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The Sacred Page Podcast on Origen

The Sacred Page Podcast on Origen

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Published by Michael Barber
An overview of Origen's thought by Michael Barber, Ph.D.
An overview of Origen's thought by Michael Barber, Ph.D.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Michael Barber on Jun 18, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Michael Barber, Ph.D. / John Paul the Great Catholic University © 2011
 www.JPCatholic.com/ www.TheSacredPage.com/ email:mpsbarber@yahoo.com
 Origen (
. 185–254)
Eusebius devotes almost all of book 6 of his
 Ecclesiastical History
to Origen2.
Born in Egypt3.
Highly educated4.
Beloved father, Leonides, martyred (wrote letter exhorting him to martyrdom)5.
Studied under Clement6.
Followed as leader of school of Alexandria (at age 18!)7.
Popularity: Thousands flocked to hear him teach
Holiness: Led ascetic lifestyle—sometime to the extremes (e.g., castration)!
 Accordingly it seems to me that one who is about to enter upon prayer ought first to have pausedawhile and prepared himself to engage in prayer throughout more earnestly and intently, to havecast aside every distraction and confusion of thought, to have bethought him to the best of hisability of the greatness of Him whom he is approaching and of the impiety of approaching Himfrivolously and carelessly and, as it were, in contempt, and to have put away everything alien.—Origen,
On Prayer,
Banished by Bishop Demetrius after being ordained in Caesareaa.
Demetrius disapproved of his being allowed to preach there without ordersb.
Caesareans hoped ordination would please Demetriusc.
Demetrius was further upsetd.
Castration rendered him unfit for ordinatione.
 Jerome insists banishment (two synods) was not due to his doctrine!
Philosophical: Heavily influenced by Plato11.
Scholarship: Studied Hebrew and consulted with rabbis over difficulties in the OT12.
Astonishingly prolifica.
St. Epiphanius attributes 6,000 works to him!b.
 Works translated due to a wealthy female disciplec.
Many works lost13.
Hexapla: six texts of OT given side-by-sidea.
Transliterated Hebrew into Greek lettersc.
4 different Greek texts (Aquila; Symmachus; recension of the LXX; Theodotion LXX)14.
Suffered in Decian persecution“The man’s numerous letters contain both a true and accurate account of the nature and extent of that which he endured for the word of Christ, punishments as he lay in iron and in the recesses of his dungeon; and how, when for many days his feet were stretched four spaces in that instrument of torture, the stocks, he bore with a stout heart threats of fire and everything else that was inflicted byhis enemies; and the kind of issue he had thereof, the judge eagerly striving with all his might on no
The critical biographical information about Origen is found in Eusebius’
 Ecclesiastical History
(Book VI).
Eusebius writes, “As was his speech, so was the manner of the life that he displayed and as his manner of life, so his speech, and it wasespecially for this reason that, with cooperation of the divine power, he brought so many to share his zeal” (Eusebius,
 Hist. eccl.
Eusebius tells us, “He persevered, as far as possible, in the most philosophic manner of life, at one time disciplining himself by fasting,at another measuring out the time for sleep, which he was careful to take, never on a couch, but on the floor. And above all heconsidered that those sayings of the Saviour in the Gospel ought to be kept which exhort us not to provide two coats nor to use shoes,nor, indeed, to be worn out with thoughts about the future” (Eusebius,
 Hist. eccl.
account to put him to death; and what sort of sayings he left behind him after this, sayings full of help for those who need uplifting.”— Eusebius,
 Hist. eccl.
Died in
. 253, likely due to results of earlier torture
Origen’s Approach to Scripture
Analogy of incarnation“The Word is ‘as it were incarnate in the Bible’” (
Commentary on Matthew,
frag. 11).2.
Inspiration. . the holy books are not the compositions of men, but as a result of the inspiration [
] of the Holy Spirit by the will of the Father of the universe through Jesus Christ, these were writtenand have come down to us.” (
 De Principiis
4.2.2. [Greek text])3.
Holy Spirit as the true author (
All parts of Scripture equally inspired: “The divine character of Scripture extending through all of it”5.
Division of ScriptureThree-fold sense of Scripture Three-fold division of humanityLiteral / somatic (historical knowledge / virtue) the physicalmoral/psychical (inspires fight for virtue vs. vice) the soulallegorical/pneumatic (wisdom Incarnation / Eschaton) spiritual/intellectual6.
Approach to spiritual sensesa.
Hierarchy of multiple meanings in a single passageb.
Many meanings required by divine nature of the textc.
A deeper meaning for the spiritually wise7.
How to find the deeper meaning a.
Recognize divine accommodation in Scripturei.
“[God] condescends and accommodates Himself to our weakness, like schoolmastertalking a ‘little language’ to his children, like a father caring his own children andadopting their ways.” (
 Frag. on Deut.
17, 24).ii.
“Just as when we are talking to very small children we do not assume as the object of ourinstruction any strong understanding in them, but say what we have to sayaccommodating it to the small understanding of those whom we have before us, andeven do what seems to us useful for the education and upbringing of children, realizing that they are children: so the Word of God seems to have disposed the things which were written, adapting the suitable parts of his message to the capacity of his hearersand to their ultimate profit.” (
Contra Celsum,
5, 16; 4, 71).b.
Interpretation must never contradict
regula fidei
(though later contradicted him!)i.
“Every interpretation which is outside scripture is not holy. . . No one can bring hisown interpretations unless he shall have shown them to be holy, from that which iscontained in the divine Scriptures.” (
Commentary on Matthew,
“"Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors.The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. Thatalone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical andapostolic tradition" (
 Fundamental Doctrines,
1, preface, 2).iii.
"[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to thosethings which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence inthe things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is nosmall difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and inorder that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in
them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so thatthese things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but inone only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose inall the heavens" (
Commentary on Matthew
Origen and Catholic Doctrines
Apostolic traditionAlthough there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors. The teaching of the Churchhas indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in thechurches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (
The Fundamental Doctrines
EucharistFormerly there was baptism in an obscure way . . . now, however, in full view, there is regenerationin water and in the Holy Spirit. Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now,however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘Myflesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’ [John 6:55] (
 Homilies on Numbers
7:2 [A.D. 248]).3.
Sacramental Confession[A fincallsal method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and fromseeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, ‘I said, "To the Lord I will accuse myself of myiniquity” (
 Homilies on Leviticus
2:4 [A.D. 248]).4.
Infant baptismEvery soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church,baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism isgiven even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins andnothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (
 Homilieson Leviticus
8:3 [A.D. 248]).The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. Theapostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyoneinnate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit(
Commentaries on Romans
5:9 [A.D. 248]).5.
Trinitarian formula for BaptismThe Lord himself told his disciples that they should baptize all peoples in the name of the Fatherand of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . for indeed, legitimate baptism is had only in the name of the Trinity (
Commentary on Romans
5:8 [A.D. 248]).6.
Communion of SaintsBut not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . asalso the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep (
11 [A.D. 233]).7.
Anticipates Athanasius: there was no time when the Son was not (
Origen writes that Christ's Sonship is by nature, not by adoption
Explains that the Son proceeds from the Father by way of an eternal spiritual act of generation
Describes the Son's relation to the Father in terms of consubstantial:
 De princ.
1,2,9f; 2; 4,4,1;
 In Rom.
It is not "
 per adoptionem spiritus filius, sed natura filius
 De princ.
 aeterno ac sempiterna generatio” 
 In Jer.
 De. princ.
 In Heb.
frg. 24, 359.

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