Origen (Gr. '), a father of the church, born as conjectured in Alexandria, Egypt, about 185, died probably in Tyre in 254. The surname of Adamantius was bestowed on him by early writers on account of his unwearied diligence and ascetic temper. His father, the martyr Leo-nides, was a teacher of eloquence; and under his tuition and that of Clement of Alexandria, Origen was familiarized from childhood with the works of Plato and the Stoics, as well as with the Scriptures. In 202 Leonides suffered for the faith, and the confiscation of his property left the widow and seven orphans utterly destitute. Origen opened a school, in which he taught at first the ordinary elements of Greek literature, and then expounded the Christian faith to catechumens. But the public school of catechists attached to the cathedral church of Alexandria having been left without teachers in 202 by the flight of its founders, the bishop placed it under the direction of Origen. The new master confined himself to religious instruction. His father's fame and his own attracted a crowd of pupils, many of whom suffered imprisonment and martyrdom.
His school was closed by the magistrates, and he was driven from the city. "When permitted to return, he resumed his office of teacher, but resolved to lead a life of greater austerity than before. He declined all remuneration for his labor, parted with his select library of pagan authors for a stipend of four oboli a day, slept upon the bare ground, wore only one garment and no shoes, and gave up all stimulating drinks. In 206, interpreting too literally the passage in Matt. xix. 12, he secretly emasculated himself, revealing the circumstance only to the bishop Demetrius. About this time he went to Arabia at the request of a Roman governor. In 210 he avowed himself a pupil of the Neo-Platonist Ammonius Sac cas, and about 211 visited Rome, where he was confirmed in his purpose of doing some great work for Biblical scholarship. Relinquishing part of his duties to his assistant Heraclas, he devoted himself to the study of Hebrew, in which he soon became proficient. In 212 he converted the Valentinian Ambrose, whose learning and wealth afterward enabled him to publish his commentaries on the Scriptures. About 219 he was summoned to Antioch to meet the emperor Elagahalus and Mammsea, and made such an impression by his learning and his accomplishments that the persecutions against the Christians declined.
On his return to Alexandria, he enlarged the sphere of his teaching so as to make the study of all known philosophy a preparation for the scientific study of Christian theology. Ambrose here not only assisted him in teaching, but purchased maimscripts and provided seven amanuenses. Thus appeared at Alexandria his commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the first five tomes on the Gospel of St. John, his tract on the resurrection, his Stro-mata, and his work, " On Principles." This last work, as he afterward wrote to Fabian, bishop of Rome, was published against his will by Ambrose; and its mixture of Christian principles and Platonic philosophy furnished his opponents at a later period with serious matter of accusation. About 228 he was sent by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, on a mission to Greece, visited Palestine on his way, and was everywhere invited to preach in the churches, though not yet in holy orders. "Without, as it appears, asking the consent of his own bishop, and concealing the impediment of his voluntary mutilation, he was ordained priest.
Demetrius not only refused to acknowledge the validity of this ordination, but in two synods held in Alexandria divulged the secret, denied him all clerical rank, and had several of his opinions condemned as heretical. Demetrius is accused by St. Jerome, but without proof, of having been moved by jealousy in these proceedings. Origen, though forbidden to teach in the school of catechists, concluded his fifth tome on the Gospel of St. John, and took refuge with the bishop of Caesarea. Meanwhile a more numerous synod at Alexandria, after examining his work "On Principles " more in detail, pronounced it heretical and excommunicated its author. Origen was encouraged to open a school of Scriptural exegesis in Caasarea (of Palestine), and continued there his exposition of the Gospel of John. The bishops of the eastern churches took up the controversy concerning his ordination and heterodoxy; and those of Palestine, Phoenicia, and Arabia pronounced in his favor. In the western church his writings, being comparatively little known, attracted no great notice during his life, but afterward they were generally condemned.
The school in Caesarea continued to flourish, and a large circle of distinguished pupils, among whom was Gregory Tliaumaturgus, spread his fame and his principles of interpretation far and wide. He prosecuted all his literary undertakings with increased ardor; wrote a treatise on the "Utility of Prayer" and an "Exposition of the Lord's Prayer;" maintained an active correspondence with the most distinguished bishops of Asia, and was often invited to be present at church councils. During the persecution of Maximin in 236 his friend Ambrose, and Protoctetus, a priest of Caesarea, were imprisoned and treated with great cruelty, and Origen wrote for their consolation a treatise "On Martyrdom." He was himself obliged to fly from Caesarea, and found an asylum with Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. The persecution having broken out there, Origen lay concealed for two years in the house of Juliana, and while in this retirement completed his collation of the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture, known as the Hexapla. In 238 he returned to Caesarea in Palestine and resumed his labors.
He was invited soon afterward to Athens, and finished there his commentary on Ezekiel and began that on Canticles. On the accession of Philip the Arabian, Origen corresponded with his family, and about the same time wrote his defence of the Christian religion against Celsus, his commentary on St. Matthew, and other treatises. In his 60th year (245) he first permitted his discourses to be taken down by short-hand writers. He was frequently consulted by synods on matters of special difficulty; and a numerous council, assembled in Arabia, asked Origen's opinion of the doctrine that the soul dies with the body and is restored to life at the resurrection, which was by him pronounced heretical. In the Decian persecution he was imprisoned and subjected to exquisite and gradually increasing tortures. He wrote from his prison a letter of exhortation and encouragement to his fellow sufferers, but his health was broken down. Many of his personal friends reported that he died under torture at Caesarea; but others with greater probability affirmed that he died at Tyre in 254. His tomb was preserved for many centuries near the high altar of the cathedral of Tyre. - The writings of Origen were of many kinds, critical, philosophical, polemic, and practical. Most of them are lost.
Of those still extant, the principal are parts of the Hexapla and Octapla, commentaries on the Scriptures, treatises "On Principles," "On Prayer," and " On Martyrdom," and his eight books " Against Celsus." The Hexapla was an edition of the Old Testament in six parallel columns, in Hebrew, Hebrew text in Greek letters, and in the four versions of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint, and Theodotion. In some books were added the versions marked 5, 6, 7, whence the name Octapla, the two former said to have been found, one in Jericho, and the other at Nicopolis in Epirus. A smaller Tetrapla contained only the first four of these versions, without the original text. This splendid work, of such value in the recension and purification of the text of the Old Testament, now exists only in fragments. Many eminent modern scholars have labored to restore the work and edit it from these fragments. The standard edition is that of Montfaucon (2 vols, fob, Paris, 1713). The commentaries of Origen upon the Scriptures cover more ground than those of any other ancient interpreter. They are remarkable for the constant use of the allegorical method.
The literal sense is always secondary; and the critic never fails, where it is possible, to find in the simplest fact or the plainest exhortation some hidden meaning. The work " On Principles" remains only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, and in this is not only incomplete, but has been altered by the translator. Editions of this work were published in 1836 by Redepenning in Leipsic, and by Schnitzer in Stuttgart. The treatise "On Martyrdom," a defence of death for the faith, and an admonition to constancy, is in point of style one of the most finished'of Ori-gen's works; it was published by Wetstein (Basel, 1674). But his most celebrated work is his apology for Christianity contained in the eight books "Against Celsus." This is regarded as the most complete defence of the Christian religion that has come down from the ante-Nicene age. The Latin texts of the works of Origen were edited by J. Merlin (2 vols., Paris, 1512); the work "Against Celsus" was first published separately in Latin by Persona (Rome, 1481), and in Greek by David Hoschel (Augsburg, 1605) and W. Spencer (Cambridge, 1658; 2d ed., 1677); and the Greek text of his commentaries on the Bible by Huet (Rouen, 1668; Paris, 1679). His complete works were published by the Benedictines C. and C. V. de la Rue (4 vols, fol., Paris, 1733-'59), Lom-matzsch (25 vols., Berlin, 1831-48), and in vols. xi. to xvii. of Migne's Patrologie grecque. - On Origen's life and writings, see Schnitzer, Origenes über die Grundlehren der Glaubens-wissenschaft (Stuttgart, 1836); Redepenning, Origenes, eine Darstellung seines Lebens und seiner Lehre (Bonn, 1841-'6); Fischer, Com-wientatio de Origenis Thcologia et Cosmologia (Halle, 1846); and Fermand, Exposition critique des opinions d'Origene sur la nature et l'origine du peche (Strasburg, 1861).