Origen was the most influential theologian of the early Greek Church. He was a controversial figure, vehemently defending free will against the Valentinian heresy of pre-determination. He also taught that the Bible is best seen as an allegory and that a literal translation of the Bible must not be adopted, when it would entail anything impossible, absurd, or unworthy of God.

His most famous work is the Hexapla, a synthesis of 6 versions of the Old Testament. He died in the year 254, after surviving imprisonment and torture under the emperor Decius in 250.

  • More information about his life and theology can be found in: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11306b.htm
  • Some parts taken from britannica.com
  • Origen's other main claim to fame is that at the age of eighteen, at what should have been the prime of manhood, he castrated himself. In this, he was influenced by the following passage from the New Testament (Matthew 19:12):

    For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept this.

    From an early age, Origen was keen on standing up for his faith even when he risked martyrdom. One story tells of his lucky escape in Alexandria in 202 AD, when he was just seventeen. His father Leonides had been cast into prison for his religion, and the young Origen wanted to go out after him and share his fate. However, his mother hid his clothes, and he was forced to remain in his house rather than go out naked, thus escaping arrest.

    Leonides was killed, and Origen had to support his family by teaching, selling manuscripts, and through the patronage of an unknown rich woman. He took over the running of the catechetical school in Alexandria, previously run by Clement. At the same time, he completed his education, studying philosophy, especially Plato and the Stoics, and he lived a very frugal and ascetic life.

    From about 211 AD he travelled widely to Rome and through the Middle East, visiting Antioch, Greece and Palestine. However on his return he quarreled with the patriarch of Alexandria, Demetrius (it is said - by Origen's follower and biographer Eusebius - that Demetrius was envious of his influence), and Origen was banished from Egypt in 231 AD. He moved to Palestine, to Caesaria and later Tyre, where he wrote and taught. He was horribly tortured during the persecution instituted by the Roman Emperor Decius in 250 AD, and this left him broken; he died shortly after (exact dates vary).

    Origen produced a vast number of theological works, and was perhaps the most important scholar of the early eastern church. However, Origen appears to exemplify the distrust of sexuality found in many of the Christian church's founding fathers, including such great figures as Saint Paul and Saint Augustine. He cautioned believers that they should not read the Song of Songs, one of the most sensual parts of the Old Testament, until they had lost all their sexual urges. One imagines that he himself felt safe to look at it. His attachment to the concept of martyrdom and his willingness to suffer physical pain and deprivation are also disturbing to the modern perspective.

    In addition to the Hexapla, his other works included the very popular Exhortation to Martyrdom and On Prayers, plus Against Celsus, a critique of the neo-Platonist philosopher Celsus. The main source for information on his life is the writings of Eusebius, his Ecclesiastical History and the Apology for Origen he co-wrote with Pamphilus.


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