Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter II
Chapter II.—The Training of Origen from Childhood. 1767
1. Many things might be said in attempting to describe the life of the man while in school; but this subject alone would require a separate treatise. Nevertheless, for the present, abridging most things, we shall state a few facts concerning him as briefly as possible, gathering them from certain letters, and from the statement of persons still living who were acquainted with him.
2. What they report of Origen seems to me worthy of mention, even, so to speak, from his swathing-bands.
It was the tenth year of the reign of Severus, p. 250 while Lætus 1768 was governor of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and Demetrius 1769 had lately received the episcopate of the parishes there, as successor of Julian. 1770
3. As the flame of persecution had been kindled greatly, 1771 and multitudes had gained the crown of martyrdom, such desire for martyrdom seized the soul of Origen, although yet a boy, that he went close to danger, springing forward and rushing to the conflict in his eagerness.
4. And truly the termination of his life had been very near had not the divine and heavenly Providence, for the benefit of many, prevented his desire through the agency of his mother.
5. For, at first, entreating him, she begged him to have compassion on her motherly feelings toward him; but finding, that when he had learned that his father had been seized and imprisoned, he was set the more resolutely, and completely carried away with his zeal for martyrdom, she hid all his clothing, and thus compelled him to remain at home.
6. But, as there was nothing else that he could do, and his zeal beyond his age would not suffer him to be quiet, he sent to his father an encouraging letter on martyrdom, 1772 in which he exhorted him, saying, “Take heed not to change your mind on our account.” This may be recorded as the first evidence of Origens youthful wisdom and of his genuine love for piety.
7. For even then he had stored up no small resources in the words of the faith, having been trained in the Divine Scriptures from childhood. And he had not studied them with indifference, for his father, besides giving him the usual liberal education, 1773 had made them a matter of no secondary importance.
8. First of all, before inducting him into the Greek sciences, he drilled him in sacred studies, requiring him to learn and recite every day.
9. Nor was this irksome to the boy, but he was eager and diligent in these studies. And he was not satisfied with learning what was simple and obvious in the sacred words, but sought for something more, and even at that age busied himself with deeper speculations. So that he puzzled his father with inquiries for the true meaning of the inspired Scriptures.
10. And his father rebuked him seemingly to his face, telling him not to search beyond his age, or further than the manifest meaning. But by himself he rejoiced greatly and thanked God, the author of all good, that he had deemed him worthy to be the father of such a child.
11. And they say that often, standing by the boy when asleep, he uncovered his breast as if the Divine Spirit were enshrined within it, and kissed it reverently; considering himself blessed in his goodly offspring. These and other things like them are related of Origen when a boy.
12. But when his father ended his life in martyrdom, he was left with his mother and six younger brothers when he was not quite seventeen years old. 1774
13. And the property of his father being confiscated to the royal treasury, he and his family were in want of the necessaries of life. But he was deemed worthy of Divine care. And he found welcome and rest with a woman of great wealth, and distinguished in her manner of life and in other respects. She was treating with great honor a famous heretic then in Alexandria; 1775 who, however, was born in Antioch. He was with her as an adopted son, and she treated him with the greatest kindness.
14. But although Origen was under the necessity of associating with him, he nevertheless gave from this time on strong evidences of his orthodoxy in the faith. For when on account of the apparent skill in argument 1776 of Paul,—for this was the mans name,—a great multitude came to him, not only of heretics but also of our people, Origen could never be induced to join with him in prayer; 1777 for he held, although a boy, the rule of the Church, 1778 and abominated, as he somewhere expresses it, heretical teachings. 1779 Having been instructed in the sciences of the Greeks by his father, he p. 251 devoted him after his death more assiduously and exclusively to the study of literature, so that he obtained considerable preparation in philology 1780 and was able not long after the death of his father, by devoting himself to that subject, to earn a compensation amply sufficient for his needs at his age. 1781
This sixth book of Eusebius History is our chief source for a knowledge of Origens life. His own writings give us little information of a personal nature; but Eusebius was in a position to learn a great deal about him. He had the advantage of personal converse with surviving friends of Origen, as he tells us in this connection; he had also a large collection of Origens epistles (he had himself made a collection of more than one hundred of them, as he tells us in chap. 36); and he had access besides to official documents, and to works of Origens contemporaries which contained references to him (see chap. 33). As a result, he was in a position to write a full and accurate account of his life, and in fact, in connection with Pamphilus, he did write a Defense of Origen in six books, which contained both an exposition of his theology with a refutation of charges brought against him, and a full account of his life. Of this work only the first book is extant, and that in the translation of Rufinus. It deals solely with theological matters. It is greatly to be regretted that the remaining books are lost, for they must have contained much of the greatest interest in connection with Origens life, especially that period of it about which we are most poorly informed, his residence in Cæsarea after his retirement from Alexandria (see chap. 23). In the present book Eusebius gives numerous details of Origens life, frequently referring to the Defense for fuller particulars. His account is very desultory, being interspersed with numerous notices of other men and events, introduced apparently without any method, though undoubtedly the design was to preserve in general the chronological order. There is no part of Eusebius work which reveals more clearly the viciousness of the purely chronological method breaking up as it does the account of a single person or movement into numerous detached pieces, and thus utterly destroying all historical continuity. It may be well, therefore, to sum up in brief outline the chief events of Origens life, most of which are scattered through the following pages. This summary will be found below, on p. 391 sq. In addition to the notices contained in this book, we have a few additional details from the Defense, which have been preserved by Jerome, Rufinus, and Photius, none of whom seems to have had much, if any, independent knowledge of Origens life. Epiphanius (Hær. LXIII, and LXIV.) relates some anecdotes of doubtful credibility. The Panegyric of Gregory Thaumaturgus is valuable as a description of Origens method of teaching, and of the wonderful influence which he possessed over his pupils. (For outline of Origens life, see below, p. 391 sq.)250:1768
This Lætus is to be distinguished from Q. Æmilius Lætus, prætorian prefect under Commodus, who was put to death by the Emperor Didius Julianus, in 193; and from Julius Lætus, minister of Severus, who was executed in 199 (see Dion Cassius, Bk. LXXIII. chap. 16, and LXXV. chap. 10; cf. Tillemont, Hist. des emp. III. p. 21, 55, and 58). The dates of Lætus rule in Egypt are unknown to us.250:1769
On the dates of Demetrius episcopacy, see Bk. V. chap. 22, note 4.250:1770
On Julian, see Bk. V. chap. 9, note 2.250:1771
On the persecution, see more particularly chap. 1, note 1.250:1772
This epistle which was apparently extant in the time of Eusebius, and may have been contained in the collection made by him (see chap. 36), is now lost, and we possess only this sentence from it.250:1773
τῇ τῶν ἐγκυκλίων παιδεί& 139·. According to Liddell and Scott, ἐγκ. παιδεία in later Greek meant “the circle of those arts and sciences which every free-born youth in Greece was obliged to go through before applying to any professional studies; school learning, as opposed to the business of life.” So Valesius says that the Greeks understood by ἐγκ. μαθήματα the branches in which the youth were instructed; i.e. mathematics, grammar, and rhetoric philosophy not being included (see Valesius note in loco).250:1774
On the date of Origens birth, see note 1.250:1775
Of this Antiochene heretic Paul we know only what Eusebius tells us here. His patroness seems to have been a Christian, and in good standing in the Alexandrian church, or Origen would hardly have made his home with her.250:1776
διὰ τὸ δοκοῦν ἱκανὸν ἐν λόγῳ.250:1777
Redepenning (p. 189) refers to Origens In Matt. Comment. Series, sec. 89, where it is said, melius est cum nullo orare, quam cum malis orare.250:1778
φυλ€ττων ἐξέτι παιδὸς κανόνα [two mss. κανόνας] ἐκκλησίας. Compare the words of the Apostolic Constitutions, VIII. 34: “Let not one of the faithful pray with a catechumen, no, not in the house; for it is not reasonable that he who is admitted should be polluted with one not admitted. Let not one of the godly pray with an heretic, no, not in the house. For what fellowship hath light with darkness?” Compare also the Apostolic Canons, 11, 12, and 45. The last reads: “Let a bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, who only prays with heretics, be suspended; but if he also permit them to perform any part of the office of a clergyman, let him be deprived.” Hefele (Conciliengesch. I. p. 815) considers this canon only a “consistent application of apostolic principles to particular cases,—an application which was made from the first century on, and therefore very old.”250:1779
Redepenning (p. 190) refers to the remarks of Origen upon the nature and destructiveness of heresy collected by Pamphilus (Fragm. Apol. Pamph. Opp. Origen, IV. 694 [ed. Delarue]).251:1780
ἐπὶ τὰ γραμματικ€251:1781
See below, p. 392.
Next: Chapter III
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