|« Optatus, bp. of Milevis||Origenes, known as Origen||Orosius, Paulus »|
Origenes, known as Origen
Origenes. Sources.—The main authority for the details of Origen's Life is Eusebius (H. E. vi.), who collected upwards of 100 letters of Origen (ib. 36). These, together with official documents (ib. 23, 33) and information from those acquainted with Origen (ib. 2, 33), formed the basis of his narrative. His account of the most critical period of Origen's life, his retirement from Alexandria, was given in bk. ii. of his Apology, which he composed with the help of Pamphilus (ib. 23). This unhappily has not been preserved.
Origen's own writings give but few details of his life. But the loss of his letters is irreparable. They would have given a fuller picture of the man, even if they gave little additional information on the outward circumstances of his life.
Of modern authorities, see Tillemont, Mémoires; Lardner, Credibility; Ceillier, 770Auteurs sacrés; Lumper, Hist. Patrum Theol. Critica; Walch, Gesch. d. Ketz.; Du Pin, Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclés.
His life and doctrine have been discussed, with special reference to his historical position in the development of Christian thought, by Guericke, de Schola Alex. Catech. (1825); Neander, Kirch. Gesch.; Thomasius, Origenes (1837); Redepenning, Origenes (1841–1846); Moehler, Patrol. (1840); Huber, Philos d. Kirchenväter (1859); Schaff, Church Hist. (1867); De Pressensé, Hist. des trois premiers siècles (1858–1877); Boehringer, Kirchengesch. in Biogr. Klemens u. Origenes (1869, 2te Aufl.).
Life.—Origen was probably born at Alexandria (Eus. H. E. vi. 1), but whether of Egyptian, Greek, or mixed descent is not known. The loose phrase of Porphyry, that he "was a Greek and reared in Greek studies" (ib. 19), is in itself of little value, but the name of his father (Leonides) points in the same direction. His mother's name has not been preserved. May she have been of Jewish descent? He is said to have learnt Hebrew so well that in singing the psalms "he vied with his mother" (Hieron. Ep. 39 , § 1).
Origen's full name was Origenes Adamantius. Origenes was the name of one contemporary philosopher of distinction, and occurs elsewhere. Adamantius has commonly been regarded as an epithet describing Origen's unconquerable endurance, or for the invincible force of his arguments. But the language of Eusebius (H. E. vi. 14) and of Jerome (de Vir. Ill. 54, "Origenes qui et Adamantius") shews that it was a second name, and not a mere adjunct. His father, Leonides, suffered martyrdom in the persecution of the 10th year of Severus (202), and Origen had not then completed his 17th year (Eus. H. E. vi. 2). He must have been born therefore a.d. 185–186, a date consistent with the statement (ib. vii. 1) that he died in his 69th year, in the reign of Gallus (a.d. 251–254). In Origen we have the first record of a Christian boyhood, and he was "great from the cradle." His education was superintended by his father, who especially directed him to the study of Scripture. The child's eager inquiries into the deeper meaning of the words he committed to memory caused perplexity to his father, who, while openly checking his son's premature curiosity, silently thanked God for the promise he gave for the future. Origen became the pupil of Pantaenus (after his return from India) and Clement, in whose school he met Alexander, afterwards bp. of Jerusalem (ib. vi. 14), with whom he then laid the foundation of that life-long friendship which supported him in his sorest trials.
When Leonides was thrown into prison, Origen wished to share his fate, but was hindered by his mother. He addressed a letter to his father—his first recorded writing, still extant in the time of Eusebius—in which he prayed him to allow no thought for his family to shake his resolution. This shews the position of influence which Origen already enjoyed in his family. Leonides was put to death and his property confiscated. Upon this the young Origen seems to have fulfilled the promise his words implied. Partly by the assistance of a pious and wealthy lady, and partly by teaching, he supported himself and (as may be concluded) his mother and brothers. Already he collected a library. At first he gave lessons in literature; but as the Christian school was without a teacher, all having been scattered by the persecution, he was induced to give instruction in the faith. Thus in his 18th year he was, at first informally, the head of the Christian school in Alexandria in a season of exceptional danger. He was so successful that Demetrius, bp. of Alexandria, soon definitely committed to him the office. The charge decided the tenor of his life. Origen henceforth devoted himself exclusively to the office of a Christian teacher, and to ensure his independence sold his collection of classical writers for an annuity of four oboli (sixpence) a day, on which he lived for many years, refusing the voluntary contributions his friends offered him (ib. 3). His position is a remarkable illustration of the freedom of the early church. He was a layman and yet recognized as a leading teacher. His work was not confined to any district. Numbers of men and women flocked to his lectures, attracted partly by his stern simplicity of life, which was a guarantee of his sincerity. For he resolved to fulfil without reserve the precepts of the Gospel. For many years he went barefoot, wore only a single robe (Matt. x. 10), and slept upon the ground. His food and sleep were rigorously limited (ib.). Nor did his unmeasured zeal stop here. In the same spirit of sacrifice he applied to himself literally the words of Matt. xix. 12, though wishing to conceal the act from most of his friends. Origen's own comment on the words of the Gospel which he had misunderstood is a most touching confession of his error (in Matt. t. xv, 1 ff.). But for the time the purpose of the act was accepted as its excuse.
For 12 or 13 years he was engaged in these happy and successful labours; and it was probably during this period that he formed and partly executed his plan of a comparative view of the LXX with other Greek versions of O.T. and with the original Hebrew text, though the work was slowly elaborated as fresh materials came to his hands (Eus. H. E. vi. 16). A short visit to Rome in the time of Zephyrinus, to see "the most ancient church of the Romans" (ib. 14), and an authoritative call to Arabia (ib. 19) alone seem to have interrupted his labours. Persecution tested the fruit of his teaching. He had the joy of seeing martyrs trained in his school; and his own escapes from the violence of the people were held to be due to the special protection of Providence (ib. 4, f. 3). During the same period he devoted himself with renewed vigour to the study of non-Christian thought, and attended the lectures of Ammonius Saccas (cf. Porphyry, ap. Eus. H. E. vi. 19; Theod. Graec. Affect. Cur. vi. p. 96). Heretics and Gentiles attended his lectures, and he felt bound to endeavour to understand their opinions thoroughly that he might the better correct them (cf. c. Cels. vi. 24). This excited ill-will, but he was able to defend himself, as he did in a letter written at a later time (Ep. ap. Eus. H. E. vi. 19), by the example of his predecessors and the support of his friends. His work grew beyond his 771strength, and Heraclas joined him in the catechetical school. Heraclas had been one of his first converts and scholars, and the brother of a martyr (Eus. H. E. vi. 3). He was a fellow-student with Origen under "his teacher of philosophy" (Ammonius Saccas); and when he afterwards became bp. of Alexandria he did not lay aside the dress or the reading of a philosopher (ib. 19).
At length, c. 215, a tumult of unusual violence (ib. 19; Clinton, Fasti Romani, i. 224 f.) forced Origen to withdraw from Egypt to Caesarea in Palestine. Here his reputation brought him into a prominence which occasioned his later troubles. His fellow-pupil Alexander bp. of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus (Theotecnus; Photius, Cod. 118) bp. of Caesarea, begged him to expound the Scriptures in the public services of the church, though he had not been ordained. Demetrius of Alexandria expressed strong disapprobation of a proceeding he described as unprecedented. Alexander and Theoctistus produced precedents. Demetrius replied by recalling Origen to Alexandria, and hastened his return by special envoys, deacons of the church (Eus. H. E. vi. 19). Origen's stay in Palestine was of some length, and it was probably during this time he made his famous visit to Mamaea, the mother of the emperor Alexander (ib. 21), herself a native of Syria.
Some time after his return to Alexandria (c. 219), Origen began his written expositions of Scripture, largely through the influence of Ambrose, whom he had rescued not long before from the heresy of Valentinus, or as Jerome says of Marcion (Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 56). Ambrose provided him with more than seven shorthand writers (ταχυγράφοι) to take down his comments and other scribes to make fair copies (Eus. H. E. vi. 23).
These literary occupations threw Origen's work in the catechetical school yet more upon Heraclas. At the same time the first parts of Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of St. John marked him out more decisively than before as a teacher in the church even more than in the school. But the exhibition of this new power was accompanied by other signs of a bold originality which might well startle those unfamiliar with the questionings of philosophy. The books On First Principles, which seem to have been written spontaneously, made an epoch in Christian speculation, as the Comm. on St. John did in Christian interpretation. Under such circumstances it is not surprising that Demetrius yielded, in the words of Eusebius, to the infirmity of human nature (ib. 8) and wished to check the boldness and influence of the layman. It became clear that Origen must seek elsewhere than in Alexandria free scope for his Scriptural studies. After he had laboured there for more than 25 years, the occasion came in an invitation to visit Achaia for the purpose, as it seems, of combating some false opinions which had arisen there (Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 54). The exact date is uncertain, but probably between 226 and 230. On the way Origen visited Caesarea, and sought counsel from his oldest friends as to his future course. No record remains of their deliberations, but Origen was ordained presbyter "by the bishops there" (Eus. H. E. vi. 23), Theoctistus of Caesarea and Alexander of Jerusalem (Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 54; Phot. Cod. 118). Origen then visited Ephesus (Ep. Fragm. ap. Ruf. Apol., Delarue, i. p. 6) and stayed some time at Athens. During this stay he probably heard some of the teachers of philosophy there (Epiph. Haer. lxiv. 1). At length, having completed his mission, he returned to Alexandria, where he could not have been unprepared for the reception which awaited him from Demetrius. Demetrius had probably shewn clear unwillingness to admit him to the priesthood. At any rate, the fact that Origen received orders from Palestinian bishops without his consent might be construed as a direct challenge of his authority. Origen at once perceived that he must retire before the rising storm. The preface to bk. vi. of the Comm. on St. John shews how deeply he felt the severance of old ties and the hostility of former colleagues. In 231 he left Alexandria never to return; and his influence to the last is shewn by the fact that he "left the charge of the catechetical school" to his coadjutor Heraclas (Eus. H. E. vi. 26). It is difficult to trace the different stages in the condemnation which followed. Photius (Cod. 118), following the Apology of Pamphilus and Eusebius, gives the most intelligible and consistent account. According to him Demetrius, completely alienated from Origen by his ordination, collected a synod of "bishops and a few presbyters," which decided that Origen should not be allowed to stay or teach at Alexandria. Demetrius afterwards excommunicated Origen. Jerome describes with greater severity the spirit of Demetrius's proceedings, and adds that "he wrote on the subject to the whole world" (de Vir. Ill. 54) and obtained a judgment against Origen from Rome (Ep. 33 , § 4). So far the facts are tolerably clear, but in the absence of trustworthy evidence it is impossible to tell on what points the condemnation really turned. Demetrius unquestionably laid great stress on formal irregularities (Eus. H. E. vi. 8), and the sentence against him may have been based on these. Origen's opinions were probably displeasing to many, and no attempt was made to reverse the judgment after the death of Demetrius, which followed very shortly, and perhaps within three years, when Heraclas, the pupil and colleague of Origen, succeeded to the episcopate. Nor again was anything done by Dionysius, the successor of Heraclas, another devoted scholar of Origen, who still continued his intercourse with his former master (ib. 46). Whatever the grounds of Origen's condemnation, the judgment of the Egyptian synod was treated with absolute disregard by the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Achaea (Hieron. Ep. 33), and Origen defended himself warmly (Hieron. Apol. adv. Ruf. ii. 18). He soon afterwards settled at Caesarea, which became for more than 20 years, up to his death, the centre of his labours. It had indeed not a few of the advantages of Alexandria, as a great seaport, the civil capital, and the ecclesiastical metropolis of its district.
Here Origen found ungrudging sympathy and help for his manifold labours. Alexander 772of Jerusalem and Theoctistus of Caesarea remained devoted to him; and Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia was no less zealous in seeking his instruction (Eus. H. E. vi. 27; Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 54). Ambrose was with him to stimulate his literary efforts. He formed afresh something of a catechetical school, with a continual succession of distinguished students. He was unwearied in the public exposition of Scripture, which he explained popularly to mixed congregations in the church, to Christians and to catechumens (Hom. in Ezech. vi. 5), as a rule on Wednesdays and Fridays (Socr. H. E. v. 22), but often daily, and even oftener than once a day. His subjects were sometimes taken from the lessons (Hom. in Num. xv. 1; in I. Sam. ii. § 1), sometimes specially prescribed by an authoritative request (Hom. in Ezech. xiii. 1). His aim was the edification of the people generally (Hom. in Lev. vii. 1; in Jud. viii. 3); and not unfrequently he was constrained to speak, as he wrote, with some reserve, on the deeper mysteries of the faith (Hom. in Num. iv. 3; in Lev. xiii. 3; in Ezech. i. 3; in Rom. vii. 13, p. 147 L.; viii. 11, p. 272; cf. Hom. in Jos. xxiii. 4 s. f.; in Gen. xii. 1, 4).
These labours were interrupted by the persecution of Maximin (235–237). Ambrose and Protectetus, a presbyter of Caesarea, were among the victims. Origen addressed to them in prison his Exhortation to Martyrdom. He himself escaped (Eus. H. E. vi. 28). During part of the time of persecution he was apparently with Firmilian in Cappadocia, and is said to have there enjoyed the hospitality of a Christian lady Juliana, who had some books of Symmachus, the translator of O.T. (cf. Hieron. l.c.; Pallad. Hist. Laus. 147).
In 238, or perhaps 237, Origen was again at Caesarea, and Gregory (Thaumaturgus) delivered the Farewell Address, which is the most vivid picture left of the method and influence of the great Christian master. The scholar recounts, with touching devotion, the course along which he had been guided by the man to whom he felt he owed his spiritual life. He had come to Syria to study Roman law in the school of Berytus, but on his way met with Origen, and at once felt he had found in him the wisdom he was seeking. The day of that meeting was to him, in his own words, the dawn of a new being: his soul clave to the master whom he recognized and he surrendered himself gladly to his guidance. As Origen spoke, he kindled within the young advocate's breast a love for the Holy Word, and for himself the Word's herald. "This love," Gregory adds, "induced me to give up country and friends, the aims which I had proposed to myself, the study of law of which I was proud. I had but one passion, philosophy, and the godlike man who directed me in the pursuit of it" (c. 6).
Origen's first care, Gregory says, was to make the character of a pupil his special study. In this he followed the example of Clement (Clem. Strom. i. 1, 8, p. 320 P.). He ascertained, with delicate and patient attention, the capacities, faults, and tendencies of those he had to teach. Rank growths of opinion were cleared away; weaknesses were laid open; every effort was used to develop endurance, firmness, patience, thoroughness. "In true Socratic fashion he sometimes overthrew us by argument," Gregory writes, "if he saw us restive and starting out of the course. . . . The process was at first disagreeable to us and painful; but so he purified us . . . and . . . prepared us for the reception of the words of truth . . . by probing us and questioning us, and offering problems for our solution" (c. 7). Thus Origen taught his scholars to regard language as designed, not to furnish material for display, but to express truth with exact accuracy; and logic as powerful, not to secure a plausible success, but to test beliefs with the strictest rigour. Origen then led his pupils to the "lofty and divine and most lovely" study of external nature. He made geometry the sure and immovable foundation of his teaching, and rose step by step to the heights of heaven and the most sublime mysteries of the universe (c. 8). Gregory's language implies that Origen was himself a student of physics; as, in some degree, the true theologian must be. The lessons of others, he writes, or his own observation, enabled him to explain the connexion, the differences, the changes of the objects of sense. Such investigations served to shew man in his true relation to the world. A rational feeling for the vast grandeur of the external order, "the sacred economy of the universe," as Gregory calls it, was substituted for the ignorant and senseless wonder with which it is commonly regarded.
But physics were naturally treated by Origen as a preparation and not as an end. Moral science came next; and here he laid the greatest stress upon the method of experiment. His aim was not merely to analyse and to define and to classify feelings and motives, though he did this, but to form a character. For him ethics were a life, and not only a theory. The four cardinal virtues of Plato, practical wisdom, self-control, righteousness, courage, seemed to him to require for their maturing diligent introspection and culture. Herein he gave a commentary upon his teaching. His discipline lay even more in action than in precept. His own conduct was, in his scholar's minds, a more influential persuasive than his arguments.
So, Gregory continues, Origen was the first teacher who really led me to the pursuit of Greek philosophy, by bringing speculation into a vital union with practice. In him I saw the inspiring example of one at once wise and holy. The noble phrase of older masters gained a distinct meaning for the Christian disciple. In failure and weakness he was able to see that the end of all was "to become like to God with a pure mind, and to draw near to Him and to abide in Him" (c. 12).
Guarded and guided by this conviction, Origen encouraged his scholars in theology to look for help in all the works of human genius. They were to examine the writings of philosophers and poets of every nation, the atheists alone excepted, with faithful candour and wise catholicity. For them there was to be no sect, no party. In their arduous work they had ever at hand, in their master, a friend who knew their difficulties. If they were bewildered in the tangled mazes of conflicting 773opinions, he was ready to lead them with a firm hand; if in danger of being swallowed up in the quicksands of shifting error, he was near to lift them up to the sure resting-place he had himself found (c. 14).
The hierarchy of sciences was not completed till theology with her own proper gifts crowned the succession followed hitherto, logic, physic, ethics. Origen found in the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the Spirit the final and absolute spring of Divine Truth. In this region Gregory felt his master's power to be supreme. Origen's sovereign command of the mysteries of "the oracles of God" gave him perfect boldness in dealing with all other writings. "Therefore," Gregory adds, "there was no subject forbidden to us, nothing hidden or inaccessible. We were allowed to become acquainted with every doctrine, barbarian or Greek, on things spiritual or civil, divine and human; traversing with all freedom, and investigating the whole circuit of knowledge, and satisfying ourselves with the full enjoyment of all the pleasures of the soul" (c. 15). Such was, Gregory tells us, Origen's method. He describes what he knew and what his hearers knew. There is no parallel to the picture in ancient times. With every allowance for the partiality of a pupil, the view it offers of a system of Christian training actually realized exhibits a type we cannot hope to surpass. The ideals of Christian education and of Christian philosophy were fashioned together. Under that comprehensive and loving discipline Gregory, already trained in heathen schools, first learnt, step by step, according to his own testimony, what the pursuit of philosophy truly was, and came to know the solemn duty of forming opinions not as the amusement of a moment, but as solid foundations of life-long work.
From Caesarea Origen visited different parts of Palestine: Jerusalem, Jericho, the valley of the Jordan (t. vi. in Joh. § 24); Sidon, where he made some stay (Hom. in Josh. xvi. § 2), partly at least to investigate "the footsteps of Jesus, and of His disciples, and of the prophets" (in Joh. l.c.). He also went again to Athens and continued there some time, being engaged on his Commentaries (Eus. H. E. vi. 32). In the first of two visits to Arabia he went to confer with Beryllus of Bostra, who had advanced false views on the Incarnation (ib. 33); in the second to meet some errors on the doctrine of the resurrection (ib. 37). In both cases he was specially invited and persuaded those whom he controverted to abandon their opinions.
His energy now rose to its full power. Till he was 60 (a.d. 246) he had forbidden his unwritten discourses to be taken down. Experience at length enabled him to withdraw the prohibition, and most of his homilies are due to reports made afterwards. The Books against Celsus and the Commentaries on St. Matthew, belonging to the same period, shew, in different directions, the maturity of his vigour. Thus his varied activity continued till the persecution of Decius in 250. The preceding reign of Philip had favoured the growth of Christianity; and there is no sufficient reason to question the fact of Origen's correspondence with the emperor and his wife Severa (ib. 36). Such intercourse marked Origen out for attack to Philip's conqueror and successor. His friend Alexander of Jerusalem died in prison. He himself suffered a variety of tortures, probably at Tyre—chains, the iron collar, and the rack; but his constancy baffled all the efforts of his enemies (ib. 39). He was threatened with the stake, and a report gained currency in later times that his sufferings were crowned by death (Phot. Cod. 118, p. 159). During this sharp trial his former pupil Dionysius, now bp. of Alexandria, addressed him a letter on martyrdom (Eus. H. E. vi. 46), shewing the old affection still alive, in spite of long separation. Origen described his sufferings and consolations in letters which Eusebius characterizes "as full of help to those who need encouragement" (ib. 39). The death of Decius (251, Clinton, F.R. i. 270), after a reign of two years, set Origen free. But his health was broken by his hardships. He died at Tyre in 253, "having completed seventy years save one" (Eus. H. E. vii. 1; Hieron. Ep. 65 ad Pammach.). He was buried there (William of Tyre, c. 1180, Hist. xiii. 1: "haec [Tyrus] et Origenis corpus occultat sicut oculata fide etiam hodie licet inspicere"), and his tomb was honoured as long as the city survived.
Of the later fortunes of his teaching it is enough to say here that his fate after death was like his fate during life: he continued to witness not in vain to noble truths. His influence was sufficiently proved by the persistent bitterness of his antagonists, and there are few sadder pages in church history than the record of the Origenistic controversies. But in spite of errors easy to condemn, his characteristic thoughts survived in the works of Hilary and Ambrose and Jerome, and in his own homilies, to stir later students in the West. His homilies had a very wide circulation in the middle ages in a Latin translation; and it would be interesting to trace their effect upon medieval commentators down to Erasmus, who wrote to Colet in 1504: "Origenis operum bonam partem evolvi; quo praeceptore mihi videor non-nullum fecisse operae pretium; aperit enim fontes quosdam et rationes indicat artis theologicae."
WRITINGS.—Epiphanius says (Haer. lxiv. 63) that in popular reports no less than 6,000 works were ascribed to Origen. Jerome denies this (Ep. lxxxii. 7) and brings down the number to a third (adv. Ruf. ii. c. 22; cf. c. 13). His works will be noticed in the following order: Exegetical, Dogmatical, Apologetic, Practical, Letters, Philocalia.
A. EXEGETICAL WRITINGS.—Epiphanius states that Origen undertook to comment on all the books of Scripture (Haer. lxiv. 3) and though his sole statement might be of very little value, independent and exact evidence goes far to confirm it.
His exegetical writings are of three kinds: detached Notes (Σχόλια, σημειώσεις, in the narrower sense, excerpta, commaticum interpretandi genus), Homilies addressed to popular audiences (Ὁμιλίαι. Tractatus), and complete and elaborate Commentaries (Τόμοι, σημειώσεις in the wider sense, volumina). Cf. Hieron. in Ezech. Prol.; Praef. Comm. in Matt.; Rufin. Praef. in Num.774
i. THE PENTATEUCH. GENESIS.—Origen, according to Eusebius, wrote twelve books of Commentaries (Τόμοι) on Genesis, besides Homilies. Of these writings there remain: Greek: (1) On Gen. 1:2; Fragm. of Tom. iii. on Gen. i. 14; Gen. i. 16 f.. (2) Fragm. of Tom. iii. (Eus. H. E. iii. 1); notes from Catenae; Fragm. of Hom. ii. (3) Additional notes. Latin: Seventeen Homilies, of which the last is imperfect, translated by Rufinus.
One of the fragments of the Commentary on Genesis contains a remarkable discussion of the theory of fate in connexion with Gen. i. 16; and in the scattered notes there are some characteristic remarks on the interpretation of the record. of Creation. For Origen all Creation was "one act at once," presented to us in parts, in order to give the due conception of order (Ps. cxlviii. 5). The Homilies deal mainly with the moral application of main subjects in the book. They contain little continuous exposition, but many striking thoughts. Among the passages of chief interest are the view of the Divine image and the: Divine likeness as expressing man's endowment and man's end (i. §§ 12, 13), the symbolism of the ark (ii. §§ 4 ff.), the nature of the Divine voice (iii. § 2), the lesson of the opened wells (xiii. § 4), the poverty of the Divine priesthood (xvi. § 5).
EXODUS and LEVITICUS.—Of the Books, Homilies, and Notes he wrote on these books, no detailed account remains. (Cf. in Rom. ix. § 1, p. 283 L.; Ruf. Apol. ii. 20; Hieron. Ep. 33.) The following remain: EXODUS.—Greek: (1) On Ex. x. 27 (several fragments). (2) Notes from Catenae. Two short fragments of Hom. viii. (3) Additional notes. Latin: 13 Homilies, trans. by Rufinus.
The main fragment of the Commentary on Exodus (Philoc. 27 ) deals with interpretation of the "hardening of Pharaoh's heart" (Ex. x. 27), which Origen (to use modern language) finds in the action of moral laws, while Pharaoh resisted the divine teaching. The Homilies, like those on Genesis, were translated by Rufinus from the reports of Origen's sermons, which he supplemented with interpretative additions. Throughout Origen dwells upon the spiritual interpretation of the record. "Not one iota or one tittle is," in his opinion, "without mysteries" (Hom. i. 4). The literal history has a mystical and a moral meaning (e.g. Hom. i. 4 f., ii. 1, iii. 3, iv, 8, vii. 3, x. 4, xiii. 5). Some of the applications he makes are of great beauty, e.g. in regard to the popular complaints against religious life and the troubles which follow religious awakening (Ex. v. 4 ff., Hom. iii. 3); the difficulties of the heavenward pilgrimage (Ex. xiv. 2, Hom. v. 3); the believer as the tabernacle of God (Hom. ix. 4); turning to the Lord (Ex. xxxiv. 34, coll. II. II. Cor iii. 16, Hom. xii. 2); the manifold offerings of different believers (Ex. xxxv. 5, Hom. xiii. 3).
LEVITICUS.—Greek: (1) Fragm. of Hom. 2 (5). (2) Notes from Catenae. (3) Additional notes. (4) A fragment (cf. Hom. in Lev. viii. 6), Mai, Class. Auct. t. x. p. 600. Latin: 16 Homilies (trans. by Rufinus).
In the interpretation of Leviticus Origen naturally dwells on the obvious moral and spiritual antitypes of the Mosaic ordinances. Not infrequently the use he makes of them is impressive and ingenious, e.g. his view of man's soul and body as the deposit which he owes to God (Lev. vi. 4, Hom. iv. 3); of the office of the Christian priest foreshadowed in that of the Jewish priest (Lev. vii. 28 ff., Hom. v. 12); of the priesthood of believers (Lev. viii. 7 ff., Hom. vi. 5; cf. Hom. ix. 9); of the Saviour's sorrow (Lev. x. 9, coll. Matt. xxvi. 9, Hom. vii. 2), of purification by fire (Lev. xvi. 12, Hom. ix. 7). Throughout Christ appears as the one Sacrifice for the world, and the one Priest (Hom. i. 2, iv. 8, v. 3, ix. 2, xii.), though elsewhere He is said to join with Himself apostles and martyrs (Hom. in Num. x. 2).
NUMBERS.—No mention is made of "Books" on Numbers. Of Notes and Homilies (cf. Hom. in Jer. xii. § 3) the following remain: Greek: (1) Notes from Catenae. Small Fragment of Hom. xiii. (2) Additional notes. Latin: 28 Homilies, trans. by Rufinus, which follow the whole course of the narrative.
One main idea is prominent throughout. The struggles of the Israelites on the way to Canaan are the image of the struggles of the Christian. The entrance on the Promised Land foreshadows the entrance on the heavenly realm (Hom. vii. 5). The future world will even, in Origen's judgment, offer differences of race and position corresponding to those of the tribes of Israel and the nations among whom they moved (ib. i. 3, ii. 1, xi. 5, xxviii. 4). The interpretation of the record of the stations (ib. xxvii.) is a very good example of the way he finds a meaning in the minutest details of the history. Of wider interest are his remarks on man's spiritual conflict (ib. vii. 6), the wounds of sin (ib. viii. 1), advance in wisdom (ib. xvii. 4), the festivals of heaven (ib. xxiii. ii), self-dedication (ib. xxiv. 2), and the stains of battle (ib. xxv. 6).
DEUTERONOMY.—Cassiodorus (de Instit. 1) mentions four Homilies of Origen on Deut. ("in quibus est minuta nimis et subtilis expositio"), and doubtless it was these (oratiunculae) Rufinus proposed to translate if his health had been restored. The scanty remains are: (1) Notes from Catenae. (2) Additional notes. One interesting note at least among (1) appears to be a fragment of a homily (in Deut. viii. 7).
It is probable (Hieron. Ep. 84, 7) that considerable fragments of Origen's comments on the Pentateuch are contained in Ambrose's treatise on the Hexaemeron, but the treatise has not yet been critically examined.
JOSHUA—II. KINGS.—Origen appears to have treated these historical books in homilies only, or perhaps in detached notes also. There remain of the several books: JOSHUA—Greek: (1) Fragm. of Hom. xx. (2) Notes from Catenae. (3) Additional notes. Latin 26 Homilies, trans. by Rufinus.
The homilies on Joshua, belonging to the latest period of Origen's life, perhaps offer the most attractive specimen of his popular interpretation. The parallel between the leader of the old church and the Leader of the new is drawn with great ingenuity and care. The spiritual interpretation of the conquest of Canaan, as an image of the Christian life, never flags. Fact after fact is made contributory to the fulness of the idea; and the reader is 775forced to acknowledge that the fortunes of Israel can at least speak to us with an intelligible voice. Rufinus himself may have felt the peculiar charm of the book, for he selected it for translation in answer to a general request of Chromatius to render something from Greek literature for the edification of the church. The homilies cover the whole narrative up to the settling of the land (c. xxii.).
Among passages of special interest are those on the help we gain from the old fathers (ib. iii. 1); the broad parallel between the Christian life and the history of the Exodus (ib. iv. 1); the Christian realizing Christ's victory (ib. vii. 2); growing wisdom (ib. iii. 2).
JUDGES.—Greek: (1) Notes from Catenae. (2) Additional notes. Latin: 9 Homilies, trans. by Rufinus.
RUTH.—Greek: A note on i. 4.
The Homilies on Judges are of much less interest than those on Joshua. A passage on martyrdom—the baptism of blood—is worthy of notice (Hom. vii. 2). In Hom. ix. 1 Origen seems to refer to the persecution of Maximin, which was but lately ended.
I. and II. SAMUEL, I. and II. KINGS (I.–IV. Kings). Greek: (1) Hom. on I. Sam. xxviii. (2) Notes from Catenae and Fragments. (3) Additional notes. Latin: Homily on I. Sam. i. 2 (de Helchana et Fenenna), delivered at Jerusalem (§ 1: nolite illud in nobis requirere quod in papa Alexandro habetis). The translator is not known. The remains of Origen's writings on the later historical books are very slight. The homily on the witch of Endor provoked violent attacks. In this Origen maintained, in accordance with much early Christian and Jewish opinion, that the soul of Samuel was truly called up from Hades. Among others Eustathius of Antioch assailed Origen in unmeasured terms.
THE HAGIOGRAPHA. JOB.—Origen composed many homilies on Job (Eustath. Antioch, de Engastr. 391), which were rendered freely into Latin by Hilary of Poictiers (Hier. de Vir. Ill. 100; Ep. adv. Vigil. 61, 2). The scattered Notes which remain are not sufficient to enable us to estimate their value. There remain: Greek: (1) Notes from Catenae. (2) Additional notes. Latin: Fragment quoted from a homily of Hilary by August. Lib. ii. c. Jul. § 27, and assumed to be translated from Origen.
THE PSALMS engaged Origen's attention before he left Alexandria. At that time he had written commentaries on Pss. i–xxv. (Eus. H. E. vi. 24). He completed the book afterwards. Jerome expressly states that he "left an explanation of all the Psalms in many volumes" (Ep. cxii. § 20); and his extant books contain numerous references to his commentaries on psalms (cf. Hier. Ep. xxxiv. § 1).
Besides these detailed commentaries, he illustrated the Psalter by short Notes ("a handbook": "enchiridion ille vocabat," Auct. ap. Hier. Tom. vii. App.), and by Homilies.
The Homilies which are preserved in Rufinus's Latin trans. belong to the latest period of Origen's life, c. 241–247 (Hom. 1 in Ps. xxxvi. § 2; Hom. 1 in Ps. xxxvii. § 1). They give a continuous practical interpretation of the 3 psalms (v. inf.), and are a very good example of this style of exposition. One passage on the permanent effects of actions on the doer may be specially noticed (Hom. ii. § 2). The Greek fragments preserved in the Catenae offer numerous close coincidences with the Latin Homilies, and no doubt represent the general sense of Origen's comments. Cf. Comm. in Rom. iv. § 1 ("cum de Psalmis per ordinem dictaremus"); id. § 11; Hom. in Jer. xv. 6. There remain: Greek: (1) Fragments from the Τόμοι and Homilies. (2) Additional fragments and notes from Catenae. (3) Additional notes. Latin: 9 Homilies on Pss. xxxvi. xxxvii. xxxvii. (trans. by Rufinus).
PROVERBS.—There remain: Greek: (1) Fragments. (2) Notes from Catenae. Latin: Fragments.
ECCLESIASTES.—Notes on iii. 3, 7, 16 f.
LAMENTATIONS.—Origen wrote commentaries on the Lamentations before 231, of which five books had come down to the time of Eusebius (H. E. vi. 24). The Greek notes are probably derived from these.
CANTICLES.—Jerome speaks of the work on Canticles with enthusiasm: "In his other books Origen," he says, "surpassed every one else, in this he surpassed himself" (Prol. in Hom. in Cant.). There remain: Greek: (1) Fragments of his early work. (2) Extracts by Procopius. Latin: Two Homilies (trans. by Jerome). Prologue and four books on Canticles, trans. by Rufinus.
THE PROPHETS. ISAIAH.—Origen interpreted Isaiah in each of the three forms which he used; in Books (τόμοι), in Notes, and in Homilies. Thirty books of his Commentaries remained when Eusebius wrote his History extending to c. xxx. 6 (Eus. H. E. vi. 32). Some of these had perished in the time of Jerome, who speaks of the work as abounding in allegories and interpretation of names (Prol. in Lib. v. in Es). There remain: Latin: Two fragments of the "Books." Nine Homilies. The Homilies were addressed to a popular audience, including catechumens, but they lack the ease of the latest discourses and follow no exact order. Subjects: The call of the prophet; The virgin's son; The seven women; The vision of God; The mission of the prophet; The prophet and his children. In a passage of characteristic excellence (Hom. vi. 4) Origen describes the "greater works" of Christ's disciples.
JEREMIAH.—Cassiodorus enumerates 45 homilies of Origen on Jeremiah "in Attic style" (de Instit. Div. Litt. § 3). They were written in a period of tranquillity, and therefore probably after the close of the persecution of Maximin, c. 245 (Hom. iv. 3). There remain: Greek: (1) 19 Homilies (with Jerome's version of 12). Fragment of Hom. xxxix. (2) Notes from Catenae. Latin: Two Homilies, trans. by Jerome.
The Homilies generally give a full interpretation of the text, accommodating the language of the prophet to the circumstances of the Christian church. But Origen's total want of historical feeling makes itself felt perhaps more in his treatment of this book than elsewhere, for the teaching of Jeremiah is practically unintelligible without a true sense of the tragic crisis in which he was placed. There are, however, many separate passages of the Homilies of considerable 776beauty, e.g. on the fruitful discipline of God (Hom. iii. 2), the ever-new birth of Christ (ib. ix. 4), the marks of sin (ib. xvi. 10). Cf. Hom. in Josh. xiii. § 3.
EZEKIEL.—There remain: Greek: (1) Fragments. (2) Notes from Catenae. Latin: 14 Homilies. The Homilies only cover a small portion of the book, and do not offer many features of interest. The passages on the responsibility of teachers (Hom. v. 5, vii. 3) are perhaps the most striking.
DANIEL.—Origen commented upon the histories of Susanna and of Bel (Dan. Apocr. xiii. xiv.) in bk. x. of his Miscellanies (Στρωματεῖς), and Jerome has preserved a brief abstract of his notes as an appendix to his commentary on Daniel (Delarue, i. 49 f.; Lommatzsch, xvii. 70 ff.).
THE MINOR PROPHETS.—Origen wrote extensive commentaries on the twelve minor prophets, of which 25 books remained in the time of Eusebius (H. E. vi. 36). The fragment on Hosea xii., preserved in the Philocalia, c. viii., is all that now remains. [Two books on Hos. (one on Ephraim); 2 on Joel; 6 on Amos; 1 on Jon.; 2 on Mic.; 2 on Nah.; 3 on Hab.; 2 on Zeph.; 1 on Hagg.; 2 on Zech. (principio); 2 on Mal.—H.C.].
WRITINGS ON THE NEW TESTAMENT.—Eusebius states that Origen wrote 25 Books τόμοι on St. Matthew (H. E. vi. 36). The commentaries seem to have been written c. 245–246. [25 Books; 25 Homilies.—H.C.]
Bk. x. gives a continuous exposition of Matt. xiii. 36–xiv. 15. The most interesting passages are where Origen discusses characteristically the types of spiritual sickness (c. 24) and the doubtful question as to "the brethren of the Lord" (c. 17). On internal grounds he favours the belief in the perpetual virginity of the mother of the Lord. In the account of Herod's banquet he has preserved definitely the fact that "the daughter of Herodias" bore the same name as her mother (c. 22), in accordance with the true reading in Mark vi. 22 (τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος); but he strangely supposes that the power of life and death was taken away from Herod because he executed the Baptist (c. 21).
Bk. xi . (c. xiv. 15–xv. 32) contains several pieces of considerable interest on the discipline of temptation (c. 6), Corban (c. 9), the conception of things unclean (c. 12), the healing spirit in the Church (c. 18), and perhaps, above all, that on the Eucharist (c. 14), which is of primary importance for understanding Origen's view.
The most important passages in bk. xii., which gives the commentary on c. xvi. 1–xvii. 9, are those treating of the confession and blessing of St. Peter (cc. 10 ff.) and the Transfiguration (cc. 37 ff.). He regards St. Peter as the type of the true believer. All believers, as they are Christians, are Peter's also (c. 11: παρώνυμοι πέτρας πάντες οἱ μιμηταὶ Χριστοῦ . . . Χριστοῦ μέλη ὄντες παρώνυμοι ἐχρημάτισαν Χριστιανοί, πέτρας δὲ πέτροι). His ignorance of the Hebrew idiom leads him, like other early commentators, to refer the "binding and loosing" to sins (c. 14).
Bk. xiii. (c. xvii. 10–xviii. 18) opens with an argument against transmigration, and contains an interesting discussion of the influence of planets upon men (c. 6). Other characteristic passages deal with the circumstances under which the Lord healed the sick (c. 3), the rule for avoiding offences (c. 24), and esp. the doctrine of guardian angels (cc. 26 f.).
Bk. xiv. (c. xviii. 19–xix. 11) contains a characteristic examination of the senses in which the "two or three" in Matt. xviii. 20 may be understood (cc.1 ff.) and a discussion of points regarding marriage (cc. 16 ff.; 23 ff.).
Bk. xv. (xix. 12–xx. 16) has several pieces of more than usual interest: the investigation of the meaning of Matt. xix. 12 f. with (as it appears) clear reference to his own early error (c. 2); a fine passage on the goodness of God even in His chastisements (c. 11); and some remarkable interpretations of the five sendings of labourers to the vineyard (Matt. xx. 1 ff., in one of which he likens St. Paul to one who had wrought as an apostle in one hour more perhaps than all those before him (c. 35).
Bk. xvi. (xx. 17–xxi. 22) gives some striking pictures of the darker side of Christian society, the growing pride of the hierarchy, the faults of church officers, the separation between clergy and laity (cc. 8, 22, 25). In discussing the healing of Bartimaeus Origen holds that a choice must be made between supposing that the three evangelists have related three incidents, if the literal record is to be maintained, or that they relate one and the same spiritual fact in different words (c. 12).
Bk. xvii. (xxi. 23–xxii. 33) contains interpretations of the parables of the two sons (c. 4), the vineyard (6 ff.), and the marriage feast (15 ff.), which are good examples of Origen's method; and his explanations of the questions of the Herodians (cc. 26 ff.) and the Sadducees (c. 33) are of interest.
The old Latin translation continues the commentary to Matt. xxvii. 63. Passages in it of chief interest are: the application of the woes (Matt. xxiii. 1 ff.), §§ 9–25; the legend of the death of Zachariah the father of the Baptist, § 25; the danger of false opinions, § 33; the gathering of the saints, § 51; the limitation of the knowledge of the Son (Matt. xxiv. 36), § 55; the administration of the revenues of the church, § 61; the duty of using all that is lent to us, § 66; the eternal fire, immaterial, § 72; the supposition of three anointings of the Lord's feet, § 77; the passover of the Jews and of the Lord, § 79; on the Body and Blood of Christ, § 85; the lesson of the Agony, § 91; tradition of the different appearance of the Lord to men of different powers of vision, § 100; the reading Jesus Barabbas to be rejected, § 121; tradition as to the grave of Adam on Calvary, § 126; on the darkness at the crucifixion, § 134.
ST. MARK.—A Latin commentary attributed to Victor of Antioch, pub. at Ingoldstadt in 1580, is said to contain quotations from Origen on cc. i. xiv. (Ceillier, p. 635). These, if the reference is correct, may have been taken from other parts of his writings. [15 Books; 39 Homilies.—H.C.]
ST. LUKE.—There remain: Greek: (1) Fragments. (2) Notes from a Venice MS. (xxviii.). (3) Additional notes, Mai, Class. Auct. t. x. pp. 474 ff. (4) Additional notes from Cod. Coislin. xxiii. Latin: 39 Homilies. 777Origen wrote four Books on St. Luke (Hieron. Prol. ad Hom.) from which the detached notes were probably taken. The short Homilies on St. Luke, an early work of Origen, abound in characteristic thoughts. The most interesting passages are those dealing with the four canonical Gospels (Hom. 1), spiritual manifestations (ib. 3), the nobility and triumph of faith (ib. 7), spiritual growth (ib. 11), shepherds of churches and nations (ib. 12), spiritual and visible co-rulers of churches (ib. 13), infant baptism (ib. 14), second marriages (ib. 17), baptism by fire (ib. 24), man as the object of a spiritual conflict (ib. 35). Besides these homilies Origen wrote other homilies upon the Gospel which are now lost, but referred to in Matt. t. xiii. 29, xvi. 9; in Joh. t. xxxii. 2.
ST. JOHN—[32 Books; some Notes.—H.C.] The remains of the Commentary on St. John are in many respects the most important of Origen's exegetical writings. There are left: Τόμοι i. ii. (iv. v. small fragments), vi. x. xiii. xix. (nearly entire), xx. xxviii. xxxii. These remains extend over the following portions of the Gospel: T. i. (John i. 1a), ii. (i. 1b–7a), vi. (i. 19–29), x. (ii. 12–25=), xiii. (iv. 13–44), xix. (part) (viii. 19–24), xx. (viii. 37–52), xxviii. (xi. 39–57), xxxii. (xiii. 2–33). A revised text with critical intro. by A. E. Brooke has been pub. in 2 vols. by the Camb. Univ. Press.
The Commentary on St. John was undertaken at the request of Ambrose (in. Joh. t. i. §§ 3, 6), and was "the first-fruits of his labours at Alexandria" (ib. § 4). It marks an epoch in theological literature and thought. Perhaps the earlier work of HERACLEON may have suggested the idea, but Origen implies that the Gospel, by its essential character, claimed his first efforts as an interpreter.
Bk. i. deals mainly with the fundamental conceptions of "the Gospel" (§§ 1–15), "the beginning" (§§ 16–22), and "the Logos" (§§ 19–42). The Gospels are the first-fruits (ἀπαρχή) of the Scripture, the Gospel of St. John is the first-fruits of the Gospels (§ 6). As the Law had a shadow of the future, so too has the Gospel: spiritual truths underlie historical truths (§ 9). The Gospel in the widest sense is "for the whole world," not for our earth only, but for the universal system of the heavens and earth (§ 15). The discussion of the title Logos marks a critical stage in the history of Christian thought. In what sense, it is asked, is the Saviour called the Logos? It had come to be a common opinion "that Christ was as it were only a 'word' of God" (§ 23). To meet this view Origen refers to other titles, Light, Resurrection, Way, Truth, etc. (§§ 24–41), and by analogy comes to the conclusion that as we are illuminated by Christ as the Light, and quickened by Him as the Resurrection, so we are made divinely rational by Him as the Logos, i.e. Reason (§ 42). He thus preserves the personality of the Lord under the title of Logos, which expresses one aspect of His being and not His being itself (as a word); but recognizes that Christ may also be called the Logos (Word) of God as giving expression to His will.
In bk. ii. he continues his discussion of the meaning of the Logos, distinguishing, in a remarkable passage (§ 2), God and Reason taken absolutely (ὁ θεός, ὁ λόγος) from God and Reason used as predicates (θεός, λόγος). "The Father is the foundation of Deity, the Son of Reason" (§ 3). Afterwards he discusses the sense of the words "came into being through Him (δἰ αὐτοῦ)," and the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Son (§ 6); and further, what "all things," and what that is which is called "nothing" (i.e. evil) which became without Him but is not (§ 7). The conceptions of life and light, of darkness and death, are then examined (§§ ii ff.). In treating of the mission of John (§§ 24 ff.) Origen questions whether he may not have been an angel who sought to minister on earth to his Lord (§ 25); and characteristically remarks that he was "the voice" preceding "the Word" (§ 26). Perhaps it is not less characteristic that he blames those who, like Heracleon (t. vi. § 2), hold that John i. 16–18), are the words of the evangelist and not of the Baptist.
In bk. vi., after describing with calm dignity the circumstances which had interrupted his work, he examines in detail John i. 19–29. The question, Art thou Elias? leads to a remarkable discussion on the pre-existence of souls, and the entrance of the soul into the body, "a vast and difficult subject," which he reserves for special investigation (§ 7). The words of the Baptist (i. 26) give occasion for a minute comparison with the parallels in the other Gospels (§§ 16 ff.), in the course of which (§ 17) Origen strikingly contrasts the baptisms of John and Christ, and explains Christ's presence "in the midst of the Jews" (v. 26) of His universal presence as the Logos (§ 22). The mention of Bethany (v. 28) leads him to hastily adopt the correction "Bethabara" (§ 24), which he justifies by the frequent errors as to names in the LXX. His brief exposition of the title of Christ "as the Lamb of God" (§§ 35 ff.) is full of interest; and in connexion with this he notices the power of the blood of martyrs to overcome evil (§ 36).
Bk. x. deals with the history of the first cleansing of the temple and its immediate results (ii. 12–25). Origen thinks the discrepancy between the evangelists as to the sojourn at Capernaum (v. 12) is such that its solution can be found only in the spiritual sense (§ 2), to which every minute point contributes, though in itself outwardly trivial and unworthy of record (§§ 2 ff.). The phrase "the passover of the Jews" leads to an exposition of Christ as the true Passover (§§ 11 ff). The cleansing of the temple is shewn to have an abiding significance in life (§ 16); and Origen thinks that the sign Christ offered is fulfilled in the raising of the Christian church, built of living stones, out of trials and death, "after three days"—the first of present suffering, the second of the consummation, the third of the new order (§ 20).
Bk. xiii. is occupied with the interpretation of part of the history of the Samaritan woman and the healing of the nobleman's son iv. 13–54). It is chiefly remarkable for the number of considerable quotations from Heracleon's Commentary it contains, more than twice as many as the other books. These still require careful collection and criticism. Lommatzsch failed to fulfil the promise of his preface (I. p. xiii.). Passages of interest in 778regard to Origen's own views and method are those on the relation of Christ's personal teaching to the Scriptures (§ 5), the five husbands as representing the senses (§ 9), the incorporeity of God (§ 25), the joy of the sower and reaper, and the continuity of work (§§ 46 f.), the unhonoured prophet (§ 54), spiritual dependence (§ 58), and the distinction between signs and wonders (§ 60).
Of bk. xix., which is imperfect at the beginning and end, a considerable fragment remains (viii. 19–25). The remarks on the treasury (John viii. 20). as the scene of the Lord's discourses (§ 2), and on the power of faith (§ 6), are characteristic.
Bk. xx. (viii. 37–53) has much that is of importance for Origen's opinions. It begins with an examination of some points in connexion with the pre-existence and character of souls; and, in a striking passage (§ 29), Origen illustrates the inspiration of evil passions. Other interesting passages treat of love as "the sun" in the life of Christians (§ 15); the ambiguities in the word "when" (§ 24); the need of help for spiritual sight (§ 26); and spiritual influences (§ 29).
The most remarkable passage in bk. xxviii. (John xi. 39–57) is perhaps that on the power of self-sacrifice among the Gentiles illustrating the vicarious sufferings of Christ (§ 14). Other remarks worthy of special notice are on the lifting up of the eyes (John xi. 41) (§ 4), the lesson of the death of Lazarus (§ 6), the duty of prudence in. time of persecution (§ 18), and the passover of the Jews and of the Lord (§ 20).
Bk. xxxii. (John xiii. 2–33) treats of St. John's record of the Last Supper. Origen discusses the feet-washing at length, and says that it is not to be perpetuated literally (§§ 6 f.); he dwells on the growth of faith (§ 9), the difference of "soul" and "spirit" (§ 11), the character of Judas and moral deterioration (§ 12), and the sop given to Judas (§ 16).
Origen's Commentary is for us the beginning of a new type of literature. It has great faults of style, is diffusive, disproportioned, full of repetitions, obscure and heavy in form of expression, wholly deficient in historical insight, and continually passing into fantastic speculations. But it contains not a few "jewels five words long," abounds in noble thoughts and subtle criticisms, grapples with great difficulties, unfolds great ideas, and, above all, retains a firm hold on the human life of the Lord.
ACTS.—[17 Homilies.—H.C.] Greek: (1) A single fragment from "the fourth homily on the Acts "is preserved in the Philocalia. (2) A few notes are given in Cramer's Catena, col. iii. 184, on Acts iv. 32, vii. 3, 53, xxi. 38.
ROMANS.—[15 Books.—H.C.] Greek: (1) Fragments from the first and ninth books contained in the Philocalia. (2) A number of important notes are contained in Cramer's Catena, t. iv. (1844), on the following passages: i. 1, 10; ii. 8, 16, 27; iii. 2, 4, 9, 13, 19, 21, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31; iv. 2. Latin: Ten books of Commentaries, translated and compressed from the fifteen books of Origen, by Rufinus, at the request of Heraclius.
The Commentary on Romans gives a continuous discussion of the text, often discursive, but still full of acute and noble conceptions. Origen's treatment of Rom. viii. as represented by Rufinus, is, on the whole, disappointing. It might have been expected to call out his highest powers of imagination and hope. His silence, no less than his rash conjectures as to the persons named in Rom. xvi., is a singular proof of the complete absence of any authoritative tradition as to the persons of the early Roman church. For the passage (x. 43) which refers to Marcion's mutilation of the epistle by removing the doxology (xvi. 25–27) and (though this is disputed) the last two chapters, see the papers by bp. Lightfoot and Dr. Hort in Jour. of Philology,1869, ii. 264 ff.; 1871, iii. 51 ff., 193 ff.
I.–Il. CORINTHIANS.—[11 Homilies on II. Cor.—H.C.] Greek: Jerome mentions (Ep. ad Pammach. xlix. § 3) that Origen commented on this epistle at length; and Origen himself refers to what he had said on I. i. 2 (Hom. in Luc. xvii. s. f.). A very important collection of notes on I. Cor. is given in Cramer's Catena, vol. v. 1844. Some of the notes contain passages of considerable interest, as those on the vicarious death of Gentile heroes (I. Cor. i. 18; cf. Hom. in Joh. t. xxviii. § 14), the sovereignty of believers (I. Cor. iii. 21), evangelic "counsels" (vii. 25), the public teaching of women (xiv. 34, with reference to Montanism). Origen gives the outline of a creed (i. 9, 20), and touches on baptism (i. 14) and holy communion (vii. 5). He describes the Jewish search for leaven (v. 7); and supposes that many books of O.T. were lost at the Captivity (ii. 9).
GALATIANS.—[15 Books; 7 Homilies.—H.C.] Jerome, in the Prologue to his Commentary on Galatians, mentions that Origen wrote five Books on this epistle, as well as various Homilies and Notes (tractatus et excerpta), and that he interpreted it with brief annotations (commatico sermone) in his Stromateis, bk. x. (Proem. in Comm. ad Gal.; Ep. ad August. cxi. §§ 4, 6). Three fragments of the Commentary are contained in the Latin translation of Pamphilus's Apology.
EPHESIANS.—[3 Books.—H.C.] Origen's Commentary on the Ephesians may still be practically recovered. Jerome, in the Prologue to his own Commentary, says that "his readers should know that Origen wrote three books on the epistle, which he had partly followed." The extent of his debt could only be estimated by conjecture, till the publication of the Paris Catena (Cramer, 1842). This contains very large extracts from Origen's commentary, sometimes with his name and sometimes anonymous, and in nearly all cases Jerome has corresponding words or thoughts. A careful comparison of the Greek fragments with Jerome's Latin would make it possible to reconstruct a very large part of Origen's work. The corresponding notes on the description of the Christian warfare (vi. 11 ff.) well illustrate Jerome's mode of dealing with his archetype. Origen's comments are almost continuous. A fragment on Eph. 5:28 f., not found in the Greek notes, is preserved in the Latin trans. of the Apology of Pamphilus.
PHILIPPIANS, COLOSSIANS, TITUS, PHILEMON—[1 Book on Philippians; 2 on Colossians; 1 on Titus; 1 on Philemon; 1 Homily 779on Titus.—H.C.] Short fragments from bk. iii. on Col. and the Comm. on Philemon, and more considerable fragments from Book on Titus (Tit. iii. 10, 11), are found in the trans. of Pamphilus's Apology. No Greek notes on these Epp. have been preserved.
I. THESSALONIANS. [3 Books; 2 Homilies.—H.C.] A considerable fragment from the third book of the Commentary on I. Thess. is preserved in Jerome's trans.: Ep. ad Minerv. et Alex. 9 (I. Thess. iv. 15–17).
HEBREWS.—[18 Homilies.—H.C.] Origen wrote Homilies and Commentaries on Hebrews. Two fragments of the Homilies are preserved by Eusebius (H. E. vi. 25), in which Origen gives his opinion on the composition of the epistle. Some inconsiderable fragments from the "Books" are found in the trans. of Pamphilus's Apology.
CATHOLIC EPISTLES.—The quotations from Origen, given in Cramer's Catena on the Catholic epistles, are apparently taken from other treatises, and not from commentaries on the books themselves: Jas. i. 4, 13; I. Pet. i. 4 (ἐκ τῆς ἑρμηνείας εἰς τὸ κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ); I. John ii. 14 (ἐκ τοῦ ᾄσματος τῶν ᾀσμάτων Τ. Αʹ.).
APOCALYPSE.—Origen purposed to comment upon the Apocalypse (Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 49), but it is uncertain whether he carried out his design.
B. DOGMATIC WRITINGS.—Origen's writings On the Resurrection were violently assailed by Methodius, and considered by Jerome to abound in errors (Ep. lxxxiv. 7). Probably they excited opposition by assailing the gross literalism of the popular view of the future life. The extant fragments are consistent with the true faith and express it with a wise caution, affirming the permanence through death of the whole man and not of the soul only. Thus Origen dwells rightly on St. Paul's image of the seed (Fragm. 2), maintains a perfect correspondence between the present and the future, and speaks very happily of the "ratio substantiae corporalis" as that which is permanent.
The book On First Principles is the most complete and characteristic expression of Origen's opinions. It was written while at Alexandria, when he was probably not much more than 30 years old and still a layman, but there is no reason to think that he modified, in any important respects, the views he unfolds in it. It was not written for simple believers but for scholars—for those who were familiar with the teaching of Gnosticism and Platonism; and with a view to questions which then first became urgent when men have risen to a wide view of nature and life. Non-Christian philosophers moved in a region of subtle abstractions, "ideas": Origen felt that Christianity converted these abstractions into realities, persons, facts of a complete life; and he strove to express what he felt in the modes of thought and language of his own age. He aimed at presenting the highest knowledge (γνῶσις) as an objective system. But in doing this he had no intention of fashioning two Christianities, a Christianity for the learned and a Christianity for the simple. The faith was one, one essentially and unalterably, but infinite in fulness, so that the trained eye could see its harmonies the most. Fresh wants made fresh truths visible. He who found much had nothing over: he who found little had no lack.
The book is the earliest attempt to form a system of Christian doctrine, or rather a philosophy of the Christian faith, and thus marks an epoch in Christian thought, but no change in the contents of the Christian creed. The elements of the dogmatic basis are assumed on the authority of the church. The author's object is, he says, to shew how they can be arranged as a whole, by the help either of the statements of Scripture or of the methods of exact reasoning. However strange or startling the teaching of Origen may seem to us, we must bear in mind that this is his own account of it. He takes for granted that all he brings forward is in harmony with received teaching. He professes to accept as final the same authorities as ourselves.
The treatise consists of four books. Digressions and repetitions interfere with the symmetry of the plan. But to speak generally, bk. i. deals with God and creation (religious statics); bks. ii. and iii. with creation and providence, man and redemption (religious dynamics); and bk. iv. with Holy Scripture. The first three books contain the exposition of a Christian philosophy, gathered round the three ideas of God, the world, and the rational soul, and the last gives the basis of it. Even in the repetitions (as on "the restoration of things") each successive treatment corresponds with a new point of sight.
In bk. i. Origen sets out the final elements of all religious philosophy, God, the world, rational creatures. After dwelling on the essential nature of God as incorporeal, invisible, incomprehensible, and on the characteristic relations of the Persons of the Holy Trinity to man, as the authors of being, and reason, and holiness, he gives a summary view of the end of human life, for the elements of a problem cannot be really understood until we have comprehended its scope. The end of life, then, according to Origen, is the progressive assimilation of man to God by the voluntary appropriation of His gifts. Gentile philosophers had proposed to themselves the idea of assimilation to God, but Origen adds the means. By the unceasing action of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit towards us, renewed at each successive stage of our advance, we shall be able, he says, with difficulty perchance, at some future time, to look on the holy and blessed life; and when once we have been enabled to reach that, after many struggles, we ought so to continue in it that no weariness may take hold on us. Each fresh enjoyment of that bliss ought to deepen our desire for it; while we are ever receiving, with more ardent love and larger grasp, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (i. 3, 8).
But it will be said that this condition of progress, effort, assimilation, involves the possibility of declension, indolence, the obliteration of the divine image. If man can go forward he can go backward. Origen accepts the consequence, and finds in it an explanation of the actual state of men and angels. The present position of each rational being corresponds, in his judgment, with the use he has 780made of the revelations and gifts of God. No beings were created immutable. Some by diligent obedience have been raised to the loftiest places in the celestial hierarchy; others by perverse self-will and rebellion have sunk to the condition of demons. Others occupy an intermediate place, and are capable of being raised again to their first state, and so upward, if they avail themselves of the helps provided by the love of God. "of these," he adds, "I think, as far as I can form an opinion, that this order of the human race was formed, which in the future age, or in the ages which succeed, when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, shall be restored to that unity which the Lord promises in His intercessory prayer. . . . Meanwhile, both in the ages which are seen and temporal, and in those which are not seen and eternal, all rational beings who have fallen are dealt with according to the order, the character, the measure of their deserts. Some in the first, others in the second, some, again, even in the last times, through greater and heavier sufferings, borne through many ages, reformed by sharper discipline, and restored . . . stage by stage . . . reach that which is invisible and eternal . . ." Only one kind of change is impossible. There is no such transmigration of souls as Plato pictured, after the fashion of the Hindoos, in the legend of Er the Armenian. No rational being can sink into the nature of a brute (i. 8, 4; cf. c. Cels. iv. 83).
The progress of this discussion is interrupted by one singular episode characteristic of the time. How, Origen asks, are we to regard the heavenly bodies—the sun and moon and stars? Are they the temporary abodes of souls which shall hereafter be released from them? Are they finally to be brought into the great unity, when "God shall be all in all"? The questions, he admits, are bold; but he answers both in the affirmative, on what he held to be the authority of Scripture (i. 7; cf. c. Cels. v. 10 f.).
In bk. ii. Origen pursues, at greater length, his view of the visible world, as a place of discipline and preparation. He follows out as a movement what he had before regarded as a condition. The endless variety in the situations of men, the inequality of their material and moral circumstances, their critical spiritual differences, all tend to shew, he argues, that the position of each has been determined in accordance with previous conduct. God, in His ineffable wisdom, has united all together with absolute justice, so that all these creatures most diverse in themselves, combine to work out His purpose, while "their very variety tends to the one end of perfection." All things were made for the sake of man and rational beings. Through man, therefore this world, as God's work, becomes complete and perfect (cf. c. Cels. iv. 99). The individual is never isolated, though never irresponsible. At every moment he is acting and acted upon adding something to the sum of the moral forces of the world, furnishing that out of which God is fulfilling His purpose. The difficulties of life, as Origen regards the given scope for heroic effort and loving service. The fruits of a moral victory become more permanent as they are gained through harder toil. Obstacles and hindrances are incentives to exertion. Man's body is not a "prison," in the sense of a place of punishment only: it is a beneficent provision for discipline, furnishing such salutary restraints as are best fitted to further moral growth.
This view of the dependence of the present on the past—to use the forms of human speech—seemed to Origen to remove a difficulty which weighed heavily upon thoughtful men then as now. Very many said then that the sufferings and disparities of life, the contrasts of law and gospel, point to the action of rival spiritual powers, or to a Creator limited by something external to Himself (ii. 9, 5). Not so, was Origen's reply; they simply reveal that what we see is a fragment of a vast system in which we can only trace tendencies, consequences, signs, and rest upon the historic fact of the Incarnation. In this respect he ventured to regard the entire range of being as "one thought" answering to the absolutely perfect will of God, while "we that are but parts can see but part, now this, now that." This seems to be the true meaning of his famous assertion, that the power of God in creation was finite and not infinite. It would, that is, be inconsistent with our ideas of perfect order, and therefore with our idea of the Divine Being, that the sum of first existences should not form one whole. "God made all things in number and measure." The omnipotence of God is defined (as we are forced to conceive) by the absolute perfections of His nature. "He cannot deny Himself" (ii. 9, 1, iv. 35). It may be objected that our difficulties do not lie only in our present circumstances; the issues of the present, so far as we can see them, bring difficulties no less overwhelming; even if we allow this world to be a fit place of discipline for fallen beings capable of recovery, it is only too evident that the discipline does not always work amendment. Origen admits the fact, and draws the conclusion that other systems of penal purification and moral advance follow. World grows out of world, so to speak, till the consummation is reached. The nature, position, or constitution of the worlds to come he does not attempt to define. It is enough to believe that, from first to last, the will of Him Who is most righteous and most loving is fulfilled; and that each loftier region gamed is the entrance to some still more glorious abode above, so that all being becomes, as it were, in the highest sense a journey of the saints from mansion to mansion up to the very throne of God. To make this view clear Origen follows out, in imagination, the normal course of the progressive training, purifying, and illumination of men in the future. He pictures them passing from sphere to sphere, and resting in each so as to receive such revelations of the providence of God as they can grasp; lower phenomena are successively explained to them, and higher phenomena are indicated. As they look backward old mysteries are illuminated; as they look forward unimagined mysteries stir their souls with divine desire. Everywhere their Lord is with them, and they advance from strength to strength through the perpetual supply of spiritual food. This food, he says, is the contemplation and understanding 781of God, according to its proper measure in each case, and as suits a nature which is made and created. And this measure—this due harmony and proportion between aim and power—it is right that every one should regard even now, who is beginning to see God, that is, to understand Him in purity of heart (ii. 11, 6 f.). But Origen goes on to shew that Scripture concentrates our attention upon the next scene, summed up in the words, resurrection, judgment, retribution. Nowhere is he more studiously anxious to keep to the teaching of the Word than in dealing with these cardinal ideas. For him the resurrection is not the reproduction of any particular organism, but the preservation of complete identity of person, an identity maintained under new conditions, which he presents under the apostolic figure of the growth of the plant from the seed: the seed is committed to the earth, perishes, and yet the vital power it contains gathers a new frame answering to its proper nature. Judgment is no limited and local act, but the unimpeded execution of the absolute divine law by which the man is made to feel what he is and what he has become and to bear the inexorable consequences of the revelation. Punishment is no vengeance, but the just severity of a righteous King, by which the soul is placed at least on the way to purification. Blessedness is no sensuous joy or indolent repose, but the opening vision of the divine glory, the growing insight into the mysteries of the fulfilment of the divine counsels.
In bk. iii. Origen discusses the moral basis of his system. This lies in the recognition of free will as the inalienable endowment of rational beings. But this free will does not carry with it the power of independent action, but only the power of receiving the help which is extended to each according to his capacity and needs and therefore justly implying responsibility for the consequences of action. Such free will offers a sufficient explanation, in Origen's judgment, for what we see and gives a stable foundation for what we hope. It places sin definitely within the man himself, not without him. It preserves the possibility of restoration, while it enforces the penalty of failure. "'God said,' so he writes, 'let us make man in our image after our likeness.' Then the sacred writer adds, 'and God made man: in the image of God made He him.' This therefore that he says, 'in the image of God made He him,' while he is silent as to the likeness, has no other meaning than this, that man received the dignity of the image at his first creation: while the perfection of the likeness is kept in the consummation (of all things); that is, that he should himself gain it by the efforts of his own endeavour, since the possibility of perfection had been given him at the first . . ." (iii. 6, 1). Such a doctrine, he shews, gives a deep solemnity to the moral conflicts of life. We cannot, even to the last, plead that we are the victims of circumstances or of evil spirits. The decision in each case rests with ourselves, yet so that all we have and are truly is the gift of God. Each soul obtains from the object of its love the power to fulfil His will. "It draws and takes to itself," he says in another place, "the Word of God in proportion to its capacity and faith. And when souls have drawn to themselves the Word of God, and have let Him penetrate their senses and their understandings, and have perceived the sweetness of His fragrance . . . filled with vigour and cheerfulness they speed after him" (in Cant. i.). Such a doctrine, so far from tending to Pelagianism, is the very refutation of it. It lays down that the essence of freedom is absolute self-surrender; that the power of right action is nothing but the power of God. Every act of man is the act of a free being, but not an exercise of freedom; if done without dependence upon God, it is done in despite of freedom, responsibly indeed, but under adverse constraint. The decision from moment to moment rests with us, but not the end. That is determined from the first, though the conduct of creatures can delay, through untold ages, the consummation of all things. The gift of being, once given, abides for ever. The rational creature is capable of change, of better and worse, but it can never cease to be. What mysteries lie behind; what is the nature of the spiritual body in which we shall be clothed; whether all that is finite shall be gathered up in some unspeakable way into the absolute,—that Origen holds is beyond our minds to conceive.
Bk. iv. deals with the dogmatic basis of Origen's system. For this to follow the moral basis is unusual and yet intelligible. It moves from the universal to the special; from the most abstract to the most concrete; from the heights of speculation to the rule of authority. "In investigating such great subjects as these," Origen writes, "we are not content with common ideas and the clear evidence of what we see, but we take testimonies to prove what we state, even those which are drawn from the Scriptures which we believe to be divine" (iv. 1). Therefore, in conclusion, he examines with a reverence, insight, humility, and grandeur of feeling never surpassed, the questions of the inspiration and interpretation of the Bible. The intellectual value of the work may best be characterized by one fact. A single sentence from it was quoted by Butler as containing the germ of his Analogy.
Before he left Alexandria Origen wrote ten books of Miscellanies (Στρωματεῖς: cf. Eus. H.E. vi. 18). In these he apparently discussed various topics in the light of ancient philosophy and Scripture (Hieron. Ep. ad Magn. lxx. 4). The three fragments which remain, in a Latin translation, give no sufficient idea of their contents. The first, from bk. vi., touches on the permissibility of deflection from literal truth, following out a remark of Plato (Hieron. adv. Ruf. i. § 18: cf. Hom. xix. in Jer. § 7; Hom. in Lev. iii. § 4). The second, from bk. x., contains brief notes on the history of Susanna and Bel (Dan. xiii. xiv.) added by Jerome to his Comm. on Dan. The third, also from bk. x., gives an interpretation of Gal. v. 13, which is referred to the spiritual understanding of the Scripture narratives (Hieron. ad loc.; Cf. in Jer. iv. xxii. 24. ff.).
The Letter to Julius Africanus on the History of Susanna (Dan. xiii.) contains a reply to objections which Julius urged against the 782authenticity of the history of Susanna and offers a crucial and startling proof of Origen's deficiency in historical criticism. Africanus pointed out, from its plays upon words among other things, that the writing must have been Greek originally, and that it was not contained in the "Hebrew" Daniel. To these arguments Origen answers that he had indeed been unable (φίλη γὰρ ἡ ἀλήθεια) to find Hebrew equivalents to the paronomasias quoted, but that they may exist; and that the Jews had probably omitted the history to save the honour of their elders. It must be allowed that right lies with the aged Africanus, who could address Origen as "a son," and whose judgment was in the spirit of his own noble saying: "May such a principle never prevail in the church of Christ that falsehood is framed for His praise and glory" (Fragm. ap. Routh, R. S. ii. 230).
C. THE EIGHT BOOKS AGAINST CELSUS.—The earlier apologists had been called upon to defend Christianity against the outbursts of popular prejudice, as a system compatible with civil and social order. Origen, in this work, entered a far wider field. It was his object to defend the faith against a comprehensive attack, conducted by critical, historical, and philosophical, as well as by political, arguments. He undertook the work very unwillingly, at the urgent request of Ambrose, but, once undertaken, he threw into it the whole energy of his genius. CELSUS was a worthy opponent, and Origen allows him to state his case in his own words, and follows him step by step in the great controversy. At first Origen proposed to deal with the attack of Celsus in a general form; but after i. 27 he quotes the objections of Celsus, in the order of their occurrence, and deals with them one by one, so that it is possible to reconstruct the work of Celsus, in great part, from Origen's quotations. It would be difficult to overrate the importance both of attack and defence in the history of religious opinion in the 2nd and 3rd cents. The form of objections changes; but every essential type of objection to Christianity finds its representative in Celsus's statements, and Origen suggests in reply thoughts, often disguised in strange dresses, which may yet be fruitful. No outline can convey a true idea of the fullness and variety of the contents of the treatise. Speaking broadly, the work falls into three parts—the controversy on the history of Christianity (bks. i. ii.), the controversy on the general character and idea of Christianity (bks. iii.–v.), the controversy on the relations of Christianity to philosophy, popular religion, and national life (bks. vi.–viii.). There are necessarily many repetitions, but in the main this appears to represent the course of the argument. The lines were laid down by Celsus: Origen simply followed him.
After some introductory chapters (i. 1–27), dealing with a large number of miscellaneous objections to Christianity as illegal, secret, of barbarous origin, inspired by a demoniac power, an offshoot of Judaism, Origen meets Celsus's first serious attack, directed against the Christian interpretation of the gospel history. In this case Celsus places his arguments in the mouth of a Jew. The character, as Origen points out, is not consistently maintained, but the original conception is ingenious. A Jew might reasonably be supposed to be the best critic of a system which sprang from his own people. The chief aim of the objector is to shew that the miraculous narratives of the Gospels are untrustworthy, inconclusive in themselves, and that the details of the Lord's life, so far as they can be ascertained, furnish no adequate support to the Christian theory of His person. The criticism is wholly external and unsympathetic. Can we suppose, Celsus asks, that He Who was God would be afraid and flee to Egypt (i., 66) ? could have had a body like other men (i. 69, ii. 36)? would have lived a sordid, wandering life, with a few mean followers (i. 62)? have borne insults without exacting vengeance (ii. 35)? have been met with incredulity (ii. 75)? have died upon the cross (ii. 68)? have shewn Himself only to friends if He rose again (ii. 63)? He repeats the Jewish story of the shameful birth of Christ, and of His education in Egypt, where Celsus supposes that He learned magical arts by which He imposed upon His countrymen. These illustrations sufficiently shew the fatal weakness of Celsus's position. He has no eye for the facts of the inner life. He makes no effort to apprehend the gospel offered in what Christ did and was, as a revelation of spiritual power; and Origen rises immeasurably superior to him in his vindication of the majesty of Christ's humiliation and sufferings (i. 29 ff.). He shews that Christ did "dawn as a sun" upon the world (ii. 30), when judged by a moral and not by an external standard (ii. 40); that He left His disciples the abiding power of doing "greater works" than He Himself did in His earthly life (ii. 48); that the actual energy of Christianity in regenerating men,106106Seen, for example, in one like St. Paul, of whom Celsus took no notice (i. 63). was a proof that He Who was its spring was more than man (ii. 79). In bk. iii. and following books Celsus appears in his own person. He first attacks Christianity as being, like Judaism, originally a revolutionary system, based upon an idle faith in legends no more credible than those of Greece (iii, 1–43); then he paints it in detail as a religion of threats and promises, appealing only to the ignorant and sinful, unworthy of wise men, and, in fact, not addressed to them, even excluding them (iii. 44–81). Here again Origen has an easy victory. He has no difficulty in shewing that no real parallel can be established between the Greek heroes (iii. 22), or, as Celsus suggested, Antinous (iii. 36 ff.) and Christ. On the other side he can reply with the power of a life-long experience, that while the message of the gospel is universal and divine in its universality, "education is a way to virtue," a help towards the knowledge of God (iii. 45, 49, 58, 74) contributory, but not essentially supreme. But be rightly insists on placing the issue as to its claims in the moral and not in the intellectual realm. Christians are the proof of their creed. They are visibly transformed in character: the ignorant are proved wise, sinners are made holy (iii. 51, 64, 78 ff.).
Bks. iv. and v. are in many respects the most interesting of all. In these Origen meets 783Celsus's attack upon that which is the central idea of Christianity, and indeed of Biblical revelation, the Coming of God. This necessarily includes the discussion of the Biblical view of man's relation to God and nature. The contentions of Celsus are that there can be no sufficient cause and no adequate end for "a coming of God" (iv. 1–28); that the account of God's dealings with men in the O.T. is obviously incredible (iv. 29–50); that nature is fixed, even as to the amount of evil (iv. 62); and that man is presumptuous in claiming a superiority over what he calls irrational animals (iv. 54–99). In especial he dwells on the irrationality of the belief of a coming of God to judgment (v. 1–24); and maintains that there is a divine order in the distribution of the world among different nations, in which the Jews have no prerogative (v. 25–50). On all grounds therefore, he concludes, the claims of Christianity to be a universal religion, based on the coming of God to earth, are absurd. In treating these arguments Origen had a more arduous work than hitherto. The time had not then come—probably it has not come yet—when such far-reaching objections could be completely met; and Origen was greatly embarrassed by his want of that historic sense which is essential to the apprehension of the order of the divine revelations. His treatment of the O.T. narratives is unsatisfactory; and it is remarkable that he does not apply his own views on the unity of the whole plan of being, as grasped by man, in partial explanation at least of the present mysteries of life. They underlie indeed all he says; and much that he urges in detail is of great weight, as his remarks upon the conception of a divine coming (iv. 5 ff., 13 f.), the rational dignity of man (iv. 13, 23 ff., 30), the anthropopathic language of Scripture (iv. 71 ff.), and on the resurrection (v. 16 ff.).
In the last three books Origen enters again upon surer ground. He examines Celsus's parallels to the teaching of Scripture on the knowledge of God and the kingdom of heaven, drawn from Gentile sources (vi. 1–23); and after a digression on a mystical diagnosis of some heretical sect, which Celsus had brought forward as a specimen of Christian teaching (vi. 24–40), he passes to the true teaching on Satan and the Son of God and creation (vi. 41–65), and unfolds more in detail the doctrine of a spiritual revelation through Christ (vi. 66–81). This leads to a vindication of the O.T. prophecies of Christ (vii. 1–17), the compatibility of the two dispensations (vii. 18–26), and the Christian idea of the future life (vii. 27–40). Celsus proposed to point Christians to some better way, but Origen shews that he has failed: the purity of Christians puts to shame the lives of other men (vii. 41–61).
The remainder of the treatise is occupied with arguments as to the relations of Christianity to popular worship and civil duties. Celsus urged that the "demons," the gods of polytheism, might justly claim some worship, as having been entrusted with certain offices in the world (vii. 62–viii. 32); that the circumstances of life demand reasonable conformity to the established worship, which includes what is true in the Christian faith (viii. 33–68); that civil obedience is paramount (viii. 69–75). Origen replies in detail; and specially he shews that the worship of one God is the essence of true worship (viii. 12 f.); that Christianity has a consistent certainty of belief, with which no strange opinions can be put into comparison (viii. 53 ff.); that Christians do, in the noblest sense, support the civil powers by their lives, by their prayers, by their organization (viii. 75).
The spirit of the arguments on both sides is essentially modern; in the mode of treatment much is characteristic of the age in which the writers lived. Two points of very different nature will especially strike the student. First, the peculiar stress which Origen, in common with other early writers, lays upon isolated passages of the prophets and the O.T. generally; secondly, the unquestioning belief which he, in common with Celsus, accords to the claims of magic and augury (i. 6, 67, iv. 92 f., vii. 67, viii. 58). But when every deduction has been made, it would not be easy to point to a discussion of the claims of Christianity more comprehensive or more rich in pregnant thought. Among early apologies it has no rival. The constant presence of a real antagonist gives unflagging vigour to the debate; and the conscious power of Origen lies in the appeal which he could make to the Christian life as the one unanswerable proof of the Christian faith (cf. Praef. 2; i. 27, 67).
There are many other passages of great interest and worthy of study apart from the context. Such are Origen's remarks on the spirit of controversy (vii. 46); the moral power of Christianity, its universality, and its fitness for man (ii. 64, iii. 28, 40, 54, 62, iv. 26, vii. 17, 35, 42, 59); foreknowledge (ii. 19 ff.); the anthropomorphism of Scripture (vi. 60 ff.); the beauty of the ideal hope of the Christian (iii. 81); the ideal of worship (viii. 17 f., vii. 44); the divisions of Christians (iii. 12 f., v. 61); spiritual fellowship (viii. 64); and future unity (viii. 72).
D. PRACTICAL WORKS.—Origen's essay On Prayer was addressed to Ambrose and Tatiana (φιλομαθέστατοι καὶ γνησιώτατιο ἐν θεοσεβείᾳ ἀδελφοί, c. 33), in answer to their inquiries as to the efficacy, manner, subject, and circumstances of prayer. No writing of Origen is more free from his characteristic faults or more full of beautiful thoughts. He examines first the meaning and use of εὐχή (§ 3), and the objections urged against the efficacy of prayer, that God foreknows the future, and that all things take place according to His will (§ 5). Divine foreknowledge does not, he points out, take away man's responsibility: the moral attitude of prayer is in itself a sufficient blessing upon it (§§ 6 ff.). Prayer establishes an active communion between Christ and the angels in heaven (§§ 10 f.) ; and the duty of prayer is enforced by the example of Christ and the saints (§§ 13 f.). Prayer must be addressed to God only, "our Father in heaven," and not to Christ the Son as apart from the Father, but to the Father through Him (§ 15).
The Exhortation to Martyrdom.—In the persecution of Maximin (235–237), Ambrose and Theoctetus, a presbyter of Caesarea, were thrown into prison. Origen addressed them 784in a book written from his heart: as a boy and as an old man he looked face to face on martyrdom. Their sufferings, he tells them, are a proof of their maturity (c. 1), and in some sense the price of future blessedness (2), for which man's earthly frame is unfitted (3 ff.). The denial of Christ, on the other hand, is the most grievous wrong to God (6 ff.). Believers are indeed pledged to endurance, which will be repaid with unspeakable joys (12 ff.). Moreover, they are encouraged in their trials by the thought of the unseen spiritual witnesses by whom they are surrounded in the season of their outward sufferings (18 ff.), and by the examples of those who have already triumphed (22 ff.). By martyrdom man can shew his gratitude to God (28 f.), and at the same time receive afresh the forgiveness of baptism, offering, as a true priest, the sacrifice of himself (30; cf. Hom. vii. in Jud. 2). So he conquers demons (32). The predictions of the Lord shew that he is not forgotten (34 ff.), but rather that through affliction is fulfilled for him some counsel of love (39 ff.), such as the union of the soul with God when freed from the distractions of life (47 ff.). Perhaps, too, the blood of martyrs may have gained others for the truth (50, τάχα τ τιμίῳ αἵματα τῶν μαρτύρων ἀγοραθήσονταί τινες: cf. Hom. in Num. x. 2; c. Cels. viii. 44).
E. CRITICAL WRITINGS. [HEXAPLA.]
F. LETTERS.—Eusebius, as already stated, had made a collection of more than 100 of Origen's letters (H. F. vi. 36, 2). Of these two only remain entire, those to Julius Africanus (already noticed) and Gregory of Neocaesarea, and of the remainder the fragments and notices are most meagre. In one fragment (Delarue, i. p. 3, from Suidas, s.v.) he gives a lively picture of the incessant labour which the zeal of Ambrose imposed upon him. Another fragment of great interest, preserved by Eusebius, contains a defence of his study of heathen philosophy (H. E. vi. 19). An important passage of a letter to friends at Alexandria, complaining of the misrepresentations of those who professed to recount controversies they had held with him, has been preserved in a Latin trans. by Jerome and Rufinus (Delarue, i. p. 5).
Gregory was as yet undecided as to his profession when the letter to him was written (c. 236–237: cf. pp. 101 f.). Origen expresses his earnest desire that his "son" will devote all his knowledge of general literature and the fruits of wide discipline to Christianity (c. 1). He illustrates this use of secular learning by the "spoiling of the Egyptians" (c. 2); and concludes his appeal by a striking exhortation to Gregory to study Scripture.
G. THE PHILOCALIA.—To this admirable collection of extracts from Origen's writings the preservation of many fragments of the Greek text is due. A revised text with critical intro. by Dr. J. A. Robinson is pub. by the Camb. Univ. Press. The collection was made, it appears, by Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil. The former sent it to Theodosius, bp. of Tyana, c. 382, with a letter (Greg. Naz. Ep. cxv.) in which he says: "That you may have some memorial from us, and at the same time from the holy Basil, we have sent you a small volume of the 'choice thoughts' of Origen (πυκτίον τῆς Ὠριγένους Φιλοκαλίας), containing extracts of passages serviceable for scholars (τοῖς φιλολόγοις). Be pleased to accept it, and to give us some proof of its usefulness with the aid of industry and the Spirit." The Philocalia is of great interest, not only from the intrinsic excellence of passages in it, but as shewing what Catholic saints held to be characteristic thoughts in Origen's teaching.
The book consists of xxvii. chaps., treating of the following subjects: (1) The Inspiration of divine Scripture. How Scripture should be read and understood. (2) That divine Scripture is closed and sealed. (3) Why the Inspired Books [of O.T.] are 22. (4) The solecism and poor style of Scripture. (5) What is "much-speaking," and what are "many books"; and that inspired Scripture is one Book. (6) That divine Scripture is one instrument of God, perfect and fitted (for its work). (7) The special character (τοῦ ἰδιώματος) of the persons of divine Scripture. (8) The duty of not endeavouring to correct the inaccurate (σολοικοειδῆ) phrases of Scripture and those not capable of being understood according to the letter, seeing that they contain deep propriety of thought for those who can understand. (9) What is the reason that divine Scripture often uses the same term in different significations, and (that) in the same place. (10) Passages in divine Scripture which seem to involve difficulties. (11) That we must seek the nourishment supplied by all inspired Scripture, and not turn from, the passages (ῥητά) troubled by heretics with ill-advised difficulties (δυσφήμοις ἐπαπορήσεσιν), nor slight them, but make use of them also, being kept from the confusion which attaches to unbelief. (12) That he should not faint in the reading of divine Scripture who does not understand its dark riddles and parables. (13) When and to whom the lessons of philosophy are serviceable to the explanation of the sacred Scriptures, with Scripture testimony. (14) That it is most necessary for those who wish not to fail of the truth in understanding the divine Scriptures to know the logical principles or preparatory discipline (μαθήματα ἤτοι προπαιδεύματα) which apply to their use. (15) A reply to the Greek philosophers who disparage the poverty of the style of the divine Scriptures and maintain that the noble truths in Christianity have been better expressed among the Greeks. (16) Of those who malign Christianity on account of the heresies in the church. (17) A reply to those philosophers who say that it makes no difference if we call Him Who is God over all by the name Zeus, current among the Greeks, or by that used by Indians or Egyptians. (18) A reply to the Greek philosophers who profess universal knowledge, and blame the simple faith τὸ ἀνεξέταστον τῆς πίστεως of the mass of Christians, and charge them with preferring folly to wisdom in life; and who say that no wise or educated man has become a disciple of Jesus. (19) That our faith in the Lord has nothing in common with the irrational, superstitious faith of the Gentiles. . . . And in reply to those who say, How do we think that Jesus is God when He had a mortal body? (20) A reply to those who say that the whole world 785was made, not for man, but for irrational creatures . . . who live with less toil than men . . . and foreknow the future. Wherein is an argument against transmigration and on augury. (21) Of free will, with an explanation of the sayings of Scripture which seem to deny it. (22) What is the dispersion of the rational or human souls indicated under a veil in the building of the Tower, and the confusion of tongues. (23) On Fate, and the reconciliation of divine foreknowledge with human freedom; and how the stars do not determine the affairs of men, but only indicate them. (24) Of matter, that it is not uncreated (ἀγέννητος) or the cause of evil. (25) That the separation to a special work (Rom. i. 1) from foreknowledge does not destroy free will. (26) As to things good and evil. (27) On the phrase, "He hardened Pharaoh's heart."
VIEW OF CHRISTIAN LIFE.—The picture of Christian life in Origen's writings is less complete and vivid than we might expect. It represents a society already sufficiently large, powerful, and wealthy to offer examples of popular vices. Origen contrasts the Christians of his own with those of an earlier time, and pronounces them unworthy to bear the name of "faithful" (Hom. in Jer. iv. 3; cf. in Matt. xvii. 24). Some Christians by birth were unduly proud of their descent (in Matt. xv. § 26). Others retained their devotion to pagan superstitions—astrology, auguries, necromancy (in Josh. v. 6, vii. 4; cf. in. Matt. xiii. § 6) and secular amusements (Hom. in Lev. ix. 9, xi. 1). There were many spiritual "Gibeonites," men who gave liberal offerings to the churches but not their lives (in Josh. x. 1, 3). The attendance at church services was infrequent (in Josh. i. 7; Hom. in Gen. x. 1, 3). The worshippers were inattentive (Hom. in Ex. xiii. 2) and impatient (Hom. in Jud. vi. 1). Commercial dishonesty (in Matt. xv. 13) and hardness (Sel. in Job. p. 341 L) had to be reproved. Such faults call out the preacher's denunciations in all ages. An evil more characteristic of his age is the growing ambition of the clergy. High places in the hierarchy were sought by favour and by gifts (Hom. in Num. xxii. 4; cf. in Matt. xvl. 22; Comm. Ser. §§ 9, 10, 12). Prelates endeavoured to nominate their kinsmen as their successors (ib. xxii. 4); and shrank from boldly rebuking vice lest they should lose the favour of the people (in josh. vii. 6), using the powers of discipline from passion rather than with judgment (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 14), so that their conduct already caused open scandal (Hom. in Num. ii. 17). They too often forgot humility at their ordination (Hom. in Ezech. ix. 2). They despised the counsel of men of lower rank, "not to speak of that of a layman or a Gentile" (Hom. in Ex. xi. 6). Origen in particular denounces the pride of the leading men in the Christian society, which already exceeded that of Gentile tyrants, especially in the more important cities (in Matt. xvi. 8).
Traces still remained in his time of the miraculous endowments of the apostolic church, which he had himself seen (c. Cels. ii. 8, iii. 24; in Joh. t. xx. 28, ἴχνη καὶ λείμματα; cf. c. Cels. i. 2). Exorcism was habitually practised (Hom. in Jos. xxiv. 1). Demons were expelled, many cures wrought, future events foreseen by Christians through the help of the Spirit (c. Cels. i. 46; cf. i. 25, iii. 36, viii. 58); and he says that the "name of Jesus" was sometimes powerful against demons, even when named by bad men (c. Cell. i. 6; cf. v. 45). But this testimony must be taken in conjunction with the belief in magic which he shared with his contemporaries. He appeals unhesitatingly to the efficacy of incantations with the use of sacred names (c. Cels. i. 22, iv. 33 ff.; cf. in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 110), and otherwise according to secret rules (c. Cels. i. 24; Hom. in Num. xiii. 4; in Jos. xx. fragm. ap. Philoc. c. xii.).
Origen says little of the relations of Christians to other bodies in the state. The interpenetration of common life by paganism necessarily excluded believers from most public ceremonies and from much social intercourse. It also made them ill-disposed towards art, which was devoted to the old religion (c. Cels. iii. 56; de Orat. 17), and had not yet found any place in connexion with Christian worship (c. Cels. vii. 63 ff.). It is remarkable that while Origen was pre-eminently distinguished for his vindication of the claims of reason (ib. i. 13) and of Gentile philosophy, as being the ripest fruit of man's natural powers (cf. Hom. in Gen. xiv. 3; in Ex. xi. 6) and not their corruption (Tertullian), he still very rarely refers to the literature of secular wisdom in his general writings as ancillary to revelation. He even in some cases refers its origin to "the princes of this world" (de Princ. iii. 3, 2); and, in an interesting outline of the course of Gentile education, remarks that it may only accumulate a wealth of sins (Hom. iii. in Ps. xxxvi. 6). But his directions for dealing with unbelievers are marked by the truest courtesy (Hom. in Ex. iv. 9). In spite of his own courageous enthusiasm, he counselled prudence in times of persecution (in Matt. x. 23). Occasions for such self-restraint arose continually. For Origen notices the popular judgment, active from the time of Tertullian to that of Augustine, which referred "wars, famines, and pestilences" to the spread of the faith (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 39); especially he dwells upon the animosity of the Jews, who "would rather see a criminal acquitted than convicted by the evidence of a Christian" (ib. § 16). Of the extension of Christianity he speaks in general terms, rhetorically rather than exactly. It was not preached among all the Ethiopians, especially "those beyond the river," or among the Chinese. "What," he continues, "shall we say of the Britons or Germans by the Ocean, Dacians, Sarmatians, Scythians, very many of whom have not yet heard the word?" (ib. § 39). But some inhabitants of Britain and Mauritania held the faith (Hom. in Luc. vi.). Christians generally declined public offices, not from lack of loyalty, but feeling that they could serve their country better through their own society (c. Cels. viii. 73, 75).
The church, according to Origen, is the whole body of believers animated by Christ, Who, as the Divine Logos, stirs each member, so that without Him it does nothing (ib. vi. 48). In the widest sense it has existed even from the Creation (in Cant. ii. p. 418 L.). Such a view, which makes the church coextensive 786with the existence of divine fellowship, carries with it the corollary, that "without the church there is no salvation" (Hom. in Jos. iii. 6). Origen, as has been seen, shewed practically his respect for the see of Rome, but he recognized no absolute supremacy in St. Peter (in Matt. xii. ii). He held indeed that he had a certain pre-eminence (in Joh. t. xxxii. 5) and that the church was founded on him (Hom. in Ex. v. 4), but every disciple of Christ, he affirms, holds in a true sense the same position (Comet. in Matt. xii. 10).
Origen lays great stress upon the importance of right belief (in Matt. t. xii. 23; Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 33; de Orat. 29). As a young man he refused every concession to a misbeliever in the house of his benefactress (Eus. H. E. vi. 2). In later years he laboured successfully to win back those who had fallen into error. But his sense of the infinite greatness of the truth made him tolerant (c. Cels. v. 63). Varieties of belief arose from the very vastness of its object (ib. iii. 12); and his discussion of the question, Who is a heretic? is full of interest (Fragm. in Ep. ad Tit.).
Casual notices in Origen's writings give a fairly complete view of the current religious observances. He speaks generally of stated times of daily prayer, "not less than three" (de Orat. 12), of the days they kept—"the Lord's days (cf. Hom. in Ex. vii. 5; in Num. xxiii. 4), Fridays, Easter, Pentecost" (c. Cels. viii. 22; cf. Hom. in Is. vi. § 2)—and of the Lenten, Wednesday, and Friday fasts (Hom. in Lev. x. 2). Some still added Jewish rites to the celebration of Easter (Hom. in Jer. xii. 13) and other traces remained of Judaizing practices (ib. x. § 2). Jewish converts, Origen says without reserve, "have not left their national law" (c. Cels. ii. 1, cf. § 3); though he lays down that Christ forbade His disciples to be circumcised (ib. i. 22; cf. v. 48). Christians, however, still abstained from "things strangled " (ib. viii. 30) and from meat offered to idols (ib. 24). Outward forms had already made progress; and the religion of some consisted in "bowing their head to priests, and in bringing offerings to adorn the altar of the church" (Hom. in Jos. x. 3).
Baptism was administered to infants, "in accordance with apostolic tradition" (in Rom. v. § 9, p. 397 L.; Hom. in Lev. viii. § 3; in Luc. xiv.), in the name of the Holy Trinity (in Rom. v. § 8, p. 383 L.; cf. in Joh. t vi. 17), with the solemn renunciations "of the devil and of his pomps, works, and pleasures" (Hom. in Num. xii. 4). The unction (confirmation) does not appear to have been separated from it (in Rom. v. § 8, p. 381: "omnes baptizati in aquis istis visibilibus et in chrismate visibili"). The gift of the Holy Spirit comes only from Christ, and Origen held that it was given according to His righteous will: "Not all who are bathed in water are forthwith bathed in the Holy Spirit" (Hom. in Num. iii. 1). Cf. also Sel. in Gen. ii. 15; Hom. in Luc. xxi.; de Princ. i. 2; and for the two sacraments, Hom. in Num. vii. 2. Adult converts were divided into different classes and trained with great care (c. Cels. iii. 51).
Of the Holy Communion Origen speaks not infrequently, but with some reserve (Hom. in Lev. x. 10; in Jos. iv. 1). The passages which give his views most fully are in Joh. xxxii. § 16; in Matt. xi. § 14; in Matt. Comm. Ser. §§ 85 f.; Hom. in Gen. xvii. 8; in Ex. xiii. § 3; in Lev. ix. 10; in Num. xvi. 9. Cf. c. Cels. viii. 33, 57; Hom. in Jud. vi. 2; Hom. ii. in Ps. xxxvii. 6; Sel. in Ps. p. 365 L. The ruling thought of his interpretation is suggested by John vi.: "corpus Dei Verbi aut sanguis quid aliud esse potest nisi verbum quod nutrit et verbum quod laetificat?" (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 85); "bibere autem dicimur sanguinem Christi non solum sacramentorum ritu sed et cum sermones ejus recipimus in quibus vita consistit, sicut et ipse dicit, Verba quae locutus sum spiritus et vita est" (Hom. in Num. xvi. § 9; cf. xxiii. § 6). The passage which is often quoted to shew "a presence of Christ in the sacrament extra usum," indicates nothing more than the reverence which naturally belongs to the consecrated elements ("consecratum munus," Hom. in Ex. xiii. 3). The kiss of peace was still given "at the time of the mysteries" (in Cant. i. p. 331 L.) "after prayers" (in Rom. x. § 33); and the love-feast (Ἀγάπη) was sufficiently notorious for Celsus to attack it (c. Cels. i. 1) ; but the practice of "feet-washing," if it ever prevailed, was now obsolete (in Joh. xxxii. § 7; Hom. in Is. vi. § 3). His use of Jas. v. 14, in Hom in Lev. ii. 4, does not give any support, as has been affirmed, to the practice of extreme unction.
The treatise On Prayer gives a vivid picture of the mode and attitude of prayer. It was usual to turn to the east (de Orat. 31; Hom. in Num. v. § 1). Standing and kneeling are both recognized (de Orat. l.c.; Hom. in Num. xi. § 9; cf. in Sam. Hom. i. § 9). Forms of prayer were used (Hom. in Jer. xiv. § 14) and prayers made in the vernacular language of each country (c. Cels. viii. 31).
Origen frequently refers to confession as made to men and not to God only (Hom. in Luc. xvii.; de Orat. 28; Hom. ii, in Ps. xxxvii. § 6); and reckons penitence completed by such confession to a "priest of the Lord" as one of the modes for forgiveness of sins (Hom. ii. in Lev. § 4). He speaks of public confession (ἐξομολόγησις) to God as efficacious (Hom. i. in Ps. xxxvi. § 5), a form of penitence to be adopted after wise advice (ib. xxxvii. § 6); and he supposes that the efficacy of "the power of the keys" depends upon the character of those who exercise it (in Matt. t. xii. § 14). Discipline was enforced by exclusion from common prayer (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 89); and for more serious offences penitence was admitted once only (Hom. in Lev. xv. § 2). Cf. also what is said on "sin unto death" (ib. xi. 2). Those who had offended grievously after baptism were looked upon as incapable of holding office (c. Cels. iii. 51).
The threefold ministry is treated as universally recognized; and Origen speaks of presbyters as priests, and deacons as Levites (Hom. in Jer. xii. 3). The people were to be present at the ordination of priests (Hom. in Lev. vii. 3) and he recognizes emphatically the priesthood of all Christians who "have been anointed with the sacred chrism" (ib. ix. 9; cf. Hom. in Num. v. 3; in Jos. vii. 2; cf. Exh. ad Martyr. 30). Widows are spoken of as 787having a definite place in the church organization (Hom. in Is. vi. § 3; Hom. in Luc. xvii.), yet not apparently combined in any order (in Rom. x. §§ 17, 20).
As yet no absolute rule existed as to the celibacy of the clergy. Origen himself was inclined to support it by his own judgment (Hom. in Lev. vi. § 6). "No bishop, however, or presbyter or deacon or widow could marry a second time" (Hom. in Luc. xvii.): such Origen held to be in a second class, not "of the church without spot" (l.c.; but cf. note on I. Cor. vii. 8). It was a sign of the difficulties of the time that some "rulers of the church" allowed a woman to marry again while her husband (presumably a Gentile who had abandoned her) was still living (in Matt. t. xiv. § 23). Origen's own example and feeling were strongly in favour of a strict and continent life (cf. c. Cels. vii. 48; Hom. in Gen. v. 4), while he condemns false asceticism (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 10). He enforces the duty of systematic almsgiving (ib. § 61); and maintains that the law of offering the firstfruits to God, that is to the priests, is one of the Mosaic precepts which is of perpetual obligation (Hom. in Num. xi. 1; c. Cels. viii. 34). Usury is forbidden (Hom. iii. in Ps. xxxvi. § 11). The rule as to food laid down in Acts xv. 29 was still observed (in Rom. ii. § 13, p. 128 L; c. Cels. viii. 30).
The reverence of Christian burial is noticed (Hom. in Lev. iii. § 3; c. Cels. viii. 30). Military service Origen thinks unlawful for Christians (c. Cels. v. 33, viii. 73), though he seems to admit exceptions (ib. iv. 82).
ORIGEN AS CRITIC AND INTERPRETER.—Origen regarded the Bible as the source and rule of truth (Hom. in Jer. i. § 7). Christ is "the Truth," and they who are sure of this seek spiritual knowledge from His very words and teaching alone, given not only during His earthly presence, but through Moses and the prophets (de Princ. Praef. 1). The necessary points of doctrine were, Origen held, comprised by the apostles in a simple creed handed down by tradition (ib. ii.), but the fuller exhibition of the mysteries of the gospel was to be sought from the Scriptures. He made no sharp division between O. and N. T. They must be treated as one body, and we must be careful not to mar the unity of the spirit which exists throughout (in Joh. x. 13; cf. de Princ. ii. 4). The divinity of the O.T. is indeed first seen through Christ (de Princ. iv. 1, 6).
(1) The Canon of Scripture.—In fixing the contents of the collection of sacred books Origen shews some indecision. In regard to O.T. he found a serious difference between the Hebrew canon and the books commonly found in the Alexandrine Greek Bible. In his Comm. on Ps. i. he gives a list of the canonical books (αἱ ἐνδιάθηκοι βίβλοι) according to the tradition of the Hebrews, 22 in number (ap. Eus. H. E. vi. 25). In the enumeration the Book of the Twelve (minor) Prophets is omitted by the error of Eusebius or of his transcriber, for it is necessary to make up the number; and the "Letter" (Baruch vi.) is added to Jeremiah, because (apparently) it occupied that position in Origen's copy of the LXX., for there is no evidence that it was ever included in the Hebrew Bible. The Books of the Maccabees, which (I. Macc.) bore a Hebrew title, were not included (ἔξω τούτων ἐστί). But while Origen thus gives a primary place to the books of the Hebrew Canon, he expressly defends, in his letter to Africanus, the use of the additions found in the Alexandrine LXX. (cf. p. 122). He was unwilling to sacrifice anything sanctioned by custom and tending to edification. His own practice reflects this double view. He never, so far as we know, publicly expounded any apocryphal books of O.T., while he habitually quotes them as having authority, though he frequently notes that their authority was challenged. He quotes the Book of Enoch (c. Cels. v. 55; de Princ. iv. 35; Hom. in Num. xxviii. 2), the Prayer of Joseph (in Joh. ii. 25, εἴ τις προσίεται), the Assumption of Moses (Hom. in Jos. ii. 1), and the Ascension of Isaiah (ib.; de Princ. iii. 2, 1; cf. in Matt. t. x. 18) ; and it is probably to books of this class that his interesting remarks on "apocryphal" books in Prol. in Cant. p. 325 L. refer.
How far Origen was from any clear view of the history of O.T. may be inferred from the importance he assigns to the tradition of Ezra's restoration of their text from memory after the Babylonian captivity (Sel. in Jer. xi. p. 5 L.; Sel. in Ps. id. p. 371).
His testimony to the contents of N.T. is more decided. He notices the books which were generally acknowledged as possessing unquestionable authority: the Four Gospels [the Acts107107Not specially mentioned, but Origen's usage is decisive as to the position he assigned to it. The tacit omission well illustrates the danger of trusting to negative evidence.], I. Peter, I. John, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul. To these he adds the Apocalypse, for he seems to have been unacquainted with its absence from the Syrian Canon (ap. Eus. H. E. vi. 25). In another passage, preserved only in the Latin trans. of Rufinus (Hom. in Jer. vii. 1), he enumerates all the books of the received N.T., without addition or omission, as the trumpets by which the walls of the spiritual Jericho are to be overthrown (the Four Gospels, I. and II. Peter, James, Jude, the Epistles and Apocalypse of St. John, the Acts by St. Luke, fourteen Epistles of St. Paul). This enumeration, though it cannot be received without reserve, may represent his popular teaching. In isolated notices he speaks of the disputed books as received by some but not by all (Hebrews; ap. Eus. H. E. vi. 25; Ep. ad Afric. § 9; James; in Joh. xix. 6; II. Peter; Hom. in Lev. iv. 4; Jude; in Matt. t. x. 17, xvii. 30); and he apparently limited doctrinal authority to the acknowledged books (Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 28).
Origen quotes frequently and with the greatest respect the Shepherd of Hermas (e.g. de Princ. i. 3, 3, iv. 11; in Matt. t. xiv. § 21; in Rom. x. 31, p. 437 L.).108108The statement of Tarinus (Philoc. p. 683) that Origen wrote a commentary on the Shepherd is a false deduction from the word διηγούμεθα (ib. i. p. 22, 11). He quotes or refers to the Ep. (i.) of Clement, "a disciple of the apostles" (de Princ. ii. 3, 6; in Joh. t. vi. 36; Sel. in Ex. viii. 3); "the Catholic Ep. of Barnabas" (c. Cels. i. 63; de Princ. iii. 2, 4; cf. Comm. in Rom. i. § 18), the Gospel according to the Hebrews (in Joh. t. ii. 6, 788ἐὰν προσίεταί τις; Hom. in Jer. xv. 4; in Matt. t. xv. 14, Vet. int. Lat.; cf. Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 2), the Gospels "according to the Egyptians," and "according to the XII. Apostles," "according to Thomas," and "after Matthias" (Hom. i in Luc., "Ecclesia quatuor habet evangelia, haeresis plurima, a quibus . . .," the Gospel according to Peter, the Book of James (in Matt. x. 17, τοῦ ἐπιγεγραμμένου κατὰ Πέτρον εὐαγγελίου ἢ τῆς βίβλου Ἰακώβου), Peter's Preaching (in Joh. xiii. 17; de Princ. Praef. 8, Petri doctrina), the Acts of Paul (in Joh. xx. 12; de Princ. i. 2, 3), the Clementines (Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 77; in Gen. iii. § 14, αἱ περίοδοι), some form of the Acts of Pilate (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 122), the Testaments of the XII. Patriarchs (in Joh. xv. 6), the Teaching of the Apostles (?) (Hom. in Lev. xi. 2).
Sayings attributed to the Lord are given in Matt. t. xiii. § 2, xvi. § 28 (Sel. in Ps. p. 432 L and de Orat. §§ 2, 14, 16; cf. Matt. vi. 33), xvii. § 31; in Jos. iv. 3. A few traditions are preserved: in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 126 (Adam buried on Calvary); ib. § 25 (death of the father of John Baptist) ; c. Cels. i. 51 (the cave and manger at Bethlehem); ib. vi. 75 (the appearance of Christ); Hom. in Ezech. i. 4 (the baptism of Christ in January).
Anonymous quotations occur, Hom. in Luc. xxxv.; Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 61; Hom. in Ezech. i. 5; in Rom. ix. § 2.
(2) The Text.—Origen had very little of the critical spirit, in the modern acceptation of the phrase. This is especially seen in his treatment of Biblical texts. His importance for textual criticism is that of a witness and not of a judge. He gives invaluable evidence as to what he found, but his few endeavours to determine what is right, in a conflict of authorities, are for the most part unsuccessful both in method and result. Generally, however, he makes no attempt to decide on the one right reading. He would accept all the conflicting readings as contributing to edification. Even his great labours on the Greek translations of O.T. were not directed rigorously to the definite end of determining the authentic text, but mainly to recording the extent and character of the variations. He then left his readers to use their own judgment.
This want of a definite critical aim is more decisively shewn in his treatment of N.T. Few variations are more remarkable than those in Heb. ii. 9: χάριτι θεοῦ and χωρὶς θεοῦ. Origen was acquainted with both, and apparently wholly undesirous to choose between them; both gave a good sense and that was a sufficient reason for using both (in Joh. t. i. 40: εἴτε δὲ χωρὶς θεοῦ . . . εἴτε χάριτι . . . ib. xxviii. 14: the Latin of Comm. in Rom. iii. § 8, v. § 7, sine Deo, is of no authority for Origen's judgment).
His importance as a witness to the true text of N.T. is, nevertheless, invaluable. Notwithstanding the late date and scantiness of the MSS. in which his Greek writings have been preserved, and the general untrustworthiness of the Latin translations in points of textual detail, it would be possible to determine a pure text of a great part of N.T. from his writings alone (cf. Griesbach, Symb. Crit. t. ii.). In some respects his want of a critical spirit makes his testimony of greater value than if he had followed consistently an independent judgment. He reproduces the characteristic readings which he found, and thus his testimony is carried back to an earlier date. At different times he used copies exhibiting different complexions of text; so that his writings reflect the variations faithfully. But great care is required in using the evidence which Origen's quotations furnish. He frequently quotes from memory; combines texts; and sometimes gives repeatedly a reading which he can hardly have found in any MS. (e.g. I. John iii. 8, γεγέννηται). Illustrations of this perplexing laxity occur in Hom. in Jer. i. 15 (Matt. iii. 12, xiii. 39) ib. iv. 2, v. 1 (Acts xiii. 26, 46; ib. iv. 4 (Luke xviii. 12); ib. v. 1 (Tit. iii. 5 f.).
(3) Interpretation.—Origen has been spoken of as the founder of a new form of literature in Biblical interpretation, and justly; though others, conspicuously Heracleon, preceded him in expositions of Scripture more or less continuous. Origen constantly refers to previous interpretors, esp. to Heracleon.
Origen's method of interpreting Scripture was a practical deduction from his view of the inspiration of Scripture. This he developed in the treatise On First Principles, bk. iv. He regarded every "jot and tittle" as having its proper work (Hom. in Jer. xxxix. fr. ep. Philoc. c. x.). All is precious; not even the least particle is void of force (in Matt. t. xvi. 12). Cf. Ep. ad Greg. § 3; in Joh. t. i. § 4. Minute details of order and number veil and yet suggest great thoughts (e.g. Sel. in Pss. xi. 370, 377 L). It follows that in interpretation there is need of great exactness and care (in Gen. t. iii. p. 46 L.; Philoc. xiv.) and scrupulous study of details (in Joh. xx. 29). Origen illustrates his principles by countless subtle observations of great interest. His skill in combining passages from different parts of Scripture in illustration of some particular phrase or detail is specially noticeable. Each term calls up far-reaching associations; and all Scripture is made to contribute to the fullness of the thought to be expressed.
Though Origen's critical knowledge of Hebrew was slight, he evidently learnt much from Hebrew interpreters and not unfrequently quotes Hebrew traditions and "Midrash." He gives also an interpretation of "Corban" (in Matt. t. xi. 9) and of "Iscariot" (in Matt. Comm. Ser. 78) from Jewish sources.
To obviate the moral and historical difficulties of O.T. he systematized the theory of a "spiritual sense," which was generally if vaguely admitted by the church (de Princ. 1, Praef. 8). There is, he taught, generally, a threefold meaning in the text of the Bible, literal (historical), moral, mystical, corresponding to the three elements in man's constitution, body, soul, and spirit (de Princ. iv. 11; Hom. in Lev. v. §§ 1, 5). Thus Scripture has a different force for different ages and different readers, according to their circumstances and capacities (in Rom. ii. § 14, p. 150 L.). But all find in it what they need.
This threefold sense is to be sought both in O. and N. T. The literal interpretation brings out the simple precept or fact; the moral meets the individual want of each 789believer; the mystical illuminates features in the whole work of Redemption (Hom. in Lev. i. §§ 4 f., ii. § 4; de Princ. iv. 12, 13, 22). There is then manifold instruction for all believers in the precise statement, the definition of practical duties, the revelation of the divine plan, which the teacher must endeavour to bring out in his examination of the text. Origen steadily kept this object in view.
It is easy to point out serious errors in detail in his interpretation of Scripture. On these there is no need to dwell. His main defect and the real source of his minor faults was his lack of true historic feeling. For him prophecy ceased to have any vital connexion with the trials and struggles of a people of God; and psalms (e.g. Ps. l.) were no longer the voice of a believer's deepest personal experience. In this Origen presents, though in a modified form, many of the characteristic defects of Rabbinic interpretation. He may have been directly influenced by the masters of Jewish exegesis. Just as they claimed for Abraham the complete fulfilment of the Law, and made the patriarchs perfect types of legal righteousness, Origen refused to see in the Pentateuch any signs of inferior religious knowledge or attainment. He deemed the patriarchs and prophets as wise by God's gifts as the apostles (in Joh. vi. 3); and the deepest mysteries of Christian revelation could be directly illustrated from their lives and words (ib. ii. 28), though sometimes he seems to feel the difficulties of this position (ib. xiii. 46; cf. c. Cels. vii. 4 ff.).
While this grave defect is distinctly acknowledged, it must be remembered that Origen had a special work to do, and did it. In his time powerful schools of Christian speculation disparaged the O.T. or rejected it. Christian masters had not yet been able to vindicate it from the Jews and for themselves. This task Origen accomplished. From his day the O.T. has been a part of our Christian heritage, and he fixed rightly the general spirit in which it is to be received. The O.T., he says, is always new to Christians who understand and expound it spiritually and in an evangelic sense, new not in time but in interpretation (Hom. in Num. ix. § 4; cf. c. Cels. ii. 4). If in pressing this he was led to exaggeration, the error may be pardoned in regard to the greatness of the service.
His method was fixed and consistent. He systematized what was before tentative and inconstant (cf. Redepenning, de Princ. pp. 56 f.). He laid down, once for all, broad outlines of interpretation; and mystical meanings were not arbitrarily devised to meet particular emergencies. The influence of his views is a sufficient testimony to their power. It is not too much to say that the medieval interpretation of Scripture in the West was inspired by Origen; and through secondary channels these medieval comments have passed into our own literature.
He was indeed right in principle. "He felt that there was something more than a mere form in the Bible; he felt that 'the words of God' must have an eternal significance, for all that comes into relation with God is eternal; he felt that there is a true development and a real growth in the elements of divine revelation, if not in divine communication, yet in human apprehension; he felt the power and the glory of the spirit of Scripture bursting forth from every part." No labour was too great to bestow upon the text in which priceless treasures were enshrined; no hope too lofty for the interpreter to cherish.
ORIGEN AS A THEOLOGIAN.—Origen was essentially the theologian of an age of transition. His writings present principles, ruling ideas, tendencies, but are not fitted to supply materials for a system of formulated dogmas, after the type of later confessions. Every endeavour to arrange his opinions according to the schemes of the 16th cent. can only issue in a misunderstanding of their general scope and proportion. The whole structure of his treatise On First Principles, e.g., presents a connected view of his intellectual apprehension of Christianity, widely different from medieval and modern expositions of the faith. Starting from a clear and deeply interesting exposition of what were acknowledged to be the doctrines held generally by the church, corresponding in the main with the Apostles' Creed (de Princ. Praef.), Origen endeavours to determine, by the help of Scripture and reason, subjects yet unexplored. But his inquiries and results cannot be judged fairly when taken out of their connexion with contemporary thought. The book contains very little technical teaching. It is silent as to the sacraments; it gives no theory of the atonement, no discussion of justification; yet deals with problems of thought and life which lie behind these subjects.
Origen found himself face to face with powerful schools which, within and without the church, maintained antagonistic views on man, the world, and God, in their extremest forms. There was the false realism, which found expression in Montanism; the false idealism, which spread widely in the many forms of Gnosticism. Here the Creator was degraded into a secondary place; there God Himself was lost in His works. Some represented men as inherently good or bad from their birth; others swept away moral distinctions of action. Origen sought to maintain two great truths: the unity of all creation, as answering to the thought of a Creator infinitely good and infinitely just; and the power of moral determination in rational beings. The treatment and apprehension of these truths are modified by the actual fact of sin. The power of moral determination has issued in present disorder; the divine unity of creation has to be realized hereafter.
(1) Finite Beings, Creation, Man, Spirits.—Origen endeavours to pass from the outward to the inward, from the temporal to the eternal. He thinks that we shall best realize the fact of creation, according to our present powers, by supposing a vast succession of orders, one springing out of another (de Princ. ii. 1, 3). The present order, which began and will end in time, must be one only in the succession of corresponding orders (ib. iii. 5, 3). "In the beginning," then, he writes, "when God created what He was pleased to create, that is rational natures, He had no other cause of creation beside Himself, that is His own goodness" (ib. ii. 9, 6; cf. iv. 35). This 790creation answered to a definite thought, and therefore, Origen argues, was definite itself. God "could" not create or embrace in thought that which has no limit (ib. ii. fragm. Gr. 6; ii. 9, 1; iv. fragm. Gr. 4). The rational creatures He made were all originally equal, spiritual, free. But moral freedom, including personal self-determination, led to difference. Finite creatures, once made, either advanced, through imitation of God, or fell away, through neglect of Him (ib. ii. 9, 6).
Evil, it follows, is negative—the loss of good which was attainable, the shadow which marks the absence or rather the exclusion of light. But as God made creatures for an end, so He provided that they should, through whatever discipline of sorrow, attain it. He made matter also, which might serve as a fitting expression for their character, and become, in the most manifold form, a medium for their training. So it was that, by various declensions, "spirit" (πνεῦμα) lost its proper fire and was chilled into a "soul" (ψυξή), and "souls" were embodied in our earthly frames in this world of sense. Such an embodiment was a provision of divine wisdom which enabled them, in accord with the necessities of the fact, to move towards the accomplishment of their destiny (ib. i. 7, 4).
Under this aspect man is a microcosm. (Hom. in Gen. i. 11; in Lev. v. 2: intellige te et alium mundum esse parvum et intra te esse solem, esse lunam, etiam stellas.) He stands in the closest connexion with the seen and the unseen; and is himself the witness of the correspondences which exist between visible and invisible orders (Hom. in Num. xi. 4, xvii. 4, xxiv. 1, xxviii. 2; Hom. i. in Ps. xxxvii. 1; in Joh. t. xix. 5, xxiii. 4; de Princ. iv. fragm. Gr. p. 184 R.). He is made for the spiritual and cannot find rest elsewhere.
As a necessary consequence of his deep view of man's divine kinsmanship, Origen labours to give distinctness to the unseen world. He appears already to live and move in it. He finds there the realities of which the phenomena of earth are shadows (cf. in Rom. x. § 39). External objects, peoples, cities, are to him veils and symbols of invisible things; and not only is there the closest correspondence between the constitution of different orders of being, but also even now a continuation of unobserved intercourse between them (cf. de Princ. ii. 9, 3). Angels (ib. i. 8, iii. 2, passim) preside over the working of elemental forces, over plants and beasts (in Num. Hom. xiv. 2; in Jer. Hom. x. 6; c. Cels. viii. 31; de Princ. iii. 3, 3), and it is suggested that nature is affected by their moral condition (in Ezech. Hom. iv. 2). More particularly men were, in Origen's opinion, committed to the care of spiritual "rulers," and deeply influenced by changes in their feeling and character (in Joh. xiii. § 58; cf. de Princ. i. 8, 1). Thus he recognized guardian angels of cities, provinces and nations (Hom. in Luc. xii.; de Princ. iii. 3, 2), a belief which he supported habitually by the LXX version of Deut. xxxii. 8 ( in Matt. t. xi. § 16; in Luc. Hom. xxxv.; in Rom. viii. § 8; in Gen. Hom. xvi. 2; in Ex. Hom. viii. 2; in Ezech. Hom. xiii. 1 f., etc.). Individual men also had their guardian angels (in Matt. t. xiii. 27; in Luc. Hom. xxxv.; in Num. Hom. xi. 4, xx. 3; in Ezech. Hom. i. 7; in Jud. vi. 2 de Princ. iii. 2, 4); and angels in the assemblies of Christians assisted the devotions of the faithful (de Orat. xxxi. p. 283 L.; Hom. in Luc. xxiii.; c. Cels. viii. 64). But while Origen recognizes most fully the reality and power of angelic ministration, he expressly condemns all angel-worship (c. Cels. v. 4, 11).
On the other hand, there are spiritual hosts of evil corresponding to the angelic forces and in conflict with them (in Matt. t. xvii. 2; in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 102; Hom. in Jos. xv. 5) He even speaks of a Trinity of evil (in Matt. xi. § 6, xii. § 20). An evil power strives with the good for the sway of individuals (in Rom. i. § 18); thus all life is made a struggle of unseen powers (e.g. notes on Ps. xxxvii.; in Joh. xx. §§ 29, 32; Hom xx. in Jos. Fragm.)
One aspect of this belief had a constant and powerful influence on daily life. Origen, like most of his contemporaries, supposed that evil spiritual beings were the objects of heathen worship (c. Cels. vii. 5). There was, for him, a terrible reality in their agency. Within certain limits they could work so as to bind their servants to them.
Origen believed also that the dead, too, influenced the living. The actions of men on earth last, in their effects, after the actors have departed (in Rom. ii. 4, p. 80 L.). Disembodied (or unembodied) souls are not idle (in Matt. xv. 35). So the "soul" of Christ preached to "souls" (c. Cels. iii. 43); and the saints sympathize with man still struggling on earth with a sympathy larger than that of those who are clogged by conditions of mortality (de Orat. xi.; in Matt. t. xxvii. 30; in Joh. t. xiii. 57; iii. in Cant. 7).
Without extenuating the effects of man's sin, Origen maintained a lofty view of the nobility of his nature and destiny (c. Cels. iv. 25, 30); held that the world had been made by divine wisdom a fitting place for the purification of a being such as man (de Princ. ii. 1, 1; 2, 2: 3, 1; c. Cels. vi. 44; cf. in Rom. viii. 10, p. 261); and that everything has been so ordered by Providence from the first as to contribute to this end (de Princ. ii. 1, 2). Man can, if he will, read the lesson of his life: he has a spiritual faculty, by which he can form conclusions on spiritual things, even as he is made to form conclusions on impressions of sense. The body, so to speak, reflects the soul; the "outer man" expresses the "inner man" (in Rom. ii. 13, p. 142 L.). There is imposed upon us the duty of service (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 66), and the offices are many (in Joh. t. x. 23), room being made even for the meanest (Hom. in Num. xiv. 2, p. 162 L.).
The visible creation thus bears, in all its parts, the impress of a divine purpose; and the Incarnation was the crowning of the creation, by which the purpose was made fully known, and provision made for its accomplishment (de Princ. iii. 5, 6).
(2) The Incarnation. The Person of Christ. The Holy Trinity. The Work of Christ.—On no subject is Origen more full or suggestive (de Princ. i. 2; ii. 6; iv. 31). No one perhaps has done so much to vindicate and harmonize the fullest acknowledgment of the perfect humanity of the Lord and of His perfect divinity in one Person. His famous image of 791the "glowing iron" (ib. ii. 6, 6) made an epoch in Christology. Here and there his language is liable to misconception, or even proved erroneous by later investigations, but he laid down outlines of the faith, on the basis of Scripture, which remain unshaken. He maintained the true and perfect manhood of Christ, subject to the conditions of natural growth, against all forms of Docetism; and, on the other hand, the true and perfect divinity of the" God-Word" (θεὸς λόγος), so united with "the man Christ Jesus" through the human soul as to be one person, against all forms of Ebionism and Patripassionism (ib. ii. 6, 3).
His doctrine of the Incarnation of the God-Word rests in part upon his doctrine of the Godhead. "All," he held, "who are born again unto salvation have need of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and would not obtain salvation unless the Trinity were entire" (ib. i. 3, 5). Hence he speaks of baptism as "the beginning and fountain of divine gifts to him who offers himself to the divinity of the power of the invocations of the adorable Trinity" (τῶν τῆς προσκυνητῆς τριάδος ἐπικλήσεων) (in Joh. vi. 17). But there is, in his judgment, a difference in the extent of the action of the Persons in the Holy Trinity. The Father, "holding all things together, reaches (φθάνει) to each being, imparting being to each from that which is His own, for He is absolutely (ὢν γὰρ ἔστιν). The Son is less than the Father (ἐλάττων παρὰ τ. π.), reaching only to rational beings, for He is second to the Father; and, further, the Holy Spirit is less (ἧττοϖ), and extends (διικνούμενον) to the saints only. So that in this respect (κατὰ τοῦτο) the power of the Father is greater in comparison with (παρά) the Son and the Holy Spirit; and that of the Son more in comparison with the Holy Spirit; and, again, the power of the Holy Spirit more exceeding (διαφέρουσα μᾶλλον) in comparison with all other holy beings." To rightly understand this passage it is necessary to observe that Origen is not speaking of the essence of the Persons of the Godhead, but of their manifestation to creatures (cf. de Princ. i. 3, 7). Essentially the three Persons are of one Godhead, and eternal. The subordination which Origen teaches is not of essence but of person and office. His aim is to realize the Father as the one Fountain of Godhead, while vindicating true deity for the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this respect he worked out first the thought of "the eternal generation" of the Son, which was accepted from him by the Catholic church as the truest human expression of one side of the mystery of the essential Trinity.
The peculiar connexion which Origen recognizes between the Son (the God-Word) and rational beings establishes (so to speak the fitness of the Incarnation. The Son stood in a certain affinity with rational souls; and the human soul with which He was united in the Incarnation had alone remained absolutely pure, by the exercise of free choice, in its pre-existence (ib. ii. 6, 5). Through this union all human nature was capable of being glorified, without violating its characteristic limitations (cf. c. Cels. iii. 41 f.). The body of Christ was perfect no less than His soul (ib. i. 32 f.).
The work of Christ was, Origen emphatically maintained, for all men and for the whole of man (cf. ib. iii. 17; iv. 3 f.). It was therefore so revealed that it could be apprehended according to the several powers and wants of believers (in Matt. t. xii. 36, 41, xv. 241, xvii. 19; c. Cels. iv. 15, vi. 68; in Joh. ii. 12). Christ became, in a transcendent sense, "all things to all men" (de Princ. iv. 31; in Joh. t. xix. 1, xx. 28; Cf. c. Cels. iii. 79).
Origen thus insists on the efficacy of Christ's work for the consummation of humanity and of the individual, as a victory over every power of evil. He dwells no less earnestly upon the value of the life and death of Christ as a vicarious sacrifice for sin. He seeks illustrations of the general idea of the power of vicarious sufferings in Gentile stories of self-sacrifice (c. Cels. i. 31), and extends it to the case of martyrs (Exh. ad Mart. c. 42; Cf. in Joh. t. vi. 36; xxviii. 14). Though he does not attempt to explain how the sacrifice of Christ was efficacious, he frequently presents it as a ransom given to redeem man from Satan, to whom sin had made man a debtor. Christ, in His own person, freely paid the debt, by bearing the utmost punishment of sin, and so set man free, "giving His soul (ψυχή) as a ransom for him" (in Matt. t. xvi. 8; in Rom. ii. 13, p. 140 L.; Comm. Ser. in Matt. § 135). At other times he regards it as a propitiation for the divine remission of sins (Hom. in Num. xxiv. 1; in Lev. i. 3; cf. c. Cels. vii. 17).
Origen held that the death of Christ was of avail for heavenly beings, if not for the expiation of sin yet for advancement in blessedness (Hom. in Lev. i. 3, ii. 3; in Rom. v. s. f., p. 409 L.; ib. i. 4; Hom. in Luc. x.). Thus in a true sense angels themselves were disciples of Christ (in Matt. t. xv. 7). At times indeed Origen speaks as if he supposed that the Word was actually manifested to other orders of being in a manner corresponding to their nature, even as He was revealed as soul to the souls in Hades (Sel. in Ps. iii. 5, xi. p. 420 L.). In this sense also he thinks that "He became all things to all," an angel to angels (in Joh. t. i. 34); and he does not shrink from allowing that His passion may be made available, perhaps in some other shape, in the spiritual world (de Princ. iv. frag. Gr. 2; Cf. iv. 25, L.).
The work of the Holy Spirit, according to Origen, is fulfilled in believers. His office is specially to guide to the fuller truth, which is the inspiration of nobler life. Through Him revelation comes home to men. He lays open the deeper meanings of the word. Through Him, "Who proceeds from the Father," all things are sanctified (de Princ. iii. 5, 8). Through Him every divine gift, wrought by the Father and ministered by the Son, gains its individual efficiency (in Joh. t. ii. 6). Thus there is a unity in the divine operations, which tends to establish a unity in created beings. (For the doctrine of the Holy Spirit generally see de Princ. i. 3, iii. 7; in Joh. t. ii. 6.)
(3) The Consummation of Being.—These characteristic lines of speculation lead to Origen's view of the consummation of things. All human thought must fail in the endeavour to give distinctness to a conception which ought to embrace the ideas of perfect rest and perfect 792life. Origen's opinions are further embarrassed by the constant confusion which arises from the intermingling of ideas which belong to the close of the present order (αἰών) and the close of all things. It is again impossible to see clearly how the inalienable freedom of rational beings, which, originally led to the Fall, can be so disciplined as to bring them at last to perfect harmony. This, however, Origen holds; and though he is unable to realize the form of future purification, through which souls left unpurified by earthly existence will be cleansed hereafter, he clings to the belief that "the end must be like the beginning" (de Princ. i. 6, 2), a perfect unity in God. From this he excludes no rational creature. The evil spirits which fell have not lost that spirit by which they are akin to God, which in its essence is inaccessible to evil (in Joh. xxxii. 11, ἀνεπίδεκτον τῶν χειρόνων τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου), though it can be overgrown and overpowered (cf. de Princ. i. 8, 3). And, on the other hand, freedom remains even when perfect rest has been reached, and in this Origen appears to find the possibility of future declensions (ib. ii. 3, 3, frag. Gr. ii. 2). Whether matter, the medium through which rational freedom finds expression (ib. iv. 35), will at last cease to be, or be infinitely spiritualized, he leaves undetermined. The question is beyond man's powers (ib. i. 6, 4; ii. 2; ii. 3, 3; iii. 6, 1), though man cannot but ponder upon it (ib. i. 6, 1 f.; iii. 4, 5 s. f.). So he presents, in imaginary outlines, the picture of the soul's progress through various scenes of chastisement or illumination (ib. i. 6, 3; iii. 6, 6; iii. 5, 6 ff., and Redepenning's note), till he can rest in the thought of a restoration in which law and freedom, justice and love, are brought to a perfect harmony (cf. de Orat. § 27, p. 227 L.). This thought assists Origen in forming a theory of future punishments. All future punishments exactly answer to individual sinfulness (in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 16), and, like those on earth, are directed to the amendment of the sufferers (c. Cels. iv. 10; Hom. in Ezech. v. 1). Lighter offences can be chastised on earth; the heavier remain to be visited hereafter (Hom. in Lev. xiv. 4). In every case the uttermost farthing must be paid, though final deliverance is promised (in Rom. v. 2 f.). Origen looked forward to a fiery ordeal, through which men should pass in the world to come. Every one already baptized with water and Spirit would, he thought, if he needed cleansing, be baptized by the Lord Jesus in a river of fire, and so purified enter into paradise (Hom. in Luc. xxiv.). In this sense also he looked forward to a (spiritual) conflagration of the world, by which all beings in need of such discipline should be at once chastised and healed (c. Cels. v. 15; cf. iv. 13).
On the other hand, since the future state is the direct fruit of this, there are, so Origen held, varieties of blessedness in heaven (in Rom. iv. 12), corresponding to the life of saints (ib. ix. 3, p. 303), and foreshadowed by the divisions of Israel (Hom. in Num. i. 3; xxviii. 2; Hom. in Jos. xxv. 4). Speaking generally, the believer after death enters a state of fuller knowledge and loftier progress de Princ. ii. 11, 6). The resurrection of the body completes the full transfiguration, without loss, of all that belongs to his true self; and he begins a nobler development of body and soul—moral, intellectual, spiritual—by which he is brought nearer to the throne of God (cf. ib. i. 3, 8; in Matt. Comm. Ser. § 51; Hom. i. in Ps. xxxviii. § 8). The relationships of earth come to an end (in Matt. t. xvii. 33: on this point Origen is not consistent). The visible ceases, and men enjoy the eternal, for which now they hope (in Rom. vii. 5). Thus human interest is removed from the present earth to its heavenly antitype. It is probably due to this peculiarity of his teaching that Origen nowhere dwells on the doctrine of Christ's return, which occupies a large place in most schemes of Christian belief. The coming of Christ in glory is treated as the spiritual revelation of His true nature (de Princ. iv. 25), though Origen says that he by no means rejects "the second presence (ἐπιδημία) of the Son of God more simply understood" (in Matt. t. xii. 30).
CHARACTERISTICS.—It cannot be surprising that Origen failed to give a consistent and harmonious embodiment to his speculations. His writings represent an aspiration rather than a system, principles of research and hope rather than determined formulas; and his enthusiasm continually mars the proportion of his work. His theorizing needs the discipline of active life, without which there can be no real appreciation of history or of the historical development of truth. Yet even in regard to the practical apprehension of the divine education of the world it is only necessary to compare him on one side with Philo and on the other with Augustine, to feel how his grasp of the significance of the Incarnation gave him a sovereign power to understand the meaning and destiny of life.
While ready to fully acknowledge the claims of reason (cf. Hom. in Luc. i. p. 88 L.), Origen lays stress on the new data given by revelation to the solution of the problems of philosophy (de Princ. i. 5, 4). He points out repeatedly the insufficiency of reason, of the independent faculties of man, to attain that towards which it is turned. Reason enables man to recognize God when He makes Himself known, to receive a revelation from Him in virtue of his affinity with the Divine Word, but it does not enable the creature to derive from within the longed-for knowledge. The capacity for knowing God belongs to man as man, and not to man as a philosopher. Origen therefore acknowledges the nobility of Plato's saying that "it is a hard matter to find out the Maker and Father of the Universe, and impossible for one who has found Him to declare Him to all men." But he adds that Plato affirms too much and too little (c. Cels. vii. 43). As Christians "we declare that human nature is not in itself competent in any way to seek God and find Him purely without the help of Him Who is sought, of Him Who is found by those who confess after they have done all in their power that they have yet need of Him. . ." (cf. Clem. Al. Cohort. § 6).
In the endeavour to fashion a Philosophy of Christianity Origen did not practically recognize the limits and imperfection of the human mind which he constantly points out. His 793gravest errors are attempts to solve the insoluble. The question of the origin of the soul, e.g., is still beset by the difficulties Origen sought to meet, but they are ignored. So too with regard to his speculations on an endless succession of worlds. Thought must break down soon in the attempt to co-ordinate the finite and the infinite. But with whatever errors in detail, Origen laid down the true lines on which the Christian apologist must defend the faith against Polytheism, Judaism, Gnosticism, Materialism. These forms of opinion, without the church and within, were living powers of threatening proportions in his age, and he vindicated the Gospel against them as the one absolute revelation, prepared through the discipline of Israel, historical in its form, spiritual in its destiny; and the principles which he affirmed and strove to illustrate have a present value. They are fitted to correct the Africanism which, since Augustine, has dominated Western theology; and they anticipate many difficulties which have become prominent in later times. In the face of existing controversies, it is invigorating to feel that, when as yet no necessity forced upon him the consideration of the problems now most frequently discussed, a Christian teacher, the master and friend of saints, taught the moral continuity and destination of all being, interpreted the sorrows and sadnesses of the world as part of a vast scheme of purificatory chastisement, found in Holy Scripture not the letter only but a living voice eloquent with spiritual mysteries, made the love of truth, in all its amplitude and depth, the right and end of rational beings, and reckoned the fuller insight into the mysteries of nature one of the joys of a future state.
Such thoughts bring Origen himself before us. Of the traits of his personal character little need be said. He bore unmerited sufferings without a murmur. He lived only to work. He combined in a signal degree sympathy with zeal. As a controversialist he sought to win his adversary, not simply to silence him (cf. Eus. H. E. vi. 33). He had the boldest confidence in the truth he held and the tenderest humility as to his own weakness (in Joh. t. xxxii. 18; in Matt. t. xvi. 13). When he ventures freely in the field of interpretations, he asks the support of the prayers of his hearers. His faith was catholic, and therefore he welcomed every kind of knowledge as tributary to its fullness. It was living, and therefore he knew that no age could seal any one expression of it as complete. This open-hearted trust kept unchilled to the last the passionate devotion of his youth. He was therefore enabled to leave to the church the conviction, attested by a life of martyrdom, that all things are its heritage because all things are Christ's.
EDITIONS.—Through the labours of the great Benedictines of St. Maur the first two vols. of a complete edition of Origen (Origenis opera omnia quae Graece vel Latine tantum extant et ejus nomine circumferuntur) appeared at Paris in 1733, under the editorship of Charles Delarue, a priest of that society. Vol. iii. appeared at Paris in 1740, a few months after the death of the editor (Oct. 1739), who left, however, vol. iv. to the care of his nephew C. V. Delarue, who was not able to issue it till 1759. The service the two Delarues rendered was great; but their edition is very far from satisfying the requirements of scholarship. The collations of MSS. are fragmentary and even inaccurate; the text is only partially revised; the notes are inadequate. Later edd., particularly that of Lommatsch, have added little. This is the more to be regretted, as large additions have been, and are being, made to the Origenian fragments. These materials have been either wholly neglected or only partially used in the latest edd.; and practically nothing has been done to improve or illustrate the text. Migne's reprint of Delarue, in his Patr. Gk. t. xi.–xvii. (Paris, 1857), has the additions from Galland, most of those from Mai, and one fragment from Cramer as a supplement. An ed. of the Philosophumena (e codice Parisino), ed. by E. Miller, is pub. by the Clar. Press. A new ed. of Origen's works is now being pub. in the Berlin collection of early eccl. Gk. writers; Origen's Werke, i.–ii. von P. Koetshau (Leipz. 1899), vol. iii. ed. by Klostermann, and vol. iv. ed. by Preuschen (Berlin, 1903). A trans. of the de Principiis, the books against Celsus and the letters, with a life of Origen, is in 2 vols. of the Ante-Nicene Lib. of the Fathers.
|« Optatus, bp. of Milevis||Origenes, known as Origen||Orosius, Paulus »|