Few figures in church history have stimulated the level of debate and controversy that surrounds Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185 - ca. 254). To some, he was a brilliant intellectual as well as a passionately committed disciple of Christ, the most influential and seminal thinker in the early church. Others regard him as a dangerous heretic whose interest in philosophical speculation unleashed a string of teachings that stand in stark opposition to orthodox Christian faith (p. 2). Still others affirm the truth of both positions.

As a Christian, Origen believed that the Bible was the Word of God, and as such it occupied a central place in his life and thought, the touchstone for all his beliefs. Indeed, one of the major concerns of Origen's work was to assist Christians facing the intellectual challenges of the third century by providing scriptural answers to the questions posed by Hellenistic philosophy and culture.

In spite of Origen's intentions and clear commitment to biblical authority, however, many believe that his use of Scripture compromised that authority, providing fertile conditions for the germination and growth of heresy.

Cultured scholar, would-be martyr

Young Origen grew up as both a learned Greek and a devoted Christian. Born in either 185 or 186 in Alexandria, Origen was raised in a Christian home. His father was most likely a prosperous and influential man, who provided his son with an education that was both Hellenistic and Christian. This dual education undoubtedly caused some internal tension in Origen as he sought to reconcile his commitment to Christian faith and the Bible with the classic teachings of ancient Greece.

From the perspective of Hellenism, Christianity was little more than another barbarous superstition, ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.