Alexandria (/ˈɒrɪdʒən/; Greek: Ὠριγένης,
Origen Adamantius (Ὠριγένης
Ἀδαμάντιος, Ōrigénēs Adamántios; c. 184 – c. 253),
was a Hellenistic scholar, ascetic, and early Christian theologian
who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He
was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple
branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis
and hermeneutics, philosophical theology, preaching, and spirituality.
He was one of the most influential figures in early Christian
theology, apologetics, and asceticism. He has been described as
"the greatest genius the early church ever produced".
Origen sought martyrdom with his father at a young age, but was
prevented from turning himself in to the authorities by his mother.
When he was eighteen years old,
Origen became a catechist at the
Catechetical School of Alexandria. He came into conflict with
Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, in 231 after he was ordained as a
presbyter by his friend, the bishop of Caesarea, while on a journey to
Athens through Palestine. Demetrius condemned
insubordination and accused him of having castrated himself and of
having taught that even
Satan would eventually attain salvation, an
Origen himself vehemently denied. Origen
founded the Christian School of Caesarea, where he taught logic,
cosmology, natural history, and theology, and became regarded by the
churches of Palestine and Arabia as the ultimate authority on all
matters of theology. He was tortured for his faith during the Decian
persecution in 250 and died three to four years later from his
Origen was able to produce a massive quantity of writings due to the
patronage of his close friend Ambrose, who provided him with a team of
secretaries to copy his works, and may be the most prolific of all
ancient writers. His treatise
On the First Principles systematically
laid out the principles of
Christian theology and became the
foundation for later theological writings. He also authored Contra
Celsum, the most influential work of early Christian apologetics,
in which he defended
Christianity against the pagan philosopher
Celsus, one of its foremost early critics.
Origen produced the
Hexapla, the first critical edition of the Hebrew Bible, which
contained the original Hebrew text as well as five different Greek
translations of it, all written in columns, side-by-side. He wrote
hundreds of homilies covering almost the entire Bible, interpreting
many passages as allegorical.
Origen taught that, before the creation
of the material universe,
God had created the souls of all the
intelligent beings. These souls, at first fully devoted to God, fell
away from him and were given physical bodies.
Origen was the first to
propose the ransom theory of atonement in its fully developed form
and, though he was probably a Subordinationist, he also significantly
contributed to the development of the concept of the Trinity. Origen
hoped that all people might eventually attain salvation, but was
always careful to maintain that this was only speculation. He firmly
believed in free will and was an advocate of Christian pacifism.
Origen is a Church Father and is widely regarded as one
of the most important Christian theologians of all time. His
teachings were especially influential in the east, with Athanasius of
Alexandria and the three
Cappadocian Fathers being among his most
devoted followers. Despite this,
Origen was never canonized as a
saint because some groups believed that some of his teachings
contradicted those attributed to the apostles, notably the Apostles
Paul and John.
Origen was posthumously condemned as a heretic by a
Alexandria in the year 400. In 543, the emperor Justinian I
again condemned him as a heretic and ordered all his writings to be
Second Council of Constantinople
Second Council of Constantinople in 553 may have
anathemized Origen, or it may have only condemned certain heretical
teachings which claimed to be derived from Origen. His teachings on
the pre-existence of souls were rejected by the church.
2.1 Early years
2.2 Travels and early writings
2.3 Conflict with Demetrius and removal to Caesarea
2.4 Work and teaching in Caesarea
2.5 Later life
3.1 Exegetical writings
3.2 Extant commentaries
3.3 Dogmatic, practical, and apologetic writings
4.1 Preexistence of souls
4.2 Free will
4.3 Allegorical interpretation of scripture
5 Influence on the later church
5.1 Early Christianity
5.3 After the anathemas
7 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Origen's Greek name Ōrigénēs (Ὠριγένης) probably means
"child of Horus" (from Ὧρος, "Horus", and γένος,
"born"). His nickname or cognomen Adamantios
(Ἀδαμάντιος) derives from Greek adámas (ἀδάμας),
which means "adamant", "unalterable", "unbreakable", "unconquerable",
Origen was born in either 185 or 186 AD in Alexandria.
Origen's father was Leonides of Alexandria, a respected professor
of literature and also devout Christian who practiced his religion
openly. Origen's mother, whose name is unknown, may have been a
member of the lower class who did not have the right of
citizenship. It is likely that, on account of his mother's status,
Origen himself was not a Roman citizen. Origen's father taught him
about literature and philosophy, and also about the Bible and
Christian doctrine. The later Christian historian Eusebius, who is
the main source of information about Origen, states that
Origen was so
learned about the holy scriptures at an early age that his father was
unable to answer his questions.
In 202, when
Origen was "not yet seventeen", the Roman emperor
Septimius Severus ordered Roman citizens who openly practiced
Christianity to be executed. Origen's father Leonides was arrested
and thrown in prison.
Eusebius reports that
Origen wanted to
turn himself in to the authorities so they would execute him as
well, but his mother hid all his clothes and he was unable to
go to the authorities since he refused to leave the house
naked. Even if
Origen had turned himself in, it is unlikely
that he would have been punished, since the emperor was only
intent on executing Roman citizens. Leonides was beheaded
and the state confiscated the family's entire property, leaving them
broken and impoverished.
Origen was the eldest of eleven
children and, as his father's heir, it became his responsibility
to provide for the whole family.
Dutch illustration by Jan Luyken (1700), showing
Origen teaching his
When he was eighteen years old,
Origen was appointed as a catechist at
the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Many scholars have assumed
Origen became the head of the school, but this is highly
improbable and it is more likely that he was simply given a paid
teaching position, perhaps as a "relief effort" for his destitute
family. While employed at the school, he adopted the ascetic
lifestyle of the Greek Sophists. He spent the whole day
teaching and would stay up late at night writing treatises and
commentaries. He was a teetotaler and a vegetarian and
he often fasted for long periods of time. Although
to great lengths to portray
Origen as one of the Christian monastics
of his own era, this portrayal is now generally recognized as
According to Eusebius, as a young man,
Origen was taken in by a
wealthy Gnostic woman, who was also the patron of a very
influential Gnostic theologian from Antioch, who frequently lectured
in her home.
Eusebius goes to great lengths to insist that,
Origen studied while in her home, he never once "prayed
in common" with her or the Gnostic theologian. Later, Origen
succeeded in converting a wealthy man named Ambrose from Valentinian
Gnosticism to orthodox Christianity. Ambrose was so impressed
by the young scholar that he gave
Origen a house, a secretary, seven
stenographers, a crew of copyists and calligraphers, and paid for all
of his writings to be published.
Sometime when he was in his early twenties,
Origen sold the small
library which he had inherited from his father for a sum which netted
him a daily income of four obols. He used this money to
continue his study of philosophy.
Origen studied at numerous
schools throughout Alexandria, including the Platonic Academy of
Alexandria, where he was a student of Ammonius Saccas.
Eusebius claims that
Origen studied under Clement of
Alexandria, but this is almost certainly a retrospective
assumption based on the similarity of their teachings. Origen
himself rarely mentions Clement in his own writings and, when he
does, it is usually to correct him.
Travels and early writings
Map of the Mediterranean showing locations associated with Origen
In his early twenties,
Origen became less interested in being a
grammarian and more interested in being a rhetor-philosopher.
He gave his job as a catechist to his younger colleague Heraclas.
Origen began to style himself as a "master of
philosophy". Origen's new position as a self-styled Christian
philosopher brought him into conflict with Demetrius, the bishop of
Alexandria. Demetrius was a charismatic leader who ruled the
Christian congregation of
Alexandria with an iron fist and he was
the one who was most directly responsible for the elevation of the
bishop of Alexandria; prior to Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria
had merely been a priest who was elected to represent his fellows,
but after Demetrius, the bishop was seen as clearly a rank higher than
his fellow priests. By styling himself as an independent
Origen was reviving a role that had been prominent in
earlier Christianity, but which challenged the authority of the
Origen began composing his massive theological treatise On
the First Principles, a landmark book which systematically laid
out the foundations of
Christian theology for centuries to come.
Origen also began travelling abroad to visit schools across the
Mediterranean. In 212 AD, he travelled to Rome, which was a major
center of philosophy at the time. In Rome,
lectures by Hippolytus of
Rome and was influenced by his logos
theology. In 213 or 214, the governor of Arabia sent a message to
the prefect of Egypt requesting him to send
Origen to meet with him so
that he could interview him and learn more about
Christianity from its
Origen was escorted by official
bodyguards and spent a short time in Arabia with the governor
before returning to Alexandria.
In the autumn of 215, the
Alexandria. During the visit, the students at the schools there
protested and made fun of him for having murdered his brother
Caracalla was incensed and ordered his troops to ravage the
city, execute the governor, and kill all the protesters. He also
commanded them to expel all the teachers and intellectuals from the
Alexandria and travelled to the city of Caesarea
Maritima in Roman province of Palestine, where the bishops
Alexander of Jerusalem
Alexander of Jerusalem became his devoted
admirers and asked him to deliver discourses on the scriptures in
their respective churches. This effectively amounted to letting
Origen deliver homilies, even though he was not formally ordained.
While this was not at all a completely unexpected phenomenon,
especially given Origen's international fame as a teacher and
philosopher, it infuriated Demetrius, who saw it as a direct
undermining of his authority. Demetrius sent deacons from
Alexandria to demand that the Palestinian hierarchs immediately return
"his" catechist to Alexandria. He also issued a decree chastising
the Palestinians for allowing a person who was not ordained to
preach. The Palestinian bishops, in turn, issued their own
condemnation, accusing Demetrius of being jealous of Origen's fame and
While in Jericho,
Origen bought an ancient manuscript of the Hebrew
Bible which had been discovered "in a jar", a discovery which
prefigures the later discovery of the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls in the
twentieth century. Shown here is a section of the Isaiah scroll
Origen obeyed Demetrius's order and returned to Alexandria,
bringing with him an antique scroll he had purchased at Jericho
containing the full text of the Hebrew Bible. The manuscript,
which had purportedly been found "in a jar", became the source
text for one of the two Hebrew columns in Origen's Hexapla, the first
critical edition of the Old Testament, containing two versions of the
Hebrew text and four Greek translations of it, all written in columns
next to each other.
Origen studied the Old Testament in great
Eusebius even claims that
Origen learned Hebrew.
Most modern scholars agree that this is implausible, but they
disagree on how much
Origen actually knew about the language. H.
Lietzmann concludes that
Origen probably only knew the Hebrew alphabet
and not much else; whereas, R. P. C. Hanson and G. Bardy argue
Origen had a superficial understanding of the language, but not
enough to have composed the entire Hexapla. A note in Origen's On
the First Principles mentions an unknown "Hebrew master", but this
was probably a consultant, not a teacher.
Origen also studied the entire New Testament, but especially the
epistles of the apostle Paul and the Gospel of John, the writings
Origen regarded as the most important and authoritative. At
Origen composed the first five books of his
exhaustive Commentary on the Gospel of John, He also wrote the
first eight books of his Commentary on Genesis, his Commentary on
Psalms 1-25, and his Commentary on Lamentations. In addition to
Origen also wrote two books on the resurrection of
Jesus and ten books of Stromata. It is likely that these works
contained much theological speculation, which brought
even greater conflict with Demetrius.
Conflict with Demetrius and removal to Caesarea
Origen repeatedly asked Demetrius to ordain him as a priest, but
Demetrius continually refused. In around 231, Demetrius
Origen on a mission to Athens. Along the way, Origen
stopped in Caesarea, where he was warmly greeted by the
bishops Theoctistus and Alexander of Jerusalem, who had become his
close friends during his previous stay. While he was visiting
Origen asked Theoctistus to ordain him as a priest.
Theoctistus gladly complied. Upon learning of Origen's
ordination, Demetrius was outraged and issued a condemnation declaring
that Origen's ordination by a foreign bishop was an act of
Eusebius reports that, as a result of Demetrius's condemnations,
Origen decided not to return to
Alexandria and to instead take up
permanent residence in Caesarea. John Anthony McGuckin, however,
Origen had probably already been planning to stay in
Caesarea. The Palestinian bishops declared
Origen the chief
theologian of Caesarea. Firmilian, the bishop of
Caesarea Mazaca in
Cappadocia, was such a devoted disciple of
Origen that he begged him
to come to
Cappadocia and teach there.
Demetrius raised a storm of protests against the bishops of Palestine
and the church synod in
Rome itself. According to Eusebius,
Demetrius published the salacious allegation that
Origen had secretly
castrated himself, a capital offense under Roman law at the
time and one which would have made Origen's ordination
invalid, since eunuchs were forbidden from becoming priests.
Demetrius also alleged that
Origen had taught a form of apokatastasis,
which held that all beings, including even
Satan himself, would
eventually attain salvation. This allegation probably arose from a
misunderstanding of Origen's argument during a debate with the
Valentinian heretic Candidus. Candidus had argued in favor of
predestination by declaring that the Devil was beyond salvation.
Origen had responded by arguing that, if the Devil is destined for
eternal damnation, it was on account of his actions, which were the
result of his own free will. Therefore,
Origen had declared that
Satan was only morally reprobate, not absolutely reprobate.
Demetrius published the accusation that
Origen had secretly castrated
himself, an allegation which affected his reputation for
centuries, as demonstrated by these fifteenth-century depictions
of the event.
Demetrius died in 232, within less than a year after Origen's
departure from Alexandria. The accusations against
with the death of Demetrius, but they did not disappear
entirely and they continued to haunt him for the rest of his
Origen defended himself in his Letter to Friends in
Alexandria, in which he vehemently denied that he had ever taught
that the Devil would attain salvation and insisted that the very
notion of the Devil attaining salvation was simply ludicrous.
Origen never mentions anything about having castrated himself in his
writings and, in his exegesis of Matthew 19:12, he strongly
condemns any literal interpretation of the passage, asserting that
only an idiot would interpret the passage in such a way. Eusebius,
however, accepts the story of Origen's self-castration as genuine,
seeing it as a misguided literal interpretation of this very
passage. The later church historian
Apamea, on the other hand, claims that
Origen was forcibly castrated
by Jews. The report of self-castration was accepted throughout the
Middle Ages and was cited by
Peter Abelard in his letters to
Heloise. Edward Gibbon, in his History of the Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire, also accepts this story as true. Since the
beginning of the twentieth century, some scholars have questioned the
historicity of Origen's self-castration, instead seeing it as a
wholesale invention by Demetrius. Henry Chadwick argues that,
while the story may be true, it seems unlikely, given that Origen's
exposition of Matthew 19:12 "strongly deplored any literal
interpretation of the words". However, many noted historians, such
as Peter Brown and William Placher, continue to find no reason to
conclude that the story is false. Placher theorizes that, if it is
true, it may have followed an episode in which
Origen received some
raised eyebrows while privately tutoring a woman.
Work and teaching in Caesarea
It was like a spark falling in our deepest soul, setting it on fire,
making it burst into flame within us. It was, at the same time, a love
for the Holy Word, the most beautiful object of all that, by its
ineffable beauty attracts all things to itself with irresistible
force, and it was also love for this man, the friend and advocate of
the Holy Word. I was thus persuaded to give up all other goals... I
had only one remaining object that I valued and longed for -
philosophy, and that divine man who was my master of philosophy.
— Theodore, Panegyric, a first-hand account of what listening
to one of Origen's lectures in
Caesarea was like
During his early years in Caesarea, Origen's primary task was the
establishment of a Christian School;
Caesarea had long been seen
as a center of learning for Jews and Hellenistic philosophers,
but, until Origen's arrival, it had lacked a Christian center of
higher education. According to Eusebius, the school
was primarily targeted towards young pagans who had expressed interest
in Christianity, but were not yet ready to ask for baptism. The
school therefore sought to explain Christian teachings through Middle
Origen started his curriculum by teaching his students
classical Socratic reasoning. After they had mastered this, he
taught them cosmology and natural history. Finally, once they had
mastered all of these subjects, he taught them theology, which was the
highest of all philosophies, the accumulation of everything they had
learning previously. With the establishment of the Caesarean
school, Origen's reputation as a scholar and theologian reached its
zenith and he became known throughout the Mediterranean world as a
brilliant intellectual. The hierarchs of the Palestinian and
Arabian church synods regarded
Origen as the ultimate expert on all
matters dealing with theology.
While teaching in Caesarea,
Origen resumed work on his Commentary on
John, composing at least books six through ten. In the first of
Origen compares himself to "an Israelite who has escaped
the perverse persecution of the Egyptians."
Origen also wrote the
Prayer at the request of his friend Ambrose and his
"sister" Tatiana, in which he analyzes the different types of
prayers described in the Bible and offers a detailed exegesis on the
Julia Avita Mamaea, the mother of the
Roman emperor Severus Alexander,
Antioch to teach her philosophy.
Not only Christians, but also pagans took a fascination with
Origen. The Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry heard of Origen's
fame and travelled to
Caesarea to listen to his lectures.
Porphyry recounts that
Origen had extensively studied the teachings of
Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, but also those of important
Middle Platonists, Neopythagoreans, and Stoics, including Numenius of
Apamea, Chronius, Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus of Gades,
Nicomachus, Chaeremon, and Cornutus. Nonetheless, Porphyry accused
Origen of having betrayed true philosophy by subjugating its insights
to the exegesis of the Christian scriptures.
Eusebius reports that
Origen was summoned from
Antioch at the behest of Julia
Avita Mamaea, the mother of the
Roman emperor Severus Alexander, "to
Christian philosophy and doctrine with her."
In 235, approximately three years after
Origen began teaching in
Caesarea, Alexander Severus, who had been tolerant towards Christians,
was murdered and the new emperor
Maximinus Thrax instigated a
purge of all those who had supported his predecessor. His pogroms
targeted Christian leaders and, in Rome,
Pope Pontianus and
Rome were both sent into exile.
Origen knew that he
was in danger and went into hiding in the home of a faithful Christian
woman named Juliana the Virgin, who had been a student of the
Ebionite leader Symmachus. Origen's close friend and longtime
patron Ambrose was arrested in
Nicomedia and Protoctetes, the leading
priest in Caesarea, was also arrested. In their honor, Origen
composed his treatise Exhortation to Martyrdom, which is now
regarded as one of the greatest classics of Christian resistance
literature. After coming out of hiding following Maximinus's
Origen founded a school where Gregory Thaumaturgus, later
bishop of Pontus, was one of the pupils. He preached regularly on
Wednesdays and Fridays, and later daily.
Origen was stretched on a torture rack while he was imprisoned during
the Decian persecution. He survived, but died shortly after his
release due to the physical strains he endured.
Sometime between 238 and 244,
Origen visited Athens, where he
completed his Commentary on the
Book of Ezekiel
Book of Ezekiel and began writing his
Commentary on the Song of Songs. After visiting Athens, he visited
Ambrose in Nicomedia. According to Porphyry,
Origen also travelled
Rome or Antioch, where he met Plotinus, the founder of
Neoplatonism. The Christians of the eastern Mediterranean
continued to revere
Origen as the most orthodox of all theologians
and, when the Palestinian hierarchs learned that Beryllus, the bishop
of Bostra and one of the most energetic Christian leaders of the time,
had been preaching adoptionism (i.e., belief that Jesus was born human
and only became divine after his baptism), they sent
convert him to orthodoxy.
Origen engaged Beryllus in a public
disputation, which went so successfully that Beryllus promised to only
teach Origen's theology from then on. On another occasion, a
Christian leader in Arabia named Heracleides began teaching that the
soul was mortal and that it perished with the body.
these teachings, arguing that the soul is immortal and can never
In c. 249, the
Plague of Cyprian broke out. In 250, Emperor
Decius, believing that the plague was caused by Christians' failure to
recognise him as Divine, issued a decree for Christians to be
persecuted. This time
Origen did not escape.
Eusebius recounts how
Origen suffered "bodily tortures and torments
under the iron collar and in the dungeon; and how for many days with
his feet stretched four spaces in the stocks". The
Caesarea gave very specific orders that
Origen was not to
be killed until he had publicly renounced in faith in Christ.
Origen endured two years of imprisonment and torture, but
obstinately refused to renounce his faith. In 252, the emperor
Decius was assassinated and
Origen was released from prison.
Nonetheless, Origen's health was broken by the physical tortures
enacted on him and he died less than a year later at the age of
sixty-nine. A later legend, recounted by
Jerome and numerous
itineraries, places his death and burial at Tyre, but little value can
be attached to this.
Imaginative portrayal of
Origen from "Les Vrais Portraits Et Vies Des
Hommes Illustres" by André Thévet
Origen was an extremely prolific writer. According to Epiphanius,
he wrote a grand total of roughly 6,000 works over the course of his
lifetime. Most scholars agree that this estimate is probably
somewhat exaggerated. According to Saint Jerome,
the titles of just under 2,000 treatises written by
Origen in his lost
Life of Pamphilus.
Jerome compiled an abbreviated list of
Origen's major treatises, itemizing 800 different titles.
By far the most important work of
Origen on textual criticism was the
Hexapla ("Sixfold"), a massive comparative study of various
translations of the Old Testament in six columns: Hebrew, Hebrew
in Greek characters, the Septuagint, and the Greek translations of
Theodotion (a Jewish scholar from c. 180 AD), Aquila of Sinope
(another Jewish scholar from c. 117-138), and Symmachus (an Ebionite
scholar from c. 193-211).
Origen was the first Christian
scholar to introduce critical markers to a Biblical text. He
Septuagint column of the
Hexapla using signs adapted from
those used by the textual critics of the Great Library of
Alexandria: a passage found in the
Septuagint that was not found
in the Hebrew text would be marked with an asterisk (*) and a
passage that was found in other Greek translations, but not in the
Septuagint, would be marked with an obelus (÷).
Diagram showing the inter-relationship between various significant
ancient versions and recensions of the Old Testament (some identified
by their siglum). LXX here denotes the original septuagint.
Hexapla was the cornerstone of the Great Library of Caesarea,
Origen founded. It was still the centerpiece of the
library's collection by the time of Jerome, who records having
used it in his letters on multiple occasions. When the emperor
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great ordered fifty complete copies of the Bible to be
transcribed and disseminated across the empire,
Eusebius used the
Hexapla as the master copy for the Old Testament. Although the
Hexapla has been lost, the text of it has survived in
numerous fragments and a more-or-less complete Syraic copy of it
made by the seventh-century bishop Paul of Tella has also
survived. For some sections of the Hexapla,
Origen also added
additional columns containing other Greek translations; for the
Book of Psalms, he included no less than eight Greek translations,
making this section known as Enneapla ("Ninefold").
produced the Tetrapla ("Fourfold"), a smaller, abridged version of the
Hexapla containing only the four Greek translations and not the
original Hebrew text.
According to Jerome's Epistle 33,
Origen wrote extensive scholia on
the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Psalms 1-15, Ecclesiastes, and
the Gospel of John. None of these scholia have survived
intact, but parts of them were incorporated into the Catenaea, a
collection of excerpts from major works of Biblical commentary written
by the Church Fathers. Other fragments of the scholia are
preserved in Origen's Philocalia and in Pamphilus of Caesarea's
apology for Origen. 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.
Origen composed homilies covering almost the
entire Bible. There are 205, and possibly 279, homilies of
are extant either in Greek or in Latin translations.[a]
Two sides of the Papyrus Bodmer VIII, an early
New Testament fragment
from the third or fourth century AD containing the Epistle of Jude, 1
Peter, and 2 Peter.
Origen accepted the two former as authentic
without question, but noted that the latter was suspected to be a
The homilies preserved are on Genesis (16), Exodus (13), Leviticus
(16), Numbers (28), Joshua (26), Judges (9), I Sam. (2), Psalms 36-38
(9),[b] Canticles (2), Isaiah (9), Jeremiah (7 Greek, 2 Latin, 12
Greek and Latin), Ezekiel (14), and Luke (39). The homilies were
preached in the church at Caesarea, with the exception of the two on 1
Samuel which were delivered in Jerusalem. Nautin has argued that they
were all preached in a three-year liturgical cycle some time between
238 and 244, preceding the Commentary on the Song of Songs, where
Origen refers to homilies on Judges, Exodus, Numbers, and a work on
Leviticus. On June 11, 2012, the
Bavarian State Library
Bavarian State Library announced
that the Italian philologist Marina Molin Pradel had discovered
twenty-nine previously unknown homilies by
Origen in a twelfth-century
Byzantine manuscript from their collection. Prof. Lorenzo
Perrone of the Bologna University and other experts confirmed the
authenticity of the homilies. The texts of these manuscripts can
be found online.
Origen is the main source of information on the use of the texts that
were later officially canonized as the New Testament. The
information used to create the late-fourth-century Easter Letter,
which declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the
lists given in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History HE 3:25 and 6:25,
which were both primarily based on information provided by Origen.
Origen accepted the authenticity of the epistles of 1 John, 1 Peter,
and Jude without question and accepted the
Epistle of James
Epistle of James as
authentic with only slight hesitation. He also refers to 2 John, 3
John, and 2 Peter, but notes that all three were suspected to be
Origen may have also considered other writings to be
"inspired" that were rejected by later authors, including the Epistle
of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and 1 Clement. "
Origen is not the
originator of the idea of biblical canon, but he certainly gives the
philosophical and literary-interpretative underpinnings for the whole
A set of manuscripts containing Latin translations of some of Origen's
Origen's commentaries written on specific books of scripture are much
more focused on systematic exegesis than his homilies. In these
Origen applies the precise critical methodology that had
been developed by the scholars of the Mouseion in
Alexandria to the
Christian scriptures. The commentaries also display Origen's
impressive, encyclopedic knowledge of various subjects and his
ability to cross-reference specific words, listing every place in
which a word appears in the scriptures along with all the word's known
meanings, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he
did this in a time when Bible concordances had not yet been
invented. Origen's massive Commentary on the Gospel of John, which
spanned more than thirty-two volumes once it was completed, was
written with the specific intention to not only expound the correct
interpretation of the scriptures, but also to refute the
interpretations of the Valentinian heretic Heracleon, who had
Gospel of John
Gospel of John to support his argument that there were really
two gods, not one. Of the original thirty-two books in the
Commentary on John, only nine have been preserved: Books I, II, X,
XIII, XX, XXVIII, XXXII, and a fragment of XIX.
Of the original twenty-five books in Origen's Commentary on the Gospel
of Matthew, only eight have survived in the original Greek (Books
10-17), covering Matthew 13.36-22.33. An anonymous Latin
translation beginning at the point corresponding to Book 12, Chapter 9
or the Greek text and covering Matthew 16.13-27.66 has also
survived. The translation contains parts that are not found
in the original Greek and is missing parts that are found in it.
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew was universally regarded
as a classic, even after his condemnation, and it ultimately
became the work which established the Gospel of Matthew as the primary
gospel. Origen's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans was
originally fifteen books long, but only tiny fragments of it have
survived in the original Greek. An abbreviated Latin translation
in ten books produced by the monk
Tyrannius Rufinus at the end of the
fourth century.[c] The historian Socrates Scholasticus records
Origen had included an extensive discussion of the application of
the title theotokos to the
Virgin Mary in his commentary, but
this discussion is not found in Rufinus's translation, probably
because Rufinus did not approve of Origen's position on the matter,
whatever that might have been.
Origen also composed a Commentary on the Song of Songs, in which
he took explicit care to explain why the
Song of Songs
Song of Songs was relevant to
a Christian audience. The Commentary on the
Song of Songs
Song of Songs was
Origen's most celebrated commentary and
Jerome famously writes in
his preface to his translation of two of Origen's homilies over the
Song of Songs
Song of Songs that "In his other works,
Origen habitually excels
others. In this commentary, he excelled himself."
on the exegesis of the Jewish Rabbi Akiva, interpreting the Song
of Songs as a mystical allegory in which the bridegroom represents the
Logos and the bride represents the soul of the believer. This was
the first Christian commentary to expound such an interpretation
and it became extremely influential on later interpretations of the
Song of Songs. Despite this, the commentary now only survives in
part through a Latin translation of it made by
Tyrannius Rufinus in
the year 410.[d] Fragments of some other commentaries survive.
Citations in Origen's Philokalia include fragments of the third book
of the commentary on Genesis. There is also 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,[e] and
the commentary on Hosea. Of the non-extant commentaries, there is
limited evidence of their arrangement.[f]
Dogmatic, practical, and apologetic writings
On the First Principles was the first ever systematic
exposition of Christian theology. He composed it as a young man
between the years 220 and 230 while he was still living in
Alexandria. Fragments from Books 3.1 and 4.1-3 of Origen's Greek
original are preserved in Origen's Philokalia. A few smaller
quotations of the original Greek are preserved in Justinian's Letter
to Mennas. The vast majority of the text has only survived in a
heavily abridged Latin translation produced by
Tyrannius Rufinus in
397. Rufinus was convinced that Origen's original treatise had
been interpolated by heretics and that these interpolations were
the source of the heterodox teachings found in it. He therefore
heavily modified Origen's text, omitting and altering any
parts which disagreed with contemporary Christian orthodoxy.
Jerome was so appalled by Rufinus's lack of fidelity to the original
Greek that he resolved to produce his own Latin translation of On the
First Principles in which he would translate every word exactly as it
was written and lay bare Origen's heresies to the whole world.
Jerome's translation, however, has been lost in its entirety. On
the First Principles begins with an essay explaining the nature of
theology. Book One describes the heavenly world, and
includes descriptions of the oneness of God, the relationship between
the three persons of the Trinity, the nature of the divine spirit,
reason, and angels. Book Two describes the world of man,
including the incarnation of the Logos, the soul, free will, and
eschatology. Book Three deals with cosmology, sin, and
redemption. Book Four deals with teleology and the interpretation
of the scriptures.
Between 232-235, while in
Caesarea in Palestine,
Origen wrote On
Prayer, of which the full text has been preserved in the original
Greek. 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. On
Martyrdom, or the Exhortation to Martyrdom, also preserved entire in
Greek, was written some time after the beginning of the
persecution of Maximinus in the first half of 235. In it, Origen
warns against any trifling with idolatry and emphasises the duty of
suffering martyrdom manfully; while in the second part he explains the
meaning of martyrdom.
Greek text of Origen's apologetic treatise Contra Celsum, which is
considered to be the most important work of early Christian
Celsus (Greek: Κατὰ Κέλσου; Latin: Contra Celsum),
preserved entirely in Greek, was Origen's last treatise, written about
248. It is an apologetic work defending orthodox
the attacks of the pagan philosopher Celsus, who was seen in the
ancient world as early Christianity's foremost opponent. In
Celsus had written a polemic entitled On the True Word, in which
he had made numerous arguments against Christianity. The church
had responded by ignoring Celsus's attacks, but Origen's patron
Ambrose brought the matter to his attention.
wanted to ignore
Celsus and let his attacks fade, but one of
Celsus's major claims, which held that no self-respecting philosopher
of the Platonic tradition would ever be so stupid as to become a
Christian, provoked him to write a rebuttal.
In the book,
Origen systematically refutes each of Celsus's arguments
point-by-point and argues for a rational basis of Christian
Origen draws heavily on the teachings of Plato
and argues that
Christianity and Greek philosophy are not
incompatible, and that philosophy contains much that is true and
admirable, but that the Bible contains far greater wisdom than
anything Greek philosophers could ever grasp.
Origen responds to
Celsus's accusation that Jesus had performed his miracles using magic
rather than divine powers by asserting that, unlike magicians, Jesus
had not performed his miracles for show, but rather to reform his
Contra Celsum became the most impactful of all early
Christian apologetics works; before it was written,
Christianity was seen by many as merely a folk religion for the
illiterate and uneducated, but
Origen raised it to a level
of academic respectability.
Eusebius admired Against Celsus
so much that, in his Against Hierocles 1, he declared that Against
Celsus provided an adequate rebuttal to all criticisms the church
would ever face.
The papyri discovered at Tura in 1941 contained the Greek texts of two
previously unknown works of Origen. Neither work can be dated
precisely, though both were probably written after the persecution of
Maximinus in 235. One is On the Pascha. The other is
Dialogue with Heracleides, a record written by one of Origen's
stenographers of a debate between
Origen and the Arabian bishop
Heracleides, a Quasi-Monarchianist who taught that the Father and the
Son were the same. In the dialogue,
Socratic questioning to persuade Heracleides to believe in the "Logos
theology", which was essentially the prototypical form of later
Lost works include two books on the resurrection, written before On
First Principles, and also two dialogues on the same theme dedicated
Eusebius had a collection of more than one hundred letters
of Origen, and the list of
Jerome speaks of several books of his
epistles. Except for a few fragments, only three letters have been
preserved. The first, partly preserved in the Latin translation
of Rufinus, is addressed to friends in Alexandria. The second
is a short letter to Gregory Thaumaturgus, preserved in the
Philocalia. The third is an epistle to Sextus Julius Africanus,
extant in Greek, replying to a letter from Africanus (also extant),
and defending the authenticity of the Greek additions to the book of
Daniel. Forgeries of the writings of
Origen made in his
lifetime are discussed by Rufinus in De adulteratione librorum
Origenis. The Dialogus de recta in Deum fide, the Philosophumena
attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, and the Commentary on Job by Julian
the Arian have also been ascribed to him.
Preexistence of souls
The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man
The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (c. 1617) by Peter Paul Rubens
and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Origen based his teaching of the
preexistence of souls on an allegorical interpretation of the creation
story in the Book of Genesis.
One of Origen's main teachings was the doctrine of the preexistence of
souls, which held that before
God created the material
world he created a vast number of incorporeal "spiritual
intelligences" (ψυχὴ). All of these souls were at
first devoted to the contemplation and love of their
Creator, but, as the fervor of the divine fire cooled,
almost all of these intelligences eventually grew bored of
contemplating God, and their love for him "cooled off"
God created the world, the
souls which had previously existed without bodies became
incarnate. Those whose love for
God diminished the most
became demons. Those whose love diminished moderately became
human souls, eventually to be incarnated in fleshly bodies. Those
whose love diminished the least became angels. One soul, however,
who remained perfectly devoted to
God became, through love, one with
the Word (Logos) of God. The
Logos eventually took flesh and was
born of the Virgin Mary, becoming the God-man Jesus Christ.
Origen may or may not have believed in the Platonic teaching of
metempsychosis ("the transmigration of souls"; i.e.
reincarnation). He explicitly rejects "the false doctrine of the
transmigration of souls into bodies", but this may refer only
to a specific kind of transmigration. Geddes MacGregor has argued
Origen must have believed in metempsychosis because it makes
sense within his eschatology and is never explicitly denied in
the Bible. Roger E. Olson, however, dismisses the view that
Origen believed in reincarnation as a
New Age misunderstanding of
Origen's teachings. It is certain that
Origen rejected the Stoic
notion of a cyclical universe, which is directly contrary to his
The Birth of
Jacob (c. 1360–1370) by Master of Jean de
Origen used the Biblical story of
support his theory that a soul's free will actions committed before
incarnation determine the conditions of the person's birth.
Origen was an ardent believer in free will and he adamantly
rejected the Valentinian idea of election. Instead, Origen
believed that even disembodied souls have the power to make their own
decisions. Furthermore, in his interpretation of the story of
Jacob and Esau,
Origen argued that the condition into which a person
is born is actually dependent upon what their souls did in this
pre-existent state. According to Origen, the superficial
unfairness of a person's condition at birth—with some humans being
poor, others rich, some being sick, and others healthy—is actually a
by-product of what the person's soul had done in the pre-existent
Origen defends free will in his interpretations of
instances of divine foreknowledge in the scriptures, arguing that
Jesus's knowledge of Judas's future betrayal in the gospels and God's
knowledge of Israel's future disobedience in the Deuteronomistic
History only show that
God knew these events would happen in
Origen therefore concludes that the individuals involved
in these incidents still made their decisions out of their own free
Allegorical interpretation of scripture
For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and
second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed
without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it
were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that
God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden,
towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and
palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth
obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by
masticating what was taken from the tree? And if
God is said to walk
in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree,
I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively
indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in
appearance, and not literally.
On the First Principles IV.16
Origen bases every part of his theology on the Christian
scriptures and never appeals to Platonic teachings
without having first supported his argument with a firm scriptural
basis. He saw the scriptures as divinely
inspired and was also very cautious to never
contradict his own interpretation of what was written in them.
Origen did have a penchant for speculating beyond what
was explicitly stated in the Bible, and this habit
frequently placed him in the hazy realm between strict orthodoxy and
According to Origen, there are two kinds of Biblical literature, which
are found in both the Old and New Testaments: historia ("history, or
narrative") and nomothesia ("legislation or ethical
Origen expressly states that the Old and New
Testaments should be read together and according to the same
Origen further taught that there were three different ways
in which passages of scripture could be interpreted. The "flesh"
was the literal, historical interpretation of the passage; the
"soul" was the moral message behind the passage; and the "spirit"
was the eternal, incorporeal reality that the passage conveyed.
In Origen's exegesis, the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song
of Songs represent perfect examples of the bodily, soulful, and
spiritual components of scripture respectively.
Origen saw the "spiritual" interpretation as the deepest and most
important meaning of the text and taught that some passages held
no literal meaning at all and that their meanings were purely
allegorical. Nonetheless, he stressed that "the passages which
are historically true are far more numerous than those which are
composed with purely spiritual meanings."
Origen noticed that the
accounts of Jesus's life in the four canonical gospels contain
irreconcilable contradictions, but he argued that these
contradictions did not undermine the spiritual meanings of the
passages in question. Origen's idea of a twofold creation
was based on an allegorical interpretation of the creation story found
in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. The first
creation, described in Genesis 1:26, was the creation of the primeval
spirits, who are made "in the image of God" and are therefore
incorporeal like Him; the second creation described in Genesis
2:7 is when the human souls are given ethereal, spiritual bodies
and the description in Genesis 3:21 of
God clothing Adam and Eve in
"tunics of skin" refers to the transformation of these spiritual
bodies into corporeal ones. Thus, each phase represents a
degradation from the original state of incorporeal holiness.
Origen significantly contributed to the development of the concept of
the Trinity and was among the first to name the Holy Spirit
as a member of the Godhead, but he was also a
Subordinationist, who taught that the Father was
superior to the Son and the Son was superior to the Holy
Origen's conception of
God the Father is apophatic—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
Origen in various ways, the
Logos being only one of many.
The 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.
Logos is the rational creative principle that permeates the
Logos acts on all human beings through their
capacity for logic and rational thought, guiding them to the
truth of God's revelation. As they progress in their rational
thinking, all humans become more and more like Christ.
Nonetheless, they retain their individuality and do not become
subsumed into Christ. 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".
Origen significantly contributed to the development of the idea of the
Trinity. He declared the Holy Spirit to be a part of the
Godhead and interpreted the
Parable of the Lost Coin
Parable of the Lost Coin to mean that
the Holy Spirit dwells within each and every person and that the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit was necessary for any kind of speech
dealing with God.
Origen taught that the activity of all three
parts of the
Trinity were necessary for a person to attain
salvation. In one fragment preserved by Rufinus in his Latin
translation of Pamphilus's Defense of Origen,
Origen seems to apply
the phrase homooúsios (ὁμοούσιος; "of the same substance")
to the relationship between the Father and the Son, but in
Origen rejected the belief that the Son and the Father
were one hypostasis as heretical and, since ousia and hypostasis
were used synonymously in Origen's time,
Origen almost certainly
would have rejected the word homoousios as heretical as well.
Rowan Williams states that it is impossible to verify whether the
quote that uses the word homoousios really comes from Pamphilus at
all, let alone Origen.
Origen was a Subordinationist,
meaning he believed that the Father was superior to the Son and the
Son was superior to the Holy Spirit, a model based on
Platonic proportions. Saint
Jerome records that
God the Father is invisible to all beings, including even
the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that the Son is invisible to the
Holy Spirit as well. At one point
Origen suggests that the Son
was created by the Father and that the Holy Spirit was created by the
Son, but, at another point, he writes that "Up to the present I
have been able to find no passage in the Scriptures that the Holy
Spirit is a created being." At the time when
alive, orthodox views on the
Trinity had not yet been
Subordinationism was not yet considered
heretical. In fact, virtually all orthodox theologians prior
Arian controversy in the latter half of the fourth century were
Subordinationists to some extent. Origen's
have developed out of his efforts to defend the unity of
Christ on the Cross (1870) by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
Origen proposed the
ransom theory of atonement, which holds that Jesus's crucifixion
was a ransom to
Satan for the freedom of humanity from inherited
Origen writes that Jesus was "the firstborn of all creation [who]
assumed a body and a human soul." He firmly believed that Jesus
had a human soul and abhorred
Docetism (the heretical teaching
which held that Jesus had come to earth in spirit form rather than a
physical human body).
Origen envisioned Jesus's human nature as
the one soul that stayed closest to
God and remained perfectly
faithful to Him, even when all other souls fell away. At Jesus's
incarnation, his soul became fused with the
Logos and they
"intermingled" to become one. Thus, according to Origen, Christ
was both human and divine, but, like all human souls, Christ's
human nature was existent from the beginning.
Origen was the first to propose the ransom theory of atonement in its
fully developed form, although
Irenaeus had previously proposed a
prototypical form of it. According to this theory, Christ's death
on the cross was a ransom to
Satan in exchange for humanity's
liberation. This theory holds that
Satan was tricked by
God because Christ was not only free of sin, but also the
incarnate Deity, whom
Satan lacked the ability to enslave. The
theory was later expanded by theologians such as
Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa and
Rufinus of Aquileia. In the eleventh century, Saint Anselm
criticized the ransom theory, along with the associated Christus
Victor theory, resulting in the theory's decline in western
Europe. The theory has nonetheless retained some of its
popularity in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Origen believed that, eventually, the whole world would be converted
to Christianity, "since the world is continually gaining
possession of more souls." He believed that that the Kingdom of
Heaven was not yet come, but that it was the duty of every
Christian to make the eschatological reality of the kingdom present in
Origen was a Universalist, who suggested that
all people might eventually attain salvation, but only
after being purged of their sins through "divine fire". This, of
course, in line of Origen's allegorical interpretation, was not
literal fire, but rather the inner anguish of knowing one's own
Origen was also careful to always maintain that
universal salvation was merely a possibility and not a definitive
Origen as having allegedly written that "after aeons and
the one restoration of all things, the state of
Gabriel will be the
same as that of the Devil, Paul's as that of Caiaphas, that of virgins
as that of prostitutes." Jerome, however, was not above
deliberately altering quotations to make
Origen seem more like a
Origen himself expressly stated in his Letter to
Satan and his demons would be not included
in the final salvation.
Origen was an ardent pacifist and, in his Against
Celsus, he argued that Christianity's inherent pacifism was the most
noticeable feature of the religion. While
Origen did admit that
some Christians served in the Roman army, he pointed
out that most did not and insisted that engaging in earthly
wars was against the way of Christ.
that it was sometimes necessary for a non-Christian state to wage
wars, but insisted that it was impossible for a Christian to
fight in such a war without compromising his or her faith. Origen
explained the violence found in certain passages of the Old Testament
as allegories and pointed out Old Testament passages supporting
nonviolence, such as Psalm 7:4-6 and Lamentations 3:27-29.
Influence on the later church
Athanasius of Alexandria, shown standing in this 1876 oil painting by
Vasily Surikov, was a devoted supporter of Origen's
Origen is often seen as the first major Christian theologian.
Though his orthodoxy had been questioned in
Alexandria while he was
alive, Origen's torture during the
Decian persecution led
Pope Dionysius of
Alexandria to rehabilitate Origen's memory there,
hailing him as a martyr for the faith. Later, after Origen's
death, Dionysius became one of the foremost proponents of Origen's
theology. Every Christian theologian who came after him was
influenced by his theology, whether directly or indirectly.
Origen's contributions to theology were so vast and complex, however,
that his followers frequently emphasized drastically different parts
of his teachings to the expense of other parts. Dionysius
emphasized Origen's Subordinationist views, which led him to
deny the unity of the Trinity, causing controversy throughout North
Africa. At the same time, Origen's other disciple
Alexandria taught that the Father and the Son were "of
For centuries after his death,
Origen was regarded as the bastion of
orthodoxy and his philosophy practically defined Eastern
Origen himself was revered as one of the greatest
of all Christian teachers; he was especially beloved by monks, who
saw themselves as continuing in Origen's ascetic legacy. In the
early fourth century, the Christian writer Methodius of Olympus
criticized some of Origen's more speculative arguments, but
otherwise agreed with
Origen on all other points of theology.
Both orthodox theologians and heretics claimed to be following in the
Origen had established. Athanasius of Alexandria, the
most prominent supporter of the Holy
Trinity at the First Council of
Nicaea, was a devoted Origenist and so were Basil of
Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and
Gregory of Nazianzus
Gregory of Nazianzus (the so-called
At the same time, however, many commonalities exist between Origen's
theology and Arianism. Although the relationship between the two
is still disputed, in antiquity, many orthodox Christians
Origen was the true and ultimate source of the Arian
heresy. Origen's name was also invoked by heretics of all
varieties, many of them supporting views completely different
Origen himself had actually taught. In the late
fourth century, the heretic-hunter
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis attacked
Origen, portraying him as an originally orthodox Christian
who had been corrupted and turned into a heretic by the evils of
"Greek education". Epiphanius further deplores all academic
Christians as dangerous heretics and declares that
God alone is
the source of true wisdom. Around the same time, John Cassian, a
Semipelagian monk, introduced Origen's teachings to the West.
The Emperor Justinian I, shown here in a contemporary mosaic portrait
from Ravenna, denounced
Origen as a heretic and ordered all
of his writings to be burned.
In the year 400, Pope Theophilus of
Alexandria assembled a council in
Alexandria, which condemned Origenism as heretical and labelled
Origen himself as the "hydra of all heresies". By the sixth
century, Origen's name had become synonymous with heresy. In 543
AD, the Emperor
Justinian I denounced
Origen as a heretic and
ordered all of his writings to be burned. Later that year,
Patriarch Mennas of Constantinople condemned
Origen and a form of
apocatastasis at the
Synod of Constantinople (543). In
the west, the Decretum Gelasianum, which was written sometime between
519 and 553, listed
Origen as an author whose writings were to be
Second Council of Constantinople
Second Council of Constantinople (the Fifth Ecumenical Council) in
553 addressed what was called "The Three Chapters" and opposed a form
of Origenism which truly had nothing to do with anything Origen
himself had taught. The council is traditionally said to
Origen himself as a heretic along with "The Three
Chapters", but it is disputed whether or not this was actually
the case, since "It is [only] certain that the council opened
on 5 May, 553, in spite of the protestations of Pope Vigilius, who
though at Constantinople refused to attend it, and that in the eight
conciliary sessions (from 5 May to 2 June), the Acts of which we
possess, only the question of the Three Chapters is treated." Many
heteroclite views became associated with Origen, and the 15 anathemas
attributed to the council condemn a form of apocatastasis along with
the pre-existence of the soul, animism (in this context, a heterodox
Christology), and a denial of real and lasting resurrection of the
body. Some authorities believe these anathemas belong to an
earlier local synod. In fact, Popes Vigilius (537–555),
Pelagius I (556–61), Pelagius II (579–90), and Gregory the Great
(590–604) were only aware that 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 Universalism.
After the anathemas
If orthodoxy were a matter of intention, no theologian could be more
orthodox than Origen, none more devoted to the cause of the Christian
— Henry Chadwick, scholar of early Christianity, in
As direct result of the numerous proclamations against him, only a
tiny fraction of Origen's voluminous writings have survived.
Nonetheless, these writings still amount to a massive number of Greek
and Latin texts, very few of which have yet been translated into
English. Many more writings have survived in fragments through
quotations from later Church Fathers. It is likely that the
writings containing Origen's most unusual and speculative ideas have
been lost to time, making it nearly impossible to determine
Origen actually held the heretical views which the anathemas
against him ascribed to him. Nonetheless, in spite of the decrees
against Origen, the church remained enamored with him and Origen
remained a central figure of
Christian theology throughout the first
millennium. He continued to be revered as the founder of Biblical
exegesis and anyone in the first millennium who took the
interpretation of the scriptures seriously would have been
knowledgeable of Origen's teachings.
Jerome's Latin translations of Origen's homilies were widely read in
western Europe throughout the Middle Ages and Origen's teachings
greatly influenced those of the Byzantine monk Maximus the Confessor
(c. 550–662) and the Irish theologian
John Scotus Eriugena
John Scotus Eriugena (c.
810–877). Since the Renaissance, the debate over Origen's
orthodoxy has continued to rage. Western Christians have
generally tended to appraise
Origen more favorably than eastern
ones. In the seventeenth century, the English Cambridge Platonist
Henry More (1614 – 1687) was a devoted Orgenist and, although
he did reject the notion of universal salvation, he accepted most
of Origen's other teachings.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI expressed
admiration for Origen, describing him in a sermon as part of a
series on the
Church Fathers as "a figure crucial to the whole
development of Christian thought", "a true 'maestro'", and "not only a
brilliant theologian but also an exemplary witness of the doctrine he
passed on". He concludes the sermon by inviting his audience to
"welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of the
faith". Modern Protestant evangelicals admire
Origen for his
passionate devotion to the scriptures, but are frequently baffled
or even appalled by his allegorical interpretation of them, which many
believe ignores the literal, historical truth behind them.
The Commentary of
Origen On S. John's Gospel, the text revised and
with a critical introduction and indices, A. E. Brooke (2 volumes,
Cambridge University Press, 1896): Volume 1, Volume 2
Contra Celsum, trans Henry Chadwick, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
On First Principles, trans GW Butterworth, (Gloucester, MA: Peter
Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom; Prayer; First Principles, book
IV; Prologue to the Commentary on the Song of Songs; Homily XXVII on
Numbers, trans R Greer, Classics of Western Spirituality, (1979)
Origen: Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, trans RE Heine, FC 71, (1982)
Origen: Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Books 1-10, trans
RE Heine, FC 80, (1989)
Treatise on the Passover and Dialogue of
Origen with Heraclides and
his Fellow Bishops On the Father, the Son and the Soul, trans Robert
Daly, ACW 54 (New York: Paulist Press, 1992)
Origen: Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Books 13-32, trans
RE Heine, FC 89, (1993)
The Commentaries on
Jerome on St Paul's Epistle to the
Ephesians, RE Heine, OECS, (Oxford: OUP, 2002)
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 1-5, 2001, Thomas P.
Scheck, trans., The Fathers of the Church series, Volume 103, Catholic
University of America Press, ISBN 0-8132-0103-9
ISBN 9780813201030 
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 6-10 (Fathers of the
Church), 2002, The Fathers of the Church, Thomas P. Scheck, trans.,
Volume 104, Catholic University of America Press,
ISBN 0-8132-0104-7 ISBN 9780813201047 
'On Prayer' in Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen, ‘’On the Lord’s
Prayer’’, trans and annotated by Alistair Stewart-Sykes,
(Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), pp111–214
Translations available online
Translations of some of Origen's writings can be found in Ante-Nicene
Fathers or in The Fathers of the Church. ("Church Fathers: Home".
Newadvent.org. Retrieved 2014-04-24. ) Material not in those
Dialogue with Heracleides ("
Origen - Dialog with Heracleides -
Christian History". Sites.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24. )
Prayer (William A Curtis. "Origen, On
Prayer (Unknown date).
Translation". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2014-04-24. )
Philocalia (Origen. "The Philocalia of
Origen (1911) pp. 1-237.
English translation". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2014-04-24. )
Allegorical interpretations of Plato
Early Christian descriptions of the execution cross
^ The discrepancy concerns the 74 homilies on the Psalms attributed to
Jerome, but which V Peri has argued
Jerome translated from
only minor changes. (Both 205 and 279 exclude the 2012 discoveries)
Heine 2004, p. 124
^ And possibly the extra 74 homilies on the Psalms. Heine 2004,
^ When Rufinus translated the commentary in the early fifth century he
noted in his preface that some of the books were lost, and doubted his
ability to 'supply' what was missing and to 'restore' the work's
continuity. He also noted his intention to 'abbreviate' the work.
Rufinus' abbreviated Latin version in ten books is extant. The Greek
fragments were found in papyri at Tura in 1941, and contain Greek
excerpts from books 5-6 of the commentary. Comparison of these
fragments with Rufinus' translation led to a generally positive
evaluation of Rufinus' work. Heine 2004, p. 124
^ Books 1-3, and the beginning of the Book 4, survive, covering Song
of Songs 1.1-2.15. Besides not including the later books of the
commentary, Rufinus also omitted all of Origen's more technical
discussions of the text. Heine 2004, p. 123
^ 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.).
^ Codex Athous Laura 184 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).
^ The New
Catholic Encyclopedia (Detroit: Gale, 2003).
^ a b Richard Finn (2009). "
Origen and his ascetic legacy".
his ascetic legacy, in:
Asceticism in the Graeco-Roman World.
Cambridge University Press. pp. 100–130.
doi:10.1017/CBO9780511609879.005. ISBN 9780511609879.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 25–26, 64.
^ a b c d McGuckin 2004, p. 25.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Olson 1999, p. 101.
^ a b c d e f g h i McGuckin 2004, p. 15.
^ a b Olson 1999, p. 105.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Olson 1999, p. 102.
^ a b Grafton 2011, p. 222.
^ Runia, David T. (1995). Philo and the Church Fathers: A Collection
of Papers. Leiden, Germany: E. J. Brill. p. 118.
^ a b
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI 2007, pp. 24–27.
^ Litfin, Bryan M. (2016) . Getting to Know the Church Fathers:
An Evangelical Introduction. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
p. unpaginated. ISBN 978-1-4934-0478-0.
^ a b Olson 1999, p. 99.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Olson 1999, p. 100.
^ Patrides, C. A. (October–December 1967). "The salvation of
Satan". Journal of the History of Ideas. 28 (4): 467–478.
doi:10.2307/2708524. JSTOR 2708524. reprinted in Patrides,
C. A. (1982) . "'A principle of infinite love': The salvation of
Satan". Premises and motifs in
Renaissance literature. Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press. JSTOR 2708524.
^ Prestige, G. L. (1940). "Origen: or, The Claims of Religious
Intelligence" (PDF). Fathers and Heretics (PDF)format= requires url=
(help). Bampton Lectures. London: SPCK. p. 43. Retrieved 4
^ ἀδάμας. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A
Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
^ "adamant". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
^ McGuckin 2004, p. 2.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m McGuckin 2004, p. 3.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 2–3.
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 3–4.
^ a b c d e f g h i McGuckin 2004, p. 4.
^ a b Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, VI.3.9
^ a b Greggs 2009, p. 102.
^ a b c d e f g h i j McGuckin 2004, p. 6.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k McGuckin 2004, p. 5.
^ Olson 1999, pp. 100–101.
^ a b c d e f McGuckin 2004, p. 7.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, pp. 7–8.
^ a b c d e f g h i McGuckin 2004, p. 8.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 8–9.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k McGuckin 2004, p. 9.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 9–10.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k McGuckin 2004, p. 10.
^ a b c d McGuckin 2004, p. 11.
^ a b c d Marcos 2000, p. 205.
^ Marcos 2000, pp. 204–205.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, p. 12.
^ a b c d e f McGuckin 2004, p. 13.
^ Eusebius, Church History, VI.14. See
Eusebius - Church History (Book
^ a b c Griggs 2000, p. 61.
^ a b c d e Crouzel 1989, p. 18.
^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica VI.26
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, pp. 13–14.
^ a b c d e f g McGuckin 2004, p. 14.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 14–15.
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 15–16.
^ a b c d e f g McGuckin 2004, p. 17.
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 15–17.
^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica VI.8
^ Moreschi, "La castration forcée dans le christianisme primitif", p.
^ "The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise: Letter III. Abelard to
Heloise". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
^ Gibbon asserts that, at least initially, rather than generating
censure, Origen's self-castration was the focus of admiration, and
dryly observes that "As it was his general practice to allegorise
scripture, it seems unfortunate that, in this instance only, he should
have adopted the literal sense." Edward Gibbon, The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XV, footnote 97
^ 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).
^ a b c d e f Prat, Ferdinand (1911). "
Origen and Origenism". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved
2008-10-03. . The 1903
Catholic Encyclopedia does not report
^ Henry Chadwick, The Penguin History of the Church: The Early Church,
(New York: Penguin Books, 1993) 108-109. "Perhaps
uncritically reporting malicious gossip retailed by Origen's enemies,
of whom there were many."
^ a b William Placher, A History of Christian Theology: An
Introduction, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), p62.
^ a b c d e f g h i j McGuckin 2004, p. 18.
^ a b c d e f McGuckin 2004, p. 16.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 16–17.
^ From The Emergence of Christianity, Cynthia White, Greenwood Press,
2007, p. 14.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McGuckin 2004, p. 19.
^ Heine 2004, p. 122.
^ a b c d e f g h i j McGuckin 2004, p. 22.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, pp. 3, 23.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, p. 20.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 20–21.
^ a b c d McGuckin 2004, p. 21.
^ a b c MacMullen 1992.
^ "Eusebius, ''Ecclesiastical History'', Book 6, chapter 39".
Christianbookshelf.org. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
^ Timothy David Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, page 351, footnote
96 (Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 1981)
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 3, 22.
^ Jerome. "Chapter 54 (Origen, surnamed Adamantius)". De viris
illustribus (On Illustrious Men).
^ a b c d e f McGuckin 2004, pp. 25–26.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q McGuckin 2004, p. 26.
^ Haer., lxiv.63
^ Ecclesiastical History, VI., xxxii. 3; Eng. transl., NPNF, 2 ser.,
^ Epist. ad Paulam, NPNF, vi. 46
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 10, 27.
^ Trigg, Joseoph W. -
Origen - The Early
Church Fathers - 1998,
Routledge, London and New York, page 16. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McGuckin 2004, p. 27.
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 27–28.
^ a b c Lockett 2017, pp. 71–72.
^ Lockett 2017, p. 71.
^ Heine 2004, p. 125.
^ "Vatican reports discovery of ancient documents". Associated Press.
June 12, 2012. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
^ "Greek text found of Origen's homilies on the Psalms! at Roger
Pearse". Roger-pearse.com. 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
^ "Lorenzo Perrone About Origen's Newly Discovered Homilies on the
Psalms". Alin Suciu. 2012-06-12. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
^ Digitalisat Archived August 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b Lockett 2017, pp. 71–73.
^ a b C.G. Bateman, Origen’s Role in the Formation of the New
Testament Canon, 2010. archive
^ Lockett 2017, p. 72.
^ a b McGuckin, John A. "
Origen as Literary Critic in the Alexandrian
Tradition." 121-37 in vol. 1 of 'Origeniana octava:
Origen and the
Alexandrian Tradition.' Papers of the 8th International Origen
Congress (Pisa, 27–31 August 2001). Edited by L. Perrone.
Bibliotheca Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium 164. 2 vols.
Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2003.
^ a b c d e f g McGuckin 2004, p. 29.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 29–30.
^ Joel C. Elowsky (editor), John 1-10. Ancient Christian Commentary on
Scripture: New Testament, Voliume 4a., page xix, (InterVarsity Press
Academic, 2007). ISBN 978-0-8308-1489-3
^ a b c d e f g McGuckin 2004, p. 30.
^ Heine 2004, p. 124.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m McGuckin 2004, p. 31.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k McGuckin 2004, p. 36.
^ a b c d Heine 2010, p. 125.
^ McGuckin 2004, pp. 36–37.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, p. 37.
^ a b Olson 1999, pp. 101, 103.
^ a b c d e McGuckin 2004, pp. 32–34.
^ a b c d e f McGuckin 2004, p. 32.
^ a b c Olson 1999, p. 103.
^ a b c d e Heine 2004, p. 127.
^ a b c d Olson 1999, pp. 102–103.
^ McGuckin 2004, p. 33.
^ a b McGuckin 2004, pp. 34–35.
^ An English translation of the Dialogue is in Oulton and Chadwick,
eds, Alexandrian Christianity, pp. 430-455.
^ McGuckin 2004, p. 35.
^ Historia ecclesiastica, VI, xxxvi.3; Eng. transl. NPNF, 2 ser.
^ a b c d Heine 2004, p. 126.
^ Vicchio, Stephen J. (4 October 2006). Job in the Medieval World.
Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 23 n. 2.
Origen produced a full-length exposition
of the book of Job, as did his student, Avagrius. Fragments of
Origen’s commentary survive in Migne's Patrologia Graeca, under the
titles, “Selecta of Job” and “Enarrationes in Job.” Another
Job commentary attributed to
Origen and extant in a Latin translation
in three books is not genuine. Early twentieth-century scholars
conclusively have attributed the work, Commenttarium on Iob, to
Maximinus, a fourth century Arian writer. A third anonymous work on
Job preserved in the Migne interprets the book of Job from 1:1 to
3:19. This text also mistakenly has been attributed to Origen. This
writer takes the suffering of Job as a symbolic representation of the
passion of Christ. He also places the blame for Job’s suffering
squarely on the shoulder of
Satan who is seen in the commentary as a
demonic figure. Fragments of a smaller work of Job written by
Athanasius, Bishop of
Alexandria from 328 to 373, also survives in the
PG under the title, “Exerpta in Job." Two other selections in Migne,
Didymus the Blind's exegesis of Job modeled on Origen’s commentary,
and a sermon by
Eusebius of Emesa, also attest to the interest in Job
on the part of the Christian Alexandrian school.
^ Scheck, Thomas P.; Erasmus, Desiderius (1 February 2016). Erasmus's
Life of Origen. CUA Press. p. 132.
Origen (1844). Carl Heinrich Eduard Lommatzsch, ed. Origenis
Opera omnia quae graece vel latine tantum exstant et ejus nomine
circumferuntur. XVI. Anonymi in Job commentarius. Adamantii de recta
in Deum fide. Sumtibus Haude et Spener. Images of
Title page i. & Title page ii. at Google
^ a b c d e f Scott 2012, pp. 53–55.
^ MacGegor 1982, pp. 55–56.
^ a b c d e f g h Greggs 2009, pp. 55–56.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Chadwick 2017.
^ a b c d e f Greggs 2009, p. 61.
^ a b c d MacGegor 1982, pp. 56–57.
^ a b c d MacGegor 1982, p. 55.
^ a b MacGegor 1982, pp. 54–55.
^ a b c d e Olson 1999, pp. 99–100.
^ a b c Greggs 2009, pp. 58–59.
^ Greggs 2009, pp. 56–59.
^ a b Greggs 2009, p. 58.
^ a b c Greggs 2009, p. 79.
^ a b Scott 2012, pp. 55–58.
^ Scott 2012, pp. 58–60.
^ a b Ludlow 2013, pp. 87–88.
^ a b c McGuckin 2004, pp. 13–17.
^ a b c d e Ludlow 2013, p. 88.
^ a b c d Ludlow 2013, p. 90.
^ Perkins 2007, p. 292.
^ a b Kugel & Greer 1986, p. 183.
^ a b Keefer 2006, pp. 75–76.
^ a b c d Layton 2004, p. 86.
^ Layton 2004, pp. 86–87.
^ a b Olson & Hall 2002, p. 24.
^ a b La Due 2003, p. 37.
^ a b c d e f g h Olson & Hall 2002, p. 25.
^ a b c d e La Due 2003, p. 38.
^ a b c Pollard 1970, p. 95.
^ a b c d e Greggs 2009, p. 161.
^ a b Greggs 2009, p. 80.
^ a b Greggs 2009, pp. 79–80.
^ Greggs 2009, pp. 80–81.
^ Greggs 2009, pp. 159–160.
^ Greggs 2009, p. 160.
^ a b c d e Williams 2001, p. 132.
^ a b c d Greggs 2009, pp. 152–153.
^ Greggs 2009, p. 153.
^ Greggs 2009, p. 154.
^ a b c Badcock 1997, p. 43.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Eddy & Beilby 2008, p. 86.
^ a b c Plantinga, Thompson & Lundberg 2010.
^ a b Greggs 2009, pp. 61–62.
^ Greggs 2009, p. 62.
^ a b c Cahill 1994, p. 53.
^ a b c d e Cahill 1994, pp. 53–54.
^ a b Cahill 1994, p. 54.
^ a b c d e MacGegor 1982, p. 56.
^ a b c d McGuckin 2004, p. 96.
^ a b Moore 2005, p. 96.
^ a b Caspary 1979, pp. 125–127.
^ a b Brock 1972, pp. 11–12.
^ a b c Charles 2005, p. 36.
^ Caspary 1979, pp. 126–127.
^ a b Brock 1972, p. 12.
^ Moore 2014.
^ a b c d Rusch 1980, pp. 15–16.
^ a b c Chadwick 1967, p. 114.
^ Rusch 1980, p. 15.
^ Ramelli 2013, p. 262.
^ Ramelli 2013, pp. 262–263.
^ Williams 2001, pp. 131–134.
^ a b Williams 2001, p. 131.
^ a b c d e f MacGegor 1982, p. 57.
^ a b Kim 2015, p. 19.
^ Kim 2015, pp. 19–20.
^ Kim 2015, p. 20.
^ Apocatastasis – §2. Opponents in New Schaff-Herzog
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Basilians at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
^ Sträuli, Robert (1987). Origenes der Diamantene. Zurich: ABZ
Verlag. pp. 71, 355–357. ISBN 3-85516-005-8.
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^ Greer, Rowan A. (1979). Origen. New York City: Paulist Press.
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^ a b c Hutton 2006, p. 205.
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Analysis and criticism
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The two-part Roman Catholic meditation on
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Edwards, Mark J. "Origen". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia
Origen Entry in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Origen in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
Jewish Encyclopedia: Origen
Origen from New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
EarlyChurch.org.uk Extensive bibliography and on-line articles.
Greek and Latin Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca, with
Analytical Indexes and Concordances (Lexicon Proprium)
Table of Origen's Works with Links to Texts and Translations
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