Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(᾿Ωριγένης , .from . ἐν ὄρει γενηθείς, because he was born in the mountain region, to which his parents had retired to escape persecution),' also surnamed ADAMANTIUS, on account of his remarkable firmness and iron assiduity, is called the father of Biblical criticism and exegesis in the Church. But it is not only in this line of literary activity that he has distinguished himself. Origen may well be pronounced one of the ablest and worthiest of the Church fathers — indeed, one of the greatest moral prodigies of the human race. He is universally regarded as one of the most laborous and learned scholars that has appeared in Christendom, and although his orthodoxy has on some important doctrinal points been called in question, his fame and influence will endure to the end of time, and his memory be revered among all followers of Jesus Christ.
Life. — Origen was born, according to the most trustworthy computation, at the city of Alexandria, in Egypt, in A.D. 185. His father, Leonidas, who was a Christian, is reputed to have been a man of culture and of piety; and while he sought to imbue the mind of the youth, whose first instructor he was, with the love of letters and the sciences, which every free Greek was to be conversant with, he yet paid particular attention to sacred knowledge, so that Origen might truly understand the contents of the Scriptures; and before the boy had reached maturity he evinced that his mind had not only been filled with knowledge, but that his bosom glowed with an equal zeal for the practice of the truths he had learned from the sacred pages. In A.D. 202, during the persecution under Severus, which raged through all the churches, but fell with most tremendous devastation on the Church at Alexandria, many of the most distinguished Christians from other parts were brought to suffer martyrdom in this conspicuous city. Instead of hiding his own convictions, Origen boldly came forward, and exposed himself to a savage multitude by ministering to these holy men; and when his own father, too, was for his fidelity to the Christian religion imprisoned, and likely to suffer martyrdom, Origen was with great difficulty prevented by his mother from sharing his father's fate. Indeed, so firmly were his convictions rooted that he sent exhortation after exhortation to the prison of his parent to buffer death rather than recant. "Take heed," wrote the beardless youth of seventeen — "take heed, father, that you do not change your mind for our sake."
Leonidas remained firm and was beheaded; and Origen, his mother and younger brothers — six in all — were left destitute of protection, and of property too, as the estate which they owned was confiscated. In this forlorn condition Origen found a noble patron and supporter in a rich lady, who longed to be taught the truths of Christianity. But he did not long depend on her, for in the following year he 'abandoned' her home because she entertained a renowned heretic, whom, though high in repute for his learning; Origen would not consider a fit associate. He supported himself for a while by teaching the Greek language and literature, and by copying MSS. In A.D. 203 bishop Demetrius, afterwards his opponent, placed him in charge of the catechetical school left vacant by the flight of Clement (q.v.), whose inistructions Origen had enjoyed, and whose friendship and esteem he had secured while a pupil. To worthily fill this important office Origen made himself acquainted with the various heresies, especially the Gnostic, and with the Grecian philosophy. He was not even ashamed to study under the Heathen Ammonius Sacas (q.v.) the celebrated founder of Neo-Platonism (q.v.). Of course such a faithful application to research was rewarded with popular applause, and crowds of people flocked to his lectures. Among his pupils were many of the weaker sex; and as in his studies he employed females as copyists, he decided to put away every possible appearance of evil by his own emasculation, basing this unwarranted act upon the words of Christ (Matthew 9:12), which Origen interpreted in a literal sense at that time, though in a later period of life he greatly regretted his early views. He also in this early period of life sought strict conformity with the doctrine preached by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:25, and practiced voluntary poverty, and led a strictly ascetic life. He made it a matter of principle to renounce every earthly thing not indispensably necessary; refused the gifts of his pupils had but one coat, no shoes, and took no thought of the 'morrow. He rarely ate flesh, never drank wine; devoted the greater part of the night to prayer and study, and slept on the bare floor. By these means he commanded the respect of both the learned and the unlearned in an age and country where such a mode of life was held in the highest repute both by Christians and heathen, and thus, in connection with his public and private instruction, he made a multitude of converts from all ranks of pagans. Among those whom his preaching, backed by a life so replete with consistency, reclaimed was one Valentinian heretic, a wealthy person, named Ambrose, who afterwards assisted Origin materially in the publication of his Commentaries on the Scriptures.
It was a little while preceding these important acts (about A.D. 211) that Origen visited Rome in order to acquaint himself with the doctrines, practices, and general character of its truly ancient Church. The Alexandrian and Roman views of the Church were widely different. By the latter, the one Church and body of Christ were contemplated as a visible organization, by the former as an invisible. In Rome and Carthage nepotism was dreaded as the worst of evils, and the baptized were looked upon as constituting the Church. In Alexandria the alienation of the mind and of the heart from the truth was regarded as the chief evil, and the holy, both in heaven and on earth, were viewed as constituting the true Church. Origen's opinions in regard to ecclesiastical organization and discipline were substantially the same as those which are most commonly entertained by evangelical Christians. They were far more spiritual and rational than those held by the Roman Church, and by Cyprian and Augustine. (The chapter in which Redepenning presents a summary of Origen's system of practical Church discipline is a very valuable treatise, on the subject for practical purposes in general; the golden mean between formalism and latitudinarianism is happily chosen: still it appears that Origen admitted a modified supremacy of the Church of Rome.) Origen's stay at Rome was short. Upon his return to Alexandria, by request of bishop Demetrius, he resumed his lessons, and then met with the remarkable and blessed results in his labors above referred to. Troubles likely to lead to serious dissension which broke out in that city in A.D. 215 made it evident that Christian teachers could not effectually prosecute their work, and Origen retired secretly to Palestine. This incensed the bishop; and when the clergy of that province asked Origen to expound the Scriptures in public, Demetrius wrote to expostulate with them, on the ground that such a mission should not be entrusted to one who was not an ordained priest. Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, and Theocritus of Casarea defended their conduct on the ground that bishops had always employed for that purpose such as were best qualified for it by their learning and piety, without inquiring whether they were priests or laymen. Demetrius finally recalled Origen and afterwards sent him to Greece to oppose some new heresies which had arisen in Achaia. On his way thither, in 228, he was ordained a presbyter at Caesarea, in Palestine, by Theocritus. This so displeased Demetrius that he held two councils (A.D. 231 and 232) at Alexandria, by which Origen was forbidden to teach, and excommunicated. He was accused, 1. of having castrated himself; 2, of having been ordained without the consent of his regular bishop; 3, of teaching erroneous doctrines, such as saying that the devil would be saved, and be redeemed from the torments of hell, etc. Origen denied the correctness of these accusations, and withdrew to Caesarea in 231, where he was received with great honor by Theocrituis; for the churches of Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Achaia, which were too well informed regarding Origen, disapproved of this unrighteous sentence, in which envy, hierarchical arrogance, and blind zeal for orthodoxy joined. The Roman Church, always ready to anathematize, alone concurred, without further investigation. Jerome states that the proceedings of the councils were not due to any belief in Origen's guilt of heresy, but solely to jealousy of his eloquence and reputation.
While resident in Caesarea, Origen there opened a new philosophical and theological school, which soon outshine that of Alexandria. The Caesarean institution was resorted to by persons from the most distant places, who were anxious to hear his interpretations of the Scriptures. Among his disciples were several who afterwards rose to great eminence in the Church. With the death of Demetrius all opposition to Origen died out, and thereafter his advice was everywhere eagerly sought for. He was called into consultation in various ecclesiastical disputes, and had an extensive correspondence; even his personal attendance was frequently asked for. Thus Mammaea, mother of the emperor Alexander Severus, sent for him to Antioch, that she might converse with him on religion; and at a later period he had a correspondence with the emperor Philip and his wife Severa. The persecutions renewed under Maximin against the Christians, and particularly against priests and teachers caused Origen to retire into quiet for two years. When peace was restored by Gordian in 237, Origen availed himself of it to visit Greece. He remained for some time at Athens; and having returned to Caesarea he went at the request of the bishops of Arabia to take part in two synods held in that country. Here he enjoyed the success (rare, indeed, in religious controversy) of convincing his opponents: these were Beryllus, bishop of Bostra, in Arabia, who denied the pre-existence of Christ; and some who held that the soul dies with the body, to be revived with it at the resurrection. When about sixty years of age Origen permitted his discourses to be taken down in shorthand, and in this way over a thousand of his homilies were preserved. In the Decian persecution (A.D. 250) Origen was again imprisoned, endured great torture, and came near suffering martyrdom. He was, however, finally released, but died shortly after, some say at Tyre, in 253 or 254, probably in consequence of violence inflicted while in prison. He belongs, therefore, as Schaff has aptly said, "at least among the confessors, if not among the martyrs" (Ch. Hist. 1:504). His tomb, near the high-altar of the cathedral at Tyre, was shown for many centuries, until it was destroyed during the Crusades.
Origen is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable men among the ancient Christian writers. His talents, eloquence, and learning have been celebrated not only by Christian writers, but also by heathen philosophers, including Porphyry himself. Jerome calls him "a man of immortal genius, who understood logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, grammar, rhetoric, and all the sects of the philosophers, so that he was resorted to by many students of secular literature whom he received chiefly that he might embrace the opportunity of instructing them in the faith of Christ" (De Vir. Illust. c. 54). Elsewhere he calls him the greatest teacher since the apostles. We find this same Jerome, however, at a later period of his life violently attacking Origen, and approving of the persecution against his followers. "Origen," says Prof. Emerson (in the Biblical Repository, Jan. 1834, art. i, p. 47), "is one among the few who have graced the annals of our race, by standing up as a living definition of what is meant by a man of genius, learning, piety, and energy. All these he possessed in amiable combination. Any subject that was worth mastering he had mastered, and when he had done it would devote the acquisition to a specific purpose for which he sought it. Thus he learned music, philosophy, and heathen literature, that he might gain the esteem and win the souls of the devotees to such accomplishments. Thus he studied Hebrew, that he might impart the Scriptures and meet the Jews; and then he wrote commentaries without end. He pursued nothing without a design. The soul of man was his great object; the world was his theater; it was his purpose to make himself at home everywhere and in all things, that he might gain all men. Like the great apostle, we find him everywhere true to his purpose and prepared for his work: at Alexandria, in the school and amid its philosophers, and multifarious population; in Arabia, in Palestine, in Athens; among Christians and among heathen; among persecutors and heretics as well among friends. It was worse than in vain for opposition to do anything to such a man short of putting him to death. Drag him, half dead, to the heathen temple, and bid him distribute the emblems of heathen rites, and you hear him preaching Jesus to those who approach to grasp the sacred branches. Let Demetrius and his councils expel and expose him, he does but retire to Caesarea, where he opens a new school of greater numbers, and 'myriads' throng around him. He is the stamp of a truly great and good man. Sacrificed to the world in his youth, and the world to him, there remained nothing in the world to do except to kill him — and even this he courted, instead of dreading. He wished for no excuse to cease from his Christian toils; they were his meat and drink." Indeed, his whole life was occupied in writing and teaching, and principally in explaining the Scriptures. No man — certainly none in ancient times — did more to settle the true text of the sacred writings, and to spread them among the people; yet, whether from a defect in judgment or from a fault in his education, he applied to the Holy Scriptures the allegorical method which the Platonists used in interpreting the heathen mythology. He says himself that "the source of many evils is the adhering to the carnal or external part of Scripture. Those who do so shall not attain to the kingdom of God. Let us, therefore, seek after the spirit and the substantial fruit of the Word, which are hidden and mysterious." Again, "the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written." In the 4th century the writings of Origen led to violent controversies in the Church. Epiphanius, in a letter preserved by Jerome, enumerates eight erroneous opinions.
Works. — All the extant works of Origen have been very much corrupted, either intentionally or accidentally, by copyists and annotators, etc. The number of his works is stated by Epiphanius and Rufinus to have exceeded 6000, and although this is probably only meant as an exaggerated round number, yet. the amount of writings that issued from his always busy brain and hands cannot but have been enormous. Seven secretaries and seven copyists, aided by an uncertain number of young girls, are by Eusebi's reported to have been always at work for him. The great bulk of his works is lost; but among those that have survived the most important by far is his elaborate attempt to rectify the text of the Septuagint by collating it with the Hebrew original and other Greek versions. On this he spent twenty- eight years, during which he traveled through the East collecting materials. The form in which he first issued the result of his labors was that of the Tetrapla, which presented in four columns the texts of the Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus, and Thedotion. He next issued the Hexapla, in which the Hebrew text was given, first in Hebrew and then in Greek letters. Of some books he gave two additional Greek versions, whence the title Octapla; and there was even a seventh Greek version added for some books. The arrangement was in columns, in the following order: Hebrew in its proper characters; Hebrew in Greek characters; Aquila; Symmachus; Sept.; Theodotion; 5th version; 6th; 7th. Unhappily this great work, which extended to nearly fifty volumes, was never transcribed, and so perished. It had been placed in the library at Caesarea, and was still much used in the times of Jerome. It was probably destroyed by the Saracens in 653. Extracts from it, however, had been made, and of these some are preserved. They were collected by Montfaucon, entitled Hexaplorum quae supersum, multis partibu. auctiora, quam a Flaminio Nobilis et Jonne Drusio edita fueint. Ex MSS. et ex libris editis eruit et notis illustravit' D. Bernardus de. Montfaucon, Monachus Benedictinus (Paris, 1713, 2 vols. fol.). This edition was brought out in a revise by Bahrdt, entitled Hexaplorum Origenis quae supersunt. Edidit, notisque illustravit C. F. Bahrdt (Leips. 1769-70, 2.Yols.8vo), A few additions have been made to this collection since by various editors. Had this great work been preserved, it would have done more for the criticism of the Bible than Origen's exegetical works have done for its interpretation; for though at first he followed the grammatico-historical method of interpretation, he soon abandoned it for the allegorical, in which he indulged to a pernicious extent. We think Waddington (Eccles. Hist.) has best estimated Origen: "His works exhibit the operation of a bold and comprehensive mind, burning with religious warmth, unrestrained by any low prejudices or interests, and sincerely bent on the attainment of truth. In the main plan and outline of his course he seized the means best calculated to his object; for his principal labors were directed to the collection of correct copies of the Holy Scriptures, to their strict and faithful translation; to the explanation of their numerous difficulties. In the first two of these objects he was singularly successful; but in the accomplishment of the last part of his noble scheme the heat of his imagination and his attachment to philosophical speculation carried him away into error and absurdity; for he applied to the explanation of the Old Testament the same fanciful method of allegory by which the Platonists were accustomed to veil the fabulous history of their gods. This error, so fascinating to the loose imagination of the East, was rapidly propagated by numerous disciples, and became the foundation of that doubtful system of theology called philosophical or scholastic." (See ORIGENISTS).
1. Origen's commentaries covered almost all the books of the Old and New Testaments, and contained a vast wealth of profound suggestions, with the most arbitrary allegorical and mystic fancies. They were of three kinds:
(a) Short notes on single difficult passages for beginners; all these are lost.
(b) Extended expositions of whole books, for higher scientific study; of these we have a number in the original.
(c) Hortatory or practical applications of Scripture for the congregation ( ῾Ομιλίαι ), which are important also to the history of pulpit oratory.
But we have them only in part, as translated by Jerome and Rufinus, with many unscrupulous retrenchments and additions, which perplex and are apt to mislead investigators.
2. Next to his Biblical works stand his apologetic and polemic works. Of these, the Κατὰ Κέλσου τόμαι ή, or in Latin entitled ‘Contra Celsum (libri 8), which is a refutation of Celsus, (q.v.), or, better, Origen's defense of the Christian faith against the objections of that Platonist, in eight books; written in his old age, about 249, is preserved complete in the original, and is one of the ripest and most valuable productions of Origen, and of the whole ancient apologetic literature. It exists also in an English version, entitled Origen against Celsus, translated from the originial into English by James Bellamy, Gent. (Lond. 8vo, n. d.). His other and quite numerous polemic writings against heretics are all gone.
3. Of Origen's dogmatic writings we have, though only in the inaccurate Latin translation of Rufinus, his juvenile production, Περὶ ἀρχῶν (De Principiis), on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, in four books. This was the first attempt in the Christian Church at a complete dogmatic; but it is full of the author's peculiar Platonizing and Gnosticizing errors, some of which he retracted in his riper years. Before Origen there existed no system of Christian doctrine. The beginnings of a systematic presentation were contained in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The necessity of reducing the teachings of the Bible and the doctrines developed in the course of controversies against heretics and non-Christians to a systematic form was first felt by the teachers in the school for catechists, and they, in going to work to meet this necessity, were guided by the baptismal confession and the Regula Fidei. In the writings of Clement the subjects of his Gnosis are loosely combined, and the treatises disclose no plan followed in detail; they are only labors preparatory to a system. Setting out with these materials, Origen laid the foundation of a regular system of Christian dogmas. Yet his order was not very exact, and the gain of a systematic doctrinal form was not secured without material loss. The doctrine relating to the premundane existence of God, being placed first in the regular scholastic order, concealed those living germs seated in man's religious feeling or contained in the history of religion, which might otherwise have influenced beneficially the historical development of Christian doctrine; and the doctrine of Soteriology was left comparatively undeveloped. Origen says, "The apostles taught only what was necessary; many doctrines were not announced by them with perfect distinctness; they left the more precise determination and demonstration of many dogmas to the disciples of science, who were to build up a scientific system on the basis of the given articles of faith" (De Princ. Praef. p. 3.sq.).
The principle that a systematic exposition shall begin with the consideration of that which is naturally first is expressly announced by Origen (Tom. in Joan. 10:178), where, in an allegorical interpretation of the eating of fishes, he says "In eating, one should begin with the head, he should set it from the highest and most fundamental dogmas concerning the heavenly, and should stop with the feet, he should end with those doctrines which related that realm of existence which is farthest removed from the heavenly source, whether it be that which is most material or to the subterranean, or to the evil spirits and impure daemons." The order of presentation in the four books respecting fundamental doctrines is (according to the outline given by Redepenning (Orig. 2:276) as follows: "At the commencement is placed the doctrine of God, the eternal source of all existence, as a point of departure for an exposition in which the knowledge of the essence of God, and of the unfoldings of that essence, leads on to the genesis of the eternals in the world, viz. the created spirits, whose fall first occasioned the creation of the coarser material world. This material is without difficulty arranged around the ecclesiastical doctrines of the Father, Son, and Spirit, of the creation, the angels, and the fall of man. All this is contained in the first book of Origen's work on fundamental doctrines. In the second book we set foot upon the earth as it is new we see it arising out of the ante- mundane though not absolutely eternal matter, in time, in which it is to lead its changing existence until the restoration and emancipation of the fallen spirits; Into this world comes the Son of God, sent by the God of the Old Testament, who is no other than the Father of Jesus Christ; we learn of the incarnation of the Son, of the Holy Ghost as he goes forth from the Son to enter into the hearts of men, of the pyschical in man as distinct from the purely spiritual in him, of the purification and restoration of the physical man by judgment and punishment, and of eternal salvation. In virtue of the inalienable freedom belonging to the spirit, it fights its way upward in the face of evil powers of the spiritual world and against temptations from within, supported by Christ himself, and by the means of grace, i.e. by all the gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost. This freedom, and the process by which man becomes free, are described in the third book. The fourth book is distinct from the rest and independent, as containing the basis on which the doctrine of the preceding books rests, viz., the revelation made by the Holy Scriptures" (whereas later dogmatists have been accustomed to place the doctrine before the other contents of the system).
4. Among Origen's practical works are specially noteworthy his treatise on prayer, with an exposition of the Lord's Prayer, and exhortation to martyrdom. It was written during the persecution of Maximinus. Besides these works, Origen wrote many letters, Ε᾿πιστολαί (Epistoli), of which Eusebius collected over eight hundred. We have, too, a few fragments of answer to Julius Africanis on the authenticity of the history of Susanna. Delarue has given (1:1-32), whether complete or fragmentary, all that remains of them. Among the works of Origen is also usually inserted the Philocalia (Φιλοκαλία ), a collection of extracts from his writings on various exegetical questions. The compilation was made, however, by Gregory of Nazianizum and Basil the Great. It is entitled Philocalia, de obscuris S. Scripturae locis, a SS. PP. Basilio Magno et Gregorio theologo, ex va-iis ‘Oregenis comnmenfaiis excerpta, Omnia nunc'primum Greece edita, ex Bibliotheca Regia, opere et studio Jo. Tarini, Andegavi,: qui et Latine fecit et notis illustravit (Paris, 1619' 4to).
The completest edition of Origen's works has been published under the style, Opera omnian quae Greece vel Latine tantun extanu t et ejus nomine circumferuntur, ex variis editionibus et codicibus nmanu exaratis, Gallicanis, Italicis, Germanicis, et Anglicis, collecta, recensita, Latine versa, atque annotatiosnibus illustrata, curm copiosis indicibus, vita auctoris, et multis- dissertationibus. Opere et studio Domini Caroli Delarue, Presbyteri et Monachi Benedictini b Congregatione S. Mauri (Paris, 1733-59, 4 vols. fol.); but a more critical edition is that entitled, Opera omniza quac Grece vel Latine tanztui extant. Edidit C. H. E. Lommatzsch (Berlin, 1831-48, 25 vols. 8vo). 'Other good editions are: Opera [Latine, studio J. Merlini] (Paris,: 1512, 4 vols. fol.); Contra Celsum, libri viii, Ejusdem Philocalia, Gr. et' Lat. cum annotatiouibus Gul.' Spenceri (Cantab. 1658, 4to; reprinted 1677).
Doctrines — Ecclesiastical history, as Fabricius observes, cannot furnish another instance of a man who has been so famous through good report and ill report as Origen. The quarrels and disputes which arose in the Church after his death, on account of his person and writings, seem scarcely credible to any who have not examined the history of those tirmes. The universal Church was split into two parties; and these parties fought as furiously for and against Origen as if the Christian religion had itself been at stake. (See ORIGENIAN CONTROVERSY).
Huetius has employed the second book of his Origeniana, which consists of above 200 pages in folio, in pointing out and adverting on such dogmas of this illustrious father as are either quite inexcusable or very exceptionable. Cave (Hist. Liter. Oxon. 1740) has collected within a short compass the principal tenets which rendered him obnoxious; and thence we learn that Origen was accused of maintaining different degrees of dignity among the persons of the Holy Trinity; as that the Son was inferior to the Father, and the Holy Spirit inferior to both, in the same manner as rays emitted from the sun are inferior in dignity to the sun himself; that the death of Christ was advantageous, not to men only, but to angels, devils, nay, even to the stars and other insensible things, which he supposed to be possessed of a rational soul, and therefore to be capable of sin; that all rational natures, whether devils, human souls, or any other, were created by God from eternity, and were originally pure intelligences, but afterwards, according to the various use of their free will, dispersed among the various orders of angels, men, or devils; that angels and other supernatural beings were clothed with subtle and ethereal bodies, which consisted of matter, although in comparison with our grosser bodies they may be called incorporeal and spiritual; that the souls of all rational beings, after putting off one state, pass into another, either superior or inferior, according to their respective behavior; and that thus, by a kind of perpetual transmigration, one and the same soul may successively, and even often, pass through all the orders of rational beings; that hence the souls of men were thrust into the prison of bodies for offenses committed in some former state, and that when loosed from hence they will become either angels or devils, as they shall have deserved; that, however, neither the punishment of men or devils, nor the joys of the saints, shall be eternal, but that all shall return to their original state of pure intelligences, to begin the same round again, and so on forever. Says Schaff (Ch. Hist. 1:270): "Origen felt the whole weight of the Christological and Trinitarian question, but obscured it by his foreign speculations and wavered between the homoousian, or orthodox, and the subordination theories, which afterwards came into sharp conflict with each other in the Arian controversy. On the one hand he brings the Son as near as possible to the essence of the Father; not only making him the absolute personal wisdom, truth, righteousness, reason (αὐτοσοφία, αὐτοαλήθεια, αὐτοδιχαιοσύνη, αὐτοδύναμις, αὐτόλογος, etc.), but also expressly predicating eternity of him, and propounding the Church dogma of the eternal generation of the Son. This generation he usually represents as proceeding from the Will of the Father; but he also conceives it as proceeding from his essence; and hence, at least in one passage, in a fragment on the Epistle to the Hebrews, he already applies the term ὁμοούσιος to the Son, thus declaring him coequal in substance with the Father. This idea of eternal generation, however, has a peculiar form in him, from its close connection with his doctrine of an eternal creation.
He can no more think of the Father without the Son, than of an almighty God without creation, or of light without radiance (De Princip. iv,28: 'Sicit lux numquam 'msine splendore esse potuit' ita nec Filius quidem sine Patre intelligi potest'). Hence he describes this generation not as a single, instantaneous act, but, like creation, ever going on. But on the other hand he distinguishes the essence of the Son from that of the Father; speaks of a difference of substance (ἑτερότης τῆς οὐσίας,or τοῦ ὑποκειμενου which the advocates of his orthodoxy, probably without reason, take as merely opposing the Patripassian conception of the ὁμουσία ); and makes the Son decidedly inferior to the Father, calling him, with reference to John 1:1 merely θεός without the article, that is God in a relative sense (Deus de Deo), also δεύτερος θεός, but the Father God in the absolute sense, ὁ θεός (Deus per se), or αὐτόθεος , also the fountain and root of the divinity (πηγή, ῥίζα τῆς θεότητος ). Hence he also taught that the Son should not be directly addressed in prayer, but the Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost. This must be limited, no doubt, to absolute worship, for he elsewhere recognizes prayer to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. Yet this subordination of the Son formed a stepping-stone to Arianism, and some disciples of Origen, particularly Dionysius of Alexandria, decidedly approached that heresy."
"In his Pneumatology," says Schaff, "Origen vacillates still more than in his Christology between orthodox and heterodox views. He ascribes to the Holy Ghost eternal existence, exalts him, as he does the Son, far above all creatures, and considers him the source of all charisms (not as ὕλη τῶν χαρισμάτων , as Neander and others represent it, but as ν ὕλην τῶν χαρισμ . παρέχον, as offering the substance and fullness of the spiritual gifts; therefore as the ἀρχή and πηγή of them [In Joh, ii, § 6].), especially as the principle of all the illumination and holiness of believers under the Old Covenant and the New. But he places the Spirit in essence, dignity, and efficiency below the Son, has far as he places the Son below the Father; and though he grants in one passage (De Princip. 1:3, 3) that the Bible nowhere calls the Holy Ghost a creature, yet, according to another somewhat obscure sentence, he himself inclines towards the view, which, however, he does not avow, that the Holy Ghost had a beginning (though, according to his system, not in time but from eternity), and is the first and most excellent of all the beings produced by the Logos (In Joh. ii, § 6: Τιμιώτερον — this comparative, by the way, should be noticed as possibly saying more than the superlative, and perhaps designed to distinguish the Spirit from all creatures- πάντων τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς διὰ Χριστοῦγεγεννημένων ). In the same connection he adduces three opinions concerning the Holy Ghost: one, regarding him as not having an origin; another, ascribing to him no separate personality; and a third, making him a being originated by the Logos. The first of these opinions he rejects, because the Father alone is without origin (ἀγέννητος ) thoc); the second he rejects, because in Matthew 12:32 the Spirit is plainly distinguished from the Father, and the Son; the third he takes for the true and scriptural view, because everything was made by the Logos (according to John 1:3). Indeed, according to Matthew 12:32, the Holy Ghost would seem to stand above the Son; but the sin against the Holy Ghost is more heinous than that against the Son of Man only because he who has received the Holy Ghost stands higher than he who has merely the reason from the Logos" (Ch. Hist. 1:280).
These errors, and others connected with and flowing from these, together with that "furor allegoricus" above mentioned, which pushed him on to turn even the whole law and Gospel into allegory, are the foundation of all that enmity which has been conceived against Origen, and of all those anathemas with which he has been loaded. His damnation by Romanists has been often decreed in form; and it has been deemed heretical even to suppose him saved. John Picus, earl of Mirandula, having published at Rome, among his 900 propositions, that it is more reasonable to believe Origen saved than damned, the masters indivinity censured him for it, asserting that his proposition was rash, blamable, favoring of heresy, and contrary to the determination of the Catholic Church. This is what Picus himself relates in his Apolog. c. 7.
Stephen Binct, a Jesuit, published a book at Paris in 1629, concerning the salvation of Origen, in which he took the affirmative side of the question, but not without diffidence and fear. This work is written in the form of a trial; witnesses are introduced and depositions taken, and the cause is fully pleaded pro and con. The witnesses for Origen are Merlin, Erasmus, Genebrard, and Picus of Mirandula: after this, cardinal Baronius, in the name of Bellarmine, and of all who are against Origen, makes a speech to demand the condemnation of the accused. After having expatiated on Origen's heresies, the cardinal adds "Must I at last be reduced to such an extremity as to be obliged to open the gates of hell, in order to show that Origen is there? otherwise men will not believe it. Would it not be enough to have laid before you his crime, his unfortunate end, the sentence of his condemnation delivered by the emperors, by the popes, by the saints, by the fifth general council, not to mention others, and almost by the mouth of God himself? Yet, since there is no other method left but descending into hell and showing there that reprobate, that damned Origen, come, gentlemen, I am determined to do it, in order to carry this matter to the highest degree of evidence: let us, in God's name, go down into hell to see whether he really be there or not, and to decide the question at once."
The seventh general council has quoted from the Platum Spirituale (Baron. Annal. ad ann. 532), and by quoting it has declared it to be of sufficient authority to furnish us with good and lawful proofs to support the determination of the council with regard to Origen. "Why should not we, after the example of that council, make use of the same book to determine this controversy, which besides is already but too much cleared up and decided? It is said there that a man being in great perplexity about the salvation of Origen, after the fervent prayers of a holy old man, saw plainly, as it were, a kind of hell open; and, looking in, observed the heresiarchs, who were all named to him one after another by their own names; and in the midst of them he saw Origen, who was there damned among the others, loaded with horror, flames, and confusion."
Protestants have always revered his memory. The orthodox and heterodox have frequently quarreled over his relative position in the Church. It would be difficult for us to determine his relation to the Church at large better than it has already been done by Dr. Schaff. We therefore prefer to let this learned Church historian speak. "Origen," says Schaff, "was the greatest scholar of his age, and the most learned and genial of all the ante-Nicene fathers. Even heathens and heretics admired or feared his brilliant talents. His knowledge embraced all departments of the philology, philosophy, and theology of his day. With this he united profound and fertile thought, keen penetration, and glowing imagination. As a true divine, he consecrated all his studies by prayer, and turned them, according to his best convictions, to the service of truth and piety. It is impossible to deny a respectful sympathy to this extraordinary man, who, with all his brilliant talents and a host of enthusiastic friends and admirers, was driven from his country, stripped of his sacred office, excommunicated from a part of the Church, then thrown into a dungeon, loaded with chains, racked by torture, doomed to drag his aged frame and dislocated limbs in pain and poverty, and long after his death to have his memory branded, his name anathematized, and his salvation denied; but who nevertheless did more than all his enemies combined to advance the cause of sacred learning, to refute and convert heathens and heretics, and to make the Church respected in the eyes of the world. Origen may be called in many respects the Schleirmacher of the Greek Church. He was a guide from the heathen philosophy and the heretical Gnosis to the Christian faith. He exerted an immeasurable influence in stimulating the development of the catholic theology and forming the great Nicene fathers, Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, Hilary, and Ambrose, who consequently, in spite of all his Deviations, set great value on his services. But his best disciples proved unfaithful to many of his most peculiar views, and adhered far more to the reigning faith of the Church. For, and in this, too, he is like Schleiermacher — he can by no means be called orthodox, either in the Catholic or in the Protestant sense. His leaning to idealism, his predilection for Plato, and his noble effort to reconcile Christianity with reason. and to commend it even to educated heathens and Gnostics, led him into many grand and fascinating errors" (Ch. Hist. 1:504, 505). "Christian science," says Pressense (Heresy and Christian Martyrs, p. 297 sq.), "is in Origen's view the full faith or knowledge, which rises to the direct contemplation of its object. and ascends from the visible Christ, 'known after the flesh,' to the Eternal Word. He falls into the same error as Clement in thinking too lightly of the foundation of this transcendent knowledge that historical Gospel which is the very substance of the truths and in treating the letter of the Scriptures as a seal that needs to be broken.
It remains none the less true that speculation is never with him a mere mental feat; that it is rather the aspiration of the entire being after the living and complete possession of the truth. Origen spoke the philosophical language, of his time. He resolutely dealt with the problems which occupied the minds of his contemporaries. In order rightly to estimate and understand him, we must bear constantly in mind that sublime and subtle pantheism which was the primary inspiration both of Valentinian Gnosticism and of Platonism. If his mind frequently forsakes the solid ground of psychological observation and exact history, to soar into vague regions which are neither heaven nor earth, it is because he is desirous to occupy a sphere as wide as that of his adversaries. Anxious to excel them in science no less than in faith he will not abandon to them any vantage ground. Like them, he peoples the infinite void with the creations of his imagination. To the AEons he opposes good and bad angels; he does not hesitate to invent a sort of mythology, of which the inspiration is Christian, but which in its bold additions to the positive statements of revelation necessarily becomes visionary. Herein is not the strength and beauty of his system. These are found in that bold vindication of liberty which is its central and vital principle. It may be said that the vast theological edifice reared by him is, as it were, the temple of liberty.
Liberty is its foundation and its topstone; nay, it is more, it is the animating soul of the whole doctrine taught therein. Pantheistic naturalism had struck the whole world with a death chill. Origen reawakened it with the breath of liberty, restored it to life, and snatched it from the petrfying grasp of fatalism. In the boldness of his thought he denies the existence of necessity altogether. All the phenomena of the material world are free acts. Bodies owe their existence to the motions of the will. If matter gravitates or ascends, it is not by a simple physical law, but is connected with moral action. Liberty is the explanation of all things. The great merit of Origen is his endeavor to trace back all the diversity of things to one and the same idea. Unhappily his conception of liberty was incomplete, and his error on this fundamental point produced results all the more serious because of the close logical coherence of his system." "But such a man might in such an age," says Schaff, "hold heretical opinions without being a heretic. For Origen propounded his views always with modesty, and from sincere conviction of their agreement with Scripture, and that in a time when the Christian doctrine was as yet very indefinite in many points." For this reason even unprejudiced Roman divines, such as Tillemont and Mohler, have shown Origen the greatest respect and leniency; a fact the more to be commended, since the Romish Church has steadily refused him, as well as Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, a place among the saints and the fathers in the stricter sense. See Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. bk. 6:1-6 et pass.; Hieronymus, Cat. c. liv, and Ep. 29, 41; Gregorius Thaumat. Oratio panegyrica in Ori.qenenm; Pamphilus, Apologia Orig. (all in the last vol. of Delarue); Huetius, Origeniana (Par. 1679, 2 vols.); Lardner, Credibility, pt. ii, ch. 38; Thomasius, Origenes, ein Beitrag z. Dogmengeschichte (Nuremberg, 18-37); Ritter, Gesch. d. christlichen Philosophie, I, 465 sq.; Baur, Gesch. d. Dreieinigkeitslehre, 1:186-243, 560566; Meier, Trinitatslehre; Dr. Kahnis, Monographie (1847); Mohler, Patrologie; Alzog, Patrologie, § 33, 34;.and especially Redepenning, Origenes, eine Darstellungs. Lebens u. s. Lehre (1841-1846, 2-vols.). See also Schaff, Ch. Hist. i, 501-509 et pass.; Neander, Ch. Hist. 1:693 sq., et pass.; id. Dognzaf, p. 21 sq.; Pressense, Early Years of Christianity Heresy and Doctrine, bk. ii, ch. iv; Martyrs. and Apologists, bk. ii, ch. ii, § ii); Killen, Anc, Ch. p. 375 sq.; Hagenbach, Gesch. der ersten 3 Jahrh. — ch. xiii, xiv.; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. vol. i; Bohringeri Kiircheiiesch. 1:104 sq.; Hagenbach, Hist. Doctrines (see Index in vol. ii); Sefirockh, Kirchengesch. 4:29 sq. —; Guericke, Ch. Hist. 1:104 sq.; Alzog, Kirchengesch. vol, i; Neale Hist. East. Ch. (Patriarchate. of Alexatdna;, bk.i,-§ 53)-; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biogr. and Mythol.; v.; Farrar, Crit. Hist. of Free Thought, p. 50 sq.,; 285, 404, 457, 460; Ueberweg, Hist. Philos. 1:315 sq.; Donaldson, Literature (see Index in vol. ii); Tillemont, — Memoires Eccles.; Ceillier, Hist. des Auteurs Eccles. 2:130 sq.; Rust, Origen and his Chief Opponents; Taughn's Life and Writings of Origen; Bampton Lectures, 1813, 1824,-1829, 1839; Amer. Bibl. Repos. 4:833 sq.' Bib.Sac. 2:378 sq.; Brit. Qu. Rev. 2:491 sq.; Christian Examiner, 10:306; 11:22; Meth. Qu. Rev. 11:645; Lond. Qu. Rev. July, 1851; Amer. Ch. Rev. Oct. 1868; Mercersburg Rev. Oct. 1871, art. ii; Univ. Qu. April, 1874, art. vii; April, 1875, art. iv.
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Origen'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/o/origen.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26