Hello all. This question came up in another thread and I thought I’d ask it here for some in depth understanding because if asked in another thread, it would’ve been way too far off the OP and all the other posts but I really think I’d like to hear some for the reasoning surrounding use of his stuff, so here goes:
If Origen was a condemned man and his writings also were condemned and destroyed and then re-written in a sanitized form centuries after he died, why do some use his stuff today? It bothers me and makes me wonder why if he and his writings were anathematized, why folks would consider using his stuff at risk of re-circulating his errors as if they are acceptable teaching. I’m wondering why this is and if folks here can give a reasonable explanation.
From ***PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS ***ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE in the seventh paragraph: When there arose, in various Sees, Catechetical and Theological schools, of which the most celebrated were those of Alexandria and of Antioch, there was little taught in those schools but what was contained in the reading, the interpretation and the defence of the divine written word. From them came forth numbers of Fathers and writers whose laborious studies and admirable writings have justly merited for the three following centuries the appellation of the golden age of biblical exegesis. In the Eastern Church, the greatest name of all is Origen - a man remarkable alike for penetration of genius and for persevering labour; from whose numerous works and his great Hexapla almost all have drawn that came after him. Others who have widened the field of this science may also be named, as especially eminent; thus, Alexandria could boast of St. Clement and St. Cyril; Palestine, of Eusebius and the other St. Cyril; Cappadocia, of St. Basil the Great and the two St. Gregories of Nazianzus and Nyssa; Antioch, of St. John Chrysostom, in whom the science of Scripture was rivalled by the splendour of his eloquence. In the Western Church there were many names as great: Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Great; most famous of all, St. Augustine and St. Jerome, of whom the former was so marvellously acute in penetrating the sense of God’s Word and so fertile in the use that he made of it for the promotion of the Catholic truth, and the latter has received from the Church, by reason of his pre-eminent knowledge of Scripture and his labours in promoting its use, the name of the “great Doctor.”
The citation is nice however, it doesn’t lift the condemnation of Origen’s writings. It simply says he wrote a great deal and that others used his copies of the Scriptures. A Pope noting the prolificacy of a particular writer doesn’t remove another Pope’s condemnation.
And here, in order to strengthen Our teaching and Our exhortations, it is well to recall how, from the beginning of Christianity, all who have been renowned for holiness of life and sacred learning have given their deep and constant attention to Holy Scripture. If we consider the immediate disciples of the Apostles, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp - or the apologists, such as St. Justin and St. Irenaeus, we find that in their letters and their books, whether in defence of the Catholic Faith or in its commendation, they draw faith, strength, and unction from the Word of God. When there arose, in various Sees, Catechetical and Theological schools, of which the most celebrated were those of Alexandria and of Antioch, there was little taught in those schools but what was contained in the reading, the interpretation and the defence of the divine written word. From them came forth numbers of Fathers and writers whose laborious studies and admirable writings have justly merited for the three following centuries the appellation of the golden age of biblical exegesis. In the Eastern Church,*** the greatest name of all is Origen ***- a man remarkable alike for penetration of genius and for persevering labour; from whose numerous works and his great Hexapla almost all have drawn that came after him. Others who have widened the field of this science may also be named, as especially eminent; thus, Alexandria could boast of St. Clement and St. Cyril; Palestine, of Eusebius and the other St. Cyril; Cappadocia, of St. Basil the Great and the two St. Gregories of Nazianzus and Nyssa; Antioch, of St. John Chrysostom, in whom the science of Scripture was rivalled by the splendour of his eloquence. In the Western Church there were many names as great: Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Great; most famous of all, St. Augustine and St. Jerome, of whom the former was so marvellously acute in penetrating the sense of God’s Word and so fertile in the use that he made of it for the promotion of the Catholic truth, and the latter has received from the Church, by reason of his pre-eminent knowledge of Scripture and his labours in promoting its use, the name of the “great Doctor.”(27) From this period down to the eleventh century, although Biblical studies did not flourish with the same vigour and the same fruitfulness as before, yet they did flourish, and principally by the instrumentality of the clergy. It was their care and solicitude that selected the best and most useful things that the ancients had left, arranged them in order, and published them with additions of their own - as did S. Isidore of Seville, Venerable Bede, and Alcuin, among the most prominent; it was they who illustrated the sacred pages with “glosses” or short commentaries, as we see in Walafrid Strabo and St. Anselm of Laon, or expended fresh labour in securing their integrity, as did St. Peter Damian and Blessed Lanfranc. In the twelfth century many took up with great success the allegorical exposition of Scripture. In this kind, St. Bernard is pre-eminent; and his writings, it may be said, are Scripture all through. With the age of the scholastics came fresh and welcome progress in the study of the Bible. That the scholastics were solicitous about the genuineness of the Latin version is evident from the Correctoria Biblica, or lists of emendations, which they have left. But they expended their labours and industry chiefly on interpretation and explanation. To them we owe the accurate and clear distinction, such as had not been given before, of the various senses of the sacred words; the assignment of the value of each “sense” in theology; the division of books into parts, and the summaries of the various parts; the investigation of the objects of the writers; the demonstration of the connection of sentence with sentence, and clause with clause; all of which is calculated to throw much light on the more obscure passages of the sacred volume. The valuable work of the scholastics in Holy Scripture is seen in their theological treatises and in their Scripture commentaries; and in this respect the greatest name among them all is St. Thomas of Aquin.
I do not know how to explain all of the beauties of Origen. I do not know how to explain the disagreements.
Here is a current example: on all sides of evolution there are strong opinions. I one accepts one of the sides, he might judge harshly all of the other opinions. Then it would depend on which side one reads–if one only reads one side.
I think I read something of his once, or something about him, stating his theory of the scripture having different levels of meaning and I agreed with this because I have always thought this also.
As God is triune, and Man is triune, it seemed to me the Word of God (which is alive) is triune also- having “at least” three levels of meaning, all of them true at the exact same time.
The physical meaning. The soul meaning. The spiritual meaning.
But he also speculated alot of wrong doctrine too- but I chalk that up to being in 200AD and the treasury of Christian thought had not developed beyond basic Christian doctrine. His Cosmology was all based on hypothesis, like the pre-existence of souls.
As to why “some use his stuff today”, it’s because he wrote so much that is good. Early Church Fathers are not infallible.
Also, one has to keep in mind that many doctrines had not yet been clearly defined – the Church was still working and being led by the Spirit to a proper and correct way to express the mysteries of our Faith (cf John 16:13).
And thank you for the link. Others may read through it and find it useful. I have my own copy of the Encyclical already and have read it. The place you’ve underlined doesn’t say that the anathema against him is lifted and the “Eastern Church” refers to our separated brethren in the schismatic Orthodox Church, not us here in the Latin Church. Origen is simply one of the writers the Orthodox use as acceptable. He was and still is an anathematized person. He died that way and others took up his writings and re-wrote them in an attempt to make them acceptable to the Church. No one to my knowledge ever did. In fact, this is why there was a re-issuance of the condemnation re-stated at another time by other Authorities for the Church.
As for your comparison, evolution is a theory and all real science never states any theory as absolute fact. They are just theories. Evolution isn’t acceptable as a Church teaching. It isn’t an “opinion” that can change. That is a fact that is Eternal. While many do think that our Church’s determination about the theory/theories of evolution that are published and part of current debate can and should change, it won’t although it may in the future be elaborated upon as need may determine. I repeat - it won’t. It has been condemned too.
If you personally think either Origen or the theory of evolution are good things and useful that is your opinion. That is all - your opinion and while I can respect your opinion it should remain stated as that: opinion, not authentic Church teaching. I apologize if that is offensive, but it is the best I can do in attempting to remain charitable.
Yes, he did get it quite a bit of trouble didn’t he. Re-creating God is a big mistake especially if folks take you as an authority on things. His theories of the origin of the souls war used by several later heresies. Think the twists on predestination some used.
No, the Church to my knowledge never lifted the anathema against him. The current Liturgy of the Hours also contains in the back the Protestant hymn “Amazing Grace” which is practically a Protestant theme song. That doesn’t mean much to me. I’ve always felt negative feelings about that particular song and cringe each time I am asked to suffer through it. It was sung at a funeral for a former Sister of St. Joseph I attended this past weekend. It’s use isn’t acceptable to me.
I would love it if someone could produce an Official document retracting the anathematization of the writings of Origen by the Congregation but I don’t think there is one, nor will there ever be. Those that use such things (in places like the Liturgy of the Hours) are to me, simply pushing the envelope and giving others in the Church more work in the future.
I guess I could say that perhaps the “standards” of scholasticism hadn’t been determined at the point they are today in Origen’s day so perhaps that is how he got away with so much for so long and lead others astray.
One of the things I find troubling about Origen is part of his queer interpretation of the word apokatastasis. If he taught this in his day, which he did, I would have walked away and not looked back. Here are some of the tenents of the notion and it is clear hat Origen was trying in vain to reconcile some of the pagan beliefs of those days with Christianity.
“Origen of Alexandria correlated the Stoic’s concept of the rebirth and reconstruction of the cosmos with the active guidance and sustenance of the Logos, which is taken to be an emanation of Zeus, when Zeus turns his thoughts outwards once more. In Origen’s understanding, in Stoic philosophy, the cosmos is a physical expression of Zeus’ perfect thoughts and apocatastasis is the contraction when Zeus returns to self-contemplation. Leibniz explored both Stoic and his understanding of Origen’s philosophy in two essays written shortly before his death.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apokatastasis
I’m no scholar and don’t pretend to be, but I do know a few things about God and if a person, no matter how illustrious presented such a position to me, I would have never listened to them again. But that is just my personal reaction to folks who teach error.
I think I know what you are going through… it is difficult to understand how a person can be lead by the Holy Spirit, Walk in the Light, and stray so far from the Gospel…
Sadly, this happens, in my judgment, because we are emotional creatures full of doubt and questing for perfection (full Knowledge of God’s Divinity).
Interestingly enough, I find a response in Scriptures:
19 Do not stifle the Spirit 20 or despise the gift of prophecy with contempt; 21 test everything and hold on to what is good 22 and shun every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
This is one of the difficult stumbling blocks to the Jehovah Witnesses’ theology–they believe that the Holy Spirit is not God so they do not seek His Divine Guidance in Humble Obedience!
When a man is Lead by the Spirit of Christ that man becomes a friend of/to God. But as Jesus tells us in John 15 (1-10) we must abide/stay in Him in order that He may Abide in us… when that same man, say Origen/Luther, seeks to describe what he still does not understand without Submission to the Holy Spirit, he can (as you’ve pointed out) lead himself and others astray.
But we cannot throw away everything that a man who Walked with God has brought into light (revealed) because there could be wondrous jewels that the Holy Spirit may have intended to Bring to the world.
Personally, I’ve only a general understanding of Origen’s writings/beliefs and as Scriptures Teach, I reject anything that he offered that is tantamount to heresy or as St. Paul called it “another gospel!”
It is clear from history, then, that Christian thinkers were critical in adopting philosophical thought. Among the early examples of this, Origen is certainly outstanding. In countering the attacks launched by the philosopher Celsus, Origen adopts Platonic philosophy to shape his argument and mount his reply. Assuming many elements of Platonic thought, he begins to construct an early form of Christian theology.
Starting now from the Word of God, which was read in the liturgy today, let us try to draw from it some good directives for our lives.
There is, in the first place, before our eyes the scene vividly described by the evangelist John: we are on Mount Calvary, there is a cross, and Jesus is nailed to it; and there is, close by, the mother of Jesus, surrounded by some women; there is also the beloved disciple, John himself. The Dying Man speaks, breathing with difficulty in the death agony: “Woman, behold, your son!”. And then, addressing the disciple: “Behold, your mother!”. The intention is evident: Jesus wants to entrust his mother to the care of his beloved disciple.
Is this all? The ancient Fathers of the Church caught sight of a deeper theological meaning behind this episode, which is apparently so simple. Already Origen identifies the apostle John with every Christian and, after him, the reference to this text becomes more and more frequent, to justify Mary’s universal motherhood.
Popes and Councils also often intervened to remind Christians of their duty to have their children baptized.
At the close of the fourth century the ancient custom of baptizing children as well as adults “for the forgiveness of sins” was used against the teachings of Peladius. As Origen and St. Cyprian had noted, before St. Augustine, this custom confirmed the Church’s belief in original sin, and this in turn showed still more clearly the necessity of infant Baptism.
5…Now the Apostles were sent and sent by Him who is the supreme pastor and Bishop of our souls ; so too, were the seventy-two first disciples; nay, St. Paul himself, although constituted by Christ a vessel of election to carry His name, before Gentiles and kings, [Acts ix:15] entered upon his apostolate only after the elders in obedience to the command of the Holy Ghost, “Separate me Saul for the work” [Acts xiii:2], had imposed hands upon him and sent him forth. The same practice was constantly followed in the early days of the Church. For all without exception, both those who distinguished themselves in the priestly order like Origen, and those later on were raised to the dignity of the episcopate, like Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, Augustine and the other more ancient Doctors of the Church, undertook the office of preaching with the sanction and authority of their Bishops.