Origen in Augustine: A Paradoxical Reception

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Abstract

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

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References

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4)

See Ramelli 2010 and 2008.

5)

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

15)

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

17)

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”.

18)

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

19)

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

21)

See Ramelli 2007aIntegrative Essay I with demonstration.

25)

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.

26)

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

31)

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.

36)

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.

43)

See Ramelli 2013chapters on Maximus and Eriugena.

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