Origen

origenes adamantius) (c.185-c.254. Alexandrian theologian. Most of the information about his life is found in the sixth book of Eusebius's* Ecclesiastical History; a panegyric by Gregory Thaumaturgus,* a disciple of Origen; Jerome's* Of Illustrious Men; and in the fragment of an apology written by Eusebius and Pamphilus.* Origen, born in Egypt and raised by Christian parents, studied under Clement* in the Catechetical School in Alexandria. During the persecution of Septimus Severus in 202, his father, Leonidas, was captured and martyred. Origen's wish to die with his father was prevented when his mother hid his clothes. He was able to continue his study after his father's death because of the generosity of a wealthy widow. He became, and remained for twenty-eight years, the head of the Catechetical School while pursuing an ascetic and extremely pious life. In his early manhood he apparently took the passage of Matthew 19:12 literally (cf. KJV) and castrated himself.

While in charge of the school in Alexandria he became famous, and according to Eusebius, thousands came to hear him, including many prominent pagans such as the mother of the emperor Alexander Severus. A wealthy convert allegedly hired secretaries to copy down his lectures and then published them. He studied with the father of Neoplatonic thought, Ammonius Saccas*; he traveled to Rome and heard Hippolytus.* During the persecution of Caracalla in 215, Origen went to Palestine where he was invited to preach by the bishops of Caesarea and Aelia. Bishop Demetrius* of Alexandria was displeased with this invitation to preach, since Origen was still a layman. Consequently Demetrius recalled Origen to Alexandria; Origen then devoted himself to writing. In 230 he was back in Palestine and ordained a priest by the same two bishops who had invited him to come the first time. This time Demetrius declared Origen deposed as a priest, deprived him of his teaching post in Alexandria, and exiled him. The deposition was generally not recognized outside Egypt.

Origen then established a school in Caesarea which became famous. He continued to preach and write. The persecution of Decius in 250 caught him, and he was put in chains and tortured, suffered the experience of the iron collar, was placed in stocks and confined to a dungeon. He did not survive long after this ordeal was over and he was released.

Origen was one of the Greek Fathers of the church. He is considered to be one of the first textual critics of the Bible; one of the first to set forth a systematic statement of the Faith; and one of the first Bible commentators. He was an effective apologist. From his own example and from some of his writings one can find some of the early principles that spawned the monastic movement. The number of his works varies from the 6,000 reported by Epiphanius* to 2,000 reported by Pamphilus to 800 reported by Jerome. Most of the works are lost although fragments survive and some have been discovered recently. His most famous works include the Hexapla-an edition of the OT in Hebrew, Greek, Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint, and Theodotion,* all arranged in six columns. De Principiis is another of his important works, being one of the first systematic theologies. Book 1 of De Principiis deals with the Heavenly Hierarchy of the Father, Word, and Spirit and their relation to earthly beings; book 2 deals with the material world including the place of man, his fall, and his redemption; book 3 deals with the freedom of the will in its struggle with the forces of good and evil; book 4 deals with biblical hermenuetics and the literal, moral, and allegorical interpretation of Scripture. On Prayer was written later in his life and discusses prayer in general and the Lord's Prayer specifically. Here Origen argues prayer is not a petition, but a participation in God's life. Contra Celsus demonstrates that Origen could argue against his opponents using their philosophical grounds to prove the contrary of their position. He was accused of Subordinationism* by Jerome and Epiphanius and condemned by some synods, such as the Synod of Constantinople of 543. Perhaps one should not take these rejections too seriously, since he was the first of the systematic theologians and a seminal thinker.

A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4 (1951); R.P.C. Hanson, Origen's Doctrine of Tradition (1954); H.U. von Balthasar, Parole et mystère chez Origène (1957); H. Crouzel, Origène et la philosophie (1962); G.W. Butterworth (ed.), On First Principles (1966); C.V. Harris, Origen of Alexandria's Interpretation of the Teacher's Function . . . (1966); C. Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria (rep. 1970); R. Farina, Bibliografia origeniana, (1960-1970) (1971).