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- Unless otherwise stated, quotations cited from Frederick Crombie (trans.) The Writings of Origen (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1869-72), to which page numbers also refer.
On First Principles
- Having refuted, then, as well as we could, every notion which might suggest that we were to think of God as in any degree corporeal, we go on to say that, according to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured. For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be.
- On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 1; par. 5
- That is properly termed everlasting or eternal which neither had a beginning of existence, nor can ever cease to be what it is. And this is the idea conveyed by John when he says that God is light. Now His wisdom is the splendour of that light, not only in respect of its being light, but also of being everlasting light, so that His wisdom is eternal and everlasting splendour. If this be fully understood, it clearly shows that the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself.
- On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 2; par. 11
- In this way, then, by the renewal of the ceaseless working of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in us, in its various stages of progress, shall we be able at some future time perhaps, although with difficulty, to behold the holy and the blessed life, in which (as it is only after many struggles that we are able to reach it) we ought so to continue, that no satiety of that blessedness should ever seize us; but the more we perceive its blessedness, the more should be increased and intensified within us the longing for the same, while we ever more eagerly and freely receive and hold fast the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But if satiety should ever take hold of any one of those who stand on the highest and perfect summit of attainment, I do not think that such an one would suddenly be deposed from his position and fall away, but that he must decline gradually and little by little, so that it may sometimes happen that if a brief lapsus take place, and the individual quickly repent and return to himself, he may not utterly fall away, but may retrace his steps, and return to his former place, and again make good that which had been lost by his negligence.
- On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 3; par. 8
- Every being which is endowed with reason, and transgresses its statutes and limitations, is undoubtedly involved in sin by swerving from rectitude and justice.
- On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 5; vol. 1, p. 45.
- An end or consummation would seem to be an indication of the perfection and completion of things. ... These subjects, indeed, are treated by us with great solicitude and caution, in the manner rather of an investigation and discussion, than in that of fixed and certain decision. ... We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued. For thus says holy Scripture, “The LORD said to My Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1) And if the meaning of the prophet’s language here be less clear, we may ascertain it from the Apostle Paul, who speaks more openly, thus: “For Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.” (1 Cor 15:25) But if even that unreserved declaration of the apostle do not sufficiently inform us what is meant by “enemies being placed under His feet,” listen to what he says in the following words, “For all things must be put under Him.” (1 Cor 15:27) What, then, is this “putting under” by which all things must be made subject to Christ? I am of opinion that it is this very subjection by which we also wish to be subject to Him, by which the apostles also were subject, and all the saints who have been followers of Christ. For the name “subjection,” by which we are subject to Christ, indicates that the salvation which proceeds from Him belongs to His subjects, agreeably to the declaration of David, “Shall not my soul be subject unto God? From Him cometh my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1)
- On First Principles, Bk. 1, ch. 6; par. 1
- As the eye naturally seeks the light and vision, and our body naturally desires food and drink, so our mind is possessed with a becoming and natural desire to become acquainted with the truth of God and the causes of things.
- On First Principles, Bk. 2, ch. 11; vol. 1, p. 148
- But since, if the usefulness of the legislation, and the sequence and beauty of the history, were universally evident of itself, we should not believe that any other thing could be understood in the Scriptures save what was obvious, the word of God has arranged that certain stumbling-blocks, as it were, and offences, and impossibilities, should be introduced into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not, through being drawn away in all directions by the merely attractive nature of the language, either altogether fall away from the (true) doctrines, as learning nothing worthy of God, or, by not departing from the letter, come to the knowledge of nothing more divine.
- On First Principles, Bk. 4, ch. 2, par. 15
- [W]ho that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally. Cain also, when going forth from the presence of God, certainly appears to thoughtful men as likely to lead the reader to inquire what is the presence of God, and what is the meaning of going out from Him. ...
- On First Principles, Bk. 4, ch. 2, par 16
- The reason why all those we have mentioned hold false opinions and make impious or ignorant assertions about God appears to be nothing else but this, that scripture is not understood in its spiritual sense, but is interpreted according to the bare letter.
- “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, § 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 69
- As for the apostolic epistles, what person who is skilled in literary interpretation would think them to be plain and easily understood, when even in them there are thousands of passages that provide, as it through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of the deepest thoughts?
- “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, § 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 69
- One must therefore portray the meaning of the sacred writings in a threefold way upon one's own soul, so that the simple person may be edified by what we may call the flesh of the scripture, this name being given to the obvious interpretation; while the one who has made some progress may be edified by its soul, as it were; and the one who is perfect and like those mentioned by the apostle: "We speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the world unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:6-7)--this one may be edified by the spiritual law, which has "a shadow of the good things to come" (cf. Rom. 7:14). For just as the human being consists of body, soul and spirit, so in the same way does the scripture, which has been prepared by God to be given for humanity's salvation.
- “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 70
- When, therefore, as will be clear to those who read, the passage as a connected whole is literally impossible, whereas the outstanding part of it is not impossible but even true, the reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all. For our contention with regard to the whole of divine scripture is that it all has a spiritual meaning, but not all a bodily meaning; for the bodily meaning is often proved to be an impossibility.
- “How divine scripture should be interpreted,” On First Principles, book 4, chapter 2, Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 75
- full text online: Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
- The first point which Celsus brings forward, in his desire to throw discredit upon Christianity, is, that the Christians entered into secret associations with each other contrary to law, saying, that “of associations some are public, and that these are in accordance with the laws; others, again, secret, and maintained in violation of the laws.” And his wish is to bring into disrepute what are termed the “love-feasts” of the Christians, as if they had their origin in the common danger, and were more binding than any oaths. Since, then, he babbles about the public law, alleging that the associations of the Christians are in violation of it, we have to reply, that if a man were placed among Scythians, whose laws were unholy, and having no opportunity of escape, were compelled to live among them, such an one would with good reason, for the sake of the law of truth, which the Scythians would regard as wickedness, enter into associations contrary to their laws, with those like-minded with himself; so, if truth is to decide, the laws of the heathens which relate to images, and an atheistical polytheism, are “Scythian” laws, or more impious even than these, if there be any such. It is not irrational, then, to form associations in opposition to existing laws, if done for the sake of the truth. For as those persons would do well who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant who had seized upon the liberties of a state, so Christians also, when tyrannized over by him who is called the devil, and by falsehood, form leagues contrary to the laws of the devil, against his power, and for the safety of those others whom they may succeed in persuading to revolt from a government which is, as it were, “Scythian,” and despotic.
- And he asserts that certain persons who do not wish either to give or receive a reason for their belief, keep repeating, "Do not examine, but believe!" and, "Your faith will save you!" And he alleges that such also say, "The wisdom of this life is bad, but that foolishness is a good thing!" To which we have to answer, that if it were possible for all to leave the business of life, and devote themselves to philosophy, no other method ought to be adopted by any one, but this alone. For in the Christian system also it will be found that there is, not to speak at all arrogantly, at least as much of investigation into articles of belief, and of explanation of dark sayings, occurring in the prophetical writings, and of the parables in the Gospels, and of countless other things, which either were narrated or enacted with a symbolic signification, (as is the case with other systems). But since the course alluded to is impossible, partly on account of the necessities of life, partly on account of the weakness of men, as only a very few individuals devote themselves earnestly to study, what better method could be devised with a view of assisting the multitude, than that which was delivered by Jesus to the heathen?
- After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated.
- And if the Egyptians related fables of this kind, they are believed to convey a philosophical meaning by their enigmas and mysteries; but if Moses compose and leave behind him histories and laws for an entire nation, they are to be considered as empty fables, the language of which admits of no allegorical meaning!
- But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that “when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera;” and let us see whether those who have blindly concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera, and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to overturn His miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost: for they could have falsified the history in a different manner, on account of its extremely miraculous character, and not have admitted, as it were against their will, that Jesus was born of no ordinary human marriage. It was to be expected, indeed, that those who would not believe the miraculous birth of Jesus would invent some falsehood. And their not doing this in a credible manner, but (their) preserving the fact that it was not by Joseph that the Virgin conceived Jesus, rendered the falsehood very palpable to those who can understand and detect such inventions. Is it at all agreeable to reason, that he who dared to do so much for the human race, in order that, as far as in him lay, all the Greeks and Barbarians, who were looking for divine condemnation, might depart from evil, and regulate their entire conduct in a manner pleasing to the Creator of the world, should not have had a miraculous birth, but one the vilest and most disgraceful of all? And I will ask of them as Greeks, and particularly of Celsus, who either holds or not the sentiments of Plato, and at any rate quotes them, whether He who sends souls down into the bodies of men, degraded Him who was to dare such mighty acts, and to teach so many men, and to reform so many from the mass of wickedness in the world, to a birth more disgraceful than any other, and did not rather introduce Him into the world through a lawful marriage? Or is it not more in conformity with reason, that every soul, for certain mysterious reasons (I speak now according to the opinion of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Empedocles, whom Celsus frequently names), is introduced into a body, and introduced according to its deserts and former actions? It is probable, therefore, that this soul also, which conferred more benefit by its residence in the flesh than that of many men (to avoid prejudice, I do not say “all”), stood in need of a body not only superior to others, but invested with all excellent qualities.
- For example, no one could easily persuade an Egyptian to despise what he had learned from his fathers, so as no longer to consider this or that irrational animal as a god, or not to guard against eating, even under the penalty of death, of the flesh of such an animal.
- And Jesus Himself, in raising the minds of His disciples to higher thoughts of the Son of God, says: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of you.” (Matt. xviii. 20) And of the same nature is His promise to His disciples: “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 20) And we quote these passages, making no distinction between the Son of God and Jesus. For the soul and body of Jesus formed, after the οἰκονομία , one being with the Logos of God. Now if, according to Paul’s teaching, “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit,” (I Co vi. 17) every one who understands what being joined to the Lord is, and who has been actually joined to Him, is one spirit with the Lord; how should not that being be one in a far greater and more divine degree, which was once united with the Logos of God?
- But Christians alone, according to the prediction of their Saviour, “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake,” are urged up to their last breath by their judges to deny Christianity, and to sacrifice according to the public customs; and after the oath of abjuration, to return to their homes, and to live in safety. And observe whether it is not with great authority that this declaration is uttered: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father who is in heaven. And whosoever shall deny Me before men,” etc. And go back with me in thought to Jesus when He uttered these words, and see His predictions not yet accomplished. Perhaps you will say, in a spirit of incredulity, that he is talking folly, and speaking to no purpose, for his words will have no fulfilment; or, being in doubt about assenting to his words, you will say, that if these predictions be fulfilled, and the doctrine of Jesus be established, so that governors and kings think of destroying those who acknowledge Jesus, then we shall believe that he utters these prophecies as one who has received great power from God to implant this doctrine among the human race, and as believing that it will prevail. And who will not be filled with wonder, when he goes back in thought to Him who then taught and said, “This Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles,” and beholds, agreeably to His words, the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in the whole world under heaven to Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish alike? For the word, spoken with power, has gained the mastery over men of all sorts of nature, and it is impossible to see any race of men which has escaped accepting the teaching of Jesus.
- In like manner, as the statement is false "that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion," so also is this, "that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers;" for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defense of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors.
- [Celsus] next imagines that, “in worshipping him who,” as he says, “was taken prisoner and put to death, we are acting like the Getæ who worship Zamolxis, and the Cilicians who worship Mopsus, and the Acarnanians who pay divine honours to Amphilochus, and like the Thebans who do the same to Amphiaraus, and the Lebadians to Trophonius.” Now in these instances we shall prove that he has compared us to the foregoing without good grounds. For these different tribes erected temples and statues to those individuals above enumerated, whereas we have refrained from offering to the Divinity honour by any such means (seeing they are adapted rather to demons, which are somehow fixed in a certain place which they prefer to any other, or which take up their dwelling, as it were, after being removed (from one place to another) by certain rites and incantations), and are lost in reverential wonder at Jesus, who has recalled our minds from all sensible things, as being not only corruptible, but destined to corruption, and elevated them to honour the God who is over all with prayers and a righteous life, which we offer to Him as being intermediate between the nature of the uncreated and that of all created things, and who bestows upon us the benefits which come from the Father, and who as High Priest conveys our prayers to the supreme God.
- But if in these matters any one were to imagine that it is superstition rather than wickedness which appears in the multitude of those who believe the word, and should charge our doctrine with making men superstitious, we shall answer him by saying that, as a certain legislator replied to the question of one who asked him whether he had enacted for his citizens the best laws, that he had not given them absolutely the best, but the best which they were capable of receiving; so it might be said by the Father of the Christian doctrine, I have given the best laws and instruction for the improvement of morals of which the many were capable, not threatening sinners with imaginary labours and chastisements, but with such as are real, and necessary to be applied for the correction of those who offer resistance, although they do not at all understand the object of him who inflicts the punishment, nor the effect of the labours. For the doctrine of punishment is both attended with utility, and is agreeable to truth, and is stated in obscure terms with advantage. Moreover, as for the most part it is not the wicked whom the ambassadors of Christianity gain over, neither do we insult God. For we speak regarding Him both what is true, and what appears to be clear to the multitude, but not so clear to them as it is to those few who investigate the truths of the Gospel in a philosophical manner.
- But will not those narratives [concerning Christ], especially when they are understood in their proper sense, appear far more worthy of respect than the story that Dionysus was deceived by the Titans, and expelled from the throne of Jupiter, and torn in pieces by them, and his remains being afterwards put together again, he returned as it were once more to life, and ascended to heaven? Or are the Greeks at liberty to refer such stories to the doctrine of the soul, and to interpret them figuratively, while the door of a consistent explanation, and one everywhere in accord and harmony with the writings of the Divine Spirit, who had His abode in pure souls, is closed against us?
- Will they who subdue that fierce longing for sexual pleasures which has reduced the souls of many to a weak and feeble condition, and who subdue it because they are persuaded that they cannot otherwise have communion with God, unless they ascend to Him through the exercise of temperance, appear to you to be the brothers of worms, and relatives of ants, and to bear a likeness to frogs?
- But as, in what follows, Celsus, not understanding that the language of Scripture regarding God is adapted to an anthropopathic point of view, ridicules those passages which speak of words of anger addressed to the ungodly, and of threatenings directed against sinners, we have to say that, as we ourselves, when talking with very young children, do not aim at exerting our own power of eloquence, but, adapting ourselves to the weakness of our charge, both say and do those things which may appear to us useful for the correction and improvement of the children as children, so the word of God appears to have dealt with the history, making the capacity of the hearers, and the benefit which they were to receive, the standard of the appropriateness of its announcements (regarding Him).
- It is manifest, further, that the language used regarding the wrath of God is to be understood figuratively from what is related of His “sleep,” from which, as if awaking Him, the prophet says: “Awake, why sleepest Thou, Lord?” and again: “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.”
- From this view it necessarily follows, that when, after the lapse of a lengthened cycle, the planets come to occupy towards each other the same relations which they occupied in the time of Socrates, Socrates will again be born of the same parents, and suffer the same treatment, being accused by Anytus and Melitus, and condemned by the Council of Areopagus! The learned among the Egyptians, moreover, hold similar views, and yet they are treated with respect, and do not incur the ridicule of Celsus and such as he; while we, who maintain that all things are administered by God in proportion to the relation of the free-will of each individual, and are ever being brought into a better condition, so far as they admit of being so, and who know that the nature of our free-will admits of the occurrence of contingent events (for it is incapable of receiving the wholly unchangeable character of God), yet do not appear to say anything worthy of a testing examination.
- And therefore, so far as we are concerned, the followers of Pythagoras, who abstain from all things that contain life may do as they please; only observe the different reason for abstaining from things that have life on the part of the Pythagoreans and our ascetics. For the former abstain on account of the fable about the transmigration of souls, as the poet says:—“And some one, lifting up his beloved son,Will slay him after prayer; O how foolish he!”We, however, when we do abstain, do so because “we keep under our body, and bring it into subjection,” (Cf. I Co. ix. 27) and desire “to mortify our members that are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence;” (Cf. Col. iii. 5) and we use every effort to “mortify the deeds of the flesh.” (Cf. Rom viii. 13)
- And, further, who else could the destroying angel mentioned in the Exodus of Moses (Cf. Exo. xii. 23) be, than he who was the author of destruction to them that obeyed him, and did not withstand his wicked deeds, nor struggle against them? Moreover (the goat), which in the book of Leviticus (Cf. Lev. xvi. 8) is sent away (into the wilderness), and which in the Hebrew language is named Azazel, was none other than this; and it was necessary to send it away into the desert, and to treat it as an expiatory sacrifice, because on it the lot fell. For all who belong to the “worse” part, on account of their wickedness, being opposed to those who are God’s heritage, are deserted by God.
- Nor is it at all wonderful if we maintain that the soul of Jesus is made one with so great a Son of God through the highest union with Him, being no longer in a state of separation from Him. For the sacred language of holy Scripture knows of other things also, which, although “dual” in their own nature, are considered to be, and really are, “one” in respect to one another. It is said of husband and wife, “They are no longer twain, but one flesh;” (Cf. Gen. ii. 24) and of the perfect man, and of him who is joined to the true Lord, Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, that “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” (Cf. I Co. vi. 17) And if he who “is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” who has been joined to the Lord, the Very Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, in a more intimate union, or even in a manner at all approaching to it than the soul of Jesus? And if this be so, then the soul of Jesus and God the Word—the first-born of every creature—are no longer two, (but one).
- For not one of us asserts that “God partakes of form or colour.” Nor does He even partake of “motion,” because He stands firm, and His nature is permanent, and He invites the righteous man also to do the same, saying: “But as for thee, stand thou here by Me.” And if certain expressions indicate a kind of motion, as it were, on His part, such as this, “They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” we must understand them in this way, that it is by sinners that God is understood as moving, or as we understand the “sleep” of God, which is taken in a figurative sense, or His “anger,” or any other similar attribute. But “God does not partake even of substance.”
- In answer to this, we would say that all those indeed sit in darkness, and are rooted in it, who fix their gaze upon the evil handiwork of painters, and moulders and sculptors, and who will not look upwards, and ascend in thought from all visible and sensible things, to the Creator of all things, who is light; while, on the other hand, every one is in light who has followed the radiance of the Word, who has shown in consequence of what ignorance, and impiety, and want of knowledge of divine things these objects were worshipped instead of God, and who has conducted the soul of him who desires to be saved towards the uncreated God, who is over all.
- There was no need that there should everywhere exist many bodies, and many spirits like Jesus, in order that the whole world of men might be enlightened by the Word of God. For the one Word was enough, having arisen as the "Sun of righteousness (Mal. iv. 2)," to send forth from Judea His coming rays into the soul of all who were willing to receive Him. But if any one desires to see many bodies filled with a divine Spirit, similar to the one Christ, ministering to the salvation of men everywhere, let him take note of those who teach the gospel of Jesus in all lands in soundness of doctrine and uprightness of life, and who are themselves termed "christs" by the Holy Scriptures, in the passage, "Touch not mine anointed, and do not my prophets any harm." For as we have heard that Antichrist cometh, and yet have learned that there are many antichrists in the world, in the same way, knowing that Christ has come, we see that, owing to Him, there are many christs in the world, who, like Him, have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore God, the God of Christ, anointed them also with the "oil of gladness." But inasmuch as He loved righteousness and hated iniquity above those who were His partners, He also obtained the first-fruits of His anointing, and, if we must so term it, the entire unction of the oil of gladness ; while they who were His partners shared also in His unction, in proportion to their individual capacity.
- He who honours the Son, who is the Word and Reason, acts in nowise contrary to reason, and gains for himself great good; he who honours Him, who is the Truth, becomes better by honouring truth: and this we may say of honouring wisdom, righteousness, and all the other names by which the sacred Scriptures are wont to designate the Son of God.
- But the majority of those who are accounted believers are not of this advanced class; but from being either unable or unwilling to keep every day in this manner, they require some sensible memorials to prevent spiritual things from passing altogether away from their minds.
- Here I would observe that I cannot see how those whom he speaks of as abstaining from certain victims, in accordance with the traditions of their fathers, are consequently bound to abstain from the flesh of all animals. We do not indeed deny that the divine word does seem to command something similar to this, when to raise us to a higher and purer life it says, “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak;” (Rom. xiv. 21) and again, “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died;”(Rom. xiv. 15) and again, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”(I Co. viii. 13)
- And it may not be amiss, as bearing on this point, to recall a beautiful saying in the writings of Sextus, which is known to most Christians: “The eating of animals,” says he, “is a matter of indifference; but to abstain from them is more agreeable to reason.”
Quotes about Origen
- [W]e were pierced by his argumentation as with an arrow from the very first occasion of our hearing him (for he was possessed of a rare combination of a certain sweet grace and persuasiveness, along with a strange power of constraint) ... Moreover, the stimulus of friendship was also brought to bear upon us — a stimulus, indeed, not easily withstood, but keen and most effective — the argument of a kind and affectionate disposition, which showed itself benignantly in his words when he spoke to us and associated with us. For he did not aim merely at getting round us by any kind of reasoning; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy, and most especially also in those other gifts which the Deity has bestowed on him above most men, or, as we may perhaps say, above all men of our own time. I mean the power that teaches us piety, the word of salvation, that comes to many, and subdues to itself all whom it visits ... And thus, like some spark lighting upon our inmost soul, love was kindled and burst into flame within us — a love at once to the Holy Word, the most lovely object of all, who attracts all irresistibly toward Himself by His unutterable beauty, and to this man, His friend and advocate. And being most mightily smitten by this love, I was persuaded to give up all those objects or pursuits which seem to us befitting, and among others even my boasted jurisprudence — yea, my very fatherland and friends, both those who were present with me then, and those from whom I had parted. And in my estimation there arose but one object dear and worth desire — to wit, philosophy, and that master of philosophy, this inspired man. ... I shall not speak of him as a perfect pattern, but as one who vehemently desires to imitate the perfect pattern, and strives after it with zeal and earnestness, even beyond the capacity of men, if I may so express myself; and who labours, moreover, also to make us, who are so different, of like character with himself, not mere masters and apprehenders of the bald doctrines concerning the impulses of the soul, but masters and apprehenders of these impulses themselves.
- St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origen, Argument 6.&11.
- Concerning the everlasting co-existence of the Word with the Father, and that He is not of another essence or subsistence, but proper to the Father's, as the Bishops in the Council said, you may hear again from the labour-loving Origen also. For what he has written as if inquiring and by way of exercise, that let no one take as expressive of his own sentiments, but of parties who are contending in investigation, but what he definitely declares, that is the sentiment of the labour-loving man. After his prolusions then (so to speak) against the heretics, straightway he introduces his personal belief...
- [H]e was a teacher of the churches second only to the Apostles.
- I find among many bad things written by Origen the following most distinctly heretical: that the Son of God is a creature, that the Holy Spirit is a servant: that there are innumerable worlds, succeeding one another in eternal ages: that angels have been turned into human souls; that the soul of the Saviour existed before it was born of Mary, and that it is this soul which being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied itself and took the form of a servant; that the resurrection of our bodies will be such that we shall not have the same members, since, when the functions of the members cease they will become superfluous: and that our bodies themselves will grow aërial and spirit-like, and gradually vanish and disperse into thin air and into nothing: that in the restitution of all things, when the fullness of forgiveness will have been reached, Cherubim and Seraphim, Thrones, Principalities, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels and Angels, the devil, the demons and the souls of men whether Christians, Jews or Heathen, will be of one condition and degree; and when they have come to their true form and weight, and the new army of the whole race returning from the exile of the world presents a mass of rational creatures with all their dregs left behind, then will begin a new world from a new origin, and other bodies in which the souls who fall from heaven will be clothed; so that we may have to fear that we who are now men may afterwards be born women, and one who is now a virgin may chance then to be a prostitute.
- St. Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus, Book II, sec. 12
- [Epiphanius] assembled those of the bishops who were then in the capital, and producing his copy of the synodical decree condemnatory of Origen's works, recited it before them; not being able to assign any reason for this judgment, than that it seemed fit to Theophilus and himself to reject them. Some indeed from a reverential respect for Epiphanius subscribed the decree; but many refused to do so among whom was Theotimus bishop of Scythia, who thus addressed Epiphanius:— 'I neither choose, Epiphanius,' said he, 'to insult the memory of one who ended his life piously long ago; nor dare I be guilty of so impious an act, as that of condemning what our predecessors did not reject: and especially when I know of no evil doctrine contained in Origen's books.' Having said this, he brought forward one of that author's works, and reading a few passages therefrom, showed that the sentiments propounded were in perfect accordance with the orthodox faith. He then added, 'Those who speak evil of these writings are unconsciously casting dishonor upon the sacred volume whence their principles are drawn.' Such was the reply which Theotimus, a bishop celebrated for his piety and rectitude of life, made to Epiphanius.
- Domitian of Galatia, formerly bishop of Ancyra... in the book which he wrote to Vigilius, where he is complaining of those who contradicted the doctrine of Origen,--who maintained that the souls of men had pre-existed in some state of blessedness before they came into bodies, and that all those who were doomed to the eternal punishment should, together with the devil and his angels, be restored to their former state of blessedness,--he says, They have hastily run out to anathematize most holy and glorious teachers on account of those doctrines which have been advanced concerning pre-existence and restitution; and this indeed under pretext of Origen, but thereby anathematizing all those saints who were before and have been after him.
- The great Athanasius of Alexandria approved Origen and Theognostus in many points of doctrine, Titus of Bostra does the same, and the theologian Gregory in his letters calls Origen "friend of beauty and goodness," and he of Nyssa brings him to remembrance with praise. But also Dionysius of Alexandria praises him in a letter addressed to him, as well as in a second letter, after Origen's death, to Theotecnus, bishop of Caesarea. And Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem and martyr, likewise in a letter to Origen, becomes most friendly.
- If Clement represented an important step in the absorption of philosophy into Christian theology, his star pupil, Origen, was antiquity's greatest proponent of the Alexandrian approach to interpreting the Bible (i.e. heavy on allegory and symbolism). Like Clement, Origen is remembered by posterity with contention: he is not recognized as a saint by either the Catholic or Orthodox churches. But he was absolutely the most prolific Christian writer of the ancient world; it is a pity that of his more than two thousand estimated works, only a handful survive in their entirety. Origen was widely known, read, and absorbed by his contemporaries. One commentator has written that of all the early church figures, Origen "exerted an influence on Christian thought, exceeded perhaps by no one except the apostle Paul himself."
- Later interpreters throughout the centuries have had a difficult time knowing what to make or Origen's theology. The vast majority of his work conforms to what Irenaeus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr had set down, but his illustrious career is clouded by elements of his theology that many have suggested stray from biblical orthodoxy. From the outset, Origen was not a Gnostic who believed in more than one divine being, or that there existed a secret tradition of Christian knowledge that only some believers could obtain. He believed in adhering to the tradition of the apostles, writing "Nothing which is at variance with the tradition of the apostles, and of the church is to be accepted as true." Origen also emphasized the necessity of interpreting Scripture literally and allegorically but, like Clement, might have read his own ideas too strong into the text (we might today accuse Origen today of "confirmation bias"—favoring information that confirms his own preconceived beliefs). Consequently, Origen developed two points of theology in particular that indicate a departure from what the church had traditionally taught. The first is his belief in the preexistence of souls, a point that may seem minor, but which contradicts the creation narrative told in the book of Genesis. The second was his speculative belief in an eternal cycle of spiritual rebellion and restoration, which culminated in an eternal universal salvation. This eternal cycle narrative had roots in the Platonic tradition, and later philosophers who rejected Christianity, but still respected the man as an intellectual power, attacked him for mixing Greek and Christian teachings: "in his life conducting himself as a Christian and contrary to the laws, but in his opinions of material things and of the Deity being like a Greek, and mingling Grecian teachings with foreign fables."
- Origen, who had belonged to the Alexandrian school of Platonists, declares that Moses, besides the teachings of the covenant, communicated some very important secrets "from the hidden depths of the law" to the seventy elders. These he enjoined them to impart only to persons whom they found worthy. (p. 27)
Those of the early Christian Fathers who like Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, were well versed in Pagan symbology, having begun their careers as philosophers... could not deny the anticipation of their doctrines in the oldest myths. (p. 328)
Origen held all the daemons which possessed the demoniacs mentioned in the New Testament to be human "spirits." (p. 387)
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled Vol. I, (1877)
- Origen writes that the Brahmans were always famous for the wonderful cures which they performed by certain words; and in our own age we find Orioli, a learned corresponding member of the French Institute, corroborating the statement of Origen in the third century, and that of Leonard de Vair of the sixteenth, in which the latter wrote:
"There are also persons, who upon pronouncing a certain sentence--a charm, walk bare-footed on red, burning coals, and on the points of sharp knives stuck in the ground; and, once poised on them, on one toe, they will lift up in the air a heavy man or any other burden of considerable weight. They will tame wild horses likewise, and the most furious bulls, with a single word." (Leonard de Vair," 1. ii., ch. ii.; "La Magie au 19me Siecle," p. 332)
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled Vol. I, (1877) p. 487
- Origen understood it well, having been a pupil of Ammonius Saccas; therefore we see him bravely denying the perpetuity of hell-torments. He maintains that not only men, but even devils (by which term he meant disembodied human sinners), after a certain duration of punishment shall be pardoned and finally restored to heaven. ("De Civit. Dei," I, xxi., c. 17.) In consequence of this and other such heresies Origen was, as a matter of course, exiled. (p. 705)
Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Chalcidius, Methodius, and Maimonides, on the authority of the Targum of Jerusalem, the orthodox and greatest authority of the Jews, held that the first two words in the book of Genesis--B-RASIT, mean Wisdom, or the Principle. And that the idea of these words meaning "in the beginning" was never shared but by the profane, who were not allowed to penetrate any deeper into the esoteric sense of the sentence. (p. 727)
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled Vol. II, (1877)
- The lost chord of Christianity is the doctrine of Reincarnation. It was beyond doubt taught in the early days of the cult, for it was well known to the Jews who produced the men who founded Christianity. The greatest of all the Fathers of the Church--Origen--no doubt believed in the doctrine. He taught pre-existence and the wandering of the soul. This could hardly have been believed without also giving currency to reincarnation, as the soul could scarcely wander in any place save the earth. She was in exile from Paradise, and for sins committed had to revolve and wander. Wander where? would be the next question. Certainly away from Paradise, and the short span of human life would not meet the requirements of the case. But a series of reincarnations will meet all the problems of life as well as the necessities of the doctrines of exile, of wanderings for purification, of being known to God and being judged by him before birth, and of other dogmas given out among the Jews and of course well known to Jesus and whoever of the seventy-odd disciples were not in the deepest ignorance
- The Teacher will bridle the unruly ones. The Teacher bids you read the words of Origen. You will begin to understand the transgressions committed by the Church. The ways of Origen’s school will be of guidance for our day.
- It was after the time of Origen’s disciples that the false religion of the priesthood began to spread.
- In the name of Christ great crimes have been committed. Therefore, Christ nowadays clothes Himself in other garments. One must discard all the exaggerations. We are not speaking of slightly embellished works only, as even through the volumes of Origen corrections were slipped in. Therefore, it is time to change conditions in the world.
- A recent Conference of Bishops in the United States proposed to study the works of the great Origen. This is a great step forward, as the studying of Origen may broaden the ecclesiastical framework and its dogmas. We should not forget that the law of Reincarnation was rejected only in the sixth century by the Council of Constantinople. And we are supposed to accept as revelation and dogma the authority of the Fathers of the Church who, with great seriousness, discussed such problems as "How many spirits may be placed on the end of a needle?" or such similar pearls as "Has woman a soul?
- Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich I (17 February 1934)
- It is also urgently necessary to look through and study the works of the great Origen, that true Light of Christianity. His works are now studied by some of the Western clergy in America. These fathers understand that the consciousness of their spiritual flocks requires new nourishment, and that it can no longer be satisfied by the naive ideas which once upon a time perhaps were necessary for the taming of half-savage tribes, newly-converted to Christianity.
- Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich I (2 June 1934)
- Origenes Adamantius, popularly known as Origen, the second-to-third-century Christian philosopher from Alexandria, clearly stated, "We Christians do not become fellow soldiers with the Emperor, even if he presses for this." Christians would be loyal to the emperor, but they would not fight his wars. According to Origen, a Christian might pray for the success of a military state, even pray for the success of a military campaign, but could never participate in the military or in the government of a state that used military power. He did not condemn the military but only believed that it was forbidden for a Christian to participate. Christianity was about the promotion of love, and early Christians believed that love and killing were incompatible. Though no one doubted Origen's sincerity—after all, he had castrated himself in pursuit of personal purity—his was a dangerous position in a militarized state. Like many subsequent states, the Roman Empire was so invested in its military might that it found it difficult to conceive of a loyal citizen who would not participate in the central program—warfare. Origen understood this, since his father had been put to death for beliefs similar to his own. Origen himself, the most influential Christian thinker of his time, author of some 800 works, was imprisoned and tortured and died from his mistreatment shortly after being released, in about A.D. 254.
- Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea (2006), ISBN 9780679643357
- More and more, as the organic world was observed, the vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for their sustenance. ...Origen had dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was six times greater than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it during a hundred years.
- Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) Vol.1 p. 54