Born: 184 or 185 in Probably Alexandria, Egypt
Died: 253 or 254 in Probably Tyre, Lebanon
Nationality: Egyptian
Fields: Christian mysticism
Famous For: Theology writer of Christian topics

Origen (c.185-253) was an early Christian philosopher and writer who believed that all knowledge flowed from God and the highest expression of that knowledge is found in Christianity. He had a great influence during the time he lived and is said to have written 6,000 books on religion. Among the subjects he tackled were interpretations of the written Bible, called exegeses, and hermeneutics, which seeks to interpret not just written texts but all types of information, whether they are written or not.

Origen’s Early Years

According to most accounts, Origen was probably born in Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Christian and his father, Leonides, taught him both the Greek education that was taught in Alexandria as well as the Scriptures.

When Origen was about 17, his father was martyred for his faith. To compound the tragedy, the family’s property was taken away. Still, the year after his father’s death, Origen reopened a Christian school in Alexandria. Even though the persecution of Christians continued, Origen visited and comforted Christians who were in prison and he attended many of their trials.

These activities and the school brought him such renown that the Bishop of Alexandra, Demetrius, told Origen he could only teach Christian doctrine. Origen lead such an ascetic life that some scholars believe he castrated himself.

Origen’s Philosophy

Origen believed that at the end of time, all creatures would be reconciled in a reconciliation that might even include the devil. This is known as apokatastasis. He also believed that souls pre-existed before conception or even before the creation of the world.

This is one reason that Origen is not a saint in the Catholic church, since this belief was condemned by the Ecumenical Council in 553. He was also unsure about the resurrection of bodies at the Last Judgment. Still, Origen is considered a Father of the Church.

Origen also wrote on the nature of Jesus Christ and the perfection, incomprehensibility, and omnipotence of God. His cosmology was quite complex, even as he believed absolutely in the Bible and most of the Church’s teachings

Teaching and Writing

Origen’s school grew to the point where he could no longer teach his students alone, so he brought on his former student, Heraclas, to help teach Christian doctrine to the newly baptized and people who wanted to convert to Christianity. Origen also became friends with Ambrose, a rich man from Alexandria who published Origen’s works.

But soon after this, Caracalla, the Emperor of Rome, attacked Alexandria to put down a rebellion. Ambrose and Origen fled to Palestinian Caesarea where Origen taught and preached. Origen returned to Alexandria around 216 at Demetrius’ bidding.

Though the claim that Origen wrote 6,000 books seems extraordinary, it must be remembered that Ambrose gave Origen the services of many stenographers, scribes, and copiers who were there to work for him around the clock if necessary. This state of affairs was interrupted when Demetrius turned against Origen and he fled once again to Caesarea.

Origen Flees Persecution

He managed to write several works there, but he had to flee to Cappadocian Caesarea because the Emperor Maximinus Thrax had also begun to persecute Christians. When Maximinus died, Origen returned again to Palestinian Caesarea and his prodigious writing, teaching, and preaching.

This was continued until the ghastly plague that attacked Rome from 251 AD to 266 AD. At that time, Decius was the Emperor. He blamed the plague on Christians and began another round of persecutions. Origen was captured and brutally tortured. He did not die then, but the torture weakened him. He died three years later at about age 68.