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Origen and Spiritual Meaning

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  • Michael Grondin
    Our fellow-moderator Andrew Criddle doubles as a guest writer on Stephen Carlson s blog Hypotyposeis. This last Saturday, he posted a typically well-reasoned
    Message 1 of 2 , May 12 11:51 AM
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      Our fellow-moderator Andrew Criddle doubles as a guest writer
      on Stephen Carlson's blog Hypotyposeis. This last Saturday,
      he posted a typically well-reasoned piece on Origen titled
      "Christian Allegory of the New Testament", at:

      http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/05/christian-allegory-of-new-testament.html

      I think Andrew would agree that Origen himself would describe his
      interpretational principles in terms of "spiritual meaning" (versus
      "literal meaning"), and of course it was certainly not Origen's view
      that _everything_ in the NT was in the nature of allegory. But what
      I wonder about - and maybe Andrew can answer this - is how to
      explain Origen's infamous self-castration, wherein he seemed to
      have taken Mt 19:12 ("there are eunuchs who made themselves
      eunuchs on account of the kingdom...") _literally_, whereas in
      _First Principles_, he writes:

      "... one of the impossibilities is the verse in the Gospel 'If your right
      eye has offended, let it be plucked out' [Mt 5:29, 18:9]. For even
      if we refer the saying to fleshly eyes, how will it appear logical that
      the blame for the offense is referred to one eye, the right one, when
      a person sees with both eyes? Or who would be considered
      innocent of a great crime if he laid hands on himself?"

      In the first part of this passage, Origen is including the Matthean
      verses among several others (mentioned earlier) that he thinks
      cannot be taken literally (hence his preference for "spiritual meaning"
      in some cases, although I'm inclined to think that "spiritual meaning"
      didn't necessarily equate to allegory for him; it might sometimes be
      simple hyperbole).

      Be that as it may, the last sentence in the above quotation is clearly
      an independent line of reasoning that would obviously count heavily
      against Origen's own self-castration. I don't know, however, whether
      this passage is among those whose authenticity is in question. Nor
      do I know whether this passage was supposedly written before or
      after Origen's action. Hopefully, Andrew and/or Stephen can provide
      some enlightenment. Did Origen later regret an action caused by
      youthful zeal?

      Cheers,
      Mike G.
    • sarban
      ... From: Michael Grondin To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 7:51 PM Subject: [GTh] Origen and Spiritual Meaning I think Andrew would
      Message 2 of 2 , May 12 12:11 PM
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Michael Grondin
        To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 7:51 PM
        Subject: [GTh] Origen and Spiritual Meaning






        I think Andrew would agree that Origen himself would describe his
        interpretational principles in terms of "spiritual meaning" (versus
        "literal meaning"), and of course it was certainly not Origen's view
        that _everything_ in the NT was in the nature of allegory. But what
        I wonder about - and maybe Andrew can answer this - is how to
        explain Origen's infamous self-castration, wherein he seemed to
        have taken Mt 19:12 ("there are eunuchs who made themselves
        eunuchs on account of the kingdom...") _literally_, whereas in
        _First Principles_, he writes:

        "... one of the impossibilities is the verse in the Gospel 'If your right
        eye has offended, let it be plucked out' [Mt 5:29, 18:9]. For even
        if we refer the saying to fleshly eyes, how will it appear logical that
        the blame for the offense is referred to one eye, the right one, when
        a person sees with both eyes? Or who would be considered
        innocent of a great crime if he laid hands on himself?"

        ..................................................................
        Be that as it may, the last sentence in the above quotation is clearly
        an independent line of reasoning that would obviously count heavily
        against Origen's own self-castration. I don't know, however, whether
        this passage is among those whose authenticity is in question. Nor
        do I know whether this passage was supposedly written before or
        after Origen's action. Hopefully, Andrew and/or Stephen can provide
        some enlightenment. Did Origen later regret an action caused by
        youthful zeal?

        Cheers,
        Mike G.

        Hi Mike



        Origen's analysis of Matthew 19:12 (from the Latin translation of his "Commentary on Matthew") is online at

        http://www.well.com/~aquarius/origen-matthew.htm

        Origen clearly argues here against taking the injunction literally.



        There seem to be two possibilities

        i/ Origen castrated himself and later regretted it.

        ii/ The story of his self-castration is not historical and is a product of the malice of his opponents. This possibility is discussed here.

        http://houseoftheinklings.blogspot.com/2006/09/on-origen.html



        Andrew Criddle





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