Μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν

Origen’s Four Definitions of μέσος and His Application of John 1:26 to Theological Anthropology

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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  • 1 Faculty of Divinity, Clare College, University of Cambridge61435, Cambridge, UK
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This article lays out Origen’s anthropological application of John 1:26. In particular, it examines the way in which Origen pairs the phrase “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst (μέσος ὑμῶν)” with the Stoic terminus technicus “governing faculty” (ἡγεμονικόν) through an identification of μέσος with soul. This identification assumes that μέσος refers to the soul and that references to the soul apply to the governing faculty. The former stands upon Origen’s four-fold interpretation of μέσος; the latter is an assumption based in Stoic psychology. This article begins with an examination of how Origen connects μέσος to soul and, subsequently, soul to the governing faculty. Next, it examines Origen’s engagement with John 1:26 in his Commentary on John. Finally, the article discusses the various ways in which Origen interprets this verse in his other works.


This article lays out Origen’s anthropological application of John 1:26. In particular, it examines the way in which Origen pairs the phrase “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst (μέσος ὑμῶν)” with the Stoic terminus technicus “governing faculty” (ἡγεμονικόν) through an identification of μέσος with soul. This identification assumes that μέσος refers to the soul and that references to the soul apply to the governing faculty. The former stands upon Origen’s four-fold interpretation of μέσος; the latter is an assumption based in Stoic psychology. This article begins with an examination of how Origen connects μέσος to soul and, subsequently, soul to the governing faculty. Next, it examines Origen’s engagement with John 1:26 in his Commentary on John. Finally, the article discusses the various ways in which Origen interprets this verse in his other works.

Origen understands John 1:26 as an identification of the governing faculty (ἡγεμονικόν) as the locus of the Logos. While this interpretation is self-manifest in Origen’s ComJn, the assumptions behind it are less clear. Accordingly, we aim to do three things with this article. First, we will discuss the two primary assumptions behind Origen’s interpretation. The first assumption is an identification of μέσος as a synonym for soul; this will be explained as part of our discussion of Origen’s four-fold understanding of μέσος. His second assumption is that the identification of μέσος with soul allows him to discuss the governing faculty; this will be explained in virtue of Origen’s adherence to Stoic psychology. Second, we will discuss Origen’s treatment of this verse in ComJn and the merits of the ComJn fragmenta. Third, we will discuss Origen’s treatment of this verse in the rest of his oeuvre.

1 μέσος as ψυχή

Origen’s anthropological interpretation of μέσος ὑμῶν hinges upon his understanding of μέσος as a synonym for soul. However, that μέσος means soul is not immediately forthcoming. Indeed, should one look to the LSJ or Lampe, one would find the more familiar definitions, such as, “middle”, “intermediate”, “moderate”, or “midst”. It is of essence, therefore, that we explain how Origen came to identify μέσος as ψυχή.

Origen develops his understanding of μέσος as a synonym for ψυχή out of the understanding of μέσος as “mediator”. In his contribution to the introduction of the most recent German edition of Origen’s in Isaiam Homiliae, Hengstermann has detailed four different meanings of μέσος in Origen’s thought. Hengstermann observes that μέσος as mediator is the basis for all of Origen’s understandings of μέσος, writing,

Der philosophische Terminus „Mitte“ wird von Origenes allgemein in einer Reihe von verschiedenen, aber doch von einer einzigen Grundbedeutung herleitbaren Bedeutungen verwendet, die allesamt für sein Verständnis in den vorliegenden Predigten von Bedeutung sind. Wie bei Platon und im zeitgenössischen Platonismus ist die Seele als Mitte und Mittlerin zwischen intelligibler und empirischer Welt, zwischen Geist und Leib, seine erste Referenz, von der her auch die übrigen Bedeutungen verständ- lich werden.1

Thus, Hengstermann establishes “mediator” as the primary (1) meaning of μέσος in Origen’s thought, and it is the basis upon which he is able to develop his subsequent definitions of μέσος. The three further meanings of μέσος, which Hengstermann presents, are: 2) μέσος as a synonym for κοινός, namely a mean between two extremes; 3) μέσος as a synonym for the Stoic ethical notion of an ἀδιάφορον;2 4) μέσος as present reality, namely, the space of historical development. In his account of these terms,3 Hengstermann is following the overview provided by Scherer,4 which was, later, presented concisely by Gruber.5 Henceforth, these definitions will, respectively, be referred to as μέσος1, μέσος2, μέσος3, and μέσος4. Origen’s multifaceted use of the term μέσος speaks to the way in which he weaves together Stoic ethics and Platonic metaphysics, one of the hallmarks of “middle” Platonic thought.6 Nevertheless, Gruber, reflecting upon the various meanings of μέσος in Origen’s thought, avers, “Bei Origenes tritt der ethische Aspekt jedoch zurück. Das μέσον hat für ihn ontologische Bedeutung.”7 The mediating function of soul should be a familiar topos, for those familiar with book X of Plato’s Leges.8

Isaiah proves to be a particularly fecund source for Origen in the identification of μέσος with ψυχή. This is observable both when he discusses the texts from Isaiah directly and when he invokes Isaiah in his other works. When discussing Isaiah’s vision, at in Isaiam Homilia I.2, Origen observes that only God’s “middle” [media = μέσα] is visible in the prophet’s vision.9 Origen gives this a characteristically incarnational interpretation.10 Moreover, just as Origen identifies the medium Dei with the incarnation, he also invokes Isaiah in De Principiis in order to identify Jesus with the anima Dei, writing “perhaps the ‘anima Dei’ (Is. 1:14) may be understood to be His only begotten Son.”11 Therefore, we find that the terms medium [= μέσον] and anima [= ψυχή] coincide in the person of the Son. Moreover, it is clear, through Origen’s incarnational interpretation of the medium Dei, that the Son is able to be the medium Dei precisely because he is identified with the anima Dei.

The Son/Logos must be understood as the μέσος in three ways. First, the Son is readily observable as the medium (δι᾽ οὗ) of creation: μέσος1.12 Second, given the fact that all things were made “through him”, the Son is understood to be omnipresent: μέσος4.13 Third, because the Son has taken upon himself a soul, Origen is able to pick up on Platonic uses of μέσος as a way in which to refer to the specific soul that belongs to Jesus: μέσος2.14 The Son’s role as creative medium and Logos incarnate prove vital for the Father’s ability to express Himself.15 Letellier has noted the uniqueness of the role of double mediator held by the Logos incarnate.16 Our ensuing discussion of Origen’s anthropological reading of John 1:26 depends primarily upon μέσος2. In his discussions, Origen repeatedly turns from the fact that the Logos is the medium (μέσος1) of creation to his omnipresence (μέσος4); from the omnipresence of the Logos, Origen further asserts the presence of the Logos in the soul of each individual (μέσος2).

2 ἡγεμονικόν as ψυχή

Origen’s interpretation of John 1:26 depends upon an identification of soul with the governing faculty. The presence of the Logos in one’s soul does not necessarily signify that it abides in one’s governing faculty. However, this would most emphatically be the case should one adhere to Stoic psychology. Given that the Stoics’ identified the heart as the governing faculty,17 it is fairly straight-forward for Origen to interpret Biblical passages about heart in the light of the Stoics’ notion of the governing faculty.18 Yet, the identification of μέσος, synonymous with ψυχή, with the governing faculty brings with it the further assumption that the soul, stricto sensu, refers to the governing faculty.

Origen’s adherence to Stoic psychology demonstrates his commitment to developing a psychology of freedom. It has recently been observed that the psychic monism that is characteristic of Stoic thought is the crux of Origen’s Freiheitsmetaphysik, for this psychology gives the agent control over, and, consequently, culpability for, all his actions.19 Frede, in his celebrated Sather Lectures, has emphasised that Origen’s debt is not merely a Stoic one, but a later Stoic one, commenting that the psychology Origen lays out at De Principiis III.1, “could have been taken straight from a late Stoic handbook.”20 At De Principiis III.1.1–5, Origen provides us with a clear account of the Stoic scala naturae and, within this, a demonstrably Stoic understanding of self-determination (τὸ αὐτεξούσιον) as the assent (συγκατάθεσις) of the governing faculty. A parallel account is also observable at De Oratione VI.1–2.21 Furthermore, there are two points at which Origen’s adherence to Stoic psychology is particularly clear: his comments on the ἄγνοια Πέτρου and the ἀκρασία Παῦλου.22

Due to Origen’s adherence to Stoic psychology, he is able to apply references to ψυχή directly to the ἡγεμονικόν. Therefore, on the basis of our earlier discussion and in adherence to the transitive property, discussions of the term μέσος can be applied directly to the governing faculty. Moreover, with the understanding that the governing faculty is synonymous with soul, it is self-manifest that the governing faculty serves as the μέσον of the tripartite structure of the human: πνεῦμα-ἡγεμονικόν/ψυχή-σῶμα.23 For Gruber, this is the most basic meaning of μέσον in Origen’s thought.24 Crouzel has observed, in a celebrated article, that the soul is not μέσον merely in terms of the human composition, but also in virtue of the fact that πνεῦμα and σῶμα serve as principles of action, writing, “Ces trois notions d’esprit, d’âme et de corps ne désignent pas trois éléments qui, composant entre eux formeraient l’unique substance qu’est l’homme. Mais la personnalité humaine est essentiellement dans l’âme: l’esprit et la chair (ou le corps) désignent les deux pôles entre lesquels l’âme est disputée.”25 Müller, following Crouzel, emphasises that πνεῦμα and σάρξ must be understood primarily as ethical principles and only secondly in relation to ontology.26 The governing faculty, or soul, might, therefore, be considered to be μέσον in the light of the fact that it is the middle term between πνεῦμα and σῶμα/σάρξ: μέσος2. Moreover, for Origen the soul itself is morally “neutral”, μέσος3, and it only receives its moral standing when it sides with πνεῦμα or σάρξ.27

Origen’s adherence to Stoic psychology should not be assumed as something he has imported to the biblical tradition. Festugière has suggested that the broader Pauline tripartition of the self as πνεῦμα, ψυχή, and σῶμα/σάρξ is indebted to Stoic thought. He writes, “La première division, qu’ils nomment dichotomie, est un des lieux communs de la pensée grecque. Singulièrement au temps de Paul, l’opposition entre la ψυχή, ici confondue avec πνεῦμα, et le corps σῶμα, ou, dans un sens péjoratif déjà marqué chez les stoïciens, la chair σάρξ, est l’un des sujets constants qu’emploie en sa prédication morale l’école cynique ou la Stoa.”28 This is to say that, while the distinction between πνεῦμα/ψυχή and σῶμα/σάρξ was polyvalent amongst the Greeks, the further distinction between πνεῦμα, ψυχή, and σῶμα/σάρξ was unique to the Stoic and Cynic schools.29 The distinction between πνεῦμα and ψυχή makes it possible for ψυχή to oppose πνεῦμα by siding with σάρξ. It should be noted that, recently, there has been a surge of interest in the question of Stoic influence on Paul.30 Should one give credence to these findings, it would appear that Origen is simply developing a line of thought that he is finding in Hellenistic Judaism, rather than importing something new to Pauline anthropology. It is rather natural, therefore, for Origen to read ἡγεμονικόν into the middle term of Paul’s πνεῦμα-ψυχή-σῶμα/σάρξ trichotomy. Thus, we are able to understand τὸ μέσον in relation to the governing faculty.31

3 ComJn

Unsurprisingly, Origen’s ComJn is the text in which he discusses the phrase, μέσος δὲ ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε, from John 1:26, most.32 Contextually, Origen considers the Baptist’s utterance to be a “third martyria” “to those sent from the Pharisees” about “the one who is to come.”33 This is a clear reference to the historical event of the incarnation: μέσος4. At ComJn VI.30.155–6, Origen gives us a straight-forward, historical interpretation of this verse:

(John) reproves diligently the Pharisees’ ignorance concerning his pre-eminence, adding “one, whom you do not know” to “has stood in your midst.” And, in order that one might not suppose the invisible one, who extends unto all humans and unto the whole cosmos, to be other than the one who became incarnate and was also seen to live amongst humans, he joins “the one who comes after me,” that is “the one who will be made manifest after me,” to “in your midst has stood one, whom you do not know.”

On the historical level, Origen points out that Jesus has “stood in the midst” of, and lived amongst, the people: this adheres to μέσος4, for the person Jesus is present in history. Moreover, Origen is at pains to maintain the connection between Jesus, the Logos incarnate, and the Logos, through Whom God the Father created: μέσος1. Yet, this cosmic dimension of the Logos, which understands him as pervading the whole cosmos (i.e. the Logos sustains the historical process: μέσος4), also gives him his personal dimension. In the section immediately preceding this citation, Origen notes, “he is present in every human and also extends to the whole cosmos which is clarified by the statement ‘he has stood in your midst:’”34 this refers to the soul, and, therefore, must be understood in the light of μέσος2. Thus, the ignorance with which Origen charges the Pharisees has not only to do with the prophecies of Christ, but also to do with the fact that the Logos dwells in them, qua rational. Our citation, therefore, discusses the Logos in the midst in three respects: 1) the Logos incarnate is to be identified with the Logos through whom God the Father created (μέσος1), and, resultantly, the Logos permeates the whole cosmos, rendering Him ever in our midst (μέσος4); 2) while it is true that, qua medium of creation, the Logos pervades the entirety of the historical process, it is also the case that the Logos became incarnate in the discrete hypostasis of Jesus, who dwelt in the midst of the people (μέσος4); 3) while the Logos permeates all of the cosmos, He makes His abode within the rational in a special way, namely, in their souls (μέσος2); after all, it is in virtue of having the Logos that creatures are considered λογικοί.35

Origen further develops the metaphysical implications of this phrase at ComJn VI.38.188–90. He writes,

And, again, concerning the verse, “One whom you do not know has stood in your midst,” one must discuss these things in regard to the Son of God, the Logos, through Whom (διοὗ) all things have been made, since He subsists essentially as the substrate (ὑφεστηκότος οὐσιωδῶς κατὰ τὸ ὑποκείμενον),36 because He is the same as Sophia. For this one has frequented (πεφοίτηκεν) the whole of creation, in order that all that comes to pass might always come about through Him, and in order that the verse might always be true of all things whatsoever, “All things came about through Him and without Him not one thing came about,” and the verse, “you made all things in Sophia.” But, if He has frequented the whole of creation, it is clear that He has also frequented those who ask “Why, therefore, do you baptise, if you are not the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?” “In your midst has stood” the same one, and the Logos is steadfast (βέβαιος ὢν λόγος), he is established everywhere (ἐστηριγμένος πανταχοῦ) by the Father. Or, let “He has stood in your midst” be heard that, qua your rational existence, “he had stood in your midst,” which is shown by the fact that the governing faculty is in the midst of every body, which happens, according to the Scriptures, to be in the heart. Accordingly, those who have the Logos in their midst, but do not comprehend His nature, neither knowing from which source and archē He has come, nor how or when He was established in them, these ones, having Him in their midst, do not know it.

The Logos is explicitly the medium (δι᾽ οὗ), namely μέσον, of creation: μέσος1. Moreover, it is precisely because the Logos, as mediator,37 extends to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, that we can be sure he reaches the depths of our souls: μέσος2. It is at this point that Origen makes the connection from μέσος to ψυχή to the ἡγεμονικόν, for the presence of the Logos “in your midst” is applied directly to the presence of the Logos in our governing faculty. In order to make this connection, Origen develops μέσος2 in two senses. First, Origen identifies the heart with that which is our middle, or perhaps core, physically. Origen, then, draws an analogy between that which is in our midst physically with that which is in our midst spiritually. Origen’s analogy between our physical “middle” and the middle term of the πνεῦμα-ψυχή-σῶμα compound provides him with a basis for the identification of the governing faculty and the heart that is more cogent than a mere appeal to the authority of the Stoics. Due to this analogy, Origen is able to apply John 1:26 to the presence of the Logos in our governing faculty.38 Moreover, it is precisely in virtue of our rational nature, namely our rational governing faculty, that it is possible for the Logos to be present in our soul. In this citation, Origen is clearly developing the two most metaphysical definitions of μέσος; as such, the present findings reinforce Gruber’s earlier-cited remark that μέσον is primarily interpreted ontologically by Origen.

The anthropological application of this phrase is apparent in Origen’s first reflections upon it in ComJn. While the texts we have dealt with so far have all come from Origen’s period of writing in Caesarea, the anthropological application of this verse was already apparent during his Alexandrian period. Origen writes concisely, at ComJn II.35.215,

And, after these things, there is another witness from the same Baptist about Christ, which, again, teaches that his preeminent hypostasis pervades all the cosmos in accordance with the rational souls, when he says, “One whom you do not know has stood in your midst, who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose.” And consider, if, on account of the fact that the heart is in the midst of every body, and the governing faculty is in the heart, it is possible for “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst” to be understood according to the Logos in each person.39

The relationship between μέσος1 and μέσος2 is most clear. In the first instance, Origen notes “in your midst” to refer to the fact that Christ, as Logos, extends throughout the entirety of the cosmos. It is notable that, in this citation, the extension of the Logos throughout the cosmos is connected neatly to creaturely rationality. In the second instance, we see that the cosmic Christ extends to our souls; it is at this point that Origen follows the earlier observed analogy between our physical and spiritual μέσος, in order to give this verse its anthropological significance.

Origen’s reflections on John 1:26 are not without reason. Heracleon, a Valentinian Gnostic who was the first to write a commentary on the gospel of John, laid out an interpretation of this verse with which Origen disagreed mightily.40 Origen is our primary source for the fragmenta of Heracleon.41 While he does not relay much of what Heracleon said about John 1:26, Origen says enough for us to be able to ascertain the crux of the disagreement. Consider Origen’s discussion at ComJn VI.39.194–7:

But Heracleon says, “He stands (στήκει) in your midst,” in the place of, “He is present in the world and amongst humans already, and he is already manifest to you all.” And, through these words, he does away with that which has been set forth about his frequenting (διαπεφοιτηκέναι) the whole of the cosmos. For it must be said to him: When is he not present? And when is he not in the cosmos? Since even the Gospel says, “He was in the cosmos, and the cosmos was made through him” (Jn 1:10). And, because of this, these ones, to whom the Logos is “one whom you do not know,” do not know him, since they have not yet departed from the cosmos, “but the cosmos knew him not.” And for what period of time did he cease existing amongst humans? Or was he not in Isaias, who said, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because of this He has anointed me,” and, “I became manifest to those who sought me not?” And, let them say whether he was also not in David, who said, not from himself, “But I was appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain,” and as much as has been written ex persona Christi in the psalms. And why is it necessary for me to demonstrate each instance, since there are innumerable instances which are able to demonstrate clearly that he was always amongst humans, for the sake of reproving that which was not said soundly by Heracleon, namely “He is present in the world and amongst humans already,” in explanation of “He has stood (ἕστηκεν) in your midst?”

The first point of difference between Origen and Heracleon is the phrase itself. Origen is in line with the majority witness of the perfect verb ἕστηκεν; Heracleon accepts the present tense variant στήκει. Blanc comments that, of these two verbs, it is στήκει, “qui permet de mieux souligner le caractère épisodique de la présence du Logos dans le monde.”42 The punctiliar emphasis of this choice of verb also shows itself in Heracleon’s interpretation. As we have already observed, Origen identifies the historical person of Jesus with the Logos incarnate, namely the medium of creation: μέσος1. Due to this, the Logos incarnate is understood to be both, qua Logos, in the midst of the historical process and, qua incarnate, in the midst of humanity: both μέσος4. John 1:10 is crucial evidence of the Logos’ dual presence in history and the necessary identification of the Logos with Jesus as the Logos incarnate. The omnipresence of the Logos throughout the cosmos enables Origen to apply this verse to the Logos’ presence in the human soul: μέσος2. Heracleon’s emphasis on a purely historical reading of this verse flattens its metaphysical implications, Origen observes. Heracleon’s myopically historical reading of the verse (μέσος4) “does away with” the fact that Jesus is the Logos incarnate and the fact that the same one who stood in our midst as a discrete human hypostasis also permeates the whole cosmos at all times. This interpretation simultaneously does away with any anthropological application of the verse. Origen counters Heracleon’s interpretation with a reductio ad absurdum. For Origen, it is self-manifest that it was the same Logos who became incarnate that spoke through the prophets. Therefore, when engaging with Heracleon’s interpretation, Origen asserts that a refusal to identify Christ with the Logos incarnate is tantamount to saying that it was not the Logos who spoke through Isaias and David. Given that this position is untenable, the phrase μέσος ὑμῶν must be understood with reference both to the specific instance of the incarnation and the cosmic ubiquity of Christ, the Logos incarnate. This, in no small way, demonstrates the metaphysical importance of hermeneutics.43 Heracleon, who admits only μέσος4 as a valid reading of John 1:26, appears to do away with all of the verse’s metaphysical implications; Origen, who interprets this verse in the light of μέσος1, μέσος2, and μέσος4, provides us with some of his richest metaphysical reflections on the basis of this verse.

Origen’s anthropological interpretation of John 1:26 depends upon his various definitions of μέσος standing together.44 In particular, it hinges upon the belief that the Logos, as the medium of creation, permeates all of creation. The presence the Logos in the midst of all creation allows Origen to assert the presence of the Logos in our midst. Moreover, the Logos, in so far as he dwells in our midst, is understood as dwelling in our governing faculty. Origen develops his multifaceted reading of this verse in contrast to Heracleon’s interpretation, which takes μέσος to apply exclusively to the historical presence of Jesus during the incarnation. Thus, by maintaining the Logos’ divine status at John 1:26, Origen is also able to develop this verse’s anthropological application.

4 FragComJn

There are three fragmenta from the ComJn that reflect upon John 1:26. Of these, we will focus on fragmenta 18 and 118,45 both of which interpret this verse in terms of the governing faculty. Given the similarity of the two fragmenta, we will cite both, before we provide commentary. Fragmentum 18 reads as follows,

But what did that which was said by John mean, “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst,” since Jesus was not there, at that time? For, in the following, it is said, “The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him,” thus he was manifestly not there when John said, “he has stood in your midst,” witnessing about the light. For, he had known that God was Logos; and this one is present in all the rational. And, since it is supposed by certain people to be in our most middle part (ἐν τῷ μεσαιτάτῳ ἡμῶν), the dianoētikon, which some call the governing faculty, and the Logos according to which we are rational (λογικοί) is there, it is the same as the imago Dei according to which the human came to be according to the image of God, this shows that the Logos of God is the one who is about to come to be baptised by him who says, “in your midst has stood,” one who is unrecognised by you all; and, because of this, he is unacknowledged by you all, since it is needful, having him in your midst, to act (ἐνεργεῖν) earnestly, peaceably, and, to speak thusly, you have him inactive (ἀνενέργητον) amongst you, neither doing nor comprehending rationally …46

Fragmentum 118 reads as follows,

John, who was witnessing about the light, had known that God also was Logos; and this one is present in all the rational. And the dianoētikon, which is also called governing faculty, is our most middle part (μεσαίτατον ἡμῶν); for, the logos endiathetos is there, in accordance with which we are rational (λογικοί), which also oversees as God the Christ and Logos, who is about to come to be baptised. This one, who is unacknowledged by you all has stood in your midst, the hearts of all, and he visits the inner parts (νεφροὺς).47

Given that we are dealing with fragmenta, some textual observations must first be made. Heine has classified fragmentum 18 amongst those fragments that “find most of their themes in the commentary, or in other works by Origen, but lack verbal correspondences.”48 Heine’s detailed study does not, however, attend to fragmentum 118. Brooke’s edition of Origen’s ComJn includes 110 fragmenta.49 Preuschen has appended Brooke’s 110 fragmenta with 30 fragmenta from Codex Monacensis 208.50 Fragmentum 118 is part of this appendix. As is discernible from the translations above, Fragmenta 18 and 118 bear some striking resemblances. Consider the excerpts, below:

Fragmentum 18, 497.18–22

«Μέσος ὑμῶν «ἕστηκε» μαρτυρῶν ὁ Ἰωάννης περὶ τοῦ φωτός. ᾔδει γὰρ ὅτι καὶ θεὸς λόγος ἦν· οὗτος δὲ παντὶ λογικῷ πάρεστι. καὶ ἐπεὶ ὑπονοεῖταί τισιν ἐν τῷ μεσαιτάτῳ ἡμῶν εἶναι τὸ διανοητικόν, ὅ τινες ἡγεμονικὸν καλοῦσιν, ἐκεῖ δέ ἐστιν ὁ λόγος καθὅν ἐσμεν λογικοί

Fragmentum 118, 566.24–7

Μαρτυρῶν ὁ Ἰωάννης περὶ τοῦ φωτὸς ᾔδει, ὅτι καὶ θεὸς λόγος ἦν· οὗτος δὲ παντὶ λογικῷ πάρεστι. τὸ δὲ διανοητικὸν [ἦν], ὃ καὶ ἡγεμονικὸν καλεῖται, μεσαίτατον ἡμῶν ἔστιν· ἐκεῖ γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνδιάθετος λόγος, καθὃν λογικοί ἐσμεν

Given that both of these excerpts are dealing with the same biblical text, it is unsurprising that the texts bear conceptual and linguistic similarities. Nevertheless, the way in which both of these fragmenta depict the presence of the Logos in each rational being as οὗτος δὲ παντὶ λογικῷ πάρεστι is striking. Both fragmenta make the same interpretive manoeuvre of taking the biblical, masculine, nominative adjective μέσος and discussing it with the neutered, superlative adjective μεσαίτατον. Above, we observed Origen’s custom of interpreting the adjective μέσος as an adjective synonymous with the governing faculty; here, the text has formalised its reading of μέσος by presenting it as a substantive adjective. In fragmentum 18, Origen does this with the articular phrase ἐν τῷ μεσαιτάτῳ; in fragmentum 118, Origen does this by presenting μεσαίτατον alongside two other “faculties”, namely the διανοητικόν and the ἡγεμονικόν. Consistent with our earlier observations about μέσος, the substantive, superlative adjective μεσαίτατον is a synonym with ἡγεμονικόν in these fragmenta. Both passages present the governing faculty as the locus of the Logos (fr. 18, ἐκεῖ δέ ἐστιν ὁ λόγος; fr. 118 ἐκεῖ γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνδιάθετος λόγος), with the primary difference between them being that fragmentum 118 has added the Stoic terminus technicus ἐνδιάθετος as an adjective for the Logos. Both passages maintain that the presence of the Logos renders us rational (fr. 18, καθὅν ἐσμεν λογικοί; fr. 118 καθὃν λογικοί ἐσμεν). Given these parallels, one would do well to think of fragmentum 18 as a longer discussion of the thought found in fragmentum 118. Thus, it would appear that both of these passages adhere to Heine’s categorisation of presenting Origenian themes, but not verbal correspondences.

Since these Fragmenta must be classified as dubia, we must be careful not to lean too heavily on them for evidence. The language of these fragmenta departs most notably from Origen’s usual prose in the use of the superlative μεσαίτατον. With the exception of one occurrence at Homiliae in Jeremiam VIII.1,51 which most clearly is not in reference to the governing faculty, and a reference in Excerpta in Psalmos,52 which refers to mid-day, these two fragmenta are the only use of μέσος in the superlative. Similarly, the addition of ἐνδιάθετος as an adjective modifying λόγος in frag. 118 is uncharacteristic of Origen. At no point in our discussion of ComJn did we see the logos that dwells in our governing faculty defined as the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος. Indeed, the nomenclature from the famed Stoic contrast between the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προφορικός does not occur frequently in the Origenian corpus.53

Nevertheless, these fragmenta can help us to understand better Origen’s interpretation of John 1:26. Should these fragmenta be understood as coming from the hand of late antique readers of Origen, they can help to affirm what we have already discussed in the texts we know to be genuinely Origen. Fragmentum 18 puts a finer point on the fact that it is the Logos incarnate who stands in the midst of John’s audience: μέσος1 and μέσος4. The fact that John the Baptist “had known that God was Logos” further confirms that the ignorance of the Pharisees is about the true status of Jesus, not only the prophets. The fragment then pivots to anthropology in discussing not our “middle”, but our “most middle” part: μέσος2. The most middle part is identified with the dianoētikon or governing faculty. It is here that the Logos dwells, making humanity rational. It is also in virtue of the rational governing faculty that we bear the imago Dei.54 Towards the end of the portion of the fragmentum translated above, we are able to see a distinction between having the λόγος ἀνενέργητος and the λόγος ἐνεργός in one’s midst. While this is not a distinction we have observed explicitly in ComJn, we will soon see that the distinction between having the Logos as a δύναμις or ἐνέργεια is central to Origen’s interpretation of this verse in ComRom. Nevertheless, throughout ComJn, there is a clear distinction between δύναμις and ἐνέργεια. One such instance is the way in which we all have the Logos in our midst, but “only the saint is rational;”55 a similar distinction is found between those who “exist” and those who “live”.56 Thus, the distinction between having the Logos in one’s governing faculty actively or inactively provides us with important insight to what it means to be ignorant of the Logos. The interpretation of the fragmentum clarifies that the Logos is ever present to us, but whether or not we actively engage with the Logos manifests itself in our actions. Fragmentum 118, which could be understood as an extract of fragmentum 18, reinforces some of these points. Both of these fragmenta reinforce that the primary interpretation of John 1:26, for Origen, was anthropological, and that it referred to the dwelling of the Logos in our governing faculty.

5 Opera Alia

Origen’s engagement with John 1:26 extends well beyond his ComJn. Moreover, his interpretation of the verse is fairly consistent throughout his oeuvre. In fact, many of the discussions found outside of ComJn help to shed light on Origen’s discussions from ComJn. As a general trend, one might note that, in ComJn, the anthropological significance of this verse is emphasised. However, when Origen appeals to this verse in other works, it appears that his primary concern is to demonstrate the omnipresence of the Logos. As already observed, these interpretations are not in competition with one another, but, rather, the anthropological interpretation depends upon the cosmological one.

The importance of John 1:26 as a demonstration of the cosmic Christ is clear from Origen’s use of the passage in Contra Celsum. Consider the following citation from CCels II.9,

John the Baptist prophesised during a time when the Son of God had not yet stood present, not in that body and soul, but he says about him, for he reaches everywhere (φθάνοντα πανταχοῦ), “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst, who comes after me.” If, therefore, he apprehended the Son of God to be there only, where the body of Jesus was seen, how would he have said, “One whom you do not know has stood in your midst?” But, also, Jesus himself raises the phronēma of those learning from him to the consideration of the greater things (τὸ μείζονα φρονεῖν) about the Son of God, when he says, “wheresoever two or three are gathered in my name, I too am there in their midst.” But of such a sort, also, is his promise to the disciples, when he says, “and behold, I am with you all the days unto the consummation of the age”.

(Mt. 28:20)

Here, Origen keys upon the sequence of events, emphasising that John the Baptist is speaking when Jesus was not present. This presses the issue: how can someone be present without being present in body? This point is clarified when Origen notes that Jesus is not there in body and soul, but, rather, Jesus, as the Logos incarnate, “reaches everywhere.” In order to emphasise the omnipresence of the Logos, Origen uses the term πανταχοῦ, a term which enjoys great prominence in the thought of his younger contemporary Plotinus.57 As one might expect, this interpretation depends upon the fact that the Son is the medium, μέσος1, through whom all things are made; because of this, the Son/Logos is understood to be everywhere present in the midst of historical reality, μέσος4. Origen clarifies that this cosmological aspect of the Logos is the “greater” aspect of the Son. John 1:26 is also, here, connected to Matthew 28:20; we will reserve comment on this connection for later.

Once again, at CCels V.12, Origen’s emphasis on reading John 1:26 in the light of the cosmic Christ is apparent. He writes:

God, therefore, in accordance with his kindness, came down, not locally (τοπικῶς) but providentially, to humans, and the Child (παῖς) of God was not only then, but also always, with his disciples, fulfilling the verse, “behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.” And if, “a branch is not able to bear fruit”, “if it does not remain in the vine” (Jn 15:4), it is clear that the disciples, too, the noētic branches of the true vine of the Logos, are not able to bear the fruits of virtue, if they do not remain in the true vine, who is the Christ of God and who is with us who are topically below upon the earth; he is with those who, everywhere (πανταχοῦ), cling to him, but he is also, already, with those who do not know him, since he is everywhere. And, indeed, this is clarified when John writes ex persona Baptistae, since he says, “one whom you do not know stands (στήκει) in your midst, who comes after me” (Jn 1:26). But, since he fills the heaven and the earth and says, “Do I not fill the heaven and the earth? Saith the Lord” (Jer. 23:24), because he is with us and near (πλησίον) to us – for, I believe him when he says, “I am a God who draws neigh, and not a God from afar, saith the Lord” (Jer. 23:23) –, it is out of place to seek to pray to the sun who does not reach (φθάνοντι) unto the universe or the moon or some of the stars.58

The Logos’ presence to his disciples is not restricted to his historical instantiation in the discrete hypostasis of Jesus. Origen gives the striking image that we, the noētic branches, must cling to the noētic vine, namely the Logos. When we cling to the noētic vine of the Logos, he is active within us. Nevertheless, the Logos also remains present in those who do not engage with him. The continued presence of the Logos amongst those who do not engage with him is what makes it possible to be ignorant of the one who stands in our midst. Again, the presence of the Logos in our midst, μέσος2, is based upon the fact that the Logos is present throughout creation, μέσος4, a result of his status as the medium of creation, μέσος1. Here, Origen is using the same language for divine immanence that he did in our previous citation from CCels. The Logos is everywhere (πανταχοῦ) and he reaches (φθάνοντι) to the entirety of the cosmos. The fact that the Son/Logos “reaches” (φθάνει) all of creation, which we can observe in both of these passages from CCels, should be understood in line with the earlier observed claim from ComJn that the cosmic Christ “has frequented” (πεφοίτηκεν) the whole creation. Thus, the Logos must be understood as filling heaven and earth, but, as is also made clear, this is not to be understood in a “local” sense (τοπικῶς).59

Origen’s Commentarius in epistolam ad Romanos is perhaps the most useful text for furthering our understanding of Origen’s ComJn. In this text, the distinction between the δύναμις and ἐνέργεια of the Logos in our midst is given particular clarity. Rufinus reminds his reader of Origen’s Greek terms, when he writes,

Furthermore, we ought to know this, that it is one thing for there to be an ability (possibilitatem) in something, and another thing for there to be efficacy or activity (efficaciam vel efficientiam), which the Greeks call δύναμιν and ἐνέργειαν.60

Rufinus has set these terms out for the sake of explaining John 1:26. His translation of Origen’s text, which employs these terms, reads as follows,

Nevertheless, do you wish to know that he is present everywhere, and, likewise, that he is in the midst of those who are ignorant of him, and who do not confess him? Listen, in the same manner, to John the Baptist, by whom this itself is testified, “one whom you do not know stands (stat) in your midst [Medius = μέσος], who comes after me.” Therefore, he is even in the midst of those who do not know him, but he is in their midst by possibility [possibilitate = δυνάμει], not in actuality [efficacia = ἐνεργείᾳ]. To be sure, they are able to possess him, but they do not yet possess him. Truly, he is efficacious (efficacia) or active (efficientiam) in the midst of those for whom it was said, “wheresoever two or three should congregate in my name, I am there in their midst.” For, they are confessing with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in their heart that God raised him from the dead.61

This text is a more detailed version of a discussion we find in ComJn.62 The closeness of these texts is proven by Rufinus’ choice, in translating John 1:26, to use the present verb stat where one should expect to find the perfect verb stetit. This reflects Origen’s discussion at ComJn XXXII.30.378–80, because Origen uses the verb στήκει in place of ἕστηκεν.63 This parallel and the fact that Rufinus has retained the Greek for δύναμις and ἐνέργεια in his definition of these terms provide us with sufficient grounds to treat this passage as genuinely Origenian. Origen explains the presence of the Logos in our soul in terms of δύναμις and ἐνέργεια: all, in potentia, are able to possess the Logos, but not all actualise this potential. Thus, for Origen, it is not so much a question of “having” rationality as much as it is a case of being rational in one’s actions, which is in line with what we observed earlier, when discussing ComJn. The author of fragmentum 18 came to the same conclusion concerning the centrality of how one enacts one’s rationality for Origen, when he wrote, “it is needful, having him in your midst, to act earnestly, peaceably …” Moreover, this citation from ComRom helps us to better understand what Origen says in ComJn. In ComJn, Origen notes that “wheresoever two or three are gathered in my name, I, too, am in their midst” (Mt 18:20) and “Behold I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age” (Mt 28:20) are one sort of verse,64 namely promises, and that John 1:26 is not a promise. ComRom helps us to understand that, rather than a promise, John 1:26 is a statement concerning the dynamis we have for the Logos, which we must actualise. Moreover, both the text of ComJn and ComRom help to emphasise the centrality of μέσος to Origen’s thought, for, in both loci, he uses the notion of μέσος at John 1:26 as a way to draw this passage into conversation with the two passages from Matthew. These passages are drawn into conversation in a similar way in Commentariorum in Matthaeum Series.65 This discussion of John 1:26 in ComRom helps to clarify that all have the Logos present in their soul; some are ignorant of this fact and only have the δύναμις of reason, others actively engage with the Logos and exercise the ἐνέργεια of living rationally.

One further qualification about John 1:26 is made at in Numeros Homiliae III.2. Here, Origen clarifies that to “stand” in the “midst” is the exclusive privilege of the Logos.

Having discussed the occurrence of the term μέσος at Numbers 3:12 and 4 Kings 4:13, Origen goes on to establish that to “stand in the midst” is the exclusive to the Son.

However, I see it written more magnificently in the Gospel about our Lord and Saviour, when John says, “One whom you do not know stands (stat) in your midst” (Jn 1:26). Therefore, I think he, who has never “turned to the right, nor to the left,” can be said to “stand in the midst,” who “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pt. 2:22). And, for this reason, since he stands always, he is said to “stand in the midst;” but if one is his imitator, just as all the saints and blessed women, of whom we earlier made mention, one is certainly not said to “stand” – indeed it is not possible for this to happen, that one, at no point, “has turned” either “to the right” or “to the left;” “for nobody is clean from sordidness, not even if his life were one day.”66

Should there have been any doubt, this passage clarifies that it is only the Logos who visits our governing faculty by standing in our midst. The fact that the Logos is unwavering gives him the unique ability to visit and stabilise our governing faculty. This picks up on what we read at ComJn VI.38.188–90, namely that “‘In your midst has stood’ the same one, and the Logos is steadfast (βέβαιος ὢν λόγος), he is established everywhere (ἐστηριγμένος πανταχοῦ) by the Father.” Stability is one of the defining attributes of the Logos.67 Moreover, it is clear that the Logos causes those whose governing faculties he visits and enlightens to be steadfast (βεβαιθῆναι).68 This point is on display in the citation of NumHom, above: those who imitate the Logos and have him in their midst also become steadfast. In order to develop his understanding of steadfastness, Origen is, here, drawing on motion and rest, two of the five μέγιστα γένη laid out in Plato’s Sophist.69 Origen establishes the Son’s steadfast nature, in this passage, by connecting it to στάσις. This is, at root, a claim about divine immutability and self-identicality.70 As is well known, Plato identifies στάσις with the forms.71 Moreover, in a recent article, Hengstermann has demonstrated the centrality of the κίνησις-στάσις bipolarity to Origen’s thought.72 In the present context, it is of particular note that, as we find in HomIsa, the Son and the Spirit both “stand [stant = ἵστησι] and are moved [moventur = κινοῦνται], they ‘stand’ with God, they are moved showing God.”73 Thus, the presence of the Logos in our soul is the medium through which God shares His immutability with us, setting us in steadfast adherence to the Logos.

Origen’s continued engagement with John 1:26 beyond his ComJn demonstrates the centrality of this verse to his thought. Crucially, some of these engagements put a finer point on discussions we find in ComJn. One such example is the way in which, in ComRom, Origen makes more explicit the fact that the Logos’ presence in our soul ought to be considered in terms of δύναμις and ἐνέργεια. Similarly, some of what we have discussed in this section provides us with new insight into how Origen interprets 1:26. An example of this is the ontological importance of the verb ἕστηκεν, which we observed in the citation from NumHom. Thus, in these works, we have observed that John 1:26 is crucial for Origen’s demonstration that the Logos reaches everywhere (φθάνων πανταχοῦ). Thus, as the medium of creation, μέσος1, the Logos is everywhere present, μέσος4. The Logos is also present in our soul, μέσος2, a presence which must be understood in terms of δύναμις and ἐνέργεια. Those who actively engage with the Logos are provided with the stability of living in accordance with the immutable Logos who reaches, and undergirds, all of creation.

6 Conclusion

Origen’s four-fold interpretation of μέσος allows him to apply John 1:26 to his anthropological theology. The four meanings Origen gives to μέσος are: 1) μέσος as medium or mediator; 2) μέσος as a synonym for κοινός, namely a mean between two extremes; 3) μέσος as a synonym for the Stoic ethical notion of an ἀδιάφορον; 4) μέσος as present reality, namely the space of historical development. In his interpretation of John 1:26, Origen deals primarily with μέσος1, μέσος2, and μέσος4. Origen’s understanding of the Logos as the creative δι᾽ οὗ, μέσος1, provides him with the basis for his understanding of μέσος2 and μέσος4. Given that the Logos is the medium of creation, Origen understands him to permeate all of present reality, μέσος4, as the cosmic Christ; however, the Logos was also present to historical reality in the discrete hypostasis of the nous known as Jesus, during the Incarnation. Moreover, because the Logos permeates all of reality, we can rest assured that the Logos is present in the middle term, μέσος2, of the tri-partite human compound. Origen makes the further assumption, based on his commitment to Stoic psychology, that a reference to the soul should be understood as a reference to the governing faculty. The presence of the Logos in our soul is to be understood in terms of δύναμις and ἐνέργεια: rational creatures are able to have the Logos present in their soul without engaging with or actualising him. Should one acknowledge the presence of the Logos in one’s soul and live in accordance with him, the Logos will make one steadfast. Therefore, because of Origen’s protean understanding of the adjective μέσος and his willingness to allow the multiple meanings of Scripture to stand together, he is able to give John 1:26 an anthropological interpretation.


Alfons Fürst and Christian Hengstermann, eds., Origenes. Die Homilien zum Buch Jesaja, Origenes: Werke mit deutscher Übersetzung 10 (Berlin, 2009), 134–35.


The equivocation between μέσον and ἀδιάφορον does not feature prominently in Origen’s interpretation of John 1:26. However, consider the following as precedent for this definition: Marcel Borret, Origène. Contre Celse, 4 vols. [SC 132, 136, 147, 150], (Paris, 1:1967; 2:1968; 3–4:1969), Ι.61, “οὐ μέσην καὶ ἀδιάφορον.” As we will soon discuss, the soul in itself is an ἀδιάφορον insofar as it only receives its moral value when it sides with πνεῦμα or σάρξ.


Fürst and Hengstermann, 134–36.


Jean Scherer, ed., Entretien d’Origène avec Héraclide et les évêques ses collègues sur le Père, le Fils, et l’Ame, Publications de la Société Fouad I de Papyrologie, Textes et Documents 9 (Cairo: Publications de la Société Fouad Ier de papyrologie, 1949), 169N15: “μέσος: ce mot (medius dans la traduction latine de Rufin) appartient en quelque sorte au vocabulaire philosophique d’Origène. 1° Il garde souvent son sens propre et étymologique de: qui est au milieu …, intermédiaire. L’épithète s’applique, par exemple, à l’âme qui, placée comme à mi-chemin entre la chair et l’esprit, deviendra elle-même charnelle ou spirituelle selon qu’elle se portera vers l’une ou vers l’autre … – 2° d’autre part, μέσος (medius), appliqué à la vie ou à la mort, désigne la vie et la mort au sens banal et courant du mot, par opposition à la vie et à la mort entendues spirituellement, dans l’ordre de l’homme «à l’image de Dieu». Il est alors synonyme de κοινός (communis)… – 3° dans certains cas, par contamination des deux sens ci-dessus, μέσος (medius) se colore d’une nuance morale, désignant alors ce qui n’est ni bon ni mauvais, mais indifférent; le mot est alors souvent uni à ἀδιάφορος (indifferens)… .”


Gerhard Gruber, ΖΩΗ: Wesen, Stufen und Mitteilung des wahren Lebens bei Origenes, MThS 23 (Munich, 1962), 131f. Consider, esp., 131–2:

“1. die Grundbedeutung: „in der Mitte stehend”, „zwischen”: so steht die Seele zwischen Fleisch und Geist;

2. im Sinne von „gewöhnlich” (κοινός), im Gegensatz zum Geistigen, Wahren: so wird es vor allem auf Leben und Tod angewandt;

3. mit einer „nuance morale”, „das sittlich Indifferente.”


Recall that the period traditionally understood as “middle” Platonism begins with Antiochus of Ascalon, who was, himself, a Stoicising Platonist: John Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 (Ithaca, NY, 1996), 52–106. Note that we are able to observe the same four-fold understanding of μέσος in Alcinous, who understands μέσος as that which: mediates form to matter (Pierre Louis, Albinos. Épitomé, Paris, 1945. XIV.4); is a mean between two extremes (VI.6–7); refers to that which is morally indifferent, i.e. ἀδιάφορα (V.2); facilitates the existence of the world-historical process (XII.2). Plotinus, Origen’s contemporary, also uses the term μέσος to refer to the soul: Paul Henry and Henry R. Schwyzer, Plotini opera, 3 vols. [Museum Lessianum. Series philosophica 33–35], (Leiden, 1:1951; 2:1959; 3:1973), I.1.11, 6–7, ἀλλὅταν τὸ μέσον τάξωμεν ἢ πρὸς τὰ ἄνω ἢ πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία.


Gruber, ΖΩΗ: Wesen, Stufen und Mitteilung des wahren Lebens bei Origenes, 132.


John Burnet, “Leges,” in Platonis Opera, Vol. 5 [OCT], (Oxford, 1907), 896e8–897b5; Also, consider Menn on this point, “Soul thus mediates between strictly eternal intelligible realities and sensible objects subject to generation and corruption”: Stephen Menn, Plato on God As Nous, Journal of the History of Philosophy Monograph Series (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995), 37; cf. 36–37.


Wilhelm A. Baehrens, Origenes Werke vol. 7, [GCS 33], (Leipzig, 1925), I.2, 245.3: Sola tantum media videntur.


Et dicunt: »Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Sabaoth, plena est omnis terra gloria eius«. Domini mei Iesu Christi nuntiatur adventus;” (IsaHom I.2, 245.14–6; cf. 245.14–21).


Herwig Görgemanns and H. Karpp, Origenes vier Bücher von den Prinzipien [TzF 24] (Darmstadt, 1976), II.8.5, 163.2–3. All translations are our own.


E.g. Jn 1:3, πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο; cf. Cécile Blanc, Origène. Commentaire sur saint Jean, 5 vols. [SC 120, 157, 222, 290, 385] (Paris, 1:1966; 2:1970; 3:1975; 4:1982; 5:1992), I.36.266; cf. DePrin II.6.1, 139.15–7: superest ut harum omnium creaturarum et dei medium, id est ‘mediatorem’ [= μεσίτης] quaeramus, quem Paulus apostolus ‘primogenitum omnis creaturae’ pronuntiat.


E.g., ComJn VI.38.188–90.


Also on Jesus’ soul as the medium Dei, consider DePrin II.6.3, 142.11–143.2. For discussion of Jesus’ soul, consider Williams’ classic article: Rowan Williams, “Origen on the Soul of Jesus,” in Origeniana Tertia, Origeniana 3 (Rome, 1981), 131–37.


On the latter point, consider the fact that the distinct hypostasis of Jesus’ soul is the full expression of the Father’s will ComJn ΧΙΙΙ.36.231.


Joël Letellier, “Le Logos Chez Origène,” RSPhTh 75 (1991): 587–612, 601.


E.g., SVF II.838–9, 886, etc.


E.g., Paul Koetschau (ed.), „De Oratione,“ in Origenes Werke, vol. 2 [GCS 3] (Leipzig, 1899), XXIX.2; Lorenzo Perrone (ed.), Origenes Werke, vol. 13, Die neuen Psalmenhomilien [GCS.NF 19] (Berlin, 2015), II.XV 100.18–101.16, etc.


Cf. Christian Hengstermann, Origenes und der Ursprung der Freiheitsmetaphysik, Adamantiana 8 (Münster, 2016), 92: “Mit großer Eigenständigkeit greift Origenes in der Entfaltung seiner Lehre vom ἐφἡμῖν auf verschiedene Theoriestücke der großen Schulen der klassischen wie der hellenistischen Schulen zurück. Neben Platon und Aristoteles sind ihm vor allem Chrysipp und Epiktet, bei denen er die Leittermini des Urteils und der Zustimmung vorfindet, Gewährsmänner eines für die christliche Predigt unerlässlichen Freiheitsbegriffs. Insbesondere der handlungstheoretische Monismus, nach dem alles menschliche Handeln als solches rational und mithin intentional und zurechenbar ist, fungiert als philosophisches Interpretament einer Theorie der sittlichen Verfehlung, nach der die Sünde aus Unwissenheit und Unbeherrschtheit ebenso zurechenbar ist wie die aus Bosheit: Bewusst oder unbewusst ist es innerhalb der Trias der von Origenes unterschiedenen Ursachen der fehlerhaften Eigenbewegung die Vernunft selbst, von der sich die Seele über ein schuldhaft erworbenes Laster bewegen lässt.” On this point, also consider Georgios Lekkas, Liberté et progrès chez Origène (Turnhout, 2001), 114: “Etant donné d’ailleurs le caractère raisonnable de l’âme, Origène voit dans la libre disposition (ἐκούσιος προαίρεσις) de l’homme de suivre l’inclination naturelle de son logos ou de la laisser inactive, comme l’affirmaient avant lui les stoïciens à propos de toutes les puissances de l’hégémonikon, une faculté raisonnable que seul l’homme, parmi toutes les créatures visibles de Dieu, a le privilège de posséder.”


Michael Frede, A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought, ed. A.A. Long, Sather Classical Lectures 68 (Berkeley, CA, 2012), 113.


Paul Koetschau, „De Oratione,“ in Origenes Werke, vol. 2 [GCS 3], (Leipzig, 1899). Consider the discussion of both DePrin and DeOrat by Hendrik Benjamins, Eingeordnete Freiheit: Freiheit und Vorsehung bei Origenes, VCS 28 (Leiden, 1994), 58–71.


Origen’s discussion of the ἄγνοια Πέτρου occurs at ComJn XXXII.5.56, which is part of a discussion of John 13:6–11. Here, Origen interprets Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed by Jesus as an action taken out of ignorance, but, nevertheless, with good intention, noting “it is possible for someone with the best intention (πρόθεσιν) to say that which by no means is profitable to himself on account of ignorance.” The ἀκρασία Παῦλου occurs at Commentaria in ad Romanos VI.9–11, which covers the span of Rom 7:7–8:2. In his commentary, Origen understands Paul as assuming the persona of Paulus carnalis for pedagogical reasons; nevertheless, the passage provides us with immense insight into how Origen relates the akratic relationship between the “law of my members” and the “law of my nous”, described by Paul. Crucially, Origen explains this conflict as one between habitus [= ἦθος] and propositio [= προαίρεσις] (PG14.1088A). Origen, therefore, understands Paul as addressing recent converts, who are in the midst of the initia conversionis, where long-standing habits must be overcome by deliberate choice; notably, Origen does not interpret this passage as the victory of some lower part of the soul over a higher one. For commentary on the text of ComRom, see Caroline P. Hammond Bammel, “Philocalia IX, Jerome, Epistle 121, and Origen’s Exposition of Romans VII,” JTS 32 (1981): 50–81, 67, 71–2. Also consider, on the significance of these passages, the discussions of Alfons Fürst, Origenes: Grieche und Christ in römischer Zeit, Standorte in Antike und Christentum 9 (Stuttgart, 2017), 113–17, and Hengstermann, Origenes und der Ursprung der Freiheitsmetaphysik, 46–69.


Famously, Origen applies this tripartition to both humanity and Scripture (e.g., DePrin IV.2.4, 313.1–4).


Gruber, ΖΩΗ: Wesen, Stufen und Mitteilung des wahren Lebens bei Origenes, 131: “… die Grundbedeutung: ‚in der Mitte stehend‘, ‚zwischen‘: so steht die Seele zwischen Fleisch und Geist;”


Henri Crouzel, “L’anthropologie d’Origène dans la perspective du combat spirituel,” RAM 31 (1955): 364–85, 365.


“Sollte man deshalb Fleisch und Geist im Menschen weniger als ontologisch zu bestimmende Größen verstehen, sondern primär als ethische Kategorien:” Jörn Müller, Willensschwäche in Antike und Mittelalter: Eine Problemgeschichte von Sokrates bis Johannes Duns Scotus (Leuven, 2009), 262.


Gruber, ΖΩΗ: Wesen, Stufen und Mitteilung des wahren Lebens bei Origenes, 163: “Der Geist ist Prinzip nur guter Werke, das Fleisch Prinzip der bösen Werke, die Seele ist ἀδιάφορος!”


André Jean Festugière, L’idéal religieux des Grecs et l’Évangile, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1981), 197–98. Cf. “Die drei Prinzipien (πνεῦμα, σάρξ, and ψυχή) entsprechen wiederum der stoischen Dreiteilung” (Gruber, ΖΩΗ: Wesen, Stufen und Mitteilung des wahren Lebens bei Origenes, 163).


Dale Martin has also noted that Paul’s σῶμα/σάρξ distinction finds a unique parallel in Stoic thought: The Corinthian Body (New Haven, CT, 1995), 128.


Troels Engberg-Pedersen might be understood as spearheading this movement, especially his impressive tome Paul and the Stoics (Edinburgh, 2000), which he followed up with Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit (Oxford, 2010).


Origen does not tend to turn μέσος into a substantive adjective, when referring to the governing faculty. However, two fragmenta on ComJn, which are likely dubia, do use μεσαίτατον substantively; these will be discussed, soon. It is of note that Origen develops τὸ κρυπτόν as a substantive adjective that refers to the governing faculty. We are able to observe this at ComJn XIII.45.298 and CCels VIII.74. Origen reports, at ComJn XIII.45.298, that in book three of his now lost Stromateis, Origen developed this substantive adjective at greater length. Origen also develops ἄδυτος as a substantive adjective that refers to the governing faculty (ComJn VI.2.10; DeOrat VIII.2; Wilhelm A. Baehrens, ‘in Canticum canticorum’ in Origenes Werke, vol. 8 [GCS 33], (Leipzig, 1925), I, 108.28–32).


The magisterial ComJn is the most complete commentary we have from Origen. It was originally composed of 32 books, stopping at John 13:36. The first five books, and beginning of the sixth, are fruit from his Alexandrine period. Upon arriving in Caesarea, Origen had to re-start book six, because the original had not made its way to Caesarea with him (ComJn VI.2.10–12); therefore, books six through thirty-two were written in Caesarea. Presently, we have eleven of these books; not all are retained in full. For discussion of the composition and dating of ComJn, see Ronald Heine, Origen: Scholarship in the Service of the Church, Christian Theology in Context (Oxford, 2010), 84–103, 154–59.


ComJn VI.8.48–9.


ComJn VI.30.154.


E.g., ComJn I.37.268.


See Blanc’s note in Tome II, 268N1, for discussion of this phrase.


This is a fairly common early Christian assertion, e.g. Justin Martyr, in his exegesis of the Burning Bush (Exod. 3:2), makes abundantly clear that the role of the Son/Logos is to mediate between the supremely transcendent Father and creation: Edgar J. Goodspeed, “Dialogus cum Tryphone,” Die ältesten Apologeten (Göttingen, 1915), 60.2–3, 127.2–4; Dennis Minns and P. Parvis, Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, Apologies [OECT], (Oxford, 2009), Ap. I.163.1–17.


For the significance of the governing faculty to Origen’s thought, see Aloisius Lieske, Die Theologie der Logos-Mystik bei Origenes, MBzTh 22 (Münster, 1938), 103–16.


ComJn II.35.215.


Origen and Heracleon provide us with the most ancient extant reflections on the phrase, μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν ὅν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε. We still have some of Irenaeus of Lyon and Clement of Alexandria’s reflections on the event of Christ’s baptism, but these accounts do not attend to the phrase under investigation presently: Adelin Rousseau and L. Doutreleau (eds), Irénée de Lyon, Contre les hérésies, Livre III. Tome II [SC 211], (Paris, 1974), III.11.4; Ludwig Früchtel (ed.), Clemens Alexandrinus. Band II: Stromata Buch I–VI [GCS 52], (Berlin, 1985), V.8.55.1. Origen’s discussion bears resemblance to what we find in Irenaeus (III.11.1–4), for Irenaeus is taking the Valentinians to task over their denial that the Logos became incarnate (esp. §§2–3).


Alan E. Brooke, The Fragments of Heracleon: Newly Edited from the MSS with an Introduction and Notes [Texts and Studies 1], (Cambridge, 1891).


Tome II, 274N1. Also see this note for further literature on this variant.


That being said, Bart Ehrman has hinted at the fact that it might actually be the metaphysical commitments that are driving the hermeneutics, writing “both Heracleon and Origen would well have taken their exegetical stands on either wording of the text”: “Heracleon, Origen, and the Text of the Fourth Gospel,” VChr 47 (1993): 105–18, 117N36. As we will see in a later section, Origen, in his later writings, shifts from using the perfect verb ἕστηκεν to the present στήκει.


Origen also engages with this verse at ComJn VI.49.257 and XXXII.30.378–80. The latter locus is treated in section five.


Fragmentum 82 is the third. It draws John 1:26 into conversation with the same verses as the treatment found at ComJn XXXII.30.378–80.


Erwin Preuschen, Origenes Werke, vol. 4 [GCS 10] (Leipzig, 1903), 497.15–498.5 (goes on to discuss Jesus’ historical presence at greater length; not worth discussing here 498.5–27).


Preuschen, Origenes Werke, 566.26–30. Also of note is Róbert Somos’ study, in which he has outlined nine different ways Origen understands the kidney (νεφρός), “Origen on the Kidneys,” in StPatr 81 (Leuven, 2017), 65–77.


Ronald E. Heine, “Can the Catena Fragments of Origen’s Commentary on John Be Trusted?” VChr 40 (1986): 118–34, 130.


Alan E. Brooke, ed., The Commentary of Origen on S. John’s Gospel, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1896), 211–312.


Preuschen, Origenes Werke, 483–574; cf. 564–71.


Nautin, Origène. Homélies sur Jérémie, vol. 1–2 [SC 232, 238] (Paris, 1976, 1977), VIII.1, 21.


PG17.124A [dub.].


ἐνδιάθετος occurs only two other times in the Greek texts that are retained. Once with reference to the soul: CCels VI.65; another time with reference to the Son as the λόγος προφορικός of the Father: Robert Girod (ed.), Origène. Commentaire sur l’évangile selon Matthieu, vol. 1 (SC 162; Paris, 1970), XI.2. This is not, however, to say that the notion is altogether missing from Origen’s thought. Consider Henry Chadwick, “Origen, Celsus, and the Stoa,” JTS 48 (1947): 34–49, 36–37.


Origen is explicit that the imago Dei is to be identified with the soul exclusively. The double-creation account he finds in Genesis is the primary scriptural reference for this belief; consider Anders-Christian Jacobsen’s discussion of this point at pp. 216–22 of “Genesis 1–3 as Source for the Anthropology of Origen,” VChr 62 (2008): 213–32.


ComJn II.16.114.


The Father provides all with being (DePrin I.3.5, 55.4–56.8); yet, only the saints are said to “live” (ComJn II.16.115–6).


E.g., Plotinus, Enn. VI.8.16. Here, Plotinus couples πανταχοῦ with οὐδαμοῦ in order to stress the immanence and transcendence of the One. Similar concerns are observable in Origen’s thought; for transcendence, consider CCels VI.64; for immanence, consider CCels VI.71. – While this is not the place to rehearse the recent discussions about how many Origens, and Amonii, there are, let us, in brief, note some of the most recent contributions to this discussion. Ilaria Ramelli is the most recent scholar to give voice to the “unitarian” position, namely that there was one Origen who studied under the same Ammonius as Plotinus: “Origen the Christian Middle/Neoplatonist: New Arguments for a Possible Identification,” Journal of Early Christian History 1, no. 1 (2011): 98–130. Thomas Böhm has also made the case for the same position: “Origenes – Theologe und (Neu-)Platoniker? Oder: Wem soll man mißtrauen – Eusebius oder Porphyrius?” Adamantius 8 (2002): 7–23. Prior to present discussions, Mark Edwards, in his article, “Ammonius, Teacher of Origen,” JEH 44 (1993): 169–81, gave new life to the two Origen and two Ammonii position, earlier laid out by Henrich Dörrie, “Ammonius, Der Lehrer Plotins,” Hermes 83 (1955): 439–77. More recently, Edwards has provided an overview of the history of the debates and the “rules of engagement”: “One Origen or Two? The Status Quaestionis,” Symbolae Osloenses 89, no. 1 (2015): 81–103. For a lucid presentation of the texts pertinent to this debate, see pp. 362–72 of Garth Fowden, “The Platonist Philosopher and His Circle in Antiquity,” ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΙΑ: ΕΠΕΤΗΡΙΣ TOΥ ΚΕΝΤΡΟΥ ΕΡΕΥΝΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΙΑΣ 7 (1977): 359–83.


Consider also Homilia II in Psalmum LXXX from Die Neuen Psalmenhomilien 499.3–4, “Where is Christ not? He has stood in your midst. Should some sin, say to them: ‘God, whom you do not know, is everywhere (πανταχοῦ)’.”


We also find a similar interpretation of John 1:26 at DePrin IV.4.3 (352.28–9), where, upon citing the verse, Origen notes, “whence it is proved that the Son of God was present both entirely in body and entirely present everywhere.”


ComRom VIII, PG14.1162C.


ComRom VIII, PG14.1163A–B.


ComJn XXXII.30.378–80: “And might one reply to the verse, ‘one whom you do not know has stood in your midst’, saying he also is with those who do not know Him. But see whether his existence with someone is not the same, which is given by promise to the worthy, as Him standing and being unknown in the midst of those who do not know Him. For, on the one hand, by promise is the verse, ‘wheresoever two or three are gathered in my name, I, too, am in their midst’, and the verse, ‘Behold I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age’; on the other hand, ‘one whom you do not know stands (στήκει) in your midst’ is not such a sort.”


This shift in tense from perfect to present is counter intuitive, given Origen’s earlier discussed rebuke of Heracleon. However, consider Bart Ehrman’s note for an explanation of this shift in tense, “With the exception of Io.Com 6.39.194 – which happens to preserve Heracleon’s text – the alternation of ἕστηκεν/στήκει in Origen’s citations follows a regular pattern: he uses the perfect tense early in his career (John Commentary, Books 1–6), the present tense late (Book 32, and the Contra Celsum). This appears then to be an instance in which Origen continued using an Alexandrian MS during his early residence in Caesarea, before changing MSS later:” “Heracleon and the ‘Western’ Textual Tradition,” NTS 40 (1994): 161–79, 166N27. Ehrman also discusses this point in pp. 108–9 of “Heracleon, Origen, and the Text of the Fourth Gospel.”


Origen makes the same connection between these verses in our citations from CCels.


Erich Klostermann, Origenes Werke vol. 11, [GCS 38], (Leipzig, 1933), ComMtSer 65, 151.19–153.29.


NumHom III.2, 15.16–26.


Recall that, for Origen, Jesus’ soul is the Christ because, unlike other souls, who have defected, Jesus clung to God with the heat of love inextinguishable (DePrin II.6.5, 144.27–8). The souls who have apostatised have done so as a result of a change that they have introduced (DePrin II.9.7, 171.9–15).


E.g., ComJn II.36.222.


The five γένη are κίνησις and στάσις (250a8–9), τὸ ὄν (254d10), and ταὐτότης and ἑτερότης (255a4–5): E.A. Duke et al. (eds), “Sophista,” in Platonis Opera, Vol. 1 [OCT], (Oxford, 1995).


For Origen’s adherence to divine immutability, consider ComJn II.17.123: οὐδενὸς τῶν παρὰ τὸν θεὸν ζώντων ἔχοντος τὴν ἄτρεπτον πάντη καὶ ἀναλλοίωτον ζωήν. Cf. DePrin I.8.3; CCels VI.62.


John Burnet (ed.), “Phaedrus,” in Platonis opera, vol. 2 [OCT], (Oxford, 1901), 247a–e.


Christian Hengstermann, “Being as Motion: The First Principles of Origen’s Ontology of Freedom,” ZAC 23 (2019): 114–37. For discussion of divine κίνησις and στάσις, see 120–28.


HomIsa 1.2, 245.12–3.

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