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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 236

Origen was an early church father, born in the North African city of Alexandria in (or around) the year 185 of the Common Era. Alexandria was known as one of the intellectual hubs of the ancient world, home of an extensive library (one of the so-called wonders of the world). Origen was a prolific church father, and he is particularly known for his exegesis (interpretation) of Scripture—primarily the early gospels.

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It is important to note that the contents of his work On First Principles (Latin: De Principiīs) survives in its entirely only as an amended Latin translation. The contents comprise four books, each divided into several sections. In the first book, Origen discusses the nature of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In the second book, Origen describes the origins of the world, the nature of the human body, the incarnation of Christ, and free will. The third book gives Origen's description of temptation, sin, and redemption. Finally, in the fourth book, Origen gives an interpretation on Scripture, including Old and New Testament figures. He also discusses church practices such as circumcision.

A major distinction between Origen and other early church father's is his methodology. He has a strong commitment to scholarship, and is thorough in his discussions of doctrine. Origen is also a proponent of a rational free will in humans, This free will, he maintains, leads humans in their progress of understanding God.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1344

Origen was the first Christian to write systematic theology, to explain how all the things the Bible teaches can be true, and to show how those truths relate to one another. In On First Principles, Origen begins the first book with a preface that states what is clear from the teaching of the Apostles. First, there is only one God the creator, who gave the Law and sent Jesus Christ. Second, God the Son was born of the Father, was the servant of God in the creation of all things, became a man, was born of a virgin, died, and rose from the dead. Third, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles. Fourth, souls exist with free will and rationality, and they are rewarded or punished after death. Fifth, a devil and bad angels exist. Sixth, the world began and will end. Seventh, the Scriptures were written by the Holy Spirit and have both an obvious and a hidden meaning. Eighth, good angels help in human salvation. Origen says that anyone who wants to make a “connected series and body of truths” must begin from this foundation.

The first book of On First Principles begins by disproving the idea that God exists materially. While various Scriptures give this impression, Origen shows that they are metaphors. God is also incomprehensible, far better than any human understanding can fathom. Of God the Son, Origen says that he is also the wisdom and Word of God. Because God has always been the Father and has always possessed wisdom and his Word, God the Son must be coeternal with the Father. He is also the life by which all things live and the truth by which all things truly exist. While some might have reasoned that God exists and communicates through a divine Word, no one would think of the existence of the Holy Spirit without the revelation in Scripture. Nothing in the Bible even implies that the Holy Spirit was created, so it must be uncreated and coeternal with God the Father. This Holy Spirit works exclusively with believers. God the Father gives all beings existence, God the Son gives some beings rationality, and God the Spirit gives the rational beings who obey God holiness. Those to whom the Spirit gives holiness must continue to long for more, lest they become satiated and fall away through neglect.

Thinking of falling away through neglect...

(The entire section contains 1580 words.)

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