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However, souls do exist before uniting with the body. This is clearly seen in Christ's manifestation in the Old Testament. If one wants to argue that Christ is the exception, we can still look at Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” What can God be talking about when He says, "before you were born I knew you, set you apart"? unless he is talking about Jeremiah's soul?
So while Origen suggested the possibility of the preexistence of souls, he does note that is is just an opinion and not dogmatic.
Origen’s influence on other Christian writers and theologians is profound and far reaching. In the third and fourth centuries he had disciples everywhere; only the greatest are mentioned by the scholars.1. Theognostus (d. c. 282 A.D) and Pierius (d. c. 309 A.D) the heads of the School of Alexandria, self-consciously continued Origen’s theological and exegetical tradition. Pierius, whose contemporaries knew him as "Origen Junior," educated Pamphilius (c. 2 40-309 A.D) who re-established the Origenist school in Caesarea.2. Origen’s work in the fields of exegesis and mystical theology was continued by St. Didymus the Blind. According to Socrates, St. Didymus wrote a defense and exposition of Origen’s De Principiis, of which nothing is extant. He dared to defend Origen and his work as entirely orthodox. He endeavored to show that Origen had been misunderstood by simple people who could not grasp his ideas. St. Jerome reports that Didymus gave an orthodox interpretation of Origen’s Trinitarian doctrine but accepted without hesitation his other errors regarding the sin of the angels, the pre-existence of souls, the apokatastasis. No wonder then that in the sixth and following centuries he was condemned as a believer in the pre-existence of the soul and in the apokatastasis. In 553 A.D the Chalcedonians anathematized him together with Origen and Evagrius Ponticus for these doctrines in the Council of Constantinople.St. Didymus taught St. Gregory of Nazianzen (329-389 A.D), Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345-410 A.D), and St. Jerome (c. 342-420 A.D), three figures who spread Origen’s influence and preserved his works.3. Pamphilus of Caesarea: Of a noble family of Berytus (Beirut). He is one of Origen’s most enthusiastic followers who received his early training in his native town. He held a public office, and then studied theology in the School of Alexandria under the direction of Pierius, the successor of Origen. He admired Origen exceedingly.He returned to Beirut; then later in Caesarea where Origen had taught in his later years. He desired to re-animate the school founded by Origen, and was there ordained priest by bishop Agapius. His teaching like Origen’s, involved a spiritual and scriptural approach. He restored and developed the library attached to the school and organized a workshop of copyists. Arrested in November 307 A.D, he spent two years in prison and was beheaded in February 310 A.D, under Maximinus Daia.He was the teacher of the first great Church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, who used to call himself "the son of Pamphilus." While imprisoned in Caesarea, Pamphilus wrote with the collaboration of his pupil Eusebius, an Apology for Origen in six books, as a response to charges raised by St. Peter of Alexandria and St. Methodus. Book six was written after his death by Eusebius alone. The first book survived, it was translated into Latin by Rufinus. It defended Origen as orthodox and presented Origen as a model Christian.Pamphilus refutes accusations concerning Origen’s thought on the Trinity, the incarnation, the historicity of Scripture, the resurrection, punishment, the soul and metempsychosis. In the process of defending Origen, Pamphilus affirmed his denial of eternal punishment, therefore the Apology itself was controversial. Pamphilus and Eusebius refuted the accusations made against their hero and defended his views with many passages quoted from his own works. 4. Eusebius of Caesarea in Palestine: Born in Palestine, perhaps at Caesarea, in c. 265 A.D. He was educated in that city. During Diocletian’s persecution, he escaped death by fleeing to Tyre and thence to the Egyptian desert of Thebaid. He was arrested and imprisoned, and by the edict of tolerance of 311 A.D he was able to return to Palestine. Raised to the see of Caesarea in c. 313 A.D, he was involved from the start in the Arian controversy. He sided with Arius, but did not share the more extreme ideas of his doctrine.He is the Father of Ecclesiastical History, succeeded Pamphilus in the school of Caesarea, inherited his ideas and defended him. It was out of veneration and gratitude to his teacher and friend that he called himself Eusebius Pamphili.5. The Great Cappadocians inherited his teachings. Rowan A. Greer writes, "His influence upon the Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century means that he is an important source for the theology that had become the classical articulation of Christian spirituality. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa preserved Origen's thought for the Church and adapted it to a theological explanation of monasticism understood as the perfect life meant to be lived by all."The mystical exegesis of Origen has beyond any doubt had a powerful influence on Gregory of Nyssa, especially in his Fifteen Homilies on the Canticle of Canticles.6. Through the Cappadocians, Origen's influence extends to Evagrius Ponticus, one of the greatest of writers on spiritual life. He is responsible for the spread of his teaching among the monks of Egypt. Evagrius took a great interest in the speculative and contemplative aspects of Origen’s thought and adapted them to the needs of the monastic movement which had emerged strongly in the course of the fourth century. Through him Origen’s thoughts were handed on to St. John Cassian, and so to all Western Christian monasticism. Indirectly as well as directly he had remained an important influence upon Western spirituality. Evagrius, who began his ecclesiastical career as a protégé of Gregory of Nazianzus, eventually settled in Nitria, an important monastic colony in the Libyan desert south of Alexandria. From there Evagrius’ Origenistic ascetic theology spread rapidly throughout the Christian world. His works were rapidly translated into Syrian, the language of Christians in what is now Syria and Iraq, and spread from there to Armenia. Evagrius influenced Western monasticism through his disciple, John Cassian (c. 360-435 A.D), one of the founders of Latin monasticism. Cassian’s writings profoundly influenced Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-c. 550 A.D), whose rule ordered the regular reading of Cassian’s works.St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who referred to Origen as "the whetstone of us all," was more interested in Origen’s contributions to theology and was careful to avoid the more controversial aspects of his thoughts.St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus collaborated in 358-59 A.D on the Philocalia, and anthology of Origen’s work that preserve fragments of a number of works, including On First Principles, now lost in Greek.7. Fr. Maximus the Confessor: He was born in c. 579-80 A.D in Palestine of a Samaritan father and a Persian slave-girl, and baptized by a priest of Hesfin on Golan. Originally named Moschion, at ten years he was entrusted to Abbot Pantaleon of the monastery of St. Charito, who named him Maximus and led him to study Origen. During the Arab invasion (614 A.D), he escaped from Jerusalem and took refuge in Cyzicus near Constantinople, subsequently forming close connections with the imperial court, especially through his disciple Anastasius. In 626 A.D following the invasion of the Persians and Avars he took refuge in Africa. Just before 647 A.D he went to Rome, where he took an active part in the Lateran council (649 A.D). Returning to Constantinople in 653 A.D he was arrested, tried in 654 A.D and was condemned to temporary exile in Bizya in Thrace. In 662 A.D he underwent a second long trial: he was condemned first according to the Iranian punishment by mutilation of the tongue and right hand, then by his final exile at Lazika, in distant Colchis on the Black Sea, where he died, worn out by his sufferings on August 13th of that year.Maximus is a great doctor of mystical life, he was completely under Origen’s influence for a time.8. In the West, Origen’s work was made known by Rufinus of Aquila, the friend of St. Jerome. The two formed part of an ascetic group who in the year 370 A.D sought to recreate in Rufinus’ home town of Concordia the monastic and intellectual life of the East. After a long stay in Egypt (373 A.D-380 A.D), where Rufinus frequented St. Didymus, he went and lived with Melania in the monastery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.After unhappy disputes with St. Jerome over the translation of Origen’s works, Rufinus returned to the West in 397 A.D, pursued at Rome and then at Aquileia by the animosity of his old friend. Fleeing the Goths, he went to Sicily where he died.He translated many homilies along with Origen’s Commentary on the Romans, a part of his Commentary on the Song of Songs.In chapter two, I have already mentioned the circumstances of his translation of Origen’s treatise On First Principles.9. St. Jerome, who was at first a great admirer of Origen, later attacked him, though in matters related to his exegesis, remained his disciple to the end.J. Gribomont says that the first characteristic of St. Jerome (c. 347-419 A.D) is his having transmitted to the west, as the prince of translators, the riches of the Greek and Hebrew libraries. The second is his having possessed and communicated a literary culture very different from that of the other Latin Fathers. The third is a spiritual, exegetical and monastic sensibility, a splendid Origenian inheritance. Finally note the human qualities of a passionate soul, excessive in his passions and hatreds, but certainly out of the ordinary.His name at birth was Eusebius Hieronymus. He was born before 331 A.D in Strido, at the frontiers of the Latin world. After brilliant literary studies in Rome, where he was baptized, Jerome sought his fortune at Triér, at the imperial court. There he was conquered by the eastern ideal of monasticism, whose echo had been brought there by St. Athanasius during his exile in Gaul. About 370 A.D he joined a group at Aquleiea who shared his ideal, but who were dispersed. St. Jerome accompanied St. Evagrius of Antioch to Syria. He made himself familiar with Greek, studied Hebrew and made the acquaintance of skilled exegetes. He went with Paulinus and St. Epiphanius of Salamis to Constantinople where he made friends with St. Gregory of Nazianzen. He went to Rome, where he gained the favor of Damasus, by his agile pen, his knowledge of the East, his biblical knowledge and his readiness to support the policies of the Holy See. Damasus made him his secretary. Meanwhile his monastic and Origenian spirituality gave him access to the pious meetings of a group of aristocratic ladies, whose generosity permitted him to work without material worries. He found himself obliged to deepen his familiarity with the Latin, Greek and Hebrew Bible, and to make it his specialty.After Damasus’ departure (384 A. D), St. Jerome made a long journey in company with Paula to Cyprus, Antioch, the Holy land, then to Alexandria where he met St. Didymus the Blind and visited monasteries in Egypt, then finally went to Bethlehem. He benefited immensely from Origen’s and Eusebius’ library, accessible at Caesarea, and embraced an Origenist theology. This bound him to Melenia and Rufinus, established on the Mount of Olives, but opposed him to St. Epiphanius.Towards 395 A.D St. Jerome found himself in a difficult situation: practically excommunicated by the bishop of Jerusalem, threatened with expulsion by the paetorian prefect and without many powerful friends. He succeeded in reversing the situation, when he attacked Origenism. He gained Theophilus of Alexandria as his friend, and became involved in the problem of the Three Brothers, taking the side of St. Theophilus against St. John Chrysostom.St. Jerome sent a letter to the most blessed Theophilus, Pope of Alexandria, in which he congratulates the Pope on the success of his crusade against Origenism. He writes, Jerome to the most blessed Pope Theophilus... I write a few lines to congratulate you on your success. The whole world glories in your victories. An exultant crowd of all nations gazes on the standard of the cross raised by you in Alexandria and upon the shinning trophies which mark your triumph over heresy. Blessings on your courage! Blessings on your zeal! You have shown that your long silence has been due to policy and not to inclination...It is worthy to note that Origen’s concentration on free will as opposed to the Gnostics allowed St. Jerome to describe Origen as the ancestor of Pelagius.St. Jerome had begun translating Origen’s Homilies even before he left Rome. He used Origen’s Commentary on Ephesians freely in writing his own Commentary on that epistle, borrowing them without questioning much of Origen’s speculation on the angelic beings which he afterwards repudiated. His prefaces too speak of Origen in the highest possible terms.St. Jerome translated almost eighty of Origen’s homilies. Ultimately, however, Rufinus and St. Jerome, who had been friends since their youth, became enemies when they took different sides in what historians refer to, somewhat misleadingly, as the First Origenist controversy.Vigilantius, on his return to the West after his visit to Jerusalem, had openly accused St. Jerome of a leaning to the heresy of Origin. St. Jerome wrote to him in the most severe tone repudiating the charge of Origenism and fastening upon his opponent those of ignorance and blasphemy. He justified his use of the writings of Origen, as he writes, But, since Christ has shown us in Himself a pattern of perfect humility, bestowing a kiss upon His betrayer and receiving the robber’s repentance upon the cross, I tell you now when absent as I have told you already when present, that I read and have read Origen only as I read Apollinaris, or other writers whose books in some things the Church does not receive. I by no means say that everything contained in such books is to be condemned, but I admit that there are things in them deserving censure. Still, as it is my task to study by reading many authors to cull different flowers from as large a number as possible, not so much making it an object to prove all things as to choose what is good, I take up many writers that from the many I may learn many things; according to that which is written "reading all things, holding fast those that are good" 1 Thess. 5:21.St. Jerome adds, Origen is a heretic, true; but what does that take from me who do not deny that on very many points he is heretical? He has erred concerning the resurrection of the body, he has erred concerning the condition of souls, he has erred by supposing it possible that the devil may repent, and- an error more important then these- he has declared in his commentary upon Isaiah that the Seraphim mentioned by the prophet are the divine Son and the Holy Ghost. If I did not allow that he has erred or if I did not daily anathematize his errors, I should be partaker of his fault. For while we receive what is good in his writings we must on no account bind ourselves to accept also what is evil. Still in many passages he has interpreted the Scriptures well, has explained obscure places in the prophets, and has brought to light very great mysteries, both in the Old and in the New testament.St. Jerome sent a calm letter to Pammachius and Oceanus, in which he defines and justifies his own attitude towards Origen, but unduly minimizes his early enthusiasm for him. He admires him in the same way that Cyprian admired Tertullian but does not in any way adopt his errors. He writes, It is charged against me that I have sometimes praised Origen. If I am not mistaken I have only done so in two places, in the short preface (addressed to Damasus) to his homilies on the Song of Songs and in the prologue to my book of Hebrew Names. In these passages do the dogmas of the church come into question? Is anything said of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Or of the resurrection of the flesh? Or of the condition and material of the soul? I have merely praised the simplicity of his rendering and commentary and neither the faith nor the dogmas of the Church come in at all. Ethics only are dealt with and the mist of allegory is dispelled by a clear explanation. I have praised the commentator but not the theologian, the man of intellect but not the believer, the philosopher but not the apostle. But if men wish to know my real judgment upon Origen; let them read my commentaries upon Ecclesiastics, let them go through my three books upon the epistle to the Ephesians: they will then see that I have always opposed his doctrines. How foolish it would be to eulogize a system so far as to endorse its blasphemy! The blessed Cyprian takes Tertullian for his master, as his writings prove; yet, delighted as he is with the ability of this learned and zealous writer, he does not join him in following Montanus and Maximilia... The bishops at the council proclaimed their adherence to a dogma which was at the time denied; they said nothing about a difficulty which no one had raised. And yet they covertly struck at Origen as the source of the Arian heresy: for , in condemning those who deny the Son to be of the substance of the Father, they have condemned Origen as much as Arius.10. Although St. Augustine’s theological perspective differed in significant ways from Origen’s, his immensely influential handling of biblical symbolism was in the Origenist tradition.11. St. Hilary of Poitiérs: He was born at the start of the fourth century, and he was elected as bishop of Poitiérs around 350 A.D. At Beziérs in 356 A.D, he tried to oppose the activities of the pro-Arians in Gaul; he was deposed and exiled to Phrygia, where he knew the works of Origen which deeply influenced his spirituality and his exegesis.12. Bishop Damasus of Rome: Rufinus, in the preface of his translation of "De Principiis" writes, "Bishop Damasus translated two of the Homilies on the Song of Songs from Greek into Latin, he composed so fine and noble a preface to that work, as to inspire everyone with a deep longing to read Origen and study him seriously. For he said that the text, ‘The King has brought me into His chamber’, might well be applied to the soul of Origen; and added that while in the rest of his works Origen had surpassed all other writers, in the Song of Songs he had even surpassed himself."13. Origen’s method of biblical interpretation spread to the Latin-speaking West. A vital figure in this process was St. Ambrose (c. 339-97 A.D), Bishop of Milan. St. Ambrose, a brilliant orator of noble birth, dominated the western church during the later part of the fourth century and even forced emperors to yield to the power of his personality. Ambrose admired the Cappadocians and gained from them an appreciation of Origen’s allegorical interpretation of the Bible, which he practiced extensively in his preaching at Milan. Ambrose, in turn, introduced the allegorical interpretation of the Bible to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D), the theologian from North Africa who was to influence western theology profoundly for more than a thousand years. Augustine was an ambitious young rhetorician of Christian origins who had subsequently embraced and become disillusioned with the Gnostic theology of the Manicheans when he heard Ambrose preaching at Milan.
4. Origen And ArianismOrigen is accused of believing in "subordination," i.e. that the Son is inferior to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is inferior to the Son and the Father. And thus he prepared the way to the Arians who tried to defend their heresy through his works.J. Lebreton says, "The vital truth that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit transcend all other beings was always affirmed by Origen, and we find it already in the treatise De Principiis 2:2:2. But we must also allow that there is in this treatise a hierarchical conception of the divine Persons which endangers their equality and their consubstantiality."J.W. Trigg says, "Arius (c. 250 - c. 336), relaying among other things, on the subordinationist strain in Origen’s Christology, denied that Christ was God in the same sense that God the Father was. Arius preferred to view Christ as "the first born of all creation, a created divine being who, unlike God the Father, had a beginning in time."Against Arius, who appealed to Origen’s subordinationism, his affirmation, that is, of Christ the Son’s inferiority to God the Father, Athanasius appealed to Origen’s doctrine of eternal generation and to his understanding of redemption. If, as Origen taught, Christ was born from God the Father rather than created by God, then Christ would have the same substance as God the Father, especially since Christ shared with God the Father the property of not being subject to the category of time. Moreover, Athanasius argued, a created being like the Christ of Arius, not being divine himself, could not assist us to the ultimate goal of redemption in Origen’s theology, the attainment of likeness to God. Although Origen was not directly responsible for the doctrine of the Trinity eventually reaffirmed in the "of one substance" formula of Nicea at Constantinople in 381 A.D, his theology established the questions at issue and suggested the general framework of the eventual solution.With the breakdown of Roman imperial power in the West over the course of the fifth century, Latin - and Greek - speaking Christianity drifted increasingly apart, and Origen’s reputation fared differently in the two areas. In the West he was read and respected but was somewhat suspect. His reputation was not helped by the regard in which his Commentary on Romans was held by Pelagius, the British theologian who had the poor judgment to attack Augustine’s understanding of divine grace. Nevertheless, Origen remained influential in the monastic tradition.In the East, Origenism remained popular, and controversial, among monks in Palestine and Syria. Eventually controversy among monks over Origen brought him to the attention of the Emperor Justinian 1 (483-565 A.D), who was, among other things, an amateur theologian. Justinian secured the condemnation of Origen , along with his disciples. Didymus and Evagrius, at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D, three hundred years after Origen’s death. In the Byzantine world Origen remained under a cloud until the fourteenth century, and this resulted in the disappearance of most of his works that were not translated from Greek. The steady encroachment of the Turks, however, led to a renewed interest in Origen’s Contra Celsum as the principal defense of Christianity written in Greek.
It is difficult to trace the different stages in the condemnation which followed. Eusebius treated of the matter at length in his " Apology " (H. E. vi. 23), and therefore thought it unnecessary to repeat in his " History" what he had already given in detail. The fragmentary notices of writers at second or third hand are therefore all that remain. Photius (Cod. 118) following the " Apology " of Pamphilus and Eusebius, gives the most intelligible and consistent account. According to him Demetrius, completely alienated from Origen by his ordination, collected a synod of "bishops and a few presbyters", in which it was decided that Origen should leave Alexandria and not be allowed to stay or teach there. He was not however deposed from the priesthood, though it is implied that Demetrius had made a proposition to that effect. Demetrius was dissatisfied with the result; and combining with some Egyptian bishops (without presbyters) he afterwards excommunicated Origen, and those who had voted with him before now subscribed this new sentence. Jerome describes with greater severity the spirit of Demetrius' proceedings, and adds that " he wrote on the subject to the whole world " (De Vir. HI. 54) and obtained a judgment against Origen from Rome (Ep. 33 (29), § 4).So far the facts are tolerably clear, but in the absence of trustworthy evidence, it is impossible to tell on what points the condemnation of Origen really turned. Demetrius unquestionably laid great stress on formal irregularities [Euseb. H. JE. vi. 8], and it is possible that the sentence against him was based on these, though Origen's opinions may have been displeasing to many. Such a view finds support in the fact, that no attempt was made to reverse the judgment after the death of Demetrius, which followed very shortly, and perhaps within three years, when Heraclas, the pupil and colleague of Origen, succeeded to the episcopate. Nor again was anything done by Dionysius, the successor of Heraclas, another devoted scholar of Origen, who still continued his intercourse with his former master (Euseb. H. E. vi. 46).Whatever may have been the grounds of Origen's condemnation, the judgment of the Egyptian synod was treated with absolute disregard by the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Achaea (Hier. Ep. 33), and Origen defended himself warmly (Hier. ApoL adv. Buf. ii. 18). He soon afterwards settled at Caesarea, which became for more than twenty years, up to his death, the centre of his labours. It had indeed not a few of the advantages of Alexandria, as a great seaport, the civil capital, and the ecclesiastical metropolis of its district.