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|Birthplace||Probably Alexandria, Egypt|
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See G. W. Butterworth, tr., Origen on First Principles (1936); R. B. Tollinton, tr., Selections from the Commentaries and Homilies of Origen (1929); G. E. Caspary, Politics and Exegesis: Origen and the Two Swords (1979); J. W. Trigg, Origen: The Bible and Philosophy in the Third Century Church (1983).
(Origenes Adamantius). Born circa 185 in Alexandria; died 253 or 254 in Tyre. Christian theologian, philosopher, and scholar. Representative of early patristic theology.
Origen was the son of a Christian who was later executed for his beliefs. In his youth, he taught grammar and rhetoric and studied classical philosophy (according to some sources, at the school of Ammonius Saccas, where Plotinus also studied). In 217, Origen became the head of a Christian school in Alexandria, but in 231 he was censured by the Alexandrian and other churches. He continued to teach at the school of Caesarea in Palestine. During a wave of Christian persecution, Origen was imprisoned and subjected to torture, from which he soon died.
In the works of Origen, Christian thought first attained the high philosophical and scholarly level of the pagan culture of that time. Origen was the author of about 2,000 works. In his critical work on the text of the Bible, he emerged both as heir to the Alexandrian philological tradition and as the founder of exegesis. His lost work Hexapla (“six-columned”) compared the corrected Hebrew original of the Bible with four different Greek translations.
Origen’s philosophy was a stoical Platonism. In order to reconcile this Platonism with his belief in the authority of the Bible, Origen, like Philo Judaeus (Philo of Alexandria) before him, elaborated a doctrine of the three meanings of the Bible: “flesh” (literal meaning), “soul” (moral meaning), and “spirit” (mystical-philosophical meaning). He accorded unqualified preference to the Bible’s spiritual meaning.
Origen interpreted god’s creation of the world as an eternally continuing act: there were other worlds before this world and there will be others after it. Origen’s eschatological optimism was reflected in his doctrine of apocatastasis—that is, independent of their will, all souls and spirits (including the devil) will inevitably attain “salvation,” illumination, and unification with god. This optimism was also evident in his doctrine of the temporary nature of the torments of hell. Origen’s teaching about ascetic self-knowledge and struggle with the passions had a strong influence on the development of monastic mysticism in the fourth through sixth centuries. His system of concepts was widely used in the formulation of church dogma. For example, the term “god-man” is first encountered in his writings.
During the flowering of patristic theology, Origen’s adherents included Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and particularly, Gregory of Nyssa. Other theologians sharply criticized Origen for his “heretical” opinions (for example, the doctrine of apocatastasis) and for his introduction of incompatible theses of classical philosophy (particularly the Platonic teaching of the pre-existence of souls) into Christian dogma.
Origen was declared a heretic in 543 by an edict of the emperor Justinian I. Nonetheless, many medieval thinkers were influenced by his ideas.
WORKSTvoreniia Origena, fasc. 1: O nachalakh. Kazan, 1899.
Protiv Tsel’sa, part 1. Kazan, 1912.
REFERENCESBolotov, V. Uchenie Origena o sv. Troitse. St. Petersburg, 1879.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1940. Pages 390–91.
Völker, W. Das Vollkommenheitsideal des Origenes. Tübingen, 1931.
Daniélou, J. Origène. Paris, 1948.
S. S. AVERINTSEV