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Harvard Divinity School

Origen, Bardaian, and the Origin of Universal Salvation


Author(s): Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 2009), pp. 135-168
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40211991
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Origen, Bardaisan, and the Origin of
Universal Salvation*
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart
Milan, Italy

The Question at Stake


Is Origen of Alexandria the inventor of the eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis-
of the eventual return of all creatures to the Good, that is, God, and thus universal
salvation? Certainly, he is one of its chief supporters in all of history, and he is,
as far as we know, the first to have maintained it in a complete and coherent way,
so that all of his philosophy of history, protology, and anthropology is oriented
toward this telos.1 There are, however, significant antecedents to his mature and
articulate theorization, at least some of which he surely knew very well, and there
is even a possible parallel. For this conception did not appear ex nihilo, but in a
cultural context rich in suggestions and premises, and in a philosophical framework
of lively discussions concerning fate, free will, theodicy, and the eternal destiny
of rational creatures.

* This article is a significantly revised and expanded version of a paper I delivered at the SBL
International Meeting, Vienna; 22-26 July, 2007. I am very grateful to all colleagues and friends
who discussed it with me at various stages and to the anonymous readers of HTR, who offered
helpful suggestions.
1 See most recently Panayiotis Tzamalikos, Origen: Philosophy of History and Eschatology
(Leiden: Brill, 2007); Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, Apocatastasi (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2009); eadem,
"Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Biblical and
Philosophical Basis of the Doctrine of Apokatastasis," VChr 61 (2007) 313-56; eadem, "Origene
ed il lessico dell'eternita," Adamantius 14 (2008) 100-29.

HTR 102:2 (2009) 135-68

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136 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Premises in Early Christian Apocrypha: Interce


Postmortem Conversion, and Christ's Role
I shall argue that a few early Christian apocrypha2 are extr
understanding the background to Origen's concept of apok
important of these are above all the Apocalypse of Peter and
in addition to the Apocalypse of Elijah, the Epistula Apostol
Adam and Eve. Some of these works were well known to bot
of Alexandria3 and were considered by them to be inspired
though these texts do not present a full-blown theory of un
are likely to have constituted a common ground and source o
development of the doctrine of apokatastasis.
The Apocalypse of Peter (Apoc. Pet.),4 which was probably
context, attests to the doctrine of the intercession of the bless
the eschatological scene, a conception that returns, in almost id

2 On this category and the debate about it I limit myself to referrin


such as Jean-Claude Picard, "L'apocryphe a l'etroit," Apocrypha I (1
"'Apocryphes du Nouveau Testament'. Une appellation errone'e et un
Apocrypha 3 (1992) 17-46; Angelo Di Berardino, "Gli apocrifi cristiani
Storia della teologia (ed. Angelo Di Beradino and Basil Studer; Casale Mo
1:273-303; Tobias Nicklas, "Ecrits apocryphes Chretiens. Ein Samme
weitreichenden Paradigmenwechsels in der Apokryphenforschung," VC
ample documentation.
3 Many studies have been devoted to the relationship between Clement and
the school of Alexandria, some of which question the very notion of a Chris
see, e.g., Annewies van den Hoek, "The 'Catechetical' School of Early Ch
90 (1997) 59-87; JuttaTloka, Griechische Christen, Christliche Griechen
2006) 1 12-24 with wide-ranging documentation (she notes that Eusebius h
expressions to denote the so-called School of Alexandria in the days of
Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams, Christianity and the Transformatio
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006) 78, who accept Eusebius 's infor
a disciple of Clement but think, as the majority of scholars do nowaday
should be interpreted in a much less institutional way; it was not an ins
bishop of Alexandria from the very beginning. Origen obtained support f
private patronage (that of Ambrose). According to Emanuela Prinzivall
scuola alessandrina da Eracla a Didimo," in Origeniana Octava (ed. L
Peeters, 2003) 911-37, it is possible to speak of private schools of Pant
public school from Origen onward. The difference between the situatio
of his day is due to the influence of the episcopal institution, which th
didactic activity already existing in Alexandria in more independent form
4 See Dennis D. Buchholz, Your Eyes will be Opened: A Study of the Gree
of Peter (Atlanta: SBL, 1988); The Apocalypse of Peter (ed. Jan N. Brem
Leuven: Peeters, 2003), esp. Kristi Barrett Copeland, "Sinners and Po
the Acherusian Lake," 92-107; Das Petrusevangelium und die Petrusap
Kraus and Tobias Nicklas; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004) with an edition of
fragments. Additional studies of Apoc. Pet. include: Richard John Bauck
Peter," Apocrypha 5 (1994) 7-111; idem, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on
Apocalypses (Leiden: Brill, 1998); idem, "Jews and Jewish Christians in
Time of the Bar Kochba War, with Special Reference to the Apocalyps

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 137

Apocalypse of Elijah and in the Epistula Apostolorum. The Apoc.


particularly ancient, as its Christology is extremely archaic5: It ca
Alexandrian or Egyptian milieu, ca. 100-135 C.E., according to Mii
to Norelli,7 it may represent an important oral tradition indepen
the canonical Gospels. As Heinrich Weinel observed, the Jewish
persecutes Christians mentioned in chapter 2 may be an allusion to
dating of the Apocalypse to the Bar Kochba war is upheld by a num
although not by all. 10 James supposed that the Apoc. Pet. might be
of John.11 In any case, the Apoc. Pet. is the earliest Christian docum
the kingdoms of the other world with its attendant rewards and pu
terminology is specifically Judaic, and so is the use of "just" in
good and the blessed, which comes as no surprise given the con

and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity (ed. Graham N. Stanton an


Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 228-38.
5 See Buchholz, Your Eyes, 388-98: It is a "low" Christology, "perhaps the
all." It is Jewish-Christian, strongly focused on eschatology, so that Jesus' m
appear during his own life, but at his return in glory, a conception whose ar
shown, for example, also by Giorgio Jossa, Gesu Messia? (Roma: Carocci, 200
in apocalyptic texts, see Richard Bauckham, "The Worship of Jesus in Apocal
NTS 27 (1981) 322-41.
6 It is included in the Muratorian Canon of the second century and in the Cod
catalogue of the fourth to sixth centuries.
7 See Enrico Norelli, s.v. "Apocrifi cristiani antichi," in Dizionario di omilet
and Achille M. Triacca; Torino: LDC/Leumann, 1998) 102-11.
8 The terminus post quern should be established on the basis of 4 Esdra dat
since it seems to be employed in the Apoc. Pet., ch. 3; also 2 Pet seems to
Apoc. Pet. For the dating of this apocalyptic text and bibliography on it, se
colpa antecedente come ermeneutica del male in sede storico-religiosa e nei te
(2007) 11-64.
9 Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 160-61; Paolo Marrassini, "L'Apocal
Etiopia e oltre, Studi in onore di L. Ricci (ed. Yaqob Beyene; Naples: Istituto Univ
1994) 171-232; Enrico Norelli, "Pertinence theologique et canonicite. Les prem
chr6tiennes," Apocrypha 8 (1997) 147-64, at 157; Attila Jakab, "The Reception
of Peter in Ancient Christianity," in The Apocalypse of Peter (ed. Bremmer and
at 174; J6nos Bolyki, "False Prophets in the Apocalypse of Peter," in The A
52-62.

10 Eibert Tigchelaar argues against the supposed allusions to Bar Kochba in this Apocalypse ("Is
the Liar Bar Kochba?" in The Apocalypse of Peter [ed. Bremmer and Czachesz] 63-77), mainly on
the basis of the fact that they are not in the Greek fragments but in the Ethiopic translation, which
is often inaccurate and full of textual problems.
11 Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1924) introduction.
12 Enrico Norelli has pointed out some typically Petrine themes in the three apocryphal texts
that are related to the Petrine tradition: the Kerygmata Petri, the Apoc. Pet., and the Gospel of Peter
("Situation des apocryphes petriniens," Apocrypha 2 [1991] 31-38). There emerges an ancient Petrine
tradition historically connected with Antioch. From the doctrinal point of view, see Michel Tardieu,
"Here*siographie de 1' Apocalypse de Pierre," in Histoire et conscience historique dans les civilisations
du Proche-Orient ancien (Actes du colloque de Cartigny 1986; Leuven: Peeters, 1989) 33-39.

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138 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

document to the tradition attached to Peter, who in Rome intr


ritu ludaico according to Ambrosiaster.13 The presence of this
Egypt in an early period is also related to the Egyptian traditi
disciple and "interpreter" (ep^r|ve\)Tr|<;).14 An Egyptian origi
would explain: 1) the reference in it to Egyptian elements, abo
cult of animals (e.g., cat and reptile idols); 2) the synthesis of
traditions (and, I would add, Platonic traditions, given the allu
that I shall mention shortly), which, as Jan Bremmer posits
place in Alexandria;15 3) the mention of the angel Tartarouk
classical literature but occurring in a Cypriote and an Egyptian t
of Alexandria's knowledge of the text shortly after its compos
it in the Passio Perpetuae;11 and 5) the presence of both Jew
motifs, such as the use of the term "just" and allusions to Plato18
seems to me to point to Hellenistic Judaism (compare Philo) a
particular. Not only did Clement know the Apoc. Pet., but he
inspired writing, like those of the New Testament. For this reas
it in his Hypotyposeis, as attested by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 6.14
in this work Clement commented on all the books of the New

13 See Ilaria Ramelli in collaboration with Marta Sordi, "Commodiano e


(2004) 3-23.
14 According to Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The G
Testimony (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2006), the term should be und
translator" of Peter's words into Latin or Greek. For Papias, see The Apost
Ehrman; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003) 2:85-1 18. For th
gospel of Mark, see Ilaria Ramelli, "Fonti note e meno note sulle origini d
per una valutazione dei dati della tradizione," Aevum 81 (2007) 171-85. On
Mark," attested by Clement of Alexandria and first studied by Morton Smit
Brown, Marks Other Gospel (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University, 200
From Q to "Secret" Mark (London: T&T Clark, 2006); Henny F. Hagg, Clem
the Beginning of Christian Apophaticism (Oxford: Oxford University Pr
Jeffery, The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled (New Haven: Yale University
Piovanelli, "L'vangile secret de Marc trente-trois ans apres," RB 1 14 (20
Pantuck and Scott G. Brown, "Morton Smith as M. Madiotes," Journal for the
Jesus 6 (2008) 106-25. Within the Petrine tradition the Apoc. Pet. played a
is there the principal witness to Jesus' resurrection and the recipient of fur
he authoritatively transmits, first of all to his disciple Clement (2 Clem. 5).
15 Jan Bremmer, "The Apocalypse of Peter: Greek or Jewish?" in The Apo
Bremmer and Czachesz), 1-14. The same mixture is found in the Testament
from the same environment.

16 Respectively SEG 44.1279 and 38.1837. This connection is noted


Apocalypse" 8.
17 On postmortem salvation in this document, for Dinocrates, Perpetua's br
Trumbower, Rescue for the Dead (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
"Alle origini della figura deH'intercessore," in Mediadores con lo divino en el
Actas del Congreso Internacional de Historia de las Religiones, Palm
de Mallorca: Universitat de les Illes Balears, 2009).
18 Regarding these motifs, see below.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 139

omitting ... the so-called Apocalypse of Peter."19 It is probable tha


considered this document to be very authoritative.
Several elements in the Apoc. Pet. are relevant to our question and
as premises of the doctrine of apokatastasis. One such element is Chr
ad inferos,20 which is well attested in "Petrine" texts such as 1 Pet 3
Christ is said to have announced salvation even to the wicked who
in the flood and are a type (t6tio<;) of the non-baptized- and the Gos
datable to the second century like the Apoc. Pet. Another element is
of Hades, related to the descensus; a third is the idea that spiritual d
always possible, even in the other world.21 Most important, however, i
of the final salvation of sinners together with the blessed, so that,
or shorter period of suffering in the afterlife, sinners too will be
communion with God and the saints, thanks to their own conversio
or to the intercession of the blessed on their behalf. Moreover, in E
quotes a passage from the Apoc. Pet., ascribing it to Peter himself (
Apocalypse says that . . .") and at 41 he even quotes a section from th
assigning it to "Scripture" ("Scripture says that . . ."), just as Method
deeply influenced by Clement and Origen, did a century later in S
has been handed down to us in divinely inspired Scriptures that . .
passages corresponding to Clement's and Methodius's quotations are
the Ethiopic translation of the Apoc. Pet., which constitutes its widest
we can conclude with certainty that they actually belong to the Apoc

19 See James Brooks, "Clement of Alexandria as a Witness to the Developmen


Testament Canon," SCent 9 ( 1 992) 4 1-55; Annewies van den Hoek, "Clement and Or
on 'Noncanonical' Scriptural Traditions," in Origeniana Sexta (ed. Gilles Doriv
Boulluec; Leuven: Peeters, 1995) 93-113.
20 Trumbower, Rescue, 9 1 -1 07; Henryk Pietras, L'escatologia della Chiesa (Rome:
2006) 37-46; for later developments (fourth to sixth cent.), see Remi Gounelle,
Christ aux enfers (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000).
21 The specific reference is to little children who have died and to their opportun
baptism and conversion even in the next life, according to a dynamic conception of
between the present and the future life. This will be expressed by Gregory of
infantibus praemature abreptis (PG 46.161-192; ed. Hadwiga Homer, GNO 3.2.
also takes over the notion of the angels' role in this, already present in the Apoc. Pet
On this role in Origen and some Gnostics, see Riemer Roukema, "Les anges attend
defunts," in Origeniana Octava (ed. Lorenzo Perrone; Leuven: Peeters, 2003) 367-
22 It presents Peter's revelation to Clement concerning the world from creatio
See Buchholz, Your Eyes, with status quaestionis, particularly 139-52 and 413-23
fragment, found in a Giza manuscript, preserved at Cairo. Two other short Gr
concerning suffering in hell, are in a folio of a fifth-century manuscript in the
Library (Madan's Summary Catalogue, no. 31810). The Coptic Apocalypse of P
3 is different; see The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter (ed. Henrietta Wilhelmina Ha
Akademie, 1999) edition with English translation and commentary.
23 Apart from a fragment preserved by Macarius of Magnesia, Apocr. 4.16, all
transmitted by ancient authors have corresponding passages in the Ethiopic translat

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140 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

In the Ethiopic text, Christ affirms that he personally ba


endows with eternal life those for whom he is supplicated, even
he says that he will be happy to do so: "Then I shall give to tho
the elect and justified, the bath and the salvation for which th
in the Acherusian valley, called Elysian Fields, and I shall go
with them.24 1 shall have the peoples enter my eternal Kingdo
them that which I and my heavenly Father had promised them.
Rainer fragment, which is far more ancient than the Ethiop
the third century,26 runs as follows: "I shall grant to my su
those whom they ask me to remove from punishment [napr
Hoi) Kai eicteKTOiq |no\) 6v edv aixr|acovxai jne bk xfjq KoA
grant them a beautiful baptism in salvation [ko^ov pd7txiG|j
Acherusian Lake, which is said to be in the Elysian valley, a
justification with my saints [|iepo<; Succcioawnq nexd xcov d
my elect will go and rejoice together with the Patriarchs in
[Kai ct7ce^e\)ao|xai ey Kai oi ekXekzoi jlio\) dyaAAidwxec; ji
eiq xfjv aicoviav \io\) fkxaiteiav], and with them I shall kee
by me and by my Father who is in heaven [Kai noixyj \iex av
|io\) aq ejrayyeiAdjiTiv ey Kai rcaxf|p jioi) 6 ev xoiq oupavo
text is secondary, and it is significant that precisely in the

24 The reference to the Acherusian Valley and the Elysian Fields led,
suppositions of Norden and Dieterich that the sources of the eschatolo
Pet. were pagan more than Jewish, and especially Orphic. See Bremme
Buchholz, Your Eyes, 98-1 18, who shows how subsequently the Jewish her
its relationship to Jewish texts, the Apostolic Fathers, etc., has been inves
25 1 cite Buchholz's translation of the Ethiopic text in Your Eyes, 224-3
26 See Montague Rhodes James, "The Rainer Fragment of the Apoca
(1931) 270-79; Buchholz, Your Eyes, 152-55; James Keith Elliott, "The A
The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993) 593-613; Casp
"Offenbarung des Petrus," in Neutestamentliche Apokryphen (ed. Edg
Schneemelcher; 2 vols.; 5th ed.; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989) 2:562
"The Apocalypse of Peter: An Account of Research," ANRW 2.25.6 (1
Conflict of Justice and Mercy," in idem, The Fate of the Dead, 132-48. T
Wesseley as a part of the Acts of Peter, in Patrologia Orientalis 18 (19
Karl Prumm, "De genuino Apocalypsis Petri textu," Biblica 10 (1929) 62-
Pet., and by James, who has given the best edition of it. More recently, K
Das Petrusevangelium und die Petrusapokalypse, which is not a complet
D. Ehrman remarks in his review in VC 61 (2007) 96-1 17, but includes a
of the Apoc. Pet. The editors question whether the second part of the Akhm
to the Apoc. Pet. but to the Gospel of Peter (on these texts, see also Enr
apocryphes pe*triniens," Apocrypha 2 [ 1 99 1 ] 3 1-83). In any case, the editors
fragment of the Apoc. Pet., with detailed notes, together with the other
27 See Buchholz, Your Eyes, 228 and 345; Elliott, "The Apocalypse of
Rainer Fragment," 271 for the Greek text. This section corresponds to ch.
whereas the section is completely lacking in the Akhmim fragment, which
a different recension. A detailed comparison between the Rainer fragment a
is provided by Buchholz, Your Eyes, 344-62. According to James, "The

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 141

to the Rainer fragment it plainly underwent modifications, in all


the fact that the reviser tried to eliminate the patent reference to t
damned (and, according to some scholars, even universal salvat
these are all limited modifications, which did not prevent scholars
the original version even before the discovery of the Rainer fragme
of the Acherusian Lake as a place passing through which the sin
salvation in the afterworld is remarkable because, even in such an
clear reference to Plato's Phaedo. In Phaedo 1 13D- which is, not
Eusebius's lengthy quotation- the sinners are said to be purified
Lake, which frees them (drcoMco) through expiation; in the Rain
very lake is present and functions in the very same way.30
The Ethiopic translation of the Apoc. Pet., being complete, hel
valuable Rainer fragment in context. In chapter 12 the descripti
torments ends with the river of fire creating a wheel which will "
times." Chapter 13 states that the just watch the punishment of th
is described as "eternal," but the Greek Vorlage surely had the scri
Kotaxaiq aicivioq, indicating not an "eternal" punishment, but rath
for an indefinite period in the world to come.31 The conclusion of c
runs as follows: "The aionios punishment is for each one accord
deeds

telling them: 'You repent now that there is no time left for

the Rainer and the Bodleian fragments of this Apocalypse originally belong
recension, but even to the same manuscript.
28 Buchholz, Your Eyes, 348; Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta, "Does Punishment R
The Justice Pattern Underlying the Apocalypse of Peter? in The Apocalypse
and Czachesz) 127-57, at 151-52.
29 See Buchholz, Your Eyes, 342-62; 425-26. The Ethiopic text is much
of the Akhmim fragment, and includes a lengthy section on Christ's seco
judgment (chs. 1-6) and a shorter one on the Ascension (ch. 17) which are ab
fragment, as are the Ethiopic chs. 13-14. Furthermore, in the Ethiopic tr
of the damned comes before that of the blessed, whereas in the Akhmim f
the case. Moreover, in the Akhmim fragment both descriptions are narrate
tense, whereas in the Ethiopic only that of the blessed is such, while that c
a prophecy. The Ethiopic expands much more on the description of the dam
of the blessed. The Ethiopic seems to translate the Greek from the Bodleian
from the Akhmim recension. See ibid., 417-18.
30 This is rightly noted by Copeland, "Sinners," 98.
31 See Ilaria Ramelli and David Konstan, Terms for Eternity (Piscatawa
Heleen Maria Keizer, Life, Time, Entirety: A Study of A1QN in Greek Li
and Philo (Ph.D. diss., Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1999). This is why th
between the Rainer fragment and the rest of the Greek Apocalypse of Peter
of punishment noted by Peter van Minnen, "The Greek Apocalypse of P
of Peter (ed. Bremmer and Czachesz), 15-39, at 32 seems to be misguide
not mean "eternal punishment." (According to van Minnen, the Rainer frag
the cessation of the punishment of the damned, "is completely out of tune w
even with what little remains of the Greek, because the punishments are

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142 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

have no life left.' And they all will say: 'God's judgment is rig
and known that his judgment is good, because we have paid eac
his/her actions.'" The "aiOnios punishment" is the ultra-munda
the eternal punishment, and its aim is therapeutic and pedagogic
is stressed in Clement, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa.32 Alth
in the Apoc. Pet. speak of "eternal" punishment for the dam
Jesus unequivocally announces their final salvation. There is no
however, since behind the Ethiopic "eternal" stands the Greek
in the biblical lexicon signifies "eternal" only when it refers t
means "ancient," "remote," "enduring," "divine, heavenly" or
future world."34 The adjective aicivioq for punishment and fir
both in the Bible and in the Apoc. Pet., does not imply their a
does not contradict the salvation of the damned expressed in cha
the beginning of Jesus' revelation to Peter (chs. 3-4), when Pe
the sinners' fate, says to Jesus: "O my Lord, please permit me
words concerning these sinners, namely, 'Better if they had n
Jesus immediately reminds him of God's mercy: "O Peter, why d
having been created would have been better for them? It is y
in this way! But you certainly do not have more mercy than G
them." If Peter pities the damned, but God is said to have even
Peter has, it is already possible to foresee an outcome of salva
after this, Jesus, who is about to speak of the eschatologica
Peter, who is worrying about the damned, that "there is nothi
God, nothing that is impossible for him" (4.5).35 In 5.8-9, infe
described through traditional images employed in the Gospels, su
cannot be put out" (7cup aopeaxov) and the "gnashing of teeth.
are evidently not deemed to be opposed to the eventual salvat
anticipated in chapters 3^ and proclaimed in chapter 14, wher
Jesus will pull the damned out of the torments. This is all the
that the Apoc. Pet. is a coherent text, endowed with a strong un
beginning we find hints of the notion of the salvation of the da

32 Documentation in Ramelli, Apocatastasi.


33 E.g., at 14.2 behind the Ethiopic "eternal Kingdom" there lies aicovia (k
is attested in the Rainer fragment (in other Greek texts we have ai(6vioq
34 See Ramelli and Konstan, Terms for Eternity, 37-70.
35 The kind of death that is at stake here is not simply bodily death, w
by universal resurrection, but the sinners' spiritual death, the resurrectio
with salvation. This is also the case in Origen, where "death" and "life" be
illustrated, e.g., in his Dialogue with Heraclides. A good parallel to this p
Pet. is provided, in my view, by a scene in the synoptic gospels in which
resurrection, to which Jesus refers when he declares that everything is possi
Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27).
36 This is well demonstrated by Buchholz, Your Eyes, 387-98.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 143

The fundamental role of Jesus as Savior of the sinners is evident w


them from the torments and plunges them into the Acherusian Lak
early as 3.5 he is called "the Savior" in the discussion concerning
of sinners. The cross that precedes him on his Parousia in 1 .6 ind
power of Christ's sacrifice, which will be revealed only in the esc
This is thus not in sharp contrast with passages such as 6.6: "They
them a place where they will be punished 'eternally,' each one in
his own sin," where the Greek had aicovictx;, "indefinitely, in the
6.9: "They will be burnt together with them in the 'eternal' fire . . .
them 'eternally,'" where the underlying Greek was the New Testa
7rup aiciviov, the fire of the world to come, which lasts indefinitel
7.8: "We didn't know that we were to come to the 'eternal' punis
the Greek Vorlage surely had KoXaaiq aicovio<;, the only biblica
corresponds- for there exists no KoAxxoiq ax&wc, (eternal punishme
no Odvaxoq dtSioq (eternal death), no nvp dt8iov (eternal fire).37
The Ethiopic translation of the Apoc. Pet. is found within the E
of the Pseudo-Clementines,38 in which a long dialogue between P
entirely devoted to the problem of sinners' salvation (139rb-144r
the final salvation of sinners39 after their torments. In this case, i
who intercedes for them, rather than the blessed. Peter asks Jesus
the fate of the sinners on the last day and is upset at the thoug
death (139rb-140ra). Jesus answers that sinners will not repent if
(140ra), that is, if they know that they will eventually be saved i
is an idea that Origen, who read and knew the Apoc. Pet., would
convinced that awareness of universal salvation might facilitate
morally immature persons who need to be motivated by fear in o
(Origen expresses this concern several times and says that it is be
eternal damnation and repent than not to believe in it and remai

37 In fact, when sinners arrive at their punishment, they cannot realize that it
know perfectly well that it is the punishment of the other world. Likewise, in
didn't know that we would come to this 'eternal' place of punishment," wher
had xonoq ai(6vio<;, which means, not "eternal place," but "other-worldly plac
38 On which, in addition to Buchholz, see Monika Pesthy, "Thy Mercy, O Lord,
and thy Righteousness Reaches into the Clouds," in The Apocalypse of Peter
Czachesz), 40-5 1 . Pesthy is concerned only with the Ps. Clementine work entitle
of Christ and the Resurrection of the Dead, edited by Sylvain Grebaut in RO
307-23, 425-39. Both this work and another Ps. Clementine text that follows
the Judgment of Sinners (ed. Sylvain Grebaut in ROC 12 [1907] 139-51, an
are considered to contain Origenistic elements by Gianfrancesco Lusini, "Trad
Etiopia," in Origeniana Octava, 1 177-84. That these two writings form one
Roger W. Cowley, "The Ethiopic Work Which is Believed to Contain the Mate
Greek Apocalypse of Peter," JTS 36 (1985) 151-53.
39 See Buchholz, Your Eyes, 376-81.
40 See Ilaria Ramelli, "Origen's Exegesis of Jeremiah: Resurrection Announ
Bible and its Twofold Conception," Augustinianum 48 (2008) 59-78.

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144 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

intervenes as a defender, observing that he is the first sinn


the Lord three times (140rab). Jesus replies that it will be up t
mercy (l40rb-140vb): "Because the mercy of my Father is
rises and the rain falls in the same way, so shall we have m
for all of our creatures" (140rb). When Peter asks him to s
answers that upon his return he will destroy the devil and
sinners (140vb-141 vb). Peter then expresses his concern abo
consisting in other-worldly punishment for sinners (14 1 vb),
will have no more mercy on the sinners than I do, for / wa
the sinners, in order to obtain mercy for them by my Fathe
mercy upon them and will give each of them "life, glory, a
end," in that Jesus will intercede for them, but this ought to b
not to provoke sin (141 vb-142bv). This was a real concern, w
felt also by those who believed in the ultimate salvation of a
Peter thanks Jesus for the explanation and says that he now
doubting any more, after knowing that only Satan and the d
Sheol (143vb-144ra). Peter concludes by describing the vari
humanity according to Paul's words in 1 Cor 15, on which
well: "each one in his/her own order." This dialogue is reported
with the recommendation to keep this mystery secret: truth co
salvation of the damned should not be communicated overtl
encourage sin.
Thus, the Apoc. Pet. seems to have been a good basis f
apokatastasis, even though it does not yet maintain it expre
was known to both Clement and Origen. Moreover, it stress
role of Christ's sacrifice in the final restoration of the sinne
that will be emphasized by Origen, according to whom the
possible by Christ's cross.
But the Apoc. Pet. is not the only ancient "apocryphal" tex
suggestions. Other texts, some of which depend on it, exp
intercession for the damned, which paves the way for their
Apocalypse of Elijah, a text that is related to Jewish apocalyp
derives from the Egyptian region, dating to the second or third
a passage that bears a close resemblance to the conception ex

41 A strong supporter of universal salvation, Gregory of Nyssa, howe


touched by this concern, and preached the doctrine of apokatastasis every
it (including the salvation of the devil!) in Oratio Catechetica 26, among th
doctrines to be taught by catechists.
42 See David T. M. Frankfurter, Elijah in Upper Egypt: The Apocalyp
Egyptian Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997); also Giovanni M
nel Giudaismo ellenistico," ASE 16 (1999) 21-34; Edmondo Lupieri, "E
apocalittico," ASE 16 (1999) 35-43.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 145

fragment. Here it is the just, already blessed, who intercede for s


in a text of apostolic tradition which originated in Syria in the firs
second century,44 the Epistula Apostolorwn 40.45 Another examp
book of the Oracula Sibyllina,46 which derives from the Apoc. P
the mid-second century. (The first two books of the Oracula are c
to one another and are Christian).47 The Oracula are well known in
and are quoted by Justin, Clement, and Origen.48 They contain a
long section of the Apoc. Pet. in Greek hexameters. Indeed, some
Oracula 2.190-338 as an appendix to the Apoc. Pet.49
The context of the relevant portion of the Oracula is eschatolog
describing the terrible torments of the damned, which are abundan
in the Apoc. Pet. as well, the Oracula depict the dwelling place of

43 "The just will contemplate sinners in their sufferings, and those who have pe
or handed them [to hostile people]." The sinners "will contemplate the place w
be living, and will take part in Grace. In that day the just will be granted that f
often have prayed," that is, salvation for the sinners (23.11-24.12). In H. P. Ho
Apocalypse, III, Akhmimite: The Apocalypse of Elias," Aegyptus 39 (1959)
Apocalypse of Elijah was based on that of Peter was already supposed by Jame
is accepted by Buchholz, Your Eyes, 60-61.
44 For an Asiatic context in the second century C.E., see Alistair Stewart-Sykes,
of the New Prophecy and of Epistula Apostolorum," VChr 51 (1997) 416-38;
Hill, "The Epistula Apostolorum" JECS 1 (1999) 1-53, who places the Epist
the first half of the second century, probably soon after 120 C.E., or at the late
the second century, on the basis of parallels with works of the same area and
contextual ization of its group, and the historical circumstances reflected in the d
also takes the document to reflect early-second-century traditions: Hills, Traditi
in the Epistula Apostolorum (2d ed.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University P
45 The very expression in the Apocalypse of Elijah here occurs in Jesus' words:
for the sinners, and pray for them. . . . And I shall listen to the prayer of the ju
for the sinners." Editions: Epistula Apostolorum, nach dem dthiopischen und kop
Hugo Duensing; Bonn: Adolph Marcus und Eduard Weber, 1925); Manfred Hor
Epistula Apostolorum (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1965); Buchholz, Your Eyes, 47-48;
trans., "Epistula Apostolorum," in New Testament Apocrypha (ed. Edgar Hen
Schneemelcher; trans. R. Mel. Wilson; Louisville: John Knox, 2003) 1:249-84.
46 These Oracles as a whole are a collection of texts from different epochs, from t
B.C.E. to the fourth century C.E. Editions: Sibyllinische Weissagungen (ed. Alfon
Gauger; Diisseldorf-Zurich: Artemis, 1998); Peter Dronke, Hermes and the S
and Creations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Thomas H. To
Sibyl," StudPhilon 9 (1997) 84-103.
47 See Emil Schiirer et al.. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Je
Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986) 3/1:645; Sibyllinische Weissagungen (ed. Alfons
Dieter Gauger) 418-19. According to Jane L. Lightfoot, The Sibylline Oracles
Press, 2007) 150, the author of books 1-2 is a second-century Christian.
48 See Gerard J. M. Bartelink, "Die Oracula Sibyllina in den friihchristlic
Schriften von Justin bis Origenes," in Early Christian Poetry (ed. Jan Den Boeft
Leiden: Brill, 1993) 23-33.
49 So James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 521-24; Elliott, "The Apocalypse
50 There will be no seasons or days, no marriage or death, but a single long d

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146 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Immediately after comes the relevant passage (2.330-38): "An


persons immortal and omnipotent God will grant another gi
ask him, he will grant them to save the human beings from
from the aitovioq gnashing of teeth, and will do so after hav
of the imperishable flame and removed them, destining them,
own elect, to the other life, that of the world to come, for imm
dKandtoio aXXx>& drcocrrriaac; rce|i\|/ei 8id Axxov eaynov ei
aiciviov dOavdxoiaw], in the Elysian Fields, where there are
the Acherusian Lake, imperishable, which has a deep bed."51 T
with the Rainer fragment of the Apoc. Pet. is striking. Moreov
that the intercession of the just frees the damned not from pur
theological construction, but from hell itself, according to its ev
(gnashing of teeth, unquenchable flame, etc.). It is significant th
tradition, in correspondence to this fundamental passage, som
uncertain date protest against the doctrine of apokatastasis that
expressed here and rightly connect this passage to Origen's doctr
of these passages in the Apoc. Pet. and the Sibylline Oracles to
patent, and I deem it probable that such texts influenced the Ale
in the elaboration of his hypothesis.
Another apocryphal text is very interesting in this connect
recension of the Life of Adam and Eve 37.3-6,53 Adam is fo
and brought into heaven before the Final Judgment, for whic
with Eve. He is washed three times by a seraph and is introdu
paradise. In this way, the text indicates that even after death
original sinners, it is possible to obtain forgiveness and salvat
Latin codex54 that is particularly close to the Greek text, God

51 Vv. 332-38 run as follows: ek uatepoio 7rupd<; Kai dOavdxcDv drco pp


arikjai Sfflaer Kai xovxo Ttoiiiaer / teduevo<; yap eaaf)6i<; and <j>A.oy6
djcooxr|oa<; rceuxj/ei Sid Xaov eauxov / eiq <ofiv exepav Kai ai<6viov dGavd
081 oi 7ieXe Kiiuaxa uaKpd / Xi\ivi)<; devdov Axepovaid5o<; paGuKoXTcou
the Apoc. Pet., see Trumbower, Rescue, 49-54.
52 At the assertion that the damned will be removed from the torments,
is completely false, because the fire will never cease to torment the damned
be the case, since I am marked by the deep scars of transgressions that are i
Grace. But shame be on Origen for his mendacious words, who claims that
the torments.*' Likewise, in the manuscript tradition of Gregory of Nyssa's D
glosses are scattered throughout endeavoring to explain that Gregory did
heretical doctrine of universal salvation, and that passages referring to puri
should be understood in reference to purgatory. Origen himself lamented
interpolated already during his life, and Rufinus attests to this also for the
De adulteratione librorum Origenis.
53 See Daniel A. Bertrand, La vie grecque d'Adam et d'fcve (Paris: M
Michael Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve (Atlanta: Sc
54 Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 3832, edited by Jean-Pierre Pettorelli
d'feve. La recension de Paris, BNF, lat. 3832," Archivum Latinitatis Medi

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 147

end he will have mercy on all, by way and for the sake of his
these words to Michael: "Put him [Adam] in Paradise, in the th
the day of dispensation, which is called oikonomia, when I shall
all, through my most beloved Child" (pone eum [Adam] in Par
caelo, usque in diem dispensationis qui dicitur economia, quando
misericordiam per dilectissimum Filium meum). The term omni
relevant, since in the documents I have analyzed so far it is no
that all the damned will be saved, whereas here it is said that
be bestowed upon all.55 Here, as in the Apoc. Pet., the centra
universal salvation is manifest (per dilectissimum filium)', this
by Origen, who ascribes to Christ a crucial function in the apok
should be stressed.56 By way of example, I limit myself to quot
text, Comm. Rom. 4.10, from which it is clear that Origen has
depend on Christ, and in particular on his sacrifice: "I declare t
effectiveness of Christ's cross and of this death of his are so gr
to set right and save, not only the present and the future aeon
past ones, and not only this order of us humans, but also the h
powers."57 In Cels. 8.72, too, it is Christ-Logos who determines
which is made possible by the complete elimination of evil: "
powerful than any illness that may exist in the souls: he appli
necessary therapy, according to God's will, and the end (teXoq
in the elimination of evil."

55 In Christian Greek, oiicovouia precisely means God's saving action to


it refers to Christ, in the Greek Fathers the expression (evaapKoq) oiicovouia
plan of his incarnation, his permanence on earth up to his death, e.g., in Maxim
Massimo il Confessore, Ambigua (ed. Claudio Moreschini; Milan: Bompiani,
Christ's divine nature is often called 8eoA.OYia by the Greeks, his human nat
In the Bible, in Gal 4 and Eph 1 there decidedly emerges the meaning of salvi
God's government in history; in the classical world, instead, oiicovouia me
order- especially in rhetoric- or government, mainly in philosophy, among th
Philo. The biblical meaning was inherited by the Fathers, who focus this econo
beginning with Ignatius in his Epistle to the Ephesians, then Polycarp, Ath
Justin, and Irenaeus, who uses this term in an anti-gnostic meaning in the co
of the dvaK<|>a?Uxia>ai<; of all in Christ. See Giulio Maspero, "Storia e sa
oikonomia fino all'inizio del secolo III," in Pagani e cristiani, 239-60.
56 See Samuel Fernandez Eyzaguirre, "El caracter cristol6gico de la biena
Origeniana Octava, 641-48; Tzamalikos, Origen: Philosophy of History,
"The Universal and Eternal Validity of Jesus' High-Priestly Sacrifice," in
The Theology of Hebrews in Its Ancient Contexts (ed. Richard J. Bauckham
Testament Studies 387; London: T&T Clark, 2008) 210-21; eadem, "La dot
eredita origeniana nel pensiero escatologico del Nisseno," in Ilaria Rame
Sull'anima e la resurrezione (Milan: Bompiani, 2007), with new edition, ess
on this dialogue.
57 Tantam esse vim crucis Christi et mortis huius . . . asserimus, quae ad sa
non solum praesentis et futuri, sed etiam praeteritorum saeculorum, et no
nostro ordini, sed etiam caelestibus virtutibus ordinibusque sufficiat.

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148 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Antecedents in Clement: Pedagogical Perspectiv


Ubiquitousness of God's Providence
Seeds of the theory of apokatastasis were already presen
Clement of Alexandria,58 who, as I mentioned, knew at leas
considered it inspired just like the other texts that subseque
canonical New Testament. Clement, who, like Origen, st
free will and responsibility,59 insisted on the pedagogical an
of all suffering inflicted by God60 and on God's salvific wil
each and every creature (npbq xf|v xov 6A,o\) acoxripiav x xaw
eaxi Siaxexayjieva Kai KaGokou Kai eni [xepoDq), since "God
eternity and eternally saves through his Son" and "the task o
lead each being to what is better" (Strom. 7.2. 12; see also 1 .1
the necessary instructions (7iai5ei>Gi<;) are not retributive
inflicted by God out of goodness (dya06xr|xi), not only in pr
but also in the final judgment, and "they force even those
hardened to convert" (eK(3id^ovxai jiexavoeiv) (Strom. 7.2. 12
to Clement, salvific repentance (jiexdvoia) is always possible,
and on the other side" because God's goodness operates abso
(Strom. 4.6.37.7; see also 6.6.45-47). Clement states that God's
in two ways, either through good deeds or through punishment
is salvation through conversion from evil to virtue (Strom.
Moreover, as will be the case in Origen's thought, the main a
providence is Christ-Logos, who always "encourages, admon
1.6.2; see also 9.87.6). Above all, in Strom. 2.22.134.4 Clemen
Rom 6:22, identifies the "end" (xeXoq) with life in the other
and expressly affirms that Paul teaches that this end is the ho
(xetax; 8i5daKi xf|v xrjq efoci8o<; drcoKaxdaxaoiv). In 7. 10.5
describes the apokatastasis as the passage from unbelief to fa
knowledge (yvtioiq), which yields love (dydjcTi)- which wil
to apokatastasis by Origen as well- and leads to the restorat
drcoKaxdaaaic; and described as peace and rest (dvd7ia\)oi<;).61

58 John R. Sachs, "Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology," ThSt 54 (1993) 61


Clement; complete demonstration with further arguments in Ramelli, Gre
833, 843, 849, 883-900.
59 E.g., in Strom. 1.1.4.1; 2.14-15.60-71; 5.14.136; indeed, like Origen, h
rational creature, including the devil, who was not forced by nature to
2.3 he maintains the freedom of human will in polemic against the Valentin
and Basilides.

60 E.g., in Strom. 2.15.69-71; 7.16.102.1-3; 7.6.34.1-3 regarding the rcvp aicoviov, which is not
"eternal" but "of the other world." See Ramelli, Apocatastasi. Clement also regarded this world as
a place of instruction, a 7iai6ei)xf|piov.
61 Compare to Peter's description of the drcoKaxdcrcaaK; rcdvxcov as dvd\|rui<; in Acts 3:20-21,
a passage Origen, and probably Clement, read as referring to the eventual universal restoration.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 149

5 Clement explains that the apokatastasis, which he nominally me


come after the necessary purification of all our sins through a "salv
(rcai8e\)Gi<;)"; then we shall enjoy "the apokatastasis in eternal co
be sure, Clement did not develop a consistent and thorough theory
but all this clearly paved the way to the theory of universal salva
If Origen drew inspiration from Clement for his conception of th
Clement and Origen seem to me to have been inspired by Philo
did not believe in universal salvation.62 In Her. 293 Philo interp
(TexdpxT] 8e yeveoi (X7tooTpa<|)f|oovTai 5e) allegorically, observi
said "in order to present the perfect restoration of the soul" (\m
dTroKaxdaxaaiv \|/i)%fi<; rcapaaxfjaai), that is, its return to its orig
unsullied by sins. In fact, as Philo explains in 293-99, at the begi
a wax tablet without any mark, but soon it begins to acquire ev
(d|iapxf||iaxa), and passions (na,dr\). This requires the interventio
in its therapeutic function (iaxpiKTj (|>iA,oao(|)ia) with its reasonin
health (^oyoiq iryieivoiq Kai oarnipioic;). As a result, vigor and st
the soul, which will be steadfast in all virtues. This is the apokatast
which, from sin, returns to its original purity (drcoaxpa^eica xo
and inherits wisdom (icAjpovouxx; drcoSeiKVDxai ao^iaq). This a
also described as a restoration of the soul to health (uyieia) after t
of evil (drcoaxpe(|>6uvoi xd cjxx'uA.a). This therapeutic and medi
will be dear to Clement and Origen as well.
Both Clement and Origen, as I have mentioned, knew at least
among the Christian "apocrypha" that seem to have anticipated,
the theory of universal salvation, and they considered the Apo
inspired writing. In this regard, it is important to highlight that th
of the doctrine of apokatastasis, especially Origen and Gregory
their writings continually based it on Scriptures- what became
Scripture- especially on Paul (their favorite passage is 1 Cor 1 5:2
on many other passages from both the Old and the New Testamen
regarded the entire Bible as full of hints of universal salvation, w
in their exegesis, and they believed that the foremost antecedent
of apokatastasis were to be found in Scripture.

62 See Ilaria Ramelli, "Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture in Philo and Its


of Nyssa," SPhilo 20 (2008) 55-99.
63 See Ramelli, "Christian Soteriology"; eadem, "Origen's Interpretation of
Eventual Elimination of Evil and the Apokatastasis," Augustinianum 47 (200
Mud: Tune et Ipse Filius . . . (ICor 15,27-28): Gregory of Nyssa's Exegesis,
from Origen, and Early Patristic Interpretations Related to Origen's," semina
the 2007 Oxford Patristic Conference, forthcoming in StPatr.

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150 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Bardaisan's Parallel: Apokatastasis and Defe


FreeWill

Among the precursors of Origen in supporting universal salvation, the hellenized


Syrian philosopher Bardaisan of Edessa- who probably knew at least the Oracula
Sibyllina passage concerning the eventual salvation of the damned, and perhaps
also the Epistula Apostolorum and some of the other early Christian apocrypha that
are a prelude to the doctrine of apokatastasis- is the one who presents this theory
in its most developed, coherent, and philosophical form, closest to that of Origen.
Indeed, a deep and impressive connection exists between Bardaisan's and Origen's
eschatological doctrines, which, to my knowledge, has never been pointed out by
scholars: Origen and Bardaisan64 both held the same doctrine of apokatastasis, in
addition to both writing in defense of human free will against deterministic theories.
Both were Christian philosophers and teachers of philosophy, deeply engaged in
the controversies of their own day, and deeply committed to scriptural exegesis.
Bardaisan, a very learned Christian philosopher and theologian, had a school
in Edessa where Greek philosophy was studied just as it was at the school of
Origen, both in Alexandria and in Caesarea.65 Bardaisan, like Origen, was later
accused of Gnosticism, but this allegation in both cases was ultimately unfounded:
although both these Christian philosophers were notoriously objects of harsh
polemics, reflected respectively in the heresiological reports on Bardaisan and in
the so-called Origenistic controversy,66 both wrote against gnostic and Marcionite
doctrines,67 above all against the Valentinian theory of predestination, with its
anthropology of differentiation into categories of human beings, and against

64 On Bardaisan, see, among others, Han J. W. Drijvers, Bardaisan of Edessa (Assen: van Gorcum,
1 966), with an overview on the sources concerning Bardaisan; Ilaria Ramelli, "Linee generali per
una presentazione e per un commento del Liber legum regionum, con traduzione italiana del testo
siriaco e dei frammenti greci," Rendiconti delVIstituto Lombardo, Accademia di Scienze e Lettere
133 (1999) 311-55; eadem, "Bardesane e la sua scuola tra la cultura occidentale e quella orientale:
il lessico della liberta nel Liber legum regionum (testo siriaco e versione greca)," in Pensiero e
istituzioni del mondo classico nelle culture del Vicino Oriente (ed. Rosa Bianca Finazzi and Alfredo
Valvo; Alessandria: Dell'Orso, 2001) 237-55, with further documentation; eadem, Bardesane Kata
HeimarmeneS (Bologna: ESD, 2009).
65 See, e.g., Tloka, Griechische Christen, 47-50 and 64-76, 79-85.
66 The heresiological accounts on Bardaisan, after Drijvers, have been further investigated by
Alberto Camplani, "Rivisitando Bardesane. Note sulle fonti siriache del Bardesanismo e sulla sua
collocazione storico-religiosa," CNS 1 9 (1998) 5 1 9-96; on the Origenistic controversy, see especially
Elizabeth A. Clark, The Origenist Controversy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992)
and Emanuela Prinzivalli, Magister Ecclesiae. II dibattito su Origene fra III e IV secolo (SEA 82;
Rome: Augustinianum, 2002).
67 For Origen's polemic against the gnostics, see below; he also constantly opposed the Marcionites,
who separated the OT and the NT, their respective divinities, and justice and mercy in God. For
Bardaisan's refutations of gnostics and Marcionites the main sources are Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.30;
Jerome, Vir. ill. 33; Epiphanius, Pan. 56, and Moses of Chorene, Patmut'iwn Hayoc' 2.66.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 151

astrological determinism; their position was to be inherited by Gre


Han J. W. Drijvers and other scholars have presented Bardaisan a
following Ephraem who called him "the Aramaic philosopher," a
are good reasons to do so, although Ute Possekel has rightly ca
the remarkable theological aspects of his thought,70 without den
used many philosophical categories. Surely the distinction betw
and theology is more a modern than an ancient idea, and in pat
it is hardly correct, from an historical and methodological point
of philosophy as separate from theology and vice- versa. Posse
however, is well grounded in Bardaisan's way of presenting an
himself, his ethics, his doctrine of the resurrection, the communit
of his school, etc., and is perfectly true: Bardaisan considered h
a Christian who tried to render his faith acceptable from an in
view. This characterization, I believe, is also perfectly suited to O
philosopher71 who played an essential role in making Christianit
to the most intellectually demanding, among whom were many
and Bardaisan played the same role in the intellectual landscape o
and early third centuries, when Christianity was endeavoring to
and even specifically philosophical, credibility.
Bardaisan (154-222 c.E.) lived somewhat earlier than Orig
C.E.), which would assign him priority in the formulation of the t
salvation. However, his doctrine of apokatastasis is attested
Liber legum regionum, which is preserved in a single Syriac ma
probably written by a disciple of Bardaisan. Eusebius, who exce
in Praep. ev. 6.10, says that it was composed by Bardaisan hims

68 For Gregory's polemic against astrology, see, e.g., Beatrice Motta, "L'as
fatum di Gregorio di Nissa," in La cultura scientifico-naturalistica nei Padr
Incontro di studiosi dell'antichita cristiana, Rome, 4-6.V. 2006; SEA 101; Ro
2007) 677-84. Above all, Gregory adopted Origen's defense of free will and doct
see Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa Sull'anitna, first integrative essay.
69 E.g., Drijvers, Bardaisan', idem, "Bardaisan of Edessa and the Hermeti
1 90-210; Taeke Jansma, Natuur, lot en vrijheid. Bardesanes, de filosoof der Ar
(Cahiers bij het Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 6; Wageningen: Veenman, 1
"Liberty et destin dans l'Antiquite tardive," RTP 121 (1989) 129^+7; Javier
d'fcdesse: la premiere philosophie syriaque (Paris: Cerf, 1992); John F. H
Milieu and the Birth of Syriac," Hugoye 10 (2007) 1-34, who describes B
"philosophical works in Syriac" (31).
70 Ute Possekel, "Bardaisan of Edessa: Philosopher or Theologian?" ZAC
71 On Origen as fully philosopher and fully Christian and the polemics that t
among both pagans and Christians, see Ilaria Ramelli, "Origen, Patristic Phil
Platonism: Re-Thinking the Christianization of Hellenism," VC 63 (2009) 10
72 See, most recently, Tloka, Griechische Christen, ch. 2, with my revie
(2008) 641-45; Christoph Markschies, Origenes undsein Erbe (Berlin: de Gruy
a review of mine forthcoming in Adamantius.

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152 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

original title, Ilepi eijxapjLievTiq SidAoyoq (Hist. eccl. 4.30).73 In


dialogue, and, again according to Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 4.30),
an "Antoninus" whom Jerome identifies with Marcus Aur
emperor (Vir. ill. 33: liber quern Marco Antonino de fato t
situate this dialogue within the lifetime of Bardaisan: the pers
places under "Antoninus" perfectly fits the great anti-Christian
place under Marcus Aurelius.74 This is further supported by Ep
that under this emperor Bardaisan was, if not a martyr, certai
Christian faith.75 Scholars, however, tend to think that the ad
or Elagabalus (although no persecution occurred under their
dialogue was written by a disciple of Bardaisan.76 In any c

73 Even if we assume that the Liber legum regionum, as we have it i


of a disciple, it is probable that it faithfully reflects his master's thoug
eiuapuevTiq, or better, according to Epiphanius and Theodoretus, Kaxd
Bardesane kata heimarmene~s, with thorough argument and documentation
74 'Ev ot<; eaxw K<xi 6 rcpd<; Avxcovivov iicavc&xaxoq ai)xo\) Flepi eiuxxp
aXXa (|>aaiv avxov rcpo<J>daei xo\> xoxe Skqyjao'U auyvpayai. Under Marcu
several Christian apologies were written. On this persecution, see Marta So
romano (2d ed.; Milan: Jaca Book, 2004) 103-16; Ilaria Ramelli, "Montan
nel giudizio di Marco Aurelio," Contributi dell'htituto di Storia Antica
di Milano 25 (1999) 81-97; eadem, "Protector Christianorum" Aevum
the connection between this persecution and Bardaisan's dialogue, se
heimarmenes.

75 Pan. 56: ATtoAAxovitp 8e xa> xo\> Avxcovivoi) exaipcp dvxfjpe Jiapaivo'uuevcp dpvr|aao6ai
xo Xpiaxiavov ecruxov Xeyeiv, 6 8e axe86v ev xd^ei 6uoA,oyia<; Kaxeaxri, Xoyoix; xe cruvexoxx;
djceKpivaxo, imep evcEfieiaq dv8pei<o<; anoXoyox>[ivo<;, 8dvaxov \ir\ 8e8ievai <|>r|aa<;, 6v dvdyKT|
eaeaOai, Kdv xe xq> paaiXei ufj dvxeircoi (Apollonius, Antoninus's friend, exhorted him to deny
that he was a Christian, but Bardaisan resisted and almost joined the number of the confessors. He
replied with intelligent discourses, courageously defending piety, and said that he did not fear death,
since it would necessarily come, even if he had not opposed the emperor.)
76 Porphyry, De Styge, fr. 376 Smith (ap. Stob. 1.3.56 = 1.66.24-70.13 Wachsmuth), places the
composition of Bardaisan's work on India at the time of the emperor "Antoninus from Emesa," i.e.,
Elagabalus; the same is indicated by Moses of Chorene, PH 2.66, who locates Bardaisan's floruit
under "the last Antoninus." Elagabalus's name was Varius Avitus. Now, Bardaisan's interlocutor in the
Liber is Avidd, the Syriac transposition of Avitus. In the initial frame he is presented as a heathen who
is philosophically interested in Christian monotheism and theodicy. Moreover, the other interlocutor
is the young Philip, who might even be M. Julius Philippus "the Arab," from Bostra, who was either
a Christian or not hostile to Christianity; see Ramelli, "Linee generali," 315-18. Origen's letters to
Philip and his wife in defense of his own orthodoxy (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 16.36.3-4) and the hostility
of all pagan sources to Philip may suggest that he was a Christian, as is implied by Eusebius, Hist,
eccl. 6.34, who mentions that a bishop forbade him to take part in the church's prayers on Easter's
eve before penitence for his crimes (cf. Jerome, Vir. ill. 54). John Chrysostom, Bab. 6 identifies
that bishop with Babylas of Antioch, who died during Decius's persecution, which was a reaction
to Philip according to Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.39.1. Philip's contemporary, Dionysius of Alexandria,
a disciple of Origen, in a letter speaks of emperors who were said to have been publicly Christian
(oi XexGevxeq dva(j>av86v Xpiaxiavoi Yeyovevai, ap. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 1.7.10), which cannot
but refer to Philip. On Philip, see Pat Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine
(London: Routledge, 2001) 71-74. Favorable to the theory that he was a Christian are John M.
York, Philip the Arab, the First Christian Emperor of Rome (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 153

expresses Bardaisan's thought, is an important example of helle


Edessan milieu. John Healey admits that "Bardaisan forms a pr
Hellenism" in the landscape of the early Edessan environment of Syr
and that he had a group of supporters and followers who share
although "it is not clear that he is the tip of an iceberg of any gr
in that landscape.77 In fact, notwithstanding that in those days Ede
detachment of the Roman Empire and its rulers were at home in
parallel for Bardaisan, his intellectual activity, and his school seems
by Origen's activity and his school in Alexandria (and later in Ca
than by the Osrhoene environment, as I shall endeavor to demons
Bardaisan, just like Origen according to Eusebius's biographical acc
a Greek education in liberal disciplines and philosophy.81
In this connection, the most interesting features of the Libe
philosophical doctrines: that of free will, held against astrological d
at the very end of the dialogue, that of apokatastasis, which, surp
has never been realized by scholars. This theory is here express
Bardaisan, who is by far the main character of the dialogue. Let u
both these doctrines, which are strongly interrelated in Bardaisa
constitute a close parallel to- and perhaps an anticipation of -Ori
of apokatastasis and rational creatures' free will.

California, 1965), Dissertation Abtracts 25 (1965) 5230-31 and Sordi, / Cristi


case, Philip was not at all hostile to Christianity.
77 Healey, "The Edessan Milieu," quotations from 32.
78 Steven K. Ross, Roman Edessa: Politics and Culture in the Eastern Frin
Empire (London: Routledge, 2001); Ilaria Ramelli, "Abgar Ukkama e Abgar il
recenti apporti storiografici," Aevum 78 (2004) 103-8.
79 When Origen moved to Caesarea, Bardaisan had already died, but his sch
and well: His followers continued to exist for centuries.
80 Origen studied the customary curriculum of the "Greek disciplines" (rfj xv ey
xv 'EAAt|vikv ua0T|u.dxv), which were crowned by philosophy, and after
he deepened his knowledge of them (Hist. eccl. 6.2.15). Many learned pagans
a philosophical education (xv xe and 7iai8eia<; Kai (|>iXoao<|>ia<;) were won o
(6.3.13). Even after handing the teaching of the axoixeia to Heraclas (6.15
stop teaching philosophy, and "many renowned philosophers" attended his cla
instructed not only in the divine things, but also in pagan philosophy," consisti
liberal arts, but also in the doctrines of the various philosophical sects (6.17.2-3)
a letter claims that while he was studying Scripture, he was approached by here
and experts in "Greek disciplines" ('EAATivucd uxx9r|uaxa), and thus he had "
heretics' opinions and what the philosophers claimed to say concerning the
Pantaenus and Heraclas, Christian philosophers in Alexandria, whom he imi
Hist. eccl. 6.19.12-14).
81 He was taught the Greek paideia together with king Abgar the Great, as E
Pan. 56: "In his youth he was friends with Abgar, king of Edessa, a very pious a
shared his Greek education and collaborated with him" (Aifydp 8e x xv 'E8
dv8pi ooiwxdx Kai Xoyitoxdx eoiKeioi3nevo<; xd rcpwxa, Kai a\>UTipdxxv x
\ietolox(ov naideiaq). He received a Greco-Roman instruction, and also knew

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154 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

The doctrine of free will is the core thesis of the dialogue, w


protagonist, supports, arguing that human beings do not dep
of stars in their choices. Their habits vary from nation to nat
to religion, but do not depend on celestial bodies or on the
(KAijiaTa). The doctrine of free will, which was already str
of Alexandria (e.g., in Strom. 1.1.4; 2.14.60-62; 2.16.75;
elaborated at length and strongly defended by Origen, lik
both astrological determinism and the Valentinian tripartiti
into classes, which asserts their predestination "by nature."
polemics in many passages and especially in Book 3 of his De
devoted to free will and the philosophical and theological pro
an issue that was hotly debated in the philosophy of his time.8
to Book 1 of De Principiis, 5, he argues against astral determ
maintains as a dogma that every rational creature is endowed
not subject to necessity. In several commentaries on Old T
as Horn. Judic. 3.3; Horn. Jes. Nav. 7.4) and in Philocalia 23,
lost Commentary on Genesis, Origen continues his critique.
and astrological determinism, he insists that God is not respons
conditions of the rational creatures (A,oyiKoi), that he is no
(Rom 9:14; Origen, Princ. 1.7.4), and that there is no unrigh
Present sufferings must be explained either as pedagogical s
God, or as a result of one's demerits in an existence previous
a choice of some generous souls who are willing to suffer in
assist the process of salvation (Princ. 2.9.7).83
Indeed, my hypothesis is that the doctrine of human fr
very basis of Origen's theoretical elaboration of the doctri
as is evident, again, in Book 3 of his De Principiis. Here, in

82 See Ilaria Ramelli, "La coerenza della soteriologia origeniana: d


determinismo gnostico all'universale restaurazione escatologica," in Paga
della salvezza (Atti del XXXIV Incontro di Studiosi dell'Antichita Cristia
SEA, 96; Rome: Augustinianum, 2006) 661-88, and George Boys-Ston
Fate and Human Autonomy," in Greek and Roman Philosophy 100 BC-2
and Robert W. Sharpies; London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2007)
Boulluec, "La place de la polemique antignostique dans le Peri Archo
Edipuglia, 1975) 47-61; Albrecht Dihle, "Die Vorstellung philosophische
und Freiheit in der Fruhchristlichen Theologie," JAC 30 (1987) 14-28; H
Construction and Research: Origen on Freewill," in Scripture, Tradition
Drewery and Richard Bauckham; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988) 239-65;
e gli gnostici sul libero arbitrio e la polemica di Origene," in // cuore indu
e il problema del libero arbitrio (ed. Lorenzo Perrone; Genova: Marietti
Camps, "Origenes frente al desafio de los gnosticos," in Origeniana
1992) 57-78; Hendrik S. Benjamins, Eingeordnete Freiheit. Freiheit und
(Leiden: Brill, 1994).
83 See Clark, The Origenist Controversy, 195-96.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 155

contrasting the mainly Valentinian84 deterministic theory of the t


of humanity into "fleshly," "psychic," and "spiritual" persons (aapK
and 7cve\)^aTiKoi), destined respectively to damnation, an inferi
perfect salvation; then he goes on to argue that the Bible supports th
will everywhere, and he explains away such passages as the harden
heart, which would seem to contradict this doctrine, by invoking G
care and the conciliation of universally saving Providence and ind
At the same time, he also polemicizes against the gnostic and Marcio
between the Old and New Testaments and between the justice and
Thus, he paves the way for the doctrine of apokatastasis of all r
after the purification and instruction needed by each one, as the
not only of divine justice, but also of divine goodness. It is pre
doctrine that he concludes this strongly coherent book, which cons
argument and significantly begins with the polemic against the o
doctrine of human free will. In this way, Book 3 of De Principiis
an "archaeological" reconstruction of the theoretical genesis of Or
for the apokatastasis as not at all undermining each human being
indeed grounded in his defense of it against predestinationism.85 M
theoretical basis, grounded in theodicy, of Origen's doctrine of ap
defense of human free will and of the coincidence of justice and
was well seen by Rufinus, who in Apol. Hier. 2.12 remarked that
of apokatastasis- especially Origen- intended "to defend Go
counter those who maintain that all is determined by fate or ch
wishing to defend God's justice ... it becomes that good, immut
nature of the Trinity to eventually restore all of its creatures in
in which they were created at the beginning, and, after long suff
for whole aeons, to finally put an end to torments."*6 The theor
the apokatastasis, according to Rufinus- who of course knew th
Origen's De Principiis perfectly well- is the defense of both Go
God's justice against determinism.

84 Rather than "gnostic" tout court. Of course, when speaking of "Gnost


necessary to be aware of the often puzzling complexity of this category. See Ka
Gnosticism? (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003); Ilaria Ramel
book, Invigilata Lucernis 25 (2003) 331-34; eadem, "Gnosticismo," in Nuovo D
e di Antichitd Cristiane (ed. Angelo Di Berardino; Genoa: Marietti, 2007) 2:2
85 Full demonstration in Ramelli, "La coerenza," 661-88, where, on the ba
other evidence, it is hypothesized that Origen elaborated the doctrine of apokat
to Valentinian predestinationism and Marcionite division of justice and mercy in
the separation of the two Testaments.
86 Dei iustitiam defendere et respondere contra eos qui vel fato vel casu cu
Dei iustitiam defendere cupientes . . . bonae illi et incommutabili ac simplic
convenire ut omnem creaturam suam in fine omnium restituat in hoc quod e
post longa et spatiis saeculorum exaequata supplicia finem statuat aliquando p

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156 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Now, both the polemic against determinism and the s


and goodness in God and the doctrine of apokatastasis mar
Bardaisan's philosophical reflection as well. Bardaisan too, i
Origen and very probably a little earlier than he, maintained t
of apokatastasis, which is clearly stated at the end of the Li
albeit briefly. Indeed, after a long confutation of astrologica
of Chaldaic doctrines, and after arguing that God is both g
endowed each rational creature with free will, Bardaisan offe
in which he expounds what is evidently the doctrine of ap
like Origen, links the defense of free will and the polemic agai
justice from goodness in God to universal salvation, and grou
in the theory of free will. This is the relevant passage, in t
Bardaisan's Liber:

What should we say, then, concerning the new race of us, the Christians,
whom Christ established in every land and in all regions at his coming? For,
behold, in whatever land we are, we are all called Christians, from the one
name of Christ. And in the same day, the first of the week, we come together,
and in the prescribed days we fast. And neither do our brothers who are in
Gaul marry men, nor are those who live in Judea circumcised . . . nor do those
who live in Edessa kill their wives who commit fornication, or their sisters,
but they separate themselves from them and hand them to God's judgment.
Nor do those who live in Hatra stone thieves, but in whatever land they are,
and in whatever place, local laws cannot separate them from the law of their
Christ: the Principates' power does not force them to do or use things that are
impure for them, but illness and good health, richness and poverty, all that
does not depend on their freewill happens to them wherever they are. For, just
as human freewill is not governed by the necessity of the Seven [sc. planets],
and, if it is governed, it is able to stand against its governors, so this visible
human being, too, is unable to easily get rid of its Principalities' government,
since he is a slave and a subject- for, if we could do all, we would be all; if
we couldn't decide anything, we would be the instruments of others.

But whenever God likes, everything can be, with no obstacle at all. In fact,
there is nothing that can impede that great and holy will. For, even those
who are convinced to resist God, do not resist by their force, but they are in
evil and error, and this can be only for a short time, because God is kind and
gentle, and allows all natures to remain in the state in which they are, and
to govern themselves by their own will, but at the same time they are condi-
tioned by the things that are done and the plans that have been conceived [sc.
by God\%1 in order to help them. For this order and this government that have
been given [sc. by God], and the association of one with another, damps the
natures' force, so that they cannot be either completely harmful or completely
harmed, as they were harmful and harmed before the creation of the world.

87 Bardaisan often uses theological passives, just as the Bible and Origen do.

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 157

And there will come a time when even this capacity for harm that rem
them will be brought to an end by the instruction that will obtain in a di
ent arrangement of things: and, once that new world will be constitut
evil movements will cease, all rebellions will come to an end, and the
will be persuaded, and the lacks will be filled, and there will be safe
peace, as a gift of the Lord of all natures}9

Saving divine Providence (the plans conceived by God to help all


the total eviction of evil- a state in which it is impossible that an
remain forever- the instruction and purification of the wicked, th
renunciation of rebellion, and the apokatastasis are here clearly foresee
to Bardaisan's argument, each creature endowed with reason is free
will is not conditioned by the stars, but God does not allow this free
the creature itself to total perdition: Till the end of time (aiwveq), the
the creatures govern themselves by their free will, but in the end, o
its own plans conceived in order to help them, it will annihilate all e
to its purely negative nature from the ontological point of view. This
in evil is being, not in force, but in weakness and error, and such a
endure forever. As a consequence, all creatures, once purified and se
evil, through persuasion and teaching and the filling of all lacks, w
the Good, that is God, voluntarily. "The fools will be persuaded" no
submission.
Now, all these ideas are present both in Bardaisan's and in Orige
Furthermore, the apokatastasis is expressly characterized by Bardai
gift of God ("a gift of the Lord of all natures" or beings), just as it is
Origen, who, quoting St. Paul, affirmed in Comm. Rom. Catenae 2
xoi) 0eo\) ayf| atwvioq* oi) yap e fpcDv 0eo\) to 8copov. (The true
in Origen's view, is, on the spiritual plane, ultimate salvation, acco
polysemy of "life" and "death" that is typical of both Origen and
Again, the apokatastasis is described as complete peace by Bardaisan
same way as Origen depicts it, for example, in Horn. Luc. 36: God
established peace . . . there is still war due to the existence of evil, b
definitely be an absolute peace"; Comm. Jo. 10.39: "when peace will be p
the years of the oikonomia" (oxav x\ eipf|vri xeteicoOf] ^lexct em. tt|<
One of the closest resemblances between Bardaisan and Origen is th

88 Remarkably, the language is exactly the same as in Origen: "Movement" here i


of will. See, e.g., Princ. 3.3.5: "Freewill is always moved to good or evil by the so
our rational faculty, that is, our mind or soul, never can be without any movement
evil. These movements constitute the rationale for deserts" (motibus suis [animae] . .
vel ad bona semper vel ad mala movetur, nee umquam rationabilis sensus, is est m
sine motu aliquo esse vel bono vel malo potest, quos motus causas praestare meri
89 Patrologia Syriaca, ed. Franc,ois Nau, 2.608-11. [My translation; emphasis m
90 As documented by Ramelli, "Origen's Exegesis of Jeremiah" for Origen, and id
kata heimarmenSs for Bardaisan.

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158 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

to both, Providence does not force our free will, but acts in
yet does not fail to achieve its objective, which is universa
speaks of "things that are done and plans that have been c
order to help the creatures"; Origen says that "Providence i
all, in accord with each one's freewill" (Cels. 5.21). Both em
passive and express the very same thought: God's Providence
will, but it infallibly leads all rational creatures to salvation.9
Ultimate annihilation of evil is one of the main metaphy
doctrine of apokatastasis, and it is clearly asserted by Barda
subsequently, thanks to Origen's influence, by all the suppor
especially Gregory ofNyssa and Evagrius.92 Moreover, both
maintained the centrality of Christ in soteriology. Indeed, Bar
Jesus Christ to be generated by God and by the Virgin (as a
and Philoxenus of Mabbug), thought that, just as he interv
creation (as attested by Moses Bar Kepha), he plays a core ro
salvation, and ascribed a universal salvific effect to his cross.93
on India, ap. Porphyry, De Styge fr. 376 Smith (= Stob. 1.3
statue located in a place where all possible sins are tested, re
universe with all its inhabitants, including the angels, in the sh
standing with its arms outstretched in the symbol of the cros
6p06<;, e%v xaq xeipaq fi7itaouva<; ev runco oxavpov). Th
Jesus Christ's crucifixion in its cosmic value,94 is further r
through the Logos 's activity in creation, since (in a manner
Timaeus) it was given by the Father to the Son as a model fo
world (8e8(0Kevai xov 0e6v x m, onriviKa xov koouov e
e%Ti TtapaSeuyuci). Thus, just as it is evident in Origen, in B
Logos plays an essential role both in creation and in soteriol
in Bardaisan just as in Origen, culminates in the apokatasta
of both these authors, as will be the case with Gregory of

91 For this notion in Origen, see Ramelli, "La coerenza."


92 Documentation in Ramelli, Apocatastasi and, for Gregory of Nyss
Nissa, integrative essay 2.
93 All these testimonia de Bardesane are collected and discussed at length
kata heimarmenes, including a strong valorization of Porphyry's fragments
widely neglected in the reconstruction of his thinking. On the cross in ea
Barnabas, Gospel of Peter, Justin, Oracula Sibyllina, Irenaeus, Hippolytu
Prieur, La croix chez les Peres (Strasbourg: Universite Marc Bloch, 200
94 On the cosmic Christ and cross, see Werner Thiede, Wer ist der kosmis
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001); Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa sulVanima,
95 For the christological foundation of Gregory 's doctrine of apokatastas
"The Work of Jesus Christ and the Universal Apokatastasis," in Jesus Chris
Theology (ed. Elias Moutsoulas; Athens: Eptalophos, 2005) 225-43, with v
argumentation; much more complete argumentation in Ramelli, "La dot
Illud . . . Gregory of Nyssa's Exegesis."

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 159

apokatastasis, far from being a pagan doctrine- as it has been re


of being especially in the course of the Origenist controversy- is
in Christology.
All these convergences in thought between Origen and Bardai
around the doctrine of apokatastasis are striking. It is not unlike
actually knew Bardaisan's thinking to some extent, just as many
did, as I shall show. One possibility, among others, is that Clem
brought to Alexandria the knowledge of Bardaisan's ideas. Indeed,
(xi<; xv Aaaupicov) whom Clement mentions in Strom. 1. 1. 1 1
teacher whom he met in the dvaxo Wj, just before meeting Pantaen
may well be Bardaisan. (It has also been suggested that it was T
this very unlikely, because Clement criticizes Tatian, especially fo
whereas he speaks of his teachers, including his Syrian teacher, as
worthy of veneration, who received the tradition96 from the apost
transmission, and we know from the testimonia that Bardaisan b
Scripture but also on an esoteric tradition.97) This would explain
and admiration of Bardaisan on the part of Origen and his foll
of course, certainty is difficult to reach, and there are many oth
Origen may have learned of Bardaisan's ideas, particularly given
writings were soon translated into Greek by his disciples (Eusebiu
and that he knew and used Greek as well as Syriac (Epiphanius,
also corresponded about scriptural exegesis with Julius Africanus,
for a long time in Edessa at Abgar's court as an instructor of Ma
the Great's son, and in that city knew and frequented Bardaisan,
attests in his Keaxoi 1 .20." Thus, he too may well represent a go
between the Alexandrian and the Edessan thinker.
It is very probable that such knowledge existed and that there w
between these two Christian philosophers and exegetes and their

96 Tfjv aXr\Qr\ Tfj<; uctKapicu; aw^ovxec; SiSaGKaMa<; rapti8oaiv.


97 For this aspect, see the lengthy essay devoted to the testimonia in Ram
heimarmene's.

98 See Ilaria Ramelli, "La Chiesa di Roma in eta severiana: cultura classica, cultura cristiana,
cultura orientate," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 54 (2000) 13-29; Grafton-Williams,
Christianity, ch. 2.
99 See Ilaria Ramelli, "Edessa e i Romani tra Augusto e i Severi," Aevum 73 (1999) 107^43, at
135-36, and eadem, "La Chiesa." On Julius, see also Tiziana Rampoldi, "I Kestoi di Giulio Africano
e l'imperatore Severo Alessandro," ANRW 2.34.3 (1997) 2451-70, and, more for his chronicle than
for his Kestoi, Julius Africanus und die christliche Weltchronistik (ed. Martin Wallraff; Berlin: de
Gruyter, 2006); Iulius Africanus, Chronographiae (ed. Martin Wallraff et al.; GCS 15; Berlin: de
Gruyter, 2007), also with biography of Africanus and relevant testimonia. On Africanus's stay in
Edessa, see W. Adler, "Sextus Julius Africanus and the Roman Near East in the Third Century,"
JTS 55 (2004) 520-50, esp. 530-39.

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160 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Further Relations and Confirmations: Origen's a


Followers and Environments

It is no accident, I believe, that Bardaisan was appreciated by Eusebius, who speaks


well of him in Praep. ev. 6.9.32100 and in Hist. eccl. 4.30.1-3, where he praises his
extraordinary capacities and excellent dialectic skill and his refutations- exactly
parallel to Origen's- of the Marcionites and other "heretics" among whom there
surely were some gnostic groups.101 Furthermore, Eusebius preserves very long
passages from the Liber translated into Greek in Praep. ev. 6.10.1-49. Eusebius
was a fervent admirer of Origen and a disciple of the holy martyr Pamphilus, who
wrote a vibrant apology for Origen while he was in prison waiting to be martyred
(307-310); Eusebius helped him to compose this apology and wrote the sixth and
last book himself.102 And in his Hist. eccl. 6 he devotes a remarkably extensive
treatment to Origen along with many praises,103 which he also bestows on Pamphilus
and his master Pierius, a convinced Origenist, who wrote in praise of Pamphilus
and was called "Origen the Younger" according to Jerome (Vir. ill. 76)- such
was his admiration for Origen. It even seems that Eusebius was not hostile to the
theory of apokatastasis itself (Marc. 2.4; Eccl. theol. 2.8; 3.14-16, 18-20; Comm.
Isa. 1.85).104
It is notable, likewise, that Didymus the Blind, another deeply committed
Origenist and a supporter of the doctrine of apokatastasis, including the restoration

100 Here he presents him as a Syrian "who had reached the highest expertise in the Chaldaic
doctrine" (etc' dicpov xfj^ XaX8aiKf\<; en\avi\\x.x\q eA.TjA,aic6xo<;).
101 For, immediately after, Eusebius reports that Bardaisan, after abandoning the Valentinian sect,
turned to writing refutations of the gnostics (see below). This is Eusebius 's account: "Under the
same reign there were plenty of heresies. In Mesopotamia Bardaisan, an excellent man and very well
versed in the Syriac language, composed and published in his own language and alphabet dialogues
against Marcionites and other supporters of different doctrines, in addition to a great many other
works of his. His disciples- very numerous, as he strongly attracted them by means of words and
argument- translated them from Syriac into Greek" ('Etci 8e Tfj<; auxri<; paaiteicu;, 7cXTi6\)O\)av
xv aipeaewv, em xfiq Mecniq xv rcoxauxdv BapSeadvrjq, iicavwxaxoc; xiq dvf|p ev xe xfj Ii>pv
<|>covfj 8iaAKxiK(6xaxo<;, npoq xovq Kaxd MapKicova icai xivaq exepoix; 8ia(J)6pcov rcpoiaxauevoix;
8oyudxv SiaXoyaoq auaxtiaduevoq xfj oiiceig rcape8Kev yA,xxt) xe icai YP^fi ueTa Ka*
Ttteiaxcov exepcov amov avyypamadxtov ovq oi yvpiuoi [nXelaxoi 8e fjaav ai)x 8/uvax<; x
Xoy rcapiaxauev] erci xfjv 'EM.r|vv and xr\q Zt>pv uexapepXr|Kaoi <t>a>vf|q).
102 Eric Junod, "L'apologie pour Origene de Pamphile et la naissance de l'orige*nisme," in StPatr
26 (Leuven: Peeters, 1993) 267-86; Grafton and Williams, Christianity, 179-93.
103 See Robert M. Grant, "Eusebius and His Lives of Origen," in Forma Futuri. Studi in onore
del Card. Pellegrino (Torino: Bottega d'Erasmo, 1975) 635-49; Manlio Simonetti, "Eusebio e
Origene. Per una storia dell'Origenismo," Augustinianum 26 (1986) 323-34; Emanuela Prinzivalli,
"Per un'indagine sull'esegesi del pensiero origeniano nel IV secolo," Annali di Storia dell'Esegesi
11 (1994) 433-60; Holger Strutwolf, "Der Origenismus des Euseb von Caesarea," in Origeniana
Septima (ed. Wolfgang A. Bienert and Uwe Kuhneweg; Leuven: Peeters, 1999) 141-48; Grafton
and Williams, Christianity, 133-232.
104 So Ramelli, "In Illud:. . . Gregory of Nyssa's Exegesis."

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 161

of the devil,105 presents Bardaisan in a fully positive light, in co


other sources which curse him as a heretic or even a pagan. In a
Commentary on the Psalms he depicts Bardaisan as a convert fr
gnosis to Christian orthodoxy, when he became a presbyter.106
information is similar to that offered by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 4.
speaks of Bardaisan's passage from Gnosticism to the church and
refutations of Gnosticism,107 but Didymus presents Bardaisan i
positive light: His priestly dignity is not mentioned by Eusebius. I
is the only source, aside from Theodorus Bar Konai, to attest that
presbyter, like Origen; according to Theodorus, however, in Liber
Bardaisan then abandoned the church, whereas Didymus praises him
remained in the orthodox church as a presbyter until his death, ju
In fact, according to Pamphilus's Apology, Origen "was a teacher
and grew old inside the catholic [sc. universal] Church."109 Many o
very negative and depict Bardaisan as an utter heretic; Didymus,
of Origen's, instead presents the Christian philosopher and theolog
a very positive light, and agrees with him about the eventual apo
It is highly significant, too, that Eusebius closely links Bardaisa
when he quotes ample sections of Bardaisan from the Liber legu
Praep. ev. 6.10. Immediately after these excerpts, he also quotes
very same subject- human free will (Praep. ev. 6.11). This strongl

105 On Didymus 's Origenism, see Emanuela Prinzivalli, "La metamorfosi della s
da Eracla a Didimo," in Origeniana Octava, 911-37; Michael Ghattas, "Die E
Origenes und Didymos dem Blinden von Alexandria," in Origeniana Septim
A. Layton, "Judas Yields a Place for the Devil: The Appropriation of Origen's
Ephesians by Didymus of Alexandria," Origeniana Septima, 531-43.
106 Michael Gronewald, Didymos der Blinde. Psalmenkommentar (Tura- Papyru
Habelt, 1969) 182-84 = p. 181, 11. 7-9 of the papyrus: "Bardaisan lived in the
Antoninus, the emperor of the Romans. At first he belonged to the Valentinian sc
to the church and became a presbyter" (Sifiyev 5e 6 Bapxrjadvrn; ev xolq eurcpoa
f|uepaiq Avxwvivov xov (JaaiXeax; 'Pcouaiwv. Ovxoq 8e Kax' dp^Tiv xf\<; a%oA.f|<
uexeoxri eiq xf)v EKKXr\oiav, yeyovev rcpeapuxepoq). See Sebastian Brock, "
on Bardaisan," JTS 22 (1971) 530-31.
107 "At first he belonged to the Valentinian school, but then he condemned it a
many Valentinian mythological constructions. He believed he had passed to ort
not liberate himself quite completely from the dirtiness of his old heresy" fHv
xfjq KCtxct OixxJlevxtvov axoXf\<;, Kaxctyvoix; Se xai>xrj<; rctetaxd xe xf\<; Kaxd
drceJtey^cu;, eSoicei uev rcox; cmxdq eaux eiti xf|v opGoxepav yvcouriv |iexaxe
Ttavxe^wq ye aneppvyaxo xov xf|<; 7taA,aid<; aipeaeax; pimov).
108 Addai Scher edition, CSCO Syri 26.2.307, lines 24-26.
109 Apol. 16 (Ren6 Amacker and ric Junod, Pamphile et Eusebe de Cesari
Origene [2 vols; Paris: Cerf, 2002] 1.54.3-6, in Rufinus's translation): "Some e
against him and, with the publication of booklets, derogate this great man, who
was a teacher of the Church and grew old inside the catholic Church." (Quidam
adversus eum ausi sunt, et libellis editis derogare ei viro, qui per tot annos magis
qui in Ecclesia catholica senuit.)

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162 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Eusebius was perfectly aware of the similarities between Bard


thought. Moreover, he is one of the few sources favorable to Bar
accident, in my opinion, that precisely all the favorable source
these, turn out to be represented by admirers of Origen, such
Didymus the Blind, Eusebius himself, and the early Jerome, w
drawing inspiration from Eusebius's portrait of Bardaisan, pr
dialectical ability, and his literary activity against heresies (no
Pamphilus commended in Origen).110
A confirmation of the long overlooked connection betw
Bardaisan's doctrines of apokatastasis comes, to my mind, al
composed more than a century after Bardaisan, the Dialogue
the Orthodox Faith in God, probably written in Greek by a di
who was deeply influenced by Origen and even took part in
debate on free will.111 The Dialogue seems to have been rework
330 c.E. and was ascribed to Origen himself by the redactors
and for this reason translated into Latin by Rufinus at the end of
perhaps with some Origenistic additions (Rufinus directly ide
and Origen).112 Now, in the eschatological section, the or

110 "His great brilliance and keenness in discussion are celebrated by t


infinite works against almost all heretics who sprouted in his day, among w
and vigorous book On Fate that he presented to Marcus Antoninus, and m
the occasion of the persecution. His followers translated them from Syria
translations maintain all the force and splendor that we guess there were in
(Ardens eius a Syris praedicatur ingenium et in disputatione vehemens; sc
omnes paene haereticos, qui aetate eius pullulaverant, in quibus clarissimus es
quern Marco Antonino de fato tradidit, et multa alia super persecutione vo
eius de Syra lingua verterunt in Graecam, si autem tanta vis est et fulgor in i
putamus in sermone proprio.) All the sources mentioned are collected an
Bardesane kata heimarmenSs.

111 Methodius in his Symposium, inspired by the homonymous Platonic dialogue, devotes a long
section to the defense of free will (8.13.161B-17.173C) and to polemic against determinism, above
all in its astrological form, just as Bardaisan too did in the Liber. He also wrote a work on free
will, where, however, as observed by Claudio Moreschini, Storia delta filosofia patristica (Brescia:
Morcelliana, 2004) 178, the theme is treated at much less depth than by Origen. Methodius, at any
rate, was deeply influenced by Origen, although he disagreed with him, or with what he thought
Origen maintained, on some points, especially concerning the resurrected bodies. But he finally
retracted his attack and wrote a dialogue in praise of Origen, the Xenon (Socrates, Hist. eccl. 6.13;
Photius, BibL, cod. 235 also mentions this lost dialogue of Methodius); above all, he did share the
doctrine of apokatastasis with Origen, and with Bardaisan. See Ilaria Ramelli, "L'Inno a Cristo-
Logos nel Simposio di Metodio," in Motivi e forme del la poesia cristiana antica tra Scrittura e
tradizione classica (XXXVI Incontro di studiosi dell'Antichita cristiana, Rome, 4-6. V. 2007; SEA
108; Rome: Augustinianum, 2008) 257-80.
112 Rufinus's translation is found in the edition of Vinzenz Buchheit, Tyranii Rufini Librorum
Adamantii Origenis adversus haereticos interpretatio (Munich: Beck, 1966); the Greek is available
in the edition of W. Hendrik van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Dialog des Adamantius (GCS 4; Leipzig:
Hinrichs, 1901); a recent commentary and translation is provided by Robert A. Pretty, Dialogue on
the True Faith in God: De recta in Deumfide (ed. Garry W. Trompf; Leuven: Peeters, 1997).

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 163

represented by Adamantius, who bears Origen's second name and ho


that Methodius in his De resurrectione attributed to Memianus,
Origen; it is patent that Rufinus, through the identification betw
and Origen, aims at presenting Origen as fully orthodox. Most
argument, the character who, in the Adamantius dialogue, re-propo
in Methodius's dialogue were supported by Aglaophon, who denied
of the body, is Marinus, who is a follower of Bardaisan;113 thus,
as an Origenist, and even more radical than Origen.114 1 think t
is to be identified with Bar Yamma, a character who appears in t
regionum as an interlocutor of Bardaisan: Bar Yamma in Syriac
the Sea" and Marinus is the best translation of this Syriac name
conclusions, drawn by Eutropius as a judge, are in line with Orige
This dialogue confirms that both in Bardaisan and in Origen th
question was central, and that Bardaisan's views, in this respect,
even more drastic than Origen's.115
In this connection, it is significant that an Alexandrian contempo
and Bardaisan, Achilles Tatius, in his novel on Leucippe and Clei

113 For Bardaisan's view on the resurrection, see Ute Possekel, "Bardaisan
Resurrection: Early Syriac Eschatology in Its Religious-Historical Context," Or
(2004) 1-28; eadem, "Expectations of the End in Early Syriac Christianity," Hugoy
on Bardaisan's refraining from apocalyptic eschatology, but with no mention
114 Of course, it is by no means certain that we ought to ascribe this pos
himself.

115 We may add the intriguing detail that a passage in the Dialogue is almost id
from Methodius's writing On Freewill reported by Eusebius in his Praep. ev., bu
it to a work entitled On Matter by a certain Maximus who lived far earlier than
days of Commodus and Septimius Severus, that is, precisely the epoch of Ba
by chance, I believe, that Methodius, a follower of Origen, probably took and
piece, precisely in his discussion on free will, a theme that is central to bot
Origen's reflection. This is all the more noteworthy in that this Maximus, ac
(Hist. eccl. 5.27.1), polemicized against the gnostics, just as Origen and Bardai
days. Eusebius attests that Maximus belonged to the church- he lists him amo
church" (eKK?lT|aiaoxiKoi &v8pe<;), who included the presbyters Origen and Bard
his writings he treated the problems of whether matter has been created (rcepi to
rfjv x>Xr\v) and the origin of evil (rcepi zov noX\)Qp\)Xj\xov napa xoiq aipeoia>T
7t66ev r\ KaKia), which were also addressed by Bardaisan, as is evident from
many attestations concerning him collected by Drijvers (Bardaisan, 60-76; 16
analyzed by Camplani ("Rivisitando," 521-26). One may even wonder whet
a follower of Bardaisan's or a double of Bardaisan himself, possibly a transla
Bardaisan's works (we know from Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.30, that Bardaisan's
his Syriac works into Greek). The author of the Dialogue of Adamantius, a fo
(?), proves to know the works of Bardaisan and his school- at least the Liber,
the character Marinus/Bar Yamma and surely the discussion on free will, and th
who seems to be somehow related to Bardaisan. This also confirms that the
was rich in discussions.

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164 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

draws inspiration from two passages of Bardaisan's writing


confirming the knowledge of Bardaisan's work in Alexand
Porphyry117 quotes or paraphrases two passages from Bardaisa
text based on direct testimonies of ambassadors from India.
an ordeal involving the Brahmans. It is significant that Ba
with his own view, which is very similar to that of Origen,
because they did not put the convicted sinner to death, but rath
and educated (7cai5ei)9fivai x^P^ OavaxiKfjc; KaxaSiicriq
shares Clement's, Origen's, and Gregory of Nyssa's concepti
and pedagogical aim of punishments, as is clear both from
concluding section of the Liber legum regionum, where, as I ha
of instruction and persuasion of the fools in the end, rather th
or eternal chastisement.

In the second passage on India, Bardaisan's words are quoted by Porphyry


Kaxa Xe^iv. Again emphasis is put on the didactic and therapeutic treatment of
the sinners, who, far from being punished against their will, confess their sins and
ask the others to pray for them, and are purified by fasting (oixiveq Pict6|Hvoi
mo xo\) 8oKi|Liaaxr|pio\) eo^oA,oyo\)VTai enx xv exeprov ei xi ii|iapxov, 8et|aiv
rcoio'uvxai iva oi tanrcoi e\i%G)vxai rcepi axraov, Kai vt|axei)o\)ai xpovov xivd
iicavov). Moreover, here an Indian statue is also mentioned, which Bardaisan
presents as a paradigm of the world given by God to his child while he was creating
the world (8e8Kevai xov Geov xcp \)iw, 67CT|viKa xov kogjiov eicxi^ev, iva 9eaxov
e%T| TcapdSeiy^a). This seems to be an echo of the Demiurge of Plato's Timaeus;
the androgyny of the statue itself, whose matter was unknown to anyone (nr|8eva
eiSevai noiaq \)Xx\q eaxiv), was a symbol of the union of the Monad and the Dyad,
the two supreme principles of Plato inherited by the Platonic tradition.118 Now, the
tests by ordeal described by Bardaisan apud Porphyry show close analogies with the
ordeal described by Achilles Tatius in his novel (8.12.9 and 8.6.12-14). I believe,
with Camplani, Boll, and partially Drijvers119 and Castelletti,120 that Achilles was

116 Castelletti is correct to note the close affinities between the ordeals described by Achilles and
Bardaisan. Porfirio, Sullo Stige (ed. and trans. Cristiano Castelletti; Milan: Bompiani, 2006) 272-73.
117 F376 Smith = 7 Castelletti (ap. Stob. 1.3.56). Wide-ranging documentation in Castelletti,
Porfirio, 245-80.
118 See also Wayne A. Meeks, "The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest
Christianity," HTR 13 (1974) 165-208.
119 Camplani ("Rivisitando," 522 n. 6) argues for the direct dependency of Achilles on Bardaisan,
as does Franz Boll, "Zum griechischen Roman," Philologus 66 (1907) 1-15. Drijvers {Bardaisan,
175) who dates Achilles to the second half of the third century, hypothesizes a dependence either
on Bardaisan or on Porphyry, which, however, is less probable because Achilles conserves typically
Indian details, such as a tablet hanging from the neck of the accused person (as noted by Boll),
which are absent in Porphyry and must derive from the Indians whom Bardaisan met.
120 Castelletti {Sullo Stige, 274) hypothesizes Achilles' dependence either on Bardaisan or on a
common source, in that he dates the novel to the second century on the basis of its papyri dating to
the late second and third century. See Graham Anderson, "Perspectives on Achilles Tatius," in ANRW

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 165

quoting not Porphyry- who lived several decades later and wou
toward the end of the third century at least for Achilles- but Bardai
according to Epiphanius, knew Greek, too,121 and whose works w
were soon translated into Greek by his friends and disciples (Eus
4.30). Achilles, according to the Suda, his manuscripts, and the e
name Tdnoq- probably related to the Egyptian deity Tat- was f
which would constitute a further very interesting case of knowledg
work in the late-second to early-third century on the part of
intellectual. This seems to be meaningful in light of the deep an
Origen of Alexandria's and Bardaisan of Edessa's thought that I ha
and of the Origenists' esteem for Bardaisan, so different from th
virtually all other sources.
Another indication of a relationship between Origen and his
one hand, and, on the other, Bardaisan and his school in Edessa,
by Porphyry himself. This neoplatonist knew Origen in his youth
the latter had already left Alexandria and moved to Caesarea.122
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6. 19) attests that he saw and heard Origen and
embracing Christianity and living "against the laws" (7iapav6|na)<;)
as a Greek (Platonic) philosopher in metaphysics and theology and

2.34.3 (1997) 2278-99, at 2295-96. See also Garnaud's edition of Achilles' Le


et Clitophon (ed. with commentary by Jean-Philippe Garnaud; Paris: PUF, 199
account the Robinson-Cologne papyrus, reviewed by Graham Anderson, Classi
439. But the dating to the second century is uncertain and the final redaction of
to the third (see Achille Tazio, Leucippe e Clitofonte [ed. Federica Ciccolella; A
1 999] , with introduction and bibliography on 43-56; Ilaria Ramelli, / romanzi antich
[Madrid: Signifer, 2001] ch. 4). It is relevant to our argument that the parts pres
do not include the passages drawn from Bardaisan. Franz Winter, Bardesanes von
(Innsbruck: Thaur, 1999) 88-96, rejects the hypothesis of a dependency of Ba
given that the Edessan scholar depends on the Indian ambassadors. But this ve
Winter's hypothesis of a common source: if Achilles or the final redactor of th
second century- the motive adduced for doubting the novelist's dependence
could he possibly know what the ambassadors reported to Bardaisan at the begin
We should be forced to give the lie to Bardaisan or Porphyry and imagine that
information from the Indians, but from a written source, which is an unnecessa
Antoninus in whose days, according to Porphyry, Bardaisan met the Indians mi
"Antoninus of Emesa," but Marcus Aurelius: Porphyry may have easily conf
Elagabalus too was made emperor under the name of Marcus Aurelius Anton
in his work on India probably did not specify under which Antoninus he me
under Marcus Aurelius would perfectly fit both Bardaisan 's lifetime (we hav
identifies with Marcus Aurelius the dedicatee of Bardaisan 's On Fate, simply
by Eusebius) and the dating of Achilles to the second century.
121 Pan. 56: "He was fluent in both languages, Greek and Syriac" (Aoyioq x
yX6aoonq, 'EXXtivikt) xe SiaXeKx Kai xfj xv lupwv <J><ovf\).
122 We cannot know with certainty whether Porphyry was a Christian at th
suggests in Hist. eccl. 3.23, drawing his information from Eusebius's refutatio
he is certainly not mistaken when he identifies our Origen with a disciple (<XKp
Hist. eccl. 6.19.6) of Ammonius Saccas.

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166 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

(Stoic) allegorical method to Scripture; he also offers us re


Origen's readings in philosophy,123 on which he manifestly wa
probably thanks to his direct acquaintance with Origen.124
I even wonder whether Origen himself, who met Porphyry
the death of Bardaisan,125 might have brought Bardaisan's w
Porphyry cites Bardaisan not only in his De Styge, as we hav
Indian ordeals and statue with approval of the pedagogical attit
but also in De abstinentia 4.17.1-2, where he speaks of the
"Indian philosophers," the Gymnosophists, the Brahmans,
(Sanskrit sramana). After introducing them, he goes on to expo
about them from Bardaisan, who in turn had learned it from I
by Dandamis.126 What Porphyry borrows from Bardaisan pe
interests and way of thinking, too.
Indeed, I suspect that many connections between the two a
traced and investigated. Surely there seem to be many theo
and historical elements that connect Origen to Bardaisan, th
which is the theory of apokatastasis, which for both of them
to the defense of human free will, and the polemic against p
separation of justice and goodness in God. The investigatio
between these two Christian thinkers casts much new light up
doctrine of apokatastasis, where Bardaisan too played a sign
completely neglected by scholars.

123 These readings were Plato, Middle-Platonists, Neo-Pythagoreans,


who allegorized Greek and barbarian myths. See now Ramelli, "Origen, P
with previous bibliography.
124 A less probable, but nevertheless possible, alternative may be that Porph
Origen's philosophical formation and readings was his master Plotinus,
of Origen's at Ammonius Saccas's school in Alexandria. Our Origen, i
homonymous neoplatonist repeatedly mentioned by Porphyry also in hi
see my "Origen, Patristic Philosophy."
125 In his Eusebian fragment on Origen, Porphyry states that he met O
Porphyry was born in 232/3 C.E., and Origen died toward 255 c.E. (He was
he died, according to Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.1. Since he was not yet sev
father during Septimius's persecution in 202 C.E.- the tenth year of his re
Hist. eccl. 6.2.2- he was born in 186 C.E.; hence, he was 69 in 255, when
256 c.E.). Therefore, Porphyry was twenty-two or younger when he met O
126 They are likely to be those located under the Antoninus of Eme
may have met Bardaisan in the days of his namesake Marcus Aurelius
concerns them runs as follows, as Bardaisan wrote; he was a man com
who lived in the time of our fathers, and met the Indians who partook in
Caesar." ("Exei 8e xd kcit' cnjxoix; xotixov xov xporcov, ebq BctpSTiadvr
Tcov Ttaxeptov r\\xm yeyovcaq, Kai evxvxebv xoiq jcepi Adv8auiv Tterceu
Kaiaapa, dveypa\j/ev.)

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI 167

Conclusions: Contribution to Research


It emerges from this investigation that the conception of apokatastasis had a
variegated background and certainly did not emerge with Origen all at once. It
was present toward the end of the second century and at the beginning of the third
in different Christian philosophical environments such as those of Alexandria
(Didaskaleion) and Caesarea (school and library of Origen), and that of Edessa
(Bardaisan and his school). All these connections, which shed new light on the origin
of the doctrine of universal salvation, seem to me worthy of reflection and close
analysis. Origen is usually seen as the initiator of this theory, and indeed he was the
first Christian philosopher who expressed it in a complete and fully coherent form,
making it the essence of his theoretical system.127 But as Clement and, even more,
Bardaisan suggest, Origen's insight did not emerge in a vacuum. It was evoked by
reflection on human free will and its relationship to God's justice and goodness
and love, in a polemic that was directed above all against predestinationism. The
same polemic against determinism and predestination- on the part of an author
who, just like Origen, wrote against Valentinian and Marcionite theories, as several
testimonia and the Liber itself indicate- was the basis for the development of
Bardaisan 's thought concerning human free will and apokatastasis. It is remarkable
that almost at the same time both Origen and Bardaisan, one in Alexandria and the
other in Edessa, held the very same doctrine of apokatastasis. Bardaisan may even
have supported it somewhat before Origen. The latter certainly found important
premises for his doctrine in Clement's conceptions and in the necessity of arguing
against determinism, which Bardaisan too had to face.
My hypothesis is that both Origen and Bardaisan developed this doctrine in
polemic with determinism, particularly Valentinian and astrological predest-
inationism. This is indicated, respectively, by Princ. 3, as I have argued, and by
the whole argument presented by Bardaisan in the Liber. In order to oppose such
forms of determinism and, as Rufinus realized, to deny that everything depends
either on fate or on chance, they created an alternative theodicy by postulating the
very same nature for all rational beings, their free will, and its consequences during
the worlds or aeons (aiwveq) (i.e., the different conditions in which the intellectual
creatures [voeq] are found to be during the aeons, depending on their own choices
and regulated by God's justice) and at the same time posited providential action on
God's part that is respectful of each individual's free will but leads all to salvation
as a gift of grace and as a consequence of the final eviction of evil.
Both Origen and Bardaisan supported the doctrine of apokatastasis against
determinism and predestinationism, just as, one and a half centuries after them,
Gregory of Nyssa supported it against "Arianism," especially in his In Mud. Tune

127 See Ramelli, "Christian Soteriology"; eadem, Apocatastasi\ and Tzamalikos, Origen:
Philosophy of History.

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168 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

etlpse Filius and elsewhere.128 This doctrine was formulated an


polemical framework at the philosophical and theological leve
emergence of the theory of apokatastasis in Clement, Bardaisan
that this theory took shape in the context of philosophical discu
fate, theodicy, and the eternal destiny of rational creatures.
I think that a comparative study of Origen and Bardaisan
deeper, and wider understanding of the historical and theor
doctrine, which was stimulated by a philosophical framework
free will and theodicy. These seem to have influenced its first
expositions in Christian philosophy, that is to say, not only O
but also that of Bardaisan. Even though Origen's codification
and extensive, that of Bardaisan, which is strikingly similar
have endeavored to point out, may have shortly preceded it, an
an impact upon it. Moreover, premises are to be found in Clem
a narrative and not theoretical form, in some early Christian
which were surely known to Clement- who regarded the Ap
Scripture- Origen and Bardaisan. They are very likely to have
in addition of course to what subsequently became the canoni
of which Origen and Nyssen continually have recourse in ord
doctrine of universal salvation.

128 See the essay on Gregory's In Mud. Tune et Ipse Filius in Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa
SuU'anima; eadem, *7n Illud. . . . Gregory of Nyssa's Interpretation." On "Arianism" I refer to
Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) who challenges several
assumptions on Nicene and Arian theology, and to the discussion of his study in HTR 100 (2007)
125-241, especially the frame provided by Sarah Coakley's introduction at 125-38. Interesting
novelties are also proposed by Henryk Pietras, "Lettera di Costantino alia Chiesa di Alessandria
e Lettera del sinodo di Nicea agli Egiziani (325)- i falsi sconosciuti da Atanasio?" Gregorianum
88 (2008), who argues that the two letters cited in the title, which most stress the condemnation of
Arius, were unknown to Eusebius and Athanasius because they are apocryphal. I am very grateful
to Henryk Pietras for letting me read his study before its publication.

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