Origen's influence upon the `New Translations' of the Bible

Posted Dec 09, 2011 by kym Jones in Exposing Spiritualising the Word Hits: 6,547

Origen's father Leonidas was a teacher who taught him to love Greek literature and Scripture. Leonidas was martyred for his faith under the persecution of Severus in 203 A.D and according to legend, Origen had to be restrained from following after his father. However, he followed the example of his father and embarked upon a career as a teacher; teaching grammar and philosophy, and helped families who had been victims of persecution, as he had been. He had also been a pupil of Ammonius Saccas (c. 160 - c. 242 A.D), who was a Greek philosopher from the Platonic School in Alexandria, who coincidentally also taught Plotinus. After the persecution by Servetus ceased in 211 A.D., Origen reopened the Catechetical School. He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith by the Roman Emperor Decius, in c. 252 A.D., and reputedly died two years later of the injuries which he sustained.

There is no doubt that Origen was zealous for the faith to the point of stupidity - one story has it that as a young man he found himself causing a scandel by giving private Bible studies to women, and concerned that nothing should interfere with his work, after reading in the Gospel of Matthew how some have made eunuchs of themselves for Christ, and - instead of taking this in its literal meaning (which is that it is better for some to abstain from marriage), he instead accordingly castrated himself, which demonstrates that his penchant for allegorization led him to perform this act of self-mulilation upon himself! The following passage helps to explain why he looked for the hidden meanings contained in Scripture, as the most obvious explanations which were contained in Scripture could not (according to Origen) be true:
`1. What man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without the sun and moon and stars? And the first day, if we may so call it, was even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, "planted a paradise eastward in Eden" and set it in a visible and palpable "tree of life", of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with bodily teeth would gain life; and again that one could partake of "good and evil" by masticating the fruit taken from the tree of that name? And when God is said to "walk in the paradise in the cool of the day" and Adam to hide himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual events.
Even the gospels are full of passages of this kind, as when the devil takes Jesus up into a "high mountain" in order to show him from thence "the kingdoms of the whole world and the glory of them". For what man would who does not read such passages carelessly would fail to condemn those who believe that with the eye of the flesh, which requires a great height to enable us to perceive what is below and at our feet, the kingdoms of the Persians, Scythians, Indians and Parthians were seen, and the manner in which their rulers are glorified by men? And the careful reader will detect thousands of other passages like this in the gospels, which will convince him that events which did not take place at all are woven into the records of what literally did happen.' (Origen, `On the First Principles', 3. 1.)
Obviously, Origen's great wisdom in all things spiritual was greater than God's! His apparent disregard for the lessons contained in the literal leading of the Scriptures led him to allegorise the Scripture, with his gnosticism leading him to believe that the Sriptures could be interpreted by three levels of meaning, with the literal meaning of Scripture corresponding to the material body of the person which is essentially corrupt and thefore of benefit to only the simplest of persons; the `psychic level' which corresponded to the soul's need for perfecting itself, and the spiritual interpretation, which enabled one to partake of the `higher mysteries', and was only made available to the adept. Therefore the Bible:
` . . . contains three levels of meaning, corresponding to the threefold Pauline (and Platonic) division of a person into body, soul and spirit. The bodily level of Scripture, the bare letter, is normally helpful as it stands to meet the needs of the more simple. The psychic level, corresponding to the soul, is for making progress in perfection.… [The] spiritual interpretation deals with 'unspeakable mysteries' so as to make humanity a "partaker of all the doctrines of the Spirit's counsel". (`Origen', J. Trigg, 1983, pp. 120 - 121, 126.)

There is good reason why some of Origen's beliefs later became condemned as heresy - for instance he believed in a subordinate role of Christ to the Father in the sense that he depicted Christ as not really being divine at all, for reason that if Christ were truly divine, yet truly man, then His human `flesh' would serve to corrupt His divinity. Therefore he depicted Christ as little more than a glorified man. This later became the basis of the Arian controversy during the First Ecumencial Council in 324, in Nicea; during which the doctrine of the Trinity was first formulated. He also believed in universalism, which is to say that after spending an indeterminate period of suffering in purgatory, that everyone will be saved, and also that the stars have souls - which reflected upon the ancestor worship of the ancient Babylonians. Thus, within two and a half centuries from the death of Christ, pagan conceptions of the character of God had so corrupted the gospel of Christ, that there was very little difference between the more educated pagans, and the supposedly more refined Christians:
`The Christians endeavoured to enlist the earlier philosophers in their cause; they were scarcely content with asserting that the nobler Greek philosophy might be designed to prepare the human mind for the reception of Christianity; they were almost inclined to endow these sages with a kind of prophetic foreknowledge of its more mysterious doctrines . . . "I have explained," says the Christian in Minucius Felix, " . . . . that one might suppose, either that the Christians of the present day are philosophers, or that the philosophers of old were already Christians." (The History of Christianity, from the Birth of Christ, to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire', Vol. 1', H. Milman, 1840, pp. 363.)


As these philosophies were disseminated within the early Church, `the holy and beautiful simplicity of early times very nearly disappeared', and with this also disappeared the apostolic conception of the unconditional `agape' love of Christ. It was not to appear again in a modified form until the Reformation, when an obscure German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his `95 Thesis' to the Church door in Wittenberg in 1517, when he protested the sale of `indulgences' for the benefit of the Church coffers. The `agape of Christ' was instead concealed by the rudimentary garments of philosophy, at which the `eros' of the Greeks was pushed to the forefront, which `was followed by a most remarkable and disatrous alteration in nearly the whole system of Christian discipline':

`When once this passion for philosophising had taken possession of the minds of the Egyptian teachers and certain others, and had been gradually diffused by them in various directions throughout the church, the holy and beautiful simplicity of early times very nearly dissapeared, and was followed by a most remarkable and disatrous alteration in nearly the whole system of Christian discipline. This very important and deeply to be regretted change had its commencement in the century now under review [2nd century], but it will be in the succeeding one that we shall have to mark its chief progress. One of the earliest evils that flowed from this immoderate attachment to philosophy, was the violence to which it gave rise in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures . . . . no sooner did this passion for philosophising take possession of their minds, that they began with wonderful subtility to press the Scriptures into their service, in support of all such principles and maxims as appeared to them consonant to reason; and at the same time most wretchedly to pervert and twist every part of those divine oracles which opposed itself to their philosophical tenets or notions. The greatest proficients in this pernicious practice were those Egyptian teachers who first directed the attention of the Christians toward philosophy, namely Pantaenus and Clement . . . . he and Pantaenus . . . . were merely followers of the celebrated Alexandrian Jew, Philo, whose writings they assiduously studied, and whose empty wisdom they were unhappily led to admire and to imitate.' (Mosheim, p. 368.)
The writings of Clement and in particular Origen were admired and studied by later Church Fathers who built upon the philosophies of these learned Fathers who preceded them, who then applied their philosophical system to what eventually became an entire edifice of dogma and doctrine. While the grosser errors of Origen and Clement were dicarded for reason that they contained within them elements of doctrine which was obvious heresy, nevertheless - much of what these men believed came to be accepted as orthodox Christianity, and later Church Fathers followed in this tradition, as they applied Greek philosophy to the Scriptures:

`So firm was the hold which Platonism had on the Church, from the veneration paid to the great men of its early history who had professed their admiration of that system, and from its having been incorporated with various expositions of Christian Truth, that it was impossible to substitute any other Philosophy in its place, even had any such design existed in the schools of the middle age. Still that Philosophy did not suffice for the whole state of the case. It presented, indeed, the means of speculating on the truths of Christianity and explaining them to the satisfaction of speculative men: but it was deficient as a method of investigation and judgment. It was only a vast collection of theories.' (`Encyclopedia Metropolitana; or, Universal Dicition of Knowledge', E. Smedley, 1845, p. 803.)

However, the greatest influence which Origen had, was on the formation of a stream of manuscripts which became the basis of the Catholic Bible, which is derived from the Latin Vulgate. Not only did the allegorizing pen of Origen heavily influence Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D) in his compilation of the Vulgate, but in 331 A.D. the Emperor Constantine commissioned the Church historian Eusebius of Caesaria to produce fifty Bibles to be used in the Churches of Constantinople. These Bibles were written on vellum, which was animal hide of the highest quality and most durable nature, and was reserved for only the best and most expensive manuscripts of the Church; which possibly explains why two are thought to have survived. These two manuscripts which are known respectively as the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, formed the basis of the revision of the King James Bible in 1881:
` . . . This Greek text was based largely on the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. It had a considerable influence upon the production of the American Standard Version (ASV) and the Revised Standard Version (RSV), along with many of the newer translations.' (`The Book we call the Bible', J. Ensey, ch. 6.)

It was principally the influence of the allegorisation of Origen which led to the release of the Revised Version of the Bible in 1881by the Reverend Brook Foss Westcott (1825 - 1903), an Anglican bishop, and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828 - 1903), an Irish theologian, who presided over the committee of the Revised Version. While the stated purpose of this revision was to eliminate the archaic language of the Authorized Version (King James Version), so that the Bible might become more generally accessible to the general public, it was in fact a recension, for it principally relied upon five manuscripts which followed in the tradition of the Siniaticus and Vaticanus, which they called the `neutral text', as they believed this was the text which was the most faithful to the original autographs, and remained relatively uncorrupted by interpolation and specious addition. Their argument for the Siniaticus and Vaticanus was because these were the oldest available manuscripts, they must therefore be the most reliable, and as the earliest known manuscripts which formed the Byzantine Text (Majority Text), and Received Text were of a much later date, with only a relatively small number dating before the ninth century, then therefore the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus must have been `neutrally' influenced by interpolation and must also therefore most closely represent the original autographs. However, the assumption which they made fails miserably once the historical considerations of the compiling of these two manuscripts is taken into consideration - the Vaticanus and Siniaticus are the heirs of Origen's malign influence on manuscripts which originated in the environs of Rome and Alexandria, and must therefore be regarded as anything but apostolic:

`When we come to Origen, we speak the name of him who did the most of all to create and give direction to the forces of apostasy down through the centuries. It was he who mightily influenced Jerome, the editor of the Latin Bible known as the Vulgate. Eusebius worshiped at the altar of Origen’s teachings. He claims to have collected eight hundred of Origen’s letters, to have used Origen’s six-column Bible, the Hexapla, in his Biblical labors. Assisted by Pamphilus, he restored and preserved Origen’s library. Origen’s corrupted MSS. of the Scriptures were well arranged and balanced with subtlety. The last one hundred years have seen much of the so-called scholarship of European and English Christianity dominated by the subtle and powerful influence of Origen. Origen had so surrendered himself to the furore of turning all Bible events into allegories that he, himself, says, “The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.” In order to estimate Origen rightly, we must remember that as a pupil of Clement, he learned the teachings of the Gnostic heresy and like his master, lightly esteemed the historical basis of the Bible. As Schaff says, “His predilection for Plato (the pagan philosopher) led him into many grand and fascinating errors.” He made himself acquainted with the various heresies and studied under the heathen Ammonius Saccas, founder of Neo-Platonism.' (`Our Authorised Bible Vindicated', B.J. Wilkinson, 1930, p. 12.)

Westcott and Hort's much vaunted `oldest and therefore reliable manuscripts' were anything but reliable, as they are believed by scholars to have been two of fifty Bibles which the Empore Constantine commissioned shortly after the Council of Nicea, and are tainted by the gnosticism of Origen:
`About 331 A.D. Constantine commissioned [the Church Historian] Eusebius to prepare fifty Bibles for the use of the churches in Constantinople. It is believed by many scholars that two of the oldest complete Greek manuscripts, Siniaticus and Vaticanus, may have been examples of the Bibles Eusebius prepared. The later textual criticx Tischendorf and Hort both believed this to be the case. It is important to understand that any translation prepared or overseen by Eusebius would have certainly been tainted by Origen and the carnal philosophical interpretation under which influence he had fallen.' (`The Unquenchable Fire', D. Bear, 2007, p. 245.)
Thus we find that with the `new translations', the vast majority of which have been corrupted by Origen's gnostic manuscripts, are not revisions at all, but recension's which have their basis in the semi-paganized Christianity which flooded Egypt and Rome, and is typified by the prodigious writings of Origen. Therefore the assumption that Westcott and Hort posited, which is that that the earliest available manuscripts must be therefore the most reliable must of necessity be also flawed, because the greatest corruptions of the New Testament took place within fifty years of the death of the disciple John, in the second century:

`It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed; that Irenaeus (A. D. 150), and the African Fathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus.' (`A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament', F. Scrivener, 1861, p. 386.)
There have only ever been two streams of manuscripts! One stream of manuscripts were corrupted by the allegorizing pen of Origen and formed the basis of the Vulgate, which then became the Latin Bible of the Catholic Church, as well as the majority of so-called `new' translations' The other stream of manuscripts are known as the Received Text, which means `that which has been handed down'. Thre Received Text and closely related Majority Text was the text used by the apostolic Churches, and all of the Christian Churches which would not submit to the supposed authority of the Roman Church. These texts remained uncorrupted by Greek speculation, and during the middle ages, were hunted down and destroyed, as were the `heretics' who held fast to the truths which were contained within these apostolic Bibles:
`Having presented the fact, that the Bible of early Greek Christianity and early Syrian Christianity [from c. 150 A.D.] was not of the Eusebio-Origen or Vaticanus type, but the Received Text, we shall now see that the early Bible of northern Italy, of southern France, and of Great Britain was also the Received Text. The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine, was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria [at which the Church of Antioch was located], northern Italy, southern France and Great Britain. The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts, disclose a Christianity which is not Roman, but apostolic. These lands were first penetratred by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. And the Greek New Testament, the Received Text they brought with them, or its translation, was of the type from which the Protestant Bibles, as the King James in English, and the Lutheran in German, were translated.' (Wilkinson, p. 16.)
As Origen's malign influence spread throughout the Church in her formative years, Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle came to be held in awe by many Christians, who believed that these pagan philosophers had an almost prophetic foreknowledge of Christianity, to the point that in approximately 248 A.D, Origen answered some objections which Celsus, a pagan philosopher had written of about eighty years previously over the legitimacy of the Christian religion, for as far as the Greek mind was concerned, it was inconceivable that God could leave the lofty heights of heaven, and then manifest Himself in the poorer classes, and more specifically as a carpenter by trade whose mother made her living by spinning. So although Celsus really had no objection to the philosophical conception which the Christians professed of their God, for he believed that as far as `the unity of the Supreme God' was concerned, `the philsophical notion of the deity' of the Chritians `is perfectly reconciliable with Paganism', Celsus' chief objection to Christianity was that the Christians had the gall to set up a rival to the supreme Deity of the pagan religions! Perhaps the most celebrated and influential of the early Chuch Fathers of the first five centuries is St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 A.D.), whose voluminous works contributed greatly to the formation of the Catholic doctrine. Augustine:
` . . . expressed ambivalent attitudes toward Greek philosophy and science - fearing them as fomenters of heresy but also defending them as the best, if not the only way of learning about the natural world. Philosophy, in Augustins's influential view, was to be the handmaiden of religion - not to be stamped out, but to be cultivated, disciplined and put to use.' (Lindberg, p. 149.)

Augustine acknowledged that:

`The Latins [Latin Fathers of the Church] make available the philosophy of the Platonists.' (`De Civitate Dei VIII. 12.)


Apart from Augustine, other notable Church Fathers which were influenced by the Platonism of Origen were St. Athanasias (296-373 A.D.) - from whose writings the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds are derived from the Cappadocians in their final form; as well as `the prince and master of all Scholastic doctors', St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), who wrote `Summa Theologica' - a towering edifice of work which was built upon the theology of all the Fathers who preceded him and was later ratified as the orthodox theology of the Catholic Church during the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. As a result, the Biblical testimony of the efficacy of the atonement of Christ for the sins of fallen man, became marred by the metaphysical ideas of Greek philosophy. Eventually the Biblical conception of the atonement could no longer be recognized, for when Constantine made Christianity the State Religion in 325 A.D and appropriated the Sun worship of the surrounding pagan nations, the theology of the emerging medieval Church also began to appropriate the philsophies of the `mystery' religions which surrounded it, so that by the end of the fourth century little distincition could be drawn between the paganised form of Christianity which Constantine appropriated, and the raw paganism of the surrounding nations:

` . . . Christianity began to adopt the terminology and modes of the mystery cults. This is important to keep in mind, since the parallels that some skeptics use are from later forms of Christianity. Thus, December 25 [is] a date that Christians took over from the mystery religions in celebration of the birth of Jesus . . . Nowhere in the New Testament do we read that Jesus' birth was on December 25. The use of this date was apparently picked to assimilate the cults into the now-dominant religion of the Roman Empire, Christianity. But that didn't happen until the fourth century.' (`Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus', J. Komoszewske, M. Sawyer, D. Wallace., 2006, pp. 233, 234.) It should also be noted that Constantine presided over the First Ecumenical Council of the Church, in Nicea, which is located in modern day Turkey. Constantine was a Mithraist, which is to say that he followed the Roman religion of sun-worship, and remained devoted to Mithra for the rest of his life:`We are told in various ways be [the 4th century Church Historian] Eusebius, that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward adornments to which they had been accustomed in their own. It is not necessary to go into a suject which the diligence of Protestant writers has made familiar to us. The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant and the Kyrie Eleison [which is a liturgy that is sung at the beginning of each Mass], are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.' (`An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine', Cardinal John Henry Newman, 1845, pp. 359, 360.)

Under Origen, the Catechetical School at Alexandria earned a reputation of refining theological speculation, and subjecting Christianity to Plato. Among its members were Athanasisus from whose writings the Nicene and Chalcedonian (Athanasian) Creeds are primarily derived, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, who refined the doctrine of the Trinity (or Nicene Creed), to the point that it achieved settled form in the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D:

`The Alexandrian catechetical school, which revered Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, the greatest theologian of the Greek Church as its heads, applied the allegorical method to the explanation of Scripture. Its thought was influenced by Plato: its strong point was theological speculation. Athanasius and the three Cappadocians [Fathers of the Church] had been included among its members. .' (`Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church', by Hubert Jedin, 1960, p. 29.)

It is in this evironment of Greek speculation, that the Creeds of Christendom came to be formed, beginning with the Council of Nicea in 324 A.D., which first formulated the doctrine of the Trinity:
`Christians responded to the Platonic tradition in various ways. Some, such as Tertullian, rejected it entirely as a pagan religion. Others, including Justin Martyr and Origen regarded Platonism as a largely true but incomplete anticipation of Christianity. The main Christian tradition engaged Greek philosophy critically, appropriating and adapting elements that could be used to explain and defend what was regarded as orthodox teaching while rejecting what conflicts with it. For example, Augustine, who was a Neoplatonist when he was converted, criticizes some aspects and approves of others. Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa used modified Neoplatonic categories to formulate the Nicene Creed's doctrine of the Trinity as well as to distinguish it from Neoplatonism. In the Creed, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are each termed hypostasis (person). Although the Son and the Holy Spirit "proceed" from the Father, they are not emanations but eternally and fully share the one divine nature (homoousios) with the Father. Furthermore, Christian thinkers viewed the world as the product of God's free act of creation, not an inevitable divine emanation. These examples illustrate how most Christians subordinated and modified Greek philosophy according to established doctrine.' (`Panentheism, the other God of the Philosophers: from Plato to the present, .. ch. 2, note 48 - 50. J. Cooper, 2006.)

 

The two principle players who debated this creed were Athanasius, who was a student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and Arius, a prebyter from Antioch, in Syria - which is now a part of modern day Turkey. These two men represented two opposing factions who vied for control of the ecclesiasticl power of the Church. The winner was fated to receive the favour of Constantine, the newly Christianized Emperor of Rome, and the ecclesiastical power which Constantine wielded would then enable the victor to exercise control over the Christian Churches.