What was clear enough has become muddled for reasons unknown about Origen. We can speculate the resurgence of the idea of universal salvation is one reason for Origen's rise.

In the seventeenth century, the English Cambridge Platonist Henry More (1614 – 1687) was a devoted Origenist[240] and, although he did reject the notion of universal salvation,[240] he accepted most of Origen's other teachings. -wiki-

A few of his views were unorthodox, to the point that later generations debated whether he was a saint or a heretic. ... For instance, Origen believed in the pre-existence of souls and that one’s status in the present world was proportional to one’s commitment to God during this pre-existence. His negative attitude toward the material world wasn’t much different than that of the Gnostics he so strongly opposed. He also considered the Trinity a ranking, not an equality, and believed that everyone, even demons, would one day be forgiven and purified by God. These claims were key to his being declared a heretic by various councils in the centuries after his death. -source-

So, what does the earlier church (pre 1054) believe about Origen?


2 Answers 2


TL;DR: In his day, Origen was widely recognized as the most brilliant theologian of his time. Epiphanius attacked Origen centuries later and there was a lot of controversy. While Origen's beliefs on universal restoration have undoubtedly been a factor in his modern popularity, they weren't significant factors in his reception and controversy in the first millennium.

During his lifetime, Origen was incredibly popular and influential throughout the Christian world. He was widely regarded as the leading intellectual of Christianity. Origen was sought out by pagan philosophers and political officials. He had many devoted admirers among the bishops He was formally recognized by church synods as the chief theologian of Caesaria and the ultimate expert in theology. Later in life, he was considered the most orthodox of all theologians by the Christians of the eastern Mediterranean. When other Christian teachers were suspected of heresy, Origen was the one commissioned to correct them.

However, the bishop of Origen's home area, Demetrius, was threatened by Origen's activity and harshly attacked Origen throughout his lifetime. The accusations against Origen faded with the death of Demetrius, but they did not disappear entirely and they continued to haunt him for the rest of his career. Demetrius' diatribes had limited influence in Origen's lifetime, but provided source material for later opposition to Origen.

After his death around 253 CE, Origen was hailed as a martyr of the faith for his perseverance despite lengthy torture during the Decian persecution. His work, On First Principles became a landmark book which systematically laid out the foundations of Christian theology for centuries to come.

Every Christian theologian who came after him was influenced by his theology, whether directly or indirectly. He continued to be regarded as the bastion of orthodoxy and his philosophy practically defined Eastern Christianity. Origen himself was revered as one of the greatest of all Christian teachers;

As time progressed, however, Origen became criticized under the standard of orthodoxy in later eras, rather than the standards of his own lifetime. In the early fourth century, the Christian writer Methodius of Olympus criticized some of Origen's more speculative arguments, but otherwise agreed with Origen on all other points of theology. Peter of Antioch and Eustathius of Antioch also criticized some of Origen's teachings as heretical.

It was Epiphanius of Salamis who vociferously attacked Origen around 394 CE and sought to have him denounced as a heretic, causing an enormous stir among theologians known as the First Origenist controversy. He has been quite controversial ever since.

Much of this is adapted from the Origen article on Wikipedia. See that page history for full attribution.


Apart from his shaky stance on Universal salvation, he was never canonized as he took Jesus' words a tad too literally in Matthew 5:29, and castrated himself, as alleged by Eusebius, though there is some doubt to this story's historical veracity.

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    I doubt that the Church Fathers anathematized Origen because of a shaky and dubious story. Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 23:07

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