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Headword: Ôrigenês
Adler number: omega,183
Translated headword: Origen
Vetting Status: high
[Origen] had as his father Leonides, bishop and martyr, who attained perfection under the emperor Severus.[1] Being in Alexandria, Origen devoted great zeal to the divine word.[2] Many became his followers and especially Ambrosius, who relinquished the heresies of Valentinus and Marcion in his eagerness to gain knowledge of him.[3] Many non-Christian philosophers also studied with him and harvested great benefit. He was acknowledged as great by them, imparting geometry and arithmetic and the other preliminary studies. On that account, not a few of the philosophers among the Greeks mention him as a teacher. Precocious in childhood, at that time he was already disposed greatly to inquiry. As he understood the deepest meaning of the divine writings at a young age, his father repeatedly rebuked him lest he seek out matters beyond his years. When his father Leonides stood over the boy at night and looked at him, he kissed the boy's breast as if a divine spirit were enshrined within it and blessed himself for his good fortune in parenthood. Origen practiced from his youth such holiness and continence that he was satisfied each day with only four obols for sustenance. Without question he continued doing this for many years. Lying on the ground on a rush mat, he slept a few hours of the night, spending the greater part in study of the Holy Scriptures. He continued on to such a degree with these practices, as well as mortifying himself with vigils and fasting and nakedness, that he completely overpowered the vigor of his body, so that he appeared to have withered away.[4] Abstaining from wine and oil and other foodstuffs, he endured the greatest sloughing-off of the body.[5] Then truly it became widely known how he was distinguished above all in both word and deed, and having persuaded many Hellenes to abominate the madness of idol worship, he readied the martyr's crown to be fitted upon him.[6] With many reports flying about him and many flowing toward him from afar, not only did he draw to proper worship famous Hellenes, both philosophers and heretics, but he also ordered into closer formation those who were already Christians.[7] The aforesaid Ambrosius often entreating him, and constraining [him to live] in Caesarea, providing seven stenographers to attend him and more calligraphers, made him interpret the holy texts. Ambrosius also provided the necessities for his life. Origen, being engaged in his studies, dictated to the stenographers, and the book scribes (along with women who were well-trained in calligraphy) wrote up [their notes]. He interpreted the whole of the Scripture in eighteen years. It is said that Origen's oeuvre comprised six thousand books. Ambrosius displayed such a zeal in regard to the interpretation of Scripture that Origen, witnessing his repeated earnestness, wrote to some person, saying: "The holy Ambrosius, who is genuinely dedicated to God, sent many greetings. He, recognizing that I am a friend of God and that I thirsted exceedingly [for him], put me to shame with his own diligence in his love for learning. Whence, he outstripped me so far that [I] risked falling short of his hypotheses. It is neither the case that he does not converse while dining, nor, having dined, is it permitted to take walks and rest the body, but indeed at those times we are compelled to study and to make accurate copies. Nor are we permitted to sleep through the night for the health of the body, but more often he spent the time in arduous study. At dawn [we] read and from dawn until the ninth or tenth hour. All who are choosing to be industrious dedicate these times to the close examination of the Scriptures and to their reading." Thus he interpreted all of the holy text. During that time, running across the Old Testament in a storage jar in Jericho, Origen wisely and cleverly set this up.[8] In the end, however, his renown did not remain unextinguished. There came for him an exceptional fall from the pinnacle of experience. And of course, he bcame a pitfall and a cause of destruction for many. Wishing that none of the Scripture remain unexplained, in the course of his work he cast himself into the attraction of sin and became the fomenter of deadly interpretations. For Arius took from Origen his first propositions, and soon thereafter came the Anomoeans and unholy ones and all the rest.[9] Origen dared to affirm that at the beginning, the Only-begotten Son was unable to see the Father, nor was the Holy Spirit able to see the Son, nor the angels the Holy Spirit, nor mankind the angels. Furthermore, he does not accept that the Son is from the essence of the Father, but is a created being, and was called Son by grace, that his human soul existed beforehand, and his other blasphemies one after the other.[10] He certainly did make a fine composition in each of his works, and whenever he inquired into the nature of living things and animals in his introductory statements he carried himself impartially, many times writing graceful narratives. Whenever, though, he rendered opinions on faith, he has been found the most fallible of all. It was taught by him that one should undertake the ascetic life in this manner, as it was said that his body was ruined due to the excess of hunger and hard training. For he contrived against his body, some say to sever the member in order that he not be vexed by pleasure, others that he placed a drug on his genitals and withered them up, and others report other things about him.[11] Origen is said to have suffered many tribulations on behalf of Christ, being exceedingly well-versed in the Word and reared up in the Church. Calumniated due to envy by the rulers of the world through the evil machination of diabolical thoughts, they say that he was attacked as a man of the greatest shame by these workers of wickedness. They prepared for him an Ethiopian for the abuse of his body. He, however, being unable to bear such a filthy idea screamed loudly, and with two choices put before him, he agreed to make a sacrifice. Carrying frankincense in his hands unto the altar he kindled a fire. And thus, by these choices, he was rejected from martyrdom by the judges and he was forced out of the Church.[12] Leaving behind Alexandria on account of the disgrace, he seized upon Judea. Coming to Jerusalem as an exegete and learned man, he was persuaded by the priesthood to speak to the Church. He was previously a presbyter. Urged on by the bishops, he stood alone and said: "God said to the sinner, 'Why do you recite my statutes and receive my covenant in your mouth?'"[13] When he folded up the book, he sat down, shedding tears and wailing, with all weeping alike with him. There are many other statements and praises about him due to the magnitude of this man's knowledge and the composition of the books. Whence he is called Syntacticus because he made many books, not heeding, apparently words of Solomon who said: "Son, beware lest you write many books, and be not hasty with your mouth, and let your heart not hurry to carry a word from before the face of God. Because God is in heaven above and you are on earth below. Therefore let your words be few.[14] Many words increase foolishness.[15] Nor become overly righteous. The just man is slain in his righteousness. And, do not claim to know too much, lest you be impious."[16] Having pushed aside all this, Origen fell away from what was fitting.
Greek Original:
Ôrigenês Leônidên eiche patera, episkopon kai martura, epi Sebêrou basileôs akmasas. hostis Ôrigenês en Alexandreiai tunchanôn megalên eis ton theion logon spoudên kateballeto. hou zêlôtai polloi kai alloi kai malista Ambrosios egeneto, hos es gnôsin autou aphikesthai spoudasas apestê tês Oualentinou kai Markiônos haireseôs. pleistoi de kai tôn exôthen philosophôn pros auton phoitôntes megistên ôpheleian ekarpounto: megas gar kai par' autois enomizeto, paradidous geômetrian kai arithmêtikên kai talla propaideumata. dioper ouk oligoi tôn par' Hellêsi philosophôn memnêntai autou hôs didaskalou. kai gar euphuês paidothen hupêrche sphodra kai zêtêtikos lian. hos en têi paidikêi hêlikiai to tês theias graphês boulêma punthanomenos bathuteron, touton epeplêtten ho patêr, mêden huper hêlikian peraiterô zêtein. nuktôr de epistas kai idôn ta sterna hôs theiou pneumatos endothen autois aphierômenou katephilei kai tês euteknias heauton emakarizen. hagneian de kai enkrateian tosautên êskêsen ek neou tou sômatos, hôs obolois tessarsi kai monois pros diatrophên hekastês hêmeras arkoumenos. kai mentoi kai en pollois etesi touto poiôn dietelei, kai ep' edaphous kai psiathiou katheudôn kai oligon kairon tês nuktos anapauomenos ton pleiona eis tên hieran meletên tôn hierôn logiôn diênue, kai en toutois epekteinomenos epi te asitiai kai agrupniai kai gumnotêti heauton hupôpiazôn tosouton katedamase tên akmên tou sômatos, hôs horasthai pantelôs auton apesklêkenai: oinou gar kai elaiou kai tôn loipôn apechomenos anatropên tou thôrakos megistên hupemeinen. enthen ge toi diaboêtos genomenos, hôs diaprepôn ergôi kai logôi, kai pollous Hellênas tên eidôlomanian bdeluttesthai peisas marturiou stephanon anadêsasthai pareskeuasen. pollês oun phêmês peri autou trechousês, kai pollôn makrothen pros auton surreontôn, ou monon Hellênas kai philosophous kai hairetikous ellogimous pros tên eusebeian heilkusen, alla kai tous ontas Christianous mallon stoicheiôsas epebebaiôsen. hon ho prolechtheis Ambrosios hiketeusas polla kai parabiasamenos en Kaisareiai kai tachugraphous autôi parastêsas hepta, pleious de kalligraphous, hermêneusai tas theias graphas auton pepoiêke. kai ho men tên deousan chreian pareichen, ho de epi scholês genomenos hupêgoreue tois tachugraphois kai hoi bibliographoi sun gunaixin egraphon epi to kalligraphein exêskêmenais. pasan te theian graphên hêrmêneusen epi etê iê#. legetai de hoti #22#2# biblous sunetaxe: tosouton gar zêlon es tên exêgêsin tôn theiôn logiôn ho Ambrosios epedeixato, hôste tên pollên autou spoudên Ôrigenês marturôn graphei pros tina legôn: ho hieros theôi kai gnêsiôs anakeimenos Ambrosios polla prosêgoreusen: hostis nomizôn me philon einai kai panu dipsan tou theiou êlenxe têi idiai philoponiai tôi pros ta mathêmata erôti. hothen epi tosouton me parelêluthen, hôste kinduneuein apaudan pros tas autou protaseis: oute gar deipnêsai estin hoti mê antiballonta, oute deipnêsanta exesti peripatêsai kai dianapausai to sômation, alla kai en tois kairois ekeinois philologein kai akriboun ta antigrapha anankazometha. oute mên holên epi therapeiai tou sômatos tên nukta exestin hêmin koimasthai, epi polu tais philologiais parateinonta. eô de legein kai ta heôthen mechris ennatês kai dekatês hôras: pantes gar hoi thelontes philoponein tous kairous ekeinous têi exetasei tôn theiôn logiôn kai tais anagnôsesin anatitheasi. pasan toinun hêrmêneuse tên theian graphên. kata gar tous chronous toutous en Hierichôi en tini pithôi perituchôn tên Palaian euphuôs mala kai epistêmonôs tautên kateskeuasen. all' ouk eis telos asbeston autou to kleos diemeine: sumbebêkei gar autôi to tês polupeirias drastêrion ptôma exaision: kai mentoi skandalon pollois kai apôleias proxenos gegone. boulomenos gar tôn theiôn graphôn mêden easai anermêneuton eis epagôgên heauton periebalen hamartias kai thanasima exêgêsato rhêmata. ex autou gar kai Areios tas aphormas eilêphe kai hoi kathexês anomoioi te kai anosioi kai hoi loipoi pantes. phaskei gar houtos tolmêsas kata tên archên, hoti ho monogenês huios horan ton patera ou dunatai oute to pneuma to hagion ton huion oute hoi angeloi to pneuma oute hoi anthrôpoi tous angelous. kai ek tês ousias tou patros ou thelei einai ton huion, alla ktisma, kai kata charin huion legesthai, tên de anthrôpinên psuchên proüparchein, kai ta hexês tôn blasphêmiôn autou. pollên goun pepoiêke suntaxin eis hekastên graphên, kai hosa men en prosomiliais kai dia prooimiôn es êthê te kai es phuseis zôiôn kai alogôn eirêtai mesôs pheromenos pollakis charienta diêgêmata graphei: hosa de peri pisteôs edogmatise, tôn pantôn atopôteros heurisketai. edoxe de autôi kai askêtikon bion epanêirêsthai toiouton, hôs kai ton thôraka autou phasi di' huperbolên asitias te kai sklêragôgias anatrapênai, epinenoêke de kai kata to sômation, hoi men hoti neuron apotetmêkenai dia to mê hêdonêi parenochleisthai, hoi de pharmakon epitheinai tois moriois eipon kai apoxêranai, alloi de alla eis auton anapherousin. houtos polla legetai peponthenai huper tou Christou, logios ôn sphodra kai en têi ekklêsiai anatethrammenos, phthonôi de diablêtheis pros tous tês exousias archontas kakomêchaniai diabolikês epinoias eis aischrotaton andra phasin epinoêthênai para tôn tês kakias ergatôn: Aithiopa gar autôi pareskeuasan eis parachrêsin tou sômatos autou. ho de mê pherôn tên tosautên bdeluran epinoian errêxe phônên, amphoterôn protethentôn autôi pragmatôn, kai kathômologêse thusai. kai balontes epi tas cheiras autou libanôton eis tên tou bômou puran kathêke. kai houtô tou marturiou apo tôn krinantôn apeblêthê kai tês ekklêsias exeôsthê. tên de Alexandreian katalipôn dia ton oneidon tên Ioudaian katelaben. anelthôn de eis Hierosoluma hôs exêgêtês kai logios proetrepeto apo tou hierateiou epi tês ekklêsias eipein: presbuteros gar proüpêrche, kai polla katanankastheis hupo tôn hiereôn, anastas kai touto monon to rhêton eipôn: tôi de hamartôlôi eipen ho theos: hina ti su ekdiêgêi ta dikaiômata mou kai analambaneis tên diathêkên mou dia stomatos sou; ptuxas to biblion ekathise meta klauthmou dakruôn, pantôn homou sunklaiontôn autôi. eisi de kai alla polla legomena te kai aidomena dia to plêthos tês gnôseôs autou kai suntaxeôs tôn bibliôn. hothen kai Suntaktikos ônomasthê, dia to pepoiêkenai polla biblia, mê akouôn, hôs eoike, tou Solomôntos legontos: huie, phulaxai tou poiêsai biblia polla: kai, mê speude epi stomati sou, kai kardia sou mê tachunatô tou exenenkein logon apo prosôpou tou theou, hoti ho theos en tôi ouranôi anô kai su epi tês gês katô. dia touto estôsan hoi logoi sou oligoi: eisi gar logoi polloi plêthunontes mataiotêta. kai mê ginou dikaios polu: esti gar dikaios apollumenos en dikaiômati autou. kai, mê sophizou perissa, mêpote asebêsêis. tauta panta parôsamenos paresphalê tou prepontos.
For Origen see already omega 192. The present entry reproduces the Chronicon of George the Monk, ed. C. de Boor (Stuttgart, 1978), 2:452.18-459.4. The passage also appears in Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Excerpta de virtutis et vitiis, ed. by Theodor Büttner-Wobst and Anton Roos, 1:137.5-140.29 (Berlin, 1906). Both draw upon the extensive biography of Origen around which Eusebius constructed Book 6 of the Ecclesiastical History, vol.II, trans. by J.E.L. Oulton, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge MA, 1964). A more full and coherent version of George's biography is found in Cedrenus, Historiarium compendium, PG:121.483-490.
Catholic Encyclopedia entry at web address 1. See further below, under 'Additional Bibliography.'
[1] Origen's dates are c.185-c.254 CE. Leonides died in 203/204 during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211).
[2] Origen was almost certainly a native of Alexandria.
[3] Ambrosius (d.251), was a rich court official and an adherent of the gnostic views propagated by Valentinus. According to Eusebius, Origen converted Ambrosius, who became a close friend and patron (EH 6.18, 6.23). Marcion, a suffragan and son of the bishop of Pontic Sinope, became prominent in Rome during the 140's and attempted to dissociate Christianity from its Jewish roots. Marcion's Platonic theology instructed that Jesus was the son of the Ultimate God, the Good, and not the son of the Hebrew God of the Old Testament. Valentinus (d. c.161) developed an elaborate religious and philosophical system which integrated Christian and Platonic principles. This Gnosticism taught its adherents to free their souls from material constraints so as to seek a union with God through a spiritual ascent. See the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Marcionites at web address 2; on Valentinians, see web address 3.
[4] When Eusebius described Origen as "persevering in cold and nakedness," he understood gumno/thti in its usual sense (EH 6.3.11). Minimalism in clothing as well as sleep and food is attested as a feature of Christian asceticism. George the Monk (or the source that he used) uses the idea of nakedness to construct a vision of Origen as a Christian ephebe. *gumno/thti is the first of several allusions to a discourse drawn from the world of the military and the gymnasium, a discourse often used in connection with Christian ascetics. "Nakedness" conveys the sense of a Christian soldier who, stripped of weapons, trains in the nude.
[5] *)anatroph\n tou= qw/rakos megi/sthn u(pe/meinen, a problematic passage, again taken from Eusebius (EH 6.3.12: w(/ste h)/dh ei)s ki/ndunon a)natroph=s kai\ diafqora=s tou= qw/rakos peripesei=n). Oulton admitted that he did not understand the meaning of qw/rakos and relied upon the Latin of Rufinus to clarify the passage: "so that he actually incurred the risk of upsetting and injuring his stomach." "Thorax" does mean "trunk" or "stomach," the parts of the body covered by a "cuirass," the usual reading. a)natroph\n tou= qw/rakos megi/sthn u(pe/meinen could thus form a pun and read either "endured the upheaval" of the "breastplate," or of the breast or stomach covered by it. George thus continues the ephebic and gymnastic metaphor from the previous sentence. "Thorax" also means the "sloughed off skin of a serpent," a further allegorical treatment of the spiritual advancement attained through ascetic training. H.A. Drake discusses the polysemic quality of Eusebius' language, In Praise of Constantine (Berkeley CA, 1975).
[6] Further ephebic imagery, a)nadh/sasqai means "to tie the victor's fillet around the brow".
[7] *stoixeiw/sas e)pebebai/wsen completes the military metaphor by likening the Church to both cosmic order and an army of spiritual powers.
[8] This refers to Origen's gathering up of the various Greek translations of the Old Testament and their compilation, along with the Hebrew text, into the Hexapla. The story of the text found in the jar in Jericho occurs in Eusebius 6.16.3, and refers specifically to the discovery of a version of the Psalms, of which Origen included seven in the Hexapla.
[9] Arius is credited with the boldest affirmation of the Son as a creature, a theological concept countered by the Doctrine of the Trinity. "Anomoeans" are those who believe that the Son is not like (homoios) the Father. On Arius and Arians, see web address 4 and web address 5.
[10] All explained most fully in De principiis. Eusebius summarized Origen's theology, christology and cosmology in a lost Apologia which he wrote on Origen's behalf when his works were under scrutiny during the Arian controversy. Eusebius also clarified the reason for Origen's eventual exile from Alexandria as resulting from his bishop's anger at his irregular ordination as a priest by the church of Greek Caesarea. Photius reproduced parts of the lost Apologia in his Bibliotheca, Cods. 117 and 118, PG103:393-399.
[11] This is a reticent allusion to the story of Origen's self-castration found in Eusebius 6.8.1-5.
[12] A reference to the persecution loosed in Alexandria by Caracalla which resulted in Origen's first trip to Palestine (c.215/216?). The story of his refusal of martyrdom is surely a ribald rhetorical attack. Does it appropriate and invert the story of the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8.26-39 as an assault upon the castrated non-martyr? See also pi 493.
[13] Psalm 49.16 LXX (50.16 NRSV).
[14] Ecclesiastes 12:12 and 5:2.
[15] Ecclesiastes 6:11.
[16] Ecclesiastes 7:16-17.
The remnants of Origen's original works in Greek, and the Latin translations of Rufinus and Jerome, appear in PG:11-17. There are numerous English translations of De principiis and Contra Celsum, while the homiletical and exegetical works can be found among the Fathers of the Church Series. The Sources Chrétiennes Series offers original editions and French translations. Fragments and quotations appear in the Philocalia.
Origen studies have generated an enormous bibliography. A start can be made by consulting:
Jean Daniélou, Origen (New York, 1955) and The Angels and Their Mission, trans. D. Heimann (Westminster MD, 1957);
R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh, 1988) 60-98;
H. Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis: Origenes und sein Verhaltnis zum Platonismus (Berlin, 1932);
Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis (Grand Rapids MI, 1998); Origeniana Tertia: Third International Colloquium for Origen Studies, edited by R. Hanson and H. Crouzel (Rome, 1985);
Origen of Alexandria: His World and His Legacy, edited by C. Kannengiesser and W. Petersen, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity 1 (South Bend IN, 1988);
M. Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, (Edinburgh, 1994).
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: athletics; biography; children; Christianity; chronology; economics; ethics; food; gender and sexuality; geography; historiography; history; imagery; mathematics; military affairs; philosophy; religion; women; zoology
Translated by: John Arnold on 27 June 2000@17:15:57.
Vetted by:
John Arnold on 27 June 2000@17:25:28.
John Arnold on 28 June 2000@16:43:04.
David Whitehead (added note and keywords; cosmetics) on 8 September 2002@08:27:58.
Catharine Roth (modified translation) on 21 June 2004@00:53:53.
Catharine Roth (further modified translation, lowered status) on 21 June 2004@01:56:09.
Catharine Roth (further modified translation) on 23 June 2004@02:06:44.
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmetics; modified translation and note 4) on 26 June 2004@01:19:45.
Catharine Roth (modified translation) on 15 July 2004@18:32:51.
Catharine Roth (augmented note 9) on 15 July 2004@18:37:33.
Catharine Roth (added keywords) on 29 September 2005@11:34:05.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 28 November 2005@10:35:37.
David Whitehead (tiny tweak to tr) on 15 March 2010@05:24:21.
Catharine Roth (tweaks, cosmetics, cross-reference) on 21 September 2011@01:36:45.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics; raised status) on 3 November 2013@05:02:22.
Catharine Roth (tweaked notes, deleted a link, coding) on 13 November 2013@01:28:07.
Catharine Roth (re-ordered links) on 9 November 2014@22:40:52.
David Whitehead (coding) on 20 May 2016@08:59:13.
Ronald Allen (cosmeticule) on 24 April 2018@21:44:47.


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