Categories: Apostolic Fathers
- Origen was born in 184 or 185 CE in Alexandria.
- His full name was Adamantius Origen, meaning "son of Horus."
- Though this was a pagan name, he was the seventh son of Christian parents.
- Nothing is known about his mother, but his father was a Roman citizen, a teacher, and a man of high standing. No doubt, he was Origen's first teacher.
- In 202 CE, his father, Leonides, was arrested and then martyred during the persecution of Septimus Severus.
- Though only seventeen, Origen wanted to join his father in martyrdom, but was restrained by his mother (who hid his clothes so that he could not go outside).
- After his father was killed, the family's assets were confiscated by the Empire.
- For a time, Origen worked in the households of wealthy Christians, but he soon began working as a teacher and was able to support himself and his family.
- In the meantime, he also continued his own studies, working with some of the major Neoplatonists.
- According to legend, he studied with Clement at the theological school in Alexandria, though he does not quote nor agree with many of Clement's teachings.
- Nonetheless, Origen was well versed in Greek philosophy, Gnostic beliefs, and Biblical teachings. Since he was raised in Alexandria, he viewed Greek and Gnostic teachings as an asset in understanding the Bible.
- Origen made many contributions to Christianity. For example, he was the first to put forth a doctrine of purgatory.
- He created a six-column Bible (the Hexapla) with different versions side-by-side. It included the Hebrew and Greek texts, the Septuagint, and Greek translations by Symmachus, Aquila, and Theodotion.
- All modern versions of the Bible are based on his work.
- He was among the most influential in spiritualizing or allegorizing biblical texts.
- He believed that man was divine and all (even the devil) would eventually be saved.
- He did not see the Trinity as three equals, but as a hierarchy with the Father at the head. The Father, then, created both the Holy Spirit and the Christ (in that order).
- He believed that Adam and Eve was a mythical story (i.e. they were not real people), and it was not to be taken literally.
- Not only did he believe in celibacy, but he also felt that the true man of God should be castrated (based on Matthew 19). Scholars believe he castrated himself. He apparently did this to avoid any charges of inappropriateness in his work with women. In writing about him Eusebius would praise Origen for his faith and control, but thought he was young and impulsive. Later on in life, Origen spoke against a literal interpretation of Matthew 19:12.
- He lived a very ascetic life and longed for martyrdom. Yet, he was not martyred, in part, because many pagans valued his ideas.
- He did not believe in physical resurrection of the body.
- His career was defined by several trips. The first (ca 213) was to Rome to "see the ancient Church."
- Next he was invited to Jordan to instruct its governor about Christianity.
- While he was gone, things changed dramatically in Alexandria as the authorities began to persecute Christians. Origen then went to Caesarea.
- The Caesareans were delighted to have such a distinguished scholar in their midst and prevailed upon him to preach.
- Origen preached eloquently, but did not have the authorization to do so because he was not ordained by the Church.
- The bishop of Alexandria ordered him home at once. After this, the Emperor's wife summoned him to Antioch.
- After a short stay in Alexandria, he set out for Greece, but went back to Caesarea. Since the first preaching effort resulted in admonitions from the Alexandrian bishop, the Caesarean bishop took it upon himself to ordain Origen so he would have the credentials to preach.
- The bishop of Alexandria was more than unhappy. He convened several councils to review the matter. Not only was Origen banished from Alexandria, but he was also removed from the priesthood.
- This caused a great rift among the bishops and some of them refused to accept the ruling from Alexandria. Nonetheless, Origen did not return to Alexandria.
- While living in Caesarea, he became an accomplished preacher. Almost 300 sermons have survived the centuries.
- A few years before his death, he was arrested by the authorities and tortured. He remained faithful, but the torture may have hastened his death a few years later.
- He was a prolific writer, but many of his works have been lost. He wrote many commentaries and interpreted all Scripture through the lens of Christ.
- Against Celsus was a major defense of Christianity.
- On First Principles was his attempt to relate Christianity to Neoplatonism. Yet, he believed that "nothing which is at variance with the tradition of the apostles and of the Church can be accepted as true."
- Origen was a big influence upon Eusebius, who took it upon himself to write Origen's biography.
- Origen was buried in Tyre, Phoenicia, where his tomb was known until the Middle Ages.