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On First Principles
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Alexandrian Christianity: Origen > De Principiis (On First Principles)

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message 1: by Nemo (last edited Sep 21, 2017 09:05AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments The original Greek of the De Principiis (On First Principles) has for the most part perished. We possess it chiefly in a Latin translation by Rufinus...Jerome undertook a new translation of the work; but only small portions of his version have reached our day. He strongly accuses Rufinus of unfaithfulness as an interpreter, while he also inveighs bitterly against Origen himself, as having departed from the Catholic Faith, specially in regard to the doctrine of the Trinity.


message 2: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I am really puzzled about the great contrast in style between the books "on prayer" and "first principles" both by Origen.
I really like the book on prayer, it seems very spiritual and uplifting, but what I've read so far in the first principles seems the very opposite.

For example I just read this morning about the Lord's prayer that he says the daily bread is spiritual food for our soul.
And now I read in first principles that he takes all sorts of Bible texts about the sun and stars literally and assumes thus that the sun has a soul.

How can that be? Did he change his mind?


message 3: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Ruth wrote: "And now I read in first principles that he takes all sorts of Bible texts about the sun and stars literally and assumes thus that the sun has a soul..."

Could you quote the relevant passage?


message 4: by Ruth (new)

Ruth See here: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf0...
For example this:
We think, then, that they may be designated as living beings, for this reason, that they are said to receive commandments from God, which is ordinarily the case only with rational beings. “I have given a commandment to all the stars,” says the Lord.

he also quotes Job and says that stars are subject to sin
(I had always assumed that 'stars' ought to be read allegorically as angels)


message 5: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Ruth wrote: "See here: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf0...
For example this:
We think, then, that they may be designated as living beings..."


Origen is thinking and speaking like a Platonist here, regarding the stars as having souls. But he is not alone in that regard. For example, St. Francis of Assisi calls all created beings brothers and sisters, including Brother Sun and Sister Moon, etc.

It seems unorthodox doctrine, but I think not inconsistent with Origen's overall emphasis on spiritual things. He seems to believe that every material thing is a sign or shadow of a deeper spiritual reality, and the stars are no exception.


message 6: by Ruth (last edited Sep 20, 2017 10:30AM) (new)

Ruth Yes, actually I also think that every material thing is a shadow of a spiritual reality. Whenever I read the bible texts about stars that he quotes, I also think about the angels.
I can also imagine that the influence of the spiritual world (angels, powers, principalities, whatever) on the material world (sun, stars, planets, black holes) is somewhat similar to the relation of our spiritual part (soul, or spirit) on our body (and vice versa?)

l think the duality heaven-earth or spirit-matter pops up everywhere in creation, and is precisely something very beautiful.

But it struck me as very simplistic to conclude that the sun has a soul. Such a one-on-one relation seems unnecessary and far-fetched to me.


message 7: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Ruth wrote: "....l think the duality heaven-earth or spirit-matter pops up everywhere in creation, and is precisely something very beautiful.

But it struck me as very simplistic to conclude that the sun has a soul. Such a one-on-one relation seems unnecessary and far-fetched to me..."


I'm a little confused. If the duality of spirit-matter is everywhere in creation, why is the one-on-one relation far-fetched? In other words, if the relation is true on the whole, wouldn't it be true for the parts as well?


message 8: by Ruth (new)

Ruth well, I mean, just because my soul influences my body (and vice versa) that doesn't mean that every cell in my body has a separate soul.
I think my one soul influences all the cells together.
just so I think it *might* be possible that perhaps our galaxy is controlled by one angel. Just conjecturing, I am not at all saying that it is so, only that I don't see why the sun would have a soul, or even why that seems feasible.


message 9: by Nemo (last edited Sep 21, 2017 01:57PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Ruth wrote: "well, I mean, just because my soul influences my body (and vice versa) that doesn't mean that every cell in my body has a separate soul.
I think my one soul influences all the cells together.
jus..."


There seems to be a wide spectrum of views concerning the spirit-matter relation. On the one end is materialism (I was raised in it), which denies the spiritual dimension altogether, on the other end is animism/paganism, which treats everything as spirits and even gods.

Because I was at the opposite end of the spectrum to Origen, I find his views strange, but I have to admit his arguments are reasonable.

If the body of each human being has a corresponding soul, it is possible that each star also has a corresponding soul, since the bodies of animals, men and stars are made of the same elementary particles; one major objection is that stars have no agency like men, but Origen quotes Scriptural verses in Job, Psalms and elsewhere that suggest the stars have the ability to act and are morally responsible in the sight of God.

Why does Jesus rebuke the wind and curse the fig tree if they are not morally responsible?


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Ruth wrote: "well, I mean, just because my soul influences my body (and vice versa) that doesn't mean that every cell in my body has a separate soul.
I think my one soul influences all the cells t..."


I thought animals and plants had a soul (life force), but that it was different than ours, which is able to understand abstract thoughts/morality...are you saying you think dogs or animals make moral decisions? Are you saying that there is a correspondence between a human having a soul and thus a star having a soul? How ( and why) would wind and a fig tree be morally responsible? Just trying to clarify you comment. Thank you.


message 11: by Nemo (last edited Sep 21, 2017 07:13PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Susan wrote: ".....are you saying you think dogs or animals make moral decisions? .."

I'm not saying that, by I'm considering the possibility because of Origen's arguments.

One argument is that, if animals or plants are not morally responsible, they cannot be judged for their actions or failures to act. But animals are punished for their actions in the Mosaic Law, and Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to bear fruits.


message 12: by Clark (last edited Sep 22, 2017 03:46AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said: "Origen is thinking and speaking like a Platonist here, regarding the stars as having souls."

It seems to me that what Nemo said is quite important, and we've encountered a case in which Kerstin's concerns about needing external material are correct.

Pardon me if the following is overkill.

First, what is Origen's enterprise? At the end of the preface he says "to form a connected series and body of truths agreeably to the reason of all these things, that by clear and necessary statements he may ascertain the truth regarding each individual topic, and form, as we have said, one body of doctrine, by means of illustrations and arguments,—either those which he has discovered in holy Scripture, or which he has deduced by closely tracing out the consequences and following a correct method." So his goal is to build some sort of unified intellectual structure that unites, or blends, or reconciles Church teachings (including Scripture) and secular knowledge and philosophy.

As Nemo noted elsewhere, Origen identifies areas in which there is a clear teaching by the Church and areas in which there is no clear teaching. Just before the passage I quoted above he says: "This also is a part of the teaching of the Church, that there are certain angels of God, and certain good influences, which are His servants in accomplishing the salvation of men. When these, however, were created, or of what nature they are, or how they exist, is not clearly stated. Regarding the sun, moon, and stars, whether they are living beings or without life, there is no distinct deliverance."

So according to his goal and method the questions of the souls of heavenly objects, at least, are to be resolved using information and methods suitable to factual and scientific questions (always consulting Scripture where possible).

In Origen's time there were different schools of philosophy (which included what we would call science) and they had different teachings on heavenly bodies and suchlike. The Platonists held that the heavenly bodies had souls and minds. So it not Origen's own idea, justified only by a Scripture verse or two, but is from an/the intellectually ascendant scientific body of knowledge of the day.

What he does to or with the idea is of course his own responsibility and the text is where we explore what he does. Apparently (see above) he starts out by reserving judgment.


message 13: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments The idea that animals have soul or spirit is even in the word "animal": Middle English: as a noun from Latin animal, based on Latin animalis ‘having breath,’ from anima ‘breath’; as an adjective via Old French, from Latin animalis . (As Nemo said our English translation is of a Latin translation of Origen's Greek, so Latin is relevant.)


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "The idea that animals have soul or spirit is even in the word "animal": Middle English: as a noun from Latin animal, based on Latin animalis ‘having breath,’ from anima ‘breath’; as an adjective vi..."

" that animals have soul or spirit" ; do you differentiate soul and spirit? Do you think the soul of an animal is the same as a humans, and if not, what is the distinction?


message 15: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Susan wrote: ".....are you saying you think dogs or animals make moral decisions? .."

"One argument is that, if animals or plants are not morally responsible, they cannot be judged for their actions or failures to act. But animals are punished for their actions in the Mosaic Law, and Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to bear fruits."

According to my Ignatius Study Bible, the fig tree is a traditional symbol of Israel (Jer 8:13, Hos 9:10). The cursing of the fig tree comes in the chapter of cleansing the temple... My Navarre Bible explains that Israel, like the fig tree, has failed to produce the fruit that God expected; he had come to his own people, to the Jews, eager to find fruit of holiness and good works, but all he found was external religion - no fruit, only leaves. Reference to the destruction of the temple, is thereby set within an episode about the need for purification. Engaging in external religious worship without having the right inner dispositions is something that everyone should avoid... so I don't know if that adds to our discussion of souls in plants or animals.
Also, regarding the dogs, or other animals, is there a distinction between training (performing acts based on repetition and reward/punishment) and the animals actually basing their decision on a moral basis, or them being punished on a moral basis?



message 16: by Clark (last edited Sep 24, 2017 07:38AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Susan said: "" that animals have soul or spirit" ; do you differentiate soul and spirit? Do you think the soul of an animal is the same as a humans, and if not, what is the distinction?"

The purpose of that post was to mention the etymology of the word "animal", and to infer that the idea of animals having souls or spirits is deeply embedded in our language and culture. So I was asserting that the etymology of the word "animal" is thus and so, and that the idea goes pretty deep in our culture. That is what I was asserting.

I said "soul or spirit" because the cluster of words around this idea are multifarious and ambiguous.

I *think* (but I would have to verify it) that in ancient times a common idea was that for something to move on its own it had to have a "soul". Hence animals and planets have souls and plants do not. This is the level of "soul" I think was involved in naming animals "animals" and it is not what moderns would think of as "soul," so I included the word "spirit". But my purpose was to mention the etymology as a possible doorway into ancient thought, specifically into Origen.

I realize this isn't an official "shared inquiry" discussion but still I personally am not interested in my opinions, only in Origen's. Does he in First Principles say anything about this? I myself don't know yet.


message 17: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Ruth said: "I really like the book on prayer, it seems very spiritual and uplifting, but what I've read so far in the first principles seems the very opposite. "

The following is a simple, direct question: Does the introduction of On Prayer (pp. 2-5 in the CCEL PDF) seem "very spiritual and uplifting" to you, or is it "the very opposite" (i.e., similar to First Principles)?

I am asking for your personal experience. This is not a quiz. No interrogator will call. :-)


message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said: "" that animals have soul or spirit" ; do you differentiate soul and spirit? Do you think the soul of an animal is the same as a humans, and if not, what is the distinction?"

The purpo..."


I appreciate that you are not interested in your own opinions, but I am interested in your opinions. I learn an awful lot from what other people have read and learned, as I obviously alone, can not acquire such a depth of knowledge and experience. We do not know, what we do not know, therefore exposing ourselves to all we can, seems prudent. I personally have a hard time making sense of Origen, and most everything, if it exists merely in isolation, or too narrow a vacuum.


message 19: by Nemo (last edited Sep 24, 2017 01:24PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Susan wrote: "My Navarre Bible explains that Israel, like the fig tree, has failed to produce the fruit that God expected; .."

I agree that is a valid interpretation. But it doesn't change the argument: Jesus cursed the fig tree because it failed to produce fruits. It is not just symbolic, but also literal, viz. the fig tree actually was cursed and withered away, I think.

the animals actually basing their decision on a moral basis, or them being punished on a moral basis?

The Scripture doesn't say that animals make moral decisions, but it does say, or at least suggest, that animals are punished on a moral basis. For example, animals are put to death for killing people (Ex. 21:29) and bestiality (Lev. 20:15-16).


message 20: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments In Bk 1. Ch. VI. "On the End or Consummation", Origen speaks against "the dogmatism of prejudice". I'm a bit surprised that dogmatism existed back in his time, but I'm not surprised that he strongly objects to it.

If I understand him correctly, he is saying that Doctrine of Trinity is based on Scripture and the Apostolic teachings, and beyond question, whereas doctrines such as the preexistence of souls and the end times are open to discussion, because there are no unambiguous Scriptural or Apostolic teachings on the subjects, and we should keep an open mind about them.

if there be any one imbued with a desire of reading and understanding subjects of such difficulty and importance, he ought to bring to the effort a perfect and instructed understanding, lest perhaps, if he has had no experience in questions of this kind, they may appear to him as vain and superfluous; or if his mind be full of preconceptions and prejudices on other points, he may judge these to be heretical and opposed to the faith of the Church, yielding in so doing not so much to the convictions of reason as to the dogmatism of prejudice. These subjects, indeed, are treated by us with great solicitude and caution, in the manner rather of an investigation and discussion, than in that of fixed and certain decision.



message 21: by Nemo (last edited Sep 27, 2017 08:08AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark wrote: "I *think* (but I would have to verify it) that in ancient times a common idea was that for something to move on its own it had to have a "soul". Hence animals and planets have souls and plants do not...."

Plato writes to the effect that soul has the cause of movement in itself, whereas matter does not, and the regular movements of the stars is evidence that they have souls (Timaeus).

Aristotle criticizes Plato in his treatise On the Soul, and argues that souls have different (levels of) powers, nutritive, sensitive and rational. Plants only have nutritive power, animals have sensitive power also, and men have rationality on top of the other two.

I think the Catholic Church adopted the notions of Aristotle through Aquinas, who wrote a detailed commentary on De Anima. But Origen is more of a Platonist, if I understand him correctly.


message 22: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Susan wrote: "My Navarre Bible explains that Israel, like the fig tree, has failed to produce the fruit that God expected; .."

I agree that is a valid interpretation. But it doesn't change the arg..."


How does it not change the argument? Even if the fig tree literally withered, it could still be representative of Israel and not that the fig tree was literally being judged morally for not producing fruit, and my Bible adds in verse 13, "...for it was not the season for figs." Would the poor fig tree be judged if it was not the time to produce figs? It should apparently have just had leaves at that time...unless I am misunderstanding it...

Have to review the animal aspect...


message 23: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Susan wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Susan wrote: "My Navarre Bible explains that Israel, like the fig tree, has failed to produce the fruit that God expected; .."

I agree that is a valid interpretation. But it doesn't c..."


My understanding is that the fig tree is representative of Israel because it failed to produce fruits and was judged accordingly. There is a correspondence between the fig tree and Israel.


message 24: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said very informative stuff about Plato and Aristotle.

Thanks!


message 25: by Clark (last edited Sep 26, 2017 07:23AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Susan said, "I am interested in your opinions [on animals having souls]."

Fair enough. I don't really have opinions about these things. I haven't read or thought about them. If I were pressed I would say that I believe that animals are not morally responsible beings, that is, they cannot sin and cannot be redeemed or judged in the sense that human beings sin and can be redeemed or judged. Human beings are created in the image of God; animals, not.

As to what we should call the animative faculties or powers or features of animals, I'm indifferent, as long as the terms don't lead us into animism or similar.


message 26: by Nemo (last edited Sep 26, 2017 12:34PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments In another thread, Ruth noted that Origen sounds a bit Gnostic in some of his statements.

I think it is undeniable that Origen values the incorporeal far above the corporeal, which again reflects the influence of Plato on his thought. However, Origen is adamantly against the Gnostics, like the other early Church Fathers. and refutes the Gnostic heresy in many places in his treatise.

The relevant teachings are: 1. resurrection of the body, 2. humanity of Jesus, and 3. the unity of the Justice and Goodness of God. (In other words, the God who created the corporeal world is the same God who will resurrect man and transform him into a being with spiritual body).


message 27: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Clark wrote: "Ruth said: "I really like the book on prayer, it seems very spiritual and uplifting, but what I've read so far in the first principles seems the very opposite. "

The following is a simple, direct question..."


I'm catching up with all the comments as I've been doing other things last days, and noticed this question.

I thought the introduction to "on prayer" also very spiritual and uplifting, just as the whole book.

It starts so beautiful with explaining how you would think it is impossible to know God, but then the Spirit makes it possible. Even so with prayer. And at the end of the introduction when he refers for example to the prayer of Hannah, I thought it was so beautiful and encouraging to think that the Holy Spirit can lead us to such heights.


message 28: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Clark wrote: "... So his goal is to build some sort of unified intellectual structure that unites, or blends, or reconciles Church teachings (including Scripture) and secular knowledge and philosophy...."

Thanks for this exposition. It makes more sense to me now. He's not really saying what we ought to believe, but what we might believe, based on the latest insights of his time.

I think with our current understanding of the universe, we wouldn't say that the sun moves by itself. So therefore the idea of the sun having a soul is so strange and seems silly to me. But I can understand why it wasn't so for Origen.

I think I like this kind of speculation too. When I read thinks about quantum mechanics or the theory about relativity, I also like to ponder how this might explain why God sees every time simultaneously. (I'm not saying I can explain this further, I'm just very amazed and bewildered by these things)


message 29: by Ruth (new)

Ruth About the difference between animals and humans, there is an interesting verse in Ecclesiastes 3:21 that was used in my congregation to prove that animals only have a soul, whereas humans have soul + spirit.
However that may be, it shows clearly that the Bible says that animals have souls.


message 30: by Clark (last edited Sep 27, 2017 06:10AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Ruth said, "there is an interesting verse in Ecclesiastes 3:21 that was used in my congregation to prove that animals only have a soul, whereas humans have soul + spirit." However that may be, it shows clearly that the Bible says that animals have souls.

[Edited 2017-09-27]

This verse is an example of why I was saying "soul or spirit" earlier in this discussion. The Hebrew word used twice there is (sorta) ruakh. It means "wind, breath, or spirit," as in Genesis 1:2. Ruth's verse speaks in parallel of the ruakh of a human and the ruakh of an animal. The Hebrew as it stands taken literally says that both animals and humans have "spirit" or "spirits".

So to say that this verse proves that animals have souls is to say that the Hebrew word "spirit, breath, wind" means "soul." That translation can be defended if one defines "soul" very precisely in a certain way. But on the simple face of it the verse does not say "soul". (If I misunderstood what you are saying, Ruth, please correct me.)

There is a different Hebrew word ("nefesh") that is often translated "soul," as in "Bless the Lord, O my soul," but it is not a simple equivalent of what some of us some of the time mean by "soul". FWIW in a very quick search I did not find any use of "nefesh" that did not refer to a human.

There are four language layers involved in our discussion here -- Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English. (Latin because the translation of Origen is from a Latin translation of the original Greek, and because the Western Christian vocabulary for "soul," "spirit," etc. has been heavily influenced by Latin. Aquinas wrote in Latin; Luther's Ninety-five Theses was written Latin. Etc.)

So we have to be very careful and precise about reading and using English words like "soul," "spirit," etc., in the various contexts (Scripture, Origen, modern sermons, our discussions).


message 31: by Nemo (last edited Sep 26, 2017 06:48PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark, are you referring to the "breath of life"?

The Scripture says that both animals and men have the breath of life, but God breathed into man only the breath of life, so where do the animals get theirs?

Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 6:17
And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Genesis 7:15
And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
Genesis 7:22
All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died..


message 32: by Nemo (last edited Sep 27, 2017 08:14AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Speaking of quantum mechanics, I like this saying by Werner Heisenberg.

I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato. In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.
The incorporeal and the corporeal are not as separate and contrary as people used to think, who could not believe that an incorporeal God can create, interact with and uphold a corporeal world.

In Origen's vision, among all the rational beings in the universe, there is no clear divide between the incorporeal and corporeal, but there are "gradations".


message 33: by Clark (last edited Sep 27, 2017 06:25AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "Clark, are you referring to the "breath of life"?

No, I was referring to "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." One translation has this translator's note (not a commentary note): "1:2 the spirit . . . hovered: or a great wind swept; or a wind from God swept." I'll post more later when I'm officially awake.

[Awake now.] I was just pointing to a famous use of that noun. Nothing direct to do with animal or human souls or spirits.

Yesterday I was going to add "and there is another Hebrew word that is normally translated 'breath'." Well, that word is the one in Gen 2:7 -- "nishmat khayeem" -- the breath of life. 7:22 indeed has "nishmat ruakh khayeem" -- the breath of the spirit of life.

My main points in all this are: 1) I don't think we are going to see in the Hebrew Scripture the three-part structure the Fathers use (spirit, soul, body). 2) There's a cloud of words used in Hebrew Scripture for spirit, breath, wind, soul, self, etc. They overlap and differ and one can't do a tidy one-to-one translation into English or Greek words.

An example of what I just said: The Septuagint (aka "LXX," translation by the Jews in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC of the Hebrew Scripture into Greek, used extensively by the early Christians) in Gen 7:22 has only "pneuma zoe" (I took the word endings off), because "pneuma" means both "breath" and "spirit". So they collapsed the two Hebrew words into the one Greek word.


message 34: by Nemo (last edited Sep 27, 2017 06:45AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Here is the definition of soul (anima) that Origen adopted:

Bk. II. Ch. 8 On the Soul sec. 1
For soul is defined as follows: a substance φανταστική and ὁρμητική, which may be rendered into Latin, although not so appropriately, sensibilis et mobilis.

The basic nature of the soul is sensibility and mobility, which is common between animal and man.


message 35: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "Here is the definition of soul (anima) that Origen adopted:"

Where is that text from?


message 36: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark wrote: "My main points in all this are: 1) I don't think we are going to see in the Hebrew Scripture the three-part structure the Fathers use (spirit, soul, body). 2) There's a cloud of words used in Hebrew Scripture for spirit, breath, wind, soul, self, etc. They overlap and differ and one can't do a tidy one-to-one translation into English or Greek words"

Thank you for the informative post, Clark. Points taken. :)


message 37: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "Here is the definition of soul (anima) that Origen adopted:"

Where is that text from?"


Bk. II. Ch. 8 On the Soul sec.1

I was hoping someone could translate the two Greek words "appropriately", as Origen would have.


message 38: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "I was hoping someone could translate the two Greek words "appropriately", as Origen would have."

I'll work on it.


message 39: by Nemo (last edited Sep 27, 2017 12:09PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Bk. II. Chapter VI.—On the Incarnation of Christ Sec. 2
But of all the marvellous and mighty acts related of Him, this altogether surpasses human admiration, and is beyond the power of mortal frailness to understand or feel, how that mighty power of divine majesty, that very Word of the Father, and that very wisdom of God, in which were created all things, visible and invisible, can be believed to have existed within the limits of that man who appeared in Judea; nay, that the Wisdom of God can have entered the womb of a woman, and have been born an infant, and have uttered wailings like the cries of little children!


(I suspect the pagans had no difficulty believing that a god could appear in the form of a man, because their gods, Zeus, Apollo, etc, were all born in time and a specific place. But their gods exist as part of the world, and are not the transcendent Creator of it.

Today, non-believers have trouble believing that the Creator of the almost infinite material universe, if such a being exists, could or would appear in the form of a mere man on earth, let alone a crying infant!)


message 40: by Nemo (last edited Sep 27, 2017 10:00PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Bk.III Ch. I, Origen gives a balanced and thorough exposition of the relationship between the free will of man and the grace of God, with an emphasis on free will.

Bk. II. Ch. X.—On the Resurrection, and the Judgment, the Fire of Hell, and Punishments.

I've heard it said that Origen believes in universal salvation, but he doesn't expressly state that in this treatise, and leaves the ending open, so to speak:

Origen believes that God's punishment is for the purpose of healing, and the healing process doesn't stop in this age, but will last into the coming ages. An argument can be made that, all will be healed in the end, because there is no sickness God cannot heal. However, with free will, it is always possible for a person to refuse treatment by the Physician, and remain sick in soul as a result, and that sickness is punishment in and of itself, according to Origen. So a counter-argument can be made that, If a person never repents, he will suffer eternal punishment, because his soul is immortal.

(An Eastern Orthodox Christian once told me they believed that in the end God will be all in all, and His Presence will be Heaven to the faithful, and Hell to the reprobate. After reading Origen, I think perhaps that doctrine originated with him?)


message 41: by Clark (last edited Sep 28, 2017 05:43AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "Origen believes that God's punishment is for the purpose of healing, and the healing process doesn't stop in this age, but will last into the coming ages. An argument can be made that, all will be healed in the end, because there is no sickness God cannot heal. However, with free will, it is always possible for a person to refuse treatment by the Physician, ..."

[Alert! This message is not about Origen's On First Principles.]

Since this is not an official "shared inquiry" discussion, and since at least two modern writers have made (as I understand it) the exact same argument as you have summarized well, it seems rude of me not to post the info about the moderns.

1. This essay is available on the web in various places. I won't give a direct link because I don't want to appear to recommend whatever site I happen to find it first on. Kallistos Ware, "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?"

2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? Published by Ignatius Press.

Please do correct me if I have summarized incorrectly the contents of these two pieces.

Perhaps Susan or Kerstin has a reference to share on this.

[This message has not been about Origen's On First Principles.]


message 42: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "I was hoping someone could translate the two Greek words "appropriately", as Origen would have."

I'll work on it."


I did a preliminary Google search, but didn't find anything useful.

The note says: "Erasmus remarks, that φανταστική may be rendered imaginitiva, which is the understanding: ὁρμητική, impulsiva, which refers to the affections (Schnitzer)."

To do a serious word study, it would be nice to find all occurrences of those two words in ancient Greek texts, and compare their translations in context.


message 43: by Nemo (last edited Sep 28, 2017 12:54PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Clark wrote: "...Kallistos Ware, "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All? ..."

Many people (who are in the Orthodox tradition or interested in it) have recommended Kallistos Ware. I'm curious, does he teach the Orthodox Way more clearly than the Fathers?


message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "Origen believes that God's punishment is for the purpose of healing, and the healing process doesn't stop in this age, but will last into the coming ages. An argument can be made that, ..."

No, I don't have a reference, but fail to see how universal salvation fits in with what the Bible says, free will, the Crucifixion....how it fits in with almost everything...


message 45: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Susan said, "No, I don't have a reference, but fail to see how universal salvation fits in with what the Bible says, free will, the Crucifixion....how it fits in with almost everything..."

[This message is not primarily about Origen's On First Principles.]

There is an important distinction here.

To say that all will be saved is universalism and it's a heresy.

The two sources I mentioned ask, "Is it possible that all humans may be saved?" We could frame the same question this way: "Can we say for certain there will be some humans who will not be saved?"

At least part of the difference between universalism and the questions by Ware and Von Balthasar is what Nemo said: "If a person never repents, he will suffer eternal punishment, because his soul is immortal." A person can freely choose to repent or not. Since free will is involved, the result is not necessary (in the philosophical sense) or predetermined.

Both authors I mentioned are solid lower-case-o orthodox in their respective communions -- Ware is Orthodox, Von Balthasar is Roman Catholic. Ignatius Press, which publishes the Von Balthasar book (and many other books of his), is a traditionalist Roman Catholic publishing house that published Benedict XVI's books before he became Pope and, indeed, after. So these guys aren't flakes.

Both of them title their essays as questions, not as assured teachings.

[This message is not primarily about Origen's On First Principles.]


message 46: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "Many people (who are in the Orthodox tradition or interested in it) have recommended Kallistos Ware. I'm curious, does he teach the Orthodox Way more clearly than the Fathers?"

I wrote my best brief answer in a new topic in the "Resources" folder.


message 47: by Nemo (last edited Sep 29, 2017 10:39AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Nemo wrote: "Bk.III Ch. I, Origen gives a balanced and thorough exposition of the relationship between the free will of man and the grace of God, with an emphasis on free will...."

If I'm not mistaken, free will is a teaching held by all Christians. All the early Church Fathers we've read so far have expounded and defended it. Among the Protestant Reformers, even Calvin, who believes that the grace of God overrules the will of the believers, concedes that man was created with free will.

Origen defended the doctrine of free will against those (Gnostics, if I'm not mistaken) who teach that God created beings as good and evil by nature, and only those good by nature will be saved in the end. It is important to Origen, because he sees it as reflecting on the justice and goodness of God.

What is unique to Origen's conception of free will is that free will is the cause of all the diversities in the world. I always thought that God designed the world with diversities in mind. In a way, Origen anticipates the theory of evolution, by saying that the origin of species is not caused by random mutation and natural selection, but derived from the free will of created beings and made possible by the will of God.

This topic by itself deserves a treatise.


message 48: by Clark (last edited Sep 29, 2017 03:43PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 586 comments Nemo said, "To do a serious word study, it would be nice to find all occurrences of those two words in ancient Greek texts, and compare their translations in context."

I found a free, downloadable Patristic Greek lexicon. The link and other info are in the "Resources" folder, under a topic "Reference works."

Folks who search for "Patristic Greek Lexicon" may well uncover friendlier tools than this one.


message 49: by Nemo (last edited Sep 29, 2017 11:16PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1503 comments Thank you, Clark, for finding the Lexicon. Now we have a better idea of the soul as Origen sees it.

ὁρμητική is related to words meaning origin, impulse, impetuous, raging and zealot. See page 974 (in the physical copy) of the Lampe Patristic Lexicon:
https://archive.org/stream/LampePatri...

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ὁρμή

φανταστική is where the English word "fantasy" is derived from. It also means imaginative. See page 1471 of the Lexicon: https://archive.org/stream/LampePatri...

Origen gives two examples of "fantasy" in Bk.III Ch. I On Free Will:
in certain animals phantasies are formed which call forth an effort, the nature of the phantasy stirring up the effort in an orderly manner, as in the spider is formed the phantasy of weaving; ... And in the bee there is formed the phantasy to produce wax.



message 50: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Bk.III Ch. I, Origen gives a balanced and thorough exposition of the relationship between the free will of man and the grace of God, with an emphasis on free will...."

If I'm not mist..."


How (or why?) could the grace of God overrule the free will of man? Could you explain the Calvinist position more thoroughly for me? Thanks


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