, e.g., compiled in their first monastery the Philokalia, a collection of Origen's work, though both of them did neither adopt Origenism nor use the Alexandrian allegoric exegesis.

Much later, Origen got into theological trouble with the Church because of some extreme views adopted by his followers, the Origenists, whose views were attributed to Origen. In the course of this controversy, some of his other teachings came up, which were not accepted by the general church consensus. Among these were the preexistence of souls, universal salvation and a hierarchical concept of the Trinity. Rufinus who translated Origen's works from Greek to Latin in the latter fourth century claimed that seeming heresies in Origen's writings were in fact the result of tampering by his followers. However, Jerome, although he at first appreciated Origen's thought, later came to reject him. Eventually, the hetero-orthodox teachings of Origen, and especially some more extreme views of those who claimed to be his followers, were declared anathema by a local council in Constantinople 545, and then an ecumenical council (Fifth Ecumenical Council) pronounced "15 anathemas" against Origen in 553.[8]

The anathema against him in his person, declaring him (among others) a heretic, reads as follows:

If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and [if anyone does not equally anathematize] all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.[28]

As a result of this condemnation, the writings of Origen supporting his teachings in these areas were destroyed. They were either outright destroyed, or they were translated with the appropriate adjustments to eliminate conflict with orthodox Christian doctrine. Therefore, little direct evidence remains to fully confirm or disprove Origen’s support of the nine points of anathema against him.

Origen and a form of apocatastasis were condemned in 544 by the Patriarch Mennas of Constantinople and the condemnation was ratified in 553 by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Many heteroclite views became associated with Origen, and the 15 anathemas against him attributed to the council condemn a form of apocatastasis along with the pre-existence of the soul, animism (a heterodox Christology), and a denial of real and lasting resurrection of the body.[8] Some authorities believe these anathemas belong to an earlier local synod.[29]

It should also be noted, the Fifth Ecumenical Council has been contested as being an official and authorized Ecumenical Council, as it was established not by the Pope, but the Emperor Justinian because of the Pope's resistance to it. It should also be noted that the Fifth Ecumenical Council addressed what was called "The Three Chapters"[30] and was against a form of Origenism which truly had nothing to do with Origen and Origenist views. In fact, Popes Vigilius, Pelagius I (556-61), Pelagius II (579-90), and Gregory the Great (590-604) were only aware the Fifth Council specifically dealt with the Three Chapters and make no mention of Origenism or Universalism, nor spoke as if they knew of its condemnation even though Gregory the Great was opposed to the belief of universalism.[13]

The Emperor Justinian chose the theory of eternal damnation over Apokatastasis and the underlying need for purification of all souls through multiple incarnations. [31]

The book Reincarnation in Christianity, by the theosophist Geddes MacGregor (1978) asserted that Origen believed in reincarnation. MacGregor is convinced that Origen believed in and taught about reincarnation but that his texts written about the subject have been destroyed. He admits that there is no extant proof for that position. The allegation was also repeated by Shirley MacLaine in her book Out On a Limb.

There is, however, no evidence that Origen believed in reincarnation. He wrote about the Greeks' transmigration of the soul, with which he did not agree.[32] This can be confirmed from the extant writings of Origen. He was cognizant of the concept of transmigration (metensomatosis transformation, and loses what it once was, the human soul will not be what it was[33] ) from Greek philosophy, but it is repeatedly stated that this concept is not a part of the Christian teaching or scripture. In his Comment on the Gospel of Matthew, which stems from a sixth century Latin translation, it is written: "In this place [when Jesus said Elijah was come and referred to John the Baptist] it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I fall into the doctrine of transmigration, which is foreign to the Church of God, and not handed down by the apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the scriptures" (ibid., 13:1:46–53 [34]).

Reluctantly[citation needed] he remains a father of the church,[citation needed] and this can be seen best in the commentaries of Tyrannius Rufinus, who visibly struggled with his task of transcribing Origen’s works into Latin and the new Roman dogma and made extensive changes to the original text. [35]

His thought on the Old Testament was an important link in the development of the medieval system of Typology.

See also


  • Bostock, Gerald (2003). "Origen: the Alternative to Augustine?". The Expository Times 114 (10): 327. doi:10.1177/001452460311401001. 
  • Trigg, Joseph Wilson (1985). Origen: the Bible and philosophy in the third-century church. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02234-7. 
  • Trigg, Joseph Wilson (1998). Origen. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-11836-0. 
  • Crouzel, Henri (1989). Origen. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-061632-6. 


  1. ^ a b c Rainy, Robert (2008) [1902]. The Ancient Catholic Church From The Accession Of Trajan To The Fourth General Council. Boucher Press. pp. 168–169. ISBN 1-4097-8036-8. 
  2. ^ Fathers of the Church
  3. ^ Sarton, George (January 1936). "The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World". Osiris 2 (1): 406–463 [430]. doi:10.1086/368462. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  4. ^ Eusebius, Church History, VI.6. See Eusebius - Church History (Book VI).
  5. ^ Eusebius, Church History, VI.14, also Photius and St. Jerome. See Catholic Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ Gleason, Kathy (2002). "About Caesarea". Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Durant, Will (1994) [1944]. Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from Their Beginnings to A.D. 325 (Story of Civilization, No 3). MJF Books. ISBN 1-56731-014-1. 
  8. ^ a b c Philip Schaff, ed (1994) [1885]. "The Anathemas Against Origen". Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II, Volume XIV (The Seven Ecumenical Councils). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 1-56563-116-1. 
  9. ^ Prestige, G. L. (1940). "Origen: or, The Claims of Religious Intelligence". Fathers and Heretics. Bampton Lectures. London: SPCK. p. 43. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  10. ^ "Origen of Alexandria". ReligionFacts. 2006-02-20. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  11. ^ The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise,LETTER II
  12. ^ Keough, Shawn W. J. (2008). "Christoph Markschies, Origenes und sein Erbe: Gesammelte Studien. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 160". Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03 (30). Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  13. ^ a b Prat, Ferdinand (1911). "Origen and Origenism". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  14. ^ MacMullen, Ramsay (1992) [1966]. Enemies of the Roman order: treason, unrest, and alienation in the empire. New York City: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08621-3. 
  15. ^ Shelley, Bruce L. (1995). Church History in Plain Language, 2nd ed. Dallas: Word Publishing. p. 86.
  16. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Origen and Origenism". 1911-02-01. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  17. ^ Shelley, p. 86.
  18. ^ Jerome. "Chapter 54 (Origen, surnamed Adamantius)". De viris illustribus (On Illustrious Men). 
  19. ^ Haer., lxiv.63
  20. ^ Ecclesiastical History, VI., xxxii. 3; Eng. transl., NPNF, 2 ser., i. 277
  21. ^ Epist. ad Paulam, NPNF, vi. 46
  22. ^ Celsus charged that Jesus was a deceptive magician who did miracles by a magic occult power not by a relationship with the divine. In the ancient world few doubted strange powers existed and were used. So-called magic and the miraculous was common place. See: The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds
  23. ^ Historia ecclesiastica., VI, xxxvi.3; Eng. transl. NPNF, 2 ser. i.278-279.
  24. ^ The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol.8, p. 273
  25. ^ The Anchor Bible Dictionary (1997) article "Chiliasm", The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (Johann Amos Comenius, ed. 1998) p. 42 and Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (James D. G. Dunn, 1999) p. 52.
  26. ^ "Origen believes that all spirits will be finally rescued and glorified, each in the form of its individual life, in order to serve a new epoch of the world when sensuous matter disappears of itself." [1]
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II, 553
  29. ^ Greer, Rowan A. (1979). Origen. New York City: Paulist Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0-8091-2198-0. 
  30. ^ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Three Chapters
  31. ^ Sträuli, Robert (1987). Origenes der Diamantene. Zurich: ABZ Verlag. pp. 71, 355–357. ISBN 3-85516-005-8. 
  32. ^ "Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IX/Origen on Matthew/Origen's Commentary on Matthew/Book XIII/Chapter 1 - Wikisource". 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  33. ^ "Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/A Treatise on the Soul/Chapter XXXII - Wikisource". 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  34. ^ Origens Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XIII)
  35. ^ Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 6-10. Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2002. pp. 312–313. ISBN 0-8132-0104-7. 


  • Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
  • The Commentary of Origen On S. John's Gospel, the text revised and with a critical introduction and indices by A. (Alan) E. (England) Brooke. Provost of King's College and noted biblical scholar. Two Volumes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.1896

This article includes content derived from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1914, which is in the public domain.

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Origenes or Origen Adamantios (c. 185254) was an Alexandrian theologian and Biblical scholar. He is considered one of the most distinguished of the early fathers of the Christian Church.


Quotations are cited from Frederick Crombie (trans.) The Writings of Origen (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1869-72), to which page numbers also refer.

  • Every being which is endowed with reason, and transgresses its statutes and limitations, is undoubtedly involved in sin by swerving from rectitude and justice.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 5; vol. 1, p. 45.
  • As the eye naturally seeks the light and vision, and our body naturally desires food and drink, so our mind is possessed with a becoming and natural desire to become acquainted with the truth of God and the causes of things.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 2, ch. 11; vol. 1, p. 148
  • There are many christs in the world, who, like Him, have loved righteousness and hated iniquity.
    • Against Celsus, Bk. 6, ch. 79; vol. 2, p. 422.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ORIGEN (c. 185 - c. 2J4), the most distinguished and most influential of all the theologians of the ancient church, with the possible exception of Augustine. He is the father of the church's science; he is the founder of a theology which was brought to perfection in the 4th and 5th centuries, and which still retained the stamp of his genius when in the 6th century it disowned its author. It was Origen who created the dogmatic of the church and laid the foundations of the scientific criticism of the Old and New Testaments. He could not have been what he was unless two generations before him had laboured at the problem of finding an intellectual expression and a philosophic basis for Christianity (Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Pantaenus, Clement). But their attempts, in comparison with his, are like a schoolboy's essays beside the finished work of a master. Like all great epoch-making personalities, he was favoured by the circumstances of his life, notwithstanding the relentless persecution to which he was exposed. He lived in a time when the Christian communities enjoyed almost uninterrupted peace and held an acknowledged position in the world. By proclaiming the reconciliation of science with the Christian faith, of the highest culture with the Gospel, Origen did more than any other man to win the Old World to the Christian religion. But he entered into no diplomatic compromises; it was his deepest and most solemn conviction that the sacredoracles of Christendom embraced all the ideals of antiquity. His character was as transparent as his life was blameless; there are few church fathers whose biography leaves so pure an impression on the reader. The atmosphere around him was a dangerous one for a philosopher and theologian to breathe, but he kept his spiritual health unimpaired, and even his sense of truth suffered less injury than was the case with most of his contemporaries. To us, indeed, his conception of the universe, like that of Philo, seems a strange medley, and one may be at a loss to conceive how he could bring together such heterogeneous elements; but there is no reason to doubt that the harmony of all the essential parts of his system was obvious enough to himself. It is true that in addressing the Christian people he used different language from that which he employed to the cultured; but there was no dissimulation in that - on the contrary, it was a requirement of his system. Orthodox theology has never, in any of the confessions, ventured beyond the circle which the mind of Origen first measured out. It has suspected and amended its author, it has expunged his heresies; but whether it has put anything better or more tenable in their place may be gravely questioned.

Origen was born, perhaps at Alexandria, of Christian parents in the year 185 or 186. As a boy he showed evidence of remarkable talents, and his father Leonidas gave him an excellent education. At a very early age, about the year 200, he listened to the lectures of Pantaenus and Clement in the catechetical school. This school, of which the origin (though assigned to Athenagoras) is unknown, was the first and for a long time the only institution where Christians were instructed simultaneously in the Greek sciences and the doctrines of the holy Scriptures. Alexandria had been, since the days of the Ptolemies, a centre for the interchange of ideas between East and West - between Egypt, Syria, Greece and Italy; and, as it had furnished Judaism with an Hellenic philosophy, so it also brought about the alliance of Christianity with Greek philosophy. Asia Minor and the West developed the strict ecclesiastical forms by means of which the church closed her lines against heathenism, and especially against heresy; in Alexandria Christian ideas were handled in a free and speculative fashion and worked out with the help of Greek philosophy. Till near the end of the 2nd century the line between heresy and orthodoxy was less rigidly drawn there than at Ephesus, Lyons, Rome or Carthage. In the year 202 a persecution arose, in which the father of Origen became a martyr, and the family lost their livelihood. Origen, who had distinguished himself by his intrepid zeal, was supported for a time by a lady of rank, but began about the same time to earn his bread by teaching; and in 203 he was placed, with the sanction of the bishop Demetrius, at the head of the catechetical school. Even then his attainments in the whole circle of the sciences were extraordinary. But the spirit of investigation impelled him to devote himself to the highest studies, philosophy and the exegesis of the sacred Scriptures. With indomitable perseverance he applied himself to these subjects; although himself a teacher, he regularly attended the lectures of Ammonius Saccas, and made a thorough study of the books of Plato and Numenius, of the Stoics and the Pythagoreans. At the same time he endeavoured to acquire a knowledge of Hebrew, in order to be able to read the Old Testament in the original. His manner of life was ascetic; the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount and the practical maxims of the Stoics were his guiding stars. Four oboli a day, earned by copying manuscripts, sufficed for his bodily sustenance. A rash resolve led him to mutilate himself that he might escape from the lusts of the flesh, and work unhindered in the instruction of the female sex. This step he afterwards regretted. As the attendance at his classes continually increased - pagans thronging; to him as well as Christians - he handed over the beginners to his friend Heracles, and took charge of the more advanced pupils himself. Meanwhile the literary activity of Origen was increasing year by year. He commenced his great work on the textual criticism of the Scriptures; and at the instigation of his friend Ambrosius, who provided him with the necessary amanuenses, he published his commentaries on the Old Testament and his dogmatic investigations. In this manner he laboured at Alexandria for twenty-eight years (till 231-232). This period,. however, was broken by many journeys, undertaken partly for scientific and partly for ecclesiastical ob j ects. We know that he was in Rome in the time of Zephyrinus, again in Arabia,. where a Roman official wanted to hear his lectures, and in Antioch, in response to a most flattering invitation from Julia Mammaea (mother of Alexander Severus, afterwards emperor), who wished to become acquainted with his philosophy. In the year 21 6 - the time when the imperial executioners were ravaging Alexandria - we find Origen in Palestine. There the bishops of Jerusalem and Caesarea received him in the most friendly manner, and got him to deli;per public lectures in the churches. In the East, especially in Asia Minor, it was still no unusual thing for laymen, with permission of the bishop, to address the people in the church. In Alexandria, however, this custom had been given up, and Demetrius took occasion to express his disapproval and recall Origen to Alexandria. Probably the bishop was jealous of the high reputation of the teacher; and a coolness arose between them which led, fifteen years later, to an open rupture. On his way to Greece (apparently in the year 230) Origen was ordained a presbyter in Palestine by his friends the bishops. This was undoubtedly an infringement of the rights of the Alexandrian bishop; at the same time it was simply a piece of spite on the part of the latter that had kept Origen so long without any ecclesiastical consecration. Demetrius convened a synod, at which it was resolved to banish Origen from Alexandria. Even this did not satisfy his displeasure. A second synod, composed entirely of bishops, determined that Origen must be deposed from the presbyterial status. This decision was communicated to the foreign churches, and seems to have been justified by referring to the self-mutilation of Origen and adducing objectionable doctrines which he was said to have promulgated. The details of the incident are, however, unfortunately very obscure. No formal excommunication of Origen appears to have been decreed; it was considered sufficient to have him degraded to the position of a layman. The sentence was approved by most of the churches, in particular by that of Rome. At a later period Origen sought to vindicate his teaching in a letter to the Roman bishop Fabian, but, it would seem, without success. Even Heracles, his former friend and sharer of his views, took part against him; and by this means he procured his own election shortly afterwards as successor to Demetrius.

In these circumstances Origen thought it best voluntarily to retire from Alexandria (231-232). He betook himself to Palestine, where his condemnation had not been acknowledged by the churches any more than it had been in Phoenicia, Arabia and Achaea. He settled in Caesarea, and very shortly he had a flourishing school there, whose reputation rivalled that of Alexandria. His literary work, too, was prosecuted with unabated vigour. Enthusiastic pupils sat at his feet (see the Panegyric of Gregory Thaumaturgus), and the methodical instruction which he imparted in all branches of knowledge was famous all over the East. Here again his activity as a teacher was interrupted by frequent journeys. Thus he was for two years together at Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was overtaken by the Maximinian persecution; here he worked at his recension of the Bible. We find him again in Nicomedia, in Athens, and twice in Arabia. He was called there to combat the unitarian christology of Beryllus, bishop of Bostra, and to clear up certain eschatological questions. As he had formerly had dealings with the house of Alexander Severus, so now he entered into a correspondence with the emperor Philip the Arabian and his wife Severa. But through all situations of his life he preserved his equanimity, his keen interest in science, and his indefatigable zeal for the instruction of others. In the, year 250 the Decian persecution broke out, Origen was arrested, imprisoned and maltreated. But he survived these troubles - it is a malicious invention that he recanted during the persecution - and lived a few years longer in active intercourse with his friends. He died, probably in the year 254 (consequently under Valerian), at Tyre, where his grave was still shown in the middle ages.


Origen is probably the most prolific author of the ancient church. "Which of us," asks Jerome, "can read all that he has written ?" The number of his works was estimated at 6000, but that is certainly an exaggeration. Owing to the increasing unpopularity of Origen in the church, a comparatively small portion of these works have come down to us in the original. We have more in the Latin translation of Rufinus; but this translation in by no means trustworthy, since Rufinus, assuming that Origen's writings had been tampered with by the heretics, considered himself at liberty to omit or amend heterodox statements. Origen's real opinion, however, may frequently be gathered from the Philocalia - a sort of anthology from his works prepared by Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzenus. The fragments in Photius and in the Apology of Pamphilus serve for comparison. The writings of Origen consist of letters, and of works in textual criticism, exegesis, apologetics, dogmatic and practical theology.

r. Eusebius (to whom we owe our full knowledge of his life) collected more than a hundred of Origen's letters, arranged them in books, and deposited them in the library at Caesarea (H. E. vi. 36). In the church library at Jerusalem (founded by the bishop Alexander) there were also numerous letters of this father (Euseb. H. E. vi. 20). But unfortunately they have all been lost except two - one to Julius Africanus (about the history of Susanna) and one to Gregory Thaumaturgus. There are, besides, a couple of fragments.

2. Origen's textual studies on the Old Testament were undertaken partly in order to improve the manuscript tradition, and partly for apologetic reasons, to clear up the relation between the LXX and the original Hebrew text. The results of more than twenty years' labour were set forth in his Hexapla and Tetrapla, in which he placed the Hebrew text side by side with the various Greek versions, examined their mutual relations in detail, and tried to find the basis for a more reliable text of the LXX. The Hexapla was probably never fully written out, but excerpts were made from it by various scholars at Caesarea in the 4th century; and thus large sections of it have been saved.' Origen worked also at the text of the New Testament, although he produced no recension of his own.

3. The exegetical labours of Origen extend over the whole of the Old and New Testaments. They are divided into Scholia (o-mua)vet, short annotations, mostly grammatical), Homilies (edifying expositions grounded on exegesis), and Commentaries (r6pot). In the Greek original only a very small portion has been preserved; in Latin translations, however, a good deal. The most important parts are the homilies on Jeremiah, the books of Moses, Joshua and Luke, and the commentaries on Matthew, John and Romans. With grammatical precision, antiquarian learning and critical discernment Origen combines the allegorical method of interpretation - the logical corollary of his conception of the inspiration of the Scriptures. He distinguishes a threefold sense of scripture, a grammaticohistorical, a moral and a pneumatic - the last being the proper and highest sense. He thus set up a formal theory of allegorical exegesis, which is not quite extinct in the churches even yet, but in his own system was of fundamental importance. On this method the sacred writings are regarded as an inexhaustible mine of philosophical and dogmatic wisdom; in reality the exegete reads his own ideas into any passage he chooses. The commentaries are of course intolerably diffuse and tedious, a great deal of them is now quite unreadable; yet, on the other hand, one has not unfrequently occasion to admire the sound linguistic perception and the critical talent of the author.' 4. The principal apologetic work of Origen is his book Kara KeXuov (eight books), written at Caesarea in the time of Philip the Arabian. It has been completely preserved in the original. This work is invaluable as a source for the history and situation of the church in the 2nd century; for it contains nearly the whole of the famous work of Celsus (Abyos angs) against Christianity. What makes Origen's answer so instructive is that it shows how close an affinity existed between Celsus and himself in their fundamental philosophical and theological presuppositions. The real state of the case is certainly unsuspected by Origen himself; but many of his opponent's arguments he is unable to meet except by a speculative reconstruction of the church doctrine in question. Origen's apologetic is most effective when he appeals to the spirit and power of Christianity as an evidence of its truth. In details his argument is not free from sophistical subterfuges and superficial reasoning.3 1 Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt (2 vols., Oxon., 1867-1874).

2 See Reuss, Geschichte der heil. Schriften d. N.T. (5th ed.), § 511. Keim, Celsus (1873); Aube, Hist. des persecut. de l'eglise, vol. ii. (1875); Ornsby, "Origen against Celsus," Dublin Review (July 1879), p. 58; Pelagaud, E tude sur Celse (1878); Lebedeff, Origen's Book against Celsus (Moscow, 1878) (Russian); Overbeck in the Theolog. Lit. Zeitung (1878), No. 22 (1879), No. 9; Orig. c. Cels., ed. Selwyn (1876).

5. Of the dogmatic writings we possess only one in its integrity, and that only in the translation of Rufinus, 1 Hepi apx& v (On the Fundamental Doctrines). This work, which was composed before 228, is the first attempt at a dogmatic at once scientific and accommodated to the needs of the church. The material is drawn from Scripture, but in such a way that the propositions of the regula fidei are respected. This material is then formed into a system by all the resources of the intellect and of speculation. Origen thus solved, after his own fashion, a problem which his predecessor Clement had not even ventured to grapple with. The first three books treat of God, the world, the fall of spirits, anthropology and ethics. "Each of these three books really embraces, although not in a strictly comprehensive way, the whole scheme of the Christian view of the world, from different points of view, and with different contents." The fourth book explains the divinity of the Scriptures, and deduces rules for their interpretation. It ought properly to stand as first book at the beginning. The ten books of Stromata (in which Origen compared the teaching of the Christians with that of the philosophers, and corroborated all the Christian dogmas from Plato, Aristotle, Numenius and Cornutus) have all perished, with the exception of small fragments; so have the tractates on the resurrection and on freewill.2 6. Of practical theological works we have still the IlpoTperru is Eis ,uapri)pcov and the /Gvray,ua ireFi d' s. For a knowledge of Origen's Christian estimate of life and his relation to the faith of the church these two treatises are of great importance. The first was written during the persecution of Maximinus Thrax, and was dedicated to his friends Ambrosius and Protoctetus. The other also dates from the Caesarean period; it mentions many interesting details, and concludes with a fine exposition of the Lord's Prayer.

7. In his own lifetime Origen had to complain of falsifications of his works and forgeries under his name. Many pieces still in existence are wrongly ascribed to him.; yet it is doubtful whether a single one of them was composed on purpose to deceive. The most noteworthy are the Dialogues of a certain Adamantius "de recta in Deum fide," which seem to have been erroneously attributed to Origen so early as the 4th century, one reason being the fact that Origen himself also bore that name. (Eusebius, H.E. vi. 14.) Outline of Origen's View of the Universe and of Life. - The system of Origen was formulated in opposition to the Greek philosophers on the one hand, and the Christian Gnostics on the other. 3 But the science of faith, as expounded by him, bears unmistakably the stamp both of Neo-Platonism and of Gnosticism. As a theologian, in fact, Origen is not merely an orthodox traditionalist and believing exegete, but a speculative philosopher of Neo-Platonic tendencies. He is, moreover, a judicious critic. The union of these four elements gives character to his theology, and in a certain degree to all subsequent theology. It is this combination which has determined the peculiar and varying relations in which theology and the faith of the church have stood to each other since the time of Origen. That relation depends on the predominance of one or other of the four factors embraced in his theology.

As an orthodox traditionalist Origen holds that Christianity is a practical and religious saving principle, that it has unfolded itself in an historical series of revealing facts, that the church has accurately embodied the substance of her faith in the regula fidei, and that simple faith is sufficient for the renewal and salvation of man. As a philosophical idealist, however, he transmutes the whole contents of the faith of the church into ideas which bear the mark of Neo-Platonism, and were accordingly recognized by the later Neo-Platonists as Hellenic. 4 In Origen, however, 1 There are, however, extensive fragments of the original in existence.

2 See Redepenning, Origenis de principiis, first sep. ed. (Leipzig, 1836); Schnitzer, Orig. fiber die Grundlehren des Glaubens, an attempt at reconstruction (1835).

The opposition to the unitarians within the church must also be kept in mind.

Porphyry says of Origen, Kara Tds rrepi lrpay f caTWV Kai Belot) bo s as `EXX vt cav (Euseb. H.E. vi. 19).

the mystic and ecstatic element is held in abeyance. The ethico-religious ideal is the sorrowless condition, the state of superiority to all evils, the state of order and of rest. In this condition man enters into likeness to God and blessedness; and it is reached through contemplative isolation and selfknowledge, which is divine wisdom. "The soul is trained as it were to behold itself in a mirror, it shows the divine spirit, if it should be found worthy of such fellowship, as in a mirror, and thus discovers the traces of a secret path to participation in the divine nature." As a means to the realization of this ideal, Origen introduces the whole ethics of Stoicism. But the link that connects him with churchly realism, as well as with the NeoPlatonic mysticism, is the conviction that complete and certain knowledge rests wholly on divine revelation, i.e. on oracles. Consequently his theology is cosmological speculation and ethical reflection based on the sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures, however, are treated by Origen on the basis of a matured theory of inspiration in such a way that all their facts appear as the vehicles of ideas, and have their highest value only in this aspect. That is tp say, his gnosis neutralizes all that is empirical and historical, if not always as to its actuality, at least absolutely in respect of its value. The most convincing proof of this is that Origen (i) takes the idea of the immutability of God as the regulating idea of his system, and (2) deprives the historical "Word made flesh" of all significance for the true Gnostic. To him Christ appears simply as the Logos who is with the Father from eternity, and works from all eternity, to whom alone the instructed Christian directs his thoughts, requiring nothing more than a perfect - i.e. divine - teacher. In such propositions historical Christianity is stripped off as a mere husk. The objects of religious knowledge are beyond the plane of history, or rather - in a thoroughly Gnostic and Neo-Platonic spirit - they are regarded as belonging to a supra-mundane history. On this view contact with the faith of the church could only be maintained by distinguishing an exoteric and an esoteric form of Christianity. This distinction was already current in the catechetical school of Alexandria, but Origen gave it its boldest expression, and justified it on the ground of the incapacity of the Christian masses to grasp the deeper sense of Scripture, or unravel the difficulties of exegesis. On the other hand, in dealing with the problem of bringing his heterodox system into conformity with the regula fidei he evinced a high degree of technical skill. An external conformity was possible, inasmuch as speculation, proceeding from the higher to the lower, could keep by the stages of the regula fidei, which had been developed into a history of salvation. The system itself aims in principle at being thoroughly monistic; but, since matter, although created by God out of nothing, was regarded merely as the sphere in which souls are punished and purified, the system is pervaded by a strongly dualistic element. The immutability of God requires the eternity of the Logos and of the world. At this point Origen succeeded in avoiding the heretical Gnostic idea of God by assigning to the Godhead the attributes of goodness and righteousness. The pre-existence of souls is another inference from the immutability of God, although Origen also deduced it from the nature of the soul, which as a spiritual potency must be eternal. Indeed this is the fundamental idea of Origen - "the original and indestructible unity of God and all spiritual essences." From this follows the necessity for the created spirit, after apostasy, error and sin, to return always to its origin in God. The actual sinfulness of all men Origen was able to explain by the theological hypothesis of pre-existence and the premundane fall of each individual soul. He holds that freedom is the inalienable prerogative of the finite spirit; and this is the second point that distinguishes his theology from the heretical Gnosticism. The system unfolds itself like a drama, of which the successive stages are as follows: the transcendental fall, the creation of the material world, inaugurating the history of punishment and redemption, the clothing of fallen souls in flesh, the dominion of sin, evil and the demons on earth, the appearing of the Logos, His union with a pure human soul, His esoteric preaching of salvation, and His death in the flesh, then the imparting of the Spirit, and the ultimate restoration of all things. The doctrine of the restoration appeared necessary because the spirit, in spite of its inherent freedom, cannot lose its true nature, and because the final purposes of God cannot be foiled. The end, however, is only relative, for spirits are continually falling, and God remains through eternity the creator of the world. Moreover the end is not conceived as a transfiguration of the world, but as a liberation of the spirit from its unnatural union with the sensual. Here the Gnostic and philosophical character of the system is particularly manifest. The old Christian eschatology is set aside; no one has dealt such deadly blows to Chiliasm and Christian apocalypticism as Origen. It need hardly be said that he spiritualized the church doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh. But, while in all these doctrines he appears in the character of a Platonic philosopher, traces of rational criticism are not wanting. Where his fundamental conception admits of it, he tries to solve historical problems by historical methods. Even in the christology, where he is treating of the historical Christ, he entertains critical considerations; hence it is not altogether without reason that in after times he was suspected of "Ebionitic" views of the Person of Christ. Not unfrequently he represents the unity of the Father and the Son as a unity of agreement and harmony and "identity of will." Although the theology of Origen exerted a considerable influence as a whole in the two following centuries, it certainly lost nothing by the circumstance that several important propositions were capable of being torn from their original setting and placed in new connexions. It is in fact one of the peculiarities of this theology, which professed to be at once churchly and philosophical, that most of its formulae could be interpreted and appreciated in utramque partem. By arbitrary divisions and rearrangements the doctrinal statements of this "science of faith" could be made to serve the most diverse dogmatic tendencies. This is seen especially in the doctrine of the Logos. On the basis of his idea of God Origen was obliged to insist in the strongest manner on the personality, the eternity (eternal generation) and the essential divinity of the Logos.' On the other hand, when he turned to consider the origin of the Logos he did not hesitate to speak of Him as a KTivµa, and to include Him amongst the rest of God's spiritual creatures. A Kr16µa, which is at the same time oµooucnov TC) Oe43, was no contradiction to him, simply because he held the immutability, the pure knowledge and the blessedness which constituted the divine nature to be communicable attributes. In later times both the orthodox and the Arians appealed to his teaching, both with a certain plausibility; but the inference of Arius, that an imparted divinity must be divinity in the second degree, Origen did not draw. With respect to other doctrines also, such as those of the Holy Spirit and the incarnation of Christ, &c., Origen prepared the way for the later dogmas. The technical terms round which such bitter controversies raged in the 4th and 5th centuries are often found in Origen lying peacefully side by side. But this is just where his epoch-making importance lies, that all the later parties in the church learned from him. And this is true not only of the dogmatic parties; solitary monks and ambitious priests, hard-headed critical exegetes,' allegorists, mystics, all found something congenial in his writings. The only man who tried to shake off the theological influence of Origen was Marcellus of Ancyra, who did not succeed in producing any lasting effect on theology.

The attacks on Origen, which had begun in his lifetime, did not cease for centuries, and only subsided during the time of the fierce Arian controversy. It was not so much the relation between pistis and gnosis - faith and knowledge - as defined by Origen that gave offence, but rather isolated propositions, such as his doctrines of the pre-existence of souls, of the soul and body of Christ, of the resurrection of the flesh, of the final restoration, 1 "Communis substantiae est filio cum patre; ior6ppoca enim 6 l .00v - cos videtur, i.e. unius substantiae cum illo corpore ex quo est ?ur6ppoca." 2 E.g. Dionysius of Alexandria; compare his judicious verdict on the Apocalypse.

and of the plurality of worlds. Even in the 3rd century Origen's view of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ was called in question, and that from various points of view. It was not till the 5th century, however, that objections of this kind became frequent. In the 4th century Pamphilus, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Didymus, and Rufinus were on the side of Origen against the attacks of Methodius and many others. But, when the zeal of Epiphanius was kindled against him, when Jerome, alarmed about his own reputation, and in defiance of his past attitude, turned against his once honoured teacher, and Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, found it prudent, for political reasons, and out of consideration for the uneducated monks, to condemn Origen - then his authority received a shock from which it never recovered. There were, doubtless, in the 5th century church historians and theologians who still spoke of him with reverence, but such men became fewer and fewer. In the West Vincent of Lerins held up Origen as a warning example (Commonit. 23), showing how even the most learned and most eminent of church teachers might become a misleading light. In the East the exegetical school of Antioch had an aversion to Origen; the Alexandrians had utterly repudiated him. Nevertheless his writings were much read, especially in Palestine. The monophysite monks appealed to his authority, but could not prevent Justinian and the fifth oecumenical council at Constantinople (553) from anathematizing his teaching. It is true that many scholars (e.g. Hefele, Conciliengesch. ii. p. 858 sq.) deny that Origen was condemned by this council; but Miller rightly holds that the condemnation is proved (Realencyklop. f. protest. Theol. u. Kirche, xi. 113).

SOURCES AND LITERATURE. - NeXt to the works of Origen (see Redepenning, "Des Hieronymus wiederaufgefundenes Verzeichnis der Schriften des Origens," in Zeit. f. d. hist. Theol. (1851), pp. 66 seq.) the most important sources are: Gregory Thaumat., Panegyricus in Orig.; Eusebius, H.E. vi.; Epiphanius, Haer. 64; the works of Methodius, the Cappadocians, Jerome (see De vir. ill. 54, 61) and Rufinus; Vincent. Lerin. Commonit. 23; Palladius, Hist. Laus. 147; Justinian, Ep. ad Mennam (Mansi, ix. p. 487 seq.); Photius, Biblioth. 118, &c. There is no complete critical edition of Origen's works.. The best edition is that of Car. and C. Vinc. Delarue '(4 vols. fol.> (Paris, 1733-1759), reprinted by Lommatzsch (25 vols. 8vo) (Berlin,. 1831-1848) and by Migne, Patrol. curs. comp'. ser. Gr., vols. xi.-xvii. Several new pieces have been edited by Gallandi and A. Mai.. Amongst the older works on Origen those of Huetius (printed in Delarue, vol. iv.) are the best; but Tillemont, Fabricius, Walch (Historie d. Ketzereien, vii. pp. 362-760) and Schrbekh also deserve to be mentioned. In recent times the doctrine of Origen has been expounded in the great works on church history by Baur, Dorner, Bohringer, Neander, Miller (Geschichte der Kosmologie in der griechischen Kirche) and Kahnis (Die Lehre vom h. Geist, vol. i.); compare with these the works on the history of philosophy by Ritter, Erdmann, Ueberweg and Zeller. Of monographs, the best and most complete is Redepenning, Origenes, eine Darstellung seines Lebens and seiner Lehre (2 vols., 1841, 1846). Compare Thomasius, Orig. (1837); Kruger, "Uber das Verhaltnis des Orig. zu Ammonius Sakkas," in the Ztschr. f. hist. Theol. (1843), i. p. 46 seq.; Fischer, Comment. de Orig. theologia et cosmologia (1846); Ramers, Orig. Lehre von der Auferstehung des Fleisches (1851); Knittel, "Orig. Lehre von der Menschwerdung," in the Theol. Quartalschr. (1872); Schultz, "Christologie des Orig.," in the Jahrb. f. protest. Theol. (1875); Mehlhorn, "Die Lehre von der menschlichen Freiheit nach Orig.," in Zeitschr. f. Kirchengesch. vol. ii. (1878); Freppel, Origene, vol. i., 2nd ed. (Paris, 1875). A full list of the later bibliography will be found in Harnack's Dogmengeschichte and Chronologie. (A. HA.)

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Christian theologian; born in Alexandria about 185; died in Tyre about 254. Trained in the study of the Bible by his father, and in philosophy by the Neoplatonist Ammonius Saccas, he early devoted himself to the philosophical study of religion, and became an influential Church teacher and the founder of a school. His broad treatment of Christian doctrine exposed him to the charge of heresy; and his writings gave rise to prolonged controversies. Of his numerous works a few only have survived. Of these the most important are: the commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and John; the great theological treatise "De Principiis" (Περὶ Ἀρχῶν); and the "Contra Celsum," a reply to the attack of the philosopher Celsus on Christianity (see Celsus).

His Exegesis.

Origen's allegorical and spiritualizing interpretation of Scripture and conception of the Logos are similar to those of Philo; but his precise relation to the latter can hardly be definitely determined. It is uncertain whether he drew directly from Philo's writings or derived his hermeneutical method and his Logos doctrine through his teacher from the Alexandrian grammarians and philosophers. It is probable, however, that he, like his older contemporary Clement, was influenced by the Philonic doctrine. His works abound in explanations of Old Testament and New Testament passages. Though he had public disputations with Jews, his personal relations with them appear to have been friendly. In a number of places he speaks of consulting learned Jews on the meaning of Old Testament words and passages (see, for example, "De Principiis," i. 3, § 4). In the "Contra Celsum" he throughout defends the Jewish faith against the philosopher's attacks.

His "Hexapla."

Origen was, so far as is known, the first Christian scholar to undertake the study of Hebrew. It is not likely that he had a thorough knowledge of the language; though he in many places cites and explains Hebrew words, his Old Testament quotations are from the Septuagint, which he seems to have regarded as not less authoritative than the Hebrew text. There is no indication that he was acquainted with the Midrash. His chief contribution to Biblical science was his attempt to establish the true text of the Septuagint, his object being to define the exegetical relations between Jews and Christians. To this great work—the foundation of the science of Biblical text-criticism—he devoted twenty-eight years, collecting materials from all parts of the Christian world. He arranged his texts in six columns: Hebrew in Hebrew characters; Hebrew in Greek characters; Aquila; Symmachus; Septuagint; and Theodotion. Passages in the Septuagint not in the Hebrew he marked with an obelus (a horizontal line), Hebrew passages not in the Septuagint with an asterisk, the defective Septuagint passages being filled out, mostly from Theodotion. The resulting work, the "Hexapla," was deposited in the library at Cæsarea (in Palestine), was never transcribed, and perished, probably in the seventh century. Omitting the first two columns, Origen edited also the four Greek versions in parallel columns (the "Tetrapla"), but this edition seems likewise to have perished. He added in some places two other Greek versions (the "Quinta" and the "Sexta"); and Jerome (on Hab 2:11) mentions a seventh, of which, however, nothing more is known. Excerpts from the "Hexapla" are preserved in the writings of various Christian authors, particularly in those of Jerome. These have been collected by Montfaucon ("Hexaplorum Origenis Quæ Supersunt," Paris, 1713) and Field ("Origenis Hexaplorum Quæ Supersunt," Oxford, 1875). Field's edition contains all the material accessible at his time for the elucidation of the "Hexapla"; and nothing of importance has since been brought to light.

The Septuagint column of the "Hexapla" (with the critical marks and marginal notes) was transcribed by Eusebius and Pamphilus, and was widely circulated (Jerome, Preface to Chronicles). From it was made a Syriac version (the "Hexaplar Syriac"), which has preserved the critical marks, and is therefore useful for the establishment of Origen's Greek text. The outcome of Origen's gigantic labors has been very different from what he intended. The carelessness of copyists, who often neglected the diacritical marks, has introduced foreign elements into his Septuagint text, the true form of which it is in many cases impossible or difficult to determine. Nevertheless the disjecta membra of his great work contain much of value furnishing no little material for fixing the Hebrew and Alexandrian Greek Old Testament texts of his time. A new critical edition of his work is being brought out by a commission of the Berlin University (Berlin, 1899 et seq.).

In all probability Origen was on terms of personal acquaintanceship with R. Hoshaiah, the head of the school of Cæsarea (see Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." i. 92), and he was also, as he himself says, acquainted with a patriarch Ἰοῦλλος, a misreading of the name of Judah II. (see Jew. Encyc. vii. 338).

Bibliography: On his life: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Panegyricus ad Origenem, in Migne, Patrologiœ Cursus Compl., Series Grœca; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. book vi.; E. R. Redepenning, Origenes, Bonn, 1841, 1846; F. Crombie, Life of Origen, in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Edinburgh, 1872. On his theology: J. A. Dorner, in his History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, Eng. transl., ib. 1868. On the Hexapla: Field's edition. See also Origenes in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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