Vigiliae Christianae

Vigiliae Christianae 61 (2007) 313 -356

Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Biblical and Philosophical Basis of the Doctrine of Apokatastasis1
Ilaria L.E. Ramelli
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Milan, Italy

Abstract Paul’s statement that God will be all in all and other NT and OT 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 allegorical 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

The structure of the argument that I shall endeavour to develop is the following: (1) Paul’s statement that God will be all in all and other NT and OT passages are taken by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa as the scriptural basis of their eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis and eventual universal salvation. (2) This biblical foundation often passes through the alleThis paper was originally delivered at the SBL Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 19-22 November 2005, Unit: Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti. 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 Alexander, Francesca Calabi, David Konstan, Judith Kovacs, Judith Perkins, Roberto Radice, David Runia.
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/157007207X186051


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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 philosophical 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. The Scriptural Foundation of Apokatastasis in Origen and Gregory Origen’s exposition of the doctrine of apokatastasis, especially in De principiis, 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 This is

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. The 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. Tzamalikos, Origen: Philosophy 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 Theologie der Väter bis zum Ausgang des 4. Jahrhunderts, Tübingen 1971, praes. 81-110 on Origen; on Origen’s interpretation of 1Cor 15 see J. Rius-Camps, “La hipótesis origeniana sobre el fin


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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. That 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 all, 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 elsewhere, 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 Telos. 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, Strasbourg-Turnhout 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 ἡ ἁμαρτία. 6) Cf. my “Hebrews 10:13, the Eventual Elimination of Evil and the Apokatastasis: Origen’s Interpretation,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology. International Conference, July 18-22 St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews, forthcoming.


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πόδας αὐτοῦ. Origen quotes Ps 109:1 both in Princ. 1,6,1 and in his Com-

mentary on the Gospel of John, 6,295-296: in the latter passage he sees in the biblical sentence evidence for his doctrine of final restoration of all. He interprets the words of the Psalm as addressed by the Father to « the Lord of each of us » and the submission of all his enemies as achieved when « the last enemy, Death », will be defeated and all evil annihilated, according to the fundamental metaphysical theory of non-substantiality of evil. Universal submission to Christ, including the destruction of death, is also the theme of 1Cor 15:26 (ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργήσεται ὁ θάνατος) and its context, an important passage often quoted by Origen in defence of his theory of apokatastasis and universal salvation, and joined to Ps 109:1 in our passage of the Commentary on John, which is a patchwork of biblical quotations, especially from Paul: « The Father is good and the Son is the image of his goodness [Wis 7:26; Mk 10:18]. God, however, although he benefits the world by reconciling it to himself in Christ [2Cor 5:19], while it had become his enemy as a consequence of sin, distributes his benefits according to a plan, not putting his enemies as a stool under his feet all at once. In fact, the Father says to him who is the Lord of each of us: “Take your seat to my right, until I put your enemies as a stool for your feet” [Ps 109:1; Hebr 10:13], which will occur when the last enemy, Death, will be annihilated by him [1Cor 15:26]. So, if we grasp what it means to be subjected to Christ, especially in the light of this passage: “And when all will be submitted to him, he himself, the Son, will submit to him who has subjected everything to him” [1Cor 15:28], then we shall understand God’s lamb, who takes up the sin of the world, in a way worthy of the goodness of the God of the universe ». The basis of such exegesis consists in the identification of the submission of all to Christ, maintained by Paul in 1Cor 15:5-28, with the salvation of all, as Origen states in Princ. 1,6,1: Quae ergo est subiectio, qua Christo omnia debent esse subiecta? Ego arbitror quia haec ipsa qua nos quoque optamus ei esse subiecti, qua subiecti ei sunt et apostoli et omnes sancti qui secuti sunt Christum. Subiectionis enim nomen, qua Christo subicimur, salutem quae a Christo est indicat subiectorum, a theme that will be developed by Gregory in his In illud: Tunc et ipse Filius, in perfect continuity with Origen, by means of the same quotations and exactly the same interpretation, as we shall see. The persistent presence of the same interpretation and doctrine in the Commentary on the Gospel of John, written many years after De principiis, confirms that Origen continued to believe steadfastly in the absolute universality of apokatastasis and eventual salvation,

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seen by him as wholly compatible with the doctrine of free will,7 and that he thought it was definitely grounded in Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testament, which he considered as strictly joined and forming one and the same body.8 The same Pauline passages as a basis, and the same interpretation of universal submission as salvation, are to be found in Princ. 3,5,6: « the only-begotten son of God, Logos and Wisdom of the Father, must reign until he has put his enemies under his feet and destroyed the last enemy, Death, embracing in himself, at the end of the world, all those whom he subjects to the Father and who come to salvation thanks to him . . . This is the meaning of what the Apostle says about him: “When all is submitted to him, then the Son himself will submit to him who has subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all” ». Among the several quotations, 1Cor 15:28 is the most emphasized, and in fact it is one of the most important passages, and most often quoted by Origen,9 in defence of his theory of universal salvation,10 which is implied in universal submission: Origen goes on (ibid. § 7): « as the Son’s submission to the Father means perfect reintegration of all creation [sc. universal apokatastasis], so the submission of his enemies to the Son means salvation of his subjects and reintegration of the lost ». Origen carries on his interpretation of Paul’s passage in § 8, explaining that « this submission will take place in certain ways and times and according to precise rules: the entire world will submit to the Father, not as a result of violence, nor by necessity that compels subjection, but thanks to words, reason, teaching, emulation of the best, good norms, and also threats, when deserved and apt . . . Providence operates in

See my “La coerenza della soteriologia origeniana: dalla polemica contro il determinismo gnostico all’universale restaurazione escatologica,” in Pagani e cristiani alla ricerca della salvezza. Atti del XXXIV Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana, Roma, Augustinianum, 5-7.V.2005, Roma 2006, 661-688. 8) Documentation in my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition,” delivered at the Annual Meeting of the SBL, San Antonio, TX, November 20-23 2004, Invigilata Lucernis 28 (2006). 9) The occurrences of 1Cor 15:28 in Origen are listed in Biblia Patristica, III, Paris 1980, 404 (for 15:27-28) and 405 (for 15:28). The writing in which this passage most frequently occurs is De principiis: 1,6,1 and 2,3,7 for 1Cor 15:27-28 and 1,7,5; 2,3,5; 3,5,6; 3,5,7; 3,5,7+; 3,6,1; 3,6,2; 3,6,3; 3,6,6; 3,6,8; 3,6,9 and other six occurrences for 1Cor 15:28. Eight occurrences are in Comm. in Rom., six in Comm. in Io. and other ten are spread over further different works. 10) Cf. the section on Origen in my Apocatastasi.



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favour of each one, safeguarding the rational creatures’ free will ».11 Origen is very attentive to the problem of free will, and, as Gregory too will do, explains that the universal submission to which Paul refers will not be slavery, but salvation thanks to everyone’s free adhesion to the Good, which will occur sooner or later. The interpretation of the final submission to Christ as salvation was repeated by Origen elsewhere too, in the very same terms.12 This subjection that means salvation is universal, as confirmed by many other passages in Origen, always based on Paul’s statements, especially Princ. 2,3,3 recalling 1Cor 15:15-28: « our condition will be incorporeal one day, and if we admit this, since all will be subjected to Christ, necessarily this condition will extend to all, to whom the subjection to Christ is referred. And all those who are subjected to Christ in the end will be also submitted to the Father, to whom Christ will hand his reign ». If the salvation of rational beings has to be universal, it must also include all fallen angels: to account for and to strengthen this claim, Origen has recourse to Phil 2:10-11, a passage that will be used by Gregory for the same argument, and that affirms the final adhesion of all creatures to Christ, including those who are in the underworld, and, since this submission means salvation, it follows that all creatures, angels, humans, and demons, will be saved. Origen, in fact, argues in Princ. 4,6,2: « I refer to all those who, bending their knee in Jesus’ name, have given a sign of their submission, the heavenly, earthly, and infernal creatures. These three designations indicate the sum of all created beings, i.e. all those who had one and the same origin, but, differently driven each one by his impulses, have
11) Cf. Princ. 3,5,8: « How God’s Providence operates for each one, safeguarding all rational creatures’ free will . . . why and in which occasion all this happens, only God knows, and his only-begotten Son, thanks to whom all has been created and reintegrated [Jn 1:3], and the Spirit, through whom all is sanctified, who proceeds from the Father, to whom is glory, etc. ». See also, e.g., Princ. 3,3,5 on Providence and free will, teaching and persuasion and differentiation of times and ways of salvation for each one, including the demons, in apokatastasis; ibid. 2,1,2; Hom. in Lev. 9,8, where Origen affirms that Providence takes care of each being, including the smallest; it is minutissima et subtilissima. Cf. De Prov. 2,9,8; 3,1,15.17, where Providence is said to be ποικίλη. 12) E.g. Comm. in Matth. S. 8: « How the Saviour’s enemies are put by the Father as a stool for his feet, we ought to understand in a worthy way, according to God’s goodness. For we should not believe that God puts Christ’s enemies as a stool for his feet in the same way as enemies are put under the feet of the earthly kings, who exterminate them. Instead, God puts Christ’s enemies as a stool for his feet not for their destruction, but for their salvation . . . for all these, submission means salvation of the subjects ». Cf. Comm. in Io. 6,57(37); Hom. in Ps. 36, 2,1; in Lev. 7,2; Princ. 3,5,6-8.

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been distributed in different orders according to their merits, since in all of them the Good was not present in ontological form, as it is in God ». For, according to Origen, each one’s condition is determined by his own responsibility. Originally, all νόες were created absolutely identical; then, they were differentiated into angels, humans, and demons because of their free choices, « according to the movements of their minds and wills ».13 In Princ. 1,6 Origen, insisting on a concept of reditus that seems to prefigure the Neoplatonic idea of ἐπιστροφή to unity, after μονή and πρόοδος toward multiplicity,14 but also quoting Is 65:17 and Paul, depicts the « long future ages in which the dispersion and division of the one and sole Principle15 will be reintegrated into one and the same likeness . . . There will be “a new heaven and a new earth” . . . for those who tend to that end of blessedness, about which it is said that also the enemies will be subjected, and God will be “all in all” », with the further reminiscence of 1Cor 15:25-28. In Princ. 2,3,7, too, this assertion of Paul seals the final perfection of apokatastasis. The quotation of 1Cor 15:28, together with other references to the Psalms and the Gospels, concludes yet another passage in Princ. 2,3,5, where Origen states that apokatastasis will come at the end of all αἰῶνες, when everything will be brought back to absolute unity and God will be all in all.16 And the same quotation marks the passage from

13) Detailed discussion in my “La coerenza della soteriologia origeniana” and my “La colpa antecedente come ermeneutica del male in sede storico-religiosa e nei testi biblici,” opening paper delivered at the Congress of the Associazione Biblica Italiana, Settimana Biblica, Ciampino, Il Carmelo, 5-7.IX.2005, forthcoming in Ricerche Storico-Bibliche. 14) Documentation in my “Uno-molti,” in Enciclopedia filosofica, new edition, dir. V. Melchiorre, XII, Milan 2006, 11911-11912. 15) This idea of oneness obviously is a Platonic, and especially Neoplatonic, ideal, which Origen transmitted to Gregory of Nyssa, too: see G. Maturi, “Reductio ad unum: l’escatologia di Gregorio di Nissa sullo sfondo della metafisica plotiniana,” Adamantius 10 (2004) 167-193. 16) « But if there is anything superior to αἰῶνες (so that αἰῶνες can be found in the creatures, it is true, but also in other things that are superior to visible creatures, which will be the case in the ἀποκατάστασις, when all comes to a perfect end), one should probably understand that the situation in which there will be the ἀποκατάστασις of all things will be something more than the αἰών ». I am induced to think so by the authority of Scripture, which says: “in the αἰών and further” [Mich 4:5: εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ἐπέκεινα]. The fact that it says “further” lets us understand that it means more than one αἰών. And, please, consider whether the Saviour’s words, “I want them to be with me where I am”, and, “As you and I are one and the same thing, so they too may be one in us” [John 17:24.21], may indicate something superior to the αἰών and the αἰῶνες, and perhaps even superior to the αἰῶνες τῶν αἰώνων, that is, when no longer all will be in the αἰών, but “God will be all in all” ».


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image to likeness and then from likeness to unity in the progression εἰκών (at the beginning and in this life) => ὁμοίωσις (thanks to moral improvement in this or the future life) => ἕν (total unity in final apokatastasis when God will be all in all)17 in Princ. 3,6,1, where the quotation from Paul is joined to several from John, on likeness and unity with God.18 The idea of likeness and unity in apokatastasis, after all αἰῶνες, is joined to the quotation of 1Cor 15:25 and 28 also in Princ. 1,6 in fine.19 And the whole passage of 1Cor 15:24-28 is referred to in Princ. 3,6,9 in support of the view of universal instruction, on the part of the angels and then of Christ, and consequent salvation.20 1Cor 15:28 also seals the universal perfection of eventual apokatastasis in Princ. 2,3,7: « We shall be able to live without a body when everything will be subject to Christ and, through Christ, to God the Father, and “God will be all in all” ».

On apokatastasis as superior to αἰῶνες and αἰών also see Princ. 2,3,1. Here αἰῶνες clearly means “ages”, not “eternity”: for a complete survey of αἰών and αἰώνιος in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and classical and Patristic literature, and the philosophical development of the two concepts in Greek and Christian authors, see I. Ramelli–D. Konstan, Terms for Eternity, Piscataway, NJ 2007. For the “ethical” conception of the αἰῶνες in Origen, conceived as the intervals through which the rational creatures choose for good or evil and receive reward or instruction, until all of them will freely choose for the Good and the αἰῶνες will come to an end in the ἀϊδιότης of the apokatastasis, see P. Tzamalikos, Origen: Cosmology and Ontology of Time, Leiden-Boston 2006, 272-373, with my review forthcoming in Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica 99 (2007). 17) For these stages see my philosophical essay in Gregorio di Nissa. 18) « This concept has been expressed in the clearest and most plain way by the apostle John, in these terms: “Children, we do not yet know what we shall be, but when this is revealed us”, and he is certainly referring to the Saviour, “we shall be similar to him” [1John 3:2], where he assuredly indicates the end of all things . . . and expresses the hope of being similar to God, which will be granted thanks to excellence of merits ». Origen finally quotes Jesus’ words in John 17:24 and 21: « Father, I want them to be with me where I am », and: « as you and I are one and the same thing ». Here, as Origen notes, « it seems that likeness too, so to say, perfects itself, and that there is a passage from likeness to unity, undoubtedly because in the end “God is all in all” [1Cor 15:28] . . . all creation will be set free from the slavery of corruption when it has received the glory of the Son of God, and “God is all in all ” ». 19) « . . . long future αἰῶνες in which the dispersion and division of the one and only Principle will be reintegrated into one and the same end and likeness . . . for those who tend to that end of blessedness where—it is said—“the enemies also will be submitted” and “God will be all in all” [1Cor 15:25.28] ». 20) « After the instruction given by the blessed powers, He himself will teach them as they can understand him as Wisdom, and he will reign over them until he will submit them to the Father . . .; when they are made able to receive God, God for them will be all in all ».

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Another connection in which the references to Paul’s passage of 1Cor 15:2228 buttress logical arguments is that of the order of universal reintegration, depending on each one’s merits, as is clear from Princ. 1,7,5, quoting 1Cor 15:24.28,21 and in Princ. 3,6,6, quoting 1Cor 15:26.28 and displaying, once again, the theme of final unity: « Every being will be reintegrated in order to be one and the same thing <with the other beings and God> [John 17:21], and “God will be all in all” [1Cor 15:28]; now, this will not occur in one instant, but slowly and gradually, through infinite αἰῶνες, because correction and purification will take place little by little and singly . . . Thus, through innumerable orders constituted by those who make progress, and, after being enemies, become reconciled with God, we reach the last enemy, Death, so that this too may be destroyed and there may be no enemy left [1Cor 15:26] ». The idea that some creatures will make rapid progress whereas others will proceed very slowly, which produces a large variety of situations, is expressed by Origen also in Princ. 3,1,17 and 3,5,8, where he stresses that submission, that is, salvation, must be wanted freely by each rational creature, not imposed on all automatically: so, the times and ways will vary according to each one’s merits and spiritual situation. The question of the order of final reintegration is also faced in Comm. in Io. 32,26-39, on the basis of 1Cor 15:22 and other scriptural quotations. Origen starts from John 13:3, according to which « the Father has delivered everything into Jesus’ hands », interpreted by Origen in the strongest sense, in parallel with other biblical passages, such as Ps 109:1, from which Origen deduces that the Father has handed even the enemies to Christ. The second scriptural passage quoted by Origen in support of his faith, in chaps. 26-27, is 1Cor 15:22: « As all die in Adam, so all will be vivified in Christ »: Origen reads this passage with anti-Gnostic aims: he confirms the recompense of merits for each one, quoting the immediately following section: « each one in his own order ».22 A little later, he repeats
« At the end of the world . . . some souls, due to their inertness, will move on more slowly, others, instead, will fly swiftly owing to their zeal. Since all have free will and can freely acquire virtues and vices, some will be found in much worse conditions than now, while others will attain a better condition, because different movements and inclinations in both directions will bring different conditions . . . When, subsequently, Christ has handed his reign to the Father [1Cor 15:24], then these living beings too, who had already become part of Christ’s reign, will be handed to the Father together with the rest . . . Thus, when God will be all in all [1Cor 15:28], as those too are part of the all, God will be in them as in all ». 22) Origen, as Gregory later, goes on with the exegesis of the extensive Pauline passage, stating that Christ will hand the Kingdom to his Father after annihilating every hostile angelic


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that the restoration will be realized in different times, depending on each one’s merits, and in this sense he interprets John 13:36, where Jesus tells Peter that he cannot follow him in that moment, but that he will do it later. Anyway, in the end every creature will be restored and every enemy destroyed, even Death (chaps. 37-39). Another important scriptural quotation connected to philosophical argument by Origen, and then by Gregory, is 1Cor 15:42-44, concerning the character of the risen body,23 called by Paul σῶμα πνευματικόν. Origen recalls it in Princ. 3,6,6: « The Apostle clearly says that the risen dead will not be given other bodies, but they will receive the same bodies they had when alive, and even better. For he declares: “an animal body is sown, a spiritual body will rise; it is sown in corruptibility, it will rise in incorruptibility; it is sown in weakness, it will rise in power; it is sown in ignominy, it will rise in glory” ».24 These are only some few examples—notably, those later taken up by Gregory of Nyssa more closely—from the many we could give, indeed, but I think they are enough to provide an overview of the method followed by Origen in his arguments in support of apokatastasis, and of the importance of Scripture in them, above all Paul’s witness.25
power, as far as the last enemy, Death (chaps. 30-31), basing his claims on 1Cor 15:24-26: « He will hand the Kingdom to God the Father, after annihilating every power . . . for it is necessary that he reigns until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be annihilated will be Death », the passage ending with ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι. In chaps. 32-34 Origen insists on the submission to the Logos even on the part of death. 23) For the question of a material or spiritual body for the risen dead in Origen see my Apocatastasi and my philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa; Ead., “Threats, Punishment, and Hope: Jeremiah Interpreted by Origen to Support the Doctrine of Apokatastasis,” delivered at the Annual Meeting of the SBL, Washington, 18-21 November 2006, forthcoming, with references. 24) Also in the preface, § 5, Origen quotes 1Cor 15:42. 25) Paul was himself, to some extent, hellenized, although Christianity’s heart, Jesus’ salvific cross and resurrection, is equally « a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles », as Paul himself states in 1Cor 1:23, according to the NRSV; Gr.: ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, ᾽̓Ιουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν. Vulg.: nos autem praedicamus Christum crucifixum, Iudaeis quidem scandalum, gentibus autem stultitiam. See ample documentation in my “Philosophen und Prediger, pagane und christliche weise Männer. Der Apostel Paulus,” in E. Amato, B. Borg, R. Burri, S. Fornaro, I. Ramelli, J. Schamp, Dio von Prusa: Der Philosoph und sein Bild, Göttingen 2007, chap. 4. The NT itself, although it certainly has deep Jewish roots, arose in a profoundly Hellenized world too and was soon known and read in Hellenistic cultural environments: e.g. cf. A.J. Malherbe, “Graeco-Roman Religion and Philosophy and the NT,” in The NT and Its Modern Interpreters, eds. E.J. Epp–G. McRae, Atlanta 1989, 3-26; C. Thiede, Ein Fisch für den

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Gregory in his De anima et resurrectione,26 a philosophical writing of the most philosophical-minded of the Cappadocians27 and one of the main
römischen Kaiser, München 1998; Id.–U. Victor–U. Stingelin, Antike Kultur und Neues Testament, Basel 2003; T.H. Olbricht, “Preface,” in Early Christianity and Classical Culture. Comparative Studies in Honor of A.J. Malherbe, eds. J.T. Fitzgerald–Id.–L.M. White, Leiden– Boston 2003, 1-12, and the whole volume, with my review article: “La ricerca attuale sui rapporti tra il primo Cristianesimo e la cultura classica,” Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, ser. II, 17 (2006) 223-238. For knowledge of the NT among pagan cultivated persons see e.g. G. Rinaldi, La Bibbia dei pagani, I-II, Bologna 1998; my I romanzi antichi e il Cristianesimo: contesto e contatti, Madrid 2001; Ead., “The Ancient Novels and the NT: Possibile Contacts,” Ancient Narrative 5 (2005), 41-68; Ead.,“Indizi della conoscenza del Nuovo Testamento nei romanzieri antichi e in altri autori pagani del I sec. d.C.,” in Il Contributo delle scienze storiche alla interpretazione del Nuovo Testamento, eds. E. Dal Covolo–R. Fusco, Città del Vaticano 2005, 146-169; Ead., Un quindicennio di studi sulla prima diffusione dell’Annuncio cristiano e la sua prima ricezione in ambito pagano,” in E. Innocenti–I. Ramelli, Gesù a Roma. Commento al testo lucano degli Atti degli Apostoli, Roma 20063, 277-518. 26) PG 46,12-160. New edition, translation, commentary, with critical essays and bibliography on Gregory’s De anima in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione. All the translations of De anima (as those of In illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius) here quoted are mine and based on my edition, with textual critical notes (for some criteria on which it is based see my “Il contributo della versione copta all’edizione del De anima et resurrectione di Gregorio di Nissa,” Exemplaria Classica n.s. 10 [2006] 191-243). 27) An overview of the debate on the relationship between philosophy and Christianity in Gregory is provided e.g. by A. Le Boulluec, “Corporeité ou individualité? La condition finale des ressuscités selon Grégoire de Nysse,” Augustinianum 35 (1995) 307-326; E. Peroli, “Gregory of Nyssa and the Neoplatonic Doctrine of the Soul,” Vigiliae Christianae 51 (1997) 117-139: a complete survey and discussion is provided in the philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione. E.g. J. Daniélou, Platonisme et théologie mystique, Paris 19532 and M. Pellegrino, “Il Platonismo di san Gregorio Nisseno nel dialogo intorno all’anima e alla resurrezione,” Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica 30 (1938) 437474, consider Gregory a fundamentally and consistently Christian thinker who harmonized Platonism and Christianity; J. Rist, “Christianisme et antiplatonisme: un bilan,” in Hellénisme et Christianisme, eds. M. Narcy–É. Rebillard, Villeneuve d’Ascq 2004, 153-170 states that he and the other Platonic fathers consciously assumed the philosophical principles and used them to provide Christian faith with a philosophical foundation, to demonstrate their own coherence and criticize the adversaries; P. Chuvin, “Christianisation et résistance dans les cultes traditionnels,” ibid. 15-34 too supports a deep and fruitful conciliation between Christianity and classical philosophy. Other scholars, instead, emphasize contradictions in Gregory as a Platonist, as H. Cherniss, The Platonism of Gregory of Nyssa, New York 19712, who deems Gregory a philosopher more than a religious man, as Macrina forced him to become; Ch. Apostolopoulos, Phaedo Christianus, Frankfurt a.M. 1986, regards him as a Neoplatonist in whose thought Christian elements are superimposed as merely accidental and even accepted for political opportunity, with a « conscious disguise », « bewußte Tarnung », ibid. 109: but see rev. by J.C.M. van Winden, Vigiliae Christianae 41


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works of his in which he discusses the question of apokatastasis,28 together with In illud: Tunc et ipse Filius and some additional sections of other works, quotes several passages from the Bible, and principally from Paul, to support his view. Apart from the Lazarus episode in Luke’s Gospel, with which we shall deal later, we can recall many instances in the discourses of Macrina, Gregory’s sister and the chief character in this dialogue, the other being Gregory himself, who often contradicts her purely to reinforce the dialectic structure. A key quotation, in 72B and again in 136A, is Phil 2:9-10,29 on the eventual bending of all knees in heaven, on earth and under the earth before Christ, a quotation that appears in all periods of Gregory’s production. In 72B Gregory sees there an allusion to the ultimate salvation of all rational creatures, angels, humans, and—as already Origen maintained—even daemons, who, « after long cycles of ages, when evil will have vanished and there will remain nothing else than the Good », will return to God and submit to Christ.30 For Gregory, as already for Origen, the underlying idea
(1987) 191-197; J. Daniélou–M. Altenburger–U. Schramm, Hrsg., Gregor von Nyssa und die Philosophie, Leiden 1976, and many other studies that I mention in my Gregorio di Nissa. 28) For complete documentation on apokatastasis in Gregory see J. Daniélou, L’apocatastase chez Saint Grégoire de Nysse, Rech. Science Religieuse 30, 3 (Juillet 1940); Id., L’être et le temps chez Grégoire de Nysse, Leiden 1970, 221-226; C.N. Tsirpanlis, The concept of universal salvation in Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in Studia Patristica, XVII, 3 (1982) 1131-1144; H.M. Meissner, Rhetorik und Theologie: der Dialog Gregors von Nyssa De anima et resurrectione, Frankfurt a.M. 1991, 82; 356-361; M. Ludlow, Universal Salvation, in particular chaps. 1-3; C. Moreschini, Storia della filosofia patristica, Brescia 2004, 580; 608-609; 734; G. Ferro Garel, Gregorio di Nissa. L’esperienza mistica, il simbolismo, il progresso spirituale, Torino 2004, 6; my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione; Ead., “Note sulla continuità della dottrina dell’apocatastasi in Gregorio di Nissa,” Archaeus 10 (2006) 105-145; R. Simini, “La speranza cristiana nel dialogo De anima et resurrectione,” Nicolaus 33 (2006) 61-73. 29) For the exegesis of this passage in Gregory see Daniélou, L’être et le temps, 69-73. 30) 72B: « Since three are the conditions of rational nature—one, which since the beginning has been allotted the incorporeal life and which we call “angelic”; the other, tied to flesh, which we call “human”, and the third, freed from flesh thanks to death—, I think that the divine Apostle . . . intended to indicate that general harmony of all rational nature that one day there will be in the Good, calling “heavenly” what is angelical and incorporeal and “earthly” what is joined to a body, and referring the “underworld” to what is separate from the body, or else, if among rational beings we can see, besides those mentioned, some other nature too, which if one wished to call of “demons” or “spirits”, or anything else of the sort, we would have nothing to object . . . a nature that voluntarily fell away from the best lot, and, renouncing Beauty and the Good, instead of these put in herself the thoughts coming from their contrary: it is this nature that, some say, the Apostle included among the creatures of

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is that all rational creatures’ submission to God coincides with their salvation, which is also the core concept of Gregory’s In illud: Tunc et ipse Filius, as we shall see. Another group of quotations from the New Testament in reference to apokatastasis in De anima is related to the problem of purification through pains, both in this and in the next world. In 97B-100C Macrina demonstrates that the first and foremost cause of purification is not punishment, but God’s saving will, who attracts the soul to himself with the purpose of reciprocal union: if the soul is pure, it is pulled up without impediments; otherwise, it first has to be purified from the waste of evil, in which case suffering is involved, but as a mere side effect.31 In 100-105A, Macrina indicates the measure and aim of this cathartic process: the complete extinction of evil and vice (ὁ παντελὴς ἀφανισμὸς τῆς κακίας), and she makes use of the Gospel’s parable of the inept servant in Mt 18:23-25 and Lk 7:41 to argue that purification is necessary and must be proportional to the measure of impurity and evil accumulated by each individual, in order that each soul can attain virtue, which coincides with the goal of purification and is assimilation to God. Such ὁμοίωσις πρὸς τὸ θεῖον is a well known Platonic ideal (Theaet. 176A) passed into Christian thought thanks to Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and then resumed by Gregory32 and

the underworld, meaning that, when one day, after long cycles of ages, evil has vanished, there will remain nothing else but Good, and even those creatures will admit, in concord and unanimity, Christ’s lordship »; 136A: « The Apostle, expressing the harmony of the whole universe with Good, means, rather transparently, what follows: “Every knee will bend in front of him, of heavenly and earthly creatures and of those of the underworld, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, for God the Father’s glory”, through the “horns” signifying the angelic and heavenly breed, and through the rest the intellectual creatures coming after the angels, i.e. us, who will be all involved in one and the same big feast characterized by harmony ». 31) 100 C: « So—I said—, as it seems, it is not that God’s judgment brings, as its principal aim, punishment to those who sinned, but, for his part, as your argument has proved, God exclusively produces good, distinguishing it from evil, and pulling up the persons to himself, for their participation in blessedness, whereas the violent separation of that which was united and attached turns out to be painful to him who is pulled ». 32) See also Gregory’s De vita Mosis, 2,251-252.318, and his first homily on the Song of Songs: « each one must make himself similar to God », « become similar to him who is truly beautiful and good », etc. This principle was widespread in the imperial age: Plotinus, in particular, took it up in 6,9,9, where the philosopher in his ascent to God becomes God himself (the Platonic and Neoplatonic θέωσις). For Origen, see e.g. Princ. 3,6,1; the concept was carried on by his disciple Gregory the Wonderworker precisely in his panegyric for


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joined to the biblical ὁμοίωσις in combination with εἰκών in Gen 1:26, a crucial conception in Patristic thought and above all in our Cappadocian Father.33 Macrina’s inquiry and argument is confirmed by the interpretation of several scriptural passages, and chiefly of a fundamental statement by Paul, already used by Origen many times in support of apokatastasis: 1Cor 15:28, about God’s eschatological presence as « all in all », πάντα ἐν πᾶσι. This is precisely what leads Macrina to conclude that the ultimate σκοπός of purification is the complete and definitive annihilation of evil, once and for all, in the end, since it has no ontological positive existence, a Platonic doctrine very important already in Origen. Let’s quote the most important passages:
Evil must necessarily be eliminated, absolutely and in every respect, once and for all, from all that is, and, since in fact it is not . . ., neither will it have to exist, at all. For, as evil does not exist in its nature outside will, once each will has come to be in God, evil will be reduced to complete disappearance, because no receptacle will be left for it . . .. God’s right judgment is applied to all, and extends the time of extinction of the debt according to its amount, without neglecting even the tiniest debts [cf. Mt 18:23-25; Lk 7:41] . . . through necessary suffering, he extinguishes the debt accumulated by participating in miserable and painful things . . . and so [the sinner], after getting rid of all that is alien to himself, and taking off the shame deriving from debts, can achieve a condition of freedom and confidence.34 Now, freedom is assimilation to what has no master and has absolute power, and at the beginning it was given us by God, but then it was covered and hidden by the shame of debts. Thus, as a consequence, each one who is free will adapt himself to what is similar to him; but virtue has no masters: therefore, each one who is free will turn out to be in virtue. Now, God’s nature is the source of all virtue; so, in it there will be those who have attained freedom from evil, so that, as the Apostle says, « God will be all in all » [1Cor 15:28]. This statement actually seems to me to provide confirmation to the idea stated previously, because it affirms that God will be both all and in all. God’s nature will become all to us and will take the place of
his master, 12,148: « I think that everyone’s end and goal and realization of its true being is nothing else but to make oneself similar to God through purification, to get close to him and to remain in him » (on this writing see, with interesting interpretation, M. Rizzi, Gregorio il Taumaturgo (?), Encomio di Origene, Milano 2002, and J.W. Trigg, “God’s Marvelous Oikonomia,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 [2001] 27-52). 33) For ὁμοίωσις θεῷ and εἰκὼν καὶ ὁμοίωσις in Gregory see my philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione. 34) Although it is not an exact Scriptural quotation, these are both Pauline concepts: for ἐλευθερία see especially Rom 8:21; Gal 5:1.13; also 1Cor 10:29; 2Cor 3:17; for παρρησία see above all Eph 3:12; 6:19; Col 2:15; also 2Cor 3:12; 7:4; Phil 1:20; 1Tim 3:13.

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all, distributing itself in a way that will be suitable to the needs of that life. And from divine revelation it is clear that God, for those who deserve it, is place, house, garment, food, drink, light, richness, reign, and whatever it is possible to think and express among those things that contribute to a good life for us. Well, he who is all also is in all. And in this it seems to me that Scripture teaches the complete disappearance of evil [κακία]. For, if in all beings there will be God, clearly in them there will not be evil. (An. et res. 101-104)

In the sixth and last part of the dialogue (129A-160C),35 which crowns the whole work and is focused on resurrection and universal restoration, Macrina resolves several questions dealing with the future life, with the support of Scripture, both the Old and the New Testament, especially the Gospels and Paul: Ps 103:20-30 (129C-132A);36 Ps 117:27, with the interpretation of the feast of Sukkoth (Gr. σκηναί, “tents”; 132A-136A); Ez 37:1-14, with the famous vision of the dry bones wrapped again in flesh and vivified by God, in 136AB; Paul’s 1Cor 15:52 and 1Thess 4:16 in 136C;37 finally, the Gospels (136C-137A), whose μαρτυρία is presented as the culminating point of a klimax. In fact, Jesus, who is the Logos, attested to resurrection not only in words (λόγῳ), but also in fact, directly realizing it (ἐνεργεῖ).38 Some sections offer an allegorical exegesis and we shall treat them subsequently. Other key quotations from Paul used by Macrina in support of her arguments are to be found in 1Cor 15:35-52, with the description of the raised body as a glorious and spiritual body, in a set of comparisons with the earthly body: she uses this passage to prove that each one will be given back his own body, but with characteristics different from those of the fleshly body, with a « more magnificent complexion » (153C). Macrina expands on Paul’s description of the spiritual body and grounds her own exposition in it,39 exactly as Origen did in Princ. 3,6,6,
I follow the division proposed by Meissner, Rhetorik und Theologie, 343-370. Cf. J. Daniélou, L’être et le temps, 211. 37) 1Thess 4:16 could be interpreted as a restriction of the promise of resurrection only to those who “died in Christ”, but see D. Konstan’s and my “The Syntax of ἐν Χριστῷ in 1Thess 4:16,” forthcoming in the Journal of Biblical Literature: it is probable that we should read not « those who died in Christ will rise », but « those who died will rise in Christ ». 38) The usage of the verb ἐνεργέω in Gregory is influenced by that of Origen, on which see A. Bastit-Kalinowska, “‘Agir dans:’ autour de l’emploi d’energein dans l’oeuvre et l’exégèse d’Origène,” Adamantius 10 (2004) 123-137. 39) See F. Altermath, Du corps psychique au corps spirituel. Interprétation de 1Cor 15, 35-49 par les auteurs chrétiens des quatre premiers siècles, Tübingen 1977, esp. 181-190 for the exegesis of this passage in Gregory.
36) 35)


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relying on the same Pauline passage for the very same argument. The glorious body of 1Cor 15:52, wrapped in incorruptibility, as Macrina says explicitly quoting Paul in 155D and 157A, will cause no more sins and will no longer prevent the soul from remaining in the Good. Its new characteristics, incorruptibility, glory, honour, power, drawn from Paul’s text, are typical of God’s nature: originally they also belonged to the human being as εἰκών of God, and then they are hoped for again for the future (157AB); the same concept, based on Paul’s account of the spiritual body, concludes the whole dialogue in 160D: « Once those passions have been purified and have vanished, thanks to the necessary treatment imparted with care, by means of the therapy of fire, the place of those deficiencies will be taken by each of the respective realities that are conceived in a positive sense: incorruptibility, life, strength, grace, glory, and any other prerogative of this kind that we conjecture it is possible to contemplate both in God himself and in his εἰκών, that is human nature ». In fact, God’s image will shine forth again in every human being in the eventual restoration of all. In his In illud: Tunc et ipse Filius, written several years after De anima,40 but in perfect continuity with it, Gregory endeavours to explain precisely a Scriptural passage, 1Cor 15:28, about the final submission of all creatures to Christ and that of Christ to the Father, so that God will be « all in all »,41 a passage constantly quoted by Origen, and also by Gregory in De
It was probably composed between 385 and 393, and more likely in the latest years of this interval. J. Daniélou, “La chronologie des oeuvres de Grégoire de Nysse,” Studia Patristica 7 (1966) 187 dated it to the third period of Gregory’s production (385 to 390); J.K. Downing, GNO III, 2, pp. 3-28 (the edition to which I refer here), and Id., The Treatise of Gregory of Nyssa In Illud: Tunc et ipse Filius, Diss. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 1947, summarized in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 58-59 (1948) 223, proposed 383; G. Maspero, La Trinità e l’uomo. L’Ad Ablabium di Gregorio di Nissa, Roma 2004, 49 observes that the arguments adduced by Downing are not sufficient to date In illud to 383 rather than 385 or later, and ibid. 39 and 256, points out that in this treatise there is the theme of μίμησις, which is more present and highlighted in the works of the last period. The authenticity of the brief treatise is beyond question. See also C. MacCambley, “‘When (the Father) Will Subject All Things to (the Son), Then (the Son) Himself Will Be Subjected to Him (the Father), Who Subjects All Things to Him’”, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 28 (1983), 1-15, and A. Penati Bernardini, Gregorio di Nissa. Commento al Nuovo Testamento, translation and notes, Roma 1992, 20 ss. 41) Τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι, « Then the Son himself will also submit to him who will have subdued him all beings, so that God will be all in all ».

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anima, as we have seen, as evidence for universal salvation. In this writing, Gregory offers an eschatological picture of universal restoration that is wholly coincident with that of De anima and inspired by Origen’s conceptions, often with very close correspondences, even ad verbum. But the whole writing, which is exegetical in its nature, although at the same time displaying philosophical arguments too, is interwoven with Scriptural quotations, particularly from the New Testament, and more especially from Paul. A significant parallel with Origen, who comments on the same Pauline passage that constitutes the title of Gregory’s treatise, is to be found in the prologue (p. 3 Downing) and confronts the theological problem of the sense of the Son’s submission: it is necessary to interpret Paul’s passage without leaving room for theories that make the Son inferior to the Father.42 For « the σκοπός of our submission to God is σωτηρία », as Gregory puts it in a thesis that is central to the whole of In Illud and derives from Origen. The Alexandrian exegete, whom Gregory knew very well, in Princ. 3,5,6-7 and Comm. Io. 6,50-60 interprets Paul’s verse in the very same way, as we have seen. Next, Gregory reflects on the whole context of 1Cor 15:28, as he also does in De an. et res. 152B-156B and De hom. opif. 224D: in 1Cor 15:35 the Corinthians ask how the dead can rise and with what body: Gregory, just like Paul, reminds them that God was able to create bodies ex nihilo, without a substratum of pre-existent matter: « God’s will [τὸ θεῖον θέλημα] became matter and the substance of creatures » (p. 11,4-9 Downing):43 a fortiori he will be able to reshape bodies that had already been created. And on 11,10ff. Downing, Gregory recalls 1Cor 15:47-49, according to which, as Adam’s fall produced, as a consequence, death for all, in the same way Christ’s redemption has provided life for all, with the transmission of good from one to all.44 Gregory stresses the universality of future vivification,

Theodoret, commenting on 1Cor, in PG 82,357, attests that both Arians and Eunomians used Paul’s passage to support their own subordinationalist doctrines; cf. MacCambley, “When (the Father)”, 1-15 and J.T. Lienhard, “The Exegesis of 1Cor 15:28 from Marcellus of Ancyra to Theodoret of Cyrus”, Vigiliae Christianae 37 (1983) 340-359. 43) ῞Υλη καὶ οὐσία τῶν δημιουργημάτων. Cf., more extensively, Gregory’s Apol. in Hex., PG 44,69AC. 44) Adam « was dissolved because of sin . . . consequently, his descendants also became all earthly and mortal, but . . . the human being is reconstituted anew [ἀναστοιχειοῦται] in its elements, from a mortal condition to immortality. In the same way, good arose in human nature, flowing from one to all, precisely as evil had flowed from one to the whole stock . . .



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presented by him as the terminal point of our hopes, τὸ πέρας τῶν ἐλπιζομένων.45 On p. 13,17ff. Downing he describes this state as characterized by the final vanishing of evil, one of the pillars of Origen’s eschatology, supported by Gregory elsewhere too.46 And, once again, he joins his argument to the exegesis of Paul’s passage: what the Apostle means when he speaks of the final submission of all to Christ and of Christ to the Father is this: « One day, the nature of evil will pass to non-being [πρὸς τὸ μὴ ὄν], after disappearing completely from being, and divine and pure Goodness will enfold in itself every rational nature [πᾶσαν λογικὴν φύσιν], and none of those who have come to being thanks to God will fall outside God’s kingdom [μηδενὸς τῶν παρὰ θεοῦ γεγονότων τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ ἀποπίπτοντος], when, once all evil that is mixed up with the beings has been consumed, as a kind of waste of nature consumed through the fusion of purifying fire, every being [πᾶν] that originated from God will return precisely as it was from the beginning [ἐξ ἀρχῆς], when it had not yet received evil ». The subsequent argument, on p. 15 Downing, is entirely grounded in Paul’s writings and assembles six quotations from them in five lines: the phrases « first fruit of the dead » and « first born from the dead » re-echo 1Cor 15:20; Col 1:18 and Acts 2:24; the idea that Christ has annihilated the power of death in himself seems to be a reminiscence of 2Tim 1:10 and Hebr 2:14; the whole phrase also recalls 1Cor 15:24. The subject, already discussed by Origen, is the order in which each one will receive goodness in himself and follow Christ, who has opened the way: this will be in the order of each one’s merits and faculties: in this way, the value of human free will, too, is safe. In fact, Gregory says, even though the end will be the same for all in the general apokatastasis, when each one has destroyed in himself the power of death, imitating Christ in alienation from evil, the order in which human perfection will be attained—on the model of Christ, ἀπαρχὴ τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν—will depend on each one’s merits. Thus, Gregory dwells upon the description of this process: first there will come those who are already perfect, then the others, more and

as we had carried the image of the earthly man, so we shall also carry that of the heavenly man ». In his De anima Gregory treats very specifically the possibility and modalities of that ἀναστοιχείωσις. 45) Cf. its discussion already in De an. et res. 96A-97A. 46) In De an. et res. 72B and in Orat. cat., PG 45,69B.

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more imperfect, according to the conception of the descending gradation of the Good.47 We have seen that already Origen maintained the same concept of order in the access to blessedness according to each one’s merits, and, both in De principiis and in his Commentary on John, he based his argument on many scriptural quotations, and above all Paul’s phrase « each one in his place » (1Cor 15:22). Also in the following section (p. 16,1-8 Downing) Gregory makes ample use of Paul, when he affirms that the advance of the Good, ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ πρόοδος, will even reach the πέρας τοῦ κακοῦ and will make it totally disappear (ἐξαφανίζω is a strong verb): nothing opposed to Good will remain, and divine life, extending through all beings (διὰ πάντων), will make death absolutely vanish from them.48 This complete vanishing of evil from all creatures is precisely the τέλος of our hopes, as Gregory notes with a reminiscence of Col 1:5. This will be possible because before the destruction of evil there will be that of sin, thanks to which death obtained its lordship over humankind, according to Rom 5:12. Immediately afterward, Gregory introduces the concept of body, always drawing inspiration from Paul (p. 16,12-13 Downing): resuming the fundamental question of the treatise— what the eventual ὑποταγή of all to God really is—, and answering that it is the complete alienation from evil, ἡ παντελὴς τοῦ κακοῦ ἀλλοτρίωσις, he explains that, once we all (πάντες) have become far removed from evil, then « the whole mass of human nature » (ὅλον τὸ φύραμα τῆς φύσεως),49 joined to its ἀπαρχή and become one and the same body, according to Rom 11:16, will receive in itself only the hegemony of Good. Thus, when « the entire body of our nature » (πᾶν τὸ τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν σῶμα) has merged with God’s immortal nature, the Son’s submission will take place through us (δι᾽ ἡμῶν), in that such submission will be accomplished by the Son’s body, that is, the entire human nature. The New Testament basis for Gregory’s discourse is evident in the following section, too (p. 16,23-17,12 Downing), which presents itself as an exegesis of Paul’s words: it begins with the statement, « The meaning of the teachings offered by Paul, the great, is, to my mind, as follows », and goes
῾Η τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ὑπόβασις, an idea also found in the Neoplatonists, well known to Gregory of Nyssa, esp. Plotinus, 1,8,7,19. 48) The iteration of ἐξαφανίζω produces an impressive cumulative effect, further emphasized by the addition of καθόλου, « definitely, wholly ». 49) For this concept in Gregory, with further documentation, see J. Zachhuber, “Phyrama (Masa),” in Diccionario de san Gregorio, 733-737.


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on with a section (p. 17 Downing) in which the elements taken from Origen are numerous and essential, both in the quotations from Paul and in the way in which they are interpreted; the parallels are indeed uninterrupted. Gregory quotes 1Cor 15:22-28, as already Origen had done, in order to confirm the doctrine of apokatastasis through the Apostle’s authority: « As all die in Adam, so all will also be vivified in Christ—each one, however, in his order: the first fruit is Christ, then those who belong to Christ in his Parousia, and then the τέλος will come, when he will hand the kingdom to God the Father, once he has annihilated every principality, force and power; it will be necessary, in fact, that he continues reigning until he has put all his enemies under his feet; the last enemy to be annihilated will be death . . . And once he has submitted everything to himself, then he also will submit to him who has submitted everything to him, in order that God may be all in all ». Paul’s passage, and especially its last phrase, that « God may be all in all », is often quoted by Origen as evidence for apokatastasis. Gregory explains (p. 17,13-21 Downing) that God will be all in all when in all beings there will be no evil left, so Paul’s phrase expresses the non-substantiality of evil, τὸ τῆς κακίας ἀνύπαρκτον. For God will be all in all when nothing evil will be visible in beings, since it is impossible that God may be ἐν κακῷ. Thus, either God will not be in all, in case anything evil might remain among creatures, or, if we have to believe that he will really be in all, then, together with this belief we get the demonstration that nothing evil (μηδὲν κακόν) will remain. The same remarks, in the connection with the interpretation of the same Pauline passage, can be found already in Origen, Princ. 3,6,2-3, quoted above, which Gregory follows ad verbum. Gregory comments on the last verse of Paul’s passage on p. 18,1-18 Downing, expressing many ideas already set forth in De an. et res. 104, where he interprets the same verse, 1Cor 15:28, on God’s presence as « all in all »: Gregory maintains that this indicates « the simplicity and uniformity of the life that we hope for », for the variety and multiplicity characterizing the present life will dissolve, because we shall have God alone instead of all the various objects of our needs: Gregory here interprets Paul’s statement in the light of the Neoplatonic motive of return to unity.50 God, in fact, will be for us food and drink, garment,

50) See my “Uno-molti” and Ead., “Emanatismo,” in Enciclopedia filosofica, new edition, dir. V. Melchiorre, IV, Milan 2006, 3319-3322; for the presence of Neoplatonic elements in Gregory’s thought see my philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la

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house, air, and again richness, joy, beauty, health, vigour, wisdom, glory, blessedness, and all good: those who are in God have everything, in that they have God himself. Now, to have God means nothing else than to become one and the same thing with God, ἑνωθῆναι τῷ θεῷ, which, in turn, is to become one body with God, to be σύσσωμος with God—a clear echo of Eph 3:6—, and this will occur when all will constitute the one and same body of Christ (ἓν σῶμα) through participation, διὰ τῆς μετουσίας, as Gregory says recalling 1Cor 10:17: ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν . . . ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν. Now, Gregory argues (p. 19,19-20,7 Downing), it is this body that will submit to the Father—and this will be Christ’s final submission to him—, this body which is the Church, according to Col 1:24-25, τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστι ἡ ἐκκλησία. This section, actually, is rich both in argument and in references to Scripture: in fact it is a mosaic of quotations from Paul. As for the argument brought forth, it is evident that the equation between the whole human nature and Christ’s body, and then between the latter and the Church, leads Gregory to affirm the absolute universality of the Church, which will comprise, in this way, the entire human nature, whose final salvation is affirmed, although with differences of times and modalities in the course of purification and conversion. Gregory also evokes 1Cor 12:27, where Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are Christ’s body and his limbs, and then Eph 4:5-16, saying that Christ’s body is built up ἐν ἀγάπῃ, since, as Gregory explains, Christ constitutes himself through those who progressively join themselves to faith, διὰ τῶν ἀεὶ προστιθεμένων τῇ πίστει. With further Pauline reminiscences (Eph 2:20; 4:13, already quoted by Origen in Princ. 1,6 for apokatastasis), Gregory asserts that all will contribute to this construction, and « will be built up and edified » (πάντων ἐποικοδομηθέντων) and all (οἱ πάντες) will reach unity of faith and knowledge, so to make up Christ as perfect man in his wholeness. Then, Gregory develops Eph 4:16 and 1Cor 12:20-21, specifying that each one will constitute a different member of Christ’s body, according to his faculties; anyway, he confirms that all will be part of Christ’s body—all, οἱ πάντες, a phrase that is significantly repeated three times in this paragraph—, given that Christ makes all (ποιεῖται τοὺς πάντας) limbs of its own body. In the following section (p. 20,8-24 Downing), Gregory combines both traces of Hellenistic philosophical doctrines and allusions to Paul, who, as
resurrezione, and also, shortly, A. Meredith, “Neoplatonismo,” in Diccionario de san Gregorio, 655-657; I. Pochoshajew, “Plotino,” ibid. 749-753; Id., “Porfirio,” ibid. 753-757.


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it seems, was already partly acquainted with such doctrines.51 Gregory envisages the eschatological harmony of the whole creation, which will be possible because Christ, after becoming one and the same thing with us through all (διὰ πάντων), makes all that is ours his own and conciliates it to himself, as Gregory says using the terminology of Stoic οἰκείωσις,52 already widely employed by Origen:53 τὰ ἡμέτερα οἰκειοῦται πάντα. This way, the whole of creation (πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις) will be in harmony with itself, ὁμόφωνος πρὸς ἑαυτήν, and, according to Phil 2:10-11, already quoted by Gregory before, every knee of all beings will bend, in heaven, on earth, or in the underworld, and every tongue will proclaim that Christ is the Lord. All will be saved because all, sooner or later, will believe; not only the whole human nature, but the entire creation will become one and the same body: πάσης τῆς κτίσεως ἓν σῶμα γενομένης. Gregory depends on Origen, Princ. 4,6, who, as we have seen, also quotes Phil 2:10-11 and interprets the universal submission of all to Christ as universal salvation of all, angels, humans and demons, in heaven, on earth, and in the underworld. Then,
See above, note 25. See S.G. Pembroke, “Oikeiosis,” in Problems in Stoicism, ed. A.A. Long, London 1971, 114-149; G. Striker, “The Role of oikeiosis in Stoic Ethics,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 1 (1983) 145-167; T. Engberg-Pedersen, “Discovering the Good: Oikeiosis and Kathekonta in Stoic Ethics,” in The Norms of Nature, eds. M. Schofield–G. Striker, Cambridge–Paris 1986, 145-183; Id., The Stoic Theory of Oikeiosis, Aarhus 1990; M. Isnardi Parente, “Ierocle stoico. Oikeiosis e doveri sociali,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, II,36,3, Berlin–New York 1989, 2201-2226; G. Schönrich, “Oikeiosis. Zur Aktualität eines stoischen Grundbegriffs,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 96 (1989) 34-51; M. Whitlock Blundell, “Parental Nature and Stoic Oikeiosis”, Ancient Philosophy 10 (1990) 221-242; R. Radice, Oikeiosis. Ricerche sul fondamento del pensiero stoico e sulla sua genesi, Milano 2000. On the presence of Stoicism in Gregory see briefly I. Pochoshajew, “Estoicismo,” in Diccionario de san Gregorio de Nisa, 382-383. Its presence in Origen is broadly discussed by Tzamalikos, Origen, passim. 53) Apart from related forms, such as οἰκειότης, we find numerous occurrences of οἰκειόω in Origen, with exactly the same meaning as in Gregory: “to make one’s own, familiar; to conciliate,” also in reference to Christ—as then will be seen in Gregory—in relation to mortal realities: C. Cels. 3,54; 4,26; 8,4: Christ conciliates humanity with God; in the passive diathesis, the verb is used in Comm. in Io. 6,11,7, in reference to God conciliated and “made own” to humans: οἰκειωθεὶς τοῖς ἁγίοις . . . πνεῦμα οἰκειωθὲν τοῖς προφήταις. Clement, Origen’s master, had already used this verb in the sense of “to reconcile,” in Strom. 7,7, about humans toward God. Gregory of Nazianzus, who also knew Origen’s writings very well and probably had a penchant toward apokatastasis (see my Apocatastasi, section devoted to him), uses οἰκειόω for Christ who takes on the faults of human beings (or. 30,5): τὴν ἀφροσύνην ἡμῶν καὶ τὸ πλημμελὲς οἰκειοῦται.
52) 51)

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on p. 20,25-21,21 Downing, Gregory draws very important consequences from what he has demonstrated so far: if every being (πᾶν) that comes to be in Christ is saved, and if submission means salvation, as Ps 71:2 suggests, and if all will be in Christ, who will subsume all in his body, then we must think that no being will remain outside of those saved: μηδὲν ἔξω τῶν σῳζομένων. For—Gregory argues—given the total elimination (καθαίρεσις) of death and the submission to the Son, at a certain moment death will no longer exist and all will turn out to be in life, πάντες ἐν ζωῇ, because all will be in Christ, and Christ is life, according to his own statement in John 11:25: ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή. For this reason, Christ is called Μεσίτης between God and humans in 1Tim 2:5, because he who is in the Father and has come among humans accomplishes the mediation (μεσιτεία), in that he unifies all (πάντας ἑνῶσαι) in himself and, through himself, to the Father. Here, Gregory relies again on John 17:21: « in order that all may be one and the same thing [πάντες ἕν] . . . one and the same thing [ἕν] in us », and explains that Christ, who is in the Father, having joined us to himself in unity [ἑνῶσας], accomplishes our union with the Father (p. 21,22ff. Downing). Gregory, after quoting the immediate continuation of the above mentioned passage of John (17:22: « The glory you gave me, I have given them »), introduces a further element in his argument: the Holy Spirit, equivalent to the glory that Christ had before creation according to John 17:5, substantiates the above mentioned unity, for, as humans and God were separate because of sin, only the Spirit in its unity could join them again: the Spirit’s role was fundamental in human reditus already in Origen.54 With no interruption, Gregory goes on in the exegesis of the passage (John 17:21.23), in which, moreover, he inserts reminiscences of John 10:30 and other similar loci of the same author: « so that they may be one and the same thing just as we are one [ἕν], for you and I are one [ἕν], in order that they may be made perfect as far as to constitute a unity [ἕν] ». Gregory, quoting John 17:22, explains that all become one and the same thing, πάντας ἓν γενέσθαι, in unity with Christ and God who are one, thanks to Christ who is in them all. Drawing inspiration from John, 17:23, Gregory demonstrates that, if the Father loves humankind,

54) Cf. M. Bayer Moser, Teacher of Holiness: The Holy Spirit in Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Piscataway, NJ 2005, with my review in Augustinianum 46 (2006) 265-269. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, about the relationship between Christ and the Spirit (Rm 8:9), is quoted by Gregory, too, in the passage we are examining.


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and if the Father loves the Son and in the Son are present all of us humans (πάντες), it follows that the Father loves us in that we are the Son’s body, and « the Son’s submission to the Father indicates the knowledge of Being and, at the same time, the salvation of the entire human nature [σωτηρία πάσης ἀνθρωπίνης φύσεως] ». We should notice, once again, the affirmation of the universal character of final salvation, which will involve the whole of human nature: all, though at different times, will attain the true knowledge of God, who is the true Being and is Good itself, opposed to evil, which is μὴ ὄν, according to Gregory’s theory of non-substantiality of evil: these also are reflections evidently derived from Origen.55 The major concepts expressed so far are further confirmed by Gregory in several quotations from Paul on p. 23,19ff. Downing, especially Gal 2:19-20, « I have been crucified together with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me », and 2Cor 13:3, where Paul maintains that it is Christ who speaks in him, 1Cor 15:9 and Gal 1:13, where he recounts his conversion from persecutor of the Christians to Christ’s apostle. Paul’s transformation, as far as to become one with Christ, took place thanks to his ὑποταγή to God, a submission which is for us « the origin of all goods ». Now, Gregory’s point (p. 24,18ff. Downing) is that what is said about Paul will logically fit the whole of created human nature, πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει τῶν ἀνθρώπων, when, as Jesus asserts in Mk 13:10 and 16:15 and in Mt 28:19, the Gospel has reached every part of the world. All (πάντες) will reject the old man—according to Col 3:9 and Eph 4:22— and will receive in themselves the Lord, who activates the good things (τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἐνεργεῖ) in them. Now, of all goods, the most important is salvation, which can be attained thanks to alienation from evil, derived from submission and union to God. The last stage of Gregory’s argumentation (p. 26,10ff. Downing) is devoted to the eschatological fate of God’s enemies: Gregory makes a strong case that not even their submission is to be seen as forced and involuntary, but must be interpreted as σωτηρία as well. He draws a distinction, on the basis of Paul’s own terminology, between what will submit (ὑποταγήσεσθαι) and what will be annihilated (καταργηγθήσεσθαι): the latter will be the case of the enemy of all nature, i.e. death, and, together with this, the principle of all sin, which produced death, and its power. It is interesting to compare this distinction with that drawn by Origen in


Cf. my Gregorio di Nissa, introductory essay.

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Princ. 3,6,5 between the complete annihilation of « enemy will », i.e. sin, and of what derives from it, i.e. death, and the restoration of the created substance of all those who have sinned, including the devil, who is not to be saved as devil, because what was enemy and death and evil will perish, whereas he himself, as created by God and endowed with a substance by him, will return to his original condition before his sin, reintegrated into the Good. For he will not be annihilated in his substance, which was made by God and can by no means be destroyed.56 And all the more interesting is it that Origen sets forth this view precisely in his exegesis of 1Cor 15:26,57 the same passage commented on by Gregory. In Princ. 3,6,5, in fact, Origen explains: « “even the last enemy, who is called death”, will be destroyed, so that there may be nothing painful left when death will no more exist, nothing opposed, “when there will be no enemy left”. But we must understand the last enemy’s destruction not as annihilation of his substance, which has been made by God, but as annihilation of the enemy’s inclination and will, originated not by God, but by the enemy himself. Hence, he will be destroyed not so as to cease existing, but to be no longer enemy and death ».58
56) For the salvation of the devil according to Origen see at least H. Crouzel, “A Letter from Origen ‘To Friends in Alexandria’”, in The Heritage of the Early Church. Mélanges G.V. Florowsky, ed. D. Neiman–M. Schatkin, Roma 1973, 135-150; Y.M. Duval, “Jérôme et Origène avant la querelle origéniste. La cure et la guérison ultime du monde et du diable dans l’In Nahum,” Augustinianum 24 (1984) 471-494; D. Satran, “The salvation of the Devil,” Studia Patristica 23 (1989) 171-177; A. Monaci, “La demonologia di Origene,” in Origeniana quinta, Leuven 1992, 320-325; H. Crouzel, “Diable et démons dans les homélies d’Origène,” Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 95 (1994) 303-331; G. Bunge, “Créé pour être,” ibid. 98 (1997) 21-29; my “La coerenza della soteriologia origeniana.” 57) The same Pauline passage is quoted by Origen also in Comm. in Matth. 12,33; Hom. in Jos. 8,4; in Lev. 9,11; in Jer. 18,3. 58) This is, in Origen, the most important affirmation of the final salvation of the devil, also recognized by H. Crouzel, “Apocatastase chez Origène”, in Origeniana Quarta, ed. L. Lies, Innsbruck 1985, 282-290 (cf. Id., Le fin dernier selon Origène, Aldershot 1990); Satran, “The Salvation of the Devil”, 171-177; Bunge, “Créé pour être,” 21-29, according to whom Origen’s doctrine of apokatastasis depends on that of the roots, nature, and final destiny of evil: on the basis of Wis 1:14, quoted by him, Origen can maintain that what was made in order to exist cannot stop existing and thus the devil’s ontological annihilation must be excluded. Hence, there remains only the possibility of his re-conversion to Good. Gregory also saves all the substances that took part in sin, postulating the destruction of sin and death alone, i.e. of evil and its consequence, which, according to both Gregory and Origen, have no ontological consistency. The thesis of the devil’s recovery, developed in De principiis, was criticised and Origen had to defend his position (ibid. 2,3,3.5). This idea, however,


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Gregory, who is evidently following Origen, argues that death and sin, i.e. evil, will be completely extinguished, to such a point that they will no longer exist (μηκέτι ἔσεσθαι), and the empire of evil will be entirely destroyed (εἰς τὸ παντελὲς ἐξαργηθήσεται), whereas the beings that will be subjected will be those who are called enemies of God in another sense, that is, those who have deserted from his reign to sin. The latter, according to Gregory, is precisely the category meant by Paul when he affirms that, while we were still enemies, we have been reconciled to God, and, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life. For those who are called God’s enemies on account of disobedience will become his friends owing to submission. The last idea developed by Gregory on p. 27,19ff. Downing depends, once again, on a Pauline statement located in the same passage that inspired the whole treatise, 1Cor 15:25: « It is necessary that he goes on reigning until he has put all his enemies under his feet ». The submission of all his enemies will be accomplished by Christ progressively, during his reign; in the end, once he has subjected all and has unified all beings (ἑνῶσας τὰ πάντα), he will hand over everything to the Father, which means—as Gregory explains—to lead all (προσαγαγεῖν τοὺς πάντας) to God, in one and the same spirit with God. Those who were God’s enemies will become a stool for God’s feet, according to the phrase of Ps 109:1: they will receive God’s footprint on themselves, his ἴχνος, which is also his mark and sign—an idea certainly associated with the so-called “theology of image”, so very central in Gregory, and already in Origen’s thought too,59 with the presence of God’s εἰκών in every human being. Given that there will be nobody who dies, death will vanish and we all (πάντων ἡμῶν), Gregory affirms, shall enjoy a submission to God that is not slavery, but, on the contrary, sovereignty, incorruptibility, blessedness: βασιλεία, ἀφθαρσία, μακαριότης. The perspective and terminology are the same as that we find in the final section of De anima et resurrectione, with the depiction of universal apokatastasis and the salvation of all, which Gregory believed to be fully grounded in Scripture.

was profoundly consistent with the whole of Origen’s eschatological and metaphysical theory: the devil will be reintegrated and saved not as devil, but as a creature of God, once it has been set free from evil. 59) For this conception in Origen see the chapter devoted to him in my essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione, and for its presence in Gregory see my philosophical essay in the same book.

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2. The Allegorical Interpretation of Scripture and the Continuity with Greek Philosophical Allegory Origen was, first and foremost, an exegete, « the greatest exegete the Church has ever had » according to Simonetti,60 and this is relevant: Young has recently called attention to the importance of exegesis in the formation of early Christian culture,61 and on the other hand scholars have shown the philosophical roots of Origen’s exegesis: he 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.62 Porphyry, in a fragment of the third book of his Κατὰ Χριστιανῶν,63 attests that Origen, the « outstanding Christian exponent of the allegorical method »,64 knew very well the allegorical works of Cornutus and Chaeremon, Stoic allegorists of the Neronian age and heirs of the secular Stoic allegorical tradition,65 and of the Neo-Pythagorean and Middle-Platonist Numenius, who read the Old Testament (and perhaps some of the New) allegorically, and that he transferred the ancient allegorical tradition to the interpretation of Scripture. Edwards66 claims that this dependence on the Stoics in the field of allegoresis was attributed to Origen by Porphyry, who applied allegory to Greek myths but did not admit allegorical interpretations of Scripture,67

M. Simonetti, Origene esegeta e la sua tradizione, Brescia 2004. F. Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture, Cambridge 1997. 62) M-J. Edwards, “Precursors of Origen’s Hermeneutic Theory,” in Studia Patristica 29 (1993) 231-237; Id., Origen against Plato, Aldershot 2002; broad documentation in my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition.” 63) Ap. Eus. Hist. Eccl. 6,19,8 = F39 Harn.; cf. Jerome, Ep. 70. G. Rinaldi, La Bibbia dei pagani, I, Bologna 1998, 142-143; II, nr. 14; P.F. Beatrice, “Porphyry’s Judgement on Origen,” in Origeniana V, ed. R.J. Daly, Leuven 1992, 351-367; 64) So E. Auerbach: see J.D. Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity, Berkeley–Los Angeles 2002, chap. 5 for a critique of Auerbach’s attack against Origen’s allegorical interpretation. 65) On them full documentation in my Anneo Cornuto. Compendio di teologia greca, Milano 2003; Ead., Allegoria, I, L’età classica, in coll. with G. Lucchetta, Milano 2004, chaps. 6-7. 66) Edwards, Origen against Plato, 145. But see P.F. Beatrice, “Porphyry’s Judgement on Origen,” in Origeniana V, 351-367. Also M. Zambon, “Παρανόμως ζῆν: la critica di Porfirio ad Origene (Eus., HE VI 19,1-9),” in Origeniana VIII, ed. L. Perrone, Leuven 2003, 553-564. 67) Ap. Eus. Hist. Eccl. 6,19,4-8. Wide documentation in my Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition; A. Grafton–M. Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book, Cambridge–London 2006, 64-70.



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for a polemical purpose, in order to cast an ambiguous light on Origen’s allegoresis. At any rate, Porphyry probably knew Origen in his youth68 and then criticized him for his exegetical method, and for his being a Christian; what is now relevant is that, among many other things, he testifies: « He was familiar with Plato, always held in his hands the writings of Numenius, Cronius, Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus, Nicomachus, and the most distinguished of the Pythagoreans; he availed himself of the books of the Stoic Chaeremon and Cornutus, from which he learned the allegorical method of the Greek mysteries, which he applied, then, to the Jewish Scriptures ».69 And, according to Jerome, Origen, drawing inspiration from Clement’s work, wrote Στρωματεῖς in which he « matched the Christian conceptions with those of the philosophers, and confirmed all the truths of our faith by means of Plato’s, Aristotle’s, Numenius’, and Cornutus’ texts ».70 In both passages the allegorists Cornutus and Chaeremon or Numenius are mentioned near Plato and other outstanding philosophers—mostly Middle-Platonists and Neo-Pythagorean thinkers—as the main sources of Origen’s philosophical formation. The importance of Origen’s contribution lies not only in his exegesis applied to Scripture, in a number of works, but also in the theoretical exposition of the levels of interpretation of Scripture in Princ. 4. He

It is discussed whether Porphyry was a Christian when young: see W. Kinzig, “War der neuplatoniker Porphyrios ursprünglich Christ?,” in Mousopolos Stephanos. Festschrift H. Görgemanns, Heidelberg 1998, 320-332. He knew the Scriptures well: see R.M. Berchman, “In the Shadow of Origen: Porphyry and the Patristic Origins of the NT Criticism,” in Origeniana VI, Leuven 1995, 657-673; Rinaldi, La Bibbia, I, 124-175. 69) Cf. J. Pépin, “À propos de l’histoire de l’exégèse allégorique: l’absurdité, signe de l’allégorie,” in Studia Patristica 1 (1957) 395-413; Id., Mythe et allégorie, Paris 1958; 19813, 462-466; W. Den Boer, “Some Striking Similarities in Pagan and Christian Allegorical Interpretation,” in Studi filologici e storici in onore di V. De Falco, Napoli 1971, 465-473; Id., “Allegory and History,” in Studia J.H. Waszink, ed. Id. et al., Amsterdam 1973, 15-27; Rinaldi, La Bibbia, I, 124ff., esp. 142-143; II, 53-56, nr. 14, with bibl.; F. Ruggiero, La follia dei Cristiani, Roma 2002, chap. 10; M.J. Edwards, “Origen on Christ, Tropology, and Exegesis,” in Metaphor, Allegory, and the Classical Tradition, ed. G.R. Boys-Stones, Oxford 2003, 235-256: 252; Porphyry vs. Origen in Eus. HE 6,19; Eusebius vs. Porphyry in Praep. Ev. 3,9, passim. 70) Ep. 70. See C. Moreschini, “Note ai perduti Stromata di Origene,” in Origeniana IV, Hrsg. L. Lothar, Innsbruck-Wien 1987, 38-42.


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theorizes71 a threefold interpretation72 of the Bible, literal, moral, and spiritual (i.e. typological and allegorical),73 in which each level corresponds to a component of the human being, σῶμα, ψυχή, πνεῦμα, and to a degree of Christian perfection: incipientes, progredientes, perfecti. Here I shall not linger on his theorization, but I shall offer a few examples of allegorical reading of Scripture applied by Origen in his arguments in support of apokatastasis. In Origen’s perspective of cathartic sufferings and final reintegration, adhesion to the Good—i.e. God—ought not to derive from fear of punishment, but from knowledge and free will and conscious conviction. So, in his homilies on Genesis (7:4) he draws a distinction between those who adhere to God in awareness and out of love and those who do so for fear and because of threats, comparing the two categories to the children of the free woman, Sarah, and those of the slave, Hagar. This, of course, recalls not only the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis, but also the figural reading of it offered by Paul, in Gal 4:22-31, where he says that Hagar’s and Sarah’s vicissitudes were ἀλληγορούμενα.74 It is an allegorical interpretation
71) This theorization (Princ. 4,2,4-6; 3,5) is analyzed e.g. by C. Blönnigen, Die griechische Ursprung der jüdisch-hellenistischen Allegorese, Frankfurt a.M. et al. 1992, 205-265, esp. 207220, and Edwards, Origen against Plato, 123-152, who intends to demonstrate that Origen’s exegesis cannot be defined Platonic or Middle-Platonic, although he admits Philo’s influence on Origen; see esp. 135ff. on the three exegetical levels, and 139-140: Origen’s exegetical tripartition also corresponds to that of Greek philosophy in φυσική, ἠθική, θεωρική. 72) See K.J. Torjesen, “Body, Soul, and Spirit in Origen’s Theory of Exegesis,” Anglican Theological Review 67 (1985) 17-30; Dawson, Christian Figural Reading, 75, 78 and passim; Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 20ff. Cf. also Hom. Lev. 5,1; Hom. Num. 9,7; Hom. Gen. 2,6; Hom. Lev. 1,4; K. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis, Berlin 1986, 40ff., and my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition,” with broad documentation on the three senses of Scripture. 73) On the relativity of this distinction see my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition.” 74) Dawson, Christian Figural Reading, 24-27; Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 15. For Paul’s influence on Origen see F. Cocchini, Il Paolo di Origene, Roma 1992, and M. Simonetti, “Presenza di Paolo nella cristologia patristica,” Vetera Christianorum 40 (2003) 191-205, 194; Id., Ortodossia ed eresia fra I e II secolo, Soveria Mannelli 1994, 63ff. Paul himself seems to have theorized the allegorical reading in 2Cor 3:12-18, where the veil on Moses’ face at Sinai is considered as follows: for those who are fixated on the text as an end in itself, the text remains veiled, but those who turn to the Lord are enabled to see through the text to its true aim and meaning (τέλος): for them, the veil is removed: see Dawson, Christian Figural Reading, 34-35; 188. See also R. Roukema, “The Veil over Moses’ Face in Patristic Interpretation,” in The Interpretation of Exodus. Studies in Honour of Cornelis Houtman, ed. Id., Leuven 2006, 237-252, in part. 242-244 for Origen’s interpretation.


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that highlights these two different levels in the intellectual and moral development of the νόες. Likewise, in Princ. 3,5,8, Origen emphasizes that the submission of all creatures to God, i.e. their salvation, will take place « not as a result of violence, nor by necessity that forces to subjection, but thanks to words, reason, teaching, emulation of the best, good norms, and also threats, when deserved and apt . . . For we humans too, when we educate our servants or children, while they are not yet in the age of reason, compel them by means of threats and fear, but when they begin to understand what is good, useful, and honest, then the fear of beating stops, and they, persuaded by words and reason, find satisfaction in all that is good ». Thus, in Origen’s view, the threat of an everlasting fire after death may be helpful for those who still cannot adhere to the Good freely;75 for Origen is persuaded that purifying fire is not really eternal,76 and in any case, even if it should last after the final apokatastasis, it will remain empty. The spiritual interpretation of sufferings in the future world is provided by Origen in the preface to Book 1 of his De principiis, § 5: « For the sinners there are prepared the πῦρ αἰώνιον, the outer darkness, the prison and the furnace, but let’s see how we should understand all this, too ». These torments are interpreted in an allegorical way, and an eternal duration is excluded for them, for Origen thinks that sin and the soul’s disharmony constitute a punishment in themselves and that fire is nothing else but the fire of passions, as is clear from Princ. 2,10,4: « Now, let us see what the threat of πῦρ αἰώνιον [Mt 25:41] means: in Isaiah, the prophet, we find that the fire that punishes each one is defined as peculiar to each one. For he says: “Go into the flash of your fire and the flame that you yourselves lit” [Is 50:11].77 It seems to me that these words indicate that each sinner lights the flame of his own fire. Tinder and nourishment for this fire are our sins, defined by the Apostle as “wood, hay, and straw” [1Cor 3:12].78 And I assume that,
75) For the pedagogical function of God’s threats and the spiritual interpretation of the resurrection held by Origen (who never denied the resurrection of the body, however) see my “Threats, punishment, and hope.” 76) For a study of the meaning of πῦρ αἰώνιον in Origen see my Apocatastasi, in the chapter concerning Origen; Ead., “Origene ed il lessico dell’eternità,” Adamantius 13 (2007); for a study of the meaning of αἰώνιος and ἀΐδιος in Greek pagan and Christian literature see Ramelli–Konstan, Terms for Eternity. 77) The same quotation from Isaiah is used to confirm the same idea also in Hom. in Lev. 9,8 and in Comm. in Rom. 2,6. 78) This Pauline passage is interpreted by Origen in the same way also in Princ. 1,1; C. Cels. 5,15; Hom. in Ex. 6,3; Hom. in Lev. 14,3.

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just as in our body abundant consumption and quantity and quality of harmful food produce fevers, and fevers of different kind and duration in proportion to the consumption and the stimulation brought by the infirmity . . ., so, when the soul has gathered in itself a large amount of evil deeds and abundance of sins, in due time all this collection of evils boils to produce torments and blazes forth to cause punishment. And when the mind or conscience . . . will see, disclosed before its eyes, as it were, the story of its crimes, then it will be agitated and stung by its own pricks, and will become prosecutor and witness against itself . . . As to the soul’s substance, some torments are provoked precisely by the sinners’ evil feelings ». Origen does not at all seem to be disturbed by the characterization of the fire as αἰώνιον, but seems to relate its duration and intensity to the measure of passions and sins. In fact, πῦρ αἰώνιον does not mean “eternal fire”, properly, which would be more precisely indicated by πῦρ ἀίδιον, but “the fire of the world to come”.79 We shall soon see that the same spiritual interpretation of the torments in the future world, held by Origen also in other passages,80 will be taken up by Gregory of Nyssa, too. In Princ. 2,10,5 Origen, offering his spiritual exegesis of the fire of Hades as that of the passions, which is its own punishment, interprets the torment of fire as the ardour of the passions that trouble the soul: « Consider the damaging passions that customarily affect the soul when it is, e.g., burnt by the flames of love or devoured by the fire of envy and spite or tossed by the madness of anger or consumed by endless sadness, to the extent that some people, unable to bear the excess of these troubles, deemed death more tolerable than suffering such tortures. Well, as for those who let themselves be imprisoned by such evil vices, and did not succeed in correcting them at all during the present life, and left this world in such conditions, consider whether for them may it be enough, as punishment, to be tormented by such evil passions persisting in them, i.e. anger, rage, folly, sadness, whose mortal poison was not mitigated during their life by the therapy of any correction ». Similarly, in the same § 5, Origen supposes that, as the passions are punishment to themselves, so is, too, the

See Ramelli-Konstan, Terms for Eternity, and the chapter on Origen in my Apocatastasi. Another similar parallel between physical troubles and future punishment is to be found also in Selecta in Ps. PG 12,1177, and the trouble given by the mere awareness of one’s own sins is also theorized in Hom. in Ps. 38. Ibid. 2, 2 Origen affirms that each sin will appear to our conscience on the judgement day; see also Hom. in Ier. 16,10; De or. 28,5.



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disharmony of the sinner’s soul:81 fire, then, is simply a therapy for this state of fragmentation, for the ideal return—in Platonic terms—to harmony and unity: « in case the soul’s laceration and dissolution is tested by means of fire, the soul will undoubtedly be consolidated in renewal and in a firmer connection and structure »: that the soul ought to be in a condition of perfect harmony, because harmony implies unity, and unity perfection, is an idea found in Plato and in Greek philosophy, and then in Jewish and Christian thought influenced by Platonism and Middle-Platonism,82 above all Philo and Clement of Alexandria, who, in the relevant passage, significantly quotes Plato and connects the soul’s harmony to that of the body.83 Gregory of Nyssa interprets the Bible according to the allegorical method theorized and used by Origen.84 Let us select from the dialogue De anima et resurrectione some significant examples in which scriptural passages quoted in support of the doctrine of apokatastasis are interpreted allegorically. In 80A-88C, Macrina offers a spiritual exegesis of the parable of Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31),85 in order to demonstrate the συμφωνία of her argument—that, after death, the soul maintains the human being’s individuality, while the body is dispersed in various elements—with the Bible,

« As the limbs of the body, detached from their reciprocal connection, make us feel the torment of strongest pain, so when the soul is out of the order, connection and harmony with which God had created it so that it might behave rightly and have good feelings, and can no longer be in agreement with itself in the connection of its rational movements, then we can think that it will suffer the torment of its very laceration and the torture of its disorder and dissolubility ». 82) Plat. Resp. 3,410CD; 4,443D; 9,591D; Doxographi Graeci, 387 e 651; SVF III 121; Phil. Leg. all. 1,23,72; Clem. Strom. 4,4,18; Alc. Didasc. 29,3,182 Hermann. 83) Strom. 4,4,18: « Plato, precisely he whom they [sc. the Gnostics] proclaim in the loudest voice as a witness in their favour for the refusal of generation, in the third Book of his Republic says that it is necessary to take care of the body for the sake of the soul’s harmony ». In Strom. 4,26,163-164, Clement, speaking of the harmony and reciprocal correspondence of virtues and philosophical disciplines, also exalts the soul’s harmony, Platonically seen as justice, and that which obtains between soul and body. 84) See H.R. Drobner, “Alegoría,” in Diccionario de san Gregorio, 64-72; M. Simonetti, “Exégesis,” ibid. 426-438; also A. Meredith, “Orígenes,” ibid. 700-702. 85) See M. Alexandre, “L’interprétation de Luc 16, 19-31 chez Grégoire de Nysse,” in Epektasis. Mélanges J. Daniélou, eds. J. Fontaine–Ch. Kannengiesser, Paris 1972, 425-441, in part. 430-439.


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if interpreted correctly, as suggested by its author himself (80B-81A).86 So, in 81A-84D she proposes the spiritual meaning of the parable, concerning the original condition of the human being untouched by evil, the gift of free will and the choice of evil, the division of human life into two parts thanks to divine Providence and the free choice of life that humans can make, according to two kinds of good and evil, sensible or spiritual, and the necessity to reserve true good for the future life, lest one need purification through fire after death: the suffering of the rich is seen as purification, not as eternal damnation. Spiritual interpretations are offered for the χάσμα μέγα between Lazarus and the rich after death, for the κόλπος τοῦ ᾽Αβραάμ in which the blessed are said to be, for the φλόξ of hell, for the ῥανίς of water from Paradise, and for the parts of the body mentioned in the parable, whereas neither the rich nor Lazarus has a body after death.87 In 85B-88C, finally, Macrina explains Lk 16:27-31 as a warning

« Scripture presents such exposition in a form referring to the body, but spreads in it, here and there, many hints by which he who is able to understand accurately is driven to a subtler interpretation. For he who separates good and evil by a huge chasm, and made the sufferer in need of a drop of water brought on a finger, who gave the patriarch’s lap to him who in this life had experienced so many harms, who also narrated their death . . . makes the reader . . . detach himself from the literal meaning . . . For, what eyes can the rich raise in Hades, if he left in the grave those of his body? And how can the incorporeal perceive a flame? What tongue can he wish to get refreshed by a drop of water, given that he does not own the corporeal one? . . . For, since the bodies are in the graves, while the soul is neither in a body nor constituted by parts, it would be impossible to adapt the structure of the narration, in its immediate meaning, to truth, unless we refer, with a metaphor or transposition, each detail to the intelligible interpretation ». 87) See Alexandre, “L’interprétation,” 425-441. « This chasm is not an abyss in the earth, but is that produced by the choice of life, dividing itself into opposite options. For he who chose what is sweet in this life and does not correct this fool decision with conversion and repentance, makes inaccessible to himself the place of good in the future life, because he himself, to his own detriment, has dug this insurmountable necessity, as a sort of widest and impracticable chasm. Thus, it seems to me that Scripture calls “Abraham’s bosom” the good condition of the soul in which he lets the athlete of endurance rest . . . all those who sail with virtue through present life, once freed from this, moor their souls in this good lap, or inlet, as in a tranquil port . . . For the others, instead, to be deprived of the goods that they deemed such assumes the appearance of a flame burning the soul, which would need a little drop from the ocean of Good that the blessed enjoy in abundance, but does not obtain it. If you interpret in an incorporeal sense the tongue, the eye, the finger . . ., you will admit that their spiritual meanings fit the theory of soul that we have established . . . When Scripture mentions the finger, eye, tongue . . . after the dissolution of the composite body, it refers to the soul . . . it will be reasonable to think that hell (Hades) is not a place called with



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that the soul needs to be purified from the « fleshly glue », either on earth or after death, in order to be free in her « race toward the Good », a race that every soul will accomplish, sooner or later.88 Gregory is likely to have drawn inspiration from Origen, Princ. 2,10,4-5, quoted above, with its spiritual exegesis of the fire of hell. Later on, we have another instance of allegorical exegesis of Scripture in support of apokatastasis: after quoting Ps 103(104):29-30 in 132A89 and referring it to resurrection, in 132C-136A Macrina explains the spiritual meaning of Ps. 117(118):27, detailing how the Feast of the Tabernacles90

this name, but a condition of invisible and incorporeal existence, where the soul lives, as we clearly learn from Scripture ». 88) « Since Lazarus’ soul is intent on the present things and does not turn to none of those that it has left behind, while the rich, even after death, remains attached to fleshly life . . . we believe that the Lord wants to teach that those who are living in flesh must absolutely separate from it thanks to life according to virtue, lest, after that, we happen to need another death again, which, purifying us, will eliminate the rests of the fleshly glue, but, once the ties that bind the soul have been broken, its run toward Good may take place immediately, easily and swiftly ». 89) « You will subtract their spirit, and they will pass away and get transformed into their dust; you will send your spirit, and they will be created, and you will renew the face of the earth »; Revised Standard Version: « when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground ». 90) On the interpretation of Ps 117(118):27 as a symbol of apokatastasis see J. Daniélou, “La Fête des Tabernacles dans l’exégèse patristique”, Studia Patristica 1 (1957) 262-279, according to whom this exegesis probably derives from Origen, which is likely indeed. The same feast, with the very same interpretation of Ps 117(118):27 is given by Gregory in his Sermon on the Nativity (ed. F. Mann, GNO 10/2, Leiden 1996, pp. 235.3-238.17; 264.4266.15; 268.14-269.13): « law, giving a preliminary sketch of the truth by means of shadowy figures, ordained the blowing of trumpets at the feast of Tabernacles. And the occasion for today’s feast is the mystery of the true feast of Tabernacles. For in this feast the human “tent” [i.e body] is “pitched” for him who put on human nature for our sake (John 1:14). And in this feast our “tents” that were wasted by death have been reconstructed by the one who fashioned our “dwelling” to begin with . . . our Lord, has given us light, so that we may institute the feast and deck out the festal procession up to the horns of the altar . . . By the power of the Spirit and all in tune they trumpet forth the teaching of the truth, in order that the ears of those made deaf by sin might be opened and there might be one harmonious feast, celebrated in the decking out of the Tabernacles. This “decking out” takes places when creatures here below chime in with the preeminent spiritual powers who are in front of the heavenly altar (Rev 4). For the “horns” of the heavenly “altar” mean the preeminent spiritual powers who lead the procession, the rulers, and authorities, and thrones, and dominions. In the fellowship of this feast human nature is brought together with these heavenly

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mentioned in it symbolizes both resurrection and universal apokatastasis: « the God of universe, the Lord of beings, manifested himself to us for the preparation of the feast among the braces that tie, surround and cover, meaning, by this expression of covering and support, the Feast of the Tabernacles, instituted in ancient times by Moses. Now, I think that this lawgiver was prophetically announcing the future, and even though this feast was always celebrated, it had not yet found complete realization. For truth was indicated in advance in a typological sense [τυπικῶς], through symbolical allusions given by the events: this true construction of the tabernacles or tents did not yet exist, but, according to the prophetical word, God . . . manifested himself to us with this aim: so that for human nature there could take place the construction of our destroyed home, consolidated [πυκαζομένη] again in bodily form, through the gathering of elements. In fact, the term πυκασμός, “consolidation, covering, support”, means, according to its proper sense, the act of tying and surrounding, and the order deriving from it.91 Now, what the Psalm says is as follows: God, the Lord, has appeared to us too, to institute a feast among those who support and consolidate as far as [sic] the horns of the altar, on which sacrifices are offered. Now, it seems to me that this, through an allusion, preannounces that for all rational creatures one and the same feast is instituted, in which the superiors dance together with the inferiors, in the company of good beings »: this will put an end to all divisions and all sorrows.92 For the whole human race and the whole λογικὴ κτίσις will be united in God’s glory after their liberation from all evil and the vanishing of evil, ἀφανισμὸς τῆς
powers through the “tabernacle” of the resurrection. In other words, these powers are decked out, or adorned, by the renewal of our bodies » (tr. J. Kovacs). 91) In Ps 117:27 the LXX, read by Gregory, has συστήσασθε ἑορτὴν ἐν τοῖς πυκάζουσιν ἕως τῶν κεράτων τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου. This is not really identical with the Hebrew text, as it is clear also from the Latin versions iuxta Hebraeos ( frequentate sollemnitatem in frondosis usque ad cornua altaris) and iuxta Septuaginta (constituite diem sollemnem in condensis usque ad cornua altaris). The Hebrew text (118:27) reads: ’is erû- ḥag ba‘ăbōtîm ‘ad-qar egôt hammiz ebē ah, where ‘ăbôt means « interwoven foliage » rather than « consolidation, covering, support » and ’sr « to bind, to tie  rather than « to build ». Gregory, of course, selects the sense of construction and constitution, since he intends to apply these words to the reconstitution of the bodies in their resurrection. Here, the use of the LXX really makes a remarkable difference. Gregory used only the LXX, while Origen constantly compared it with the Hebrew Text. 92) For the passage from tears to joy in Gregory and Origen see my “Tears of Pathos, Repentance, and Bliss: Crying and Salvation in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa,” in Tears and Crying in Graeco-Roman Antiquity, ed. Th. Fögen, forthcoming in Leiden.


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κακίας—a fundamental doctrine both in Origen and in Gregory—, as

Macrina says, also with the spiritual interpretation of the various parts of the temple:
So wide is, thus, the differentiation in the access to this temple, which was both image and likeness93 of the intellectual state. And the physical observance teaches that not every rational creature can get close to God’s temple, that is, the confession of God, the great, but those who are deceived by false suppositions remain outside the divine enclosure. Among those who have been able to go in, more honour is attained by those who have first purified themselves with ablutions and behaviours aimed at purity than is attained by the others . . . the meaning of the symbolical allusion is that, among the rational faculties, some, like the sacred altar, are situated in the most internal recess of divinity; and among these, in turn, some are prominent and jut out like horns, while others, around these, on the basis of a certain order, occupy a superior or inferior position. Now, the human race, because of vice implanted in it, was banished from God’s enclosure, but, once purified by the lustral bath, can enter it again. And since these enclosures that interpose, through which vice separated us from the internal part situated beyond the veil, are destined to be demolished once and for all, when, thanks to resurrection, our nature will be reconstituted as a tent that is planted, and all corruption ingenerated because of vice will disappear from beings, then God’s feast will be prepared by all who will have been consolidated again and restructured by means of resurrection, so that all will take part in one and the same joy, and there will be no more difference to divide the rational nature in its participation in goods that are the same for all, but those who now are excluded due to vice will be finally able to enter the recesses of divine beatitude. (133D)

93) Gr. εἰκών τε καὶ μίμημα (cod. A); PG 46,12-160, ad loc. prints εἰκὼν καὶ μίμημα. Cf. Gen 1:26: ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ ̓ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν (LXX; Vulg. Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram). The Fathers, also thanks to an allegorical interpretation, endeavoured to distinguish and characterize the deep meaning of “image” and “likeness”. E.g. in Origen the original “image” is different from the “likeness” of God, which must be attained through each one’s will and deeds, and is reserved for the eschatological dimension (Princ. 3,6,1). Already in Philo’s exegesis, the “image” to which the original human being—different from the subsequent πλασθεὶς ἄνθρωπος—is conformed is the image of Logos, ἀσώματος, ἄφθαρτος φύσει, κατὰ τὴν εἰκόνα ἰδέα and οὔτ ̓ ἄρρεν οὔτε θῆλυ (cf. Leg. All. 1,12,31; De opif. 46,134). For Origen too the original human being—just as the eschatological humans—, was neither male nor female (Hom. in Gen. 1,14), differently from the man formed from the dust of the ground of Gen 2,7, i.e. the body derived from sin where the soul was imprisoned (Comm. in Ioh. 20,182). Gregory took up these concepts: see my philosophical essay in Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione, cit.

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These interpretations are further reinforced by Paul’s authority, who, in Phil 2:10,94 expresses the same concept more directly, without allegory (136A): so, Old and New Testament agree in confirming resurrection and universal apokatastasis. For « God’s aim is one: when the complete fullness of our nature will be realized in each human being, after that some will have already been purified from evil during the present life, others, instead, will have been cured by means of fire for the due periods, and others in this life will have ignored the experience both of good and of evil equally well, God’s aim is to offer to all participation in the goods that are in Him . . . Now, this—at least in my view—is nothing else but being in God himself » (152AB). Another allegorical reading of Scripture used in the explanation of resurrection and apokatastasis is that of the « skin tunics » of Gen 3:2195 taken by Adam and Eve after the sin, interpreted by Gregory, and by Origen before him, as the earthly, heavy body and the πάθη connected to it.96


῞Ινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι ᾽Ιησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων. Καὶ ἐποίησεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς τῷ Αδαμ καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ αὐτοῦ χιτῶνας δερματίνους καὶ ἐνέδυσεν αὐτούς.

Cfr. Daniélou, L’être et le temps, 154-164; L.-F. Mateo-Seco, “Túnicas de pieles,” in Diccionario de san Gregorio, 898-903. This biblical passage was interpreted allegorically already by Origen in a very similar way. In the Alexandrian tradition, the interpretation of the Genesis account of the creation of the human being was inspired by the so-called theory of “double creation” of the intelligible and the sensible human being, in a “dualistic” perspective. Some works illustrate the continuity—although not absolute—between Origen and Gregory in this respect: U. Bianchi, ed., La “doppia creazione” dell’uomo negli Alessandrini, nei Cappadoci e nella gnosi, Roma 1978; Id.–H. Crouzel, eds., Arché e telos. L’antropologia di Origene e Gregorio di Nissa, Milano 1981; Id., “Péché originel et péché antécedent”, Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 170 (1966) 117-126; Id., “Il dualismo come categoria storico-religiosa”, Rivista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa 9 (1973) 3-16; Id., Prometeo, Orfeo, Adamo. Tematiche religiose sul destino, il male, la salvezza, Roma 1978; Id., “The Category of Dualism in the Historical Phenomenology of Religion”, Temenos 16 (1980) 10-25; M.V. Cerutti, “Per una tipologia storica del dualismo”, Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 49 (1983) 263-277; Ead., “Dualismo apocalittico e dualismo gnostico”, in Ead., ed., Apocalittica e Gnosticismo, Roma 1995, 143-156; Ead., “Ugo Bianchi e il dualismo”, in G. Casadio (cur.), Ugo Bianchi: una vita per la storia delle religioni, Roma 2002, 291-326. Both Origen and Gregory—the former more than the latter—actually manifest a tendency towards dualism (as a category of the history of religions: see also U. Bianchi, “Presupposti platonici e dualistici in Origene, De principiis”, in Origeniana Secunda, Roma 1980, 33-56; Cerutti, “Per una tipologia”, 268-270; 276-277), the conception of two principles at the origin of the human being: God, the creator, and an event as the fall of noes or rational souls, which caused the existence of the material world and of the “heavy” human body,



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After resurrection, all this will vanish: the bodily organs will not have any longer the functions imposed on them by animal life (144B-148C), such as conjugal intercourse, conception, generation, suckling, nutrition, excretion, production of dirt etc., given that the risen will « move in the heavenly regions with incorporeal nature ». All that is transient in human nature and was added to it in the form of the “skins” of πάθη, is accidental to it, not essential, and will disappear at the resurrection. Towards the end of the dialogue, Gregory illustrates resurrection and apokatastasis through the image of the wheat grain, associating and
differentiated into two genders: cf. Cerutti, “Per una tipologia”, 267; I. Ramelli, “La colpa antecedente.” In Sel. in Gen. 3,21 and C. Cels. 4,40, Origen hesitates between the interpretation of the “skin tunics” either as material bodies or as mortality. As results from a passage preserved in the catenae and in Theodoretus (Quaest. in Gen. 39, PG 80,140), Origen proposed his exegesis of the “skin tunics” problematically rather than categorically. Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 117-121 refers to Origen a reading reported by Procopius of Gaza, Comm. in Gen. 3,21 (PG 87,221): the human being who is εἰκὼν θεοῦ is the soul; that who is moulded out of dust is the “subtle” or “luminous” body that will live in Paradise, while the skin tunics are the heavy, earthily body. Cf. G. Bürke, “Origenes Lehre vom Urstand des Menschen”, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 1950, 1ff.; H. Crouzel, Théologie de l’image de Dieu chez Origène, Paris 1956, 148ff., and Id., “Origène est-il un systématique?”, Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 1959, 81ff = in Id., Origène et la philosophie, Paris 1962, 179ff.; J. Daniélou, Origène, Paris 1948, 41ff.; Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 111-122, esp. 112-113; 29-31. For the exegetical history of this image see P.F. Beatrice, “Le tuniche di pelle. Antiche letture di Gn 3,21,” in La tradizione dell’ ἐγκράτεια, ed. U. Bianchi, Roma 1985, 433-82; J. Pépin, La tradition de l’allégorie de Philon d’ Alexandrie à Dante, Paris 1987, 156ff.; P. Pisi, “Peccato di Adamo e caduta dei νόες nell’esegesi origeniana”, in Origeniana IV, 322-35; C. Noce, Vestis varia. L’immagine della veste nell’opera di Origene, Roma 2002. On Origen’s and Gregory’s anthropology see M. Di Pasquale Barbanti, Origene di Alessandria tra Platonismo e Sacra Scrittura: Teologia e antropologia del De Principiis, Catania 2003; Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 29ff.; 111-122; G.A. Ladner, “The Philosophical Anthropology of Saint Gregory of Nyssa”, in Eiusd. Images and Ideas in the Middle Ages, II, Roma 1983, 856-862. Following Origen, Gregory too interprets the skin tunics, both in De hominis opificio (of which I am preparing an essay and a commentary) and in the II homily on the Song of Songs, where the soul says: « because I have abandoned purity, I have put on this dark aspect . . . the skin tunic »; and in the XI homily, again with reference to the soul, represented by the girl of the Song: « taking off the skin tunic that she had been wearing after her sin, and washing away the earthly element, according to the explanation of the Apostle, who exhorts him who has taken off the torn wrapping of the old man to put on the new tunic of the man created as image of God, in holiness and justice, and says that this garment is Jesus ». This theme of the new garment of the human being, in connection with the apokatastasis, will be kept alive with particular intensity in some Syriac mystics: see my “Note per un’indagine della mistica siro-orientale dell’VIII secolo: Giovanni di Dalyatha e la tradizione origeniana,” ’Ilu 12 (2007).

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interpreting two important passages from Paul, 1Cor 15:42b-44a on the glorious risen body (plus 45a; 53a), and 1Cor 15:35-38 on the grain (plus 40; 41); thus, in the last and culminating section of the dialogue, he creates a continuous commentary of 1Cor 15:35-45 (derived from the same chapter analyzed in his In illud: Tunc et ipse Filius). In the background, there certainly is a reminiscence of Jesus’ parable of the grain that must die to bring fruit in John 12:24,97 as is clear from 153A.98 The image of the ear is, moreover, applied to Adam in 157A.99
[153C] As the body of the ear is formed from the seed, thanks to God’s power that, with his art, makes the ear out of the grain itself—and the ear is neither completely identical with the seed nor completely different—, so the mystery of resurrection, too, has been indicated in advance through the wondrous modifications taking place in the seeds, in that God’s power not only will return you the body which will be dissolved, but will also add other splendid and beautiful characteristics thanks to which your nature will be constituted in a greater magnificence. He says: « It is sown in corruption, it rises in incorruptibility; it is sown in weakness, it rises in power; it is sown in dishonour, it rises in glory; it is sown as a ‘psychic’ body, it rises as a spiritual body ». For, as the grain in the sod . . . becomes an ear while maintaining its individuality, although it comes out completely different from what it was before . . ., in the same way human nature too, after abandoning in death all its characteristics, which it had acquired through the tendency to subjection to passions, I mean ignominy, corruption, weakness, differentiation according to the age, does not lose itself, but it changes into incorruptibility as into an ear, and into glory, honour, power, perfection in all respects, and in such condition that its life is no longer governed by natural properties, but passes into a spiritual state which is free from passions.

᾽Εὰν μὴ ὁ κόκκος τοῦ σίτου πεσών εἰς τὴν γῆν ἀποθάνῃ, αὐτὸς μόνος μένει· ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ, πολὺν καρπὸν φέρει.
97) 98) « What is that initiates their germination? Isn’t it death, given that death is dissolution of what is composed? For the grain would not reach germination if it did not dissolve into the sod ». 99) « The first ear was the first human being, Adam. But because, with the appearance of vice, our nature was divided into a great number of parts, as happens with the fruit of the ear, so we, individually deprived of the form of that ear and mixed up with the earth, shall rise again in resurrection, in our original beauty, and instead of that first ear we shall become the infinite myriads of the crops ». For these agricultural images and others taken from human techniques in this dialogue see my “La cultura scientifica in Gregorio di Nissa, De anima et resurrectione: scienza e logos,” in Cultura naturalistica e scientifica nei Padri della Chiesa (I-V secolo). Atti del XXXIV Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana, Roma, Augustinianum, 4-6 maggio 2006, Roma 2007, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum, forthcoming.


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The agricultural image is kept up in 157CD with God as a farmer who cures his plants while they are growing and eliminates and burns the bad, representing passions and evil, and brings all his plants to maturation and perfection, again described, at the very end of the writing, in Paul’s words: « Once those passions have been purified . . . the place of those deficiencies will be taken by each of the respective realities that are conceived positively: incorruptibility, life, power, grace, glory, and any other prerogative of this kind that we conjecture it is possible to contemplate both in God himself and in his image, which is human nature ». Both quotations from Paul, the agricultural metaphor and the description of the risen body, converge here, along with Gregory’s theology of image, in Macrina’s last words, which point to universal restoration and salvation.

3. Patristic Philosophy: Philosophical Arguments Joined to Scriptural Authority Both Origen’s and Gregory’s doctrine of apokatastasis relies on philosophical, and especially Platonic, arguments, an even more substantial heritage of Hellenistic culture than allegorical exegesis itself was. Simply to recall a few of these arguments used in support of apokatastasis,100 for Origen we might cite, e.g., the idea that the end must be similar to the beginning; that we human beings were all created as εἰκὼν θεοῦ, which in us can be obscured by sin, but never deleted, and all must acquire the ὁμοίωσις θεῷ through our deeds and deliberate choices—here, of course, the biblical reminiscence of humans as God’s εἰκὼν καὶ ὁμοίωσις is coupled with the Platonic and Stoic principle of ὁμοίωσις θεῷ—; that evil is not ontologically subsistent but is mere lack of Good due to the choice of separating from it, and will completely vanish in the end; the assertion of freewill in all rational creatures, against Gnostic determinism, and its agreement with God’s providence, which always operates for everyone’s salvation:101 for this reason the end will be, in a sense, not only similar to the beginning, but even better, because the adhesion to the Good will be not purely natural, but voluntary. Gregory, for his part, uses exactly the same philosophical arguments—since he draws much of his thinking from Origen—,
100) For extensive documentation on all of them, see the chapter devoted to Origen in the essay on the apokatastasis, and the philosophical essay, both in my Gregorio di Nissa. 101) Broad discussion of this agreement in my “La coerenza.”

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especially the non-substantiality of evil and its final abolition, but with greater emphasis on the doctrine of εἰκών (the so-called theology of image) and an explicit refusal of the doctrine of metempsychosis.102 Now, it is not possible to expand here on the philosophical bases of Origen’s and Gregory’s doctrine of apokatastasis and to show its deep coherence in both of them, i.e. its internal rational unity and also its consistency with their doctrine of free will and with many aspects of their philosophical thought (mainly metaphysical, theological and anthropological). What is important to highlight in this connection is that Origen, and Gregory as well, always and carefully ground all their arguments in Scripture, both Old and New Testament, considered to be in deepest mutual harmony by them: Origen maintains that the two Testaments form one and the same body, which is also Christ’s body, so that studying Scripture and trying to interpret it even means eating this body in a eucharistic act.103 The unity of both Old and New Testament, repeatedly asserted by Origen in his polemic against Gnostics and Marcionites,104 is assured by typological and allegorical interpretation, which often tend to overlap:105 especially in the former exegetical technique, characters and events in the Old Testament are seen as anticipations of others belonging to the new economy and of spiritual realities. Gregory too in his exegesis uses evidence from both Testaments, accumulating many attestations to demonstrate the same thing, thus showing the absolute unity of σκοπός within Scripture and the εἱρμὸς τῶν πνευματικῶν in it, the perfect cohesion and coherence of the spiritual senses. In both authors, however, the New Testament is prevalent when they treat the doctrine of apokatastasis, since, as Origen explains, if the spiritual interpretation of the old economy is the new, according to the traditional typological exegesis of the Old Testament, the spiritual interpretation of the New Testament is the Gospel of the αἰών, that of the world to come (the εὐαγγέλιον αἰώνιον of Rev 14, 6,106 the figure of which is Deuteronomy,

102) For all these doctrines see my essay on the philosophical elements in Gregory’s thought in my Gregorio di Nissa. 103) Complete references in my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition.” 104) Documentation in my “La coerenza.” 105) See my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition.” 106) Εἶδον ἄλλον ἄγγελον πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι, ἔχοντα εὐαγγέλιον αἰώνιον

εὐαγγελίσαι ἐπὶ τοὺς καθημένους ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶν ἔθνος καὶ φυλὴν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ λαόν.


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Second Law, in Princ. 3,6,8;107 4,3,13)108 and the ἔσχατα. In Princ. 4,2,4109 and 4,3,13,110 but also in Comm. in Rom. 1,4; Comm. in Io. 10,108-109; Hom. in Ps. 38, 2,2; Hom. in Lev. 5,1, Origen affirms that the New Testament represents the shadow of the complete and perfect revelation at the end of the world.111 This is precisely the case of the use of the NT in support of the eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis: NT quotations are prevalent because they refer, either in an allegorical or more direct way, to the “ultimate things”. To focus attention only on Origen’s and Gregory’s writings concerning apokatastasis, Origen’s De principiis and Gregory’s De anima et resurrectione are perfect examples of works of Patristic philosophy.112 The former is the most philosophical and comprehensive work of Origen, in comparison to other works which are mainly exegetical; nevertheless, the entire Book 4 in it, which is the last and very extensive, is devoted to a systematic theory of biblical exegesis, and, what is more, all philosophical arguments, even

Here Origen mentions « the αἰώνιον Gospel, the ever new Testament that will never grow old », prefigured by Moses’ law and, more perfectly, by Jesus’ law: in the ἔσχατον, Christ will give an even more perfect law and instruction to the saints, the « true and eternal law », i.e. the Gospel of the world (αἰών) to come. For the meaning of αἰώνιος see Ramelli–Konstan, Terms for Eternity. 108) As in the book of Deuteronomy the law is expressed in a clearer way than in the preceding books, so the Saviour’s second coming will be more glorious than the first in the flesh: then, « in the Kingdom of Heavens, all saints will live according to the laws of the Gospel of the world to come [ἐ. αἰώνιον] ». 109) In the connection of the famous distinction of the flesh of Scripture as its literal sense for simple readers, its soul as its moral or psychological sense for more advanced readers, and its spirit as its spiritual sense for perfect readers (on which see my “Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition”), Origen defines the « spiritual law » of Scripture as that containing « the shadow of the future goods » (Rom 7:14; Hebr 10:1). It is the τύπος of the spiritual law given by Christ in the future world. 110) This is the continuation of the passage (Princ. 4,3,13) cited above: as Christ, in his present coming, realized the law that is shadow of the future goods (Hebr 10:1), likewise, in his second coming, he will realize the shadow given by his first coming; he realized the shade of the Law through the shade of the Gospel, since every law is image of heavenly liturgy, but even the heavenly law and liturgy need the truth of the Gospel that in John’s Revelation is called αἰώνιον, certainly in comparison with the present Gospel, which is linked to the present world and preached in a world and time destined to come to an end. 111) See Simonetti, Origene esegeta, 20-21; 231-232. 112) For the legitimacy and importance of the concept of Patristic philosophy see Moreschini, Storia della filosofia patristica, introduction; my review article “Riparte la filosofia patristica,” Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica 97 (2005) 673-690.

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those of Book 3, which support the theory of freewill and are the most influenced by philosophy, are based on numerous Scriptural quotations that ground and confirm his statements. The latter, by Gregory, clearly is a philosophical dialogue inspired by Plato’s Phaedo, and also his Symposium, especially for Macrina’s character, which is modelled not only on Plato’s Socrates, but also on his Diotima;113 she is Gregory’s διδάσκαλος. Her arguments, well constructed and clearly developed, demonstrate the soul’s immortality and the possibility and modalities of bodily resurrection, for the eventual restoration of all human beings into their original perfection, after having been corrupted by sin: this restoration or ἀποκατάστασις is the τέλος of resurrection and will involve the whole of humanity after each one’s purification and return to the Good, which is God.114 Now, every important passage in the argumentation is corroborated by quotations from Scripture, above all from the New Testament. In fact, Scripture is explicitly defined by Macrina as κανών and νόμος, a norm and law for Christian thinking that all philosophical arguments must refer to (42B-52B).115 So, in 49C-52A, Macrina leaves aside Plato’s famous image of the two winged horses and the chariot (Phaedr. 246AD) representing the soul’s two inferior faculties, with the rational part as charioteer, and also the theories proposed by other philosophers about the soul, and takes up the theory of soul found in Scripture, which is considered a safer base, a criterion, a canon. I would like to note a remarkable methodological convergence with Origen, Princ. 3,4,1, which Gregory certainly knew and kept in mind: Origen too rejects Plato’s threefold division of the human soul on the ground that this scheme is « not much confirmed by the authority of sacred Scripture »: thus, he will leave this doctrine aside and turn to others which find support in the Bible. Origen too, in fact, presented the Bible as the basis for truth and the canon for human rational investigation,116 and

See my introductory essay in Gregorio di Nissa, cit. For a complete analysis of the philosophical motives in Gregory’s De anima see my philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione. 115) See my “Allegoria ed escatologia,” in Approches de la Troisième Sophistique. Hommages à J. Schamp, ed. E. Amato, Bruxelles 2006, 193-220. 116) See Princ. 1,3,1; Comm. in Matth. S. 18; Hom. in Num. 26,6; in Jer. 1,7; in Ez. 2,5: our reason, without the guide of divine inspiration, is unable to reach the truth; thus he, as a Christian philosopher, feels uncertain when he must rely on reason alone. Cf. C. Cels. 3,37; 4,26; Princ. 1,7,1.4; 2,2,2; 4,1,1.



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Gregory closely followed him. Scripture remains the last criterion for truth, for both Origen and Gregory, although this does not prevent them from assimilating Greek philosophical theories, especially Platonic and Stoic, and the allegorical method, which was felt as pagan by Origen himself, who tried to avoid the term ἀλληγορία precisely for this reason.117 They both tried to absorb and integrate all the good that Hellenism had to offer—i.e. all that was compatible with Christianity.118

See my “Origen and the Stoic allegorical tradition;” Ead., “Giovanni Crisostomo e l’esegesi scritturale. Le scuole di Alessandria e di Antiochia e le polemiche con gli allegoristi pagani,” in Giovanni Crisostomo: Oriente e Occidente fra IV e V secolo. Atti del XXXIII Incontro di Studiosi dell’ Antichità Cristiana. Roma, Augustinianum, 6-8.V.2004, Roma 2005, 121-162; “San Giustino martire: il multiforme uso di mysterion e il lessico dell’esegesi tipologica delle Scritture,” in Il volto del Mistero, ed. A.M. Mazzanti, Castel Bolognese 2006, 35-66; “Mysterion negli Stromateis di Clemente Alessandrino: aspetti di continuità con la tradizione allegorica greca,” ibid. 83-120: likewise, Clement did not apply the term θεολογία to Christian theology because he deemed it compromised by its pagan usage, mostly in the allegorical interpretation of myths dealing with gods. 118) Origen himself excluded atheistic philosophical schools from his disciples’ cursus studiorum. See, most recently, L. Lugaresi, “Studenti cristiani e scuola pagana,” Cristianesimo nella Storia 25 (2004) 779-832; my philosophical essay in my Gregorio di Nissa. Sull’anima e la resurrezione. On Origen’s attitude toward the Hellenistic culture see D. Runia, “Origen and Hellenism”, in Origeniana VIII, 43-48.


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