Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XIX
Chapter XIX.—Circumstances Related of Origen.
1. The Greek philosophers of his age are witnesses to his proficiency in these subjects. We find frequent mention of him in their writings. Sometimes they dedicated their own works to him; again, they submitted their labors to him as a teacher for his judgment.
2. Why need we say these things when even Porphyry, 1903 who lived in Sicily in our own times and p. 265 wrote books against us, attempting to traduce the Divine Scriptures by them, mentions those who have interpreted them; and being unable in any way to find a base accusation against the doctrines, for lack of arguments turns to reviling and calumniating their interpreters, attempting especially to slander Origen, whom he says he knew in his youth.
3. But truly, without knowing it, he commends the man; telling the truth about him in some cases where he could not do otherwise; but uttering falsehoods where he thinks he will not be detected. Sometimes he accuses him as a Christian; again he describes his proficiency in philosophic learning. But hear his own words:
4. “Some persons, desiring to find a solution of the baseness of the Jewish Scriptures rather than abandon them, have had recourse to explanations inconsistent and incongruous with the words written, which explanations, instead of supplying a defense of the foreigners, contain rather approval and praise of themselves. For they boast that the plain words of Moses are enigmas, and regard them as oracles full of hidden mysteries; and having bewildered the mental judgment by folly, they make their explanations.” Farther on he says:
5. “As an example of this absurdity take a man whom I met when I was young, and who was then greatly celebrated and still is, on account of the writings which he has left. I refer to Origen, who is highly honored by the teachers of these doctrines.
6. For this man, having been a hearer of Ammonius, 1904 who had attained the greatest proficiency in philosophy of any in our day, derived much benefit from his teacher in the knowledge of the sciences; but as to the correct choice of life, he pursued a course opposite to his.
7. For Ammonius, being a Christian, and brought up by Christian parents, when he gave himself to study and to philosophy straightway conformed to the life required by the laws. But Origen, having been educated as a Greek in Greek literature, went over to the barbarian recklessness. 1905 And carrying over the learning p. 266 which he had obtained, he hawked it about, in his life conducting himself as a Christian and contrary to the laws, but in his opinions of material things and of the Deity being like a Greek, and mingling Grecian teachings with foreign fables. 1906
8. For he was continually studying Plato, and he busied himself with the writings of Numenius 1907 and Cronius, 1908 Apollophanes, 1909 Longinus, 1910 Moderatus, 1911 and Nicomachus, 1912 and those famous among the Pythagoreans. And he used the books of Chæremon 1913 the Stoic, and of Cornutus. 1914 Becoming acquainted through them with the figurative interpretation of the Grecian mysteries, he applied it to the Jewish Scriptures.” 1915
9. These things are said by Porphyry in the third book of his work against the Christians. 1916 He speaks truly of the industry and learning of the man, but plainly utters a falsehood (for what will not an opposer of Christians do?) when he says that he went over from the Greeks, 1917 and that Ammonius fell from a life of piety into heathen customs.
10. For the doctrine of Christ was taught to Origen by his parents, as we have shown above. And Ammonius held the divine philosophy unshaken and p. 267 unadulterated to the end of his life. 1918 His works yet extant show this, as he is celebrated among many for the writings which he has left. For example, the work entitled The Harmony of Moses and Jesus, and such others as are in the possession of the learned.
11. These things are sufficient to evince the slander of the false accuser, and also the proficiency of Origen in Grecian learning. He defends his diligence in this direction against some who blamed him for it, in a certain epistle, 1919 where he writes as follows:
12. “When I devoted myself to the word, and the fame of my proficiency went abroad, and when heretics and persons conversant with Grecian learning, and particularly with philosophy, came to me, it seemed necessary that I should examine the doctrines of the heretics, and what the philosophers say concerning the truth.
13. And in this we have followed Pantænus, 1920 who benefited many before our time by his thorough preparation in such things, and also Heraclas, 1921 who is now a member of the presbytery of Alexandria. I found him with the teacher of philosophic learning, with whom he had already continued five years before I began to hear lectures on those subjects. 1922
14. And though he had formerly worn the common dress, he laid it aside and assumed and still wears the philosophers garment; 1923 and he continues the earnest investigation of Greek works.”
He says these things in defending himself for his study of Grecian literature.
15. About this time, while he was still at Alexandria, a soldier came and delivered a letter from the governor of Arabia 1924 to Demetrius, bishop of the parish, and to the prefect of Egypt who was in office at that time, requesting that they would with all speed send Origen to him for an interview. Being sent by them, he went to Arabia. And having in a short time accomplished the object of his visit, he returned to Alexandria.
16. But sometime after a considerable war broke out in the city, 1925 and he departed from Alexandria. And thinking that it would be unsafe for him to remain in Egypt, he went to Palestine and abode in Cæsarea. While there the bishops of the church in that country 1926 requested him to preach and expound the Scriptures publicly, although he had not yet been ordained as presbyter. 1927
17. This is evip. 268 dent from what Alexander, 1928 bishop of Jerusalem and Theoctistus 1929 of Cæsarea, wrote to Demetrius 1930 in regard to the matter, defending themselves thus:
“He has stated in his letter that such a thing was never heard of before, neither has hitherto taken place, that laymen should preach in the presence of bishops. I know not how he comes to say what is plainly untrue.
18. For whenever persons able to instruct the brethren are found, they are exhorted by the holy bishops to preach to the people. Thus in Laranda, Euelpis by Neon; and in Iconium, Paulinus by Celsus; and in Synada, Theodorus by Atticus, our blessed brethren. 1931 And probably this has been done in other places unknown to us.”
He was honored in this manner while yet a young man, not only by his countrymen, but also by foreign bishops. 1932
19. But Demetrius sent for him by letter, and urged him through members and deacons of the church to return to Alexandria. So he returned and resumed his accustomed duties.
Porphyry, one of the most distinguished of the Neo-Platonists, disciple, biographer, and expounder of Plotinus, was born in 232 or 233 in the Orient (perhaps at Tyre), and at the age of thirty went to Rome, where he came into connection with Plotinus, and spent a large part of his life. He was a man of wide and varied learning; and though not an original thinker, he was a clear and vigorous writer and expounder of the philosophy of Plotinus. It may be well, at this point, to say a word about that remarkable school or system of philosophy, of which Plotinus was the greatest master and Porphyry the chief expounder. Neo-Platonism was the most prominent phenomenon of the age in the philosophic world. The object of the Neo-Platonists was both speculative and practical: on the one side to elaborate an eclectic system of philosophy which should reconcile Platonism and Aristotelianism, and at the same time do justice to elements of truth in other schools of thought; on the other side, to revivify and strengthen the old paganism by idealizing and purifying it for the sake of the philosophers, and at the same time by giving it a firmer philosophic basis than it had hitherto possessed. Neo-Platonism, taken as a whole, has therefore both a philosophic and a religious motive. It may be defined in the briefest terms, in its philosophic aspect, as an eclectic revival of Greek metaphysics (especially Platonic-Aristotelian), modified by the influence of Oriental philosophy and of Christianity; in its religious aspect, as an attempt to restore and regenerate paganism by means of philosophy. In its earlier and better days, the philosophic element greatly predominated,—in fact, the religious element may be said to have been, in large part, a later growth; but gradually the latter came more and more into the foreground, until, under Jamblichus (d. 330 a.d.), the chief master of the Syrian school, Neo-Platonism degenerated into a system of religious mysteries, in which theurgic practices played a prominent part. Under Proclus (d. 485), the great master of the Athenian school, the philosophic element was again emphasized; but Aristotelianism now gained the predominance, and the system became a sort of scholastic art, and gradually degenerated into pure formalism, until it finally lost all influence. The extent of the influence which Christianity exerted upon Neo-Platonism is a greatly disputed point. We shall, perhaps, come nearest the truth if we say that its influence was in the main not direct, but that it was nevertheless real, inasmuch as it had introduced problems up to that time undiscussed, with which Neo-Platonism busied itself; in fact, it may almost be said that Neo-Platonism was at first little more than (Aristotelian-) Platonism busying itself with the new problems of salvation and redemption which Christianity had thrown into the world of thought. It was un-Christian at first (it became under Porphyry and later Neo-Platonists anti-Christian), because it solved these problems in a way different from the Christian way. This will explain the fact that all through, whether in the more strictly philosophic system of Plotinus, or in the more markedly religious and theurgic system of Jamblichus, there ran a vein of mysticism, the conception of an intimate union with the supreme God as the highest state to which man can attain.
Porphyry, with whom we are at present concerned, was eminently practical in his thinking. The end of philosophy with him was not knowledge, but holiness, the salvation of the soul. He recommended a moderate asceticism as a chief means of freeing the soul from the bonds of matter, and thus permitting it to rise to union with God. At the same time, he did not advise the neglect of the customary religious rites of Paganism, which might aid in the elevation of the spirit of man toward the deity. It was with Porphyry that Neo-Platonism first came into direct conflict with Christianity, and its enmity against the latter goes far to explain the increasing emphasis which he and the Neo-Platonists who followed him laid upon religious rites and practices. Its philosophy, its solution of the great problems of the age, was essentially and radically different from that of Christianity; and although at first they might run alongside one another as independent schools, without much thought of conflict, it was inevitable that in time the rivalry, and then the active hostility, should come. Neo-Platonism, like Christianity, had a solution of the great problem of living to offer to the world,—in an age of unexampled corruption, when thoughtful men were all seeking for a solution,—and each was essentially exclusive of the other. The attack, therefore, could not be long delayed. Porphyry seems to have begun it in his famous work in fifteen books, now lost, which was answered in extenso by Methodius of Tyre, Eusebius, and Apolinarius of Laodicea. The answers, too, have perished; but from extant fragments we are able to see that Porphyrys attack was very learned and able. He endeavored to point out the inconsistencies in the sacred narrative, in order to discredit its divine origin. At the same time, he treated Christ with the greatest respect, and ranked him very high as a sage (though only human), and found much that was good in his teaching. Augustine (De consensu Evang. I. 15) says that the Neo-Platonists praised Christ, but railed at his disciples (cf. Eusebius words in this chapter). Porphyry was a very prolific writer; but only a few of his works are now extant, chief among them the ἀφορμαὶ πρὸς τὰ νοητ€, or Sententiæ, a brief but comprehensive exposition of his philosophic system. We learn from this chapter that he had met Origen when very young (he was but about twenty when Origen died); where, we do not know. He lived to be at least sixty-eight years old (see his Vita Plot. 23), and Suidas says that he died under Diocletian, i.e. before 305 a.d.
On Porphyry and Neo-Platonism in general, see the great works of Vacherot (Hist. critique de lEcole dAlexandrie) and Simon (Hist. de lEcole dAlexandrie); also Zellers Philosophie der Griechen, and especially Erdmanns History of Philosophy (Engl. trans., London, 1889).265:1904
Of the life of Ammonius Saccas, the “father of Neo-Platonism” very little is known. He is said by Suidas (s. v. Origenes) and by Ammianus Marcellinus to have been a porter in his youth and to have gained his second name from his occupation. That he was of Christian parents and afterward embraced paganism is stated in this passage by Porphyry, though Eusebius (§10, below) and Jerome assert that he remained a Christian. From all that we know of the teachings of Ammonius Saccas as reported to us by Plotinus and other Neo-Platonists, we cannot imagine him to have remained a Christian. The only solution of the difficulty then is to suppose Eusebius (whom Jerome follows) to have confounded him with a Christian of the same name who wrote the works which Eusebius mentions (see note 16). Ammonius was an Alexandrian by birth and residence, and died in 243. His teaching was of a lofty and noble character, to judge from Plotinus descriptions, and as a teacher he was wonderfully fascinating. He numbered among his pupils Herennius, Longinus, the pagan Origen, and Plotinus. The Christian Origen also studied under him for a time, according to this passage. He wrote nothing (according to the Vita Plot, c. 20), and hence we have to rely solely upon the reports of his disciples and successors for our knowledge of his system. It is difficult in the absence of all direct testimony to ascertain his teaching with exactness. Plotinus claims to give only what he learned from Ammonius, but it is evident, from his disagreement in many points with others of Ammonius disciples, that the system taught by him was largely modified by his own thinking. It is clear that Ammonius, who undoubtedly took much from his great master, Numenius, endeavored to reconcile Plato and Aristotle, thus laying the basis for the speculative eclecticism of Neo-Platonism, while at the same time there must have been already in his teaching the same religious and mystical element which was present to some extent in all his disciples, and which played so large a part in Neo-Platonism.265:1905
τὸ β€ρβαρον τόλμημα. Porphyry means to say that Origen was originally a heathen, and was afterward converted to Christianity; but this is refuted by the universal tradition of antiquity, and is clearly a mistake, as Eusebius (who calls it a “falsehood”) remarks below. Porphyrys supposition, in the absence of definite knowledge, is not at all surprising, for Origens attainments in secular learning were such as apparently only a pagan youth could or would have acquired.266:1906
On Origens Greek culture, see p. 392, and also his own words quoted below in §12 sq.266:1907
Numenius was a philosopher of Syria, who lived about the middle of the second century, and who exerted great influence over Plotinus and others of the Neo-Platonists. He was, perhaps, the earliest of the Orientalizing Greek philosophers whose thinking was affected by the influence of Christian ideas, and as such occupies an important place in the development of philosophy, which prepared the way for Neo-Platonism. His object seems to have been to reconcile Pythagoras and Plato by tracing the doctrines of the latter back to the former, and also to exhibit their agreement with Jewish and other Oriental forms of thought. It is significant that he was called by the Church Fathers a Pythagorean, and that he himself called Plato a Greek-speaking Moses (cf. Erdmanns Hist. of Phil. I. p. 236). He was a prolific writer, but only fragments of his works are extant. Numerous extracts from the chief of them (περὶ τἀγαθοῦ) have been preserved by Eusebius in his Præp. Evang. (see Heinichens ed. Index I.).266:1908
Of Cronius, a celebrated Pythagorean philosopher, apparently a contemporary of Numenius, and closely related to him in his thinking, we know very little. A brief account of him is given by Porphyry in his Vita Plot. 20.266:1909
The Apollophanes referred to here was a Stoic philosopher of Antioch who lived in the third century b.c., and was a disciple of Ariston of Chios. None of his writings are extant.266:1910
Longinus was a celebrated philosopher and rhetorician of Athens, who was born about 213 and died in 273 a.d. He traveled widely in his youth, and was for a time a pupil of Ammonius Saccas at Alexandria; but he remained a genuine Platonist, and seems not to have been influenced by the eclecticism of the Neo-Platonists. He was a man of marked ability, of the broadest culture, and a thorough master of Greek style. Of his numerous writings we possess a large part of one beautiful work entitled περὶ ὕψους (often published), and fragments of some others (e.g. in Eusebius Præp. Evang. XV. 21). Longinus was the teacher of Porphyry before the latter went to Rome to study under Plotinus.
Porphyry has made a mistake in classing Longinus with those other philosophers whose works Origen studied. He was a younger contemporary of Origen, and cannot even have studied with Ammonius until after Origen had left Alexandria. It is possible, of course, that Origen in later life read some of his works; but Porphyry evidently means that the works of all the philosophers, Longinus among them, had an influence upon Origens intellectual development. Heinichen reads ᾽Αλβίνου instead of Λογγίνου in his text, on the assumption that Porphyry cannot possibly have written Λογγίνου; but the latter word has the support of all the mss. and versions, and there is no warrant for making the change. We must simply conclude that Porphyry, who, of course, is not pretending to give an exact list of all the philosophical works which Origen had read, classes Longinus, the celebrated philosopher, along with the rest, as one whose works such a student of Greek philosophy as Origen must have read, without thinking of the serious anachronism involved.266:1911
Moderatus was a distinguished Pythagorean philosopher of the first century after Christ, whose works (no longer extant) were not without influence over some of the Neo-Platonists.266:1912
Nicomachus was a Pythagorean of the first (or second?) century after Christ, who gained great fame as a mathematician and exerted considerable influence upon European studies in the fifteenth century. Two of his works, one on arithmetic and the other on music, are extant, and have been published.266:1913
Chæremon was a Stoic philosopher and historian of Alexandria who lived during the first century after Christ. He was for a time librarian at the Serapeum in Alexandria, and afterward went to Rome to become a tutor of Nero. His chief writings were a history of Egypt, a work on Hieroglyphics, and another on Comets (mentioned by Origen in his Contra Cels. I. 59). He also wrote on grammatical subjects. His works, with the exception of a fragment of the first, are no longer extant. Cf. Eusebius Præf. Evang. V. 10, and Suidas,s.v. ᾽Ωριγένης.266:1914
Cornutus a distinguished Stoic philosopher, lived and taught in Rome during the reign of Nero, and numbered among his pupils and friends the poet Persius. Most of his numerous works have perished, but one on the Nature of the Gods is still extant in a mutilated form (see Galls Opuscula). See Suidas (s.v. Κορνοῦτος) and Dion Cassius, XLII. 29.266:1915
Origen was not the first to interpret the Scriptures allegorically. The method began among the Alexandrian Jews some time before the Christian era, the effort being made to reconcile the Mosaic revelation with Greek philosophy, and to find in the former the teachings of the latter. This effort appears in many of the apocryphal books, but the great exponent of the method was the Alexandrian Philo. It was natural that the early Christians, especially in Alexandria, should be influenced by this already existing method of interpretation, which enabled them to make of the Old Testament a Christian book, and to find in it all the teachings of the Gospel. Undoubtedly the Old Testament owes partly to this principle of interpretation its adoption by the Christian Church. Had it been looked upon as the Jewish Scriptures only, containing Jewish national history, and in large part Jewish national prophecy, it could never have retained its hold upon the early Church, which was so bitterly hostile to all that savored of Judaism. The early Gentile Christians were taught from the beginning by Jewish Christians who could not do otherwise than look upon their national Scriptures as divine, that those Scriptures contained prophecies of Jesus Christ, and hence those Gentile Christians accepted them as divine. But it must be remembered that they could of course have no meaning to these Gentile Christians except as they did prophesy of Christian things or contain Christian teaching. They could not be content to find Christian prophecy in one part and only Jewish history or Jewish prophecy in another part. It must all be Christian if it was to have any meaning to them. In this emergency the allegorical method of interpretation, already practiced upon the Old Testament by the Alexandrian Jews, came to their assistance and was eagerly adopted. The so-called epistle of Barnabus is an early and most significant instance of its use. With Clement of Alexandria the matter first took scientific shape. He taught that two senses are everywhere to be assumed; that the verbal sense is only for babes in the faith, and that the allegorical sense alone leads to true spiritual knowledge. With Origen allegorical interpretation reached its height. He taught a threefold sense of Scripture, corresponding to body, soul, and spirit. Many voices were raised against his interpretation, but they were directed against his particular explanations of the meaning of passages, seldom against his method. In the early centuries Alexandria remained the chief center of this kind of exegesis, while Antioch became in the fifth century the seat of a school of exegetes who emphasized rather the grammatical and historical interpretation of Scripture over against the extremes of the Alexandrian teachers. And yet even they were not entirely free from the vicious methods of the age, and, moreover, errors of various kinds crept in to lessen their influence, and the allegorical method finally prevailed almost universally; and it has not even yet fully lost its hold. This method of Scripture interpretation has, as Porphyry says, its analogy in the methods of the Greek philosophers during the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era. It became early the custom for philosophers, scandalized by the licentious stories of their gods, to interpret the current myths allegorically and refer them to the processes of nature. Homer and others of the ancient poets were thus made by these later philosophers to teach philosophies of nature of which they had never dreamed. With the Neo-Platonists this method reached its highest perfection, and while the Christian teachers were allegorizing the Old Testament Scriptures, these philosophers were transforming the popular myths into records of the profoundest physical and spiritual processes. Porphyry saw that the method of pagans and Christians was the same in this respect, and he may be correct in assigning some influence to these writings in the shaping of Origens thinking, but the latter was an allegorist before he studied the philosophers to whom Porphyry refers (cf. chap. 2, §9, above), and would have been an allegorist had he never studied them. Allegory was in that age in the atmosphere of the Church as well as of the philosophical school.266:1916
On this great work of Porphyry, see note 1.266:1917
See note 3.267:1918
This is certainly a mistake on Eusebius part (see above, note 2), in which he is followed by Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 55). Against the identification of the Christian Ammonius, whose works are mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome, with Ammonius Saccas, may be urged first the fact that the teaching of Ammonius Saccas, as known to us from Porphyrys Vita Plotini and from other Neo-Platonic sources, is not such as could have emanated from a Christian; and, in the second place, the fact that the Christian Ammonius, according to Eusebius, was the author of more than one important work, while Longinus (as quoted by Porphyry in the Vita Plot. c. 20) says explicitly that Ammonius Saccas wrote nothing. It is clear from Eusebius words that his sole reason for supposing that Ammonius Saccas remained a Christian is the existence of the writings to which he refers; and it is quite natural that he and others should erroneously attribute the works of an unknown Christian of Alexandria, named Ammonius, to the celebrated Alexandrian philosopher of the same name, especially since it was known that the latter had been a Christian in his youth, and that he had been Origens teacher in his mature years. We know nothing about the life of the Christian Ammonius, unless he be identified with the presbyter Ammonius of Alexandria, who is said by Eusebius to have perished in the persecution of Diocletian. The identification is possible; but even if it be accepted, we are helped very little, for is only the death, not the life, of the presbyter Ammonius with which Eusebius acquaints us. Ammonius writings, whoever he may have been, were well known in the Church. Eusebius mentions here his work On the Harmony of Moses and Jesus (περὶ τῆς Μωϋσέως καὶ ᾽Ιησοῦ συμφωνίας), and in an epistle addressed to Carpianus (see above, p. 38 sq.) speaks of a Diatessaron or Harmony of the Four Gospels (τὸ διὰ τεσσ€ρων εὐαγγέλιον), composed by Ammonius. Jerome mentions both these works (de vir. ill. 55), the latter under the title Evangelici Canones. He refers to these Canones again in his preface to the Four Gospels (Mignes ed., Vol. X. 528); and so does Victor of Capua. The former work is no longer extant, nor have we any trace of it. But there is extant a Latin translation of a Diatessaron which was made by Victor of Capua, and which was formerly, and is still, by many scholars supposed to be a version of this work of Ammonius. By others it is thought to be a translation of Tatians Diatessaron. For further particulars, see above, Bk. IV. chap. 29, note 11.267:1919
The names of the persons to whom this epistle was addressed we do not know, nor can we ascertain the exact time when it was composed, though it must have been written before Heraclas became bishop of Alexandria, and indeed, we may assume, while Origen was in Alexandria, and still engaged in the study which he defends in the epistle, i.e., if Eusebius is correct in the order of events, before 216 a.d. (see note 23).267:1920
On Pantænus, see Bk. V. chap. 10, note 1.267:1921
On Heraclas, see chap. 3, note 2.267:1922
ἐκείνων τῶν λόγων.267:1923
See above, Bk. IV. chap. 11, note 21.267:1924
The words used to designate the official who sent for Origen (ὁ τῆς ᾽Αραβίας ἡγουμενος) lead us to think him a Roman, and governor of the Roman province of Arabia, which was formed by the Emperor Trajan in the year 106, and which comprised only the northern part of the peninsula. We know no particulars of this visit of Origen to that province, but that he was remembered and held in honor by the people is proved by chaps. 33 and 37, which record that he was summoned thither twice to assist in settling doctrinal difficulties.267:1925
In the sixth year of his reign (216 a.d.) Caracalla visited Alexandria, and improved the occasion to take bloody vengeance upon the inhabitants of the city, from whom had emanated a number of satirical and cutting comments upon the murder of his brother Geta. He instituted a horrible butchery, in which young and old, guilty and innocent, perished, and in which scholars were objects of especial fury. (See Herodian, IV. 8, 9, and Dion Cassius, LXXVII. 22–24, and cf. Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. III. p. 115 sq.) This was undoubtedly the occasion, referred to here, which caused Origen to flee from the city and retire to Palestine.267:1926
οἱ τῇδε ἐπίσκοποι. The τῇδε must refer to Palestine, not to Cæsarea, for “bishops” are spoken of, not “bishop.”267:1927
In the apostolic age, and the generations immediately succeeding, it was the privilege of every Christian to take part in the public meetings of the Church in the way of teaching or prophesying, the only condition being the consciousness of guidance by the Spirit (see 1 Cor. xiii.). We cannot call this teaching and prophesying preaching in our sense of the term. The services seem rather to have resembled our “open prayer-meetings.” Gradually, as the services became more formal and stereotyped, a stated address by the “president” (as Justin calls him) became a regular part of the service (see Justins Apol. I. 67), and we may assume that the liberty of teaching or prophesying in the public meetings did not now belong to all the members as it had in the beginning. The sermon, in our sense of the word, seems to have been a slow growth, but a direct development from this exhortation of the president mentioned by Justin. The confinement of the speaking (or preaching) to a single individual,—the leader,—which we see in Justin, is what we find in subsequent generations quite generally established. It becomes, in time, the prerogative of the bishop to preach, and this prerogative he confers upon his presbyters also (not universally, but in most cases), while deacons and laymen are almost everywhere excluded from the right. We see from the present chapter, however, that the custom was not the same in all parts of the Church in the time of Origen. The principle had evidently before this become firmly established in Alexandria that only bishops and presbyters should preach. But in Palestine no such rule was recognized as binding. At the same time, it is clear enough that it was exceptional even there for laymen to preach (in the presence of their bishops), for Alexander in his epistle, instead of saying that laymen preach everywhere and of right, cites particular instances of their preaching, and says that where they are qualified they are especially requested by the bishops to use their gifts; so that the theory that the prerogative belonged of right to the bishop existed there just as truly as in Alexandria. Origen of course knew that he was acting contrary to the custom (if not the canon) of his own church in thus preaching publicly, and yet undoubtedly he took it for granted that he was perfectly right in doing what these bishops requested him to do in their own dioceses. They were supreme in their own churches, and he knew of nothing, apparently, which should hinder him from doing what they approved of, while in those churches. Demetrius, however, thought otherwise, and considered the public preaching of an unordained man irregular, in any place and at any time. Whether jealousy of Origens growing power had anything to do with his action it is difficult to say with certainty. He seems to have treated Origen in a perfectly friendly way after his return; and yet it is possible that the difference of opinion on this point, and the reproof given by Demetrius, may not have been wholly without influence upon their subsequent relations, which became in the end so painful (see chap. 8, note 4).268:1928
On Alexander, see chap. 8, note 6.268:1929
Theoctistus, bishop of Cæsarea, seems to have been one of the most influential bishops of the East in his day, and played a prominent part in the controversy which arose in regard to Novatus, as we learn from chap. 46 of this book and from chap. 5 of the next. He was also a firm friend of Origens for many years (see chap. 27), probably until the latters death. We do not know the dates of his accession and of his death, but we find him already bishop in the year 216, and still bishop at the time of the episcopate of Stephen of Rome (254–257; see Bk. VII. chap. 5), but already succeeded by Domnus, when Xystus was bishop of Rome (257–258; see Bk. VII. chap. 14). We must, therefore, put his death between 255 and 258.268:1930
Eusebius is apparently mistaken in stating that this epistle was addressed to Demetrius, for the latter is spoken of throughout the epistle in the third person. It seems probable that Eusebius has made a slip and said “to Demetrius” when he meant to say “concerning Demetrius.”268:1931
Of the persons mentioned here by the Palestinian bishops in support of their conduct, Neon, bishop of Laranda in Lycaonia, Celsus, bishop of Iconium, and Atticus, bishop of Synada in Phrygia, together with the laymen Euelpis, Paulinus, and Theodore, we know only the names.268:1932
οὐ πρὸς μόνων τῶν συνήθων, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἐπὶ ξένης ἐπισκόπων. συνήθων seems here to have the sense of “countrymen” or (bishops) “of his own country” over against the ἐπὶ ξένης, rather than the meaning “friends” or “acquaintances,” which is more common.
Next: Chapter XX
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at