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Origen's Belief in the Preexistence of the Soul


LDSGuy

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I recently spoke in a chat room with a Catholic who claims that he is a professor at the University of Notre Dame and teaches Patristic Exegesis (the study of the teachings of the early church fathers). Upon hearing what he taught, I asked him what he thought about Origen's teaching on the preexistent soul. He proceeded to tell me that he doesn't believe Origen taught such a thing. He claimed that his writings had been changed by detractors, and that those teachings are not based on earlier manuscripts but later ones; and that those had been changed or doctored to detract from Origen.

For the purpose of the conversation I will post a few quotes from Origen on the subject from the book "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs" edited by David W. Bercot.

"When the scriptures are carefully examined regarding Jacob and Esau, it is not found to be unrighteous of God to have said-- before they were born, or had done anything in this life-- that 'the older will serve the younger.' However, it is not unrighteous... if we feel that Jacob was worthily beloved by God according to the deserts of his previous life... Owing to causes that have previously existed, a different office is prepared by the Creator for each one in proportion to the degree of his merit." Origen.

"It appears to me that this will be seen more clearly at last if each being-- whether heavenly, earthly, or infernal-- is said to have the causes of his diversity in himself, prior to his bodily birth... There is no doubt that at the Day of Judgement, the good will be separated from bad (and the just from the unjust) and all will be distributed according to their deserts, by the sentence of God... Similarly, I am of the opinion that such a state of things was the case in the past." Origen.

"This world is itself called an 'age,' and it is said to be the conclusion of many ages. Now, the holy apostle teaches that in the age that preceded this one, Christ did not suffer." Origen.

There are more quotes where he mentions this belief. My question is this: Does anyone know whether or not most scholars attribute this teaching to Origen or if these quotes are his? If you have any sources, could you please share them? I am skeptical of his statements, because the only sources that he gave me were other Professor for the Theology Department at Notre Dame. I asked for an outside source that could confirm his statement and he could not give me any.

Thanks

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There are more quotes where he mentions this belief. My question is this: Does anyone know whether or not most scholars attribute this teaching to Origen or if these quotes are his? If you have any sources, could you please share them? I am skeptical of his statements, because the only sources that he gave me were other Professor for the Theology Department at Notre Dame. I asked for an outside source that could confirm his statement and he could not give me any.

Thanks

The problem I always had with Origen in particular is when in his life did he say what he did. As an ECF, I don't have too much issues with what he says in his early life. After he castrated himself in his later life, I have a few basic issues with accepting anything he might say. Just my personal issue.

Edited by blueadept
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There are more quotes where he mentions this belief. My question is this: Does anyone know whether or not most scholars attribute this teaching to Origen or if these quotes are his? If you have any sources, could you please share them? I am skeptical of his statements, because the only sources that he gave me were other Professor for the Theology Department at Notre Dame. I asked for an outside source that could confirm his statement and he could not give me any.

Patristics is not my expertise, but as far as I know there is no manuscript evidence that the relevant quotes you gave from Origen are interpolations or have been tampered with. It's possible that some may theorize that they are additions or alterations, but I don't know of any manuscripts that show signs of it -- which, without extremely compelling textual or historical evidence (which as far as I know also doesn't exist), would make this simply wishful thinking.

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The problem I always had with Origen in particular is when in his life did he say what he did. As an ECF, I don't have too much issues with what he says in his early life. After he castrated himself in his later life, I have a few basic issues with accepting anything he might say. Just my personal issue.

Origen lived in an age when Christianity was more diverse than it is now, or even would be just a century after his death when Christians began to consolidate into camps of Arians and Trinitarians. Every controversy that arose--and especially those ruled on by a council--over the subsequent centuries would continue to consolidate Christianity into "orthodoxy" (until the Reformation finally broke the mold--but even it didn't return Christianity to the diversity that existed in the first few centuries).

A lot of Origen's ideas conflict with modern "orthodox" Christianity (and also Mormonism, for that matter), but his ideas were not that far-fetched relative to his contemporary Christians. I suspect if we knew all of the theological ideas of the Church Fathers from the first few centuries to the extent that we know Origen's, very few of them would have been made it as saints.

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The problem I always had with Origen in particular is when in his life did he say what he did. As an ECF, I don't have too much issues with what he says in his early life. After he castrated himself in his later life, I have a few basic issues with accepting anything he might say. Just my personal issue.

So, you're saying that we shouldn't all be castrating ourself in order to better follow the teachings of the early Church?

Woops...

:P

LDSGuy,

I don't know if it would ultimately help answer your question, but you may find Terryl Givens' book When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought worth reading.

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So, you're saying that we shouldn't all be castrating ourself in order to better follow the teachings of the early Church?

Woops...

:P

LDSGuy,

I don't know if it would ultimately help answer your question, but you may find Terryl Givens' book When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought worth reading.

Thanks! I'll take a look at that book.

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I frankly don't understand some "traditional" Christians not believing in a Pre-Mortal life.

After all, they fully acknowledge that God created us as spirits, and those spirits obviously existed before he placed them into our bodies, thus they obviously would have had to have "pre-existed".

Not only that, but they also believe in the story of Satan and followers being cast out, and that one of the reasons for that occurring is Satan wanted to "save" everyone, so obviously we likely would have had to been around at the time, since those who didn't follow satan were likely the ones who got sent to the earth. On and on.

Of course, I don't understand a lot of "traditional" Christian beliefs as they relate to the Bible, for they are inaccurate, incomplete, etc. My only explanation is it's a intellectual/spiritual defect, cause I can see how they arrive at such conclusions, but said conclusions are clearly flawed given the actual texts in question.

Edited by Obiwan
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The problem I always had with Origen in particular is when in his life did he say what he did. As an ECF, I don't have too much issues with what he says in his early life. After he castrated himself in his later life, I have a few basic issues with accepting anything he might say. Just my personal issue.

Yeah... Bold mine, I'd almost say the guy was nuts.

But I'll leave those marbles on the table.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recently spoke in a chat room with a Catholic who claims that he is a professor at the University of Notre Dame and teaches Patristic Exegesis (the study of the teachings of the early church fathers). Upon hearing what he taught, I asked him what he thought about Origen's teaching on the preexistent soul. He proceeded to tell me that he doesn't believe Origen taught such a thing. He claimed that his writings had been changed by detractors, and that those teachings are not based on earlier manuscripts but later ones; and that those had been changed or doctored to detract from Origen.

For the purpose of the conversation I will post a few quotes from Origen on the subject from the book "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs" edited by David W. Bercot.

"When the scriptures are carefully examined regarding Jacob and Esau, it is not found to be unrighteous of God to have said-- before they were born, or had done anything in this life-- that 'the older will serve the younger.' However, it is not unrighteous... if we feel that Jacob was worthily beloved by God according to the deserts of his previous life... Owing to causes that have previously existed, a different office is prepared by the Creator for each one in proportion to the degree of his merit." Origen.

"It appears to me that this will be seen more clearly at last if each being-- whether heavenly, earthly, or infernal-- is said to have the causes of his diversity in himself, prior to his bodily birth... There is no doubt that at the Day of Judgement, the good will be separated from bad (and the just from the unjust) and all will be distributed according to their deserts, by the sentence of God... Similarly, I am of the opinion that such a state of things was the case in the past." Origen.

"This world is itself called an 'age,' and it is said to be the conclusion of many ages. Now, the holy apostle teaches that in the age that preceded this one, Christ did not suffer." Origen.

There are more quotes where he mentions this belief. My question is this: Does anyone know whether or not most scholars attribute this teaching to Origen or if these quotes are his? If you have any sources, could you please share them? I am skeptical of his statements, because the only sources that he gave me were other Professor for the Theology Department at Notre Dame. I asked for an outside source that could confirm his statement and he could not give me any.

Thanks

Very Interesting...

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