Origen (//; Greek: Ὠριγένης, Ōrigénēs), or Origen Adamantius (Ὠριγένης Ἀδαμάντιος, Ōrigénēs Adamántios; 184/185 – 253/254), was a scholar, ascetic, and early Christian theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a prolific writer in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, philosophical theology, preaching, and spirituality written in Greek. He was anathematised at the Second Council of Constantinople. He was one of the most influential figures in early Christian asceticism.
Unlike a large number of church fathers, he was never canonised as a saint because a few of his teachings directly contradicted the teachings attributed to the apostles, notably the Apostles Paul and John. His teachings on the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures, including perhaps even the devil (the apokatastasis), and the subordination of God the Son to God the Father, were rejected by Christian orthodoxy.
Origen's Greek name Ōrigénēs (Ὠριγένης) probably means "child of Horus" (from Ὧρος, "Horus", and γένος, "born"). His nickname or cognomen Adamantios (Ἀδαμάντιος) derives from Greek adámas (ἀδάμας), which means "adamant", "unalterable", "unbreakable", "unconquerable", "diamond". He acquired it because of his severe ascetical practices.
Origen was born in Alexandria to Christian parents. He was educated by his father, Leonides of Alexandria, who gave him a standard Hellenistic education, but additionally had him study the Christian scriptures. The name of his mother is unknown.
In 202, Origen's father was martyred in the outbreak of the persecution throughout the reign of Septimius Severus. A storey reported by Eusebius has it that Origen wished to follow him in martyrdom, but was prevented only by his mother hiding his clothes. The death of Leonides left the family of nine impoverished when their property was confiscated. Origen, however, was taken under the protection of a woman of wealth and standing; but as her household already included a heretic named Paul, the strictly orthodox Origen seems to have remained with her only a short time.
Eusebius, our chief witness to Origen's life, says that in 203 Origen revived the Catechetical School of Alexandria where Clement of Alexandria had once taught but had apparently been driven out throughout the persecution under Severus. Many modern scholars, however, doubt that Clement's school had been an official ecclesiastical institution as Origen's was and thus deny continuity between the two. But the persecution still raged, and the young teacher visited imprisoned Christians, attended the courts, and comforted the condemned, himself preserved from persecution because the persecution was probably limited only to converts to Christianity. His fame and the number of his pupils increased rapidly, so that Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria, made him restrict himself to instruction in Christian doctrine alone.
Asceticism and castration
Origen, to be entirely independent, sold his library for a sum which netted him a daily income of 4 obols, on which he lived by exercising the utmost frugality. Teaching throughout the day, he devoted the greater part of the night to the study of the Bible and lived a life of rigid asceticism.
Eusebius reported that Origen, following literally, castrated himself. This storey was accepted throughout the Middle Ages and was cited by Peter Abelard in his letters to Heloise. Edward Gibbon, in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, additionally accepts this storey as true. During the past century, scholars have often questioned this, surmising that this might have been a rumour circulated by his detractors. Henry Chadwick points out that, while the storey might be true, it seems unlikely, given that Origen's exposition of Matthew 19:12 "strongly deplored any literal interpretation of the words". Notwithstanding a large number of noted historians, such as Peter Brown and William Placher, continue to find no reason to deny the truth of Eusebius' claims.
During the reign of emperor Caracalla, about 211–212, Origen paid a brief visit to Rome, but the relative laxity throughout the pontificate of Zephyrinus seems to have disillusioned him, and on his return to Alexandria he resumed his teaching with zeal increased by the contrast. But the school had far outgrown the strength of a single man; the catechumens pressed eagerly for elementary instruction, and the baptised sought for interpretation of the Bible. Under these circumstances, Origen entrusted the teaching of the catechumens to Heraclas, the brother of the martyr Plutarch, his first pupil.
His own interests became more and more centred in exegesis, and he accordingly studied Hebrew, though there's no certain knowledge concerning his instructor in that language. From about this period (212–213) dates Origen's acquaintance with Ambrose of Alexandria, whom he was instrumental in converting from Valentinianism to orthodoxy. Later (about 218) Ambrose, a man of wealth, made a formal agreement with Origen to promulgate his writings, and all the subsequent works of Origen (except his sermons, which weren't expressly prepared for publication) were dedicated to Ambrose.
In 213 or 214, Origen visited Arabia at the request of the prefect, who wished to have an interview with him; and Origen accordingly spent a brief time in Petra, after which he returned to Alexandria. In the following year, a popular uprising at Alexandria caused Caracalla to let his soldiers plunder the city, shut the schools, and expel all foreigners. The latter measure caused Ambrose to take refuge in Caesarea, where he seems to have made his permanent home; and Origen left Egypt, apparently going with Ambrose to Caesarea, where he spent a few time. Here, in conformity with local usage based on Jewish custom, Origen, though not ordained, preached and interpreted the scriptures at the request of the bishops Alexander of Jerusalem and Theoctistus of Caesarea. When, however, the confusion in Alexandria subsided, Demetrius recalled Origen, probably in 216.
Of Origen's activity throughout the next decade little is known, but it was probably devoted to teaching and writing. The latter was rendered the more easy for him by Ambrose, who provided him with more than seven stenographers to take dictation in relays, as a large number of scribes to prepare long-hand copies, and a number of girls to multiply the copies. At the request of Ambrose, he now began a huge commentary on the Bible, beginning with John, and continuing with Genesis, Psalms 1–25, and Lamentations, besides brief exegeses of selected texts (forming the ten books of his Stromateis), two books on the resurrection, and the work On First Principles.
Conflict with Demetrius and removal to Caesarea
Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, at first supported Origen but later opposed him, disputing his ordination in another diocese (Caesarea Maritima in Palestine). This ecclesiastical turmoil eventually caused Origen to move to Caesarea, a move which he characterised as divine deliverance from Egypt akin to that the ancient Hebrews received. About 230, Origen entered on the fateful journey which was to compel him to give up his work at Alexandria and embittered the next years of his life. Sent to Greece on a few ecclesiastical mission, he paid a visit to Caesarea, where he was heartily welcomed and was ordained a priest, that no further cause for criticism might be given Demetrius, who had strongly disapproved his preaching before ordination while at Caesarea. But Demetrius, taking this well-meant act as an infringement of his rights, was furious, for not only was Origen under his jurisdiction as bishop of Alexandria, but, if Eastern sources might be believed, Demetrius had been the first to introduce episcopal ordination in Egypt. The metropolitan accordingly convened a synod of bishops and presbyters which banished Origen from Alexandria, while a second synod declared his ordination invalid.
Origen accordingly fled from Alexandria in 231–2, and made his permanent home in Caesarea in Palestine, where his friend Theoctistus was bishop. A series of attacks on him seems to have emanated from Alexandria, whether for his self-castration (a capital crime in Roman law) or for alleged heterodoxy is unknown; but at all events these fulminations were heeded only at Rome, while Palestine, Phoenicia, Arabia, and Achaia paid no attention to them. At Alexandria, Heraclas became head of Origen's school, and shortly afterward, on the death of Demetrius, was consecrated bishop.
During this time at Caesarea in Palestine (232–5), he resumed work on the Commentary on John, composing at least books 6-10, wrote the treatise On Prayer, and, a few time in the first half of the year 235, composed his Exhortation to Martyrdom. Eusebius reports that he was summoned from there to Antioch at the behest of the empress mother Julia Avita Mamaea "to discuss Christian philosophy and doctrine with her." Approximately three years after his arrival in Caesarea in Palestine, Origen's life as a scholar was again interrupted by the persecution of Maximinus Thrax (235-8). He took refuge at Caesarea in Cappadocia. At Caesarea, Origen was joyfully received and was the guest of Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
After the death of Maximinus, Origen resumed his life in Caesarea of Palestine. Little is known of the last twenty years of Origen's life. He founded a school where Gregory Thaumaturgus, later bishop of Pontus, was one of the pupils. He preached regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, and later daily. He taught dialectics, physics, ethics, and metaphysics. He evidently, however, developed an extraordinary literary productivity, broken by occasional journeys; one of which, to Athens throughout a few unknown year, was of sufficient length to allow him time for research.
After his return from Athens, he succeeded in converting Beryllus, bishop of Bostra, from his adoptionistic (i.e., belief that Jesus was born human and only became divine after his baptism) views to the orthodox faith; yet in these quite years (about 240) probably occurred the attacks on Origen's own orthodoxy which compelled him to defend himself in writing to Pope Fabian and a large number of bishops. Neither the source nor the object of these attacks is known, though the latter might have been connected with Novatianism (a strict refusal to accept Christians who had denied their faith under persecution).
After his conversion of Beryllus, however, his aid was frequently invoked against heresies. Thus, when the doctrine was promulgated in Arabia that the soul died and decayed with the body, being restored to life only at the resurrection (see soul sleep), appeal was made to Origen, who journeyed to Arabia, and successfully battled this doctrine.
There was second outbreak of the Antonine Plague, which at its height in 251 to 266 took the lives of 5,000 a day in Rome. This time it was called the Plague of Cyprian. Emperor Decius, believing the plague to be a product of magic, caused by the failure of Christians to recognise him as Divine, began Christian persecutions. This time Origen didn't escape the Decian persecution. Eusebius recounted how Origen suffered "bodily tortures and torments under the iron collar and in the dungeon; and how for a large number of days with his feet stretched four spaces in the stocks" Though he didn't die while being tortured, he died three years later due to injuries sustained at the age of 69. A later legend, recounted by Jerome and numerous itineraries, places his death and burial at Tyre, but to this little value can be attached.
Origen excelled in multiple branches of theological scholarship. For instance, he was the greatest textual critic of the early Church, directing the production of the massive Hexapla ("Sixfold"), an Old Testament in six columns: Hebrew, Hebrew in Greek characters, the Septuagint, and the Greek versions of Theodotion, Aquila of Sinope, and Symmachus. This was an immense and complex word-for-word comparison of the Greek Septuagint with the original Hebrew Scriptures and with those additional Greek translations. He was one of the greatest biblical scholars of the early Church, having written commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, though few are extant. He interpreted scripture both literally and allegorically. Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information regarding the texts which became the New Testament. The information used to create the late-fourth-century Easter Letter, which declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the Ecclesiastical History [HE] of Eusebius of Caesarea, wherein he uses the information passed on to him by Origen to create both his list at HE 3:25 and Origen’s list at HE 6:25. Eusebius got his information about what texts were accepted by the third-century churches throughout the known world, a great deal of which Origen knew of firsthand from his extensive travels, from the library and writings of Origen. In fact, Origen would have possibly included in his list of "inspired writings" additional texts which were kept out by the likes of Eusebius, including the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and 1 Clement. "Origen isn't the originator of the idea of biblical canon, but he certainly gives the philosophical and literary-interpretative underpinnings for the whole notion." As a theologian, in De principiis (On First Principles), he articulated one of the first philosophical expositions of Christian doctrine. Having been educated in classical and philosophical studies, a few of his teachings were influenced by and engaged with aspects of Neo-Pythagorean, Neo-Platonist, and additional strains of contemporary philosophical thought. An ordained priest in Palestine, he has left posterity numerous homilies on various books of the Bible. Finally, he has additionally been regarded as a spiritual master for such works as An Exhortation to Martyrdom and On Prayer.
In 2012, 29 unpublished homilies by Origen were discovered in the Bavarian State Library. This text can be found online.
According to Epiphanius, Origen wrote about 6,000 works (i.e., rolls or chapters). A list was given by Eusebius in his lost Life of Pamphilus, which was apparently known to Jerome. These fall into four classes: textual criticism; exegesis; systematic, practical, and apologetic theology; and letters; besides certain spurious works.
By far the most important work of Origen on textual criticism was the Hexapla, a comparative study of various translations of the Old Testament.
The full text of the Hexapla is no longer extant. Some portions were discovered in Milan indicating that at least a few individual parts existed much longer than was previously thought. The Hexapla has been referred to by later manuscripts and authors, and represented the precursor to the parallel bible.
The Tetrapla was an abbreviation of the Hexapla in which Origen placed only the translations (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Septuagint) in parallels.
He was likewise keenly conscious of the textual difficulties in the manuscripts of the New Testament, although he never wrote definitely on this subject. In his exegetical writings he frequently alludes to the variant readings, but his habit of making rough citations in his dictation, the verification being left to the scribes, renders it impossible to infer his text from his commentaries.
The exegetical writings of Origen fall into three classes:
- scholia, or brief summaries of the meaning of difficult passages
- "books", or commentaries in the strict sense of the term.
Jerome states that there were scholia on Leviticus, Psalms i.-xv., Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and part of John. The Stromateis were of a similar character, and the margin of Codex Athous Laura, 184, contains citations from this work on Rom. 9:23; I Cor. 6:14, 7:31, 34, 9:20-21, 10:9, besides a few additional fragments.
Homilies on almost the entire Bible were prepared by Origen. There are 205, and possibly 279, homilies of Origen that are extant either in Greek or in Latin translations. The homilies preserved are on Genesis (16), Exodus (13), Leviticus (16), Numbers (28), Joshua (26), Judges (9), I Sam. (2), Psalms 36-38 (9), Canticles (2), Isaiah (9), Jeremiah (7 Greek, 2 Latin, 12 Greek and Latin), Ezekiel (14), and Luke (39). The homilies were preached in the church at Caesarea, with the exception of the two on 1 Samuel which were delivered in Jerusalem. Nautin has argued that they were all preached in a three-year liturgical cycle a few time between 238 and 244, preceding the Commentary on the Song of Songs, where Origen refers to homilies on Judges, Exodus, Numbers, and a work on Leviticus.
It isn't improbable that Origen gave no attention to supervising the publication of his homilies, for only by such a hypothesis can the numerous evidences of carelessness in diction be explained. The exegesis of the homilies was simpler than that of the scientific commentaries, but nevertheless demanded no mean degree of intelligence from the auditor. Origen's chief aim was the practical exposition of the text, verse by verse; and while in such books as Leviticus and Numbers he sought to allegorise the wealth of material in the prophets seldom rendered it necessary for him to seek meanings deeper than the surface afforded.
On June 11, 2012, the Bavarian National Library announced the discovery by philologist Marina Molin Pradel of unknown original texts of homilies by Origenes in a twelfth-century Greek manuscript. The attribution to Origen has been confirmed by experts like Prof. Lorenzo Perrone of the Bologna University.
Extant commentaries of Origen
The object of Origen's commentaries was to give an exegesis that discriminated strictly against historical significance, in favour of a "hidden" spiritual truth. At the same time, he neglected neither philological nor geographical, historical nor antiquarian material, to all of which he devoted numerous excursus.
In his commentary on John he constantly considered the exegesis of the Valentinian Heracleon (probably at the insistence of Ambrose), and in a large number of additional places he implied or expressly cited Gnostic views and refuted them.
Unfortunately, only meagre fragments of the commentaries have survived. Three commentaries on New Testament books survive in large measure. Of the 32 books in the Commentary on John, only nine have been preserved. The Commentary on Romans is extant only in the abbreviated Latin translation of Rufinus, though a few Greek fragments additionally exist. The eight books preserved of the Commentary on Matthew (Books 10-17) cover Matthew 13.36-22.33. There additionally exists a Latin translation of the commentary by an unknown translator which covers Matthew 16.13-27.66. One commentary on a book of the Old Testament, the Commentary on the Song of Songs, has additionally been preserved in part, in a Latin translation of Rufinus.
Fragments of a few additional commentaries survive. Citations in Origen's Philocalia include fragments of the third book of the commentary on Genesis. There is additionally Ps. i, iv.1, the small commentary on Canticles, and the second book of the large commentary on the same, the twentieth book of the commentary on Ezekiel, and the commentary on Hosea. Of the non-extant commentaries, there's limited evidence of their arrangement.
Dogmatic, practical, and apologetic writings
Study of On First Principles has occupied centre stage in studies of Origen after the fourth century. It is perhaps written for his more advanced pupils at Alexandria and probably composed between 212 and 215. It is extant only in the free translation of Rufinus of 397, except for fragments (books 3.1 and 4.1-3) preserved in Origen's Philocalia, and smaller citations in Justinian's letter to Mennas.
In the first book the author considers God, the Logos, the Holy Ghost, reason, and the angels; in the second the world and man (including the incarnation of the Logos, the soul, free will, and eschatology); in the third, the doctrine of sin and redemption; and in the fourth, the scriptures; the whole being concluded with a résumé of the entire system. The work is noteworthy as the first endeavour to present Christianity as a complete theory of the universe, and was designed to remove the difficulties felt by a large number of Christians concerning the essential basis of their faith.
Between 232-235, while in Caesarea in Palestine, Origen wrote On Prayer. This is preserved entire in Greek. After an introduction on the object, necessity, and advantage of prayer, ends with an exegesis of the Lord's Prayer, concluding with remarks on the position, place, and attitude to be assumed throughout prayer, as well as on the classes of prayer.
On Martyrdom, or the Exhortation to Martyrdom, additionally preserved entire in Greek, was written a few time after the beginning of the persecution of Maximinus in the first half of 235. In it, Origen warns against any trifling with idolatry and emphasises the duty of suffering martyrdom manfully; while in the second part he explains the meaning of martyrdom.
Against Celsus (Greek: Κατὰ Κέλσου; Latin: Contra Celsum), preserved entire in Greek, was Origen's last treatise, written about 248. Ambrose had requested that Origen provide an answer to a book entitled The True Doctrine which attacked Christianity, and had been written a few time in the second century by an unknown Middle Platonic philosopher named Celsus. In Against Celsus, Origen drew freely on the Greek philosophers and poets as well as the Bible to provide a rational basis for holding the Christian faith.
The papyri discovered at Tura in 1941 contained the Greek text of two previously unknown works of Origen. Neither work can be dated precisely, though both were probably written after the persecution of Maximinus in 235. One is On the Pascha. The additional is Dialogue of Origen with Heraclides and the Bishops with him concerning the Father and the Son and the soul.
Lost works include two books on the resurrection, written before On First Principles, and additionally two dialogues on the same theme dedicated to Ambrose.
Eusebius had a collection of more than one hundred letters of Origen, and the list of Jerome speaks of several books of his epistles. Except for a few fragments, only three letters have been preserved. The first, partly preserved in the Latin translation of Rufinus, is addressed to friends in Alexandria. The second is a short letter to Gregory Thaumaturgus, preserved in the Philocalia. The third is an epistle to Sextus Julius Africanus, extant in Greek, replying to a letter from Africanus (also extant), and defending the authenticity of the Greek additions to the book of Daniel.
Forgeries of the writings of Origen made in his lifetime are discussed by Rufinus in De adulteratione librorum Origenis. The Dialogus de recta in Deum fide, the Philosophumena attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, and the Commentary on Job by Julian the Arian have additionally been ascribed to him.
Philosophical and religious
Origen, reportedly trained in the school of Clement and by his father, has long been considered essentially a Platonist with occasional traces of Stoic philosophy. Patristic scholar Mark J Edwards has argued that a large number of of Origen's positions are more properly Aristotelian than strictly Platonic (for instance, his philosophical anthropology). Nonetheless, he was thus a pronounced idealist, as one regarding all things temporal and material as insignificant and indifferent, the only real and eternal things being comprised in the idea. He therefore regards as the purely ideal centre of this spiritual and eternal world, God, the pure reason, whose creative powers call into being the world with matter as the necessary substratum.
Origen's cosmology is complicated and controverted, but he seems to have held to a hypothesis of the preexistence of souls. Before the known world was created by God, he created a great number of spiritual intelligences. At first devoted to the contemplation and love of their creator, almost all of these intelligences eventually grew bored of contemplating God, and their love for him cooled off. Those whose love for God diminished the most became demons. Those whose love diminished moderately became human souls, eventually to be incarnated in fleshly bodies. Those whose love diminished the least became angels. One, however, who remained perfectly devoted to God became, through love, one with the Word (Logos) of God. The Logos eventually took flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary, fitting the God-man Jesus Christ. The diverse conditions in which human beings are born is actually dependent upon what their souls did in this pre-existent state. Thus what seems unfair, a few being born poor and others wealthy, a few sick and others healthy, and so forth, is, Origen insists, actually a by-product of the free-will of souls. Thus, material creation is at least implicitly of a lesser ontological category than the immaterial, or spiritual, and the heavy material bodies that man assumes after the fall will eventually be cast off. Origen, however, still insisted on a bodily resurrection, but in contrast to Athenagoras, who believed that earthly bodies would be precisely reconstituted in the hereafter, Origen argued that Paul's notion of a flourishing spiritual body is more appropriate.
He was a rigid adherent of scripture, making no statement without adducing a few scriptural basis. To him the scriptures were divinely inspired, as was proved both by the fulfilment of prophecy and by the immediate impression which the scriptures made on those who read them. Since the divine Logos spoke in the scriptures, they were an organic whole and on every occasion he combatted the Gnostic tenet of the inferiority of the Old Testament.
In his exegesis, Origen sought to discover the deeper meaning implied in the scriptures. One of his chief methods was the translation of proper names, which enabled him, like Philo, to find a deep meaning even in every event of history (see hermeneutics), but at the same time he insisted on an exact grammatical interpretation of the text as the basis of all exegesis.
A strict adherent of the Church, Origen yet distinguished sharply between the ideal and the empirical Church, representing "a double church of men and angels", or, in Platonic phraseology, the lower church and its celestial ideal. The ideal Church alone was the Church of Christ, scattered over all the earth; the additional provided additionally a shelter for sinners. Holding that the Church, as being in possession of the mysteries, affords the only means of salvation, he was indifferent to her external organisation, although he spoke at times of the office-bearers as the pillars of the Church, and of their heavy duties and responsibilities.
More important to him was the idea borrowed from Plato of the grand division between the great human multitude, capable of sensual vision only, and those who know how to comprehend the hidden meaning of scripture and the diverse mysteries, church organisation being for the former only.
It is doubtful whether Origen possessed an obligatory creed; at any rate, such a confession of faith wasn't a norm like the inspired word of scripture. The reason, illumined by the divine Logos, which is able to search the secret depths of the divine nature, remains as the only source of knowledge.
Theological and dogmatic
Origen's conception of God the Father is apophatic—a perfect unity, invisible and incorporeal, transcending all things material, and therefore inconceivable and incomprehensible. He is likewise unchangeable, and transcends space and time. But his power is limited by his goodness, justice, and wisdom; and, though entirely free from necessity, his goodness and omnipotence constrained him to reveal himself.
This revelation, the external self-emanation of God, is expressed by Origen in various ways, the Logos being only one of many. Revelation was the first creation of God (cf. Prov. viii. 22), in order to afford creative mediation between God and the world, such mediation being necessary, because God, as changeless unity, couldn't be the source of a multitudinous creation.
The Logos is the rational creative principle that permeates the universe. Since God eternally manifests himself, the Logos is likewise eternal. He forms a bridge between the created and uncreated, and only through him, as the visible representative of divine wisdom, can the inconceivable and incorporeal God be known. Creation came into existence only through the Logos, and God's nearest approach to the world is the command to create. While the Logos is substantially a unity, he comprehends a multiplicity of concepts, so that Origen terms him, in Platonic fashion, "essence of essences" and "idea of ideas".
The defence of the unity of God against the Gnostics led Origen to maintain the subordination of the Logos to God, and the doctrine of the eternal generation is later. Origen distinctly emphasised the independence of the Logos as well as the distinction from the being and substance of God. The term "of the same substance with the Father" wasn't employed. The Logos (and the Holy Spirit also) however, does share in the divinity of God. He is an image, a reflex of God, in which God communicates his divinity, as light radiating from the sun. Origen taught that, though the Son was subordinate and less than the Father in power, substance, and rank, the relation of the Son to the Father had no beginning, and that the Son was "eternally generated".
The Logos doctrine and cosmology
The activity of the Logos was conceived by Origen in Platonic fashion, as the world soul, wherein God manifested his omnipotence. His first creative act was the divine spirit, as an independent existence; and partial reflexes of the Logos were the created rational beings, who, as they had to revert to the perfect God as their background, must likewise be perfect; yet their perfection, unlike in kind with that of God, the Logos, and the divine spirit, had to be attained. The freedom of the will is an essential fact of the reason, notwithstanding the foreknowledge of God. The Logos, eternally creative, forms an endless series of finite, comprehensible worlds, which are mutually alternative. Combining the Stoic doctrine of a universe without beginning with the biblical doctrine of the beginning and the end of the world, he conceived of the visible world as the stages of an eternal cosmic process, affording additionally an explanation of the diversity of human fortunes, rewards, and punishments. The material world, which at first had no place in this eternal spiritual progression, was due to the fall of the spirits from God, the first being the serpent, who was imprisoned in matter and body. The ultimate aim of God in the creation of matter out of nothing wasn't punishment, but the upraising of the fallen spirits. Man's accidental being is rooted in transitory matter, but his higher nature is formed in the image of the Creator. The soul is divided into the rational and the irrational, the latter being material and transitory, while the former, incorporeal and immaterial, possesses freedom of the will and the power to reascend to purer life. The strong ethical import of this cosmic process can not remain unnoticed. The return to original being through divine reason is the object of the entire cosmic process. Through the worlds which follow each additional in eternal succession, the spirits are able to return to Paradise. God so ordered the universe that all individual acts work together toward one cosmic end which culminates in himself. Likewise as to Origen's anthropology, man conceived in the image of God is able by imitating God in good works to become like God, if he first recognises his own weakness and trusts all to the divine goodness. He is aided by guardian angels, but more especially by the Logos who operates through saints and prophets in proportion to the constitution of these and man's capacity.
The culmination of this gradual revelation is the universal revelation of Christ. In Christ, God, hitherto manifest only as the Lord, appeared as the Father. The incarnation of the Logos, moreover, was necessary after otherwise he wouldn't be intelligible to sensual man; but the indwelling of the Logos remained a mystery, which can be represented only by the analogy of his indwelling in the saints; nor could Origen fully explain it. He speaks of a "remarkable body", and in his opinion that the mortal body of Jesus was transformed by God into an ethereal and divine body, Origen approximated the Docetism that he otherwise abhorred. His concept of the soul of Jesus is likewise uncertain and wavering. He proposes the question whether it wasn't originally perfect with God but, emanating from him, at his command assumed a material body. As he conceived matter as merely the universal limit of created spirits, so would it be impossible to state in what form the two were combined. He dismissed the solution by referring it to the mystery of the divine governance of the universe. More logically did he declare the material nature of the world to be merely an episode in the spiritual process of development, whose end should be the annihilation of all matter and return to God, who should again be all in all. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body he upholds by the explanation that the Logos maintains the unity of man's existence by ever changing his body into new forms, thus preserving the unity and identity of personality in harmony with the tenet of an endless cosmic process. Origen's concept of the Logos allowed him to make no definite statement on the redemptive work of Jesus. Since sin was ultimately only negative as a lack of pure knowledge, the activity of Jesus was essentially example and instruction, and his human life was only incidental as contrasted with the immanent cosmic activity of the Logos. Origen regarded the death of Jesus as a sacrifice, paralleling it with additional cases of self-sacrifice for the general good. On this, Origen's accord with the teachings of the Church was merely superficial.
His idealising tendency to consider the spiritual alone as real, fundamental to his entire system, led him to combat the "rude" or "crude" Chiliasm (see Christian eschatology) of a sensual beyond. His position on the literal resurrection of physical bodies is difficult, but in both the Contra Celsum and On First Principles, Origen affirms a few form of bodily resurrection, but eschews the notion that earthly bodies will be raised, on account of their gross materiality. Origen believes that all spirits will be finally rescued and glorified, each in the form of its individual life, in order to serve a new epoch of the world when sensuous matter disappears of itself. Yet he constrained himself from breaking entirely with the distinct celestial hopes and representations of Paradise prevalent in the Church. He represents a progressive purification of souls, until, cleansed of all clouds of evil, they should know the truth and God as the Son knew him, see God face to face, and attain a full possession of the Holy Spirit and union with God. The means of attainment of this end were described by Origen in different ways, the most important of which was his concept of a purifying fire which should cleanse the world of evil and thus lead to cosmic renovation. By a further spiritualisation, Origen could call God himself this consuming fire. In proportion as the souls were freed from sin and ignorance, the material world was to pass away, until, after endless eons, at the final end, God should be all in all, and the worlds and spirits should return to a knowledge of God; in Greek this is called Apokatastasis.
In Origen the Christian Church had its first theologian. His teaching wasn't merely theoretical, but was additionally imbued with an intense ethical power. To the multitude to whom his instruction was beyond grasp, he left mediating images and symbols, as well as the final goal of attainment. In Origen Christianity blended with the pagan philosophy in which lived the desire for truth and the longing after God. Origen had a large number of admirers and followers, one in particular, Dionysius of Alexandria, who caused controversy throughout Libya in 259 due to his theology in regards to the unity of the trinity. Three centuries later his quite name was stricken from the books of the Church; yet in the monasteries of the Greeks his influence still lived on, as the spiritual father of Greek monasticism.
Origen's influence on the later church
Anathemas (544, 553)
While Patriarch Mennas of Constantinople condemned Origen and a form of apocatastasis at the Synod of Constantinople (543); experts are divided whether the Second Council of Constantinople (the Fifth Ecumenical Council) in 553 ratified the condemnation authentically as "It is [only] certain that the council opened on 5 May, 553, in spite of the protestations of Pope Vigilius, who though at Constantinople refused to attend it, and that in the eight conciliary sessions (from 5 May to 2 June), the Acts of which we possess, only the question of the Three Chapters is treated." Many heteroclite views became associated with Origen, and the 15 anathemas attributed to the council condemn a form of apocatastasis along with the pre-existence of the soul, animism (a heterodox Christology), and a denial of real and lasting resurrection of the body. Some authorities believe these anathemas belong to an earlier local synod. The anathema against Origen in his person, declaring him (among others) a heretic, reads as follows:
If anyone doesn't anathematise Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as additionally all additional heretics already condemned and anathematised by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and [if anyone doesn't equally anathematise] all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.
As a result of this condemnation, the writings of Origen supporting his teachings in these areas were destroyed. They were either destroyed outright, or translated with the appropriate adjustments to eliminate conflict with orthodox Christian doctrine. Therefore, little direct evidence remains to fully confirm or disprove Origen's support of the nine points of anathema against him.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council addressed what was called "The Three Chapters" and opposed a form of Origenism which truly had nothing to do with Origen and Origenist views. In fact, Popes Vigilius (537–555), Pelagius I (556–61), Pelagius II (579–90), and Gregory the Great (590–604) were only aware that the Fifth Council specifically dealt with the Three Chapters and make no mention of Origenism or Universalism, nor spoke as if they knew of its condemnation - even though Gregory the Great opposed the belief of universalism.
The Emperor Justinian denied apocatastasis, making it the ninth of the ten doctrines in his edict against Origen in 545, and later that year, the doctrine was the fourteenth of the fifteen at the council in Constantinople that condemned Origen.
Many writers today consider Origen and Origenism to have been anathematized by the Catholic Church and an equal number deny this. While Origen is regarded as a Church Father, he was never made a saint.
His thought on the Old Testament was an important link in the development of the mediaeval system of typology.