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The Philocalia of Origen (1911) pp.i-xv.  Introductory material


Printed by 









Author of "A Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Exeter and Norwich,"
"An Oxford Parish Priest" : Translator of S. Basil's "De Spiritu Sancto,"
S. Jerome's "Dogmatic Treatises," etc.





C. M. L.


A. V. T.


THE translation here undertaken is, by kind permission, from the Revised Text (Cambridge, University Press, 1893) of Dr. Armitage Robinson, then Norrisian Professor of Divinity, subsequently Dean of Westminster, now Dean of Wells, who thus describes the original: "The Philocalia of Origen is a compilation of selected passages from Origen's works made by SS. Gregory and Basil. The wholesale destruction of his writings which followed upon the warfare waged against his opinions shortly after his death, has caused a special value to attach to the Philocalia as preserving to us in the original much of Origen's work which would otherwise have been entirely lost, or would have survived only in the translations of Rufinus. Moreover, even his great and comparatively popular work against Celsus depends for its text solely on a manuscript of the thirteen century, so that we have a cause for gratitude in the preservation of a large part of it in the Philocalia. But apart from its textual importance, this collection deserves attention as forming an excellent introduction to the study of Origen. Much of his best thought is here presented to us, arranged under various important heads; and we are guided to the appreciation of his theological standpoint by two of the strongest intellects of the century after his own."

Bishop Westcott's account of "the great teacher of Alexandria----of him whose proper name is said to mean the Son of light, and whose labours earned for him the title of Adamantine" may perhaps be of service to the reader. "The fortunes of Origen during his lifetime aptly prefigured the fate of his writings. His zeal was accounted |vi infatuation, and his learning turned to a reproach. Though he was known to have reclaimed the wandering, and to have refuted the malicious, yet he was driven from the service of the Church in the very city where he had preached Christ on the steps of the temple of Serapis, and strengthened his father to endure the terrors of martyrdom. Though countless doctors, priests, and confessors proceeded from his school, he was himself arraigned as a heretic and convicted; though he was the friend and teacher of Saints, his salvation was questioned and denied. For many centuries he was condemned almost universally by the Western Church, in consequence of the adverse judgment of Jerome. In later times Picus of Mirandola ventured to maintain the cause of the great Father: the thesis was suppressed, but the author remained uncensured: indeed, a pious lady was said to have received a revelation not long before, which seemed to assure her of the forgiveness of Samson, Solomon, and Origen. This hope, however, in the case of the last was admitted apparently by few; and Baronius expresses his surprise that any doubt of his condemnation could be raised after the sentence of Anastasius. If we find in Origen's own words about Holy Scripture a deep and solid foundation of truth constructed with earnestness and wisdom,----unaptly crowned, it may be, with the fantastic structures of a warm and hasty imagination,----it is possible that we may be led to regard his other labours with charity, if not with gratitude, and to remember that his errors refer to questions which had not in his time been decided by the authority of the Church."

For the suggestion that a translation of the Philocalia might be found useful I am indebted to the present Bishop of Gloucester (Dr. Gibson), who in making the suggestion did not, of course, in the least guarantee the fitness of the translator for the work. While I have availed myself of any printed matter I could find, and most gratefully acknowledge my obligations, I have refrained almost entirely from consulting my friends, not from any |vii feeling of sufficiency, but from a dread that I might make them partakers in my literary sins. The one or two instances in which I have begged assistance are mentioned in the notes. In translating an author so difficult as Origen, I can hardly hope to escape criticism at many points. The translator will most cordially welcome anything that may tend to improve his work.


            21st June 1911.


(Explanatory Note in the Greek)

THE volume which we now offer to our readers contains a selection of scriptural problems and their solutions compiled by the divines Basil and Gregory 2 from the learned labours of Origen. It is said to have been sent by the latter, Gregory the theologian, to Theodorus, who was then Bishop of Tyana, as is shown by the letter 3 addressed to him, which runs thus:----

The festival, and your letter, and what is better, your anticipation of the season, and readiness to allow us to keep the festival beforehand. These are the gifts of your piety. In return we give the best we have, our prayers. But that you may have some memorial from us, and at the same time from Basil, we have sent you a small volume of the choice thoughts of Origen, containing extracts of passages which may be of service to scholars. Pray accept it, and let us see that with the aid of industry and the Spirit you have found it useful.


THE present volume contains a selection of scriptural problems and their solutions from various laborious treatises of Origen. Some say that the book, and also the division of it into chapters as they are arranged, and the titles were the work of the learned divines, Basil and Gregory, and that it was sent by Gregory the theologian, in a folding tablet to Theodore of holy memory, who was then Bishop of Tyana. And this is what was intended to be shown in the preface of the very ancient codex from which we have made the transcript. But how do they establish the fact? By the letter, so they say, which was written to the aforesaid Theodore, and sent with the tablet. Now we acknowledge the letter to have been written by him who was called the theologian, and on the other hand, we find many things in the collected passages which are inconsistent with sound doctrine; we had therefore good reason, inasmuch as we followed the word of truth, for our resolve to prefix this preface, and thus enable readers to easily detect the secret villainy of Origen's champions.

We have not the least doubt that the letter was written by the theologian, particularly as it is found, precisely as we have it, in all copies of his letters, and nobody disputes it. And if we frankly admit this, we consequently accept the second statement, viz. that the compilation was made by the learned editors from the works of Origen----a compilation, of course, of useful and profitable passages, as it is concisely expressed in the theologian's letter of which we have just spoken. For it was what we should expect, that those spiritual bees would |xii gather the choicest honey from various flowers to make up one pure honey-comb, whereof, as Solomon, the wise collector of Proverbs says, kings and private persons taste and are sweetened, and are helped in gaining perfect health. We believe, accordingly, that those famous Fathers did compile such portions as have no taint of heretical bitterness, but certainly not all, without distinction, that we find in the following chapters; much of it we reject as conflicting with the inspired teaching of the Fathers.

For, we would ask, was there ever a time when Basil and Gregory, those invincible champions of our religion, were content to hold their peace if any one profanely maintained the Son of God or the Holy Spirit to be a created being? We need not say how they treasured such doctrines, or how profitable they deemed them to scholars. Were they not in the thick of every fight against the blasphemy of Arius 4 and Eunomius and their associates? Did they not give such an account of pre-existence, and final restoration, and similar doctrines, as suited ancient legend and was adapted to the Grecian mind? What need to mention the details? The time would fail to tell what laborious service they rendered in the interests of orthodoxy. Nearly the whole of their life was spent in showing the All-holy and Self-existent Trinity to be equal in honour and glory, and in the same true sense Co-eternal and Co-essential. They fed Christ's sheep in the green pasture of the holy doctrines, speaking to them in the familiar voice and pure tones of the truth. But in |xiii the work under consideration you may find everything just the reverse. For all the absurdities we have enumerated, and others besides, are sown broadcast, and of the chapters, the twenty-second is by the bare title, we maintain, proved to be spurious and illegitimate. It follows that if we were to make the Holy Fathers responsible for the selection of all these absurdities, we should of necessity be giving to error that assent which is due to truth. And consider how absurd this would be; for we shall be charging the guardians of righteousness with our own perversity. But God forbid! Would any man of ordinary critical judgment allow that those famous champions of our religion in their selections were accustomed to mingle the chaff with the wheat? At the same time we may very well allow that some heretical tenets may be called "wheat"; for, as Cyril with his ripe wisdom tells us, "We ought not to cleprecatingly shun all that the heretics say, inasmuch as they confess many things which we also confess." 5 Basil and Gregory, then, surely were not the persons who mixed the wheat and the chaff for us. Impossible! But certain of those who pervert the ways of the Lord, in their eagerness for the impious subtleties which Origen borrowed from the Greeks, imitated the devil who outwitted their teacher, and, in the case before us, mixed the chaff with our wheat, just as the devil in days of old scattered the tares in the Master's field. For the wheat is ours; ours, too, wherever they may be found, are the orthodox doctrines. And the inspired preachers of those doctrines, with their superlatively wise teaching, using the fan of their critical ability given them from above, and thereby sifting the wheat from the chaff, brought the wheat into the fair garner of the Church, but have delivered the chaff to unquenchable fire----and that in spite of Origen.

So, then, taking all this into account, although we admit the letter to be genuine, and have no doubt that the compilation was made by the two saints, and give good heed to their orthodox teaching, which shines more brightly |xiv than the sun, we shall maintain that we were justified in the further inference we drew on our own responsibility. What we mean is this. Certain persons, as has been said, mad upon the heterodox views of Origen, taking advantage of the holy Gregory's letter, have undoubtedly had the audacity to pollute the whole of the compilation with profane insertions, apparently supposing that the more simple-minded readers might be found, as holy Basil somewhere says, mixing the poison with the honey. To prevent this we have done our best to show readers clearly where the poison is. Accordingly, after giving the most careful attention to the thorough exposition of all the chapters in the following list, and after applying the best tests we could, we have marked the spurious and illegitimate passages in the margin as "heretical," "faulty"; and have thus branded them in their several places.

The letter of holy Gregory the Divine to Theodore, Bishop of Tyana. [See above.]

The contents of the book: a selection of passages from the words of the impious Origen. [Here follow the titles of the chapters.]


TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE               v




I. Of the Inspiration of the Divine Scripture 1

II. That the Divine Scripture is closed up and sealed 30

III. Why the Inspired Books are Twenty-two in Number 34

IV. Of the Solecisms and Poor Style of Scripture 35

V. What is "much speaking," and what are the "many books"? The whole Inspired Scripture is One Book 36

VI. The whole Divine Scripture is One Instrument of God, perfect and fitted for its Work 42

VII. Of the special "character" of the Persons of Divine Scripture 44

VIII That we need not attempt to correct the Solecisms of Scripture, etc 45

IX. Scripture uses the same Terms in different Significations. 47

X. Stumbling-blocks in Holy Scripture 51

XI. On Heretical Interpretation of Holy Scripture 53

XII. We ought not to despair in reading the Scriptures if we find Difficulties in them 54

XIII. Philosophy in relation to Holy Scripture 57

XIV. The Use of Logic in the Study of Scripture 60  |xv 

XV. A Reply to the Objection that the Truths of Christianity have been better expressed by the Greeks. Our Lord's Body, etc. 62

XVI. On the Divisions among Christians 77

XVII. May we give Heathen Titles to the Supreme God? 81

XVIII. The "simplicity"of Christian Faith, etc. 86

XIX. Faith in Christ commendable and accordant with the original Moral Notions of Mankind. How Jesus being God could have a Mortal Body 109

XX. Man and the Irrational Creatures 113 

XXI. Free Will 137

XXII. The Dispersion of Mankind, and the Confusion of Tongues .163

XXIII. Fate, Astrology, etc 173

XXIV. Matter is not Uncreated, or the Cause of Evil 197 

XXV. God's Foreknowledge, Predestination, etc. 208

XXVI. Scripture Blessings. What things are really "Good" and "Evil" 214

XXVII. The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart 224

[Footnotes have been renumbered and moved to the end]

1. 1 Philocalia = love of the beautiful. The word may be contrasted with Apeirocalia ----ignorance of the beautiful, want of taste, in pl. vulgarities.

2. 2 Basil of Caesarea (329-379 A.D.); Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389 or 390 A.D.).

3. 3 S. Greg. Ep. cxv.

4. 1 Presbyter of Alexandria, A.D. 319. "Arianism was largely the result of a mental and moral temper fostered by the Greek schools of disputation, and began, as we learn from Socrates (i. 5), with this line of argument----What is true of human fatherhood is true of the relation between the Father and the Son: Hut the father's priority of existence is true of human fatherhood: Therefore it is true in regard to the Father and the Son: Therefore, once there was no Son: Therefore He was, at some very remote period, created by the Father. The petitio principii in the major premiss is a key to the whole heresy."----Bright's S. Leo, p. 139.

The Eunomians were a sect of Arians, so named from Eunomius, Bishop of Cyzicus in A.D. 360. They taught that the Son was "Only Begotten" in the sense "Begotten by God alone."

5. 1 S. Cyr., Alex. Ep. xliv.

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