Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
A denomination which appeared in the third century, who derived their opinions from the writings of Origen, a presbyter of Alexandria, and a man of vast and uncommon abilities, who interpreted the divine truths of religion according to the tenor of the Platonic philosophy. He alleged, that the source of many evils lies in adhering to the literal and external part of Scripture: and that the true meaning of the sacred writers was to be sought in a mysterious and hidden sense, arising from the nature of things themselves. The principal tenets ascribed to Origen, together with a few of the reasons made use of in their defence, are comprehended in the following summary:
1. That there is a pre-existent state of human souls. For the nature of the soul is such as to make her capable of existing eternally, backward as well as forward, because her spiritual essence, as such, makes it impossible that she should, either through age or violence, be dissolved: so that nothing is wanting to her existence but the good pleasure of him from whom all things proceed. And if, according to the Platonic scheme, we assign the production of all things to the exuberant fulness of life in the Deity, which, through the blessed necessity of his communicative nature, empties itself into all possibilities of being, as into so many capable receptacles, we must suppose her existence in a sense necessary, and in a degree co-eternal with God.
2. That souls were condemned to animate mortal bodies, in order to expiate faults they had committed in a pre-existent state: for we may be assured, from the infinite goodness of their Creator, that they were at first joined to the purest matter, and placed in those regions of the universe which were most suitable to the purity of essence they then possessed. For that the souls of men are an order of essentially incorporate spirits, their deep immersion into terrestrial matter, the modification of all their operations by it, and the heavenly body promised in the Gospel, as the highest perfection of our renewed nature, clearly evince. Therefore if our souls existed before they appeared inhabitants of the earth, they were placed in a purer element, and enjoyed far greater degrees of happiness. And certainly he, whose overflowing goodness brought them into existence, would not deprive them of their felicity, till by their mutability they rendered themselves less pure in the whole extent of their powers, and became disposed for the susception of such a degree of corporeal life as was exactly answerable to their present disposition of spirit. Hence it was necessary that they should become terrestrial men.
3. That the soul of Christ was united to the Word before the incarnation. For the Scriptures teach us that the soul of the Messiah was created before the beginning of the world, Philippians 2:5; Philippians 2:7 . This text must be understood of Christ's human soul, because it is unusual to propound the Deity as an example of humility in Scripture. Though the humanity of Christ was so God-like, he emptied himself of this fulness of life and glory, to take upon him the form of a servant. It was this Messiah who conversed with the patriarchs under a human form: it was he who appeared to Moses upon the Holy Mount: it was he who spoke to the prophets under a visible appearance: and it is he who will at last come in triumph upon the clouds to restore the universe to its primitive splendour and felicity.
4. That at the resurrection of the dead we shall be clothed with ethereal bodies. For the elements of our terrestrial compositions are such as almost fatally entangled us in vice, passion, and misery. The purer the vehicle the soul is united with, the more perfect is her life and operations. Besides the Supreme Goodness who made all things, assures us he made all things best at first, and therefore his recovery of us to our lost happiness (which is the design of the Gospel, ) must restore us to our better bodies and happier habitations, which is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:49 . 2 Corinthians 5:1 . and other texts of Scripture.
5. That, after long periods of time, the damned shall be released from their torments, and restored to a new state of probation. For the Deity has such reserves in his gracious providence, as will vindicate his sovereign goodness and wisdom from all disparagement. Expiatory pains are a part of his adorable plan; for this sharper kind of favour has a righteous place in such creatures as are by nature mutable. Though sin has extinguished or silenced the divine life, yet it has not destroyed the faculties of reason and understanding, consideration and memory, which will serve the life which is most powerful. If, therefore, the vigorous attraction of the sensual nature be abated by a ceaseless pain, these powers may resume the seeds of a better life and nature. As in the material system there is a gravitation of the less bodies towards the greater, there must of necessity be something analogous to this in the intellectual system; and since the spirits created by God are emanations and streams from his own abyss of being, and as self-existent power must needs subject all beings to itself, the Deity could not but impress upon her intimate natures and substances a central tendency towards himself; an essential principle of reunion to their great original.
6. That the earth after its conflagration shall become habitable again, and be the mansion of men and animals, and that in eternal vicissitudes. For it is thus expressed in Isaiah: Behold I make new heavens, and a new earth; &c. and in Hebrews 1:10; Hebrews 1:12 . thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed, &c. Where there is only a change the substance is not destroyed, this change being only as that of a garment worn out and decaying. The fashion of the world passes away like a turning scene, to exhibit a fresh and new representation of things; and if only the present dress and appearance of things go off, the substance is supposed to remain entire.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Origenists'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/o/origenists.html. 1802.