Origenistic Controversies


Outside the main current of the great doctrinal interests, but still causing no little agitation, were the Origenistic controversies. [See Socrates, vi. 9-18; Sozomen, viii. 11-26; Gieseler, §§ 83, 109;Hefele, §§ 255-257.] These arose from the very diverse estimates that were passed by different parties upon the distinguished Alexandrian. While broad-minded men, like Athanasius, were able to draw from Origen without blindly following him, or to reject certain of his teachings without uttering wholesale anathemas, men of narrow mind were inclined to run to the one or the other extreme. Conspicuous among the fanatical opponents of Origen was Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus. In 394 he stirred up a controversy on the subject in Palestine, where he won Jerome to his side. Rufinus, on the other hand (who was also in Palestine at that time), refused to take sides against Origen. The result was a rupture with Jerome, and a bitter controversy. Among the monks of Egypt, one faction were of the same mind as Epiphanius, while another class were enthusiasts for Origen. Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, was moved, largely by personal considerations, to aide with the former party, and persecuted the Origenistic monks with such vigor that many fled from the country. A company of them sought an asylum in Constantinople, where John Chrysostom was then bishop. Chrysostom was somewhat disposed to befriend them, and undertook to intercede with Theophilus in their behalf. This provoked the unappeasable wrath of the jealous and intolerant Alexandrian prelate; and, entering into a league with the enemies of Chrysostom in the church and court of Constantinople, he was able to secure a sentence of banishment against the noble bishop in 403. This was indeed speedily revoked, but was renewed the next year; and the prince of pulpit orators was obliged to spend his last days in exile. This treatment of Chrysostom was strongly disapproved by the Bishop of Rome, though his predecessor had followed the example of Theophilus in condemning Origen. Another assault against the memory of Origen took place in the sixth century. Justinian, ambitiously taking up the rôle of the theologian, issued ten anathemas against the teachings of Origen; and a synod, convened at his instance in 543, incorporated these with other specifications, making in all fifteen anathemas.

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