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Tixeront Origenes

terça-feira 29 de março de 2022


Obras de Tixeront - em inglês
Origen (Origenes, i.e., son of Horus) was the most famous of Clement’s pupils. He was born of Christian parents in Egypt, apparently at Alexandria, in 185 or 186, and received his first training from his father  , Leonidas, who suffered martyrdom in 202 or 203. Later he became a disciple of Pantaenus and Clement. When seventeen years of age he displayed such talent and learning that he gave lessons in grammar, and at the age of eighteen, was selected by the bishop (Demetrius) to be the successor of Clement in the headmastership of the catechetical school of Alexandria.

Thus he began his life of teaching. It is divided into two distinct parts: from c. 204-230, Origen taught, with a few interruptions, at Alexandria; from 232 till his death, he taught at Caesarea in Palestine.

He not only taught during this first period, but continued his studies and, at the age of twenty-five  , attended the school of the Neo-Platonist, Ammonius   Saccas, in order to perfect his knowledge of philosophy. Besides this, he meditated upon the sacred Scriptures   and learned — though very imperfectly — the Hebrew   language. The year 212 was taken up by a journey to Rome to see " the most ancient Church." In 215 or 216, the persecution of Caracalla forced him to flee to Palestine, where Theoctistus, bishop of Caesarea, and Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem  , induced him, though a layman, to expound the Scriptures in their churches. Demetrius recalled him, in 218-219, to Alexandria, that he might resume his position as a teacher. This is the most brilliant period of his teaching life. Secretaries and copyists were placed at his disposal in abundance by one of his disciples, the rich Ambrosius, so that Origen, now in his prime, was able to multiply the number of his works and writings.

An unfortunate occurrence interrupted his work. About 230, he undertook a journey into Achaia and again passed through Caesarea of Palestine. His two friends, Theoctistus and Alexander, seized the opportunity to ordain him to the priesthood without consulting Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria. This was a violation of the canons. Demetrius protested and for this, and perhaps also for other reasons, Origen was deposed (231 or 232) from his office as head of the school of Alexandria and degraded from the priesthood. Special letters to all the other churches notified them of the measures taken.

Origen could no longer remain in Egypt. Banished from Alexandria, he withdrew to Caesarea and there commenced the second period of his career. Among his listeners was, for a time, the future St. Gregory Thaumaturgus. Origen escaped the persecution of Maximinus (235-237). In 240, he undertook a journey to Athens, and in 244 another to Arabia, to bring back to the orthodox faith Beryllus, bishop of Bostra. During the Decian persecution (250-251) he was cast into prison and underwent many tortures which, although they did not kill   him, hastened his death. He was set free, but died shortly afterwards, at Tyre in Phoenicia, in 254 or 255, at the end of his sixty-ninth year.

From an early date Origen received the surname of Adamantius (Adamantios, man of steel) to signify, according to Eusebius, the power of his reasoning; according to St. Jerome, the everlasting duration of his writings; we might add, to signify his indefatigable ardor and diligence. Origen’s was a mind   of insatiable curiosity and of prodigious knowledge, more vast, however, than deep. He grasped all the philosophical, Scriptural, and theological knowledge of his time. Nothing of any importance escaped his notice in ancient literature, sacred or profane. If exception be made of the books of the Epicureans and the Atheists, which he neglected on purpose, he had read all the other works and drawn profit from them all. However, he had a special predilection for the Sacred Scriptures. Apart from the critical work he undertook on the text of Holy Writ, of which we shall speak later, he had carefully examined all the different accounts and teachings it contained. It is on the authority of the Scriptures that he loves to base his own teaching. Origen is essentially a Biblical theologian, who formulated almost his entire theology in writing his commentaries on the Scriptures. This theology is not without faults, and its defects have drawn down upon the author many contradictions and even condemnations. On the whole, however, it has won for him first place among the theologians of the third century. Undoubtedly, one could desire more firmness and logical sequence in the work of Origen, and yet one cannot but admire the richness and variety of the vistas he opens up.

Origen ranks below Clement in purity, refinement, and harmony of style. In fact, he does not aim at writing well  , but rather at writing clearly. Yet he is often prolix and diffuse. These defects may be accounted for, however, if we remember that many of his writings were merely lessons or discourses taken down in shorthand, and that the enormous productivity of his pen left him little time to polish his compositions.

Indeed, Origen is the most voluminous writer the Church has ever had and that even antiquity ever knew. St. Epiphanius   speaks of 6,000 books written by him, but this is evidently an exaggeration since the catalogue of his works given by Eusebius, even though it comprises only the collection made by the priest Pamphylus at Caesarea, did not contain more than 2,000 titles. The catalogue made by St. Jerome does not mention more than 800 titles, but it is not complete. Undoubtedly a great part of the literary output of Origen has been lost. This is due to two causes: first, the enormity of the work itself, so vast indeed that one was forced to make a choice in transcribing, since everything could not be copied; secondly, the condemnations which sully the memory of the author and throw discredit on his books. More than half of what has been preserved exists now only in Latin translations of the fourth or fifth centuries, and " these are too free and have been retouched too frequently to be taken at face   value." [NA: The Philocalia is a collection of Origen’s most beautiful passages made by St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. It has been re-edited by A. Robinson, Cambridge, 1893.]

We shall deal successively with Origen’s Biblical works, with his apologetical and polemical works, with his theological works, and with his ascetical writings and letters.

I. Biblical IVorks. The first of Origen’s Biblical works is the Hexapla (Hexapla Biblia  , sixfold Bible). It contains Old Testament texts arranged in six columns: a) the Hebrew text in Hebrew characters; b) the Hebrew text in Greek characters; c) the Greek version of Aquila; d) the Greek version of Symmachus; e) the Greek version of the Septuagint; and f) the Greek version of Theodotion. The book of Psalms was written in eight columns (octapla) because there were two more versions. This disposition of the texts enables one to compare the original with the different versions and so detect at a glance the true meaning of a passage. To facilitate this work still more, Origen made additions to the fifth column, that of the Septuagint. He marked with an obelisk verses or passages found   in the Septuagint but missing in the original Hebrew; those which existed in the Hebrew but were wanting in the Septuagint, were borrowed from another version, inserted in the proper column, and indicated by an asterisk. Origen’s purpose was to further a disinterested textual criticism of the Scriptures, for he looked upon the Septuagint as a perfect translation and gave it preference over the original Hebrew. But he wished to furnish controversialists who wrote against the Jews and who were accused by them of not knowing the Hebrew text, with the text itself and its meaning. The composition of the Hexapla began at Alexandria and was completed at Caesarea, c. 245.

It is doubtful whether any second copy was ever made of this gigantic work; probably the only complete text was that of the original copy. St. Jerome certainly made use of this copy, then in the library of Caesarea, for the composition of his own works. If the entire work was never copied, at least some parts of it were, especially the fifth column, the most important one of all. Of the other columns only a few fragments remain.

The other Scriptural writings of Origen may be divided into three groups: the Scholia, the Homilies, and the Commentaries.

The Scholia (scholia) are brief notes, often of a purely grammatical character, on the more difficult passages of Scripture. Origen wrote scholia on Genesis  , Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Isaias, the Psalms (especially the first fifteen), Ecclesiasticus, St. Matthew  , St. John, and the Epistle to the Galatians. Only a few passages are preserved.

The Homilies are familiar talks with the faithful on the Scriptures. The author treats his subject from nearly all points of view: sometimes he discusses the text and fixes its meaning, like a professor; sometimes he draws lessons from the text and thus becomes a preacher and a moralist; sometimes he treats a question of dogma  . About 500 of these homilies on the books of the Old and New Testaments are known, but Origen certainly composed a greater number than this. About 200 have been preserved, most of them in Latin translations due to Rufinus and to St. Jerome.

The Commentaries. In his homilies Origen’s main purpose was to edify; in his commentaries (tomoi), which were written works, he set himself the task of explaining the Sacred Text in a scientific way that would be fully understood by his readers. Unfortunately, Origen’s interpretation is allegoristic, and his commentaries are nearly always incomplete. Before 244, Origen had commented upon the first four chapters of Genesis, a number of Psalms, the Proverbs, the Canticle of Canticles (twice,— the last time in 240-242), the first thirty chapters of Isaias (235), the Lamentations of Jeremias (at Alexandria), Ezechiel (completed c. 240), the minor prophets (except Abdias), and the gospels of St. Luke and St. John (at Alexandria and at Caesarea, completed after 238) ; and after 244, upon the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul, except Corinthians and Timothy. He does not seem to have commented upon the Catholic Epistles or the Apocalypse. Not one of these commentaries has reached us in its complete form. Only a few citations and some important portions from Greek or Latin translations remain. St. Jerome prized the second commentary on the Canticle of Canticles as the best of Origen’s commentaries and even considered it the author’s masterpiece.

The main reason why the greater part of Origen’s commentaries has been lost is to be found in the author’s neglect to explain the literal sense   of the text and his abuse of allegorical exegesis  . Convinced that the moral or spiritual sense was more important than the literal or historical meaning, which in some cases could not be accepted, he almost ignored the latter and developed the spiritual sense beyond due measure. Whilst some of his explanations are true, many are exaggerated and arbitrary. The School of Antioch arose and pointed out the danger of this exegetical subjectivism and kept men from reading such works.

2. Apologetical and Polemical Writings. Origen’s principal apologetical work is the treatise Against Celsus, in eight books.

Celsus was a learned Platonist, firmly attached to the national religion, who wrote, c. 177-178, an attack against Christianity entitled Alethes   logos   (True Discourse, or better, Demonstration of Truth). Thanks to Origen, we possess about nine-tenths of the substance of this work and seven-tenths of it verbatim. In it Celsus shows a knowledge of Christianity perhaps unique among the pagans of his time and, although he has apprehended neither the originality nor the entire depth of the Christian faith, he has really studied the religion which he attacks. He uses the Holy Scriptures; he marks its difficulties and apparent contradictions; he knows that there exist many sects among the Christians and draws an argument from this fact against the truth of their religion. Like Voltaire, he is caustic and scornful. Celsus’ work does not seem to have had much success at the time when it appeared; it would, in all probability, have remained unnoticed, had not Origen brought it into prominence by writing, c. 244-249, a refutation of it at the request of his friend Ambrose  . To the four books of the Demonstration of Truth Origen opposes eight of his work and they follow, step by step, the arguments of his opponent. He quotes him at length (except at the beginning) and answers his objections and arguments one by one. This work of Origen was held in great esteem in antiquity; in fact, he displayed such prodigious learning in no other book of his. The reader is greatly impressed by the firmness of the author’s faith and the calm manner in which he meets and answers the objections of Celsus.

The Contra Celsum is the only work which remains of Origen’s apologetical and polemical writings. We have only a reminder of a certain number of discussions which he had with either the Jews or certain heretics and which had been written down. It may well be that, besides the refutations of the principal heresies which he undertook in his works, he directed special treatises against the one or other of these in particular. If these treatises ever existed, they are no longer extant.

3. Theological Writings. Origen’s most important theological writings is the Peri Archon   (De Principiis). The Greek text of this work has been lost. Citations from it have been preserved, with two lengthy fragments, comprising the commencement of Book III and that of Book IV, in the Philocalia. The whole work has come down to us in a Latin translation by Rufinus. Unfortunately, this translation is very free; Rufinus has modified and even suppressed certain passages of questionable orthodoxy and introduced in their place passages from other parts of Origen’s works. Of St. Jerome’s literal translation we have only about twenty-seven short fragments.

The De Principiis was written at Alexandria shortly before 231, consequently about 229-230. Origen states his purpose in the introduction. Starting with the Apostolic and ecclesiastical preaching, which is the source of the whole Christian faith, he attempts to give a connected and systematic treatment of the fundamental teachings (upxa0 °f that faith by bringing together its scattered elements, clearing up difficulties, and completing what are often nothing more than mere indications. The whole idea   is that of a Summa Theologica   and only a genius   could have conceived it in Origen’s time.

Origen divided the De Principiis into four books. The first treats of God  , His unity and spirituality, the Logos, the Holy Ghost   and the Angels. The second deals with the world and its creation, man and his origin, the redemption of man by the Incarnation, and the last things. The third book discusses the nature of human freedom, the strife   between good and evil, and the final triumph of good. The fourth is devoted to theories of Scriptural interpretation and exegesis.

This attempt of Origen to construct a synthesis   of Christian doctrine was premature. Unhappily, errors crept into the text, which proved injurious to the reputation of the work. St. Jerome’s opinion that the book contains " more evil than good " is exaggerated. The reader is much more struck by the depth of certain views it contains, than by the unfortunate temerity of some of its hypotheses.

Before writing the De Principiis, Origen had composed at Alexandria ten books of Stromata  , known to us only through a few citations. This appears to have been a work in which, with the help of Scripture, he explained Christian beliefs, showing on the one hand how they differ from pagan doctrines, and on the other, how they are confirmed by the writings of philosophers.

Two works On the Resurrection should also be mentioned. The first, in two books, was composed at Alexandria; the second, also in two books, was written in dialogue form. Some fragments of this work are cited by Methodius of Olympus, Pamphilus, and St. Jerome.

4. Ascetical Works and Letters. Origen left two ascetical works,— On Prayer and an Exhortation to Martyrdom. The first is divided into two parts: a) chs. 1-17, on prayer in general, its necessity and efficacy; and b) chs. 18-30, a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer. This little book is one of Origen’s most prized works. It was written probably after 231. The Exhortation to Martyrdom, written in 235, at the beginning of the persecution of Maximinus, is addressed to Ambrose and to Protoctetus, a presbyter of Caesarea, whom Origen exhorts to confess their faith and even to die for it if necessary. It is a forceful and earnest address, which betrays the author’s own attitude towards martyrdom.