The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

21 Origen

When early in the fourth century Eusebius Bishop of Caesarea came to write his history of the Church, his sixth book offered a triumphant climax in a biography of his intellectual hero Origen.

Eusebius knew Origen's writings intimately, and felt himself to be a pupil, though Origen, born about 184, died in 254 and the two men had never met. However, Origen's library was preserved at Caesarea (Palestine), a church proud to have been the place where St Peter was granted the first conversion of a Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 10). Origen was a prolific producer. Jerome, who in his early years as a biblical exegete, thought Origen 'the greatest teacher of the Church since the apostles', preserves in one letter (33) a long catalogue of Origen's writings, with the cry 'Which of us can read everything he has written?' Origen was helped in producing this overflowing mass of matter by a wealthy patron named Ambrosius who provided shorthand writers to take down what he dictated and to make copies. (Publication in antiquity was by the reading of the text usually by the author to a circle of friends, who would then commission copies to be made at commercial rates. Once an author was known he might send a letter to a distant correspondent suggesting that he should pay for a copy to be made of his latest pieces.)

The central task for his lifework, as Origen himself understood it, was to write biblical commentaries, to interpret the scriptures for his generation in the Church, thereby warding off gnostic exegesis and also rebutting criticism from the pagan intelligentsia. He needed to provide exegesis implicitly refuting Marcion's rejection of the Hebrew scriptures but also disallowing rabbinic literalism. In addition to full-scale commentaries, some of remarkable length so that none survives complete, he was in demand as a preacher. Sermons on the Hexateuch, on the Song of Songs, Isaiah, and Ezekiel were translated into Latin by Rufinus or his one-time friend Jerome. Sermons on St Luke's gospel also survive in Latin. Commentaries on some Pauline epistles, notably Ephesians, survive mainly through the work of Jerome making use of Origen for his own exegesis. The sermons belong to the second half of his life after he had migrated from Alexandria to Palestinian Caesarea, where he received ordination as presbyter, an event highly displeasing to Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria. Throughout the medieval millennium the Latin

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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