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Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism

Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism

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by Ilaria Ramelli
by Ilaria Ramelli

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Published by: akimel on Dec 26, 2013
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© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/157007207X186051
Vigiliae Christianae 61 (2007) 313 -356 
www.brill.nl/vc
VigiliaeChristianae
 Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Biblical and Philosophical Basis of the Doctrine of Apokatastasis
1
Ilaria L.E. Ramelli
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Milan, Italy ilaria.ramelli@virgilio.it 
 Abstract
Paul’s statement that God will be all in all and other N and O passages are taken by Origen and by Gregory of Nyssa as the scriptural basis of their eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis and eventual universal salvation. At the same time, their doctrine rests (1) on philosophical arguments mainly deriving from Platonism (Gregory’s
De anima et resurrectione 
 is deeply influenced by Platonism both in form and in content, and so is Origen, although both are Christians first and Platonists second), and (2) on the alle-gorical exegesis of Scripture, another heritage of Hellenistic culture: Origen was very well acquainted with the Stoic and Platonic allegorical interpretations of Greek myths.
Keywords
allegory, relationship between philosophy and Christianity, doctrine of evil, purification of the soul, resurrection, eschatology
Te structure of the argument that I shall endeavour to develop is the fol-lowing: (1) Paul’s statement that God will be all in all and other N and O passages are taken by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa as the scriptural basis of their eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis and eventual univer-sal salvation. (2) Tis biblical foundation often passes through the alle-
1)
 Tis paper was originally delivered at the SBL Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 19-22 November 2005, Unit:
Corpus Hellenisticum Novi estamenti 
. I am very grateful to the participants who, with their questions, contributed to its improvement, especially Margaret Mitchell, and to all those who read it, often offering valuable comments, Loveday Alexan-der, Francesca Calabi, David Konstan, Judith Kovacs, Judith Perkins, Roberto Radice, David Runia.
 
314
I.L.E. Ramelli / Vigiliae Christianae 61 (2007) 313 -356 
gorical exegesis of Scripture, a significant heritage of Hellenistic culture: Origen was very well acquainted with the Stoic and Platonic allegorical interpretations of Greek myths, already applied to the Bible by Philo and Clement of Alexandria. (3) At the same time, their doctrine rests on philo-sophical arguments mainly deriving from Platonism, an even weightier heritage of Hellenistic culture: e.g. Gregory’s
De anima et resurrectione 
 is deeply influenced by Platonism both in form and in content, and so is Origen, especially in his
De principiis 
, although both are Christians first and Platonists second.
1. Te Scriptural Foundation of Apokatastasis in Origen and Gregory
Origens exposition of the doctrine of apokatastasis, especially in
De prin-cipiis 
, but also elsewhere, is always supported by scriptural quotations, and his arguments are grounded in the Bible and structured around it, in an intimate logical relationship. Many of his arguments and quotations confirming them will be taken up by Gregory of Nyssa.
2
 Among all scriptural evidence, 1Cor 15:21-28 seems to be absolutely essential in Origen’s view—as it will later be in Gregory’s—and, whenever he discusses apokatastasis, it is often quoted, both entirely and partially, in particular in the final statement, that « God will be all in all ».
3
 Tis is
2)
 See my essay on the apokatastasis in Origen and Gregory in my
Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione 
, Milan 2007; history of the apokatastasis in my
 Apocatastasi 
, forthcoming in Milan. Te bibliography on this subject, especially for Origen, would be impressively wide: I refer to my book for complete documentation; here I only mention e.g.  W. van Laak,
 Allversöhnung 
, Sinzig 1990 for Origen, and M. Ludlow,
Universal Salvation
, Oxford 2000, for Gregory; also C. Lenz, “Apokatastasis,” in
Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum
, I, Stuttgart 1950, 510-516; R. Parry–C. Partridge, eds.,
Universal Salvation? 
, Carlisle 2003 with my review in
Stylos 
 14 (2005) 206-208, and some recent entries by L.-F. Mateo-Seco in
Diccionario de san Gregorio de Nisa 
, eds. Id.–G. Maspero, Burgos 2006 (of which an enriched English edition is also expected to appear): “Escatología,” 357-378; “Purificación ultraterrena,” 765-769; “Soteriología,” 803-812; P. zamalikos,
Origen: Phi-losophy of History and Eschatology 
, Leiden 2007.
3)
 On early Christian interpretation of 1Cor, including this very important passage, now see J.L. Kovacs,
1 Corinthians Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators 
, Grand Rapids 2005, 233-260 (my review in
 Archaeus 
 10,3 [2006] 166-167); see also E. Schendel,
Herrschaft und Unterwerfung Christi. 1.Korinther 15,24-28 in Exegese und Teologie der Väter bis zum Ausgang des 4. Jahrhunderts 
, übingen 1971,
 praes.
 81-110 on Origen; on Origen’s interpretation of 1Cor 15 see J. Rius-Camps, “La hipótesis origeniana sobre el fin
 
 I.L.E. Ramelli / Vigiliae Christianae 61 (2007) 313 -356
315
extremely important for Origen’s contention, because it is connected with the final elimination of evil, an assumption that turns out to be completely consistent with his metaphysical doctrine of the non-substantiality of evil from the ontological point of view.
4
 In 3,6,2-3 Origen reflects on 1Cor 15, 28 and draws some consequences from it: « When God becomes “all in all”, we cannot admit evil, lest God may be found in evil. Tat God is said to be all in all” means that he is all also in each individual . . . in the sense that everything the rational intelligence, freed from any dirtiness of sin and purified from any taint of evil, will be able to perceive, to grasp and to think,
all this will be God 
 . . ., and so God will be all for this intelligence . . ., because evil will not exist any more: for such intelligence, God, not touched by evil, is all . . . After removing every sense of evil, only he who is the sole good God will become all for the creature returned to a state of soundness and purity . . . and
not only in few or in many, but in all God will be al
, when at last there will be no more death, nor death’s sting, nor evil, most definitely: then God will truly be
all in all
». Here, as he often does else-where, Origen even offers a quotation inside another: death’s sting, which is sin, is a reminiscence of 1Cor 15:55-56.
5
In the same passage of 1Cor 15:15-28, Christ’s victory over his enemies is repeatedly mentioned, especially in vv. 24-27: this is another point taken by Origen as important evidence of the doctrine of universal apokatastasis. In v. 25,
δεῖ
 
γὰρ
 
αὐτὸν
 
βασιλεύειν
 
ἄχρι
 
οὗ
 
θῇ
 
πάντας
 
τοὺς
 
ἐχθροὺς
 
ὑπὸ
 
τὰς
 
πόδας
 
αὐτοῦ
, there is a quotation of Ps 109:1 LXX [110:1 Hebr.] (quoted in turn in Heb 10:13),
6
 
Sede ad dexteram meam
 . . ., where the dignity of the throne is connected to victory over enemies, which is achieved by the Lord for « my Lord » (
dixit Dominus Domino meo . . .
); in v. 27 the concept is repeated and strengthened:
πάντα
 
γὰρ
 
ὑπέταξεν
 
ὑπὸ
 
τοὺς
 
último,” in
 Arché e elos. L’antropologia di Origene e di Gregorio di Nissa 
, eds. U. Bianchi–H. Crouzel, Milano 1981, 58-117; H. Crouzel, “Quand le Fils transmet le Royaume à Dieu son Père,”
Studia Missionalia 
 33 (1984) 359-384; R. Roukema, “La résurrection des morts dans l’interprétation origénienne de 1 Corinthiens 15,” in
La résurrection chez les Pères 
, Stras-bourg-urnhout 2003, 161-177,
 praes.
 166-169 on 1Cor 15:24-28.
4)
 For this central doctrine in Origen and Gregory see, with ample documentation, the philosophical essay in my
Gregorio di Nissa 
; a synthesis is to be found in A.A. Mosshammer, “Mal,” in
Diccionario de san Gregorio
, 583-591.
5)
 
Ποῦ
 
σου
,
θάνατε
,
τὸ
 
κεντρον
;
Τὸ
 
δὲ
 
κέντρον
 
τοῦ
 
θανάτου
 
 
ἁμαρτία
.
6)
 Cf. my “Hebrews 10:13, the Eventual Elimination of Evil and the Apokatastasis: Ori-gen’s Interpretation,” in
Te Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Teology. International Conference, July 18-22 St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews 
, forthcoming.

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