The theory of
apokatastasis (restoration), most famously defended by the Alexandrian exegete, philosopher and theologian Origen, has its roots in both Greek philosophy and Jewish-Christian Scriptures and literature, and became a major theologico-soteriological doctrine in patristics. This monograph—the first comprehensive, systematic scholarly study of the history of the Christian
apokatastasis doctrine—argues its presence and Christological and Biblical foundation in numerous Christian thinkers, including Syriac, and analyses its origins, meaning, and development over eight centuries, from the New Testament to Eriugena, the last patristic philosopher. Surprises await readers of this book, which results from fifteen years of research. For instance, they will discover that even Augustine, in his anti-Manichaean phase, supported the theory of universal restoration.
Paul's statement that God will be all in all and other NT and OT passages are taken by Origen and by Gregory of Nyssa as the scriptural basis of their eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis and eventual universal salvation. At the same time, their doctrine rests (1) on philosophical arguments mainly deriving from Platonism (Gregory's De anima et resurrectione is deeply influenced by Platonism both in form and in content, and so is Origen, although both are Christians first and Platonists second), and (2) on the allegorical exegesis of Scripture, another heritage of Hellenistic culture: Origen was very well acquainted with the Stoic and Platonic allegorical interpretations of Greek myths.
Origen was a Christian Platonist, which his adversaries (both Christians who opposed Greek philosophy and pagan philosophers like Porphyry who saw Christianity as a non-culture) considered to be a contradictio in adiecto. His formation and teaching centred on philosophy, and his Περì αρχων in its structure was inspired not so much by earlier Christian works as by pagan philosophical works stemming from the selfsame authors as those appreciated at Ammonius' and Plotinus' schools. A close examination of all extant sources and a careful investigation of Origen's philosophical formation, readings, and works show that Origen the Neoplatonist is likely to be our Christian philosopher. The presupposition of the incompatibility between Christianity and philosophy (especially Platonism), which provoked charges against Origen as a Christian Platonist from his lifetime onward, is still at work in modern theorizations concerning the “Hellenisation of Christianity,” which are here analysed and brought into connection with the supposed necessity of distinguishing Origen the Platonist from Origen the Christian. It is not the case that a “pure” Christianity was subsequently Hellenised: the NT itself was already Hellenised to some extent, and the Christian κηρυγμα, intended for all nations and cultures, was a σκανδαλον for the Jews as well as μωρìα for the Greeks.