Origenism

Doctrines attributed to Origen which later became controversial. Methodius of Olympus* (d.311) rejected most of Origen's speculations, especially his concept of human preexistence and the temporary character of the body, in Symposium and De Resurrectione. Origen was defended by Eusebius of Caesarea* and Pamphilus.* Eustathius* of Antioch (d.336) was another prominent anti-Origenist, but most of his arguments were based on Methodius.

The Nitrian monks of Egypt were strongly Origenist, and one, John, became bishop of Jerusalem. His Origenism was attacked by Epiphanius* of Salamis (c.310-c.403), who included Origenism among heresies enumerated in his On Heresies. Epiphanius persuaded Jerome,* previously an ardent defender of Origen, to become a violent opponent. John, however, refused to condemn Origenism. Jerome attacked Origen's doctrines of the resurrection body, the condition of souls, the devil's ultimate repentance, and the Trinity. Rufinus* of Aquileia, Jerome's friend, continued to support Origen and published a Latin translation of De Principiis (c.397), in which he injudiciously named Jerome's former allegiance to Origen, which Jerome furiously rebutted. Siricius* of Rome supported Rufinus, but his successor Anastasius condemned him. Meantime, the Council of Alexandria (400) had condemned Origenism, and Theophilus* of Alexandria expelled the Origenist monks, “the Tall Brothers,” who found refuge with Chrysostom* in Constantinople.

The fierce disputes of Origenist and orthodox monks for the possession of the monasteries of St. Saba in Palestine led to the emperor Justinian's* famous letter to Mennas of Constantinople in which the “errors” of Origen were anathematized, including the preexistence of souls, the Incarnation, the resurrection body, and Restorationism.* A synod at Constantinople (543) issued an edict giving effect to this condemnation. The Origenists themselves were in two parties: the Protoktistae, who regarded the soul of Christ as not equal to other souls but divine; and the Isochristi, who held that at the final restoration all souls would become like Christ's. The Protoktists made common cause with the orthodox after renouncing the doctrine of preexistence. The fifth general council at Constantinople (553) listed Origen among ancient heretics. All bishops submitted except Alexander of Abila, who was deposed.

For bibliography see under Origen.