Origen Was An Egyptian
6. Origen was an Egyptian, and his early days were spent in Alexandria. His father was St. Leonidas the Martyr, who had him educated in every branch of sacred and profane literature (12). It is said his own father held him in the highest veneration, and that often while he slept he used to kiss his bosom, as the temple where the Holy Ghost dwelt (13). At the age of eighteen he was made Catechist of the Church of Alexandria, and he discharged his duties so well that the very pagans flocked to hear him. Plutarch, who afterwards became an illustrious martyr of the faith of Christ, was one of his disciples. In the height of the persecution he never ceased to assist the confessors of Christ, despising both torments and death. He had the greatest horror of sensual pleasures, and it is related of him that for fear of offending against chastity, and to avoid temptation, he mutilated himself, interpreting the 12th verse of the 19th chapter of St. Matthew in a wrong sense (14). He refuted the Arabians, who denied the immortality of the soul, and converted Berrillus, as we have already seen, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. He also converted Ambrose from the errors of the Valentinians. He was so desirous of martyrdom, that his mother was obliged to take away his clothes, to prevent him from going to his father, who was in prison for the faith. All this, however, was to no purpose ; he avoided her vigilance, flew to his father, and when he would not be allowed to speak to him, he exhorted him by letter to persevere in the faith. At the age of eighteen he was Prefect of the studies of Alexandria. When he was composing his Commentaries on the Scriptures, he dictated to seven or eight amanuenses at the same time. He edited different editions of the Scriptures, compiling the Tetrapla, the Hexapla, and the Octapla, The Tetrapla had four columns in each page ; in the first was the version of the seventy, or Septuagint, in the second that of Aquila, in the third that of Simmachus, and in the fourth that of Theodotian. The Hexapla had six columns, and, besides the former, contained the Hebrew text and a Greek translation. Finally, the Octapla contained, besides the former, two other versions, compiled by some Hebrews. His name was so famous at that time that all the priests and doctors consulted him in any difficult matter. Presuming too much on his wisdom, he fell into different errors, by wishing to interpret many texts of Scripture in a mystical, rejecting the literal, sense. Those, he says, who adhere to the letter of the Scripture will never see the kingdom of God (15), hence we should seek the spirit of the word, which is hidden and mysterious. He is defended by some ; but the majority condemn him, although he endeavoured to clear himself by saying that he wrote his sentiments merely as opinions, and subjected them to the judgment of his readers (16).
He was obliged to go into Achaia, a country at that time distracted by various heresies. In his journey ho persuaded two bishops of Palestine whom he visited, that it would be of great service to the Church if he was ordained priest (17). Yielding to his suggestions they ordained him, and this so displeased Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria, that in a council he deposed and excommunicated him. Several other bishops, however, received him in his misfortunes, and entertained him honourably. Orsi, on the authority of Eusebius, tells us (18), that, in the persecution of Decius he was imprisoned a long time, loaded with irons, and a great iron ring on his neck ; and that he was not only tortured in the legs in a horrible manner, but was likewise put on the rack. Dionisius, Eusebius says (19), wrote him a letter, or rather a small treatise,, to animate and console him ; and from that circumstance, Cardinal Orsi (20) proves the fallacy of Du Pin s conjecture, that the sentence passed against him by Demetrius, was enforced under his successors Aracla and Dionisius. Origen did not long survive the torments he endured in that persecution. He died in Tyre, in the year 253, the sixty-ninth of his age (21).
Bernini tells us, on the authority of St. Epiphanius (22), (think ing, however, that this was foisted into St. Epiphanius s works by the enemies of Origen) that he denied the faith by offering incense to idols, to avoid the indignities and insults inflicted on him by an Ethiopian, and that he was then freed from prison, and his life spared. After that he went from Alexandria to Jerusalem, and at the request of the clergy and people went into the pulpit to preach. It happened, however, that opening the book of the Psalms, to explain them, the first words he read were those of the 49th Psalm : " God said to the sinner, why dost thou declare my justices and take my covenant into thy mouth? " Struck dumb with sorrow, he began to weep bitterly, and left the pulpit without saying a word. Not only St. Epiphanius, but Eusebius (23) before him, bear witness to Origen s fall. Although Bernini (24) says this story is quite fabulous, yet Petavius, Daniel Uerius, Pagi, and especially Noel Alexander (25), say it is a fact. Roncaglia (26) is of opinion that Noel Alexander s arguments are groundless, and that Baronius s opinion carries more weight with it. We can decide nothing as to the salvation of Origen, though Baronius says that St. Simeon Salus saw him in hell ; still, all is a mystery known to God alone. We know, however, on the authority of Baronius, that his doctrine was condemned by Pope Anastasius and Pope Gelasius, and afterwards by the fifth general council (27).
The substance of the errors of Origen, as well as I could collect from the works of Noel Alexander, Fleury, Hermant, Orsi, Van Ranst (who gives a great deal of information in a small space), and others, was all included in his Periarchon, or Treatise on Principles. This treatise, Fleury says, was translated by Rufinus, who endeavoured to correct it as much as possible. The intent of Origen in this work was to refute Valentine, Marcion, and Ebion, who taught that men are either essentially good or essentially wicked. He said that God alone was good and immutable, but that his creatures were capable of either good or evil, by making use of their free will for a good purpose, or perverting it for a wicked one. Another of his opinions was that the souls of men were of the same nature as the celestial spirits, that is, composed of spirit and matter ; that they were all created before the beginning of the world, but that, as a punishment for some crimes committed, they were shut up in the sun, moon, and other planets, and even in human bodies, as it were in a prison, to punish them for a time ; after which, being freed from their slavery by death, they went to heaven to receive the reward of their virtues, or to hell to suffer the punishment of their sins, but such rewards and punishments were not eternal. Hence, he said, the blessed in heaven could be banished from that abode of happiness for faults committed there, and that the punishment of the devils and the damned would not last for all eternity, because at the end of the world Jesus Christ would be again crucified, and they would participate in the general redemption. He also said that before the creation of this world there existed many others, and that after this had ceased to exist many more would be created, for, as God was never idle, so he never was without a world.
He taught many other erroneous opinions; in fact his doctrine is entirely infected with the maxims of Plato, Pythagoras, and the Manicheans. Cassiodorus, speaking of Origen, says, I wonder how the same man could contradict himself so much; for since the days of the Apostles he had no equal in that part of his doctrine which was approved of, and no one ever erred more grossly in the part which was condemned. Cabassutius (28) says, that Pope Gelasius, following the example of Anastatius, gave this sentence relative to Origen in the Roman council: "We declare that those works of Origen which the blessed Jerome does not reject can be read, but we condemn all others with their author."
After the death of Origen his followers disturbed the Church very much by maintaining and propagating his errors. Hermant (29) relates that Pope Anastasius had a great deal of difficulty in putting down the troubles occasioned by the Origenists in Rome, who got footing there under the auspices of Melania, by means of the priest Rufinus. The author of the notes on Floury, says, that Anastasius wrote to John of Jerusalem to inform him of how matters were going on, and that he, on that account, cut off Rufinus from the Church. In the reign of the Emperor Justinian, some Origenist monks who lived in a laura founded by St. Saba, under the abbot Nonnus, began to disseminate their errors among this brethren, and in a short time infected the principal laura, but were expelled by the abbot Gelasius. Favoured, however, by Theodore of Cesarea, they got possession of the great laura again, and expelled the greater part of the monks who disagreed with them. In the meantime, Nonnus died, and his successor George being deposed for immorality by his own party, the Catholic monks again got possession of the laura, and elected Conon, one of this party, abbot (30). Finally, in the twelfth canon of the second council of Constantinople, both Origen and all those who would persist in defending his doctrine were condemned (31).
(12) Nat. Alex. t. 1, ar. 12.
(13) Fleury, I. 5, n. 2; Orsi, /. 5, n. 27.
(14) Nat. Alex. t. 7, nr. 12.
(15) Origen, Stromata, /. 10.
(16) Orsi, /. 6, n. 61.
(17) Nat. Alex, ibid; Orsi, n. 30.
(18) Orsi, t. 3, /. 7, n. 33.
(19) Euseb. His. Eccl. /. 6. cum Graves, loc. cit.
(20) Orsi. t. 3, I. 7, n. 33. (25) Petav. in Animadv. in St. Epiph.
(21) Orsi, loc. cit. ; Hermant, t. 1, c. Heres. 64; Huetius, /. 1 ; Orig. c. 68; Bar. Ann. 204, n. 8 ; V. Itanst, 4 ; Pagius ad an. 251, n. 19; Nat. p. 42 ; Graves, s. 3. Alex. t. 7, diss. 15, q. 2, art, unic.
(22) Bernin. Istor. t. 1, c. 1, p. 125.
(23) Euseb. /. 6; Hist. Eccl. c. 59.
(24) Baron. Ann. 253, n. 117, & seq.
(25) Petav. in Animadv. in St. Epiph.
(26) Rone. not. in Natal, loc. cit.
(27) Baron. Ann. 400, &c
(28) Cabassut. Notit. Hist. Cone. Con-
(29) Hermant, t. 1, c, 132.
(30) Orsi, t. 18, /. 41, n. 1 & 5, acl 7, stan. II. an. 553, n. 14. in fin.
(31) Orsi, al luogo cit. n. 70.
Heresies of the Third Century
3. Paul of Samosata.
7. Novatus and Novatian.
8. Nepos The Angelicals and the Apostolicals.
THE HISTORY OF HERESIES, AND THEIR REFUTATION.ST. ALPHONSUS M. LIGUORI