Origen on Theology and Christology 11

And it is He whom we call Son of God— Son of that God, namely, whom, to quote the words of Celsus, we most highly reverence; and He is the Son who has been most highly exalted by the Father. Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitudes of believers who are not in entire agreement with us, and who incautiously assert that the Saviour is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them, but rather believe Him when He says, The Father who sent Me is greater than I. We would not therefore make Him whom we call Father inferior — as Celsus accuses us of doing — to the Son of God. (Origen, Celsum, 8.14)

. . .

For we who say that the visible world is under the government to Him who created all things, do thereby declare that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him. And this belief we ground on the saying of Jesus Himself, The Father who sent Me is greater than I. And none of us is so insane as to affirm that the Son of man is Lord over God. But when we regard the Saviour as God the Word, and Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Truth, we certainly do say that He has dominion over all things which have been subjected to Him in this capacity, but not that His dominion extends over the God and Father who is Ruler over all. (Origen, Celsum, 8.14)

Origen explicitly excludes those who assert that the Son is the Most High God, meaning Origen would, it seems, anathematize Trinitarians had they been around (although here it most likely seems as though he is referring to Modalists since I don’t think there were any actual Trinitarians around, but the statement he makes applies equally to Trinitarians). He then says clearly that the Son is inferior to the Father, and certainly not vice versa, the Son has dominion over all things, but not over God and Father

Origen on Theology and Christology 10

We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son, who is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person, has seen in Him who is the image of God, God Himself. (Origen, Celsum, 8.12)

The Son and the Father are two substances, but one in the sense that they are one in thought and harmony of will, which is the exact way Jehovah’s Witnesses say the Father and Son are one, and how we interpret the passages in the Gospel of John where Jesus proclaims himself to be one with the Father. Their “oneness” is that of will, purpose, and thought; not ontological “oneness.”

Origen on Theology and Christology 9

For no one can worthily know the uncreated and first-born of all created nature like the Father who begot Him (Οὔτε γὰρ τὸν ἀγένητον καὶ πάσης γενητῆς φύσεως πρωτότοκον κατ’ ἀξίαν εἰδέναι τις δύναται ὡς ὁ γεννήσας αὐτὸν πατήρ), nor any one the Father like the living Logos, and His Wisdom and Truth. (Origen, Celsum, 6.17)

The English translation I’m using is by Frederick Crombie from the Ante-Nicean collection (edited by Roberts, Donaldson, Cox), and in that translation ἀγένητον is translated as uncreated, which is a strange translation, since γίνομαι is not the usual word used for create,  κτίζω is the usual choice. In fact, Jesus is explicitly μονογενὴς in John, as Origen obviously understands. However right after that, he says that the Logos id the first born of all things of a generated nature (γενητῆς φύσεως), and that the Father generated him (ὡς ὁ γεννήσας αὐτὸν πατήρ). So what’s going on here? I think the answer, consistent with the rest of Origen’s Christology and Theology, is that there is a hierarchy of being as well as a hierarchy of generation. The point is not that the Logos is not created at all, but rather that the Logos is not created in the same way that man is created, in relation to man he is “unbegotten”, since his existence comes directly from the Father, through direct participation in his uncreated divinity, whereas all of mankind is posterior to the first-born of all creation, the rest of creation gets its being, not through participation through the Father (the only AutoTheos), but from the Son.

Origen on Theology and Christology 8

For the Son of God, the First-born of all creation, although He seemed recently to have become incarnate, is not by any means on that account recent. For the holy Scriptures know Him to be the most ancient of all the works of creation (Πρεσβύτατον γὰρ αὐτὸν πάντων τῶν δημιουργημάτων ἴσασιν οἱ θεῖοι λόγοι,); for it was to Him that God said regarding the creation of man, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. (Origen, Celsum, 5.37)

Origen clearly, again, puts the Son of God on the creation side of the creation/creator divide. Origen is following Philo here in claiming that man is made in the image of the Logos, who himself is made in the image of God. Origen here confirms his position on a hierarchy of being, and the analogy between the generation of the Logos and the creation of man. Later on, in Contra Celsum 5.58, Origen speaks of Jesus as the Angel of God, who was helped out of the tomb by another angel, the argument Origen was countering was the idea that the fact that Christ received help from other angels was somehow unworthy of the Son of God; but for my purpose what is relevant is that the Son of God is the angel of God, in the same category as other angels.

Origen on Theology and Christology 7

We consider, therefore, that there are three hypostases, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and at the same time we believe nothing to be uncreated but the Father. We therefore, as the more pious and the truer course, admit that all things were made by the Logos, and that the Holy Spirit is the most excellent and the first in order of all that was made by the Father through Christ. (Origen, John, 2.6)

Here Origen is explicit with his Theology and Christology. He is trinitarian in the same way Tertullian was, he is an economic trinitarian, but an ontological subordinationist. The Son is not in the category of uncreated, the Holy Spirit was the first in order, made by the Father through Christ. Only the Father is uncreated. This is clearly ontological subordination, and incompatible with traditional trinitarian theology.

Origen on Theology and Christology 6

Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father (ἰδιότητα υἱοῦ ἑτέραν παρὰ τὴν τοῦ πατρὸς), and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name , or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father (ἢ ἀρνουμένους τὴν θεότητα τοῦ υἱοῦ τιθέντας δὲ αὐτοῦ τὴν ἰδιότητα καὶ τὴν οὐσίαν κατὰ περιγραφὴν τυγχά νουσαν ἑτέραν τοῦ πατρός), so that they are separable from each other (ἐντεῦθεν λύεσθαι δύναται). To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is Very God ( ὅτι τότε μὲν αὐτόθεος ὁ θεός ἐστι); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, John 17:3 That they may know You the only true God; but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, The God of gods, the Lord, has spoken and called the earth. It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is The God, and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God is at all times God, not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father, and not continuing to be God, if we should think of this, except by remaining always in uninterrupted contemplation of the depths of the Father. (Origen, John, 2.2)

This section here shows how nuanced and careful Origen is in his Christology. He juxtaposes two positions: 1. The Son does not have his own being (or nature or existence) distinct from the Father, and thus make the Son God; 2. The deny the divinity of the Son and place his existence outside the sphere of the Father, or give him a separate existence. Origen’s solution is that God is AutoTheos, God in himself, whereas the Logos is made God by participation. So, his existence is not separate from the Father, he is not like creation which is undivine and alienated from the Father; but he is not AutoTheos. However, as we saw before, we have the same hierarchy of being. The Logos is made God through participation in God, the Logos is in this sense divine, but he is the firstborn of creation, the first to be with God; after the Logos you have other gods who are made gods getting their divinity from God through the Logos.

Now, the Logos is said to be with the Father at all times, this does not mean that the Logos does not come into being, is not part of creation, because, as Origen recognizes, time itself is part of creation and God transcends time (Origen, First Principles 3.5.3), which is why, for Origen, there is an analogy between the Logos’s origin in in God and creation’s coming to be through the Logos.

Origen on Theology and Christology 4

He did not come to God, and this same word was is used of the Word because He was in the beginning at the same time when He was with God, neither being separated from the beginning nor being bereft of His Father. And again, neither did He come to be in the beginning after He had not been in it, nor did He come to be with God after not having been with Him. For before all time and the remotest age the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God. Thus to find out what is meant by the phrase, The Word was with God, we have adduced the words used about the prophets, how He came to Hosea, to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, and we have noticed the difference, by no means accidental, between became and was. (Origen, John, 2.1)

Here it may seem as though Origen is declaring that the Logos is eternal. However, what Origen’s point here is about the Logos’s relationship to God: the Logos was always with God, he was never separated from God at all time; in fact, before time. The point here is that the Logos was with God prior to all creation and did not come to be with God at some point in time. In fact (as you read later on in Origen, John, 2.1), Origen claims that it is the Logos’s relationship with God that makes John able to call him God.

Origen on Theology and Christology 3

But Christ is demiurge as a beginning (arche), inasmuch as He is wisdom. It is in virtue of His being wisdom that He is called arche. For Wisdom says in Solomon: Proverbs 8:22 God created me the beginning of His ways, for His works, so that the Word might be in an arche, namely, in wisdom. (Origen, John, 1.22)

Again, we see the Logos identified with Wisdom from proverbs 8, affirming that this wisdom was created. Created “in the beginning” which means in wisdom, the wisdom of God which was created by God.

Origen on Theology and Christology 2

In addition to these meanings there is that in which we speak of an arche, according to form; thus if the first-born of every creature Colossians 1:15 is the image of the invisible God, then the Father is his arche. In the same way Christ is the arche of those who are made according to the image of God. For if men are according to the image, but the image according to the Father; in the first case the Father is the arche of Christ, and in the other Christ is the arche of men, and men are made, not according to that of which he is the image, but according to the image. With this example our passage will agree: In the arche was the Word. (Origen, John, 1.19)

The beginning of all things in the Christ is analogous to the beginning of Christ in the Father. We also have a hierarchy of being presented through the metaphor of the image: the Son is the image of the father, but we are the image of the Son.

Taken with the quotation from the previous post (which was from Origen, John 1.17), we have two options if we are to follow Origen: We can reject creation ex-nihilo, something which Origen does not do (Origen, First Principles 2.3); or we can accept ontological subordinationism. If the beginning of the Son in the Father is analogous to the beginning of creation in the Son, and one desires to hold on to the idea that the Son is eternal, then creation must also be eternal, not eternal only in terms of existing eternally in the past (one can believe the universe is infinite in the past and still believe in creation ex nihilo), but eternal in the sense of not having his being contingent on a necessary being (God). The other option is the obvious one, God is the only necessary reality, everything else is contingent, including the Son, no matter how high you put the Logos—and I think Origen pus the Logos at the highest possible level without ending up at Nicean Christology—you still have ontological subordinationism.

Origen on Theology and Christology 1

This meaning of the term beginning, as of origin, will serve us also in the passage in which Wisdom speaks in the Proverbs. God, we read, created me the beginning of His ways, for His works. Here the term could be interpreted as in the first application we spoke of, that of a way: The Lord, it says, created me the beginning of His ways. One might assert, and with reason, that God Himself is the beginning of all things, and might go on to say, as is plain, that the Father is the beginning of the Son; and the demiurge the beginning of the works of the demiurge, and that God in a word is the beginning of all that exists. This view is supported by our: In the beginning was the Word. In the Word one may see the Son, and because He is in the Father He may be said to be in the beginning. (Origen, John, 1.17)

Notice the citation of Proverbs 8 in reference to the Logos. Also notice that the origin of the Logos in God, the Logos having his beginning in the Father, is made analogous to the works of the demiurge. So, God is the beginning of all things in that he is the beginning of the Son who is the beginning of all things. The use of the term demiurge is interesting, given its usage in Platonism and middle Platonism as the in between being that connects the world to the highest reality, the Platonic God. If there is an analogy between the begetting of the Son and the creation through the Son of the world, then what we have is a hierarchy of being, starting with God, through the Logos, to creation, the Logos is not God, and is in fact dependent on God for his existence, just like creation is brought into being, the Logos is brought into being.