The Church Father named Origen was born around 185 in Alexandra. His parents were Christian, in fact, in 202 his father, Leonides, was martyred. Origin wrote a letter of encouragement to his Dad and it’s said that he also attempted to join him in martyrdom but he was restrained by his mother who hid his clothing and literally prevented him from walking out the door.
Devoted to a life or austere devotion and thoughtful scholarship, Origen went to great lengths to express the seriousness of his faith. According to tradition he took Matt 19:12 literally (castrating himself to eliminate the problem of lust)—although he later disapproved of the action.
It was during persecution under the Emperor Decian (249-51) that Origen was imprisoned and severely tortured. He refused to renounce his faith; however, as a result of his injuries, Origen died a few days after his release.
The primary literary works of Origin are fourfold:
- Biblical. In addition to many commentaries and expositions, Origen published a sizable edition of the Old Testament. The “Hexpala” describes an edition of the Old Testament in six parallel versions.
- First Principles is considered by many to be the first attempt at a systematic theology text. Divided into four books, it covers God, the world, freedom, and Scripture.
- Against Celsus is an apologetic response to Celsus’s True Word, an anti-Christian work written in the late 170’s.
- Practical Works include such titles as Prayer and Exhortations to Martyrdom.
Although Origen’s desire was to be a faithful Christian, he has been looked upon with theological suspicion and disapproval since the early centuries of the church. In fact, he was officially condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 553. Nevertheless, Origen remains arguably the most important church father of Greek theology.
Part of the problem was Origen’s use of the allegorical method—emphasizing a figurative reading of the text to such an extent that it looses its historical character. In this sense, Origen is a case study on the importance of reading the Bible in a redemptive historical context, demonstrating that if our hermeneutic (method of interpretation) is amiss, our conclusions will naturally follow. In Origen’s case, this had implications on a deficient view of the Trinity and the person of Christ.
On a positive note, here a snippet from Origen’s pen:
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.
1. First Principles 1.5