A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Origenists

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ORIGENISTS, a denomination in the third century, who derived their opinions from Origen, a very learned presbyter of Alexandria, and a man of uncommon abilities, who interpreted the divine truths of religion according to the tenour of the Platonic philosophy. He pretended that many evils arise from adhering to the literal and external part of scripture; and that the true meaning of the sacred writers was to be sought in a mysterious and hidden sense.

The peculiar tenets ascribed to Origen, are the following:

I. A pre-existent state of human souls, prior to the Mosaic creation, and perhaps from eternity; which souls were clothed with ethereal bodies suited to their original dignity. See Platonists.

II. That souls were condemned to animate mortal bodies, in order to expiate faults they had committed in a pre-existent state; for no other supposition appeared to him sufficient to account for their residence in these gross material bodies. See John ix. 2, 3.

III. That the soul of Christ was created before the beginning of the world, and united to the divine world, and united to the divine word in a state of pristine glory. See Phil. ii. 5-7. This text, he thought, must be understood of Christ;s human soul, because it is unusual to propound the Deity as an example of humility in scripture through the humanity of Christ was so God-like, he emptied himself of this fulness of life and glory, to take upon him the form of a servant. It was this Messiah, who conversed with the patriarchs under a human form; it was he, who appeared to Moses upon the holy mound; it was he, who spoke to the prophets under a visible appearance; and it is he, who will at last come in triumph upon the clouds, to restore the universe to its primitive splendour and felicity. See Pre-existents.

IV. That at the resurrection mankind will be again clothed with ethereal bodies. For the elements of our terrestrial composition are such as most fatally entangle us in vice, passion, and misery. The purer the vehicle the soul is united with, the more perfect is her life and operations. Besides, the supreme goodness, who made all things, assures us, he made all things good at first; and therefore his recovery of us to our lost happiness (which is the design of the gospel) must restore us to far better bodies and happier habitations; which is evident from 1. Cor. xv. 42. 2 Cor. v. 1. and other texts of scripture.

V. That after long periods of time, the damned shall be released from their torments, and restored to a new state of probation. For the Deity has such reserves in his gracious providence, as will vindicate his sovereign goodness and wisdom from all disparagement. Though sin has extinguished, or silenced the divine life, yet it has not destroyed the faculties of reason and understanding, consideration and memory, which will serve the life which is most powerful. If, therefore, the vigorous attraction of the sensual nature be abated by a ceaseless pain, there powers may resume the seeds of a better life and nature. As in the material system there is a gravitation of the less bodies towards the greater, there must of necessity be something analogous to this in the intellectual system; and since created spirits are emanations from God, and as self-existent power must needs subject all beings to itself, the Deity could not but impress upon the souls of men a central tendency towards himself-an essential principle of re-union to their great original.

VI. That the earth after its conflagration shall become habitable again, and be the mansion of men and other animals, and that in eternal vicissitudes. Heb. i. 10-12, where speaking both of the heavens and earth, the inspired writer says, "as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed," &c. The fashion of the world passes away life a turning scene, to exhibit a fresh and new representation of things; and if only the present dress and appearance of things fo off, the substance is supposed to remain entire.[1] See Millenarians.

Origen is also charged with Arianism. See Arians.


Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 219-225. Cudworth's Intellectual System, vol. ii. p. 818. Cheyne's Philosophical Principles of Religion, p. 47-84. Travels of Cyrus, p. 235-238.