Origen in Augustine: A Paradoxical Reception

in Numen
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



I argue that, paradoxically, Augustine embraced much of Origen’s system, especially in his anti-Manichaean polemic, exactly when he was convinced that he did not know his thought. The most remarkable point in his initial adherence to Origen’s ideas regards the apokatastasis doctrine, which he later condemned as heretical and felt the need to recant in his Retractationes (Second Thoughts). I point out many other elements of contact concerning philosophical arguments and Biblical exegesis, which the early Augustine drew from Origen and have escaped scholars who have investigated the Origen-Augustine relationship. With this I shall hopefully add an important piece to the study of Origen’s influence on Western Patristics. I thus explain how Augustine used Origen’s thought in defense of Christian orthodoxy against the Manichaean “heresy,” whereas, after he was informed about Origen’s thought by Horosius and Jerome, he began to find it heretical and condemned it, especially in De civitate Dei (The City of God) and De haeresibus (On Heresies), where he shows that he was misinformed about it. A remarkable role in this transformation was played by Augustine’s ­anti-Pelagian polemic: several of his expressions of blame directed against Origen’s ideas are found in his anti-Pelagian works. Another notable factor was Augustine’s ignorance of the important semantic distinction between αἰώνιος and ἀΐδιος, which got lost in the translation of both with aeternus. Moreover, I endeavor to clarify the ways and sources through which Augustine came to know Origen’s true thought when he did adhere to it, probably without being aware that it was Origen’s.

Origen in Augustine: A Paradoxical Reception

in Numen



AltanerBerthold “Augustinus und Origenes. Eine quellenkritische Untersuchung.” Historisches Jahrbuch 70: 15–41 = Id. Kleine patristische Schriften 1951 1967 Berlin Akademie Verlag 224 252

BammelCaroline P. Hammond “Justification by Faith in Augustine and Origen.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 1996 47 223 235

CourcellePierre Les lettres grecques en Occident 1948 Paris Boccard 2

CoyleJ. Kevin Augustine’s ‘ De moribus ecclesiae catholicae’: A Study of the Work its Composition and its Sources 1978 Fribourg (Switzerland) The University Press

CoyleJ. Kevin Agostino d’Ippona. De moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum De quantitate animae 1991 Palermo Edizioni Augustinus

CoyleJ. Kevin van OortJ.WermelingerO.WurstG. “What Did Augustine Know about Manichaeism When He Wrote His Two Treatises De moribus?” Augustine and Manichaeism in the Latin West 2001 Leiden Brill 43 56

DaleyBrian The Hope of the Early Church 1991 Cambridge CUP

DrecollVolker H. Vigiliae Christianae 2009 63 202 210 Review of Harrison 2006

GasparroGiulia S. “Agostino di fronte alla ‘eterodossia’ di Origene: un aspetto della questione origeniana in Occidente.” Augustiniana 1991 40 219 243

GasparroGiulia S. Gasparro “Ps. Basilio De incarnatione Domini e Ps. Agostino De incarnatione Verbi ad Ianuarium.” Origene e la tradizione origeniana in occidente 1998 1998 Rome Augustinianum 55 96

GerberChad Tyler The Spirit of Augustine’s Early Theology. 2012 Aldershot Ashgate

GrossiVittorino “Il termine praedestinatio tra il 420 e il 435.” Augustinianum 1985 25 27 64

GrossiVittorino “L’origenismo latino negli scritti agostiniani.” Augustinianum 2006 36 51 88

GrossiVittorino “La ricezione agostiniana della predestinazione. Difficoltà antiche e moderne.” Augustinianum 2009 49 191 221

HarrisonCarol Rethinking Augustine’s Early Theology: An Argument for Continuity 2006 Oxford OUP

HeidlGyörgy “Did the Young Augustine Read Origen’s Homily on Paradise?” Origeniana 1999 VII Leuven Leuven University Press 597 604

HeidlGyörgy Origen’s Influence on the Young Augustine: A Chapter of the History of Origenism 2003 Louaize–Piscataway Gorgias

HollidayLisa R. “Will Satan Be Saved? Reconsidering Origen’s Theory of Volition in Peri Archon.” Vigiliae Christianae 2009 63 1 23

LettieriGaetano L’altro Agostino 2001 Brescia Morcelliana

LöhrWinrich “Christianity as Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives of an Ancient Intellectual Project.” Vigiliae Christianae 2010 64 160 188

MoreschiniClaudio “Il contributo di Gerolamo alla polemica antipelagiana.” Cristianesimo nella Storia 1982 3 61 71

O’ConnellRobert J. “St Augustine’s Criticism of Origen in the Ad Orosium.” Revue des Études Augustiniennes 1984 30 84 99

O’DonnellJames Augustine: A New Biography 2005 New York Harper Collins

PépinJean “Saint Augustin et le symbolisme néoplatonicien de la vêture.” Augustinus Magister 1954 I Paris Études Augustiniennes 293 306

PollmannKarla FuhrerTherese “Exegese ohne Grenzen: Augustins Genesisauslegungen im Kontext.” Die christlich-philosophischen Diskurse der Spätantike: Texte Personen Institutionen 2008 Stuttgart Steiner 99 111

RamelliIlaria “La coerenza della soteriologia origeniana: dalla polemica contro il determinismo gnostico all’universale restaurazione escatologica.” Pagani e cristiani alla ricerca della salvezza. Atti del XXXIV Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana Roma Istituto Patristico Augustinianum 5–7 maggio 2005 2006 Rome Augustinianum 661 688

RamelliIlaria NeriMoreno “Macrobio allegorista neoplatonico e il tardo platonismo latino.” Macrobio. Commento al Sogno di Scipione 2007 Milan Bompiani 5 163

RamelliIlaria Gregorio di Nissa: Sull’anima e la resurrezione 2007a Milan Bompiani-Catholic University of the Sacred Heart

RamelliIlaria “Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Biblical and Philosophical Basis of the Doctrine of Apokatastasis.” Vigiliae Christianae 2007b 61 313 356

RamelliIlaria BauckhamR.J.DriverD.R.HartT.A.MacDonaldN. “The Universal and Eternal Validity of Jesus’s High-Priestly Sacrifice. The Epistle to the Hebrews in Support of Origen’s Theory of Apokatastasis.” A Cloud of Witnesses: The Theology of Hebrews in Its Ancient Contexts 2008 London T&T Clark 210 221

RamelliIlaria “Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism: Re-Thinking the Christianisation of Hellenism.” Vigiliae Christianae 2009 63 217 263

RamelliIlaria “Origen, Bardaisan, and the Origin of Universal Salvation.” Harvard Theological Review 2009a 102 135 168

RamelliIlaria CameronAverilEdwardsMarkVinzentMarkus “Αἰώνιος and Αἰών in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa.” Studia Patristica 2010 XLVII Leuven Peeters 57 62

RamelliIlaria “The Philosophical Stance of Allegory in Stoicism and Its Reception in Platonism, Pagan and Christian: Origen in Dialogue with the Stoics and Plato.” The International Journal of the Classical Tradition 2011 18 3 335 371

RamelliIlaria The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment From the New Testament to Eriugena 2013 Leiden, etc. Brill

RamelliIlariaKonstanDavid Terms for Eternity. Αἰώνιος and Ἀΐδιος in Classical and Christian Authors 2007 Piscataway, Gorgias [New edition ibidem 2011]

RefouléFrançois “Misère des enfants et péché originel d’après saint Augustin.” Revue Thomiste 1963 63 341 362

RombsRonnie Saint Augustine and the Fall of the Soul: Beyond O’Connell and His Critics 2006 Washington DC CUA

TeskeRoland J. “Origen and St. Augustine’s First Commentaries on Genesis.” Origeniana 1992 V Leuven Peeters 180 186

TrapèAgostino “Nota sul giudizio di s. Agostino su Origene.” Augustinianum 1986 26 223 227


See Ramelli 2010 and 2008.


See Ramelli 2011. Macrobius on the other hand presented Plato as a supporter of the doctrine of universal salvation of souls (see Ramelli 2007).


See Rombs 2006. The influence of Plotinus seems to have played a role in this connection.


This is maintained today by Holliday 2009:1–23on the basis of the importance of free will for Origen but without considering that still in Comm. in Rom. 510212–222 Origen excluded that human free will may ever prevent universal apokatastasis: “If all these factors which the apostle listed cannot separate us from the love of God . . . it will be all the more the case that our free will cannot separate us from his love” (si haec omnia quae enumerauit apostolus separare nos non possunt a caritate Dei . . . multo magis libertas arbitrii nos ab eius caritate separare non poterit). Moreover he thought that the devil will be saved not as devil enemy and death (this is why in Comm. in Rom. 88 he says that of Satan “there will be no conversion not even at the end of the aeon” (nec in fine saeculi erit ulla conversio) but as a creature of God when he will be no enemy any more. And still in Comm. in Io. Origen identifies the telos with the ­apokatastasis even of the devil: for even Satan “will be among those who will submit to Christ conquered because he will have yielded to the Logos and will have submitted to the Image of God becoming a stool to his feet. Contemplate then the whole of the salvific economy which leads to the good telos”.


See Grossi 1985:27–64. But he himself was accused of predestinationism. See Grossi 2009:191–221.


Which I have pointed out in Ramelli 2013chapter on Origen.


See Ramelli 2007aIntegrative Essay I with demonstration.


According to Courcelle 1948:185–87Augustine knew Origen’s eschatological theories from the controversy between Jerome and Rufinus in A.D. 397 and by consulting Horosius in A.D. 414; after about ten years he read the translation of Origen’s Homilies on Genesis and probably of his Περὶ Ἀρχῶν (On First Principles). Of course it makes a big difference whether he read it in Rufinus’s or in Jerome’s translation.


Heidl 2003. Cf. Idem 1999:597–604; Altaner 1951; Trapè 1986:223–227.


See Heidl 2003:111–133; on 135–138 he analyses Origen’s “Gießen fragment” perhaps deriving from Origen’s lost Commentary on Genesis or from a homily on Eden.


As has been observed by Daley 1991:143in his early works Augustine emphasized that the risen body will be spiritual basing himself on 1 Cor 15:50. In Fid. et Symb. 1024 he stresses that when it is transformed into a spiritual body the body will no longer be “flesh and blood.” But in Retr. 116 and 229 “flesh and blood” are understood as the works of the flesh and the corruptibility of the body. That the body according to St. Paul will be “spiritual” simply means in Augustine’s new view that it will be incorruptible and perfectly subjected to the soul (Ench. 2391; CD 1320; 2221). On the spirit and the spiritual in Augustine’s anti-Manichaean phase see Gerber 2012 esp. Chs. 2–3.


See Ramelli 2013chapters on Maximus and Eriugena.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 40 40 12
Full Text Views 49 49 30
PDF Downloads 5 5 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0