Origen on the Fall of (Pre-Existent) Humanity

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. II: The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1990) 60.

The second book [of Origen’s First Principles] treats the material world, the creation of man as a result of the defection of the angels, man as a fallen spirit enclosed in a material body, the transgression of Adam and redemption by the incarnate Logos, the doctrine of the resurrection, the last judgment and afterlife.

For Book II of Origen’s First Principles, click here.

Origen was a Christian thinker who lived in the second-third century C.E.

The parts of this quote that intrigued me were those about (1.) God creating man “as a result of the defection of the angels,” and (2.) man being “a fallen spirit enclosed in a material body.”

At the moment, I don’t really see these two themes in Origen’s First Principles, but that may be because I’m not in the mood right now to wade carefully through it. I read through BOOK I, where he says that souls pre-existed the body. Origen also applies Romans 8:20-21 to souls becoming physical at creation. Romans 8:20-21 states: “[F]or the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope[,] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (NRSV).

Many Christians interpret Romans 8:20-21 in reference to the Fall, meaning that creation became “subjected to futility” right after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Origen, however, says the subjection occurred before that, when God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1). For Origen, God giving souls physicality was his act of subjecting them to futility.

Quasten thinks that Origen means humans, and that may be the case, at least in part. But Origen focuses on stars, which he believes are conscious beings, on the basis of Job 26:5’s statement that the stars are not pure in God’s sight. According to Origen, that implies the stars’ sinfulness. Origen maintains that God gave celestial beings “star bodies” as a punishment for their sins.

(1.), the idea that God created man “as a result of the defection of the angels,” reminds me of an idea that Herbert W. Armstrong liked to promulgate. In Did God Create a DEVIL? and numerous sermons, HWA said that God created man to replace Lucifer and the angels as the lords of the earth, after Lucifer had disqualified himself from the office through his rebellion against God. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with being God’s Plan B, which is what this idea implies. Plus, such a notion seems to contradict the grandiosity of God’s plan for humanity: to have sons and daughters who will rule with him for all eternity (a New Testament hope, even if one doesn’t define it in terms of Armstrong’s “God family”). But I guess Origen would say that we’re not exactly God’s Plan B: God had good plans for us, but we screwed up when we sinned in our pre-human state. So God made us humans, and now he’s redeemed us because we also screwed up in our human state!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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