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" Of whom the world was not worthy." — Heb. xi. 38.
" Of whom the world was not worthy." — Heb. xi. 38.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Sep 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ORIGE.R. H. CHARLES" Of whom the world was not worthy." — Heb. xi. 38.MY subject this afternoon is the Christian Scholar,and, naturally, as the typical scholar of theEarly Church I have chosen Origen. Origen, or to givehim his full name, Origen Adamantius, was probablyborn at Alexandria in the year 185. His father was aGreek named Leonides ; his mother was possibly of Jewish descent. Leonides had his son carefully educatedin the ordinary subjects of instruction in the schoolsof Alexandria, and especially in the Scriptures of theOld and ew Testaments. In the course of his educa-tion Leonides was both perplexed and astonished atthe boy's strong intelligence and piercing insight ; hewas great from the cradle onwards, and his transmittedworks exhibit an amazing range of intellectual activity ;for he was the first great scholar of the Christian Church,its first great preacher, its first great commentator,its first great devotional writer, and its first greattheologian. Indeed, before Origen's time the Churchhad no definite system of theology. He was the founderof a theology which was brought to perfection in the187i88 THE ADVETURE ITO THE UKOWfourth and fifth centuries — a theology which, thoughstill bearing the mark of his genius, disowned underobscurantist influences its author in the sixth.In dealing, therefore, with such a great man, the
greatest amongst the Fathers of the Early Church, it isobvious that only certain aspects of the subject canbe touched upon, and these only in the most superficialway.Whatever else may be omitted we cannot omit ashort account of Origen's life, as this furnishes the bestkey to understanding the man and his writings.When Origen reached the age of seventeen a fiercepersecution of the Church burst out in Alexandria, andOrigen's father, Leonides, was thrown into prison. Theenthusiastic youth sought to stand by his father's sideand witness for the truth by his death, and was onlyprevented from doing so by a homely device of hismother. Debarred from sharing in his father's approach-ing martyrdom, he addressed a letter to him in prison — a letter still extant in the time of Eusebius — in whichhe besought his father to allow no anxiety for his familyto weaken his resolve. And so Leonides sufferedmartyrdom, his property was confiscated, and on theyouthful shoulders of Origen fell the task of supportinghis mother and his six younger brothers. His attain-ments in the field of knowledge were already so greatat the age of eighteen, that he was asked to be the headof the Christian school in Alexandria, and his appoint-ment was formally confirmed shortly afterwards byDemetrius the bishop.ORIGE 189The appointment of a layman to the headship of thetheological school or college of Alexandria is an illustra-tion of the freedom enjoyed in this respect by the EarlyChurch — a freedom which it is to be hoped we shall inmany matters recover.In these early years, like many another enthusiast,
he flung himself into asceticism. This was the time of his bondage to the letter of Scripture, and so he resolvedto carry out absolutely and literally the precept of Christ," Get you no gold nor silver in your purses : . . . neithertwo coats, nor shoes." Accordingly he sold all his MSS.for an annuity of six obols a day, wore only a singlerobe, discarded shoes and sandals, slept on the bareground, and, owing to a still more grievous misinterpreta-tion of Christ's words, went so far as to mutilate himself that he might escape the lusts of the flesh and work henceforth untrammelled and outside the range of temptations of the flesh. This act of self-mutilation,which was practised by the devotees of certain heathenreligions, was against the civil law, and against theright instincts of the Early Church, which afterwardsfound expression in a Canon of the Council of icsea.In after years Origen bitterly regretted this act as dueto an utter misconception of the teaching of Christ.A martyr's son, Origen breathed a martyr's spiritinto his pupils, and some of them at least perished assuch. It is marvellous how he escaped the same fateduring the early persecutions ; for he visited the faithfulin prison, and acted as their advocate before the heathentribunals.igo THE ADVETURE ITO THE UKOWFor over twelve years Origen carried on successfullyhis studies and lectures. This was a most productiveperiod ; for during it his great textual work on the OldTestament, the Hexapla, was begun. The Hexaplaconsisted of the Hebrew text and five Greek versionsall arranged in parallel columns. This was the firstgreat achievement of Christian erudition, but unhappilyit was for the most part destroyed during the Arabinvasion of Egypt. But even the surviving fragmentsof this great work are of priceless value to scholars,

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