I've heard and read in "Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West" (book by Anthony Grafton, page 222) that Origen was considered a Church Father but not a Saint by either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church? Why is this so?


2 Answers 2


Origen was a great teacher, but he also had some non-Orthodox positions on Scripture and the faith in general. His teachings were specifically anathemitized by the Second Council of Constantinople in 1553, which inherently means you can't be a saint, since you are condemned, at least according to the Roman Catholic Church.

That said, he was also an ardent follower of Jesus, a prolific and influential teacher, and fighter of other heretics.

  • The only reason he didn't get martyred was because his mother hid his clothes to keep him from going out.
  • He literally castrated himself because he felt convicted by Scripture
  • He wrote vigorously against the Gnostics and other heretics, and even spurned his patron who supported other heretics.

From this article in Christianity Today, for example:

But Origen’s interpretations pushed the boundaries of orthodoxy.

He believed, for instance, in the pre-existence of souls and that eventually everyone, including the Devil, would be saved. In addition, he described the Trinity as a hierarchy, not as an equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. Though Origen attacked Gnosticism, in many ways, like the Gnostics, he rejected the goodness of the material creation. His critics have always complained that in many ways this teacher was “blinded by Greek culture.”

Between the pre-existence of souls and his unorthodox view of the Trinity, he was technically a heretic, albeit one with probably very good intentions. The Coptic church, and his Alexandrian school of thought had many followers, but even they will admit his teachings were mixed.

Obligatory joke about Origien: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/6467/1039

  • 1
    Lovely answer and joke. Thank you for the effort. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:50
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    It's worth noting that since Origen was arguably the first systematic theologian (and wrote well before the major ecumenical councils), it would be anachronistic to say that he went against orthodoxy. At the time, there was no clearly defined orthodoxy, and in fact Origen and his followers were instrumental in establishing the orthodoxy that emerged. That's not to disagree with you that his positions on pre-existence and the Trinity are unorthodox. They are, but Origen himself did not consciously oppose accepted catholic church teachings.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 1:58
  • It's arguable whether Origen actually held the positions commonly ascribed to him Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 4:52
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    The joke is a dead link. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 11:40

Origen is today considered controversial because of some of his views. (Even Saint Augustine had some views with which the church disagreed). Although he is considered controversial today, during his time he was the definition of theology, whether you agreed with him or not.

It still comes down to one qualification.

To be canonized in either of the apostolic confessions you must show evidence of sainthood by the performance of a miracle. There could be arguments for it, but there is no solid evidence that any miracles ever accompanied his ministry. His teachings, however, are still highly relevant in understanding the development of systematic theology within the church. For that he still commands the respect of the church.

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    Welcome Pater. I did a bit of format editing, and some prose clean up. Thanks for contributing. If you can add/include some support for the answer that would be great. How to Ask and How to Answer guidelines may be helpful there. The tour gives a nice overview on how SE sites are not forums. Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 15:04

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