Origen

3rd-century Christian scholar, ascetic and theologian from Alexandria

Origenes (or Origen Adamantios; 184/185253/254) was an Alexandrian theologian and Biblical scholar. He is considered one of the most distinguished of the early fathers of the Christian Church.

Knowing that Christ has come, we see that, owing to Him, there are many christs in the world, who, like Him, have loved righteousness and hated iniquity.
The reason why all those we have mentioned hold false opinions and make impious or ignorant assertions about God appears to be nothing else but this, that scripture is not understood in its spiritual sense, but is interpreted according to the bare letter.

QuotesEdit

Unless otherwise stated, quotations cited from Frederick Crombie (trans.) The Writings of Origen (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1869-72), to which page numbers also refer.

On First PrinciplesEdit

  • Having refuted, then, as well as we could, every notion which might suggest that we were to think of God as in any degree corporeal, we go on to say that, according to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured. For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 1; par. 5
  • That is properly termed everlasting or eternal which neither had a beginning of existence, nor can ever cease to be what it is. And this is the idea conveyed by John when he says that God is light. Now His wisdom is the splendour of that light, not only in respect of its being light, but also of being everlasting light, so that His wisdom is eternal and everlasting splendour. If this be fully understood, it clearly shows that the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 2; par. 11
  • In this way, then, by the renewal of the ceaseless working of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in us, in its various stages of progress, shall we be able at some future time perhaps, although with difficulty, to behold the holy and the blessed life, in which (as it is only after many struggles that we are able to reach it) we ought so to continue, that no satiety of that blessedness should ever seize us; but the more we perceive its blessedness, the more should be increased and intensified within us the longing for the same, while we ever more eagerly and freely receive and hold fast the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But if satiety should ever take hold of any one of those who stand on the highest and perfect summit of attainment, I do not think that such an one would suddenly be deposed from his position and fall away, but that he must decline gradually and little by little, so that it may sometimes happen that if a brief lapsus take place, and the individual quickly repent and return to himself, he may not utterly fall away, but may retrace his steps, and return to his former place, and again make good that which had been lost by his negligence.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 3; par. 8
  • Every being which is endowed with reason, and transgresses its statutes and limitations, is undoubtedly involved in sin by swerving from rectitude and justice.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 5; vol. 1, p. 45.
  • An end or consummation would seem to be an indication of the perfection and completion of things. ... These subjects, indeed, are treated by us with great solicitude and caution, in the manner rather of an investigation and discussion, than in that of fixed and certain decision. ... We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued. For thus says holy Scripture, “The LORD said to My Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1) And if the meaning of the prophet’s language here be less clear, we may ascertain it from the Apostle Paul, who speaks more openly, thus: “For Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.” (1 Cor 15:25) But if even that unreserved declaration of the apostle do not sufficiently inform us what is meant by “enemies being placed under His feet,” listen to what he says in the following words, “For all things must be put under Him.” (1 Cor 15:27) What, then, is this “putting under” by which all things must be made subject to Christ? I am of opinion that it is this very subjection by which we also wish to be subject to Him, by which the apostles also were subject, and all the saints who have been followers of Christ. For the name “subjection,” by which we are subject to Christ, indicates that the salvation which proceeds from Him belongs to His subjects, agreeably to the declaration of David, “Shall not my soul be subject unto God? From Him cometh my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1)
    • On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 6; par. 1
  • As the eye naturally seeks the light and vision, and our body naturally desires food and drink, so our mind is possessed with a becoming and natural desire to become acquainted with the truth of God and the causes of things.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 2, ch. 11; vol. 1, p. 148
  • But since, if the usefulness of the legislation, and the sequence and beauty of the history, were universally evident of itself, we should not believe that any other thing could be understood in the Scriptures save what was obvious, the word of God has arranged that certain stumbling-blocks, as it were, and offences, and impossibili­ties, should be introduced into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not, through being drawn away in all directions by the merely attractive na­ture of the language, either altogether fall away from the (true) doctrines, as learn­ing nothing worthy of God, or, by not departing from the letter, come to the knowledge of nothing more divine.
    • On First Principles, Bk. 4, ch. 2, par. 15
  • [W]ho that has understanding will sup­pose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, ex­isted without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indi­cate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally. Cain also, when going forth from the presence of God, certainly appears to thoughtful men as likely to lead the reader to inquire what is the presence of God, and what is the meaning of going out from Him. ...
    • On First Principles, Bk. 4, ch. 2, par 16
  • The reason why all those we have mentioned hold false opinions and make impious or ignorant assertions about God appears to be nothing else but this, that scripture is not understood in its spiritual sense, but is interpreted according to the bare letter.
    • “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, § 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 69
  • As for the apostolic epistles, what person who is skilled in literary interpretation would think them to be plain and easily understood, when even in them there are thousands of passages that provide, as it through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of the deepest thoughts?
    • “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, § 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 69
  • One must therefore portray the meaning of the sacred writings in a threefold way upon one's own soul, so that the simple person may be edified by what we may call the flesh of the scripture, this name being given to the obvious interpretation; while the one who has made some progress may be edified by its soul, as it were; and the one who is perfect and like those mentioned by the apostle: "We speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the world unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:6-7)--this one may be edified by the spiritual law, which has "a shadow of the good things to come" (cf. Rom. 7:14). For just as the human being consists of body, soul and spirit, so in the same way does the scripture, which has been prepared by God to be given for humanity's salvation.
    • “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 70
  • When, therefore, as will be clear to those who read, the passage as a connected whole is literally impossible, whereas the outstanding part of it is not impossible but even true, the reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all. For our contention with regard to the whole of divine scripture is that it all has a spiritual meaning, but not all a bodily meaning; for the bodily meaning is often proved to be an impossibility.
    • “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 75

Against CelsusEdit

 
Neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion.
full text online: Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
  • In like manner, as the statement is false "that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion," so also is this, "that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers;" for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defense of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors.
    • Against Celsus, Bk. 3, ch. 7
  • There was no need that there should everywhere exist many bodies, and many spirits like Jesus, in order that the whole world of men might be enlightened by the Word of God. For the one Word was enough, having arisen as the "Sun of righteousness (Malachi chpt. 3)," to send forth from Judea His coming rays into the soul of all who were willing to receive Him. But if any one desires to see many bodies filled with a divine Spirit, similar to the one Christ, ministering to the salvation of men everywhere, let him take note of those who teach the gospel of Jesus in all lands in soundness of doctrine and uprightness of life, and who are themselves termed "christs" by the Holy Scriptures, in the passage, "Touch not mine anointed, and do not my prophets any harm." For as we have heard that Antichrist cometh, and yet have learned that there are many antichrists in the world, in the same way, knowing that Christ has come, we see that, owing to Him, there are many christs in the world, who, like Him, have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore God, the God of Christ, anointed them also with the "oil of gladness." But inasmuch as He loved righteousness and hated iniquity above those who were His partners, He also obtained the first-fruits of His anointing, and, if we must so term it, the entire unction of the oil of gladness ; while they who were His partners shared also in His unction, in proportion to their individual capacity.
    • Against Celsus, Bk. 6, ch. 79; vol. 2, p. 422.

Quotes about OrigenEdit

  • [W]e were pierced by his argumentation as with an arrow from the very first occasion of our hearing him (for he was possessed of a rare combination of a certain sweet grace and persuasiveness, along with a strange power of constraint) ... Moreover, the stimulus of friendship was also brought to bear upon us — a stimulus, indeed, not easily withstood, but keen and most effective — the argument of a kind and affectionate disposition, which showed itself benignantly in his words when he spoke to us and associated with us. For he did not aim merely at getting round us by any kind of reasoning; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy, and most especially also in those other gifts which the Deity has bestowed on him above most men, or, as we may perhaps say, above all men of our own time. I mean the power that teaches us piety, the word of salvation, that comes to many, and subdues to itself all whom it visits ... And thus, like some spark lighting upon our inmost soul, love was kindled and burst into flame within us — a love at once to the Holy Word, the most lovely object of all, who attracts all irresistibly toward Himself by His unutterable beauty, and to this man, His friend and advocate. And being most mightily smitten by this love, I was persuaded to give up all those objects or pursuits which seem to us befitting, and among others even my boasted jurisprudence — yea, my very fatherland and friends, both those who were present with me then, and those from whom I had parted. And in my estimation there arose but one object dear and worth desire — to wit, philosophy, and that master of philosophy, this inspired man. ... I shall not speak of him as a perfect pattern, but as one who vehemently desires to imitate the perfect pattern, and strives after it with zeal and earnestness, even beyond the capacity of men, if I may so express myself; and who labours, moreover, also to make us, who are so different, of like character with himself, not mere masters and apprehenders of the bald doctrines concerning the impulses of the soul, but masters and apprehenders of these impulses themselves.
  • Concerning the everlasting co-existence of the Word with the Father, and that He is not of another essence or subsistence, but proper to the Father's, as the Bishops in the Council said, you may hear again from the labour-loving Origen also. For what he has written as if inquiring and by way of exercise, that let no one take as expressive of his own sentiments, but of parties who are contending in investigation, but what he definitely declares, that is the sentiment of the labour-loving man. After his prolusions then (so to speak) against the heretics, straightway he introduces his personal belief...
  • The whole discussion [in Origen’s On First Principles] proceeds on a single principle, namely, the notion that the whole universe of reasonable creatures have fallen by their own will, and will hereafter return to a condition of unity: and that again from that starting point another fall will begin.
    • St. Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus, Book III, sec. 5
  • [Epiphanius] assembled those of the bishops who were then in the capital, and producing his copy of the synodical decree condemnatory of Origen's works, recited it before them; not being able to assign any reason for this judgment, than that it seemed fit to Theophilus and himself to reject them. Some indeed from a reverential respect for Epiphanius subscribed the decree; but many refused to do so among whom was Theotimus bishop of Scythia, who thus addressed Epiphanius:— 'I neither choose, Epiphanius,' said he, 'to insult the memory of one who ended his life piously long ago; nor dare I be guilty of so impious an act, as that of condemning what our predecessors did not reject: and especially when I know of no evil doctrine contained in Origen's books.' Having said this, he brought forward one of that author's works, and reading a few passages therefrom, showed that the sentiments propounded were in perfect accordance with the orthodox faith. He then added, 'Those who speak evil of these writings are unconsciously casting dishonor upon the sacred volume whence their principles are drawn.' Such was the reply which Theotimus, a bishop celebrated for his piety and rectitude of life, made to Epiphanius.
  • Domitian of Galatia, formerly bishop of Ancyra... in the book which he wrote to Vigilius, where he is complaining of those who contradicted the doctrine of Origen,--who maintained that the souls of men had pre-existed in some state of blessedness before they came into bodies, and that all those who were doomed to the eternal punishment should, together with the devil and his angels, be restored to their former state of blessedness,--he says, They have hastily run out to anathematize most holy and glorious teachers on account of those doctrines which have been advanced concerning pre-existence and restitution; and this indeed under pretext of Origen, but thereby anathematizing all those saints who were before and have been after him.
  • Origen, who had belonged to the Alexandrian school of Platonists, declares that Moses, besides the teachings of the covenant, communicated some very important secrets "from the hidden depths of the law" to the seventy elders. These he enjoined them to impart only to persons whom they found worthy. (p. 27)
    Those of the early Christian Fathers who like Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, were well versed in Pagan symbology, having begun their careers as philosophers... could not deny the anticipation of their doctrines in the oldest myths. (p. 328)
    Origen held all the daemons which possessed the demoniacs mentioned in the New Testament to be human "spirits." (p. 387)
  • Origen writes that the Brahmans were always famous for the wonderful cures which they performed by certain words; and in our own age we find Orioli, a learned corresponding member of the French Institute, corroborating the statement of Origen in the third century, and that of Leonard de Vair of the sixteenth, in which the latter wrote:
    "There are also persons, who upon pronouncing a certain sentence--a charm, walk bare-footed on red, burning coals, and on the points of sharp knives stuck in the ground; and, once poised on them, on one toe, they will lift up in the air a heavy man or any other burden of considerable weight. They will tame wild horses likewise, and the most furious bulls, with a single word." (Leonard de Vair," 1. ii., ch. ii.; "La Magie au 19me Siecle," p. 332)
  • Origen understood it well, having been a pupil of Ammonius Saccas; therefore we see him bravely denying the perpetuity of hell-torments. He maintains that not only men, but even devils (by which term he meant disembodied human sinners), after a certain duration of punishment shall be pardoned and finally restored to heaven. ("De Civit. Dei," I, xxi., c. 17.) In consequence of this and other such heresies Origen was, as a matter of course, exiled. (p. 705)
    Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Chalcidius, Methodius, and Maimonides, on the authority of the Targum of Jerusalem, the orthodox and greatest authority of the Jews, held that the first two words in the book of Genesis--B-RASIT, mean Wisdom, or the Principle. And that the idea of these words meaning "in the beginning" was never shared but by the profane, who were not allowed to penetrate any deeper into the esoteric sense of the sentence. (p. 727)
  • More and more, as the organic world was observed, the vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for their sustenance. ...Origen had dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was six times greater than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it during a hundred years.
  • The Teacher will bridle the unruly ones. The Teacher bids you read the words of Origen. You will begin to understand the transgressions committed by the Church. The ways of Origen’s school will be of guidance for our day.
    • Leaves of Morya’s Garden I, Agni Yoga, (1924)
  • It was after the time of Origen’s disciples that the false religion of the priesthood began to spread.
    • Leaves of Morya’s Garden I, Agni Yoga, (1924)
  • In the name of Christ great crimes have been committed. Therefore, Christ nowadays clothes Himself in other garments. One must discard all the exaggerations. We are not speaking of slightly embellished works only, as even through the volumes of Origen corrections were slipped in. Therefore, it is time to change conditions in the world.
    • Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, Agni Yoga, (1925)
  • A recent Conference of Bishops in the United States proposed to study the works of the great Origen. This is a great step forward, as the studying of Origen may broaden the ecclesiastical framework and its dogmas. We should not forget that the law of Reincarnation was rejected only in the sixth century by the Council of Constantinople. And we are supposed to accept as revelation and dogma the authority of the Fathers of the Church who, with great seriousness, discussed such problems as "How many spirits may be placed on the end of a needle?" or such similar pearls as "Has woman a soul?
  • It is also urgently necessary to look through and study the works of the great Origen, that true Light of Christianity. His works are now studied by some of the Western clergy in America. These fathers understand that the consciousness of their spiritual flocks requires new nourishment, and that it can no longer be satisfied by the naive ideas which once upon a time perhaps were necessary for the taming of half-savage tribes, newly-converted to Christianity.

See alsoEdit

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