“Origen was the most important Christian thinker between Paul in the first century and Augustine in the fifth century.” – Joseph Lynch
Life (186 - 253)
- grew up in a Christian home
- a committed ascetic
- strong commitment to the inspiration of Scripture
- an early textual critic: one who compares manuscripts to figure out the original reading
a. Hebrew (had learned from a Jew)
b. Secunda (transliteration of Hebrew into Greek letters)
c. Aquila of Sinope (2nd c., ad 130) very literal translation
d. Symmachus the Ebionite (late 2nd c.)
e. Septuagint with textual critical notes to mark where it differs from the Hebrew
f. Theodotion (late 2nd c.) (Jewish Christian?)
- interpreted Scripture
a. looking for hidden treasures
b. preferred “spiritual” readings rather than reading according to “the letter” (2 Corinthians 3:6, 14-16)
c. esoteric interpretation for elite, educated Christians (2 Corinthians 2:6-7)
a. Commentary on Matthew, John, Song of Songs, etc.
- Sermons (Homilies)
a. approximately 280 survive
- Treatises on Subjects
a. On Prayer, Exhortation to Martyrdom, On Passover
- An Apology
a. Against Celsus (over 500 pages!)
a. Letter from Origen to Sextus Julius Africanus, Letter from Origen to Gregory Thaumaturgus
- A Systematic Theology
a. On First Principles (Greek: Peri Archon, Latin: De Principiis)
- God the Father is supreme
- begets Christ through exceptional process
- God created a realm of spirits (minds) with free will.
- These minds did not direct their attention properly and fell.
- Christ alone remained faithful to God.
- Through his Word, God created a physical universe to provide a way back for fallen spirits.
- Improvement is available to all creatures, even demons.
- ladder of stages:
- speculated a kind of universalism (apokatastasis)
- Third Century Christologies
a. Dynamic Monarchians (Artemon, Paul of Samosata)
b. Modalistic Monarchians (Sabellius, Noetus)
c. Logos Subordinationists (Tertullian, Origen)
d. Docetists (Valentinians, Marcionites)
- eternal generation
- Logos/Son is eternal AND begotten
- clearly believed the Son was subordinate
- transmigration of souls (a.kx.a
metempsychosis or reincarnation)
- universalism (a.k.a. apokatastasis)
- Even the devil eventually gets saved?
- Origen was the most important Christian thinker between Paul and Augustine.
- He was an ascetic who trained himself to avoid pleasure.
- He strongly believed that God inspired Scripture.
- His hermeneutic (interpretation method) was to peer beneath the body of Scripture to its soul, and occasionally even its spirit through the use of allegory.
- He strongly opposed belief in a physical hope, preferring heaven to paradise on earth and a spiritual body to a physical resurrection.
- He believed elite Christians should ponder deeper esoteric truths that weren't safe for the simple-minded.
- He interpreted Scripture through the lens of Neo-Platonism, always looking for a lesson on the soul's ascent to the higher, spiritual plane.
- He believed the supreme Father eternally begot the subordinate Son/Logos as rays are eternally generated from the sun.
- A tireless defender of the faith he knew, Origen regularly risked his life as a young man and in the end suffered physical torture for his faith, eventually resulting in his death.