Origen (185-Ca. 254)

ORIGEN (185-ca. 254)

Theologian. Origen is the most controversial person in Christian history. He is considered by the Fathers of the Church, such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Pamphile, as being a saint, while other Fathers such as Epiphanius, Theophilus (Patriarch of Alexandria), and Shenute (or Dioscorus) considered him a heretic. In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian issued an edict (543 a.d.) condemning Origen, with the approval of Patriarch of Constantinople Mennas and Pope of Rome Vigilius (537-555), and this edict was confirmed by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. It is worthy of mention that despite the opposition of three patriarchs of the Coptic Church—namely, Demetrius, Theophilus, and Dioscorus (and also Shenute to a certain extent)—no formal condemnation was issued against him. However, a warning was given regarding the reading of his books.

Origen was born at Alexandria. His father was martyred while Origen was young. He followed the lessons of Clement of Alexandria and became the head of the School of Alexandria after the departure of his master. After a visit to Caesarea, his former student ordained him a priest. This did not please Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria, who later excommunicated him. He left Alexandria and established a new Theological School in Caesarea. He suffered imprisonment during the reign of Decius and died soon after at the age of 70.

Origen was a prolific writer. He delivered homilies on the interpretation of the books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. He composed apologetic works to defend Christianity, such as Against Celsus. He issued a scientific edition and translation of the Old Testament. Origen was also the author of dogmatic treatises as well as spiritual treatises such as his books on Prayer and Exhortation on Martyrdom. In all his interpretations, he followed the allegorical method. However, he was accused of applying Matthew 19:12 literally and hence castrating himself. Under Justinian in the sixth century, Origen was condemned; because of this, most of his works were lost in the East and only Latin translation survived in the West. Despite his impressive list of publications, not a single work survives in Coptic or in Arabic.


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