(From the Encyclopedia Americana)

One of the most important early Christian teacher and theological writers, Origen was born in Alexandria Egypt in 185 A.D. and died in Tyre in 254 A.D. Instructed first by his father in the Christian religion, his later teachers were Clement of Alexandria and Ammonius. He mutilated himself in order to escape sexual desire, but years afterward realized the Christian religion did not justify such measures and regretted his action.

In 212 he went to Rome where he gained many friends and acquaintences, but was asked to return to Alexandria by bishop Demetrius. In Palestine in 227 A.D. he was ordained presbyter by the bishops who were there asembled. This laid the foundations for the persecutions which embittered the remainder of his life.

Demetrius maintained that he alone had the right to ordain Origen, whom he deprived of his priestly office, prohibited him from teaching in Alexandria, banished and excommunicated him. This sentence was confirmed at Rome and by most of the other bishops. But the Churches of Greece and Asia sustained Origen, who denied that he was guilty of the errors of which he was accused.

In the year 231, Demetrius died, and Origen enjoyed tranquillity. But the persecution under Maximim forced him to remain for two years in concealment. When peace was restored to the church in 237, he took advantage of it to travel to Athens. He then went to Arabia to refute bishop Beryllus, who affirmed that the divine nature of Christ did not exist before his human nature. Beryllus recanted, and thanked Origen for his instructions.

In the Decian persecution Origen was thrown into prison and subjected to such extreme sufferings, that he died from his wounds.

Few authors have written so much as Origen; few men have been attacked with such virulence, both during his life and after his death. He was reproached with blending the Christian doctrine with Platonism, particularly in his book 'De Principiis'; but he gives his opinions only as a possibility; moreover, he claimed that "heretics" had corrupted his writings. He has also been accused, without reason, of favoring materialism.

His double achievement was to destroy Gnosticism and to give philosophy a recognized place in the creeds of the Chruch. He is most famous for a compilation he made of early Bibles, called the 'Hexlapa'.

Of his works, besides the ones just mentioned, there are extant only his "Exhortaition to Martyrdom" commentaries, homilies and scholia on the Holy Scriptures, northing more of which we have than free translations.

His critical talent is shown in his 'Hexapla', a compilation of six translations of the Holy Scriptures, done side by side for comparison purposes, including translations of the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic Targums and other works extant in his time ­ i.e., the most important volumes used by various Christians during the very earliest days of the Christian Church.


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