Origen the Arian?—Not This Time!, Origen on Soul Sleep

I completed Henri Crouzel’s biography of Origen yesterday.  As I read, I jotted down page numbers with things I could discuss on this blog.  I have ten of them!  This morning, I’m not in much of a mood to write, so I’ll focus only on two topics that stood out to me:

1.  One of Crouzel’s agendas is to rehabilitate Origen’s reputation, since Christians who came after Origen labelled him a heretic.  According to Crouzen, some accused Origen of being an Arian, one who believed that the Word who became Jesus Christ was a creation of God.  The position that became orthodox, by contrast, holds that the Word has always existed.  Origen used the Greek words ktizein, ktisis, and ktisma for the Word, and these words carry the connotation of creation.  Crouzel argues, however, that their meaning was much more fluid before the Trinitarian controversy, for Pope Dionysius affirmed that “The expression ektisen, as you know, does not have a single sense” (175).  Consequently, ktizein can mean “create,” but it can also refer to the Son’s eternal generation from the Father, in which the Father is eternally the source of the Son.  For Crouzel, Origen meant the latter, so he’s orthodox.

This stood out to me because I’ve been interested in Arianism for the past year or two, as my posts Good Nimrod, Justin the Arian?, Projecting, Tertullian the (Semi-)Arian?, and Eusebius and Arianism indicate.  Proverbs 8:22 was applied in early Christian circles to the Son, who was equated with Wisdom, yet the Septuagint for that passage states that God ektisen (created) Wisdom.  Is that evidence for Arianism from the Septuagint, the Bible of early Christianity?  Crouzel would say, “Not so fast!”, for ektisen could have meant other things besides “create.” 

I wonder how the “orthodox” side in the Nicene controversy handled ektisen in Proverbs 8:22.  Crouzel states that terminology became tighter at that time, but my impression is that the orthodox would have to posit fluidity in the word in order to save it from becoming an indisputable Arian proof-text.

Crouzel’s discussion here also piqued my interest because it reminded me of a thinker I read in a historiography class.  His view was that we interpret history in light of what came after, and that may give us a skewed picture of the past.  That’s what Crouzel says was going on with later critics of Origen: they interpreted his use of ktizein according to their understanding of the word, in their context, shaped by the outcome of the Nicene controversy, when it could have meant something different to Origen.

2.  Under my post, Hit Over the Head with Canon, Origen on the Devil’s Salvation and Soul Sleep, Byker Bob asked me for more information about the Thnetospychites, who believed that the soul died with the body and came back to life at the resurrection.  It’s similar to “soul sleep” or “conditional immorality,” which is held by Armstrongites, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some mainstream Christians.  Origen opposed this position, however.

There’s more detail on Origen’s position on page 239, and, to be honest, I have to guess what he’s driving at.  The source is ComJn XIII, 61 (59), 247-230.  My impression of Origen’s argument is this: I Corinthians 15 says that the body must “put on” immortality, which implies that immortality is not something that’s inherent to it.  But it doesn’t say that about the soul, so it must be inherently immortal.

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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