Why Origen?


Okie Dokie everyone. Here’s a little something I found regarding the Church’s feeling towards Origen and his writings and those who adhere to things contained in them:

“If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and [if anyone does not equally anathematize] all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.”

From the Eleventh Anathema of the 5t Ecumenical Council at Constantinope ( II ) in 553 A.D. as contained in the Section called the Capitula


What I find in this particular anathematization is an extension of the curse, an anathema, to everything Origen wrote, either in his hand or by the hands of others. His many supporters and students actually would write for hours in a group of sometimes twenty or more as he dictated. Not only did this happen, but after he was at first condemned, his writings for years were re-written in an attempt to render them less offensive to the Church. So, simple logic says he and all he wrote were condemned and it was never lifted though many tried.

How does that render his writings acceptable today? To me, it doesn’t, nor should it. You could read what is extant today in order to study his stuff, but you cannot *agree with it *in any way.

There is also this: many, many scholars and theologians have studied his stuff, but found that things attributed to him weren’t in fact his own and were either written by someone else or one of his adherents later on and even vice-a-versa, believed to have been written by Origen but in fact were found to be of the category of the sanitized versions written by someone else.

So why Origen if all this confusion and even the possibility of incurring an anathema for reading his stuff? Why risk it? I know I’m not smart enough to play around with this fire without getting burnt.



Here’s more from the same Council and Origen’s condemnation.

  1. IF anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.

  2. IF anyone shall say that the creation of all reasonable things includes only intelligences without bodies and altogether immaterial, having neither number nor name, so that there is unity between them all by identity of substance, force and energy, and by their union with and knowledge of God the Word; but that no longer desiring the sight of God, they gave themselves over to worse things, each one following his own inclinations, and that they have taken bodies more or less subtile, and have received names, for among the heavenly Powers there is a difference of names as there is also a difference of bodies; and thence some became and are called Cherubims, others Seraphims, and Principalities, and Powers, and Dominations, and Thrones, and Angels, and as many other heavenly orders as there may be: let him be anathema.

  3. IF anyone shall say that the sun, the moon and the stars are also reasonable beings, and that they have only become what they are because they turned towards evil: let him be anathema.

  4. IF anyone shall say that the reasonable creatures in whom the divine love had grown cold have been hidden in gross bodies such as ours, and have been called men, while those who have attained the lowest degree of wickedness have shared cold and obscure bodies and are become and called demons and evil spirits: let him be anathema,.

  5. IF anyone shall say that a psychic condition has come from an angelic or archangelic state, and moreover that a demoniac and a human condition has come from a psychic condition, and that from a human state they may become again angels and demons, and that each order of heavenly virtues is either all from those below or from those above, or from those above and below: let him be anathema.

  6. IF anyone shall say that there is a twofold race of demons, of which the one includes the souls of men and the other the superior spirits who fell to this, and that of all the number of reasonable beings there is but one which has remained unshaken in the love and contemplation of God, and that that spirit is become Christ and the king of all reasonable beings, and that he has created all the bodies which exist in heaven, on earth, and between heaven and earth; and that the world which has in itself elements more ancient than itself, and which exists by themselves, viz.: dryness, damp, heat and cold, and the image to which it was formed, was so formed, and that the most holy and consubstantial Trinity did not create the world, but that it was created by the working intelligence which is more ancient than the world, and which communicates to it its being: let him be anathema.

  7. IF anyone shah say that Christ, of whom it is said that he appeared in the form of God, and that he was united before all time with God the Word, and humbled himself in these last days even to humanity, had (according to their expression) pity upon the divers falls which had appeared in the spirits united in the same unity (of which he himself is part), and that to restore them he passed through divers classes, had different bodies and different names, became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, has clothed I himself in the different classes of reasonable beings with a form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is become man for men; [if anyone says all this] and does not profess that God the Word humbled himself and became man: let him be anathema.

(continued next post)




Here’s the rest of the 15 Anathemas of Origen’s teachings:

  1. IF anyone shall not acknowledge that God the Word, of the same substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and who was made flesh and became man, one of the Trinity, is Christ in every sense of the word, but [shall affirm] that he is so only in an inaccurate manner, and because of the abasement, as they call it, of the intelligence; if anyone shall affirm that this intelligence united to God the Word, is the Christ in the true sense of the word, while the Logos is only called Christ because of this union with the intelligence, and e converse that the intelligence is only called God because of the Logos: let him be anathema.

  2. IF anyone shall say that it was not the Divine Loges made man by taking an animated body with a yukh logikh and noera , that he descended into hell and ascended into heaven, but shall pretend that it is the N ous which has done this, that N ous of which they say (in an impious fashion) he is Christ properly so called, and that he is become so by the knowledge of the Monad: let him be anathema.

  3. IF anyone shall say that after the resurrection the body of the Lord was ethereal, having the form of a sphere, and that such shall be the bodies of all after the resurrection; and that after the Lord himself shall have rejected his true body and after the others who rise shall have rejected theirs, the nature of their bodies shall be annihilated: let him be anathema.

  4. IF anyone shall say that the future judgment signifies the destruction of the body and that the end of the story will be an immaterial yusis, and that thereafter there will no longer be any matter, but only spirit nous: let him be anathema.

  5. IF anyone shall say that the heavenly Powers and all men and the Devil and evil spirits are united with the Word of God in all respects, as the Nous which is by them called Christ and which is in the form of God, and which humbled itself as they say; and [if anyone shall say] that the Kingdom of Christ shall have an end: let him be anathema.

  6. IF anyone shall say that Christ * names, and that there shall be finally an identity of the gnpsis and of the hypostasis; moreover, that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the reigned pre-existence: let him be anathema.

  7. IF anyone shall say that the life of the spirits shall be like to the life which was in the beginning while as yet the spirits had not come down or fallen, so that the end and the beginning shall be alike, and that the end shall be the true measure of the beginning: let him be anathema.

(continued next post)




And after the Church got done with him, the Emperor added this:


(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. v., col. 677.)

  1. Whoever says or thinks that human souls pre-existed, i.e., that they had previously been spirits and holy powers, but that, satiated with the vision of God, they had turned to evil, and in this way the divine love in them had died out and they had therefore become souls and had been condemned to punishment in bodies, shall be anathema.

  2. If anyone says or thinks that the soul of the Lord pre-existed and was united with God the Word before the Incarnation and Conception of the Virgin, let him be anathema.

  3. If anyone says or thinks that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was first formed in the womb of the holy Virgin and that afterwards there was united with it God the Word and the pre-existing soul, let him be anathema.

  4. If anyone says or thinks that the Word of God has become like to all heavenly orders, so that for the cherubim he was a cherub, for the seraphim a seraph: in short, like all the superior powers, let him be anathema.

  5. If anyone says or thinks that, at the resurrection, human bodies will rise spherical in form and unlike our present form, let him be anathema.

  6. If anyone says that the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the waters that are above heavens, have souls, and are reasonable beings, let him be anathema.

  7. If anyone says or thinks that Christ the Lord in a future time will be crucified for demons as he was for men, let him be anathema.

  8. If anyone says or thinks that the power of God is limited, and that he created as much as he was able to compass, let him be anathema.

  9. If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration ( apokatastasis ) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.

Anathema to Origen and to that Adamantius, who set forth these opinions together with his nefarious and execrable and wicked doctrine? and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus, or defends these opinions, or in any way hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them.


God bless the poor soul who thinks these things and the person who taught them are defensible.



So, Origen’s ideas were really way too far off from anything that could be called true and faithful teaching even though some of his stuff was acceptable. For Pete’s sake, he thought the devil even would be reconciled to God at some future point in time! How could anyone want to believe that? Reeeeeeally?!? That’s like saying, “Well, some of Martin Luther’s teachings were acceptable, so that makes the rest okay to read and use.” NOT POSSIBLE. We wouldn’t as Catholics dare to suggest such nonsense.

Oh well, I’ve said enough and like I’ve said before, I’m no expert on anything but more danish and coffee cause they’re yummy and Mass isn’t till later so don’t take my opinions too seriously. They are only my opinions.




I think that an ENCYCLICAL is a dogmatic teaching.

He is said to be the greatest in the East.

Many of the Western Doctors of the Church used him.

He is a great teacher.

I am not a great or smart person.

I could be mistaken.

But as far as I know, an encyclical is an arm of the official teaching arm of the office of the Papacy.

I, as I mentioned, am a regular guy.

I do not know how to explain councils and papal teachings being in disagreement.


This is where you are mistaken. The Council did not anathema everything that he wrote, only his “impious writings”. If the Council had meant all of his writings, they would not have used the word “impious”. As the Decretum Gelasianum states, “we accept as readable some works of Origen that the blessed Jerome did not repudiate.” The Council would not have, and possibly could not have, overturned this.

As evidence, let’s look at what some other Councils have said,


Thus, following the six holy universal synods, in the first place that assembled in the famous metropolis of the Nicaeans {{1}Nicea I}, and then that held after it in the imperial, God-guarded city: {i.e. {2} Constantinople I} We believe in one God …[the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed follows]. We abominate and anathematize - Arius and those who think like him and share in his mad error; also Macedonius and those with him, properly called the Pneumatomachi; we also confess our Lady, the holy Mary, to be really and truly the God-bearer, because she gave birth in the flesh to Christ, one of the Trinity, our God, just as the first synod at {3}Ephesus decreed; it also expelled from the church Nestorius and those with him, because they were introducing a duality of persons. Along with these synods, we also confess the two natures of the one who became incarnate for our sake from the God-bearer without blemish, Mary the ever-virgin, recognizing that he is perfect God and perfect man, as the synod at {4}Chalcedon also proclaimed, when it drove from the divine precinct the foul-mouthed Eutyches and Dioscorus. We reject along with them Severus Peter and their interconnected band with their many blasphemies, in whose company we anathematize the mythical speculations of Origen, Evagrius and Didymus, as did the fifth synod, that assembled at {5}Constantinople. Further we declare that there are two wills and principles of action, in accordance with what is proper to each of the natures in Christ, in the way that the sixth synod, that at {6}Constantinople, proclaimed, when it also publicly rejected Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, those uninterested in true holiness, and their likeminded followers.


In addition, proclaiming the two natures in the one Christ, according to the still clearer teaching of the fifth, holy and universal synod { 5 Constantinople II}, we anathematize Severus , Peter and Zoharas the Syrian, as well as Origen with his useless knowledge, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Didymus along with Evagrius, who also, although of the same or different opinions, were ensnared in the same pit of damnation.


It also embraces, approves and accepts the fifth holy synod, the second of Constantinople, which was held in the time of our predecessor most blessed Vigilius and the emperor Justinian. In it the definition of the sacred council of Chalcedon about the two natures and the one person of Christ was renewed and many errors of Origen and his followers, especially about the penitence and liberation of demons and other condemned beings, were refuted and condemned.

If, as you contend, the Council anathematized all of Origen’s writings, then the Church, in praising and citing him (as I have shown in previous posts), has been in error since this Council. I would not be able to accept this conclusion.


Hello JM3.

I will not take up the implication you make that the Church only condemned a part, the “impious” part, of Origen’s writings as you claim. This would be your opinion of the Council’s decree. Origen was controversial not only at the time of the Council I cited, but in his life time as well. He is praised because he began a type of systematic study of theology. It is this that is praised by his contemporaries, not his personal beliefs. His personal beliefs were heretical. That doesn’t change. You cannot be a little bit heretical and be acceptable as a teacher of the true faith. He did teach, but what he taught was heresy.

As for the Decretum Gelasianum that you cite the complete sentence is this: “** likewise some works of Origen, which the blessed man Jerome does not reject, we receive to be read, but we say that the rest** with their author **must be refused. **”


I think this sheds some light on the subject. It can be explained that as I’ve said before, some of those who loved Origen and stuck by him as the controversies mounted in his lifetime, tried in vain to clean up his works and re-wrote them. This re-writing wen ton for centuries and that is why even to this day there are “discoveries” about his writings. This means that some things that were authored by others, not Origen and passed off as his were examined and found okay by some Church members.

If you look a few lines further in the Decretum, you will find out exactly what the Church thought about Origen: “likewise the chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea and the books of his church history, however much he fell flat in the first book of his narration and [although he also] afterwards wrote one book in praise and to excuse Origen the schismatic, however on account of his narration of remarkable things, which are useful for instruction, we do not say to anyone that it must be refused.”

So, if you want to read and use Origen for your own sake, that is fine but you may not take to heart anything he wrote as a part of the faith. He was a heretic.



As for it being my opinion, I have shown, in Church documents, that this is the way the Church interprets its council. I have seen no such support from you on your opinion that all of Origen’s writing were condemned. :shrug:



Origen is said to be great by Eastern Doctors of the Universal Church, too!

He got a bad press just as Cardinal Ratzinger did–from his enemies.

Ratzinger was huge in writing the constitution of Dei Verbum. And many people said he was against Vatican II. They were the ones that were against Vatican II and did not even know it.



In the first paragraph.

“Quo saeculo exeunte atque vertente tertio, illustria illa Alexandriae, Caesareae, Antiochiae didascaleia exorta sunt, ex quibus suam hauserunt scientiam, ut praestantiores tantummodo nominemus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origenes, S. Dionysius Magnus, Eusebius Caesariensis, S. Athanasius, Didymus Caecus, S. Basilius Magnus, S. Gregorius Nazianzenus, S. Gregorius Nyssenus, S. Cyrillus Alexandrinus, S. Ioannes Chrysostomus, Theodoretus. Qui Patres et Scriptores Ecclesiastici, una cum S. Ephraem, S. Hilario Pictaviensi, S. Ambrosio, S. Hieronymo, S. Augustino, aliisque illius aetatis fere innumeris Ecclesiae doctoribus et magistris, in civili hominum consortione, veluti scientiarum optimates ab omnibus habebantur.”

Cited in another Apostolic Constitution.


[5] Ignatius, Ad Polycarp., V (PG, V, 724); Polycarpus, Ad Philippen., V, 3 (PC, V, 1009); Iustinus Philosophus, Apologia I pro christianis (PG, VI, 349,; Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata (PG, VIII, 24); Hyppolitus, In Proverb. (PG X, 628); Id., De Virgine Corinthiaca (PG, X, 871-874); Origenes, In Num. hom., II, 1 (PG, XII, 590); Methodius, Convivium decem virginum (PG, XVIII, 27-220); Tertullianus, Ad uxorem, lib., I, c. VII-VIII (PL, I, 1286-1287); Id., De resurrectione carnis, c. VIII (PL. 11, 806); Cyprianus, Epistola XXXVI (PL, IV, 827); Id., Epist., LXII, 11 (PL, IV, 366); Id., Testimon. adv. iudeos, lib. III, c. LXXIV (PL, IV, 771); Ambrosius, De viduis, II, 9 et sqq. (PL, XVI, 250-251); Cassianus, De tribus generibus monachorum, V (PL, XLIX, 1094); Athenagoras, Legatio pro christianis (PG, VI, 965).




26…In Mary’s prophetic canticle (cf. Lk. 1:46-55) they saw a special working of the Spirit who had spoken through the mouths of the prophets.(82)

  1. Cf. Origen, In Lucam Homilia VII, 3: PG 13 1817: S. Ch. 87, p. 156: St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentarius in Aggacum prophetam, chapter XIX: PG 71, 1060: St Ambrose, De fide IV 9, 113-114: CSEL 78, pp. 197-198: Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam I;, 23 and 27-28: CSEL 32, IV, pp. 53-54 and 55-56; Severianus Gabalensis, Antipater of Bostra Homilia in Sanctissimae Deiparae Annuntiationem, 16; PG 85, 1785.


4…Gregory of NeoCaesarea(11) praises Origen expressly because, with singular dexterity, as one snatches weapons from the enemy, he turned to the defense of Christian wisdom and to the destruction of superstition many arguments drawn from the writings of the pagans.

12… After him came Origen, who graced the chair of the school of Alexandria, and was most learned in the teachings of the Greeks and Orientals. He published many volumes, involving great labor, which were wonderfully adapted to explain the divine writings and illustrate the sacred dogmas; which, though, as they now stand, not altogether free from error, contain nevertheless a wealth of knowledge tending to the growth and advance of natural truths.

  1. Origen, Epistola ad Gregorium (PG 11, 87-91).


Hello JM3.

Thanks for the reply. But what about the Church documents I’ve provided, just as valid as those you used I might add, that state “Origen the schismatic?” That’s pretty heavy verbage if you ask me.

And what about the 15 Anathemas that condemn his beliefs and list 15 very serious errors that he taught? Those are Church Documents as well and very valid even to this day.



After going over your posts, I find that you have provided two links.

One for Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apokatastasis

In fact, most historians today would recognize a distinction between Origen’s own teachings (or at least those that have survived) and the theological positions of later “Origenists”. Even beliefs long attributed to Origen himself, such as a Platonic version of souls existing before bodies, the possibility of a second fall, are found to be much more nuanced and difficult to pin down in Origen’s own writings.

The second for Fordham University’s Medieval Sourcebook. fordham.edu/halsall/basis/const2.asp


Some suspicion has arisen with regard to how far the acts of the Fifth Ecumenical Council may be relied upon. Between the Roman Manuscript printed by Labbe and the Paris manuscript found in Mansi there are considerable variations and, strange to say, some of the most injurious things to the memory of Pope Vigilius are found only in the Paris manuscript. Moreover we know that the manuscript kept in the patriarchal archives at Constantinople had been tampered with during the century that elapsed before the next Ecumenical Synod, for at that council the forgeries and interpolations were exposed by the Papal Legates.



(Hist. Councils, Vol. iv., p. 336.)

Halloix, Garnier, Basnage, Walch and others suppose, and Vincenzi maintains with great zeal, that the name of Origen is a later insertion in this anathematism, because (a) Theodore Ascidas, the Origenist, was one of the most influential members of the Synod, and would certainly have prevented a condemnation of Origen; further, (b) because in this anathematism only such heretics would be named as had been condemned by one of the first four Ecumenical Synods, which was not the case with Origen; © because this anathematism is identical with the tenth in the omologia of the Emperor, but in the latter the name of Origen is lacking; and, finally, (d) because Origen does not belong to the group of heretics to whom this anathematism refers. His errors were quite different.

All these considerations scent to me of insufficient strength, or mere conjecture, to make an alteration in the text, and arbitrarily to remove the name of Origen. As regards the objection in connection with Theodore Ascidas, it is known that the latter had already pronounced a formal anathema on Origen, and certainly he did the same this time, if the Emperor wished it or if it seemed advisable. The second and fourth objections have little weight. In regard to the third © it is quite possible that either the Emperor subsequently went further than in his omologia , or that the bishops at the fifth Synod, of their own accord, added Origen, led on perhaps by one or another anti-Origenist of their number. What, however, chiefly determines us to the retention of the text is: (a) that the copy of the synodal Acts extant in the Roman archives, which has the highest credibility, and was probably prepared for Vigilius himself, contains the name of Origen in the eleventh anathematism; and (b) that the monks of the new Lama in Palestine, who are known to have been zealous Origenists, withdrew Church communion from the bishops of Palestine after these had subscribed the Acts of the fifth Synod. In the anathema on the Three Chapters these Origenists could find as little ground for such a rupture as their friends and former colleague Ascidas; it could only be by the synod attacking their darling Origen. © Finally, only on the ground that the name of Origen really stood in the eleventh anathematism, can we explain the widely-circulated ancient rumour that our Synod anathematized Origen and the Origenists.

I see nothing that supports your contention that all of Origen’s writings are anathematized.



Where did you find a copy of Hefele?

I have his five volume history of the early Church.

I have never read it!


Interestingly, DS 353 ends with the two sentences that I posted in post 18.

This section;

likewise the chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea and the books of his church history, however much he fell flat in the first book of his narration and [although he also] afterwards wrote one book in praise and to excuse Origen the schismatic, however on account of his narration of remarkable things, which are useful for instruction, we do not say to anyone that it must be refused.

likewise we praise Orosius a most erudite man, who wrote a very necessary history for us against the calumnies of the pagans and and with marvellous brevity.

likewise the paschal work of that venerable man Sedulius, which was written in heroic verses [hexameters], we give preference to with manifest praise.

likewise the laborious work of Iuvencus we nevertheless do not spurn but are amazed by.

is not in Denzinger.


It’s in glendab’s Fordham link. Which I quoted from.


Oh Hello Jim!

Lucky you! I’d love to have it. If you ain’t using it and you’ll offer it used at a good price…I have it on my wish list at a used book place but they’ve not found it for me except n German and French neither of which I speak. :frowning:



What is a good price?



Hello Everyone!

Thanks for the reply. I’m learning more about the guy than I knew before and that is good. Also I found out I’m wrong about his anathemas. I thought he got it **before he died **but that actually came later, post mortem. I also now know that not all of his writings were condemned. Yippie.

However, to me, personally he is still a wacko, a heretic and a schismatic and those who tried to defend him and followed his errors as if they were acceptable got into BIG trouble. His writings do not interest me in the least and since others much smarter than I could ever hope to be have warned me via their works, I’ll keep my head and not risk reading such stuff. I can learn more reading safer stuff. After all, I am responsible for me and the securing of my faith. I think I’ll protect my little mustard seed and let grow in better soil than a whole room full of Origen’s can supply.

Thanks for the help to all you guys.



But you are not alone in your growth. Others who may be “smarter than [you] could ever hope to be” have approved of a goodly portion of his works, and you can look for authoritative guides for what is “safe.” (I suppose, for instance, that we can include those texts selected for the Liturgy of the Hours.)

A related alternative is to read what those guides have said about the good parts of Origen; you would then not have to read Origen’s works themselves but learn through what those guides have approved.

For example, these two addresses give an overview of Origen:

BENEDICT XVI | GENERAL AUDIENCE | St Peter’s Square | Wednesday, 25 April 2007 | “Origen of Alexandria: life and work (1)”

BENEDICT XVI | GENERAL AUDIENCE | St Peter’s Square | Wednesday, 2 May 2007 | “Origen of Alexandria: The Thought (2)”

(I also notice that the first address includes “I invite you - and so I conclude - to welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of faith.” This statement is an invitation, not an imposition, but I would consider it.)

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