From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity

By Veronika E. Grimm | Go to book overview

7

FOOD AND FASTING IN ORIGEN AND EUSEBIUS

Origen, the prolific Biblical scholar, whose views fuelled controversy and often furious clashes among Christians for centuries, is another Alexandrian whose writings may provide insight into Christian attitudes to food and fasting in the early third century. More than that, his figure, as it emerges from the pen of his biographer, may also point to important changes in these attitudes that were taking place in the following century. As in the case of Clement or Tertullian, so too in Origen’s, contemporary evidence concerning his life is minimal. Outside of the meagre information that can be gained from his extant works concerning his personal history, most of what is known about his life and personality comes from a biography written more than fifty years after his death, in the early fourth century, by an enthusiastic admirer, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, who devoted Book VI of his Ecclesiastical History to Origen’s life. 1 Considering that Eusebius was born probably more than a decade after Origen died, and that he had relatively little information at his disposal about Origen’s life, most modern scholars tend to agree that Eusebius’s account of Origen’s life is not always reliable. It is often noted that he seems to have accepted gossip and rejected or suppressed evidence that did not accord with the ideal of an orthodox saint of his own time and taste. Some critics see the Life as belonging more in the genre of hagiography than history. 2 The historians often differ among themselves as to which detail or aspect of Eusebius’s biography they accept or reject. Strangely, however, they all seem to believe Eusebius when it comes to Origen’s extreme asceticism, to which point I shall return later. My purpose here is not to add to the attempts to discern the ‘real Origen’, since I agree with Patricia Cox 3 that on the basis of the information available today it is impossible to write a true life of Origen.

In what follows I shall examine Origen’s own pronouncements

-140-

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From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Jewish Background 14
  • 2 - The Graeco-Roman Background 34
  • 3 - Food and Fasting in the Pauline Epistles 60
  • 4 - Food and Fasting in the Acts of the Apostles 74
  • 5 - Clement of Alexandria 90
  • 6 - Food and Fasting in the Works of Tertullian 114
  • 7 - Food and Fasting in Origen and Eusebius 140
  • 8 - Jerome and Ascetic Propaganda 157
  • 9 - Augustine and Ascetic Practice 180
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 198
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 278
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