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Evagrius and Gregory: Nazianzen or

Nyssen? Cappadocian (and Origenian)


Influence on Evagrius
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

PONTICUS (345/6399) is one of the most


outstanding Greek Patristic thinkers and ascetics in the
Origenian tradition. His intellectual figure and his
thought are undergoing a reassessment,1 and rightly so. However, most of this reassessment still remains to be done,
especially with regard to a unitary vision of his production that
overcomes the unfortunate split between his ascetic and his
philosophical works (the former easily accepted, the latter
deemed daringly and dangerously Origenistic), and with regard to his (too often misunderstood) Origenism. In order to
address both questions, which are closely interrelated, it is
necessary to tackle the thorny issue of Origens true thought
as opposed to the false reconstruction of it that was made in the
course of the Origenist controversy and that partially still holds
todayand its exact impact on Evagrius system, as well as to
investigate the possible role of the Cappadocians in the transmission of Origens authentic ideas to Evagrius.
Gregory of Nyssa is, among the Cappadocians and among all
VAGRIUS

1 At the very least see A. Casiday, Evagrius Ponticus (New York 2006); J.
Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus: The Making of a Gnostic (Burlington 2009);
K. Corrigan, Evagrius and Gregory: Mind, Soul and Body in the 4th Century
(Farnham/Burlington 2009). Corrigans attention to the Kephalaia Gnostica
and the Letter to Melania or Great Letter, and his holistic approach to Evagrius
thought, are commendable. The same holistic approach (i.e. without the
inveterate fracture between Evagrius ascetic and philosophical works) is
also used, with good reason, by Konstantinovsky and, albeit briefly, by Casiday.

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2013 Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

118 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

Patristic thinkers, the most insightful and faithful follower of


Origen.2 The problem of which of the Cappadocians transmitted Origens thought and its interpretation to Evagrius
who surely had also a direct acquaintance with the ideas of the
great Alexandrianis most relevant to the overall assessment
of Evagrius intellectual heritage. For now I am primarily concerned with a biographical point, but, as will become obvious,
this point bears directly on that core issue.
Indeed, some aspects of Evagrius life3 so far have not received from scholars the consideration they deserve. Since,
however, they bear on his thought and his relationship to the
thought of the Cappadocians and consequently to that of
Origen himself, which is one of the most important problems in
Greek Patristics, they are worth investigating. In order to do so,
it will be necessary to analyse the sources critically, and when
they are controversial or ambiguous to suggest interpretations
that are not usually taken into account but can open up interesting perspectives for the reassessment of Evagrius intellectual
configuration. The main sources on his life are Palladius H.
Laus. 38, Socrates HE 4.23, and Sozomen HE 6.30, plus a fifthcentury Coptic biography.4 As I will point out, there is one
major point on which they disagree. But let us see what can be
2 A full demonstration is projected in the form of a systematic study of
Gregorys close dependence on, and creative and intelligent reception of,
Origens ideas. I suspect more and more that Gregory is the Patristic
philosopher and theologian who understood Origens true thought best of
all and misunderstood it least of all.
3 See on his biography A. and C. Guillaumont, Evagre le Pontique,
Dictionnaire de Spiritualit IV (Paris 1961) 17311744, and their Evagrius
Ponticus, ReallexAntChrist 6 (1965) 10881107; biographical details also in
Konstantinovsky, Evagrius 1126. Further references in the discussion below.
4 Other ancient sources, of less importance for Evagrius life, are Gregory
Nazianzens testament (see below); the anonymous end-fourth-century
Historia Monachorum 20.15 (p.123 Festugire); the anonymous fourth-fifthcentury Apopthegmata, Alphabetical Collection s.v. Evagrius (PG 65.173); Gennadius Vir.ill. 11 and 17; and Jerome Ep. 133, Dial. adv. Pel. praef., Comm. in
Ier. 4 praef.

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gathered from them.


According to our available sources, Evagrius was born in
Ibora in Pontus. As a son of a presbyter and , he
received a good education in rhetoric, philosophy, and the
liberal arts. He soon came into contact with Basil and Gregory
of Nazianzus, who, according to tradition and in all probability, were the compilers of the Philocalia, the Greek anthology of
key passages from Origens works.5 Evagrius is likely to have
become acquainted with Origens ideas first thanks to them.
He was ordained a reader by Basil. After the death of Basil,
and after the death of the presbyter who was Evagrius father
according to God6 and was ordained a presbyter in Arkeus by
Nazianzen, in his letter to Theodore (Ep. 115) that prefaces the Philocalia, does not state explicitly that this work was written by himself and Basil;
what the letter says is that it is a of Gregory and Basil for the use
of those who study the Bible, the , those who love the Logos (or
the Word). The attribution to Basil and Nazianzen is found in the anonymous prologue that follows the letter, probably posterior to the condemnation of Origenism in the fifth century. See E. Junod, Remarques sur la
composition de la Philocalie dOrigne par Basile de Csare et Grgoire de
Nazianze, RHPhR 52 (1972) 149156; M. Harl and N. de Lange, Origne,
Philocalie, 120, sur les critures / La Lettre Africanus sur lhistoire de Suzanne
(Paris 1983) 2024. It is very probable that the tradition according to which
Basil and Nazianzen were the redactors of the Philocalia is reliable, even
though doubts have been raised: see E. Junod, Basile de Csare et
Grgoire de Nazianze sont-ils les compilateurs de la Philocalie dOrigne? in
Mmorial Dom Jean Gribomont (Rome 1988) 349360; but in his previous
works Junod too accepted the traditional attribution, until his introduction
to Origne: Philocalie 2127 (Paris 1976). Most scholars accept Basil and
Nazianzens paternity of the Philocalia, e.g. W. Lhr, Christianity as Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives of an Ancient Intellectual Project, VChr
64 (2010) 160188, at 185.
6 Pallad. H.Laus. 38.2 Bartelink:
,
; 38.13:

. This makes it possible that the chorepiscopus
was not Evagrius biological father, but his spiritual father. This point is usually
not noticed or discussed in scholarship on Evagrius biography. However,
5

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120 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

Basil himself, Evagrius then went to Constantinople to study,


according to Socrates and Sozomen, with Gregory Nazianzen:
He studied philosophy and was educated in sacred Scripture
under the direction of Gregory, bishop of Nazianzus (Soz. HE
6.30.8). Evagrius stayed there in 379382, around the time of
the ecumenical Council of 381, in which he participated as a
deacon. Now, Evagrius was ordained a deacon by Nazianzen
himself according to Socrates (HE 4.23.34), but, as I shall point
out, Socrates testimony is contradicted by Palladius.
Socrates affirmation is followed by virtually all scholars in
Evagrian studies, for instance Manlio Simonetti7 and Robert
Sinkewicz, who speaks of Gregory Nazianzen as the one who
ordained Evagrius and never mentions Gregory Nyssen in his
biography of Evagrius;8 the same is true of Giovanni Cataldo,9
David Brakke,10 and Kevin Corrigan.11 Joel Kalvesmaki also
speaks only of Gregory Nazianzen in connection with Evagrius
formation, without mentioning Gregory Nyssen.12 Julia Konstantinovsky mentions Gregory of Nyssa only once in her account of the life of Evagrius, not as the one who ordained him
or was his friend or accompanied him to Egypt (see below), but
___
the possibility is interesting and suggests a possible parallel with Leonidas,
Origens so-called father ( ), as Eusebius describes him (HE 6.1.1). Details and arguments in I. L. E. Ramelli, Origen,
Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism: Re-Thinking the Christianisation of Hellenism, VChr 63 (2009) 217263, and Origen the Christian
Middle/Neoplatonist, Journal of Early Christian History 1 (2011) 98130.
7 M. Simonetti, Letteratura cristiana antica greca e latina (Milan 1988) 287.
8 R. E. Sinkewicz, Evagrius of Pontus. The Greek Ascetic Corpus (Oxford 2003)
xviixix.
9 G. Cataldo, Vita come tensione nellantropologia di Evagrio Pontico (Bari 2007)
2223.
10 D. Brakke, Evagrius of Pontus, Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons (Collegeville 2009) 23.
11 Corrigan, Evagrius 2. See also G. Wassen, A Life of Evagrius of Pontus, http://home.versatel.nl/chotki/a_life_of_evagrius_of_pontus.htm.
12 J. Kalvesmaki, The Epistula fidei of Evagrius of Pontus: An Answer to
Constantinople, JECS 20 (2012) 113139, at 113115.

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simply in connection with the other Cappadocians: Evagrius


undoubtedly also encountered Gregory of Nyssa, both in
Basils Cappadocian estate and in Constantinople, although no
reliable record exists of their contacts.13 This last point, in
light of what I shall argue, may be questionable.
Palladius account is squarely different from Socrates with
regard to who was Evagrius close friend and who ordained
him a deacon. For, instead of indicating Gregory Nazianzen,
Palladius indicates Gregory of Nyssa. I shall analyse Palladius
testimony below. First, however, it is necessary to observe that
Palladius of Helenopolis report is noteworthy, for he was a
personal disciple of Evagrius, unlike Socrates. He wrote a biography of Evagrius, devoting a whole chapter of his Historia
Lausiaca to himas Eusebius had done with Origen, his hero,
devoting almost a book to him in the Historia Ecclesiastica. Palladius was an Origenian monk, and was bishop of Helenopolis
in Bithynia from 400 CE. He was a supporter of John Chrysostom (in honour and defence of whom he probably wrote the
Dialogue on the Life of John Chrysostom),14 and an acquaintance of
Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus 1126.
Many scholars support Palladius paternity of the Dialogue. See P.
Devos, Approches de Pallade travers le Dialogue sur Chrysostome et lHistoire
Lausiaque, AnalBoll 107 (1989) 243266, who bases his argument on the
similarity between this Dialogue and Palladius Historia Lausiaca; N. ZeegersVander Vorst, A propos du Dialogue de Pallade sur la vie de Jean Chrysostome, RHE 85 (1990) 3041; L. Dattrino, Palladio. Dialogo sulla vita di
Giovanni Crisostomo (Rome 1995); E. Cattaneo, Le cause della decadenza del
clero nel Dialogo sulla vita di Crisostomo di Palladio, Augustinianum 37 (1997)
333349; A. Miranda, Autorit ecclesiastica e giurisdizione civile nel Dialogo sulla vita di Crisostomo di Palladio, Studia Patristica 49 (2002) 405423; G.
D. Dunn, The Date of Innocent Is Epistula 12 and the Second Exile of
John Chrysostom, GRBS 45 (2005) 155170; D. Katos, Socratic Dialogue
or Courtroom Debate? Judicial Rhetoric and Stasis Theory in the Dialogue
on the Life of St. John Chrysostom, VChr 61 (2007) 4269, who grounds his
demonstration on the presence in the Dialogue of principles of judicial
rhetoric and late antique stasis theory, well known to Palladius, and argues
that he wrote it, not as a biography, but as a case for the restoration of John
13
14

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122 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

the Origenian monks dubbed Tall Brothers, as well as of


Evagrius, Rufinus, and Melania the Elder, all convinced
Origenians. Palladius actually speaks of Evagrius as his teacher
(H.Laus. 23.1). When Chrysostom was exiled, Palladius went to
Rome and tried hard to have him restored to his seat, but he
himself was banned, to Syene of the Thebaid in Egypt.15 He
even requested that Theophilus be put on trial as responsible
for the exile of John.16 The Dialogue, which is probably by him,
was modelled on Platos Phaedo, notably just as was Gregory
Nyssens De anima et resurrectione.17 I think it very likely that Palladius had Gregory of Nyssas work in mind and was inspired
by him.
In Egypt, before being elected bishop, Palladius had become
acquainted with the Desert Fathers Macarius of Alexandria,
and Evagrius. Remarkably, Palladius had known Evagrius personally, as he himself attests (H.Laus. 12, 23, 24, 35, 38, 47),
and it is in Evagrius spirit that, after his return from his own
exile, ca. 418420, he wrote his Historia Lausiaca18 (in the same
___

to the diptychs as a bishop. See now D. Katos, Palladius of Helenopolis, the


Origenist Advocate (Oxford 2011).
15 On those who supported John in and after his exile see M. Wallraff,
Tod im Exil. Reaktionen auf die Todesnachricht des Johannes Chrysostomos und Konstituierung einer johannitischen Opposition, in Chrysostomosbilder in 1600 Jahren (Berlin/New York 2008) 2337.
16 John Chrysostom was accused, among other imputations, also of
having invaded Theophilus jurisdiction when he received the Origenian
monks, and of having been given money by Olympias, his rich deaconess.
See J. Tloka, Griechische Christen, christliche Griechen (Tbingen 2005) 159160;
E. D. Hunt, Palladius of Helenopolis: A Party and its Supporters in the
Church of the Late Fourth Century, JThS 24 (1973) 456480.
17 A full study and commentary is provided by I. L. E. Ramelli, Gregorio di
Nissa sullAnima e la Resurrezione (Milan 2007); cf. the reviews of P. Tzamalikos, VChr 62 (2008) 515523, M. J. Edwards, JEH 60 (2009) 764765, M.
Herrero de Huregui, Ilu 13 (2008) 334336.
18 R. Draguet, LHistoire lausiaque: Une oeuvre crite dans lesprit
dEvagre, RHE 41 (1946) 321364; 42 (1947) 549. See also N. Molinier,
Ascse, contemplation et ministre daprs lHistoire Lausiaque de Pallade dHlnopolis
(Bgrolles-en-Mauges 1995); and G. Frank, The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to

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spirit in which he very probably wrote the Dialogue on the Life of


John Chrysostom).19 At H.Laus. 86 Palladius speaks of Evagrius in
the most laudatory terms. Palladius much appreciated another
faithful Origenian as well, and a friend of Evagrius: Rufinus, of
whom he says that nobody was more learned or kind (98).
From Palladius work, including his account of John Chrysostoms character and trial,20 his sympathy for the Origenian
tradition is transparent. What is most relevant to the present
investigation is Palladius closeness to Evagrius himself, both
from the biographical and from the ideological point of view.
This is why Palladius account of Evagrius closeness to
Gregory of Nyssa is noteworthy. Now, Palladius in his Historia
Lausiaca is clear that it was not Gregory of Nazianzus, but
___

Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity (Berkeley 2000). According to Bunge,


one of the main sources of the Historia Lausiaca was a book by Palladius himself on the sayings and deeds of the Desert Fathers: G. Bunge, Palladiana I:
Introduction aux fragments coptes de lHistoire lausiaque, StudMon 32 (1990)
79129. On the genesis of the Historia Lausiaca see K. Nickau, Eine Historia
Lausiaca ohne Lausos: berlegungen zur Hypothese von Ren Draguet ber
den Ursprung der Historia Lausiaca, ZAC 5 (2001) 131139. For a comparative approach between pagan and Christian hagiography see U.
Criscuolo, Biografia e agiografia fra pagani e cristiani fra il IV e il V secolo: le Vitae di Eunapio e la Historia Lausiaca, Salesianum 67 (2005) 771798.
Edition and German transl. D. Schtz, Historia Lausiaca. Die frhen Heiligen in
der Wste (Basel 1987); French transl. N. Molinier, Pallade dHlnopolis,
Histoire lausiaque (Bgrolles-en-Mauges 1999).
19 This is highlighted by G. M. De Durand, Evagre le Pontique et le
Dialogue sur la vie de saint Jean Chrysostome, BLE 77 (1976) 191206, at
least in respect to Evagrius psychology and ethics.
20 F. van Ommeslaeghe, Que vaut le tmoignage de Pallade sur le
procs de saint Jean Chrysostom? AnalBoll 95 (1977) 389414, who vindicates Palladius as a witness to the events anterior to Johns trial, outside
Constantinople. M. Wallraff, Le conflit de Jean Chrysostome avec la cour
chez les historiens ecclsiastiques grecs, in B. Pouderon and Y.-M. Duval
(eds.), Lhistoriographie de lEglise des premiers sicles (Paris 2001) 361370, observes that Palladius is even more favourable to John Chrysostom than
Socrates is: while Socrates does not side with John in his conflict with the
imperial court, Palladius does.

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124 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

Gregory of Nyssa who ordained Evagrius and was a close friend of


his (86: PG 34.1188C):21



,
.

After the death of the bishop Saint Basil, Saint Gregory, the
bishop of Nyssa, a brother of the bishop Basil who enjoys the
honour of the apostles, Saint Gregory I say, most wise and free
from passions to the utmost degree, and illustrious for his wideranging learning, became friends with Evagrius and appointed
him as a deacon.

Thus Gregory of Nyssa, according to Palladius, treated


Evagrius with kindness and friendship, and after the death of
Basil ordained Evagrius deacon.22 Palladius does not even
speak of Nazianzen here, but only of Basil first, and then of
Nyssen. It is impossible that an error occurred in this text and
that Palladius meant Nazianzen, since he expressly states that
this Gregory was the brother of Basil and was bishop of Nyssa.
Moreover, Palladius was a great admirer of Gregory Nyssen
and knew him well, and so was in a position to distinguish him
clearly from Nazianzen. Palladius describes Gregory Nyssen in
I follow here Mignes text, basically the edition of J. Cotelerius, Monumenta ecclesiae graecae III (Paris 1686), against recensio G (ed. Bartelink),
because it transmits what I believe to be the original text, as the whole of my
discussion in the present essay endeavors to demonstrate.
22 Anthony Maas, Evagrius Ponticus, The Catholic Encyclopedia 5 (1909)
640, does not draw any conclusion, but says only that Evagrius was ordained by Nyssen: Instructed by St. Gregory Nazianzen, he was ordained
reader by St. Basil the Great and by St. Gregory of Nyssa (380), whom he
accompanied to the Second Council of Constantinople (381). According to
Palladius, who differs in his account from Socrates and Sozomen, Evagrius
remained for a time as archdeacon in Constantinople, while Nectarius was
patriarch (381397). Then Nyssen disappears from his account; moreover,
he seems to make no distinction between Evagrius ordination as a reader
and as a deacon.
21

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the most laudatory terms for his wisdom, his ascetic life, and his
glory due to the richness of his learning.
The sentence that comes immediately next in the Historia
Lausiaca, namely that Gregory the bishop left Evagrius in
Constantinople during the council and entrusted him to bishop
Nectarius, might refer to either Nyssen or Nazianzen. Usually
it is thought that it was Nazianzen who recommended Evagrius
to Nectarius when he withdrew from Constantinople. But in
Palladius text the immediately preceding mention of Nyssen
rather than Nazianzen would make the reference to Nyssen
more natural:

[sc.
Evagrius] ,
.

When he left, Saint Gregory the bishop left Evagrius with the
blessed bishop Nectarius at the great Council of Constantinople.
For Evagrius was most skilled in dialectics against all heresies.

Socrates himself, when he states that Gregory went to Egypt


with Evagrius (HE 4.23), an otherwise unattested piece of information to my knowledge, may betray a source that in fact
referred to Nyssen. For while Gregory Nazianzen never went
to Egypt or Jerusalem after the Council of Constantinople, and
indeed seems to have never left Nazianzus and Arianzus after
the council,23 it is attested that after Constantinople, where he
was in 381, Gregory of Nyssa in fact went to Jerusalem late in
381 and in 382 (see his Ep. 3). It is quite possible that he
travelled further to Egypt with Evagrius, all the more so in that
Nyssen also was in Arabia in exactly that period. This, moreover, or at least an acquaintance with Evagrius and Melanias
circle, would help to explain why Gregorys De anima et resur23 After renouncing the bishopric of Constantinople, Gregory returned to
Nazianzus. There he administered the local church. He subsequently
withdrew to his Arianzus property with the intention of devoting himself to
literature, but he died there shortly after, in 390.

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126 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

rectione was translated into Coptic in Egypt very soon, possibly


already during Gregorys own lifetime.24 This is even more
probable in light of the consideration that Gregorys De anima et
resurrectione is a strong endorsement of the Origenian doctrine of
apokatastasis (the eventual universal restoration of all rational
creatures to God), which Evagrius himself decidedly supported.25
Indeed, it was the Council of Constantinople itself, in 381,
that sent Gregory of Nyssa to Arabia, to a church of that
province (possibly Bostra), which was close both to Palestine
and to Egypt. The goal of this mission was ,
for the sake of correcting them (Letter 2.12 [GNO VIII.2 17])
While he was there, Gregory also undertook a trip to Jerusalem, exactly when Evagrius too went there. Gregory was
requested to do so by those who oversee () the holy
churches of Jerusalem. These were certainly close to Melania
and Rufinus, whose double monastery was on the Mount of
Olives. Gregorys mission was very difficult, and he even ended
up being charged with heterodoxy, surely because of his
Christology, which, notably, drew on Origens conception that
Christ the Logos assumed not only a human body but also a
human soul. It is worth noting that this was also Evagrius
conception. When Gregory finally left Jerusalem, thus, he was
sad (Letter 3.4).
It can therefore be hypothesised that it was Gregory of Nyssa
who ordained Evagrius a deacon, and as his friend later was
with him after he left Constantinople, in Palestine and perhaps
in Egypt. At first, when Gregory left, he entrusted Evagrius to
Nectarius, because the former could be of use in Constan24 See Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa sullAnima, Appendix I; the very early
Coptic translation was fruitful there in establishing the new edition of De
anima et resurrectione.
25 On Evagrius doctrine of apokatastasis, its metaphysical reasons, and its
Origenian roots, see I. L. E. Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A
Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Leiden 2013), the chapter
on Evagrius.

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tinople for his dialectical skills. But later Evagrius too left
Constantinople and may have joined Gregory of Nyssa in
Palestine and in Egypt. This hypothesis would also explain the
reason for the apparently odd interruption of all relationships
between Evagrius and Gregory Nazianzen after the Council of
Constantinople. This interruption is rightly noticed as very
strange by Julia Konstantinovsky,26 but she does not attempt to
explain it. Indeed, after 381, no contact seems to have taken
place between Evagrius and Gregory of Nazianzus. Only Letter
46, written shortly after Evagrius arrival in Egypt, may have
been addressed by him to Nazianzen, but this is uncertain, and,
moreover, even if this was the case, in that letter Evagrius
apologises precisely for having failed to be in contact for so
long.27 Evidence of further contact is lacking; Konstantinovsky
is right to deem it highly uncertain that Evagrius Letters 12 and
23 were addressed to Gregory Nazianzen.28 Now, this odd and
inexplicable situation would become less so if one admits that it
was Gregory of Nyssa who travelled to Palestine, and possibly
Egypt, with Evagrius, while Gregory Nazianzen remained far
from Evagrius, both geographically and from the epistolary
point of view.
At any rate, for a while Evagrius had been the assistant of
Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople,29 received from him
advanced education,30 and supported him in his fight against
Arians and Pneumatomachiansthe same fight that Gregory
of Nyssa also undertook. Evagrius letter On Faith, which reKonstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus, 14.
Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus 14 n.24, even wonders whether this
letter was in fact ever sent, given that it was found in the corpus of Evagrius
letters and not in that of Nazianzens letters.
28 Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus 14 n.25.
29 Gregory mentions Evagrius in his testament, written in 381, as the
deacon Evagrius, who has much labored and thought things out together
with me, (PG 37.393B)
30 Sozomen (HE 6.30) attests that Evagrius was educated in philosophy
and Holy Scripture by Gregory Nazianzen.
26
27

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128 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

flects the Trinitarian theology of all the Cappadocians to the


point that it was handed down in Greek as Basils Letter 8, probably stems from these years. Here Evagrius follows the Cappadocians Trinitarian formula, , ,
one common essence, three individual substances, which in
turn is wholly grounded in Origens Trinitarian theology and
terminology.31
I think it very probable, however, that Evagrius met Gregory
Nyssen as well, became a friend of his, possibly was ordained a
deacon by him, and was with him in Palestine and Egypt, and
surely was very well acquainted with his thought. There are
close and significant convergences between Evagrius and
Nyssens ideas;32 several, of course, can also be explained as
common dependence on Origen. But a systematic assessment
of the relationship between Evagrius thought and Nyssens,
from protology to eschatology, from theology to anthropology,
is still badly needed and will be, I expect, momentous and
fruitful. Some help has been recently offered in an interesting
study by Kevin Corrigan.33 But much still awaits to be done. A
closer personal relationship between Evagrius and Gregory of
Nyssa would also better explain the impressive similarities that
can be found in their thought.
31 For the roots of this formula in Origen see I. L. E. Ramelli, Origens
Anti-Subordinationism and its Heritage in the Nicene and Cappadocian
Line, VChrist 65 (2011) 2149, and Origen, Greek Philosophy, and the
Birth of the Trinitarian Meaning of Hypostasis, HThR 105 (2012) 302350.
On the Letter on Faith see P. Bettiolo, LEpistula fidei di Evagrio Pontico: temi,
contesti, sviluppi (Rome 2000).
32 I point out some in The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis. However, a
systematic study is needed.
33 Corrigan, Evagrius, might perhaps be seen more as a juxtaposition of
these two Christian philosophers in respect to some anthropological, ascetic,
and mystical themes, than as an examination of their interrelationship and
of Gregorys influence on Evagrius (which means Origens influence on
Evagrius as welland it must be determined which influence was direct and
which was mediated by Gregory). This is not at all meant as a criticism,
however. I have expressed my high appreciation of this book in n.1 above.

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I agree with Konstantinovsky that Evagrius mature thought


is not so close to that of the Cappadocians,34 but I would
rather say that it is not so close to that of Basil and Gregory
Nazianzen, while remarkably more affinities are to be found
with Gregory of Nyssa, most apparently in the eschatological
and the metaphysical domains. Evagrius predilection for Gregory Nyssen over Basil is understandable, if one considers that
Nyssen was one of the most faithful and perspicacious followers
of Origen (Basil and Nazianzen were too in some respects, but
Nyssen was far more). And Evagrius allegiance to resolute and
sometimes radical admirers of Origen such as the Tall
Brothers, John of Jerusalem, Rufinus, Melania, and Palladius
was strong. To Melania, Rufinus, and John, Evagrius also addressed many letters, including the fundamental Letter to Melania
sometimes also called Great Letterwhich was very probably
addressed either to Melania herself or to Rufinus.35
Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus, chs. 36.
What is relevant to the present argument is that the addressee is an
Origenian. In one of the two Syriac manuscripts in which it is preserved, as
in other letters of Evagrius extant in Armenian, the addressee is Melania the
Elder. Some scholars do not accept the identification of the addressee as
Melania, especially because in the Syriac text Evagrius addresses her thrice
calling her my lord. Thus, some deem Rufinus a more probable addressee: G. Bunge, Evagrios Pontikos, Briefe aus der Wste (Trier 1986) 194. G.
Vitestam, Seconde partie du trait qui passe sous le nom de La grande lettre dvagre le
Pontique Mlanie lancienne (Lund 1964) 45, also thought that the addressee
was originally a man. Casiday, Evagrius 64, agrees. On the other hand, Palladius repeatedly calls Melania , in the neuter form, a diminutive:
in Bartelinks edition, 5.2, 9.1 (n.b. ), 10.2,
18.28, 38.8, 38.9, 46 title, 46.1, 54 title, 54.1, 54.4, 54.7, 58.2, 61 title, 61.1.
Syriac translators may have understood it as a masculine. Evagrius, like his
disciple Palladius, may have used to call her . Rufinus, like Melania and Evagrius, was a steadfast admirer of Origen; indeed this letter is
intelligible only against the background of Origens ideas. Some scholars
consider the address in the masculine form for a woman to be understandable in a gnostic context, as a kind of honorific address: M. Parmentier,
Evagrius of Pontus Letter to Melania, Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en
theologie 46 (1985) 238, at 56.
34
35

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130 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

It is likely that Evagrius considered, and called, Gregory of


Nyssa his teacher. The reference to Gregory the Just in the
epilogue of Evagrius Praktikos may refer to Gregory Nazianzen,
but an alternative reference to Gregory Nyssen cannot be ruled
out: The high Sun of Justice shines upon us thanks to the
prayers and intercession of Gregory the Just, who planted me
( ), and of the holy
fathers who now water me and by the power of Christ Jesus
our Lord, who has granted me growth (transl. Sinkewicz). The
same Gregory the Just is mentioned by Evagrius at Gnostikos
44 on the four cardinal virtues, a topic that Gregory of Nyssa
did develop.
Likewise in Praktikos 89, a relatively long chapter, Evagrius
expounds the tripartition of the soul according to Plato, with
the relevant virtues that are proper to each part of the soul,
crowned by justice which is a virtue of the whole soul. Interestingly, however, he does not attribute this doctrine to Plato at
all, but rather to our wise teacher (
). It is usually assumed that this unnamed teacher is
Gregory of Nazianzus, for instance by Antoine and Claire
Guillaumont, followed by Columba Stewartwho however
admits that it is unlikely that Gregory Nazianzen transmitted
this doctrine to Evagrius, but does not propose alternative solutions.36 In light of what I have argued, it is more probable that
Evagrius meant Gregory of Nyssa, who used this doctrine extensively in his De anima et resurrectione and elsewhere. And I
have suggested above that Gregorys De anima et resurrectione was
circulated in Egypt, and soon translated into Coptic, thanks
precisely to the influence of Evagrius there. Evagrius sympathy
for this dialogue was certainly much facilitated by its defence of
the doctrine of apokatastasis, which Evagrius too upheld.
Evagrius arrived at the Egyptian desert via Palestine, where
he belonged to the circle of Melania and Rufinus. A relationAntoine and Claire Guillaumont, Evagre le Pontique. Trait pratique ou Le
moine (Paris 1971) 680689; Columba Stewart, Monastic Attitudes toward
Philosophy and Philosophers, Studia Patristica 47 (2010) 21327, at 324.
36

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

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ship with the wife of a high functionary led him to depart from
Constantinople, as is well known (a novelistic account is provided by Sozomen HE 6.3037 and an even more detailed
version is in Palladius H.Laus. 38.37); he arrived at Jerusalem
(382 CE), where he frequented the Origenian, and pro-Nicene,
Melania the Elder in her double monastery, where Rufinus
also was. They had settled there in 380. Melania definitely confirmed Evagrius in monastic lifewhether he had already been
a monk earlier or notand gave him the monastic clothing
herself according to Palladius: , he had his clothes changed [sc. to monastic attire] by
Melania herself (H.Laus. 38.9 = PG 34.1194A). This is plausible, given that Melania directed the double monastery. It is
even more certain that she influenced Evagrius choice of the
Egyptian desert as the place where he would spend the rest of
his life, first Nitria, a cenobitic environment, and then Kellia, a
hermitic place, where Evagrius practiced an extreme form of
asceticism (383399).
In Egypt Evagrius was a disciple of Macarius of Alexandria
(394) and especially of Macarius the Egyptian, called the
Great, who was converted to asceticism by St. Anthony himself, founded Scetis, and was also a supporter of the Origenian

37 In Constantinople, an acquaintanceship he had formed with a certain


lady excited the jealousy of her husband, who plotted his death. While the
plot was about to be carried forward into deed, God sent him, while sleeping, a fearful and saving vision in a dream. It appeared to him that he had
been arrested in the act of committing some crime, and that he was bound
hand and foot in irons. As he was being led before the magistrates to receive
the sentence of condemnation, a man who held in his hand the book of the
Holy Gospels addressed him, and promised to deliver him from his bonds,
and confirmed this with an oath, provided he would quit the city. Evagrius
touched the book, and made oath that he would do so. Immediately his
chains appeared to fall off, and he awoke. He was convinced by this divine
dream, and fled the danger. He resolved to devote himself to a life of
asceticism and proceeded from Constantinople to Jerusalem.

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132 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

doctrine of apokatastasis.38 Near Alexandria Evagrius may also


have visited Didymus the Blind, the faithful Origenian whom
bishop Athanasius appointed head of the Alexandrian Didaskaleion. Evagrius had disciples himself, among whom were Palladius and Cassian,39 and many pilgrim visitors. He refused the
episcopate at Thmuis that Theophilus of Alexandria offered
him.40 In 399 he passed away just in time, shortly before
Theophilus Paschal letter against anthropomorphism: this
arose from a revolt by the simpler, anti-Origenian and anthropomorphising monks which alarmed Theophilus and induced
his U-turn against the Origenians. This rather opportunistic
move led him to persecute Evagrius fellow-monks in Nitria
and Kellia, and in particular Evagrius friendsthe Origenian
Tall Brothers, the monks Ammonius, Euthymius, Eusebius,
and Dioscorus. Palladius mentions them together with Evagrius
when he speaks of those belonging to the circle of Saints
Ammonius and Evagrius (H.Laus. 24.2). He probably is
referring to the same people when he mentions Evagrius
community (H.Laus. 33) and the circle of St. Evagrius
38 The former seems to be mentioned by Evagrius in 33
and 37 and Antirrheticus 4.23, 4.58, 8.26. In Pract. 9394, instead, the
reference seems to be to the latter; Sinkewicz, however, refers Pract. 94 to
Macarius of Alexandria as well: Evagrius of Pontus xix. As for St. Anthony
and Macarius and their adhesion to the doctrine of apokatastasis see my The
Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis, the chapter devoted to Anthony.
39 For a reconsideration of the person and the works of Cassian, however,
see now P. Tzamalikos, The Real Cassian Revisited: Monastic Life, Greek Paideia,
and Origenism in the Sixth Century (Leiden 2012), and A Newly Discovered Greek
Father: Cassian the Sabaite eclipsed by John Cassian of Marseilles (Leiden 2012).
40 Evagrius, a monk, tended to privilege the spiritual authority deriving
from inspiration, prayer, learning, teaching, and miracles, over and against
that which comes from ecclesiastical hierarchy: see C. Rapp, Holy Bishops in
Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Berkeley
2005) 5699; for the derivation of these ideas from Origen see E. dal Covolo, Sacerdozio dei fedeli, gerarchia della santit e gerarchia ministeriale
in alcune omelie di Origene, in Origeniana VIII (Leuven 2003) 605612; I.
Ramelli, Theosebia: A Presbyter of the Catholic Church, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2 (2010) 79102.

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(H.Laus. 35). Evagrius himself attests that he was with Ammonius when they visited John of Lycopolis in the Thebaid
desert (Antirrh. 6.16). Chased by Theophilus from Egypt, the
Tall Brothers would be received by the aforementioned John
Chrysostom. Much is known of their vicissitudes, once again
thanks to Palladius (besides Socrates and Sozomen).
I judge that Palladius is a more reliable source than Socrates
when it comes to the relationship between Evagrius and
Gregory of Nyssa: not only because Palladius, unlike Socrates,
was personally acquainted with Evagrius and is a first-hand
source, not only because Socrates wrote his information on
Evagrius and Gregory Nazianzen some forty years after
Evagrius death, but above all because Socrates seems to be
much better informed on Gregory Nazianzen than on Gregory
Nyssen. This is clear from HE 4.26. After devoting one whole
chapter to Didymus the Blind (4.25), Origens admirer and follower, and before devoting another whole chapter to Gregory
Thaumaturgus (4.27), Origens disciple and the author of a
thanksgiving oration in honour of Origen himself, in HE 4.26
he focuses on the other great Origenian and anti-Arian authors
of that time: the Cappadocians. But instead of speaking of the
most Origenian of them, Gregory Nyssen, unquestionably the
closest of all the Cappadocians to Origens authentic ideas,
Socrates spends almost the entire chapter on Basil and Gregory
Nazianzen (4.26.126), as though he knew rather little of
Gregory of Nyssa after all. Indeed, only in the very end of his
treatment of Basil (4.26.2627) does Socrates introduce two
brothers of his: Peter, who is said to have embraced the
monastic life, imitating Basil himself, and Gregory, who is said
to have chosen to teach rhetoric ( [sc. ], Gregory in his zeal
embraced the life of a teacher of rhetoric). This is correct, but
it refers to a rather short phase of Gregorys life, before his
adhesion to the ascetic life and his episcopate. Socrates is
uninterested in, or incapable of, offering more comprehensive
details concerning Gregorys life and intellectual place. He
adds only a very brief notice regarding Gregorys works, but

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134 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

here he merely lists the Apologia in Hexameron (clearly on account of its connection with Basils own Hexameron), his Oratio
funebris in Meletium episcopum, and other orations or, more
generally, works, of different kinds ( ). From this report, Socrates would seem to know nothing
of Gregorys own opting for the ascetic life, of his ecclesiastical
career as a bishop, of his anti-Arianism, and his predilection for
Origen, as well as all of his theological works. Only a funeral
oration of his is mentioned, plus his continuation and defence
of Basils In Hexameron.
What must be remarked in this connection is that Gregory
Nyssen was even more Origenian than Nazianzen and Basil
were, and that this would have been a very attractive aspect to
highlight for the strongly philo-Origenian Socrates, all the
more so in this sequence of chapters on the Origenians Didymus, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and the Cappadocians. But if
Socrates does not even mention this, and if he barely says anything of Gregory of Nyssa, while allotting incomparably more
room to Basil and Nazianzen, there must be a reason for this
apparent oddity. Either he had almost no information available
to him concerning Nyssen, or he was hostile to him for some
reason that escapes us but has nothing to do with Origen.
Socrates does not even say that Gregory was bishop of Nyssa;
he never calls him Nyssen, but only refers to him as
Gregory, the brother of Basil, both in the aforementioned
passage and at the end of HE 4.2627. In the latter passage
Socrates is summarising the various Gregories related to
Origen, in order to avoid confusion: thus, he mentions Gregory
Thaumaturgus, the disciple of Origen, then Nazianzen, and
finally (4.27.7)nothing else about Nyssen, not even the name of his episcopal see.
However, Socrates did know, at least, that Gregory was the
bishop of Nyssa. Indeed, he mentions him in two other passages, albeit again only incidentally. In one, HE 5.9, he speaks
of the death of Meletius, bishop of Antioch, and repeats that
Gregory, the brother of Basil, delivered a funeral oration for
him. Note that this is one of the only two works of Gregory
Nyssen that Socrates names in HE 4.2627. The other passage,

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135

HE 5.8, is the only one in which Socrates refers to Gregorys


bishopric. He is speaking of the Council of Constantinople in
381, and observes that Gregory Nazianzen returned to Nazianzus after renouncing his see in Constantinople (5.8.11). Soon
after, Socrates treats of the patriarchal territorial divisions
established at that council: Nectarius, he records, was assigned
Constantinople and Thrace; Helladius, the successor of Basil,
received the Pontic diocese; and then the mention of Gregory:
, ,
, Gregory of Nyssa, Basils brother, received this

town in Cappadocia (5.8.15). This is the only point in all of his


work in which Socrates cites Nyssa as the bishopric of Gregory.
Different is Jeromes entry devoted to Gregory of Nyssa,
written ca. 392 (the year of publication of his De viris illustribus).
Although it is a very short entry, both Gregorys episcopate at
Nyssa and one of his major doctrinal works, Contra Eunomium,
are mentioned with prominence, in addition to the reference to
many other works that Gregory had written and was still
writing (he died shortly after the completion of De viris illustribus): Gregorius, Nyssenus episcopus, frater Basilii Caesariensis, ante
paucos annos mihi et Gregorio Nazianzeno Contra Eunomium legit libros,
qui et multa alia scripsisse et scribere dicitur (128). Jerome gives the
impression of not having read the other numerous works by
Gregory, but he surely was acquainted with his Contra Eunomium: some years before the completion of De viris illustribus
Jerome, as he says here, directly met Gregory of Nyssa, who
even read to him and to Gregory Nazianzen together his books
Contra Eunomium. This must have happened in 381 in Constantinople, on the occasion of the council, when Evagrius also was
there. Gregory indeed composed his books against Eunomius
between 380 and 383.
The relationship between Gregory Nyssen and Evagrius may
easily go back to Gregorys stay in Ibora, Evagrius birthplace,
in Hellenopontus, shortly before the Council of Constantinople, from late 379 into 380. After the death of their bishop
Araxius, the inhabitants of Ibora asked Gregory to come and
supervise the election of a new bishop. Gregorys intervention

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136 EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: NAZIANZEN OR NYSSEN?

was crucial, especially because of the controversy with the


Arians. It was essential to have a pro-Nicene bishop, and Nyssen would have provided for this (see his Letter 19.12 [GNO
VIII.2 66]). Moreover, Ibora was close to Annesi, the seat of
Basils and Macrinas monasteries. Gregory considered Ibora
as belonging to his own jurisdiction as bishop of Nyssa (In XL
Mart. II, GNO X.1 166). Nyssen went to Ibora, where Evagrius
was the son of a member of the local clergy, stayed there, and
provided for the election of bishop Pansophius, who, shortly
afterwards, participated in the Constantinople council.
In this council, in which Evagrius participated as well in his
capacity as deacon, and during which Nazianzen withdrew
from the episcopate of Constantinople, Gregory of Nyssa surely
played an important role, very probably even more important
than that of Nazianzen himself, who encountered such harsh
opposition as to be forced to resign. His theological weight was
certainly remarkable, and even from an institutional point of
view Nyssen was considered to be important. Indeed, in the list
of bishops with whom one had to be in communion in order to
be considered orthodoxa list indicated by the emperor Theodosius himself in the edict which imposed adherence to the
Council for any Christian (Cod.Theod. 16.1.3)Gregory of
Nyssa was included for the diocese of Pontus, along with
Helladius of Caesarea, the successor of Basil, and Otreius of
Melitene. Nazianzen, instead, seems to have criticised Theodosius edict.41 It is possible that Gregory Nyssen was present
also at the Constantinople council in 382, though improbable
given the aforementioned trips, and he certainly participated in
the Constantinople council in 383, a colloquium under the
patronage of Theodosius, where he delivered his oration De

41 F. Gautier, A propos du tmoignage de Grgoire de Nazianze sur le


concile de Constantinople (mai-juillet 381) aux vers 17501755 du De uita
sua, REAug 51 (2005) 6776, demonstrates that Gregorys criticism of the
teachings () of the council on the Spirit in fact refer to Theodosius edict of 10 January 381 (Cod.Theod. 16.5.6).

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deitate Filii et Spiritus Sancti and confronted Arians, Eunomians,


and Macedonians.42
The close relationship between Evagrius and Gregory of
Nyssa which Palladius reports (their friendship and Evagrius
ordination as a deacon by Gregory Nyssen) and which the
source of Socrates suggests (their possible going together to
Egypt after Constantinople), along with the very probable
connection between Evagrius and the remarkably early spread
of Nyssens Origenian work De anima et resurrectione in Egypt,
bears on Evagrius thought and his relationship with the
thought of the Cappadocians and, as a consequence, of Origen
himselfall the more so in that Gregory of Nyssa is the most
insightful and faithful follower of Origen, the one who best
grasped Origens true thought. For reasons that will be expounded in a future study, I suspect that Gregory Nyssen in
fact played a fundamental role in transmitting Origens true
ideas to Evagrius, i.e. not simply Origens textswhich
Evagrius read directly on his ownbut especially an interpretation of Origens thought that was the closest to Origens
authentic ideas. This issue is clearly crucial to an overall assessment of Evagrius thought, in which it is pivotal to investigate
the impact of Origen on Evagrius system, as well as to examine the possible role of the Cappadocians in the transmission of
Origens true thought to Evagrius.
September, 2012

Catholic University of Milan &


Durham Univeristy, UK
ilaria.ramelli@unicatt.it &
Ramelli@safe-mail.net

42 On this colloquium and its participants see A. M. Ritter, Das Konzil


von Konstantinopel und sein Symbol (Gttingen 1965) 227.

Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 53 (2013) 117137

DOI 10.1515/apeiron-2012-0063 apeiron 2014; 47(1): 116140

Ilaria Ramelli

The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis and its


Transformation in Christian Platonism
Abstract: I investigate how, through which channels, and with what adaptations the Stoic doctrine of oikeiosis was received and transformed by the two
main Patristic philosophers, Origen of Alexandria and Gregory Nyssen. I also
endeavour to assess how much Gregorys oikeiosis theory owes to Origen a
great deal, I suspect. In sum, it is Origen who Christianised the doctrine, but
Gregory seems to have identified apokatastasis as the Godheads oikeiosis or reappropriation of all beings, which belong to it. I contend that these Christian
Platonists and other early Christian sources can help to clarify the Stoic oikeiosis doctrine itself, which poses substantial problems and which they received.
They even present the technical vocabulary of oikeiosis, which in Hierocles
non-technical circles passage is absent (and this has raised concerns). Therefore, it is useful to consider their texts when assessing the oikeiosis doctrine at
least in Stoicism.
Keywords: oikeiosis doctrine, Stoicism, Patristic Philosophy, Origen, Gregory
Nyssen, Philo, Clement, Hierocles

Ramelli, Ilaria: Sacred Heart University Largo A. Gemelli 1 Gregorianum III Piano,
MILAN 20123, Italy; E-mail: ilaria.ramelli@unicatt.it & i.l.e.ramelli@durham.ac.uk

The First Christian Reception of Oikeiosis:


The New Testament
The reception of the trans-school1 doctrine of oikeiosis in early Christian authors
began very early. While there were different theories of oikeiosis in different
philosophical schools in antiquity, for instance a Peripatetic and a Stoic theory,
it seems to me that Christian receptions focused most on the Stoic doctrine of

1 Especially Radice [17] has argued that this doctrine is far from being only Stoic. See also the
review by Ramelli [20]. There is a huge bibliography on oikeiosis and especially on the Stoic socalled social oikeiosis (and even the legitimacy of this category), which I shall not repeat here.
It can be found, for instance, in Ramelli [34] and [37].

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 117

oikeiosis, probably for its orientation to the social sphere,2 its relation to moral
values and kathekonta, and its application to human-divine relations, as I shall
point out. Even though it is Origen of Alexandria and his follower Gregory of
Nyssa who made the most of oikeiosis in their Christian adaptations, at least a
reception of some aspects seems to be already detectable in the New Testament.
In particular I found this in a writer steeped in Hellenistic moral philosophy
such as the author of the so-called Pastoral Epistles (first half of the II cent.),3
who displays remarkable affinities with ample portions of the conceptions and
work of Hierocles the Stoic, probably roughly contemporary with him.4 Especially the necessity of the contraction of circles in interpersonal relationships
in 1 Tim 5:12 bears striking similarities with Hierocles treatment. Hierocles,
who was active around the middle of the second century CE or somewhat earlier, concerned himself with Stoic ethics and wrote both Elements of Ethics, preserved in a papyrus (Pap. Berolinensis 9780), and a work On Appropriate Acts,
which may have included sections on marriage and household management
excerpted by Stobaeus as the rest of the treatise on kathekonta or appropriate
acts. A title Philosophical Discourses is also attested by the Suda for Hierocles,
although it is unclear whether it refers to yet another work of his or may be
identifiable with one of the aforementioned writings. The Elements and the Stobaean excerpts on appropriate acts are probably two distinct works; the Elements appear to be intended for the Stoic school: they have a systematic character and employ a specialized language; the work On Appropriate Acts was more
literary and addressed a larger public, as it includes precepts on marriage and
household management. But these works are deeply interrelated and the latter
begins where the former ends: the Elements treat the Stoic theory of oikeiosis,
from its beginning in the individual (human or animal) at birth to the developments of the so-called social oikeiosis, which is proper to humans: the social
dimension of oikeiosis entails ethical values, among which kathekonta, appropriate acts, which belong to preferable adiaphora, are prominent: precisely
these are treated in Hierocles Stobaean excerpts. Here, several classes of interpersonal relations are dealt with, each involving specific appropriate acts.5

2 This more developed aspect of oikeiosis flanked the more basic aspect, which can be dubbed
preservative oikeiosis. See Aoiz [1] and Doyle [8].
3 Or at least of 1 Timothy and Titus. Chances are that 2 Timothy goes back to Paul himself (e.g.
according to Jerome Murphy OConnor and Michael Gourgues). But I do not enter this debate,
which is irrelevant to the present investigation since I am presently concerned only with 1 Timothy.
4 Ramelli [34].
5 The link between kathekonta and oikeiosis seems clear in Cicero, Fin. 3.7.23 (SVF III 186),
where the officia translation of are derived from the principia naturae and the

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118 Ilaria Ramelli

One of these sections is devoted to appropriate behaviour toward parents;


others describe appropriate behaviour toward the gods, ones country, ones
siblings, and ones spouse. In Hierocles famous image of the concentric circles,
oikeiosis is applied to wider and wider groups of others, beginning with the
appropriation of ones self and passing through ones family and ones city, up
to the whole of humanity.6 Around ones mind, conceived of as the centre, there
runs a series of ever wider concentric circles, beginning with that representing
ones own body, then the circles representing ones parents, siblings, spouse
and children, and on to more remote relatives, and then to members of the
same deme and tribe, to fellow citizens, to those who belong to the same people
or ethnos, until one arrives at the widest circle, that of humanity. The width of
the circles and their distance from the centre constitute the standard by which
to measure the intensity of ones ties, and therefore of ones appropriate acts,
toward people. Thus, the oikeiosis theory became closely related to that of
kathekonta, the appropriate acts toward several categories of persons.7
In this connection, I pointed out elsewhere8 the fundamental question of
the need, indicated by Hierocles, to perform a kind of contraction of circles,
that is, to reduce as much as possible the distance from each circle to the next
one out, so to create the closest possible oikeiosis, even going so far as to employ the onomastic stratagem of designating others by names appropriate to a
degree of relationship one step closer to us than that which characterizes them
in reality. A similar purpose seems to motivate as well the assimilation of our
feelings toward various categories of others to those due to ones father and
mother. Hierocles is aware of the impossibility of maintaining toward the whole
human race, or even just large groups of people, the same goodwill that one
feels toward the dearest persons: this is why he has to excogitate strategies for
the contraction of circles. Now this is the same problem as emerges in 1 Ti-

conciliatio translation of of the human being with what is according to nature


(ibid. 20; cf. SVF III 188; 492; 498). On Ciceros reception of Stoic oikeiosis see Corso de Estrada
[7].
6 See Ramelli [37].
7 The Stobaean excerpts on marriage show especially well the connection between the doctrine of kathekonta and that of oikeiosis as theorized in the papyrus. It is meaningful that in
Ariuss epitome of Stoic ethics the only occurrence of the oikeiosis terminology is found in relation to the marriage theme (SVF III 611): for the it is appropriate () to marry
and have children. I suspect here corresponds to . This suggests a convergence
between the doctrine of oikeiosis and the valuing of kathekonta in the Stoic reflection on marriage. This is exactly what is found in Hierocles.
8 In my commentary, Ramelli [34] and more in depth in [40] and [44].

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 119

mothy, with the very same examples.9 The presence of the same instance in
Hierocles and 1 Timothy indicates that either the author of the letter knew
Hierocles passage on the circles or both of them relied on the same Hellenistic
moral philosophy lore, and specifically the realm of ethics that has to do with
the doctrine of oikeiosis.

Philo and Clement


Lvy studied the philosophical reception of oikeiosis in Philo:10 albeit heavily
depending on Stoic ethics, Philo refused to base ethics on the principle of oikeiosis. Lvys explanation seems sound: Being both a Platonist and a Jew, it
was impossible for him to admit that ethics had roots in an instinctive impulse
common to both man and the realm of all animated beings (147). Philo, however, adapted the notion of oikeiosis to his transcendent worldview and used it
in the context of the relationship between humans and the divinity (De opif. m.
145146), something that Clement, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa who were all
acquainted with Philo would do as well.
In the late II and early III century, an influence of the notion of oikeiosis on
Clement of Alexandria can indeed be observed. It is a simple application of the
concept of oikeiosis to the relationship between a human and God: by virtue of
its free choice, a human can make itself familiar with God by adhering to
virtue, i.e. the commandment of God or alienate itself from God, by choosing
evil, the opposite of God-the Good:
To love ones enemies does not mean to love evil, or impiety, or adultery, or theft, but
the thief, the impious, the adulterous, and not in that he sins and with this or that action stains the name of human being, but in that he is a human and a creature of God.
Sinning is in the act, not in the being; therefore it is not a work of God. Sinners are
called the enemies of God precisely because they have made themselves enemies of the
commandments, which they have disobeyed, just as those who have obeyed them are
called friends of God. Their denomination comes to the latter from familiarity with God,
and to the former from alienation from God, and both familiarity and alienation depend
on a free choice (Strom. 4.13.9394; see also Strom. 1.1.4.1).

Clements passage must be understood within his polemic against Gnostic


(Valentinian) predestinationism, which was undertaken by Origen too. In their

9 On the broader question of the influence of Stoicism on the New Testament see at least RasimusEngberg-PedersenDunderberg [45], 1140; Ramelli [23], [29] and [30]; more widely Runesson [46].
10 Lvy [15], 146149.

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120 Ilaria Ramelli


view, the Gnostic position undermined free choice. This is why Clement insists
that oikeiosis to God or alienation from God its opposite depend on a free
choice. Origen too will. Though, while Clements adaptation of the doctrine of
oikeiosis is rather episodic and cannot amount to an elaboration of a Christian
philosophical doctrine of oikeiosis, Origen, followed by Gregory Nyssen, will
provide such an elaboration, as I set out to show.
What is important to remark from the viewpoint of history of philosophy is
that Christian Platonists of the IIIV centuries and other very early Christian
sources such as the author of 1 Timothy can help to clarify the Stoic doctrine of
oikeiosis, which they received and transformed. They even present the technical
vocabulary of oikeiosis, which in Hierocles non-technical circles passage is absent and this has raised concerns as to the real presence of this doctrine in
that passage.11 Therefore, it is useful to consider their texts, too, when assessing
the oikeiosis doctrine.

Origen
Philos and Clements concept of oikeiosis to God was developed by Origen. In
his day, Stoic sources were still available;12 moreover, Stoic motifs were absorbed in what is called Middle Platonism. Thus, e.g., Somos [50] observed that
Origen drew materials from Stoic and Aristotelian logic that had already been
included in Middle-Platonic works. There is also evidence of direct knowledge
of both Stoicism and Aristotelianism on his part.13 But Origens philosophy is
especially close to Middle Platonism, which had already combined Platonism
with Stoic traits; Origen the Christian philosopher and Origen the Neoplatonist
may even have been one and the same person.14 Anyway, Origen, far more systematically than Clement had done, achieved a synthesis between Platonism
and Christianity, producing Christian Platonism.
Whole passages from Origen, such as Princ. 3.1.4, are considered to reproduce Stoic thought, to the point that they have been included by Arnim in SVF.
Like Clement, who derived plenty of materials from Musonius,15 Origen too

11 See for instance Andrea Piatesi, Deconstructing Social Oikeiosis. In First Canadian Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, Edmonton, 3.5.5.2012, forthcoming.
12 See Betegh [3] on the transmission of philosophical texts from the first century BCE to the
second CE.
13 See Runia [47], 7, and Ramelli [42].
14 So Ramelli [32]; further arguments in [39].
15 See Ramelli [30].

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 121

knew this Roman Stoic, as well as the Stoic allegorists Cornutus and Chaeremon. From Musonius and Epictetus he inherited the use of ,16
which is paramount in his polemic against Valentinian predestinationism, and
from Cornutus and Chaeremon the allegorical method or so says Porphyry,
who deliberately omitted Philo and Clement as Origens antecedents in this endeavour.17 Origens reading of Epictetus surely also deepened his knowledge of
the Stoic theory of oikeiosis.18 Though, there is evidence that Origen elaborated
some notions, such as the ethical concepts of and first movements,
independently.19 And while relying on the Stoic principle of , he
did not deem it sufficient, as is clear from his methodological statement in
Princ. 4.1.1: In our investigation into these questions, we are not happy with
koinai ennoiai and the evidence of our eyes, but we also base ourselves on what
we believe to be divine Scripture, the so-called Old and New Testaments, as an
evident proof of what has been said, and thus we seek to confirm our faith with
reason.
A systematic search of the TLG returned more than 300 occurrences of and related terms just in Origens extant Greek works, which is but a
fraction of his production. Of course, not all of these occurrences are related to
the oikeiosis doctrine; is also used as a possessive adjective denoting
own,20 or in the meaning of appropriate, fitting, or proper to.21 More specific
uses are those related to
(1) the oikeiosis of rational beings to God, and
(2) the notion of apokatastasis as oikeiosis.
It is not accidental that this technical use of the terminology and concept of
oikeiosis is found in the more philosophical and scholarly works of Origen
such as Contra Celsum and his Commentaries on John, Romans, and Matthew,
but most of all Contra Celsum, a discussion with a Middle Platonist rather
than in his homilies, extemporaneous debates, and other works that addressed
a philosophically uncultivated public. This suggests that in Contra Celsum and
at least the Commentary on John Origen expected his philosophically cultivated
readers to grasp the broadly Stoic resonance of the concept of oikeiosis.
Use (1), that of the oikeiosis of rational beings to God, was already found in
Clement, as I pointed out. In Philo, Clement and Origen the notion of oikeiosis

16 See Bugr [4], 626.


17 See Ramelli [38].
18 On this theory in Epictetus see Salles [48].
19 See Guly [12]. See also Graver [11].
20 E.g., Comm. Io. 13.50.331.
21 E.g., Comm. Io. 6.36.181.

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122 Ilaria Ramelli

to God surely also resonates with the Platonic ideal of assimilation to God
( ) X,22 though an influence of the Stoic notion of oikeiosis to God is
probable, given these thinkers close acquaintance with Stoic thought. Indeed
the notion of oikeiosis to God in Stoicism is especially evident in imperial Stoicism,23 with which Philo, Clement and Origen were definitely familiar to the
point that Clement borrowed whole segments from Musonius, and Origen was
accused of having picked up his Biblical allegoresis from Cornutus and Chaeremon (Porph. ap. Eus. HE 6.19.48). The idea of of oikeiosis to God can be regarded as an adaptation of the bond posited by the Stoics between each human
and the divinity/-ies, on the basis of the common possession of the logos. Even
the ties that link the whole of humanity were motivated by the common paternity of Zeus/Jupiter, the mythological and allegorical counterpart of all humans
sharing in the logos.24 At the same time, Roman Stoics such as Musonius also
emphasized the voluntary effort that the moral subject must make to attain likeness with God through the adhesion to the moral law (the law of Zeus/God).25
This means becoming sympsephoi with God, choosing and deciding in harmony
with God. Musonius was very well known to Clement, who, as I have mentioned, cited long excerpts from his diatribes. Clement, like him but on account of his anti-Gnostic polemic stressed the element of voluntary engagement in the acquisition of oikeiosis with God.
This is an aspect that Origen too underscores. Oikeiosis to God is not a matter of sharing the divine nature Origen, the Christian Platonist, maintained
Gods transcendence against Stoic immanentism but of free will:
(Comm. in Rom. IXII Cat. 25).
One way to become oikeioi to God is therefore through faith. Origen insists that
humans must become oikeioi with God; they have to familiarise themselves
() to God. In CC 3.5 he indicates a means of reaching this effect: he
wants to heal the whole rational nature by means of (Christian) philosophy, the
medicine that comes from the Logos, Christ, and thereby wants to render it oikeion to God, who is the creator of all.26 In fact, not Origen himself, but ChristLogos-Physician performs this. The true teacher, indeed, is Gods Logos, who
can make oikeion to God whomever lives according to God, i.e. following Gods

22 n which see at least Sedley [49].


23 As documented in Ramelli [18] and [21].
24 See Ramelli [18], [19], [21], and [22] with complete documentation.
25 Ramelli [19], [25].
26
. The same passage is reported in Philoc. 18.24.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 123

law, following virtue (CC 1.30).27 It is no accident that Origen made ethics dependent on Christ, identified with justice and all virtues (and here, too, one can
see a trace of the Stoic doctrine of the akolouthia of all virtues).28 Therefore, one
can gather that faith, philosophy, and life in virtue are paths that lead to oikeiosis with God. Origen actually tended to understand them as forming a single
path, under the guidance of Christ-Logos. Indeed, he declares, people should
endeavour to make themselves oikeioi ( ) with God in all
ways, and among the ways he lists in CC 8.4 there are chosen words, deeds,
and thoughts.
Becoming oikeioi with God is the same as becoming oikeioi with Christ, all
the more in that oikeiosis with God passes through Christ-Logos (Hom. Luc. 35
p. 206.1629). Those who become oikeioi with Christ are symbolized, not by the
masses, whom Jesus abandons when he goes home, but by his disciples, who
remain with him at home, qua intimates, and to whom Jesus explains the hidden meanings of his parables. Origen is here deploying the wordplay between
o, to make oneself familiar with, and , home (Comm. Matth.
10.1).30 In Comm. Matth. 11.4 Origen remarks that Jesus bestows on those who
behave according to God the names of his own relatives, and those who are
most intimate ( ), such as his mother and
his brothers. Origen is reading in the Gospel the very same onomastic stratagem
that Hierocles had suggested in support of his contraction of circles in the framework of his interpretation of the oikeiosis doctrine. It is not to be ruled out
that Origen was acquainted with Hierocles works, which were composed in
Greek only a few decades before his lifetime.
Origen, who always grounds every philosophical argument of his in Scripture, seeks a Scriptural foundation of the notion of oikeiosis with God, and he
finds it in Eph 2:19: Thus, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens of the saints and oikeioi of God (Fr. I Cor. 16).31 In Eph 2:19 oikeioi

27
, .
28 A specific work will be devoted to Origens ethics and its philosophical foundations.
29 , .
30 , []
, ,
.
31 <>
. On the Pauline motif of heaven as the Christians homeland and its
Stoic counterparts see Ramelli [23]; in Phil 3:20 is correctly rendered citizenship

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124 Ilaria Ramelli

of God means familiar with God and/or members of Gods household.32 Origen
sees in this passage a confirmation of his own Christianized elaboration on oikeiosis.
In order to acquire oikeiois with God, virtue is necessary: It is impossible to
make oneself familiar [] with God in any other way but ascending
to him by means of temperance (CC 4.26).33 Indeed, God is oikeios with the
saints, such as the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Holy Spirit
is oikeion with the prophets; this is why God can be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Spirit the spirit of Elias, Isaiah, etc. (Comm. in
Io. 6.11.68).34 Origen refers to such persons in CC 3.56 when he mentions those
who are familiar with God ( ) and in CC 8.61 when he
speaks of all those who make themselves oikeioi with God (
), as well as in Comm. in Io. 2.3.32, when he speaks of human beings who are oikeioi with God, in that they are parts of the Father (o
, ).
It is interesting to point out here a parallel between Origen and Plotinus
and a difference between the two of them and earlier Middle Platonists. While
philosophers such as Alcinous and Plutarch tended to situate oikeiosis in the
inferior faculties of the soul,35 Plotinus identifies the souls oikeiosis with the
contemplation of the Nous/Intellect (Enn. 4.8.8; 3.8.6.2125). The soul of the
philosopher must familiarize () its own vision with the object of this vision (Enn. 3.8.6.1419). In the Nous, these two things are one and the same,
not thanks to oikeiosis [ ], as is the case in the perfect soul, but by
essence, since in the Nous to be and to think are one and the same thing (Enn.
3.8.8.68). Due to its intimacy with the Nous, when the soul comes to know, it
turns out to be proper and familiar to it, (Enn. 3.8.6.21).
In this light of human oikeiosis with God Sel. Ps. PG 12.1656.7 too must be
read, where Origen quotes Gods words in Scripture, You are gods, and I am
the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob and explains that this is due to

(cittadinanza) by Jossa [14], 144145. Origen highlights this also in Fr. Io. 36, where he identifies Gods Kingdom with the state of those who live according to Gods laws.
32 On the Pauline idea of entering Gods household see Burke [5]. Of course Origen had the
Pauline metaphor in mind.
33 M , .
34 E ,
,
, .
35 See Caballero [6], esp. 105107.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 125

Gods great love for them and great oikeiosis or familiarity with them.36 Here
oikeiosis does not not simply imply belonging to ones household, but it is explicitly associated with love (), and a great love, so to denote an affective bond. Precisely because of his strong love, God makes human weakness his
own, appropriating it ( ), as an adult who
speaks like an infant to a small child.37
The main form of Gods appropriation of human weakness is of course individuated in Christs inhumanation. The reciprocal aspect of this is humans
oikeiosis with Christ, which passes through their purification from evil. Christ
himself performs this purification and enables the aforementioned oikeiosis
(CC 4.27).38 Indeed, to make humans oikeioi with God, Christ-Logos makes them
oikeioi with all virtues, which, as I have mentioned, are the Logos itself (CC 8.1,
where the notion of oikeiosis is associated with that of friendship/affection,
39). As the agent of humanitys oikeiosis with God, Christ-Logos brings all
to the telos, the perfect end (CC 7.17).40 By means of his inhumanation, in
which divinity and humanity join, Christ has made the human being oikeios
with the divine power (Or. 26.4).41 Christ performs oikeiosis, but the human
being must actively want this and, by means of his or her own words,
thoughts, and deeds, in all ways, endeavour to become familiar to the supreme
Deity and be unified with it through Christ (CC 8.64).42 What is oikeion for the
human being is the truth of God; every human must endeavour to reach it, but
it is God who is the guide (Sel. Ps. PG 12.1269.48).43 The telos of the human

36
.
37 ,
,
.
38 T .
39 T , ,
.
40 ,
. The link between oikeiosis to Christ and soteriology
is also established in Comm. Matt. 11.17:
. The task
of the Logos is to save intelligent people. But since Christ-Logos came to save also the lost
sheep of the house of Israel, after the intelligent he also saves the others.
41 T
.
42
.
43 .

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126 Ilaria Ramelli

being is to return to what is proper and familiar to it. This X return is a restoration or apokatastasis.
Indeed, the second specific adaptation of the notion of oikeiosis in Origen
consists in his presentation of apokatastasis or restoration as oikeiosis. Origen is
the most important theoriser of the doctrine of apokatastasis as universal restoration and salvation, and in his theorization he engaged in an active discussion of the Stoic concept of apokatastasis.44 Stoic apokatastasis, indeed, is very
different from Origens own notion of apokatastasis, especially because of its
necessitarianism and the infinity of the recurrence of cosmic cycles that it presupposes. This difference was underscored by Origen himself.45 In Stoic cosmology, apokatastasis indicates the periodical repetition of a cosmic cycle (SVF
2.599, 2.623, 2.625), based on aeons or great years that return again and again
and are identical, or almost identical, to one another. The same persons will
exist in each aeon, and these will behave in the same ways, and will make the
same choices, and the same events will happen. This succession of aeons is
determined by periodical conflagrations in which everything is resolved into
fire, i.e. aether or Logos or pneuma identified with Zeus, the supreme but immanent divinity , in order to expand again into a new whole. Origen overtly
attacked Stoic apokatastasis on several occasions, e.g. in CC 4.12, 4.6768, 5.20,
and Princ. 2.3, for the two following reasons. (1) The Stoics postulated an infinite series of aeons, while Origen posited an end of all aeons precisely at the
eventual apokatastasis, which will be one and only one, absolutely eternal, and
will put an end to every time and every aeon. For example, in Princ. 2.3.5 Origen
affirms the end of all aeons, coinciding with apokatastasis, when all will be no
more in an aeon, but God will be all in all.46 In 3.1, just as in Comm. in Io. 13.3,
Origen already envisaged a stage in which there will be no aeon any more. (2)
The Stoics thought that in each aeon everything would happen in the very same
way as in all the others, while Origen thought of the aeons as different from one
another, in that they are the theatre of the moral and spiritual development of
rational creatures. Thus, for example, in CC 4.12 and 4.6768, Origen rejects the
Stoic theory in that it denies human free will, and in Princ. 2.3.4 likewise accuses the Stoic notion of apokatastasis of taking away human free will and responsibility.
In this case it is not simply the transformation of Stoic recurrence into
Christian resurrection, magisterially studied by Jaap Mansfeld,47 but its profound

44 See Ramelli [36].


45 Discussion in Ramelli [43] with full analysis of Origens criticism of Stoic apokatastasis.
46 1 Cor 15:28.
47 Mansfeld [16].

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 127

metamorphosis into Christian restoration or apokatastasis, that is, not simply


the resurrection of the body, but the restoration of the soul to the Good and the
end of any purifying punishment in the beyond.48 Now, Origens concept of
apokatastasis as oikeiosis essentially consists in the idea that being restored
(apokatastasis) is being brought back to familiarity (oikeiosis) with God
(CC 4.6).49 This familiarity was broken by the fall, when rational creatures first
chose evil, but it will be restored, thanks to Christ-Logos. All rational creatures,
in Origens view, will be restored to their original condition of freedom from
evil.
The best expression of Origens description of apokatastasis as oikeiosis is
found in Hom. Ier. 14.18, when he states that apokatastasis is a restoration to
what is proper and familiar (oikeion) to someone:
.50 What is most oikeion to the human being what the Stoics called is the Good, God, to the point that in Hom. Ier. 18.9 Origen takes
over Gods statement in an apocryphal book of Ezekiel: I am closer [] to
them than their skin tunic, that is, their mortal body. The eventual apokatastasis a great mystery of salvation will be a return to the Good. This is why
Origen claims that Gods words in Jeremiah, I will restore you, are the covert
expression of a mystery, that of universal restoration (
). Origen explains that nobody is
restored into any place or state unless one has once been in that state, because
restoration is a return to a state that is proper to a person (
,
). The examples that follow illustrate this principle; for instance, if one
has a limb displaced, the physician tries to restore it to its right place, where it
belongs. Humans belong in the Good; they will be restored to their
once they are completely liberated from evil.
In relation to the medical example chosen by Origen to illustrate his doctrine of apokatastasis as a return to ones oikeia, it is important to note the
influence of medical authors on Origen an influence that I have detected also
in the case of his concept of hypostasis as individual substance and that has
been recognised in the case of Galen.51 In a medical author who lived before

48 Though resurrection and restoration will be closely related by Gregory of Nyssa, who described the resurrection as the restoration of humanity to its original condition but he meant
the resurrection-restoration of both soul and body. See Ramelli [43], chapter on Nyssen.
49
.
50 See Ramelli [43], Ch. 1.
51 See Ramelli [41] and, for Galens influence on Origen, Barnes [2]. That Galen was well known
in Alexandria already to Clement is argued on the basis of good evidence by Havrda [13].

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128 Ilaria Ramelli

Origen the notion of apokatastasis as oikeiosis is adumbrated, in Apolloniuss


commentary on Hippocrates De articulis, 30.38 (first century BCE first CE): It
is necessary to bring about the restoration [] of the above-mentioned limb in the following way (cf. 10.37: the tension in the right direction
produces the restoration [] of the limbs to their original place).
Since illness is against nature, restoration to health can be said to be the restoration into a state that is according to nature: (8.18). This idea returns in the description of apokatastasis as the return to the original spiritual health after spiritual illness due to evil by the
Origenian Evagrius (KG 1.4041): There was a time when evil did not exist, and
there will be a time when it will no more exist If death comes after life, and
illness after health, it is clear that also evil comes after virtue. For evil is the death
and illness of the soul, but virtue comes before. The soul will be restored to
virtue and good, its original state. For the Good is its .
The notion of apokatastasis as oikeiosis also emerges in Philoc. 22.10, where
apokatastasis, through instruction, is declared to be to the restoration of what is
oikeion to someone;52 in Schol. Matth. PG 17.296.45, where apokatastasis is described as ones restoration to ones own rank, the condition that is originally
proper to him or her ( ),53 so that in Origens view even demons will return to their original angelic state; and in Sel. Ps.
PG 12.1176.5, where the concept of turning back is glossed with that of restoration or apokatastasis to familiarity ().54 In Sel. Ps. PG 12.1481.53 oikeiosis is related to the final henosis and theosis, i.e. union with God and deification, the culmination of apokatastasis in Origens view.55
In the process of restoration, according to Origen, a crucial role is played
by the theology of the image. Its principle is the creation of the human being
in the image of God (Gen 1: 2627); this image can be blurred by evil, but never
cancelled, and it can always be restored to its pureness. In Origens opinion, all
humans will fully recover Gods image in the eventual apokatastasis. Given Ori-

52 , , , .
53 Cf. Comm. Rom. (1.112.21, Cat.) 1, line 114: = Philoc. 25.4.46-48: .
54 , , . Apokatastasis implies salvation.
The connection between oikeiosis and salvation also emerges in Comm. Io. 6.47.246:
.
55 ,
.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 129

gens description of apokatastasis as oikeiosis, it is not surprising that the theology of the image also plays a role in a persons oikeiosis in CC 8.18.56
Humans will fully recover their only through a process of
restoration, after a more or less severe alienation from it due to evil. The Divinity, on the contrary, is never alienated from itself and is its own
. Indeed, in Fr. Io. 13 Origen remarks that the Divinity is oikeion to itself
and thinks of itself, being both the subject and the object and the very activity
of thinking. This, per se, is nothing typically Christian; the specific Christian
factor that Origen adds is the element of relationality within the divine Persons:
the Son is the object of the Fathers thinking and in turn thinks of the Father
and knows the Father.57 What underlies this description is the Sons oikeiosis
with the Father, which is made explicit in Fr. Io. 14, where the Scriptural expression that the Son is on the lap of the Father is said to indicate the Sons familiarity with the Father.58 This is an oikeiosis by nature within the divine nature,
which in Fr. Io. 50 Origen depicts as a relationship of love ( = ):59 but in Origens perspective humans, thanks to Christ-Logos, can acquire
familiarity with God as well, as a revisitation and Christianization of the Stoic
theme of human beings oikeiosis with God by virtue of the shared logos.

Gregory Nyssen
Nyssen, one of the most philosophically minded Christian Fathers, took up and
further developed Origens Christianized concept of oikeiosis. The extent of his
direct knowledge of Stoic texts on which he could also draw will be assessed
below. It is clear that Gregory was able to fully and creatively integrate this
theory in his Christian thought, which was chiefly influenced by the Platonic
tradition and by Origens Christian philosophy. Lexical statistics themselves are
revealing. In his writings, the occurrences of terms related to oikeiosis are over

56 ,
, , .
57 A , .
.
58 E .
59 O . .

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130 Ilaria Ramelli


three hundreds, and those of over twenty. And oikeiosis is crucial not
only to Gregorys terminology, but also to his philosophy.
One remarkable feature of Gregorys Christianisation of the oikeiosis doctrine but not new vis--vis Origen is that he revisits the Stoic doctrine of all
humans relation to the divinity in the light of Christian theology and of the
Genesis account of creation. Gregory applies the oikeiosis theory to his core
anthropological doctrine, the theology of the image, which is grounded in his
interpretation of Gen 1:26. This is a doctrine which, along with many others, he
shares with his main inspirer, Origen (see above on Origens theology of the
image). Gregorys idea is that all humans are an image of God, and precisely
the fact of being an image of God, and thus endowed with the divine beauty, is
the prton oikeion of every human creature. In An. 89CD Gregory can declare
that the souls own beauty is oikeion i.e., familiar and of the same nature to
Gods beauty, so that the soul can contemplate the one through the other, as
through a mirror and an image. In this way, Gregory like Origen before him
theologizes the Stoic notion of prton oikeion, the gist of the Stoic theory of
oikeiosis, by positing that the first thing which is closest and most familiar and
proper to each human is the Godhead, of which each human is the image. Here
may lie a reminiscence of Platos discussion of the proton philon in the Lysis,
where it is maintained that each person through friendship seeks the Good she
lacks but feels as proper. The proton philon is the Good, the Absolute. Although
Gregory never has in any declination (and, while he uses
as o, he does not seem to use in this sense), the reminiscence of
Platos conception is likely to be at work in his mind: for Gregory, Platos proton
philon is surely God qua Absolute Good.
The image of God that every human bears, which was clear and luminous
at the beginning of creation, has been blurred by sin, but it will be fully recovered, mainly thanks to Christs assumption of humanity. Indeed, since, in Gregorys view, just as in Origens, the end of all things will be similar to and
even better than60 the beginning, the proton oikeion of each human will be
recovered in all its purity and beauty in the end, after the purification of each
one, which will precede the universal apokatastasis (the restoration of all rational creatures after their liberation from evil). For all will recover the beauty
that is proper [] to them (fifteenth Homily on the Song of Songs GNO VI
439.18). Here, with Gregory is simply introducing a variant of o,61 as
is clear from a parallel in his Mort. GNO IX 42.20 (= 11 Lozza), where Gregory

60 See Ramelli [26], integrative essay 1; Ramelli [24] and [27].


61 Clement Paed. 3.1 also uses as a synonym of : Truth calls what is proper familiar.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 131

describes the restoration (apokatastasis) in the following terms, using the same
terminology and imagery I have highlighted in the above-quoted passage n.
89CD: we shall return to the Beauty that is proper and familiar to us [o],
in which we were formed in the beginning, according to the image of our Archetype. As in many other cases, it is Origen who suggested to Gregory the conception of apokatastasis as oikeiosis. As I have pointed out, in Hom. ler. 14.18 Origen describes apokatastasis as a return to what is proper and original to
humanity.
As a consequence, Gregory observes that we should appropriate the Good
(Ant. adv. Apoll. GNO III 1.199.4). If, on the contrary, we make sin flesh in its
Pauline usage our own, this is in fact an alienation from our nature: oikeiosis
to the flesh does not escape in the least the accusation of alienation (ibidem
228.17). Indeed, we must have an oikeiosis to the Good (Ben. GNO IX 100.20),62
and, since God is the Good itself, familiarity and affinity with God means for
each soul alienation from evil and begins from there: alienation from evil becomes the beginning of oikeiosis to the Good (Beat. PG XLIV 1293.47). On the
contrary, alienation from the Good is tantamount to oikeiosis to evil (C. fatum
44.21).63 One acquires oikeiosis to God through virtue: it is necessary to become
familiar with God by means of a kind of life characterised by virtue (Or. dom.
238.14). True nobility indeed consists in being familiar with God (In Bas. fr. 25).64
The main example of oikeiosis with the Good, according to Gregory, is offered by ascetics. Those who despise all that is earthly become familiar with
angels: in Vita Macrinae Gregory depicts the life of his sister and her celibate
companions as angelic, and in Inscr. Ps. GNO V 123.13 he precisely describes
this oikeiosis to angels. Indeed, ascetic life is an anticipation of the eventual
apokatastasis, as the angelic life is identified by Gregory with the life of the
human being before the fall and in apokatastasis itself: if, therefore, the life of
those who are restored is familiar with the life of angels, clearly (human) life
before the transgression was, in a way, angelic (Op. hom. 188.46).
This original and eschatological life, which is oikeios with God, cannot be
oikeios with evil, since God has no familiarity in the least to evil: What familiarity (oikeiosis) can the Divinity have with evil? (Ant. Apoll. GNO III 1.180.24). Evil

62 Friend of the Good and having a great familiarity with it. In CE III 1.118 Gregory underscores that one must choose voluntarily to make oneself familiar with the Good: One who has
made himself familiar with the Good by voluntary choice.
63 See also Insc. Ps. GNO V 62.16: familiarity with evil, affliction and suffering everywhere, is
the culmination of the fall from the goods; CE III 1.118 on making oneself familiar with evil.
64 What is, then, Basils nobility? And his homeland? His noble family is familiarity with the
Divinity, and his homeland is virtue. Likewise in Or. dom. 254.19: he deemed his richness the
acquisition of virtue, his only nobility, honour, and power familiarity with God.

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132 Ilaria Ramelli

is totally extraneous to the nature of God, who is the Good itself (e.g. An. 89CD:
by its own nature, the Good is the Godhead). This is the case with Origen and
Evagrius too.
In this, indeed, they even ground their doctrine of the fall and of the final
apokatastasis, their whole theology of history and eschatology. For only God is
good intrinsically and by nature, and thus stably and eternally; all other beings,
i.e., creatures, are good only by participation: no human being is good; this
appellative is appropriate to God alone (Adv. Arium Sab. GNO III 1.82.16).65
Therefore, all that which is familiar and oikeion to God, the first Good, is good
(Op. hom. 164.9).66 Only the Godhead, transcendent essence, being the Good
itself, is simple and familiar with itself only, which emphasizes the metaphysical gap between God and creatures: the transcendent essence is simple and
familiar with itself (CE I 1.237), as Origen maintained but Gregory also emphasizes the ontological divide between the sense-perceptible and the noetic
planes, again employing the oikeiosis structure to explain it67 . Therefore, if
only God is the Good per se and all other beings are good only by participation,
those beings who are rational and free cannot be eternally stable in the good
at least before the eventual restoration, when they will be so but can orient
themselves toward both good and evil, and thus are always in danger of a fall.
Only God is the Good and the Being, and the source of all goods and of the
existence of all creatures, whereas evil has no ontological subsistence. This is
why the creatures endowed with freewill who choose evil tend to non-being and
to their own ontological annihilation. Gods Providence, however, which always
operates (although without eliminating human freewill),68 does not allow the
annihilation of any of Gods creatures, because God created them that they
might be. To this argument, already deployed by Origen, Gregory adds another,
deriving from the infinitude of God-Good and the finitude of evil: it will be im
65 God has no kinship with creation, but the characteristics of the Creator of all and of his
creatures are separated by a huge gap. Such is the distance between the Creator and human
creatures that oikeiosis between them is due more to grace than to nature: she becomes a kind
of link of human familiarity with God, while humans and God are so distant from one another
by nature (Virg. 2.3).
66 Good/noble is whatever has a relationship of familiarity with the Supreme Good.
67 Eccl. GNO V 419.2: sense-perception has an affinity, an oikeiosis, to the life of irrational
creatures and Gregory contrasts it with the intellect and intellectual nature: sense-perception
has a great affinity to the irrational life; for everything of this kind can be observed in irrational
animals as well, whereas the intellect Cf. Or. cat. 8.49: sense-perception has an affinity to
what is dense and earthly, while the intellectual nature is better and loftier than the movements according to sense-perception.
68 For this tenet of Origens thought see Ramelli [24], [35].

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 133

possible for any creature to advance in evil or even just remain in evil forever,
because evil is limited; therefore, once one has reached its utmost depth one
cannot but return to the Good, which is unlimited and has no end, being God.69
Moreover, since evil is pure negativity, it will not subsist forever, but will disappear, according to its nature, which is non-existence. For evil is no creature of
God, but the result of an error, of a bad choice of rational creatures free will.
God wants to make his creatures his own again, to appropriate them again
in an act of oikeiosis, after their alienation in evil: the process of purification of
sins is described by Gregory (An. 97D ff.) as a painful side effect of Gods primary action of attracting each soul from evil back to himself; for the Godhead
vindicates what is its own. Gods love for humans draws what is its own [
] to itself from the ruins of irrationality and materiality It demands and
drags to itself all that which came to being through It and for It. Here, again,
is used by Gregory as a synonym of . In this way, apokatastasis
itself is described as the supreme action of oikeiosis or re-appropriation performed by the Godhead on all of its creatures: the divinity appropriates again
what is its own and was made alien and enemy by sin. All of Gods creatures
will return to the Good, i.e., to their first oikeion, that is, God. Apokatastasis is
Gods glorious oikeiosis in the active sense: it is the Divinitys making all of its
creatures oikeia to itself again, after their alienation from it.
This is why in Inf. 82.4 one of the many works in which he reflects on the
eventual restoration of all to God Gregory avers that the good we expect for
the telos is familiar (oikeion) to human nature: the hoped-for good is familiar to
humanity by nature. For this good is the Godhead itself, in whose image the
human being was created at the beginning, and which in the end will be all in
all. 1Cor 15:28 is interpreted by Gregory, as by Origen,70 in the sense that God
will be all goods for all beings, since God is the source and fullness of all possible goods, being, not a good, but the Good itself.
Precisely because the Good is nothing but God, Gregory like Origen and
like Evagrius can maintain the ontological priority of good over evil and virtue
over vice. This priority entails both a chronological and an axiological precedence: virtue existed before vice, and good before evil, because they are coeternal with God (indeed, virtue coincides with Christ, who is all virtues, as I have
pointed out), who is the Good; therefore, evil and vice will not exist forever. I
have highlighted how much this notion influenced Evagrius.
Virtue comes before vice, and, as Gregory observes, human nature was created oikeion to virtue: We humans wish by nature to be familiar with whatever

69 See Ramelli [35].


70 See Ramelli [28].

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134 Ilaria Ramelli

is laudable and valuable and desire to possess it (Greg. Thaum. PG 46.893.42).


Humanity was created to be in a relation of kinship with God (
), and sin was the falling down from oikeiosis with God, who is
the Good (Benef. GNO IX 95.3). Gregory underlines that nothing is more familiar
than God to our intellect, a theme that is particularly developed in De anima et
resurrectione.71 Also in p. hom. 161.25 Nyssen insists that our intellect is familiar to that which is according to nature. But, as I argued elsewhere, Plato had
already demonstrated that what is natural for the human being is virtue;72 and
Gregory follows this conception, which was also shared by Origen and Evagrius:
The intellect by nature is familiar with what is according to nature and extraneous to what is opposed to it.
Indeed, the eventual apokatastasis will be characterized by the eviction of
death, which is the consequence of evil: the vanishing of evil due to the oikeiosis of all to the Good will entail the complete disappearance of death, i.e., the
victory of Life (one of the main attributes of Christ). In Or. cat. 24 Gregory explains that what is proper (oikeion) to life is to have death vanish, just as what
is proper to light is to have darkness vanish. Life and Light are two prominent
epinoiai of Christ, who will perform the actions that are proper to Christ qua
Light and Life: the vanishing of darkness and death. The eventual destruction
of death was found by Gregory revealed in 1Cor 15:26 (the last enemy will be
destroyed: death),73 but once again, Gregory was profoundly inspired by Origen
in his argument, which he put forward in his Commentary on Romans (5.7), that
in the end death will have to disappear in front of eternal life, which is Christ,
since eternal life cannot possibly allow for eternal death: It is certain that death
is the contradictory opposite of life; therefore it is certain that, if life is eternal,
death cannot possibly be eternal Once the death of the soul, which is the very
last enemy, has been destroyed, the kingdom of death, along with death itself,
will be wiped out.74 Thus, Gregory describes the true life for intellectual creatures i.e., Christ who is Life in terms of familiarity or oikeiosis to God,

71 See commentary in Ramelli [26]. See also Ant. Apoll. GNO III 1, 192.17: our intellect becomes
familiar with Christ: the intellect that is in us and is endowed with self-movement, insofar as it
makes itself familiar (oikeios) with Christ. Ibid. 197.27: The mind, which is something intellectual, invisible, and without shape, is in a relationship of kinship (with God); among these
things, what could be found of more appropriate to adapting itself to God? Ibid. 197.23: With
what nature could the Divinity be more familiar?
72 Ramelli [25].
73 In support of this translation see Ramelli [28].
74 Certum est mortem vitae esse contrarium: certum est ergo quod, si vita aeterna est, mors
esse non possit aeterna cum mors animae, quae est novissimus inimicus, fuerit destructa,
regnum mortis pariter cum morte destructum erit.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 135

whereas death is falling away from God: for the intellectual nature, familiarity
with the Divinity is true life, and the fall from the Divinity has the name of
death (CE III 6.77).
Therefore, oikeiosis between humans and God passes through Christ, just as
apokatastasis itself.75 Even though he, qua God, is apathes, Christ has made our
pathe his own (o, Ant. Apoll. GNO III 1.181.21; cf. ibidem 160.16;76
160.20, where Gregory argues that Christ has appropriated our own pathe because he has united himself to us by nature).77 Christ has appropriated (o) our malediction and thus has liberated us from it (CE III 10.12). Indeed, Christ with an act of oikeiosis has made his own all that is human: Thus,
the One who has united us to himself and has united himself with us and has
become one with us in all respects appropriates and make his own all that
which is ours (Tunc et ipse 20.9 Downing). Christs resurrection produces all
humans return to familiarity with God and thus the highest form of freedom
(D. lum. GNO IX 222.24).78 It is no accident that precisely in this oration Gregory
exhorts slave-owners to emancipate their slaves.
This is the fundamental premise which Gregory inherited from Origen,
like Athanasius for the deification of the human being: if Christ, who is God
and is pure and without sin, has appropriated all that is human, the human
being is sanctified, purified, liberated from sin, and deified. It is not accidental
that Gregory affirms that Christ has made all that is human oikeion to himself
precisely in Tunc et Ipse, which is entirely devoted to the description of the final
apokatastasis and the explanation that Christs eventual submission to God
does not mean a subordination of the Sons divine person, but the salvation of
the whole humanity, which is Christs body and will voluntarily submit to Christ
in the end and be saved.79

75 For both Origen and Gregory, apokatastasis, far from being a pagan theory, as it has often
accused of being, is entirely dependent on Christ. See Ramelli [36].
76 Having united himself to the shape of the servant, which he took upon himself, and having become one with it, Christ appropriates the servants pathe.
77 Ibidem 182.3 Gregory insists on the appropriation (o) of our pathos by Christ to
prevent docetic drifts.
78 Familiarity with God, confidence, freedom, equality with angels instead of the misery of a
servant.
79 See Ramelli [35], cf. [33].

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136 Ilaria Ramelli

Conclusions
I have mentioned that in Origens day Stoic sources were still available, and
moreover Stoic motifs had been absorbed in Middle Platonism. Shortly before
Origens birth, Marcus Aurelius, the last major Imperial Stoic, in 176 CE endowed four chairs of philosophy in Athens, one of which was Stoic. By the time
of Gregory, in the second half of the fourth century, the availability of Old Stoic
texts seems to have become scanty.80 According to Themistius, these were available in public libraries but were rare. Themistius explicitly speaks of the works
of Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus, besides Aristotelian and Platonic works, as
available in the library of Constantinople and thereby saved from a total vanishing precisely by being kept there (Or. 4.13.60B). According to Themistius, while
Platos and Aristotles texts were still owned by private citizens in their libraries
and this was surely Nyssens case those of the Stoics were only available in
public libraries. Given this information, it is prudent not to assume that Gregory
could benefit from direct, extensive readings of Old Stoic texts.81 Imperial Stoic
texts, however, such as those of Epictetus or Hierocles both precious sources
concerning Stoic oikeiosis may have been better available. And by Gregorys
time Stoicism had been partially absorbed in both Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. What is more, Gregory had Origens works at his disposal, where he
found, already adapted and accessible, the main facets of a Christianised oikeiosis.
Origen must be credited with the Christianisation of the oikeiosis theory;
Gregory, drawing on this, developed a refined and rich doctrine, Christianising
features of the Stoic (and trans-philosophical) theory of oikeiosis such as the
notion of and oikeiosis between humans and the divine. But he
may have added important elements of his own, such as the notion of apokatastasis not only as humanitys return to what is oikeion to it a trait already developed by Origen, as I have demonstrated but also as Gods own glorious
oikeiosis or re-appropriation of his creatures, alienated from him by evil. God
claims back what belongs to God-the Good and had ended up in evil.
This trait of apokatastasis as Gods oikeiosis of his own creatures, however,
is to be found already in Eusebius (HE 10.4.1516): The Angel of Great Counsel,
the great supreme general of Gods army has reduced what was hostile and
enemy [sc. evil] to disappearance and nothing, so that it seems that it never
even had a name. But as for creatures, which are dear to God and belong to

80 See Gourinat [9], 1328; Gourinat-Barnes [10], 1012.


81 Such a prudence is rightly shown by Zachhuber [51], 910, who thinks of a mediated reception of Stoicism by Gregory.

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The Stoic Doctrine of Oikeiosis 137

God [], he has led them even beyond glory. Eusebius is referring to
Christs eschatological reign, during which the forces of evil will be destroyed
and the enemies creatures alienated from God by evil will voluntarily return
to God-the Good (1 Cor 15: 2428). God will call back to himself ta oikeia, the
creatures, because they belong to him and he wants to re-appropriate them,
and even deifies them. Therefore, one may wonder whether Eusebius, who followed Origen very closely, found this further Christian adaptation of the oikeiosis doctrine in one of Origens lost works. In this case, Gregory was inspired by
Origen also in this respect.
This suspicion is further supported by the presentation of apokatastasis as
an oikeiosis in another fourth-century faithful follower of Origen, Didymus the
Blind, who was the head of the Didaskaleion at Alexandria. In Comm. in Eccl.
col. 15.11 the original condition, the proper dwelling place ( ) of
all rational creatures, which is also the place of virtue, is identified with the
condition to which they have to return, in an apokatastasis or restoration to
their original state ( ). As Didymus explains
better in Comm. in Ps. 2934 col. 221,6, that original condition of the human
being coincides with being in the image and likeness of God; when the human
being gets far from this condition, it goes out of itself ( , ) and loses its own identity. Indeed, the person who keeps virtue also keeps
the condition that is proper () to the human being. This further suggests
that the apokatastasis-oikeiosis motif comes from Origen; though, the one who
made the most of it from the theological point of view seems to have been Gregory Nyssen.
As I hope that this essay has helped to demonstrate, the two major Patristic
philosophers, along with Clement and early Christian sources such as the
author of 1 Timothy, can shed light on the Stoic doctrine of oikeiosis, which
poses substantial problems especially in the form of the so-called social oikeiosis, and which they received from the Stoic sources available to them in the
imperial age. These Christian sources even present the technical vocabulary of
oikeiosis, which in Hierocles non-technical passage on the contraction of circles is absent (which, as I have mentioned, has even called for doubts about
the presence of the social oikeiosis doctrine behind Hierocles famous passage).
Therefore, it is really recommendable to examine their texts in the study of ancient philosophy, and especially Stoicism and imperial Platonism, when investigating the oikeiosis theory.

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138 Ilaria Ramelli

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[49] David Sedley. The Ideal of Godlikeness. In Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Plato 2: Ethics,
Politics, Religion, and the Soul, ed. Gail Fine, 309328. Oxford University Press, New
York 1999.
[50] Robert Somos. Is the Handmaid Stoic or Middle Platonic? Some Comments on Origens
Use of Logic. Communication at the 2011 Oxford Patristics Conference, forthcoming.
[51] Johannes Zachhuber. Human Nature in Gregory of Nyssa. Brill, Leiden 2000.

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Origen, Greek Philosophy, and the


Birth of the Trinitarian Meaning of
Hypostasis*
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

Q2ULJHQV7HFKQLFDO0HDQLQJRI
Origen, far from being a precursor of Arianism, as he was depicted during the
Origenist controversy and is often still misrepresented today, was the main inspirer
of the Nicene-Cappadocian line.1 The Trinitarian formulation of this line, which was
represented above all by Gregory of Nyssa, is that God is one and the same nature
RUHVVHQFH  LQWKUHHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHV  DQG
WKDWWKH6RQLVWRWKH)DWKHU,QGHHGWKHWKUHHPHPEHUVRIWKH7ULQLW\
VKDUHLQWKHVDPH2 This formulation was followed by Basil in his last phase;
Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus from 362 onwards; Evagrius; and numerous later
authors.32ULJHQKLPVHOIKDGDOUHDG\PDLQWDLQHGERWKWKLQJVWKDWWKH)DWKHUWKH
6RQDQGWKH6SLULWKDYHWKHVDPHEXWDUHWKUHHGLIIHUHQWDQG
*
'UDIWVRIWKLVHVVD\ZHUHSUHVHQWHGLQ1RYHPEHULQ0LODQDQG)HEUXDU\LQ5RPHDQG
at the 2012 ISNS Congress; I thank those who attended my lectures, the two anonymous readers of
HTR for their perceptive reading and helpful suggestions, and all colleagues who discussed my study
with me. Special thanks to the HTR copy editor for her careful work.
1
I have argued this in Origens Anti-Subordinationism and its Heritage in the Nicene and
Cappadocian Line, VC  
2
:KHQ2ULJHQVD\VWKDWWKH6RQGLIIHUVIURPWKH)DWKHULQDQG Or 
he is speaking of the Sons humanity. [The Greek throughout this article is rendered in Times font.]
3
This formula was a response to the question, Is God one or more than one? recently investigated by
James Ernest, Patristic Exegesis and the Arithmetic of the Divine, in God in Early Christian Thought:
Essays in Memory of Lloyd G. Patterson (eds. Andrew B. McGowan, Brian E. Daley, and Timothy
-*DGHQ/HLGHQ%ULOO 

HTR 105:3 (2012) 30250

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

303

Gregory of Nyssa closely followed him. As I set out to argue, Origens thought
represented a novel and fundamental theorization with respect to the communality
RIDQGWKHLQGLYLGXDOLW\RIFRQFHLYHGDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHV
LQWKH7ULQLW\+HLQXHQFHGQRWRQO\VXEVHTXHQW7ULQLWDULDQWKHRORJ\EXWSHUKDSV
even pagan Neoplatonism. (Likewise, on the christological side, Annewies van
den Hoek5 has insightfully demonstrated the importance of Origen in askingand
HQGHDYRULQJWRDQVZHUWKHTXHVWLRQRIWKHXQLFDWLRQRIKXPDQLW\DQGGLYLQLW\
LQ&KULVWDQG2ULJHQVLQXHQFHRQODWHUIRUPXODWLRQV 
2IFRXUVH2ULJHQGLGQRWXVHRQO\LQDWHFKQLFDO7ULQLWDULDQPHDQLQJ
for instance, he also used it in the sense of foundation;6 of material or incorporeal
substance;7 of existence;8 constitution, or coming into existence;9 and of
reality as opposed to appearance; conceptuality or insubstantiality.10 Comm.

)RU*UHJRU\RI1\VVDVFRQFHSWLRQVHHHJ/XFLDQ7XUFHVFXGregory of Nyssa and the Concept of
Divine Persons 2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV -RKDQQHV=DFKKXEHU2QFHDJDLQ*UHJRU\RI
Nyssa on Universals, JTS   &KULVWRSKHU6WHDG,QGLYLGXDO3HUVRQDOLW\LQ2ULJHQDQGWKH
&DSSDGRFLDQ)DWKHUVLQLGHPSubstance and Illusion in the Christian Fathers (London: Variorum
5HSULQWV LGHPDivine Substance 2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV 
5
2ULJHQV5ROHLQ)RUPXODWLQJ/DWHU&KULVWRORJLFDO/DQJXDJHLQOrigeniana Septima (ed. Wolfgang
$%HLHQHUWDQG8ZH.KQHZHJ/HXYHQ3HHWHUV $ERRNRQWKLVSUREOHPLVIRUWKFRPLQJ
by Christopher Beeley, in which a chapter is devoted to Origens christological doctrine. I am grateful to
the author for having me read it in advance for comments.
6
E.g., Comm. Jo. 7UXHOLIH  EHFRPHVWKHfoundation of knowledge
 
7
Dial. 16: What is in the image of God is immaterial and better than every corporeal substance
    Cels. 7KH LQFRUSRUHDO VXEVWDQFH 
 RI WKH KXPDQ VRXO RU RI DQJHOV       LV LPSHULVKDEOH DQG
impossible to consume and annihilate. Likewise in Or.HVVHQFHSURSHU  
UHIHUVWRWKHVXEVWDQFHRILQFRUSRUHDOUHDOLWLHV  ZKLFKSRVVHVVWKH
EHLQJVWDEO\  Philoc. 1.28: Gods gifts are immensely
EHWWHUWKDQPRUWDOVXEVWDQFHRUH[LVWHQFH  >$OOWUDQVODWLRQVDQGLWDOLFV
in this essay are mine.]
8
Cels.$VHQVHSHUFHSWLEOHERG\GRHVQRWH[SODLQWKHPRGDOLW\RILWVH[LVWHQFH 
 %XWZHSHUFHLYHWKHVSOHQGRUDQGWKHH[LVWHQFH  RI
heavenly bodies by looking at them.
9
E.g., in Cels.  7KH SULQFLSOH RI WKH FRQVWLWXWLRQ RI DOO UHDOLWLHV   
 Comm. Gen. 3*  7KH VXEVWDQFH WKDW IRUPHG WKH VXEVWUDWXP 
  LH WKH SUHH[LVWLQJ PDWWHU  VKRXOG KDYH EHHQ LPPHQVH LQ RUGHU WR EH
HQRXJKIRUWKHFRQVWLWXWLRQRIVXFKDELJFRVPRV  Comm.
Jo.7KHUVWDQGSULQFLSDOFRQVWLWXWLRQ  RIWKHKXPDQ
being is in the image of God.
10

In Cels.  WKH WHUP UHIHUV WR WKH GHQLHG  UHDO H[LVWHQFH RI SDJDQ GHLWLHV  
/LNHZLVHLQCels. 8.67, in reference to Athena: Let someone prove her existence
DQGGHVFULEHKHUVXEVWDQFH   DVWKRXJKVKHKDGDQRQWRORJLFDO
VXEVLVWHQFH  ,QComm. Matt.ZHQGWKHRSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQLQIDFWDQG
conceptually: .LQJGRPRIKHDYHQDQG.LQJGRPRI*RGDUHHTXLYDOHQWLQIDFW 
LIQRWDOVRFRQFHSWXDOO\ OLNHZLVHLQFr. Lam. 16 the question is of enemies that are such
FRQFHSWXDOO\  RUDOVRLQIDFW  VHHDOVRFr. Jo.
    ELV   $ VLPLODU FRQWUDVW EHWZHHQ

304

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Jo.VKRZVWKHODVWPHDQLQJUHDOLW\YVDSSHDUDQFHRUPHUHFRQFHSWXDOLW\
LQWKH7ULQLWDULDQFRQWH[WKHUH2ULJHQFULWLFL]HVWKRVHZKRGLIIHUHQWLDWHWKH)DWKHU
DQGWKH6RQFRQFHSWXDOO\  EXWQRWLQWKHLUVXEVWDQFH 
 
2ULJHQRQWKHFRQWUDU\PDLQWDLQVWKDWWKH)DWKHULVHQGRZHGZLWKKLVRZQK\SRVWDVLV
RULQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHDQGWKH6RQZLWKKLVRZQGLIIHUHQWIURPWKH)DWKHUV7KLVLVD
conceptual and linguistic novelty that Origen introduced into the Christian theological
HOG,VKDOODUJXH7KDW)DWKHUDQG6RQHDFKDUHPDGHXSRIWZRGLVWLQFWLQGLYLGXDO
substances is repeated in Cels. 8.12, in which Origen opposes those who deny that they
DUHWZRGLIIHUHQWK\SRVWDVHV  7KLVDWWHVWDWLRQLVDOOWKHPRUH
important in that it is preserved in the original Greek and is not a fragment, nor does
it come from a work of uncertain attribution. The same polemic against those who
GHQLHGWKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQKDYHWZRGLIIHUHQWLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHVLVUHHFWHG
in another important passage by Origen that is preserved in Greek: Comm. Matt.11
+HUH2ULJHQPDLQWDLQVWKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHGLVWLQFWERWKFRQFHSWXDOO\DQG
in their individual substance. Of equal importance, both for its sure authenticity and for
being preserved in Greek, is Comm. Jo. 2.10.75, in which Origen asserts that not only
WKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQEXWDOVRWKH6SLULWDUHWKUHHGLIIHUHQWindividual substances.12 In
Fr. in Io. 37 Origen insists that the Spirit is a hypostasis, an individual substance, and
QRWVLPSO\DQDFWLYLW\RI*RG7KLVDOVRFRQUPVSchol. Matt.3*ZKLFKLV
of uncertain attribution, and moreover introduces the concept of the identity of nature/
HVVHQFHEHWZHHQWKH3HUVRQVRIWKH7ULQLW\WKH)DWKHUWKH6RQDQGWKH6SLULWDUH
one not for the confusion of the three, but because they have one and the same nature;
their individual substances are three, perfect in all of them.13 In Comm. Jo.
LQGHHG2ULJHQH[SODLQVWKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWKHVDPHLQWKHLUHVVHQFHRU
  EXWDWWKHVDPHWLPHWKH\DUHQRWWKHVDPHWKLQJ
 HYLGHQWO\LQWKDWWKH\DUHWZRGLIIHUHQWLQGLYLGXDOVKDYLQJGLIIHUHQW
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHVRU
In another authentic passage preserved in Greek, Comm. Jo.  2ULJHQ
criticizes adversaries who do not conceive of the Son as having an individual substance
RIKLVRZQGLVWLQFWIURPWKDWRIWKH)DWKHUDQGZKRGRQRWFODULI\ZKDWKLVHVVHQFH
LV KLVZKLFK2ULJHQGHHPVGLYLQHDQGFRPPRQWRWKHZKROH7ULQLW\ 15 these
WKHRORJLDQVUDWKHUFRQVLGHUWKH6RQWREHDVRUWRIHPDQDWLRQIURPWKH)DWKHUFRQVLVWLQJ

nominally and in substance is found idem 16.6: It has two meanings indicated by the two
QDPHVEXWWKHWZRDUHRQHLQIDFW> @
11



12



13

 



&KULVWRSK0DUNVFKLHVVWXGLHV2ULJHQVFRQFHSWRI Origenes und sein Erbe [Berlin: de


*UX\WHU@ 
15



ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

305

RQO\LQDQHPSW\QDPH LQV\OODEOHV 16 and not in a personal, real, and individual


VXEVWDQFH 2ULJHQKHUHPD\EHDWWDFNLQJ9DOHQWLQLDQFRQFHSWLRQV7KH
same is stressed in Comm. Jo.WKH6RQWKH:LVGRPRI*RGLVQRWDPHUH
UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ  EXWKDVDUHDOVXEVWDQFHRIKLVRZQDQ
LQFRUSRUHDODQGVRWRVD\OLYLQJVXEVWDQFH 
 ,WLVQRWDEOHWKDWLQWKHLPPHGLDWHO\
VXEVHTXHQW FKDSWHU   2ULJHQ H[SUHVVO\ FULWLFL]HV KHUHWLFV ZKR IURP
their writings, seem to be again Valentinians. Origen further explores the individual
substance of the Son in Comm. Jo. 1.39.292: Christ-Logos has its substance in
the Wisdom of God, which is the principle of all.17 The closeness to Sel. Ps. PG
12.1125.2 is manifest: here the individual substance of Gods Logos, that is, its very
hypostasis, includes its being Wisdom.18 In Comm. Jo. 2.35.215, the testimony of
the Baptist concerning Christ is said to reveal Christs preeminent hypostasis or
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH  LQWKDWTXD/RJRV
Christ permeates the world, being in all rational souls. In Comm. Jo.
WKHGLYLQHK\SRVWDVLVRIWKH6RQ   LVVDLGWREH
separated by some from Christs human aspects. In Comm. ser. Matt. YLUWXHV
are declared to be attached to Christs individual substance,19 and in Princ. fr. 33, a
reliable Greek fragment quoted by Athanasius in Decr. WRZKLFK,VKDOOUHWXUQ
2ULJHQDIUPVWKDW&KULVW/RJRVLVWKHLPDJHQRWRIWKHQDWXUHRI*RGJHQHULFDOO\
EXWRIWKH)DWKHUVRZQLQHIIDEOHDQGXQVSHDNDEOHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH20
There are several other references to Christs hypostasis in Greek passages from
works of less certain authenticity or that have survived only in translation, but those
,KDYHDGGXFHGVRIDUZRXOGVXIFHHYHQLQDEVHQFHRIWKHIROORZLQJ+RZHYHUWKH
correspondence between the former and the latter in the Trinitarian conception of
HVSHFLDOO\LQUHIHUHQFHWRWKH6RQVHHPVWRFRQUPWKHYDOXHRIWKH
following attestations. In Sel. Gen. PG 2ULJHQLVFULWLFL]LQJWKRVHZKRGR
QRWDGPLWWKDWWKH6RQKDVDVXEVWDQFHRIKLVRZQ 7KHVHDGYHUVDULHV
EDVHWKHLUDUJXPHQWRQ-HVXVVZRUGV7KH)DWKHUDQG,DUHRQHDQGWKHVDPHWKLQJ
which in Origens view does not imply that the Son has no individual substance of his
RZQGLVWLQFWIURPWKDWRIWKH)DWKHU,QRUGHUWRPDNHLWFOHDUWKDWZLWK
KHPHDQVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHLQWKLVFDVHWKDWRIWKH6RQ2ULJHQDGGVDV,
VKDOOVKRZWKHH[SUHVVLRQZDVFRPPRQLQWKHSKLORVRSK\RIKLVGD\
and was used to specify that a substance was not to be taken generally, but was proper to
some particular being. The dignity of the hypostasis of the Son is referred to in Sel. Ps.
3*$WWKH
same time, tKH6RQLVVDLGWREH*RGE\HVVHQFH LQFr. Jo. 1. In Comm.
16



17



18


 

19
20

7

306

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Rom.2ULJHQFULWLFL]HVhaereticiZKRGHQ\WKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQ
KDYHWKHVDPHHVVHQFHRUQDWXUH  EXWDUHGLIIHUHQWLQWKHLUproprietates:
PDOHVHSDUDQW)LOLXPD3DWUHXW alterius naturae 3DWUHPDOWHULXV)LOLXPGLFDQW Origen
opposes to this what he regards as the correct view: the properties of each Person
of the Trinity should be considered to belong to each Persons individual substance or
ZKLOHWKHHVVHQFHRUQDWXUHLVFRPPRQWRERWK SURSULHWDWHV quidem Patri
HW)LOLRHW6SLULWXL6DQFWRVXDVFXLTXHGDELWQLKLODXWHPGLXHUVLWDWLVHVVHFRQWHELWXULQ
VXEVWDQWLDXHOQDWXUD 6XEVWDQWLDXHOQDWXUDUHQGHUV5XQXVLQAdult. lib.
Orig.H[SOLFLWO\VWDWHVWKDW2ULJHQDSSOLHGWRWKH)DWKHU6RQUHODWLRQVKLS
3DWUHPHW)LOLXP unius substantiae, quod graece homoousion dicitur, designavit. In
Fr. Jo. 123 the individual substance that is referred to is that of the Spirit, and here
DJDLQWKHDGGLWLRQRILVIRXQGWRHPSKDVL]HWKDWLWLVWKHVXEVWDQFHSURSHUWR
WKH6SLULWDORQHDVGLVWLQFWIURP*RGWKH)DWKHUWKHSROHPLFLVDJDLQVWWKRVHZKR
deem the Spirit simply Gods energy or activity, without a substantial existence of
LWVRZQ  
The Dialogue with Heraclides, discovered on a Toura papyrus from the end
RIWKHVL[WKFHQWXU\DQGXQNQRZQIURPDQ\RWKHUVRXUFHEHIRUHWKLVQG21 offers
a stenographic record of a public discussion, part of which is highly relevant to
WKHSUHVHQWLQYHVWLJDWLRQLQWKDWLWLVGHYRWHGWRDQDVVHVVPHQWRIWKH)DWKHU6RQ
UHODWLRQVKLS )LUVW LQ D VHULHV RI TXHVWLRQV WR +HUDFOLGHV DQG WKHQ LQ KLV RZQ
H[SRVLWLRQ2ULJHQFODULHVKRZLWLVWKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWZRDQGGLVWLQFW
from one another, but at the same time they are one God. Although the key term
GRHVQRWSRSXSKHUHSUREDEO\IRUWKHVDNHRIVLPSOLFLW\DQGWKHODFN
of a philosophical contextOrigens conception of two distinct hypostases in one
DQGWKHVDPHGLYLQHQDWXUHLVFOHDUDQGH[WHQVLYHO\LOOXVWUDWHG,QDQGWKH
6RQLVSUHVHQWHGDVGLVWLQFWIURPWKH)DWKHU22 and this distinction resides in
WKHGLIIHUHQFHRIWKHWZR$WWKHVDPHWLPHERWKWKH6RQDQGWKH)DWKHU
are God, and yet they are not two Gods.23 Origen, who posited two hypostases, or
better three if we take into consideration the Spirit as well, had to be careful not
WRJLYHWKHLPSUHVVLRQRISRVLWLQJWZRRUWKUHH*RGV7KXVLQKHVHWVRXW
WRH[SODLQLQZKLFKUHVSHFWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWZRDQGLQZKLFKWKHVH
WZRDUHRQHDQGWKHVDPH*RG$QGLQKLVH[SODQDWLRQPDNHVLWFOHDU
that his conception of two hypostases but one divine nature or essence countered
both a kind of pre-Arianism or adoptionism, which denied the divinity of the
6RQDQGZKDW2ULJHQKLPVHOIFDOOVZKLFKSRVWXODWHGRQO\RQHGLYLQH

21
Entretien dOrigne avec Hraclide HG-HDQ6FKHUHU6&3DULVGH&HUI ,Q(QJOLVK
Dialogue of Origen with Heraclides and His Fellow Bishops on the Father, the Son, and the Soul
WUDQV5REHUW-'DO\1HZ<RUN3DXOLVW 
22



23

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ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

307

K\SRVWDVLVWKDWRIWKH)DWKHU7KHWHUPDSSHDUVRQO\KHUHDPRQJDOO
extant works of Origen. It does not mean one single power or authority, but rather
RQHVLQJOHSULQFLSOHRQHVLQJOH7KLVKHUHV\LQGHHGGHQLHGWKHhypostatic
GLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQZKHUHDV2ULJHQPDLQWDLQHGthree distinct
hypostasesLQWKH7ULQLW\FRLQFLGLQJZLWKWKHWKUHHRIDOO+LVYHU\
ZKLFKRSHQVZLWKDWUHDWPHQWRIWKH)DWKHUWKH6RQDQGWKH6SLULWDQG
UHVXPHVWKLVVDPHWUHDWPHQWLQ%RRNDVDFRQFOXVLRQWRWKHZKROHLQYHVWLJDWLRQ
SUREDEO\UHIHUVLQLWVWLWOHWRWKHVHWKUHH25 The three principles for Origen
coincide with the three hypostases of the Trinity, but God is one, and the distinct
K\SRVWDVHVVKDUHWKHVDPHGLYLQH
In a fragment preserved by Pamphilus, Apol. 50, from Origens lost commentary
RQ7LPRWK\2ULJHQFULWLFL]HVWKRVH&KULVWLDQVZKRFRQVLGHUWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQ
to be one and the same hypostasis in an effort to avoid the accusation of ditheism:
uti ne uideantur duos deos dicere neque rursum negare Saluatoris deitatem,
unam eandemque subsistentiam 3DWULV HW )LOLL DGVHXHUDQW LG HVW GXR TXLdem nomina secundum diuersitatem causarum recipientem, unam tamen
VXEVLVWHUH LGHVWXQDPSHUVRQDPGXREXVQRPLQLEXVVXELDFHQWHP
TXLODWLQHSDWULSDVVLDQLDSSHOODQWXU 

:KDW,KDYHSXWLQSDUHQWKHVHVLVDJORVVE\5XQXVZKRUVWFKRVHWRWUDQVODWH
ZLWKsubsistentia, which is typical of him and already of Victorinus,26
DQG WKHQ WR OHDYH WKH YHU\ *UHHN WHUP QDOO\ LQ KLV RZQ JORVV KH WUDQVODWHG
ZLWKWKH/DWLQpersona7KXV2ULJHQLQWKLVSDVVDJHUHDIUPVWKDWWKH
)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWZRGLIIHUHQWK\SRVWDVHV
$OVRLVXVHGE\2ULJHQWRUHIHUWRWKHVXEVWDQFHRIHDFKVRXOIRU
example in Cels. 6.26.27 Especially from Princ. 3.1.22 it is clear that for Origen,

.
>sic@
          


25
&OHPHQWFDOOHG*RGUVWSULQFLSOHFDXVH Strom.
       KH ZDV UHIHUULQJ WR WKH )DWKHU SURSHU
ZKRPKHLGHQWLHGZLWKWKH2QHDQGWKH*RRGDVIRUWKH6RQ/RJRVKHFDOOHGKLPVHFRQGFDXVH
Strom. 
26
Victorinus used it in Adv. ArianosWRLQGLFDWHHDFKK\SRVWDVLVRIWKH7ULQLW\6HH:HUQHU
Beierwaltes, Substantia und subsistentia bei Marius Victorinus, in Hypostasis e Hyparxis nel
Neoplatonismo HGV)UDQFHVFR5RPDQRDQG'DQLHOD7DRUPLQD)ORUHQFH2OVFKNL 
$QG5XQXVXVHGsubsistentia to indicate an individual substance, precisely in the sense that Origen
GHQHGZLWKDVRSSRVHGWRWKHPRUHJHQHUDOsubstantiaZKLFKFRUUHVSRQGVWR
(see, e.g., his Hist. DQG On the use of substantia and subsistentiaLQ5XQXVVHHDOVR
Trait des Principes (eds. and trans. Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti; 5 vols.; SC 252253,
2683DULV&HUI  6& 
27

. 


308

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

exactly as with the Trinity, rational creatures share in one and the same nature, but
each of them has its own individual substance or hypostasis.28 Rational creatures
individual substances are all distinct from one another, but they all share in the same
QDWXUH7KLVSDUDOOHOEHWZHHQKXPDQLW\ RUDOOUDWLRQDOFUHDWXUHV DQGWKH7ULQLW\RQ
this scorei.e., each individual of each of these two natures has its own hypostasis
or individual substance, but all individuals within the same nature share in one and
the same essenceis the basis of Gregory of Nyssas so-called social analogy,
which I deem inspired by Origens present conception.29 This is hardly surprising
if Gregory drew inspiration from Origen for his core Trinitarian conception of
7KHLQGLYLGXDOLW\RIWKHVXEVWDQFHRIHDFK rational
FUHDWXUHDQGLQWKHVSHFLFFDVHRIKXPDQEHLQJVRIHDFKVRXOLVHPSKDVL]HG
in Sel. Ezech. PG 13.817.21: Each soul has its own individual substance, which
consists in its own rationale, and not a different one.30)RU2ULJHQWKLVLVWUXHERWK
of each soul and of each Person of the Trinity.
Origens idea that all human beings, and even all rational creatures, each one
KDYLQJLWVRZQQHYHUWKHOHVVVKDUHLQRQHDQGWKHVDPHQDWXUHRUHVVHQFH
ZDVDUJXDEO\IRUPHGDQGVWUHQJWKHQHGDJDLQVWWKHEDFNGURSRIKLVDQWL
Valentinian polemic. Whereas the Valentinians divided humanity into three different
QDWXUHV  LHPDWHULDODQLPDODQGVSLULWXDOZKLFKDOVRLPSOLHG
different behaviors and different eschatological destiniesOrigen insisted that all
KXPDQVDQGDOOUDWLRQDOFUHDWXUHVKDYHWKHVDPHDQGWKDWWKHLUEHKDYLRUV
and eschatological destinies depend on each ones free will. Both the Valentinian
GLYLVLRQRIKXPDQLW\LQWRGLIIHUHQWDQG2ULJHQVWUHDWPHQWRIDJDLQVW
this conception are evident in Heracleons fragments and Origens criticism of his
work.31 7KHVDPHDQGIRUDOOWKHVRXOVLVDOVRDVVHUWHGLQDIUDJPHQW
preserved by Pamphilus (Apol.IURP2ULJHQVORVWFRPPHQWDU\RQ7LPRWK\ 
28
0           
(= Philoc. 
29
On the so-called social analogy between humanity and the Trinity, see Giulio Maspero, Trinity
and Man: Gregory of Nyssas Ad Ablabium /HLGHQ%ULOO ; I fully agree with him and with Sarah
Coakley that the social analogy of the Trinity (which implies the application of the technical notions of
DQGERWKWRWKH7ULQLW\DQGWRKXPDQLW\ VKRXOGQRWJLYHULVHWRSV\FKRORJL]LQJUHDGLQJV
of the intra-Trinitarian relationships, and at the same time with Maspero that the social analogy should not
be interpreted as one among the many analogies used by Gregory as a metaphor and mere rhetorical device.
30
31

 

,QIUIURP2ULJHQComm. Jo. 13.25, Heracleon asserts that the pneumatics have the same
QDWXUHDV*RGWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6SLULWDQGDUH
2ULJHQ UHSOLHV WKDW LI WKH SQHXPDWLF QDWXUH LV  ZLWK *RG DQG \HW FRPPLWV DGXOWHU\
(since the Samaritan woman is an adulteress but is taken by Heracleon as a representative of the
SQHXPDWLFQDWXUH WKHQWKHQDWXUHRI*RGFDQFRPPLWDGXOWHU\ZKLFKLVEODVSKHPRXV)RU2ULJHQ
RQO\WKH3HUVRQVRI*RGDUHZLWKRQHDQRWKHUDQGOLNHZLVHDOOKXPDQEHLQJVDUH
ZLWKRQHDQRWKHU7KLVLVZK\LQIUIURPComm. Jo. 20.18, Origen corrects Heracleon in quoting Jesuss
ZRUGVQRW\RXEHORQJWRWKHQDWXUH>@RIWKHGHYLOEXW\RXUIDWKHU>@LVWKH
GHYLO,PPHGLDWHO\DIWHUZDUGV2ULJHQUHIXVHVWRGHQHVRPHKXPDQEHLQJVZLWKWKHGHYLO
HQGRZHGZLWKDGLIIHUHQWWKDQWKDWRIWKHSV\FKLFVDQGWKHSQHXPDWLFV

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

309

in the framework of an anti-Valentinian argument, which, as usual, shows Origens


concern for theodicy: non omnes humanas animas unius eiusdemque dicunt esse
substantiae sed diuersas naturas animarum, inter eas haereses numerandi sunt quae
iniquitatem in Excelso loquuntur ac iniustitiam inaequalitatemque eius accusant.
7KXV2ULJHQVGLVWLQFWFRQFHSWLRQRIDVRSSRVHGWRHPHUJHV
manifestly both in his Trinitarian discourse and in his discourse on the rational
beings, or logika: both the divine nature and the rational nature are divided into a
PXOWLSOLFLW\ UHVSHFWLYHO\WKUHHRUPDQ\ RILQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHVRU

Q7KH/DFNRID7HFKQLFDO7KHRORJLFDO0HDQLQJIRULQ
WKH:ULWLQJVRI7KHRORJLDQV3ULRUWR2ULJHQ DQG*UHJRU\RI1\VVD
2ULJHQDV,KDYHMXVWVKRZQGLVWLQJXLVKHGDQGFOHDUO\ZKHQ
speaking of the Trinity, thereby creating a technical terminology. In this, as I am
going to argue next, he differs from earlier theologiansand from Athanasius and
HYHQWKH)DWKHUVZKRLVVXHGWKH1LFHQHFDQRQVZKRXVHGWKHWZRWHUPVUDWKHU
interchangeably; this interchangeable use went on as far as the Cappadocians
mature thought. An eloquent example of such interchangeability from Clement
is Strom. 5.1.3.2; another from Irenaeus is Haer. 1.8.16.32,Q,UHQDHXV
usually means substance in general, that of a whole category.33 Unlike Origen,
,UHQDHXV QHYHU XVHV  LQ WKH VHQVH RI LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFH ,Q
$WKHQDJRUDVDFRPELQHGH[SUHVVLRQLVHYHQIRXQG
(Leg 1HLWKHUGRHV7DWLDQVHHPWRKDYHDQ\GLVWLQFWLYHXVDJHRI
as individual substance. He employs this term in the sense of substance or
foundation. God is the foundation and principle of all that came into existence (Or.
 35 in Or. 6.2 Tatian is speaking of the resurrection, when the bodys substance
YLVLEOHRQO\WR*RGDIWHURQHVSK\VLFDOGHDWKZLOOEHUHVWRUHGWRLWV
RULJLQDOVWDWH,QVHHPVWRGHVLJQDWHWKHFDWHJRU\RIWKHGHPRQV36
But even after Origen, and before Gregory of Nyssa and the late phase of the
&DSSDGRFLDQV WKH WHFKQLFDO GLVWLQFWLRQ EHWZHHQ  DQG  LQ WKH
7ULQLWDULDQHOGIDLOHGWREHSHUFHLYHGE\PDQ\$WKDQDVLXVSURYLGHVDQLQWHUHVWLQJ
example in a remarkable quotation from Origen in Decr. . While Origens own
text in this quotation displays the above-mentioned distinction, Athanasiuss words,

32
Clement:              ,UHQDHXV  
.
33
Haer.           
LELGHP
VHHDOVR


See, e.g., Or. ad Gr. 

35

$

36



310

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

ZKLFKSDUDSKUDVH2ULJHQVWH[WHQWLUHO\RYHUORRNVWKDWGLVWLQFWLRQVLQFH
LVHPSOR\HGE\KLPLQWKHVHQVHRI
5HJDUGLQJ WKH HWHUQDO FRH[LVWHQFH RI WKH /RJRV ZLWK WKH )DWKHU DQG LWV QRW
KDYLQJDGLIIHUHQWHVVHQFHRUVXEVWDQFH>@
EXW LWV EHLQJ WKH )DWKHUV RZQ RIIVSULQJ    \RX FDQ KHDU DJDLQ DOVR IURP
Origen the hardworker: If he is the image of the invisible God, he is an
LQYLVLEOHLPDJH,ZRXOGHYHQGDUHDGGWKDWEHLQJDOVRVLPLODUWRWKH)DWKHU
WKHUHLVQRWLPHZKHQKHGLGQRWH[LVW)RUZKHQLVLWWKDW*RGGLGQRWKDYH
the effulgence of his own glory, so that someone would dare posit a beginning of the Son, while he did not exist before? When is it that the image and
impression of the ineffable and inexpressible substance>@RIWKH
)DWKHUWKH/RJRVZKRNQRZVWKH)DWKHUGLGQRWH[LVW"7KHSHUVRQZKRGDUHV
say, There was a time when the Son did not exist, should consider that she
RUKHZLOODOVRDIUP2QFHXSRQDWLPH:LVGRPGLGQRWH[LVWWKH/RJRV
did not exist, Life did not exist.

$WKDQDVLXVTXRWHV2ULJHQYHUEDWLPDQGLQ2ULJHQVRZQZRUGV 
    PHDQV LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFH IRU LW LV RQO\
WKH )DWKHU ZKR LV LQHIIDEOH DQG LPSRVVLEOH WR QDPH QRW WKH 6RQ ZKR UHYHDOV WKH
)DWKHU2QWKHFRQWUDU\ZKHQLQWKHLQWURGXFWLRQ$WKDQDVLXVVD\VLQKLVRZQZRUGV
KHXVHVLQWKHVHQVHRIVXEVWDQFHEXWQRWRI
individual substance, which Origen distinguished for the three Persons of the
7ULQLW\,Q$WKDQDVLXVVRZQZRUGVDQGDUHV\QRQ\PV,QGHHG
KHPHDQVWKDWWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQKDYHWKHVDPHVXEVWDQFHDQGQRWWKHVDPH
individual substance. Athanasius uses the two terms interchangeably in his Tomus
ad Antiochenos as well.377KH VDPH LQGLVWLQFWLYH XVH RI  DQG 
different from Origens tech-nical distinction, is found in the earliest Nicene document,
Eusebiuss Letter to his own Church, preserved by Socrates Hist. Eccl. 1.8 and quoted by
Athanasius himself (Decr.  38,Q(XVHELXVTXRWHVWKHUVWFUHGDOIRUPXODSURSRVHG
E\WKHELVKRSV7KHQKHH[SODLQV&RQVWDQWLQHLQWURGXFHG  7KXV
Eusebius quotes the second Creed issued by the bishops and the emperor, which, in
the passage concerning the Son, explains that he was generated from the very essence
RUQDWXUHRIWKH)DWKHUDQGLVRIWKHVDPHQDWXUHDVWKH)DWKHU39 Then, anathemas are
appended against those who claimed that there was a time when the Son did not exist,
that before being begotten, the Son did not exist, that he came into being from nonEHLQJDVDFUHDWXUH  DQGPRVWLQWHUHVWLQJO\IRUWKHSUHVHQWDUJXPHQWWKDW
the Son is of a different hypostasis or ousiaIURPWKH)DWKHU 
+HUHGRHVQRWLQGLFDWHWKHLQGLYLGXDOLW\RIWKH)DWKHURUWKH6RQ
EXWWKHVXEVWDQFHRUHVVHQFHRIDOOWKH7ULQLW\WKHPHDQLQJEHLQJWKDWWKH)DWKHU
DQGWKH6RQKDYHWKHYHU\VDPHVXEVWDQFHDQGLVDV\QRQ\PRI7KXVKHUHMXVW
37
This is rightly noted by Thomas Karmann, Meletius von Antiochien. Studien zur Geschichte
des Trinittstheologischen Streits in den Jahren 360364 n.Chr. )UDQNIXUWD0/DQJ 
38

Athanasius Decr. 33; Socrates Hist. Eccl. 1.8; Theodoret Hist. Eccl.2SLW]

39



ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

311

as in Athanasiuss words and in Basils earlier usage,DQGDUH


treated as synonyms, differently from what happens in Origens works.

QLack of Acknowledgment of Origens Innovation and of


,QYHVWLJDWLRQLQWR,WV6RXUFH V
Against the backdrop of the analysis conducted so far, the terminological and
FRQFHSWXDOVSHFLFLW\RI2ULJHQVWDQGVRXWDOOWKHPRUHFOHDUO\7KLVVSHFLFLW\DQG
LWVLPSRUWDUHGXHWRWKHIDFWWKDW2ULJHQUVWLQWURGXFHGWKHXVHRIDV
individual substance into Christian Trinitarian terminology. This is a remarkable
innovation that laid the foundations of a consistent Trinitarian doctrine, and indeed
proves fundamental in light of its Wirkungsgeschichte UHFHSWLRQKLVWRU\ HVSHFLDOO\
in that it was inherited by Gregory of Nyssa and the orthodox Constantinopolitan
formulation. But scholars have often failed to realize this innovation and, what
is more, have left its intellectual background and roots in darkness. Even Jrgen
Hammerstaedts foundational study does not pay to Origen and his sources of
inspiration the attention they deserve. Nor do many scholars who have studied
the development of the hypostasis doctrine in later Christianity acknowledge the
writings of Origen and his sources of inspirationeither in the past century or in

See Stephen Hildebrand, The Trinitarian Theology of Basil of Caesarea (Washington: Catholic
8QLYHUVLW\ RI$PHULFD 3UHVV   7KH UVW SKDVH RI %DVLOV 7ULQLWDULDQ WKHRORJ\   LV
DQDO\]HGLQFK)DWKHUDQG6RQDUHQRWDQGLVVWLOOXVHGDV
DV\QRQ\PRI7RZDUGWKHHQGRIWKHV FK %DVLOXVHGDQGGLVWLQJXLVKHG
DQG. See also Stead, Divine Substance; Heinrich Drrie, Hypostasis. Wort- und
Bedeutungsgeschichte, NAWG     LGHP Platonica Minora 0XQLFK )LQN  
5HLQKDUG+EQHU%DVLOLXVYRQ&DHVDUHDXQGGDV+RPRRXVLRVLQChristian Faith and Greek
Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Essays in Tribute to George Christopher Stead (ed. Lionel Wickham
DQG &DUROLQH %DPPHO /HLGHQ %ULOO    9RONHU + 'UHFROO Die Entwicklung
der Trinittslehre des Basilius von Csarea *|WWLQJHQ9DQGHQKRHFN 5XSUHFKW /XFLDQ
Turcescu, Prosopon and Hypostasis in Basil of Caesareas Against Eunomius and the Epistles,
VC  -RVHSK7/LHQKDUGOusia and Hypostasis: The Cappadocian Settlement and
the Theology of One Hypostasis, in The Trinity (ed. Stephen Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald
2&ROOLQV2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV /HZLV$\UHVNicaea and Its Legacy
2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV RQWKHGHYHORSPHQWRI%DVLOV7ULQLWDULDQWKHRORJ\
and terminology. On the homoiousian doctrine I limit myself to referring to Winrich Lhr, Die
Entstehung der homischen und homusianischen Kirchenparteien %RQQ:HKOH LGHP$
Sense of Tradition: The Homoioousian Church Party, in Arianism after Arius (ed. Michael Barnes
DQG'DQLHO:LOOLDPV(GLQEXUJK7 7&ODUN 

Jrgen Hammerstaedt, Hypostase, RAC; see also Rex Witt, Hypostasis, in
Amicitiae Corolla HG+*:RRG/RQGRQ8QLYHUVLW\RI/RQGRQ3UHVV 

6HH)UDQ](UGLQDas Wort Hypostasis. Seine bedeutungsgeschichtliche Entwicklung in der
altchristlichen Literatur bis zum Abschluss der trinitarischen Auseinandersetzungen )UHLEXUJ
+HUGHU 6HYHULQR*RQ]iOH]La formulaen san Gregorio de
Nisa 5RPH*UHJRULDQD /RXLVH$EUDPRZVNL7ULQLWDULVFKHXQGFKULVWRORJLVFKH+\SRVWDVHQ
TP  3DWULFN*UD\7KHRGRUHWRQWKH2QH+\SRVWDVLV$Q$QWLRFKHQHUHDGLQJ
of Chalcedon, in Studia Patristica 15 HG (OL]DEHWK$ /LYLQJVWRQH %HUOLQ$NDGHPLH  
 -RVHSK 7 /LHQKDUG 7KH $ULDQ &RQWURYHUV\ 6RPH &DWHJRULHV 5HFRQVLGHUHG TS 
 -HDQ*DORW8QHVHXOHSHUVRQQHXQHVHXOHK\SRVWDVHRULJLQHHWVHQVGHODIRUPXOH

312

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

the latest years. The same is true also in connection with the Trinitarian concept
RI HVVHQFHVXEVWDQFH  &KULVWRSKHU %HHOH\ WDNHV D SDUWLFXODU SRVLWLRQ
UHJDUGLQJWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQDQGRLQWKH7ULQLW\DFFRUGLQJ
WR*UHJRU\1D]LDQ]HQ$JDLQVWDEDFNGURSRIFDXVDOLW\DQGPRQDUFK\RIWKH)DWKHU
GLYLQHXQLW\LVORFDWHGLQWKHPRQDUFK\RIWKH)DWKHUE\ZKLFKWKH)DWKHUIXOO\
shares his being with the Son and the Spirit. As noted by Christophe Erismann,
-RKQRI'DPDVFXVSRVLWHGDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHDQGDVWKH
essence of all members of a species. I observe this is Origens use; John inherited
it via the Cappadocians and Maximus the Confessor.
7RP\NQRZOHGJHRQO\$ODVWDLU/RJDQKDVDWWHPSWHGWRH[SODLQEULH\ZKDW
might have inspired Origen on this score, and has hypothesized that gnostics,
de Chalcdoine, Greg     /XFLDQ7XUFHVFX Prosopon and hypostasis, VC 51
   +DQV *HRUJ 7KPPHO /RJRV DQG +\SRVWDVLV LQ Festschrift U. Wickert, Die
Weltlichkeit des Glaubens in der Alten Kirche HG'LHWPDU:\UZDHWDO%HUOLQGH*UX\WHU 
'DYLG*5REHUWVRQ6WRLFDQG$ULVWRWHOLDQQRWLRQVRIVXEVWDQFHLQ%DVLORI&DHVDUHD
VC  

-HDQ1RsO *XLQRW 'H TXHOTXHV UpH[LRQV GH 7KpRGRUHW GH &\U VXU OHV QRWLRQV Gousia et
dhypostasis, in Munera amicitiae (ed. Rossana Barcellona and Teresa Sardella; Soveria Mannelli:
5XEEHWWLQR 3HWHU*HPHLQKDUGW$SROOLQDULVRI/DRGLFHDZAC  .HYLQ
Corrigan, Ousia and HypostasisLQWKH7ULQLWDULDQ7KHRORJ\RIWKH&DSSDGRFLDQ)DWKHUVZAC   
DQG+ROJHU6WUXWZROI+\SRVWDVHXQG2XVLDLQ&RQWUD(XQRPLXPGHV%DVLOLXVLQVon Homer
bis Landino HG%HDWH5HJLQD6XFKOD%HUOLQ3UR%XVLQHVV 

Christopher Beeley, Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God (Oxford:
2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV 

Christophe Erismann, A World of Hypostases: John of Damascus Rethinking of Aristotles
Categorical Ontology, StPatr  

The often puzzling complexity of this category is underlined by Karen King in What Is Gnosticism?
&DPEULGJH0DVV+DUYDUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV ZLWKP\UHYLHZLQInvigilata Lucernis  
,ODULD5DPHOOL*QRVWLFLVPRNuovo Dizionario Patristico e di Antichit Cristiane
=ODWNR3OHHREMHFWVWRDWRWDOGHFRQVWUXFWLRQRIWKHJQRVWLFFDWHJRU\ *QRVWLF/LWHUDWXUHLQReligise
Philosophie und philosophische Religion der frhen Kaiserzeit [ed. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold et
DO7ELQJHQ0RKU@ +DQV):HLVVVWXGLHVWKHUHFHSWLRQRIWKH1HZ7HVWDPHQWLQ
Gnosticism and accepts this category (Frhes Christentum und Gnosis [Tbingen: Mohr, 2010].
Ismo Dundenberg builds upon Williamss and Kings arguments and regards the term gnostic as
misleading in particular for Valentinianism, on which he focuses (Beyond Gnosticism [New York:
&ROXPELD 8QLYHUVLW\ 3UHVV @  +H VHHV WKH VFKRRO RI 9DOHQWLQXV OLNH WKRVH RI %DVLOLGHV DQG
Justin, as a philosophical school. Likewise, Philip L. Tite denies the accuracy of umbrella terms such
as Gnosticism and even Valentinianism (Valentinian Ethics and Paraenetic Discourse: Determining
the Social Function of Moral Exhortation in Valentinian Christianity>/HLGHQ%ULOO@ 2QWKH
other hand, Weiss regards Gnosticism as a religion of its own, consistent in itself, and opposed to
Christianity as a different religion (Frhes Christentum   LW XVHG WKH 1HZ 7HVWDPHQW RQO\ LQ
RUGHUWRFRQUPLWVRZQQRQ&KULVWLDQLGHDV DQGpassim $QRSSRVLWHYLHZLVKHOGE\
Barbara Aland, ZKRWKLQNVWKDW*QRVWLFLVP *QRVLVLQKHUWHUPLQRORJ\ LVD&KULVWLDQSKHQRPHQRQ
relatively unitary, and unthinkable outside Christianity (Was ist Gnosis? >7ELQJHQ 0RKU @ 
In Lester Grabbe, Gnosticism is described as a kind of inverted Judaism (An Introduction to Second
Temple Judaism >1HZ<RUN7 7 &ODUNH @ HVS   'DYLG %UDNNH EHVLGHV SURYLGLQJ D
useful history of scholarship on Gnosticism, adopts a middle position between the rejection of this
category altogether and its uncritical use; this category must be either abandoned or reformed (The
Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

313

especially Valentinians,UVWPLJKWKDYHXVHGWKLVWHUPLQRORJ\LQWKHLU3ODWRQLF
exegesis.
7KLVLVXQFHUWDLQKRZHYHU)LUVWRIDOOOHWPHSRLQWWRComm. Jo.
in which, as I have shown, Origen criticizes adversaries who deny that the
6RQKDVDQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH GLIIHUHQWIURPWKDWRIWKH)DWKHU
If these adversaries were Valentinians, as is likely, this would suggest that
there is more of an opposition than of a continuity between Origens notion
RIDQLQGLYLGXDOIRUHDFK3HUVRQRIWKH7ULQLW\DQGWKH9DOHQWLQLDQ
conception. Moreover, I have already observed that Origens technical use of
WRGHVLJQDWHDQDWXUHWKDWLVRQHDQGWKHVDPHIRUDOO3HUVRQVRIWKH7ULQLW\
and on the other hand one and the same for all rational creatures (whereas each
GLYLQH3HUVRQDQGHDFKUDWLRQDOFUHDWXUHKDVDQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQ 
developed in the context of his debate against Valentinianism, which divided
KXPDQLW\LQWRWKUHHGLIIHUHQWQDWXUHVRU7KXVLWLVXQOLNHO\WKDWWKHUHZDV
D9DOHQWLQLDQQRWLRQRIRQHDQGPRUHIRUWKHGLYLQHQDWXUH
just as for the human nature. Also, there is no evidence of a gnostic technical use
RIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH Marcellus of Ancyra may suggest this
in a passage edited by Logan,50 but he uses the vocabulary of his post-Nicene
times, and we cannot be sure that Valentinus used it. Marcellus is criticizing the
3UHVV @   EXW ,UHQDHXV XVHG LW WDNLQJ WKH GHVLJQDWLRQ  IURP WKH 6HWKLDQV ZKR
%UDNNHDUJXHVUVWDSSOLHGLWWRWKHPVHOYHV0DUN-(GZDUGVWRRFRQVLGHUVWKHWHUPJQRVWLFQRW
heresiological, but used by some gnostics whom exponents of the Great Church deemed falsely so
called (Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church>%XUOLQJWRQ9W$VKJDWH@ +XJR
Lundhaug avoids the Gnosticismcategory for the Gospel of Philip and the Exegesis on the Soul
(Images of Rebirth>/HLGHQ%ULOO@ DQG%LUJHU3HDUVRQNHHSVWKHODEHOJQRVWLFHVSHFLDOO\IRU
the Sethians (Ancient Gnosticism>0LQQHDSROLV)RUWUHVV@ 6HHDOVRP\$SRNDWDVWDVLVLQ&RSWLF
Gnostic Texts from Nag Hammadi and Clements and Origens Apokatastasis: Toward an Assessment
of the Origin of the Doctrine of Universal Restoration, Journal of Coptic Studies   

I put the term in quotation marks. Within Valentinianism itself, different trends can be noticed,
as well as common features. See only Christoph Markschies, Valentinus Gnosticus? Untersuchungen
zur valentinianischen Gnosis mit einem Kommentar zu den Fragmenten Valentinus (Tbingen: Mohr,
 LGHP9DOHQWLQLDQ*QRVWLFLVP7RZDUGWKH$QDWRP\RID6FKRROLQThe Nag Hammadi
Library after Fifty Years HG -RKQ ' 7XUQHU DQG$QQH 0F*XLUH /HLGHQ %ULOO   
Einar Thomassen, who rightly remarks on the term Valentinian as heresiological (The Spiritual
Seed: The Church of the Valentinians >/HLGHQ%ULOO@ ,VPR'XQGHQEHUJ7KH6FKRRORI
Valentinus, in A Companion to Second-Century Christian Heretics (ed. Antti Marjanen and
3HWUL /XRPDQHQ /HLGHQ %ULOO    LGHP Beyond Gnosticism. On the distinction of a
Western and an Eastern Valentinianism (Hippolytus, Haer. 6.35; Tertullian Carn. Chr. VHH-RHO
Kalvesmaki, Italian versus Eastern Valentinianism?, VC  DQGP\Bardaisan of
Edessa 3LVFDWDZD\1-*RUJLDV .

Origen and the Development of Trinitarian Theology, in Origeniana IV (ed. Lothar Lies;
,QQVEUXFN7\UROLD HVS

Logan is, however, right in seeing Origens usage as anti-Monarchian. On Origens antiMonarchianism, see above and Antonio Orbe, Orgenes y los monarquianos, Greg  
50

$ODVWDLU /RJDQ 0DUFHOOXV RI $QF\UD 3VHXGR$QWKLPXV  2Q WKH +RO\ &KXUFK 7H[W
7UDQVODWLRQDQG&RPPHQWDU\9HUVHVJTS  DW

314

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

$ULDQVIRUWKHLUGRFWULQHRIWKUHH7KLVLVRIFRXUVHWKHGRFWULQHWKDW
was eventually accepted by the church as orthodox, but Marcellus deemed it
KHUHWLFDODQGSUHIHUUHGWRDGKHUHWRZKDWKDVEHHQGHQHGDVDPRQRSURVRSLF
view; in fact it was a monohypostatic view. In the passage under examination,
Marcellus assimilates the Arians heretical doctrine to Valentinuss heretical
GRFWULQHWKH$ULDQVWHDFKWKUHHK\SRVWDVHV>@MXVWDV9DOHQWLQXVWKH
KHUHVLDUFKUVWLQYHQWHGLQWKHERRNHQWLWOHGE\KLPOn the Three Natures >@
)RUKHZDVWKHUVWWRLQYHQWWKUHHK\SRVWDVHV>@DQGWKUHH3HUVRQV
>@RIWKH)DWKHU6RQDQG+RO\6SLULWDQGKHLVGLVFRYHUHGWRKDYHOFKHG
WKLVIURP+HUPHVDQG3ODWR0DUFHOOXVXVHVDQGZKLOH
the only thing that he literally quotes from Valentinus is the title of his book, On
the Three Natures7KLVLQIDFWUHIHUUHGWRWKHWKUHHQDWXUHV RU 
RIKXPDQEHLQJVWKHRUL]HGE\9DOHQWLQXVDQG
and rejected by Origen. Marcellus, who ascribes to Valentinus the idea of three
divine hypostases, which he himself rejects, states that Valentinus took it from Plato
DQG+HUPHWLFLVP5HPDUNDEO\WKHDVVRFLDWLRQRIDQGLV
QRWIRXQGHLWKHULQ*QRVWLFLVPRULQ2ULJHQLWOLNHO\UHHFWV0DUFHOOXVVRZQ
fourth-century terminology.
Indeed, Origen never XVHG  DV D V\QRQ\P RI  LQ LWV
Trinitarian meaning to designate a Person of the Trinity (whereas this usage is found
LQ+LSSRO\WXVURXJKO\DWWKHVDPHWLPH 51 In its many occurrences in his writings,
HYHQZKHQLWUHIHUVWR*RG&KULVWRUWKH6SLULWPHDQVHLWKHUIDFH
sight/presence,52 or character in a rhetorical-literary sense (the character who is
51

Haer.1DXWLQ
In Cels. LWLVWKHIDFHRI*RGDFFRUGLQJWRWKH*RVSHOH[SUHVVLRQ
 WKHVDPH
scriptural reference is in Cels. Or. 11.5; 28.3; Hom. Luc. 35 p. 198; Comm. Matt. 13.28; Exp.
Prov.3*Sel. Ps. 3*VHHDOVR2WKHUH[DPSOHVLQWKHVHQVH
of face or presence of God or Christ, often based on scriptural echoes, are found in Cels. 6.5:
Comm. Jo. 

             
 Or. 9.2; Hom. Jer. 5.9 and 6.1; Sel. Ps.  
Philoc. 
Princ.  VHH
also Or.Schol. Apoc. 21; Hom. Jer.  Or.

 OLNHZLVHLQFr. Lam. 112; Sel. Ps.  Hom. LucS
 OLNHZLVHLQFr. Luc.D Philoc. 15.19:
      Hom. Jer.    
        Comm. Matt.  
 
OLNHZLVHLQFr. I CorSel. Ps.3*
            
          

52

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

315

VSHDNLQJLQDVFHQH 53 In Sel. Ps. 3*2ULJHQPHDQVWKDWWKH6RQLVWKH


IDFH>@RIWKH)DWKHUDVDQLPSUHVVLRQRIKLVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
DQGQRWWKH3HUVRQRIWKH)DWKHU+HLVWKH)DWKHUVIDFHLQWKDWKHLVWKHLPDJH
RIWKH)DWKHUVVXEVWDQFH +HEVHHEHORZ DQGWKXVUHYHDOVWKH)DWKHU55 The
6RQUHYHDOVWKH)DWKHUV3HUVRQEXWLVQRWWKDW3HUVRQLQ2ULJHQnever
means Person of the Trinity, at least never directly,56XQOLNHZKLFK
designates each Persons individual substance.
Moreover, Marcellus had a somewhat polemically motivated view of Origens
Trinitarian thought, as is proved by his deeming Origens early works a basis for
$ULDQLVPHVSHFLDOO\IRUKLVLGHDWKDWWKH6RQLVEHJRWWHQE\WKH)DWKHUVZLOODV
            


OLNHZLVHDQG

            

53
Cels. Philoc.
 2ULJHQPHDQVWKDWWKHVSHDNLQJYRLFHLVWKDWRI&KULVWOLNHZLVHCels. 
 OLNHZLVHDQG
7.20; Comm. Jo. 
OLNHZLVH Engastr.UHIHUVWRWKHVSHDNLQJFKDUDFWHUWKDWLV
WKH6SLULW
Philoc. Hom
JerComm. Matt. 

Ep. Greg. 
  Sel. Ps. 3*        OLNHZLVH

           
OLNHZLVH
Fr. Act.3*
Comm. Jo. 
Philoc.
;
;




55

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56
$V , KDYH VKRZQ 2ULJHQ UHIHUV WR WKH 6RQ RU WKH 6SLULW ZLWK  LQ WKH VHQVH RI
a character speaking in a scene, which is different from designating their individual substance.
According to Marie-Josphe Rondeau, however, even this designation of the Son or the Spirit as a
RUFKDUDFWHUVSHDNLQJLQDVFHQHHYHQWXDOO\FRQWULEXWHGWRWKHGHYHORSPHQWRIWKHLGHD
of the Trinity as composed of three Persons (Les commentaires patristiques du Psautier (IIIeVe
sicles), II: Exgse prosopologique et thologie >5RPH3RQWLFLR,VWLWXWR2ULHQWDOH@ 6KH
HVSHFLDOO\IRFXVHVRQWKHH[SUHVVLRQLQVLWXDWLRQVLQZKLFKWKH3VDOPLVWLVVDLGWR
speak from the mouth or the character of Christ. On Origens prosopological exegesis, see
Andrea Villani, Origenes als Schriftsteller, Adamantius   

316

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

a second hypostasis.57 On the basis of all the observations adduced so far, therefore,
Marcellus cannot be considered a reliable source on Origens Trinitarian doctrine,
its sources, and its aftermath. His assertion that it derives from Valentinianism
is at best suspect.

Q7KH6RXUFHVRI2ULJHQV1RWLRQRI7KH
Philosophical Side
If the terminological and conceptual innovation of Origen in his notion of
GRHVQRWGHULYHIURP9DOHQWLQLDQLVPDQGJLYHQWKDWQRRWKHUVXJJHVWLRQV
seem to have been offered by scholarship so far, it is necessary to direct the present
investigation elsewhere. On the basis of a systematic and complete examination of
WKHXVHDQGPHDQLQJVRIWKHWHUPLQDXWKRUVDQWHULRUWRRUFRQWHPSRUDU\
with Origen, a Christian Platonist,58 I deem it very probable that Origens Trinitarian
FRQFHSW RI  DV LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFH RI HDFK 3HUVRQ GHULYHV IURP
*UHHNSKLORVRSK\ EHVLGHVWKH%LEOHRQZKLFKVHHEHORZ DQGLQSDUWLFXODUIURP
SKLORVRSKHUVRIWKHUVWDQGVHFRQGFHQWXU\ C.E.
Indeed, a methodical analysis, based on all extant linguistic evidence from the
EHJLQQLQJRI*UHHNOLWHUDWXUHWR2ULJHQVWLPH UVWKDOIRIWKHWKLUGFHQWXU\C.E. 
proves extremely fruitful. I shall not take into consideration here several meanings
RIWKDWDUHZHOODWWHVWHGERWKLQFODVVLFDODQGLQ-XGDLFDQG&KULVWLDQ
literature, but have only little to do with philosophical and theological concepts,
such as basement, foundation of a building;59 sediment or even excrement or
abscess;60 a kind of cloud (Diodorus Siculus, Bibl. hist. WKHDFWRIUHVLVWLQJRU
settling down (Aristotle, Mete. EOLQH RIVXSSRUWLQJ61 or of lying in ambush
(Sophocles, fr.  $OVRPHDQVRQHVZHDOWKRUSURSHUW\HVSHFLDOO\LQ
the LXX62DQGLQSDS\UL 32[\ ZKHUHLWDOVRPHDQVDGRFXPHQWDWWHVWLQJ
SURSHUW\ 32[\ YLLL  2WKHU PHDQLQJV DUH WRSLF VXEMHFW RI D OLWHUDU\
work, speech, etc.;63 plan, intention (Diodorus Siculus, Bibl. hist. 1.3, 1.28, 15.70,
 FRXUDJH 3RO\ELXVHist.  RUKRSH (]HN5XWK
57
The source of Marcelluss accusation that Origen began to study Christian texts only after he had
become expert in Greek philosophy may be Porphyry (ap. Eus. Hist. Eccl. DFFRUGLQJWR$ODVWDLU
Logan, Marcellus of Ancyra on Origen and Arianism, in Origeniana VII
58
As I have proposed in Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism, VC  
DQGZLWKIXUWKHUDUJXPHQWVLQ2ULJHQWKH&KULVWLDQ0LGGOH1HRSODWRQLVWJECH  
98-130, Origen could even have been the homonymous Neoplatonist mentioned by Porphyry in his
Vita Plotini and by subsequent Neoplatonists. This does not affect the present argument.
59

Diodorus Siculus, Bibl. hist. 1.66; 13.82; Philo, Belopoeia

60

E.g., Hippocrates, De arteSteril.  Coac.Aph.HWF$ULVWRWOHMete. 358a line


EOLQHEOLQH Hist. an. 551b line 29; Part. an.EOLQHDOLQH Theophrastus,
Hist. plant. 9.8.3; Galen, 6.252.
61
Hippocrates, De arte 55; Aristotle, Part. an. DOLQH3V>@>LXX].
62
'HXW-HU
63

Polybius, Hist. 'LRGRUXV6LFXOXVBibl. hist. 1.3.

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

317

1:12 [LXX] 0RUHRYHULWZDVDWHFKQLFDOWHUPLQ*UHHNDVWURORJ\DQGUKHWRULFLQ


the latter indicating the full expression of a concept (Hermogenes, De ideis 
But let me turn now to the philosophical side. The primary meaning of
DWWHVWHGLQSKLORVRSK\LVVXEVWDQFHZKLFKFDQEHXVHGLQDJHQHULF
RUDYHU\VSHFLFZD\7KLVPHDQLQJFDQDOVRDSSO\WRPDWHULDOVXEVWDQFHVVXFK
as a dry substance (Aristotle, Gen. an.DOLQH 
or wood (Theophrastus, Caus. plant. RUDQ\RWKHUVXEVWDQFH One of the
EHVWDWWHVWHGPHDQLQJVRILVVXEVWDQFHDVH[LVWHQFHHYHQUHDOLW\
especially as opposed to appearance or mental abstraction. This is a relatively
generic meaning and occurs very often from Hellenistic philosophy to Origens
WLPH VRPHWLPHVDV,KDYHVKRZQWKLVVHQVHLVXVHGDOVRE\2ULJHQKLPVHOI 65
Notably, this is also the meaning attested for Gnosticism in the title of one of the
PRVWIDPRXVWUHDWLVHVIURPWKH1DJ+DPPDGLOLEUDU\ 1+& WKHHypostasis
of the Archons, in which hypostasis (originally the Greek term, transliterated into
&RSWLF GRHVQRWPHDQLQGLYLGXDOH[LVWHQFHDVLQ2ULJHQV7ULQLWDULDQXVDJH
EXW UHDOLW\ DQG RQWRORJLFDO FRQVLVWHQFH DV RSSRVHG WR FWLWLRXVQHVV66
The same meaning in Gnosticism is attested in Clement, Exc. 3.52.2: evil does
not admit of any substance or ontological consistence per se.67 According to
Hippolytus, Haer. %DVLOLGHVPDLQWDLQHGWKDW*RGZKRLVEH\RQGEHLQJ
JDYHVXEVWDQFH WRDVHHGRIWKHFRVPRVEXWKHGLGQRWXVH
in Origens Trinitarian sense. The seed, to which God gave substance, becomes
WKHIRXQGDWLRQRIWKHFRVPRVLWLVLGHQWLHGZLWKWKH6RQVKLSZKLFKLVVDLGWR
KDYHWKHVDPHDVWKH)DWKHU68 Hippolytus is certainly one of the authors
whom Eusebius had in mind when in his aforementioned Letter to his Church he,
PRWLYDWLQJWKHGHFLVLRQRIWKH1LFHQHFRXQFLOREVHUYHGWKDW was


Polybius, Hist. 


%RHWKXVIUYV$ULVWRWOH "  De mundo 395a
OLQHYV3RVLGRQLXVIU7KHLOHUYV
 IU             
IU&ULWRODXVIUIURP Stobaeus, Ecl.
EPlacit.$UWHPLGRUXVOnirocr.
   YV  'LR &KU\VRVWRP Or.     
/XFLDQPar. 27; Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrh. Hyp.0DUFXV$XUHOLXV'LRJHQHV
/DsUWLXV&OHPHQWStrom. 
$OH[DQGHURI$SKURGLVLDVIn Metaph.S
SYVIn De sensu S
YV
65

66
See, e.g., Roger Bullard, The Hypostasis of the Archons, in The Nag Hammadi Library in
English HG-DPHV5RELQVRQ/HLGHQ%ULOO 
67
0

68

 !!
    
!
!!

318

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

already used by some Christian bishops and writers,69 although it is not found in
the Bible. In Irenaeus, Haer. 1.1.1, too, who is reporting gnostic ideas, the meaning
RILVIRXQGDWLRQRIDOOQRWLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH70 The meanings
DWWHVWHGLQ*QRVWLFLVPIRUGRQRWLQFOXGHWKDWRIDQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
and seem to be different from the technical Trinitarian meaning that the term bears
in Origen.
7KHPHDQLQJFRQVWLWXWLRQLVDOVRDWWHVWHGIRUIRULQVWDQFHLQWKH
UVWFHQWXU\B.C.E. by Arius Didymus, Phys. fr. 2, in which both matter and form
DUHGHFODUHGWREHLQGLVSHQVDEOHIRUWKHFRQVWLWXWLRQRIWKHERG\ 
 71,QWKHUVWFHQWXU\C.E.&RUQXWXVDOOHJRUL]HV=HXVDVWKH
cause of the constitution and coming into existence of all realities.72 Likewise, in
the same epoch, Josephus C. Ap. 1.1 attests to the same meaning, by stating that
the Jewish people is very ancient and had an independent origin.73 The same sense
LV WHVWLHG WR LQ WKH VHFRQG FHQWXU\ C.E. by Marcus Aurelius, repeatedly, and
Alcinous.75 In Lucian, Par. 27, the meaning seems to be coherent structure, as is
that of philosophy as opposed to different kinds of rhetoric.76
,Q 1LFRPDFKXVD UVW WR VHFRQGFHQWXU\ C.E. author whom Origen knew
YHU\ ZHOO DV DWWHVWHG E\ 3RUSK\U\ PHDQV ERWK VXEVWDQFH DQG
substratum, foundation: bodily and material realities imitate the nature of the
HWHUQDOPDWHULDOVXEVWDQFHWKDWH[LVWVIURPWKHEHJLQQLQJ>
 @ Intr. ar. +HUHPHDQVPDWHULDO
substance or material substratum and designates the eternal, preexistent principle
of matter. In Exc. Nicom. VHHPVWRPHDQVWUXFWXUHFRQVWLWXWLRQ
LWLVWKUHHIROGLQWKDWLWUHFHLYHVLWVVWUXFWXUH>@IURPWKHVDPH
WKHGLIIHUHQWDQGWKHHVVHQFHDQGVLPLODUO\WRLWVVWUXFWXUH>
69

7

70



71

See also IUYV

72

$ Comp. /DQJVHHDOVR



73

7



Ad seips.RULJLQVWUDQVIRUPDWLRQVDQG
VXFFHVVLRQV\RXUHYLOKDV
KHUHDOOLWVRULJLQ
    WKH FRQFDWHQDWLRQ RI FDXVHV KDV HVWDEOLVKHG IURP DOO HWHUQLW\ ERWK
your birth/origin and these events.
75
Did.  :KHQ LW LV VDLG WKDW WKH FRVPRV LV  WKLV VKRXOG QRW EH LQWHUSUHWHG LQ
the sense that there had been a time when the cosmos did not exist, but the fact that it is always
FRPLQJLQWREHLQJ>@VKRZVWKDWWKHUHLVDSULQFLSDOFDXVHRILWVRULJLQFRQVWLWXWLRQ>
@
76

5KHWRULF DQG SKLORVRSK\ DUH GLIIHUHQW UVW RI DOO LQ UHVSHFW WR WKHLU VWUXFWXUH >
@IRUSKLORVRSK\KDVDVWUXFWXUHWKHYDULRXVNLQGVRIUKHWRULFGRQRW,QGHHGZHGRQRW
conceive rhetoric as one and the same thing, but some deem it an art, others, on the contrary, a nonDUW,FODLPWKDWZKDWKDVQRFRKHUHQWVWUXFWXUH> @LVQRWHYHQDQDUW

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

319

@LWUHFHLYHVDWUHEOHGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQLQWRWKHUDWLRQDOWKHLUUDWLRQDODQG
the physical part. This applies to the soul and its threefold structure. The same is
the case with another second-century Middle Platonist, Alcinous, in whose work
,KDYHDOUHDG\SRLQWHGRXWWKHPHDQLQJRULJLQIRU,QDid. 25.1, the
VRXOLVVDLGWREHDQLQFRUSRUHDOHVVHQFH LPPXWDEOHLQLWVFRQVWLWXWLRQRU
VXEVWDQFH  ,PPXWDELOLW\LVDFRQVWLWXWLYH
FKDUDFWHULVWLFRIWKHVRXO2QWKHFRQWUDU\ZKDWLVQRW  KDVQRVXEVWDQFH
DQGQRH[LVWHQFH  Did. $JDLQ
WKHVDPHPHDQLQJRILQUHODWLRQWRWKHVRXOLVIRXQGLQDQRWKHUVHFRQG
century Middle Platonist, Atticus, whose work survives only in fragments quoted
by Eusebius and Proclus. In fr. 9.10, in turn quoted by Eusebius Praep. ev. 15.9,
he claims that Dicaearchus in his psychology has entirely destroyed the substance
RUWKHVWUXFWXUH RIWKHVRXO  2ULJHQ
likely knew Atticuss work, and I have argued elsewhere that Atticus and Origen
held the same concept of the soul of God the creator.77
1RZDPRQJWKHPHDQLQJVRILQHDUO\LPSHULDOSKLORVRSK\WKHFORVHVW
WR2ULJHQVLQQRYDWLYHDSSOLFDWLRQRIWRHDFK3HUVRQRIWKH7ULQLW\LV
separate, individual existence or separate substance of its own. This meaning
is found in several philosophical authors of the early imperial era whose works
Origen either certainly or probably knew. It is on this usage in these authors that my
UHVHDUFKZLOOQRZIRFXV7KHPHDQLQJLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHIRUZLWK
WKHDGGLWLRQRIWKHDGMHFWLYHLQWHUHVWLQJO\HPHUJHVLQ'HPRFULWXVIUEXW
one cannot be sure that it is not due to the early imperial source of the fragment,
Plutarch:78'HPRFULWXVFDOOHGVRPHWKLQJ>@WKHERG\DQGQRWKLQJ>@
the void, as though the latter, too, had a certain nature and a substance of its own
 ,Q(XGHPXVIUVHHPVWR
assume the meaning of individual substance; it designates each of the three
LQWHOOLJLEOHK\SRVWDVHV  LGHQWLHGZLWK(WKHU
Eros, and Metis. However, the same proviso must be made: one cannot be certain
that this was Eudemuss own wording. A noteworthy fragment from Chrysippus
69) LVUHSRUWHGE\$OH[DQGHURI$SKURGLVLDVLQDe mixtione:79 the soul,
KDYLQJ LWV RZQ VXEVWDQFH > @ MXVW OLNH WKH ERG\ WKDW KRVWV LW
extends through the whole of the body, but, while mixing with it, nevertheless it
NHHSVLWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>@+HUHWKHQRWLRQRIDQLQGLYLGXDO
separated substance of its own appears, butdifferently from what can be seen
77
,Q$WWLFXVDQG2ULJHQRQWKH6RXORI*RGWKH&UHDWRU)URPWKH3DJDQWRWKH&KULVWLDQ6LGHRI
Middle Platonism, Jahrbuch fr Religionsphilosophie  
78
The same methodological problem arises with Parmenides, fr. 1.20, in which, moreover, there is
QRTXHVWLRQRIDQ\LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHEXWRQO\RIDVVXEVWDQFHRUHYHQIRXQGDWLRQ
WKH\SRVLWHGDGRXEOHIRXQGDWLRQVXEVWDQFH> @WKHRQHRIZKDWUHDOO\
is, i.e., the intelligible, the other of what becomes, the sense-perceptible.
79

I. Bruns, ed., Alexandri Aphrodisiensis praeter commentaria scripta minora (Commentaria


LQ$ULVWRWHOHP*UDHFDVXSSO%HUOLQ5HLPHU DW

320

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

in Origen, both in his Trinitarian usage and in reference to the logikait is not
GLVWLQFWLYHO\FRQYH\HGE\DVGLIIHUHQWLDWHGIURPLQGHHG
DQGVHHPWREHV\QRQ\PLFKHUHDOOWKHPRUHVRLQ
that the same meaning is also conveyed, shortly after, by the third, equivalent
H[SUHVVLRQ  $OO RWKHU XVHV RI  LQ &KU\VLSSXV PHDQ
substance or even structure or existence, and do not refer to an individual
substance, proper to each representative of a species and different from that of
every other representative.80 1RWDEO\ WKH H[SUHVVLRQ   LQ 69)
3.305 (virtues, inseparable from one another, belong to the souls directive part
DJDLQSDUDOOHOVLQZKHUHWKHVDPHFRQFHSW
is simply expressed with a different wording.
3KLORVXVHRILVZRUWKFRQVLGHULQJFDUHIXOO\DOOWKHPRUHVRLQWKDWKH
is a philosopher-exegete with whose works Origen was notoriously well conversant.
In Aet. 88 and 92 Philo insists on the idea of a substance of its own: the light or
KDVQRVXEVWDQFHSHUVH>@EXWLWGHULYHV
IURPZKDWSUHFHGHVLWWKHFRDODQGWKHDPHLWKDVQRVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQ
>@7KHOLJKWRIWKHDPHKDVQRVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQ
7KHFRQFHSWZKLFKKHUHLVGHQLHGLQUHIHUHQFHWRWKHLVWKDWRIDQLQGLYLGXDO
substance that originates from another but, from then on, is distinct from it. This is
QRWGLVVLPLODUIURP2ULJHQVFRQFHSWRIWKHJHQHUDWLRQRIWKH6RQVIURP
WKDWRIWKH)DWKHUHDFKRIWKHPKDVDRIKLVRZQ81 What is different is
WKDW3KLORIHHOVWKHQHHGWRDGGVSHFLHUVWRVXFKDVDQG
WRPDNHLWFOHDUWKDWKHPHDQVWKHSURGXFWVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHLQVRIDUDVLW
LVGLVWLQFWIURPWKDWRIWKHSURGXFHU2ULJHQXVXDOO\ZLOOQRWDGGVXFKVSHFLHUVLQKLV
7ULQLWDULDQWHUPLQRORJ\VLQFHIRUKLPDOUHDG\PHDQVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
DVGLVWLQFWIURPZKLFKLVWKHFRPPRQHVVHQFHRIDOOWKH3HUVRQVRIWKH7ULQLW\
+RZHYHU,KDYHVKRZQWKDWHYHQKHVRPHWLPHVDGGVWRHPSKDVL]HWKHQRWLRQRI
WKHLQGLYLGXDOLW\RID
3OXWDUFKV XVH RI  WRR LV ZRUWK H[SORULQJ EHLQJ WKDW RI D 0LGGOH
3ODWRQLVWFKURQRORJLFDOO\QRWIDUIURP2ULJHQ%XWKLVFRQFHSWXDOL]DWLRQRI
is, interestingly, quite different. I have already cited above Adv. Col. 1109a, line 8 as
DIUDJPHQWIURP'HPRFULWXV IU ZKLFKOLNHO\FRQWDLQV3OXWDUFKVRZQZRUGLQJ
UDWKHUWKDQDOLWHUDOTXRWDWLRQIURP'HPRFULWXV
80
(J69)9DFXXPLVXQOLPLWHGDFFRUGLQJWRLWVVXEVWDQFHRUVWUXFWXUH 
  69)  7KHUH PXVW QHFHVVDULO\ H[LVW D FHUWDLQ VXEVWDQFH RI WKH YRLG
 
81

$FFRUGLQJ WR 5DGLFH 3KLOR LV WKH UVW ZKR FRQVLGHUHG WKH /RJRV D K\SRVWDVLV MXVW DV WKH
author of the prologue to the Gospel of John did. This concept simply did not exist outside the
Mosaic tradition. See Roberto Radice, Philos Theology and Theory of Creation, in The Cambridge
Companion to Philo HG$GDP .DPHVDU &DPEULGJH 8. &DPEULGJH 8QLYHUVLW\ 3UHVV  
DW$VKHUHPDUNVWKLVQRWLRQKDGQRSDUDOOHOLQ0LGGOH3ODWRQLVP,REVHUYHWKDWRQ
the other hand, it has a parallel in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, as I shall discuss later in the
SUHVHQWHVVD\PLJKWHYHQKDYHEHHQLQXHQFHGE\3KLORDQGZDVSDUDPRXQWWRWKHIRUPDWLRQRI
WKHWHFKQLFDOXVHRILQ2ULJHQ

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321

+HUHWKHQRWLRQLVLQGHHGDVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQKRZHYHU
DQG  DUH XVHG DV V\QRQ\PVWKHUH LV QR TXHVWLRQ RI DQ LQGLYLGXDO KDYLQJ D
particular substance different from those of every other individual of the same species.
,Q3VHXGR3OXWDUFKZHQGLQWKHVHQVHRIVXEVWDQFHERWKLQUHIHUHQFH
to bodily substance82 and in reference to things that have a substance or subsistence
RIWKHLURZQ  DVRSSRVHGWRRWKHUVWKDWDUH
RQO\DSSDUHQWDQGKDYHQRVXEVLVWHQFHRIWKHLURZQ  
 Plac. philos. EOLQH 7RVSHFLI\WKLVWKHDXWKRUIHOW
WKHQHHGWRDGGWR0RUHRYHUKHUHLVXQGHUVWRRGLQD
PDWHULDOVHQVHDQH[DPSOHRIDWKLQJWKDWLVLVWKHUDLQERZRQHRID
WKLQJWKDWKDVDRILWVRZQLVKDLO$UDLQERZLVFRQVLGHUHGWREHPHUHO\
DSSDUHQWZKLOHKDLOKDVPDWHULDOVXEVWDQFH7KHDGGLWLRQRIWRLV
also found in the anonymous second-century C.E. Middle-Platonic commentary
on Platos Theaetetus 1HLWKHU
do the organs of sense-perception have a substance of their own. It is not clear,
however, whether an individual substance for each organ is meant. In 68 the notion
RILQGLYLGXDOLW\LVDJDLQDWWDFKHGWRWKHFRQFHSWRIDVLVHPSKDVL]HG
E\WKHDGGLWLRQRIWKHH[SUHVVLRQVDQG83
Numenius, the second-century Middle Platonist and Neopythagorean who was
well known to Origen, as is attested both by Origen himself and by Porphyry, uses
DVens geometricum, a geometrical entity. Since each
JHRPHWULFDOJXUHLVDQHQWLW\RILWVRZQWKHPHDQLQJRIKHUHVHHPV
to get close to that of individual substance. One of the authors who deserve the
utmost attention in this connection is Soranus, a philosophical and medical author
IURPWKHUVWKDOIRIWKHVHFRQGFHQWXU\ C.E. ,QKLVZRUNDVSHFLDOUHHFWLRQLV
devoted to the constitution of a new individual substance from another individual
substance.85 In Gyn. 2.27 Soranus observes that the new individual separates
 IURP WKH SDUHQW DQG FRQVWLWXWHV DQ LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFH RI LWV
RZQ  VRWKDWLWHQMR\VDQH[LVWHQFHRILWVRZQRUKDV
LWVRZQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH Gyn. 2.57; see also
 6LQFHSUHYLRXVO\PHDQWVXEVWDQFHRUH[LVWHQFHLQJHQHUDO
UDWKHUWKDQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH6RUDQXVKHUHIHOWWKHQHHGWRDGGWRFRQYH\
the notion of a substance proper to a single being. In relation to Origens use of
LQUHIHUHQFHWRWKH6RQDQGWKH)DWKHULWLVPRVWLQWHUHVWLQJWKDWKHUHLQ
Soranus the matter is of a child in respect to his or her mother, and how he acquires
82

In Plac.HOLQH

83

2
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85

7KHFRQFHSWLRQLVDLPHGDWWKHFRQVWLWXWLRQRIWKHOLYLQJEHLQJ 


322

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

a substance of his own, different from that of his parent. Precisely this idea was
WUDQVSRVHGE\2ULJHQWRWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKH6RQDQGWKH)DWKHUDOWKRXJK
of course, Origen was concerned with the difference between the generation of the
Son and the biological generation of humans and animals.86
1RWDEO\6RUDQXVOLNH*DOHQ ZKRXVHVWLPHV 87 was also a
philosopher and wrote a book On the Soul,88 now fragmentary, that was used by
Tertullian in which he denied the immortality of the soul. Soranus was active in
$OH[DQGULDDQGWKHQLQ5RPHXQGHU7UDMDQDQG+DGULDQLQWKHUVWIRXUGHFDGHVRI
the second century C.E. Origen probably had Soranuss writings available, at least
his work on the soul. Origen, too, as the Dialogue with Heraclides shows, discussed
the question of the immortality of the soul, which he also denied in respect to the
real death caused by evil. Origen was familiar with medical authors of his day,
and seems to have read and followed Galen, for instance, on good health as being
a result of a balance of humors, and the treatment of relevant disorders in Hom.
Luc. 1.89 Another interesting parallel with Galen is the following: just as Origen had
his pupils study all the philosophical schools without becoming followers of one,
in order to preserve their intellectual critical capacity,90 so did also Galen before
him: he had his pupils study all the medical schools without becoming followers
of one, in order to preserve their intellectual openness to rational argument.91
Sextus Empiricus, too, the skeptic philosopher of the second/third century
C.E., in Math. 9.338 expresses the notion of individual substance by means of
$ZKROH VXFKDVDKXPDQEHLQJDSODQWDQDQLPDORUDQREMHFW
is something else than the sum of its parts, and is conceived according to its own
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHDQGHVVHQFH>@'LIIHUHQWO\
IURP6RUDQXV6H[WXVVHHPVWRWUHDWDQG as virtual synonyms
KHUH6H[WXVDOVRXVHVLQWKHZLGHVSUHDGPHDQLQJRIVXEVWDQFHLQ

86
Thus, for instance, in Comm. Jo. 20.18.157 it is stressed that the generation of the Son did
QRWHQWDLODGLPLQXWLRQRIWKHRIWKH)DWKHUDVLVWKHFDVHZLWKDZRPDQZKRJLYHVELUWK
for this would imply that God has a corporeal nature.
87
The Corpus Hippocraticum has 110 occurrences, but none in the sense used by Soranus (and
6H[WXV 2Q*DOHQVQRWLRQRIWKHVRXOWKHERG\DQGWKHLQGLYLGXDOVHH&KULVWRSKHU*LOONaturalistic
Psychology in Galen and Stoicism 2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV 
88
On which see now Pietro Podolak, Soranos von Ephesos, Peri psyches: Sammlung der
Testimonien, Kommentar und Einleitung %HUOLQGH*UX\WHU 
89
That Galen was well known in Alexandria already to Clement is argued on the basis of good
evidence by Matyas Havrda, Galenus Christianus? The Doctrine of Demonstration in Stromata
VIII and the Question of its Source VC  2Q2ULJHQVNQRZOHGJHRI*DOHQVHH
Jonathan Barnes, Galen, Christians, Logic, in Classics in Progress (ed. Timothy P. Wiseman;
2[IRUG2[IRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV 
90
91

See my Origen, Patristic Philosophy.

This last parallel was acutely noticed by Jaap Mansfeld in his Prolegomena: Questions to be Settled
before the Study of an Author or a Text /HLGHQ%ULOO 

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

323

general.92 But he repeatedly presents the notion of individual substance conveyed


E\DOWKRXJKXVXDOO\ZLWKWKHDGGLWLRQRIIRUH[DPSOHLQMath.
2.219. Here Sextus is dealing with genera and species, which, in a hypothesis, are
FRQVLGHUHGWREHFRQWHQWVRIWKRXJKW EXWLQWKHRSSRVLWHK\SRWKHVLV
DUHFRQVLGHUHGWRSRVVHVVDVXEVWDQFHRIWKHLURZQ  ,Q
6H[WXVUHHFWVDJDLQRQWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKHZKROHDQGLWVSDUWVLIWKHZKROH
LVPHUHO\WKHVXPRILWVSDUWVLWZLOOKDYHQRVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQ 
QDPHO\QRVXEVWDQFHEHVLGHVWKDWRILWVSDUWV7KHVDPHQRWLRQXQGHUOLHV
 D QXPEHU FDQQRW EH LGHQWLHG ZLWK WKH WKLQJV WKDW DUH QXPEHUHG EXW LW
KDVDVXEVWDQFHRILWVRZQ  EHVLGHVWKHVHWKLQJV,I6H[WXV
thought that each number had an individual substance, this would be very similar
to Origens notion of an individual substance for each single representative of the
same species. In Math. 8.161 Sextus is distinguishing things that are opposed to
one another and things that are in a certain relation to one another; the former are
DOOWKRVHZKLFKDUHFRQFHLYHGLQWKHLURZQVXEVWDQFHLQDQDEVROXWHZD\>
@VXFKDVZKLWHEODFNRUVZHHWELWWHU,QMath.
1.137 Sextus seems to assign an individual substance to each part or member:
parts are included in those things of which they are said to be parts, each of them
RFFXS\LQJLWVRZQSODFHDQGKDYLQJLWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>
@%XWWKHPRVWLQWHUHVWLQJSDVVDJHIRULWVVLPLODULW\WR
2ULJHQV7ULQLWDULDQQRWLRQRILVMath.
What generates something, if it changes into something else, either goes out
RILWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>@ZKHQLWWUDQVIRUPVLWVHOIDQG
JHQHUDWHVRULWUHPDLQVLQLWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>@DQG
generates by means of assuming one form instead of another one. But if it
JRHVRXWRILWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>@LWZLOOSHULVKLQWRQRQ
H[LVWHQFH,ILQVWHDGLWUHPDLQVLQLWVRZQVXEVWDQFH>@
and generates by means of receiving one quality instead of another, it falls into
the same aporia.

This passage is crucial in that the issue is the generation of a substance from
another substance; therefore, the situation parallels the generation of the Son from
WKH)DWKHUDQGWKHSUREOHPRIKRZWRGHVFULEHWKHPLQWHUPVRIWKHLUVXEVWDQFHV
Sextuss argument could be read as suggesting the conclusion that the subject
that generates remains in its individual substance, and the action of generating
does not produce any alteration in it, not even in its qualities. This is what Origen
PDLQWDLQHGRIWKH)DWKHULQWKHEHJHWWLQJRIWKH6RQ,Q6H[WXVVGLVFRXUVHLWZDV
possible to understand the producers individual substance as different from the
individual substance of the product. This was certainly the way in which Origen
XQGHUVWRRGWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQ6H[WXVZDVDQHDUOLHU
FRQWHPSRUDU\RI2ULJHQKHOLYHGFLUFDC.E., and he too, like Soranus and
92

E.g., Pyrrh.LQWKDWTXDOLWLHVFDQ
subsist only in things, not in themselves.

324

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Galen, was both a physician and a philosopher. He seems to have lived in Alexandria.
+HDOVRXVHVDQGDVV\QRQ\PVEXWOLNH2ULJHQQRWZKHQKH
PHDQVDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH7KXVLQMath.LQZKLFK
KDVWKLVWHFKQLFDOPHDQLQJKHQHYHUUHSODFHVLWZLWKRU
This is because for him, just as for Origen, the generator and the generated have
the same nature, but different individual substances.
Alexander of Aphrodisias is another philosopher certainly known to Origen
ZKR YHU\ SUREDEO\ DOVR LQVSLUHG KLP LQ VHYHUDO UHVSHFWV 93 who deserves the
utmost attention. In De Anima p. 19.19 Alexander speaks of an independent
substance, with both the nominal and the verbal expression of an independent
substance. The soul and the spirit have different independent substances or
DQGWKHUHIRUHLWLVLQIHUUHGWKDWWKHVSLULWFDQQRWEHGHVFULEHGDVD
genus of the soul, since a genus has no independent substance of its own, but the
spirit does have a substance of its own.95 This is not identical to Origens idea of a
VKDULQJRIQDWXUH  DQGDGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQRILQGLYLGXDO
EXWLWLVUHPDUNDEOHIRUWKHQRWLRQRIDGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQRI2QS
Alexander is saying that the forms subsist ontologically per se, even without being
conceived by an intellect;96 this is what it means that they have a substance of
WKHLURZQ  ,WLVXQFOHDUKRZHYHUZKHWKHUKHUH
Alexander is distinguishing the individual substance of each form. Alexander in De
mixtione (SS LVVSHDNLQJRIWKH6WRLFVLQGHHGWKLVSDVVDJHLVWKHVDPH
DV&KU\VLSSXVVIUDJPHQW69)TXRWHGDERYH,KDYHDOUHDG\QRWLFHGWKDW
LQWKLVSDVVDJHLVFORVHWRERWKLQGLFDWLQJ
the substance that is proper to the soul, in opposition to that of the body; these
substances remain separate. Indeed, in Comm. in Met. S $OH[DQGHUXVHV
DVDV\QRQ\PLFFRXSOH7KHH[SUHVVLRQ S
 SUREDEO\PHDQVLQH[LVWHQFH97DQGRFFXUVDJDLQ RQS ,IWKH\
ZHUHEHLQJVDQGVXEVWDQFHV>@WKH\ZRXOGEHLQVHQVHSHUFHSWLEOH
ERGLHVIRURQO\WKHVHWKLQJVDUHLQH[LVWHQFH>@EXWLIWKH\ZHUHQRW
WKH\ZRXOGQRWEHVXEVWDQFHV>@HLWKHU2QO\FDQEH
which may mean that only substances can subsist; indeed, they are also said to be

93
$V , KDYH SRVLWHG LQ 2ULJHQ 3DWULVWLF 3KLORVRSK\ KLV   PD\ KDYH LQVSLUHG
Origens homonymous work. I found striking correspondences between Origens and Alexanders
thought and terminology, but I shall have to treat them in a separate work. One is already detected
LQ P\ 0D[LPXV RQ (YLO 0DWWHU DQG *RG$UJXPHQWV IRU WKH ,GHQWLFDWLRQ RI WKH 6RXUFH RI
Eusebius PE VII 22, Adamantius  


I. Bruns, ed., Alexandri Aphrodisiensis, 

95

2 
.
96
On forms and their subsistence in Alexander, see Robert Sharples, Alexander of Aphrodisias
on Universals, Phronesis   RQDe an.DQGQuaest. 1.11.
97

*U HDFKRIWKHH[LVWLQJDQLPDWHGEHLQJV

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

325

H[LVWLQJEHLQJV2QSWRRPHWDSK\VLFDOIRUPQDWXUHDQGVXEVWDQFH
seem to be virtual synonyms.98
2Q S     FRUUHVSRQGV WR    DQG
LQGLFDWHVWKDWWKHSULQFLSOHVKDYHDVXEVWDQFHRIWKHLURZQDQGH[LVWSHUVH 
 MXVWDVHDFKLQGLYLGXDOEHLQJ 
 H[LVWVXQOLNHWKHJHQHUDDQGFRPPRQVSHFLHVZKLFKKDYH
no substance of their ownan idea that I have already pointed out in Sextus
(PSLULFXVEXWH[LVWRQO\LQEHLQJSUHGLFDWHG7KLVSDVVDJHLVVLJQLFDQWLQWKDWWKH
VXEVWDQFH LVFRQFHLYHGDVSURSHUWRHDFKSULQFLSOHDQGWRHDFKRIWKH
EHLQJVVRWKDWKHUHVHHPVWREHXQGHUVWRRGDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
This would be the same meaning as in Origens Trinitarian terminology: individual
VXEVWDQFH HDFK EHLQJ LQ D VSHFLHV KDYLQJ LWV RZQ  GLVWLQFW IURP
WKDWRIWKHRWKHUV*HQHUDDQGVSHFLHVGRQRWKDYHDQLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH 
 EXWLQGLYLGXDOEHLQJV  GR S 7KH
same concept underlies the following passage: The principles become for them
VXEVWDQFHVDQGVXEVWDQFHVRQWKHLURZQGLIIHUHQWIURPWKHRWKHUV>
@IRUWKHVXEVWDQFHRIFRPPRQVSHFLHV
LVQRWLQGHSHQGHQW>@ S).
It is notable that each principle becomes a substance of its own, different from the
RWKHUV$JDLQKRZHYHUDQG DUHFORVHWRHDFKRWKHUDQGWKH
H[SUHVVLRQVDQGFRUUHVSRQGWRHDFK
other. On p. 199.20 Alexander is speaking of people who conceive mathematical
entities by abstraction from sense-perceptible realities and do not ascribe to them
DVXEVWDQFHRIWKHLURZQ  ,WLVQRWVSHFLHGEXWLWVHHPVWR
EHSUREDEOHWKDWHDFKPDWKHPDWLFDOHQWLW\MXVWOLNHHDFKSULQFLSOH VHHDERYH 
is considered to have its own individual substance.99)LQDOO\LQIn Analyt. Pr. (p.
 100 there is an interesting differentiation, close to that drawn by Origen,
EHWZHHQDQGWKHODWWHUEHLQJSDLUHGZLWKVRPHWKLQJV
such as matter and form, can be separated from one another only mentally and cannot
VXEVLVWZLWKRXWRQHDQRWKHULQWKHLUDFWXDOH[LVWHQFH DQG 
EXWDUHGLIIHUHQWLQWKHLUQDWXUHDQGHVVHQFH  101 Here, therefore, the
FDVHLVRIUHDOLWLHVZLWKGLIIHUHQWEXWLQVHSDUDEOHLQWKHLU,QWKH
FDVHRIWKH7ULQLW\LQ2ULJHQVWHFKQLFDOWHUPLQRORJ\ZHQGWKHRSSRVLWHWKUHH
GLIIHUHQWEXWRQHDQGWKHVDPH
98

7

99

6HH DOVR S        S    



100
Alexandri in Aristotelis analyticorum priorum librum I commentarium (ed. Maximilian Wallies;
&RPPHQWDULDLQ$ULVWRWHOHP*UDHFD%HUOLQ5HLPHU 
101

 

 


326

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

QA Revealing Comparison with Plotinus, and Porphyrys Role:


2ULJHQV,QXHQFHRQ3RUSK\U\"
On the basis of the analysis that I have carried out, the philosophical background to
2ULJHQVLQQRYDWLYHQRWLRQRIDSSHDUVULFKDQGLWVHHPVSUREDEOHWKDW
Origen did have at his disposal sources of inspiration in this respect in early imperial
philosophical and medical authors. Plotinus is also very interesting with regard
to the present investigation. He was a fellow disciple of Origen at Ammoniuss
school and is considered to be the inventor of the three Neoplatonic hypostases.102
Therefore, one might expect him to have a very innovative and specialized use of
WKHWHUPLQKLVSURWRORJ\FRPSDUDEOHWRWKDWRI2ULJHQLQWKH7ULQLWDULDQ
HOG,QIDFWLQ3ORWLQXVWKHUHDUHPDQ\RFFXUUHQFHVRIEXWFRQWUDU\WR
what one might suppose, these have general, rather than technical, meanings; they
virtually never refer to the three hypostases of his triad of principles, the One, the
Intellect, and the Soul. It seems to me that it was rather Porphyry who ascribed to
Plotinus this technical meaning, as I shall argue.
/HWPHEULH\DQDO\]HWKHXVHRILQ3ORWLQXVVZRUN6RPHWLPHVLW
LVFORVHLQPHDQLQJWRDQGGHQRWHVVXEVWDQFH,QGHHG3ORWLQXVDWWLPHV
seems to employ the two terms as synonyms, for instance in Enn. LQUHIHUHQFH

102
See, e.g., John Deck, Nature, Contemplation, and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus
7RURQWR8QLYHUVLW\RI7RURQWR3UHVV %HOIRUGJackson, Plotinus and the Parmenides,
Journal for the History of Philosophy     ZLWK D FRPSDULVRQ EHWZHHQ 3ORWLQXVV
thought and Platos Parmenides and an examination of the relation of Plotinuss third hypostasis,
the Soul, to the Parmenides; John Anton, Some Logical Aspects of the Concept of Hypostasis in
Plotinus, Review of Metaphysics  ZKRDUJXHVWKDWWKH2QHIRU3ORWLQXVLVWKH
UVWK\SRVWDVLVSURSHUDQGVKRXOGQRWEHUHJDUGHGDVDTXDVLK\SRVWDVLVKHDSSHDOVWREnn. 5.1.10.1
DQGWRFODLPWKDWIRU3ORWLQXVWKHK\SRVWDVHVDUHRQO\WKUHH-HURPH6FKLOOHU3ORWLQXV
and Greek Rationalism, Apeiron     VHHV 3ORWLQXVV WKUHH K\SRVWDVHV DV VROXWLRQV
to three problems that arise from Platos thought. The hypostasis One answers the question of
WKHMXVWLFDWLRQRIWKHXOWLPDF\RIUHDOLW\WKHK\SRVWDVLV,QWHOOHFWDQVZHUVWKDWRIWKHFHUWLWXGHRI
knowledge, and the hypostasis Soul answers that of the relationship between the realm of forms and
that of things; John Deck, The One, or God, is Not Properly Hypostasis, in The Structure of Being:
A Neoplatonic Approach HG5DPVRQ+DUULV$OEDQ\1<8QLYHUVLW\RI1HZ<RUN3UHVV 
-RKQ'LOORQ7KH0LQGRI3ORWLQXV,,,Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 3
 8EDOGR53pUH]3DROLDer plotinische Begriff der Hypostasis und die augustinische
Bestimmung Gottes als subiectum :U]EXUJ$XJXVWLQXV +HQUL&URX]HOOrigne et Plotin.
Comparaison doctrinale 3DULV7pTXL  )UDQFHVFR5RPDQRDQG'DQLHOD37DRUPLQDHGV
Hyparxis e hypostasis nel Neoplatonismo )ORUHQFH2OVFKNL 6DOYDWRUH/LOOD1HRSODWRQLF
Hypostases and Christian Trinity, in Studies in Plato and the Platonic Tradition (ed. Mark Joyal;
$OGHUVKRW$VKJDWH ZKRKDVH[DPLQHGWKHSDUDOOHOVEHWZHHQWKHK\SRVWDVHVRI3ORWLQXV
and Porphyry and the Trinitarian thought of Clement, Origen, and the Cappadocians, among others,
EXWZLWKRXWDWWHQWLRQWRWKHVSHFLFWHUPLQRORJ\RIDQGLWVSUHVHQFHRUODFNLQ3ORWLQXV
Stephen Menn, Plotinus on the Identity of Knowledge with Its Object, Apeiron  
who analyzes Enn. 5.9.7, remarking that Plotinus does not mean that the knower is identical to the
object known, but that knowledge is identical to the object, and the hypostasis Nous is knowledge
containing all sciences and existing separately from souls, which participate in this knowledge.

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

327

WKHSURGXFWLRQRIDVXEVWDQFHE\WKHUVWDFW103,QWKHUHIHUHQFHLVWRDQ
LQWHOOLJLEOHVXEVWDQFH  WKDW3ORWLQXVGHVFULEHVDVWUXO\
being, or better One. In Enn. 1.8.11 Plotinus is saying that privation is not a
VXEVWDQFHSHUVH  EXWLVDOZD\VIRXQGLQVRPHWKLQJ
else. In 1.8.3 the meaning is reality or substance; Plotinus is asking: Which is
the reality or substance in which aspects of evil are present without being different
from that reality, but being that reality itself?105 In 2.9.1 Plotinus focuses on the
distinction between in theory and in fact (implying the distinction between real
H[LVWHQFHDQGPHUHFRQFHSWXDOLW\RUQRQH[LVWHQFH VSHDNLQJRIWKH2QHRUWKH
Good, against the gnostics: If the gnostics say that the distinction between various
,QWHOOHFWVLVRQO\WKHRUHWLFDO>DQGWKHUHIRUHQRWRIVXEVWDQFHVRWKDWWKHUH
LVQRGLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQVXEVWDQFHVEXWRQO\RQHVXEVWDQFH@UVWRIDOOWKH\ZLOO
KDYHWRUHQRXQFHWKHSOXUDOLW\RIVXEVWDQFHV  ,Q
Enn. 5.3.12 Plotinus is speaking of the procession of various operative powers or
DFWLYLWLHV IURPWKH,QWHOOHFWZKLFKLVRQHWKHVHDFWLYLWLHVUHPDLQLQJ
IRUHYHU ZLOO EH FRQVLGHUHG WR EH VXEVWDQFHV  WKHVH VXEVWDQFHV
precisely because they are substances and not simply modalities or qualities, will
be different from the Intellect, from which they derive.106
6RPHWLPHVLVDV\QRQ\PRIH[LVWHQFHIRULQVWDQFHLQ
3.7.13, where Plotinus remarks that in case one should claim that time is not in
H[LVWHQFHRUVXEVLVWHQFH  LWLVFOHDUWKDWRQH
does not tell the truth in positing it, when saying it was or it will be. Likewise,
in LWLVDUJXHGWKDWLIWKHH[LVWHQFH RIZLVGRPLVLQDVXEVWDQFH
RUEHWWHUWKHVXEVWDQFH  WKLVVXEVWDQFH
GRHVQRWSHULVK6LPLODUO\LQVSHDNLQJRIPDWWHU3ORWLQXVREVHUYHV
,I\RXLQWURGXFHDFWXDOLW\LQWRWKRVHWKLQJVWKDWKDYHEHLQJDQGVXEVWDQFH>
@LQSRWHQF\\RXKDYHGHVWUR\HGWKHFDXVHRIWKHLUH[LVWHQFH>
@LQWKDWEHLQJ>@IRUWKHPZDVLQSRWHQF\+HUHMXVWDVLQ
WKHSUHYLRXVSDVVDJHVXEVWDQFHLVZKHUHDVPHDQVH[LVWHQFH
The same is the case also in 1.8.15.107,QPHDQVDJDLQH[LVWHQFH
PHDQVDOOWKDWZKLFKKDVLWVH[LVWHQFH
103
OLNHZLVH
.

See also Enn. 
DQG
,QERWKSDVVDJHV DQGDUHQHDUO\V\QRQ\PV
105

 

106





107
If one claims that matter does not exist, one must demonstrate to him or her the necessity
RIWKHH[LVWHQFHRIPDWWHU 
+HUHFRUUHVSRQGVWRWREHLWLVWKHIDFWRIEHLQJWKHUHIRUHH[LVWHQFH

328

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

IURPVRPHWKLQJHOVHDQGOLNHZLVHLQLQZKLFK3ORWLQXVLVIRFXVLQJRQ
the henad or unit.108+HUHGRHVQRWGHVLJQDWHWKHK\SRVWDVLVRIWKH2QH
EXWPHDQVH[LVWHQFHPXFKPRUHJHQHULFDOO\,QWKHPHDQLQJRI
is again subsistence, existence, not hypostasis: the One is necessary for the
H[LVWHQFHRIHYHU\VXEVWDQFH  109 A lexical hue
related to the meaning existence and found in Plotinus is reality, as opposed to
QRQH[LVWHQFHFWLWLRXVQHVVDQGWKHOLNH110$QRWKHUPHDQLQJRIDWWHVWHG
LQ3ORWLQXVLVZD\RIEHLQJH[HPSOLHGIRULQVWDQFHLQZKHUH
LQGLFDWHVWKHZD\RIEHLQJRIWKHQXPEHUZKLFKPDNHVLWQRWDVXEVWDQFH 
but an accident.111$QRWKHUPHDQLQJRIZKLFKZDVDOUHDG\IRXQGLQ
Greek beforehand, as I have documented above, is also attested in Plotinus, namely
WKDWRIFRQVWLWXWLRQSURGXFWLRQLQWKLVFDVHSURGXFWLRQRIDVXEVWDQFH  112
In 5.6.3, very interestingly, the notion emerges of an individual and autonomous
substance or existence, however not in reference to one of the supreme principles,
later called hypostases, but in a discussion concerning the parts of a compound:
One thing that is simple cannot constitute by itself that which is a compound of
many elements, since none of these can have an individual substance or existence,
D1137KHXVHRILQUHODWLRQWRWKH*RRG WKH
2QH  UHTXLUHV DQ HVSHFLDOO\ FDUHIXO FRQVLGHUDWLRQ LQ RUGHU WR HVWDEOLVK ZKHWKHU
LWFDQLQGLFDWHWKHK\SRVWDVLVRIWKH2QH*RRG,Q
 3ORWLQXVWDNHVXS3ODWRVH[SUHVVLRQWKHQDWXUH
of the Good, from Philebus GOLQHFOLQHEOLQHV FKDQJLQJ
LQWRDQGLPPHGLDWHO\DIWHUKHDOVRVSHDNVRIWKHRIWKH
108

WKHTXHVWLRQEHLQJZKHWKHURQO\RQHKHQDGKDV
H[LVWHQFHDQGZK\QRWWKHRWKHUVVRWKDWWKHUHZRXOGEHDJUHDWQXPEHURIKHQDGV
WKHK\SRWKHVLVEHLQJWKDWWKH2QHDQGWKH0RQDGKDYHQRexistence.
109
6HHDOVR

110
7KHPRGHZRXOGKDYHPRUHUHDOLW\  DQG
\HWLIQRWHYHQKHUHWKHUHZHUHUHDOLW\  
111

 /LNHZLVH LQ  ZKHUH WKH PHDQLQJ PD\ EH HLWKHU ZD\ RI EHLQJ RU VXEVWDQFH  

LIWKHUHODWLRQVKLSLVGHHPHGDIRUPWKHQWKHUHZLOOEHRQHVLQJOHJHQXVDQGZD\RIEHLQJ
112
7. See also 6.8.10 where Plotinus
refers to the constitution, coming into being and creation of something, in order to deny that the
UVWSULQFLSOHZDVFRQVWLWXWHGE\DQ\WKLQJHOVH


113
Rather than conceiving his three principles as individual hypostases, Plotinus may have thought
RIWKH,GHDVDVLQGLYLGXDOIRUPVRUVXEVWDQFHV DVRSSRVHGWRDEVWUDFWLRQJHQHUDDQGVSHFLHV 7KHODWWHU
WKHVLVLVVXSSRUWHGE\-DPHV6LNNHPD2QWKH1HFHVVLW\RI,QGLYLGXDO)RUPVLQ3ORWLQXVInternational
Journal of the Platonic Tradition  ZKRDUJXHVWKDWKDG3ORWLQXVQRWSRVLWHGLQGLYLGXDO
IRUPVWKHUHZRXOGEHQRJURXQGIRUDSSURSULDWLQJHDFKWKLQJDVLQWHOOLJLEOH  

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

329

*RRGWKHUHIRUHLWVHHPVWKDWDQGDUHDOPRVWV\QRQ\PV
DQGLQGLFDWHWKHVXEVWDQFHRIWKH*RRG$VDFRQVHTXHQFHDOWKRXJK
LWUHIHUVWRWKH*RRGFDQQRWEHWDNHQKHUHDVDWHFKQLFDOWHUP K\SRVWDVLV DVLQ
2ULJHQZKRKDVDFOHDUGLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQDQGLQWKH7ULQLW\
/LNHZLVHLQ3ORWLQXVXVHVLQUHIHUHQFHWRWKH*RRGZKLFKKH
GHVFULEHVDVUVWVXEVWDQFHLQWKHVDPHZD\DVLQ However, not even
KHUHFDQEHUHJDUGHGDVWKHWHFKQLFDOWHUPK\SRVWDVLVEHLQJUDWKHUD
V\QRQ\PRIRU,QSDUWLFXODULQ3ORWLQXVLVH[SODLQLQJWKDWWKH
UVWVXEVWDQFHQDWXUHEHLQJHVVHQFH QRWK\SRVWDVLV LVWKDWRIWKH*RRGZKLOHWKH
others are those substances or beings that are not good by nature, but by accident.
Plotinus neverXVHVWRLQGLFDWHDK\SRVWDVLVLQD technical sense, that
LVWRLQGLFDWHKLVWKUHHUVWSULQFLSOHV+HGRHVQRWHPSOR\WKLVWHUPLQWKHZD\
Origen does, to designate the individual substance of one person different from the
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIHYHU\RWKHUZLWKLQWKHVDPHQDWXUH  EHWKH
latter the divine or the human nature, or the rational nature of the logika. Indeed, in
the case of Plotinuss three principles, not only would it be improper to speak of Persons,
like those of the Trinity or of humanity or the logika, but the relationship between the
One, the Nous, and the Soul is not a relation of equality, whereas the Persons of the
Trinity (and those composing humanity and the whole nature of the logika DUHHTXDO
This was already suggested by Origen115 and was then emphasized by Gregory of Nyssa,
who knew Plotinus and was inspired by him in many respects (Gregory ascribed to the
ZKROH7ULQLW\WKHFKDUDFWHULVWLFVRI3ORWLQXVV2QH 7KHVHGLVWLQFWLRQVEHWZHHQ3ORWLQXVV
WULDGDQG2ULJHQV7ULQLW\DUHFOHDUDVDUHWKRVHEHWZHHQWKHLUUHVSHFWLYH
WHUPLQRORJLHV
But Porphyry, paradoxically enough,116 would seem to be responsible for an
DVVLPLODWLRQ)RULWLVDUJXDEO\3RUSK\U\ZKRDVFULEHGWKHWHFKQLFDOXVHRI
DVK\SRVWDVLVLQUHIHUHQFHWRWKHWKUHHSULQFLSOHV YHU\VLPLODUWR2ULJHQVWHFKQLFDO
use of the term, to Plotinus. In Vit. Plot. 25, indeed, Porphyry himself attests this usage
in his well-known redactional work117 he entitled Enn. 5.1 On the three Hypostases
WKDWFRQVWLWXWHWKHSULQFLSOHV7KLVWLWOHZDV
obviously not given by Plotinus. Likewise, in Vit. Plot.3RUSK\U\UHSHDWVWKHWLWOHRI

7>sc. @ 
 
.
115

As I have argued in Origens Anti-Subordinationism, VC  

116

It is paradoxical given his hostility to Christianity. Most recently, Mark Edwards offered that
KLVIWHHQGLVFRXUVHVZHUHGLVFUHWHZRUNV 3RUSK\U\DQGWKH&KULVWLDQVLQ
Studies on Porphyry [eds. George Karamanolis and Anne Sheppard; London: Institute of Classical
6WXGLHV@ )RUDstatus quaestionis on this work, see the introduction and edition by
Enrique A. Ramos Jurado et al., 3RUULRGH7LURFRQWUDORVFULVWLDQRV &iGL]8QLYHUVLGDG 
and Robert M. Berchman, Porphyry against the Christians /HLGHQ%ULOO 
117

On which see Henri Dominique Saffrey, Pourquoi Porphyre a-t-il dit Plotin? Rponse provisoire,
in Porphyre. La vie de Plotin HGV/XF%ULVVRQHWDOYROV3DULV9ULQ 

330

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

Enn. 5.1; moreover, the title Porphyry has given to Enn. UHDGVDJDLQ
,WLVHVSHFLDOO\LQWKHIDPRXVWLWOHRIEnn. 5.1 that the
WHFKQLFDOPHDQLQJRIDVK\SRVWDVLVHPHUJHV7KH2QHWKH,QWHOOHFWDQG
WKH6RXODUHWKHWKUHHSULQFLSDO +\SRVWDVHV7KLVLVPXFKPRUH3RUSK\U\V
terminology than Plotinuss.
But why did Porphyry introduce this innovation? Which examples or sources of
LQVSLUDWLRQGLGKHKDYHIRUVXFKDFRQFHSWXDOL]DWLRQRIDVK\SRVWDVLV"
I suspect that he may even have been inspired by Origen, whose work he knew quite
ZHOODQGE\KLVWHFKQLFDOXVHRIZKLFK3RUSK\U\WUDQVSRVHGIURPWKH
7ULQLW\WR3ORWLQXVVWULDGRIUVWSULQFLSOHV118 In fact, both the hypostatic meaning
RIZKLFK3RUSK\U\DVFULEHGWR3ORWLQXVDQGWKHLGHQWLFDWLRQRIWKH
WKUHHK\SRVWDVHVZLWKWKHRUUVWSULQFLSOHVRIDOOWKDWH[LVWVPDNHPHVXVSHFW
that Porphyry may have had in mind Origens Trinitarian technical terminology
RIDQGKLVSKLORVRSKLFDOPDVWHUSLHFH119)RUKHUH2ULJHQ
SUHVHQWV*RGWKH7ULQLW\DVWKHSULQFLSOHRIDOODQGPRUHVSHFLFDOO\WKHWKUHH
RIWKH&KULVWLDQ7ULQLW\DVWKHRIDOOUHDOLW\120
,Q2ULJHQGHFODUHVWKDWKHZDQWVWRZRUNRQDQGFRPSOHWHZKDW
is revealed in Scripture, and to apply to the latter the philosophical research and
parameters of Greek philosophy (Princ. 1 pr. 121 Thus, he begins by dealing
ZLWKWKHUVW*RGDQGLQSDUWLFXODUZLWKWKH)DWKHUWKHUVW
the Son, who is presented as Wisdom and Logos, the seat of the Ideas; and the
Spirit. Origen constantly bases his argument on Scripture and proceeds via
UDWLRQDOGHGXFWLRQWKURXJKRXWKLV+HLPPHGLDWHO\DGGVDWUHDWPHQW
of the rational natures participation in the Good, that is, God, the fall, and the
apokatastasis.122 Thanks to such an application of philosophy to Scripture, Origen
118
$FFRUGLQJWR5DGLFH3KLORV7KHRORJ\3ORWLQXVGHSHQGVRQ3KLORIRUWKHFRQFHSWLRQ
of the Ideas not only as thoughts of the divine Intellect, but also as intelligent powers. If Plotinus
could depend on Philo, then Porphyry could certainly depend on Origen.
119
It is probable that Origen in turn was inspired especially by Alexander of Aphrodisias in
conceiving the very structure of his masterpiece, as I have argued in Origen, Patristic Philosophy.
120
This notion is so deeply rooted in Origens thought as to return in Comm. Jo.

121
We shall see whether what the Greek philosophers call incorporeal is found in Scriptures under
another name. It will be necessary to investigate how God should be considered: whether corporeal
. . . or having a different nature . . . it will be necessary to extend the same investigation also to Christ
and the Holy Spirit, then to the soul and every rational nature . . . to order the rational explanation
of all these arguments into a unity . . . with clear and irrefutable demonstrations . . . to construct a
consistent work, with arguments and enunciations, both those found in the sacred Scripture and those
thence deduced by means of a research made with exactitude and logical rigor.
122

2ULJHQWUHDWV*RGWKHUDWLRQDOFUHDWXUHVWKHZRUOGDQGHVFKDWRORJ\V\VWHPDWLFDOO\LQWKHUVW
two books; the rational creatures free will, providence, and restoration, in the third; and in the fourth,
Trinitarian matters (in a sort of RingkompositionZLWKWKHEHJLQQLQJ DQG6FULSWXUDOH[HJHVLV7KLVLV
perceived as belonging to the exposition of metaphysics in that Origens philosophy is a Christian
philosophy, grounded in Scripture and facing, by means of rational arguments, questions that are
QRWGHQHGE\6FULSWXUHDQGWUDGLWLRQ

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

331

won for the Church the most culturally-demanding and philosophically-minded


people, who often were attracted by various forms of Gnosticism. He made it
impossible to accuse Christianity any longer of being a religion for simpletons
and unlearned people. Therefore, he was esteemed as a philosopher by several
non-Christian philosophers, such as Porphyry himself. Porphyry also wrote a
123 in which he demonstrated the eternity of the second hypostasis,
the Intellect. He surely knew both the homonymous work by Longinus, who was
his teacher, and that by Alexander of Aphrodisias, whose writings were regularly
UHDGDW3ORWLQXVVFODVVHVZKLFKKHDWWHQGHG%XWKHFHUWDLQO\NQHZ2ULJHQV
DVZHOO
Indeed, Porphyry knew Origens thought and philosophical sources in depth.
,Q D  RI KLV SUHVHUYHG E\ (XVHELXV Hist. Eccl.  IURP WKH WKLUG
book of Porphyrys writing against the Christians, he described Origen as an
excellent philosopher who reasoned as a Greek in metaphysical matters, although
he lived as a Christian, therefore against the law. In this fragment Porphyry, after
disapproving of the application of philosophical allegoresis to the Bible, states
that the initiator of this hermeneutical method was Origen, whom he depicts as
nevertheless illustrious for his writings. Porphyry states that he met Origen when
he was young,125 that Origens parents were Greek, and that he received a Greek
education, but then he embraced a barbarian way of life. Porphyry indeed draws
DVKDUSRSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQ2ULJHQVZD\RIOLIH ZKLFKZDV&KULVWLDQDQG
2ULJHQVSKLORVRSK\ZKLFKZDV*UHHNQPHWDSK\VLFVDQGWKHRORJ\DFFRUGLQJ
to Porphyry, Origen was a Greek philosopher, and he interpreted Scripture in the
light of philosophy.126 A noteworthy list of Origens favorite philosophical readings
follows (Hist. Eccl.  ODUJHO\FRLQFLGLQJZLWKWKHDXWKRUVUHDGE\3ORWLQXVDQG
123


SudaVY3URFOXVTheol. Plat. 1.51.5.

2Q WKLV SDVVDJH VHH 3LHU ) %HDWULFH 3RUSK\U\V -XGJPHQW RQ 2ULJHQ LQ Origeniana
Quinta HG5REHUW-'DO\/HXYHQ3HHWHUV 7KHRGRU%|KP2ULJHQHV7KHRORJH
XQG 1HX 3ODWRQLNHU"2GHU:HPVROOPDQPLVVWUDXHQ(XVHELXVRGHU3RUSK\ULXV"Adamantius
  0DUFR=DPERQ Paranomos zenODFULWLFDGL3RUULRD2ULJHQHLQOrigeniana
Octava HG/RUHQ]R3HUURQH/HXYHQ3HHWHUV $QWKRQ\*UDIWRQDQG0HJDQ:LOOLDPV
Christianity and the Transformation of the Book &DPEULGJH0DVV%HONQDS ,ODULD
Ramelli, Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition, InvLuc  HDGHP2ULJHQ
Patristic Philosophy; eadem, The Philosophical Stance of Allegory in Stoicism and its Reception in
Platonism, Pagan and Christian, IJCT  RQ3RUSK\U\VDWWLWXGHWRZDUG&KULVWLDQLW\
see Jeremy Schott, Porphyry on Christians and Others: Barbarian Wisdom, Identity Politics, and
Anti-Christian Polemics on the Eve of the Great Persecution, JECS  
125
See also Athanasius Syruss preface to his Isagoge: Porphyry was from Tyre and was a
disciple of Origen, and Eunapius V. Soph.Porphyry was born in 232/3 C.E., and Origen died
around 255. Therefore Porphyry was no older than twenty-two when he met Origen. It is unclear
whether he was a Christian at that time, as Socrates and Porphyrys knowledge of Scripture may
VXJJHVWEXWKHLVFHUWDLQO\QRWPLVWDNHQZKHQKHLGHQWLHVRXU2ULJHQZLWKDGLVFLSOHRI$PPRQLXV
and therefore a fellow-disciple of Plotinus.
126
.


332

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

his disciples: Plato, Middle Platonists and Neopythagoreans, and Stoic allegorists.
Porphyry regarded Origen as a convert to Christianity, a Christian in his life but a
Greek philosopher in his metaphysics and theology.
Precisely because he considered Origens metaphysical principles to be Greek,
Pophyry felt a profound continuity between OrigensGLVFRXUVHRQWKHWKUHH
RIDOO WKDWLVWRVD\WKH7ULQLW\ DQGPlotinussGLVFRXUVHRQWKHWKUHHRIDOO
LHKLVSURWRORJLFDOWULDGWKH2QHWKH,QWHOOHFWDQGWKH6RXO $QGVLQFH2ULJHQ
XVHG  LQ D WHFKQLFDO VHQVH IRU KLV RZQ WKUHH  3RUSK\U\ PD\
LQGHHGKDYHDSSOLHGWKLVWHUPWR3ORWLQXVVWKUHHDVZHOODOWKRXJK3ORWLQXVV
triad presents considerable divergences from Origens Trinity, and although
DV,KDYHSRLQWHGRXWZDVQRWDWHFKQLFDOWHUPLQ3ORWLQXVIRUDQ
individual substance different from the other individual substances that share in the
VDPHHVVHQFHRUQRUZDVLWXVHGE\KLPLQWKHVHQVHRIK\SRVWDVLVSURSHU
WRGHVLJQDWHVSHFLFDOO\KLVWKUHHSULQFLSOHV7KHSUHVHQWVXSSRVLWLRQZRXOGJDLQ
even more strength if Origen the Christian and Origen the Neoplatonist, mentioned
by Porphyry in his Vita Plotini and by later Neoplatonists, were in fact one and the
same person. Interestingly, Porphyry attributes his own description of demonology
in De abstinentia to some of the Platonists; indeed, this work is based on Origens
work on the demons, which Porphyry mentions in his biography of Plotinus as a
work of Origen the Neoplatonist.127
My suspicion that the technical use of hypostasis in Plotinuss titles, created by
Porphyry and inspired by Origen, is further strengthened by the fact that Porphyry
himself, in his own linguistic use, did notHPSOR\LQWKHDIRUHPHQWLRQHG
WHFKQLFDOVHQVH)RULQ3RUSK\U\VRZQZULWLQJVPHDQVH[LVWHQFH
ZD\RIH[LVWHQFHRUVHHPVWREHQHDUO\DV\QRQ\PRI128 These are the
same meanings I have detected in Plotinus. Thus, in ascribing the technical notion
of hypostasis to Plotinuss three principles, Porphyry seems to have drawn, not
on his own or Plotinuss terminology, but on some other source of inspiration. I
127
Beatrice, Porphyrys Judgment, 362 and Heidi Marx-Wolf, High Priests of the Highest
God: Third-Century Platonists as Ritual Experts, JECS  DWDFFHSWWKDWWKLV
ZRUNZDVE\2ULJHQWKH&KULVWLDQ,KDYHDUJXHGIRUWKHLGHQWLFDWLRQRIWKHWZR2ULJHQVLQ2ULJHQ
Patristic Philosophy, and, with further proofs, in Origen the Christian Middle/Neoplatonist.
128
See Sent. ,QFRUSRUHDOEHLQJVKDYHDVXEVWDQFHRIWKHLURZQDQGGRQRWPL[ZLWKERGLHV>
@
7KHTXHVWLRQLVRIDQHWHUQDOVXEVWDQFH
KHUHDQGDUHV\QRQ\PV,QEp. ad An.EWRR
PHDQVVXEVWDQFH
  Comm. in Parm.       
Sent. 
         
        WKH DWWULEXWLRQ RI  QRW
RQO\WRWKHLQWHOOHFWEXWDOVRWR excludes that it means the hypostasis of the Intellect.
On Porphyrys hypostases, see John Dillon, Intellect and the One in Porphyrys Sententiae,
International Journal of the Platonic Tradition  DQG%HUQDUG&ROOHWWH'XFLFPlotin
et lordonnancement de ltre 3DULV9ULQ 

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

333

have argued that this source is probably Origens technical, Trinitarian meaning
RIZKLFK3RUSK\U\WKHQWUDQVSRVHGWR3ORWLQXVVWULDGRISULQFLSOHV
Of course, Porphyry would never have admitted that he had taken such a
fundamental conception from Origen (given that Origen, albeit an excellent
SKLORVRSKHULQKLVRSLQLRQZDVQHYHUWKHOHVVD&KULVWLDQ KHUDWKHUHQGHDYRUHG
to refer Plotinuss three hypostases back to Plato, as is revealed by the following
SDVVDJHIURP%RRNRI3RUSK\U\VHistory of Philosophy:129

        
           

Porphyry, reporting a thought of Plato, says: The essence of the divinity
Plato saidproceeds up to three hypostases: the highest God is the Good;
after it there comes the second God, the Demiurge, and the third, etc.

Thus, Porphyry claims that Plato posited the three principles that were later theorized
by Plotinus, and called them hypostases, and not only this, but that Plato even
DVFULEHGWRWKHVHWKUHHSULQFLSOHVRQHDQGWKHVDPHGLYLQH5HPDUNDEO\
this was not Platos own theological doctrine,130 nor even Plotinuss interpretation
of Plato (in Enn. 5.1.8 he does refer to the Second Letter and its three kings as
DEDVLVIRUKLVRZQWKUHHSULQFLSOHVEXWZLWKQRPHQWLRQRIK\SRVWDVHV QRUDQ\
Middle Platonists doctrine or exegesis of Plato proper, but it rather resembles much
more closely Origens view of the Trinity: God is the Good, the Son is the agent of
FUHDWLRQDQGWKH6SLULWLVWKHWKLUGSULQFLSOHWKH\DOOVKDUHWKHVDPHGLYLQH
EXWWKH\DUHWKUHHGLIIHUHQW,DPIXUWKHUFRQUPHGLQP\VXVSLFLRQE\
WKHIDFWWKDWLQKLV3RUSK\U\FULWLFL]HVWKH-RKDQQLQHSUHVHQWDWLRQ
of Christ as Gods Logos by reading it through the lenses of Origens understanding
RIWKH6RQKDYLQJWKHVDPHDVWKH)DWKHUEXWDGLIIHUHQW7KH
fragment is reported by three Byzantine authors, but only one version was included
in Harnacks collection131 as fr. 86;132 the two other versions come from Psellus.133
7KHPRVWFRPSOHWHDQGUHOHYDQWWRWKHSUHVHQWDUJXPHQWLV3VHOOXVVUVWTXRWDWLRQ

129
Preserved by Cyril, C. Iulian.SD

130
On Platos theology, about which scholarship does not enjoy a basic consensus, I limit myself
to referring to Michael Bordt, Platons Theologie )UHLEXUJ.DUO$OEHU ZKRDGYRFDWHVWKH
presence of a coherent and constant theology in Plato and offers an overview of past scholarship.
131
Adolf von Harnack, Porphyrius, Gegen die Christen, 15 Bcher. Zeugnisse, Fragmente
und Referate %HUOLQ.|QLJOLFKH3UHXVVLVFKH$NDGHPLHGHU:LVVHQVFKDIWHQ 
132
About which see John Granger Cook, The Interpretation of the New Testament in GrecoRoman Paganism 7ELQJHQ0RKU 
133

They have been added to Pophyrys fragments by Richard Goulet, Cinq nouveaux fragments
nominaux du trait de Porphyre Contre les Chrtiens, VC  HVS

334

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 ,I >WKH 6RQ@ LV D ORJRV LW LV HLWKHU H[SUHVVHG >@ RU LPPDQHQW
>@%XWLILWLVH[SUHVVHGLWLVQRWVXEVWDQWLDO>@EHFDXVH
at the same time as it is uttered, it has already gone. If, on the other hand,
LWLVLPPDQHQWLWZLOOEHLQVHSDUDEOHIURPWKH)DWKHUVQDWXUH>@LQ
which case, how is it that it has separated and from there has descended to
life? (Op. theol.

Now, Porphyry was reading John 1:1 with Origens interpretation of Christ-Logos
LQPLQGWKHUHIRUHKHDUJXHGWKDWLIWKH/RJRVLVLWFDQQRWKDYHDQ
OHWDORQHDGLYLQHDQGLILWLVLWFDQQRWKDYHD
RILWVRZQVHSDUDWHGIURPWKH)DWKHU3RUSK\U\VSDUDOOHOIULVDOVRWHOOLQJLQ
WKDW LW VKRZV WKDW KH DUJXHV WKDW &KULVW/RJRV EHLQJ QHLWKHU  QRU
H[DFWO\ ZKDW 2ULJHQ FODLPHG VHH EHORZ  FDQQRW EH D /RJRV
at all.135KLVFRQFOXVLRQLVGLDPHWULFDOO\RSSRVHGWR2ULJHQVDQG,VXVSHFWLV
aimed at refuting it. Indeed, among Christian authors, Theophilus, Autol. 2.22 had
SUHVHQWHGWKH/RJRVRI*RGDVD/RJRVWKDWQHYHUVHSDUDWHVIURPWKH
)DWKHUEXWKHKDGQR7ULQLWDULDQQRWLRQRIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH%XW
Origen had it, and Origen, precisely in a polemic with another imperial Platonist,
&HOVXVGLVFXVVHG-RKQLQWKHOLJKWRIWKHFDWHJRULHVRIORJRVDQG
,QCels.2ULJHQUHIXVHVWRDSSO\WKHQRWLRQVRIORJRV
RUWR&KULVW/RJRVVLQFHWKHVHFDQRQO\EHDSSOLHGWRKXPDQORJRV
whereas the divine Logos is superior; the divine Logos-Son can grasp God, and
even reveal God, whereas the human logos cannot.136 In the same way, in fr. 118
RQ-RKQ2ULJHQDSSOLHGWKHFRQFHSWRIORJRVQRWWR&KULVWEXWWR
WKHKXPDQUDWLRQDOIDFXOW\RURYHUZKLFK&KULVW/RJRVSUHVLGHV137
Likewise in Comm. Matt. 11.2.12 Origen, interpreting the multiplication of loaves
DQGVKHVVSHDNVRIORJRVDQGLQUHIHUHQFHWRKXPDQ
reason: after equating the bread with the rational faculty that Jesus can expand
LQHDFKSHUVRQKHLQWHUSUHWVWKHWZRVKHVDVWKHWZRNLQGVRIWKLVIDFXOW\ORJRV
DQGORJRV,QSchol. Apoc. 9, too, Origen refers the idea



Michaelis Pselli Theologica HG3DXO*DXWLHU6WXWWJDUW/HLS]LJ7HXEQHU 

135

            

136
(

 
,2Q
WKHQRWLRQVRIDQGLQ2ULJHQVHHDOVR'DYLG5REHUWVRQ2ULJHQ
on Inner and Outer Logos, StPatr  
137




ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

335

of logos to the human logos, and not to the divine Logos.138 Again,
in Exp. Prov. PG 17.252.12 Origen applies the same notion of logos
to the human rational faculty, and not to the divine Logos.139 The same line was
followed by three Origenist theologians: Eusebius, who refused to apply the notions
of logos and to Christ-Logos and blamed Marcellus for
doing so;140 Athanasius, who even had the assimilation of Christ-Logos to the logos
and included in anathemas (Syn. 27.3.8); and Gregory
of Nyssa, who, like Eusebius, found this assimilation Sabellian, in that it denied
the separate hypostasis of the Son.141
Porphyry likely knew at least Origens and Contra Celsum,
and probably even his Commentary on John, which included many philosophical
treatments. Porphyrys polemical fragment did not simply address John 1:1, but
implied Origens notion of Christ-Logos as having the same as the Father
but a of his own.142 When Porphyry claimed that Christ-Logos, if it is
neither nor , is not even a logos, he clearly had in mind
Speaking of one who turns ones intellect to the true light, he remarks that, in order to
be useful to other people, who have not yet had a chance to be illuminated by the true Sun, this
person should teach them by means of his or her logos .
138

The spindle is a pure intellect . . . or a logos that pulls spiritual contemplation


from the intellect.
139

140
In Eccl. Theol. ten passages prove this. In 1.17.7 Eusebius avers that the assimilation of
Gods Logos to the human logos and (
)
is not Christian, but Jewish or Sabellian, in that it denies the Son of God as a distinct substance;
see also 2.14.20:
. Two chapters in
Book 2 are devoted to countering Marcelluss presentation of Gods Logos as similar to human logos,
sometimes and sometimes (title of ch. 11:
, ; of ch. 15:
). In 2.15.23,
indeed, Eusebius paraphrases Marcellus on this point, and in 2.11.1 levels the same charge against
him: . . .

. . . ,
. Idem in 2.15.4:
,
. 2.17.6:
, .

141
Adv. Ar. et Sab. (ed. Friedrich Mueller; Gregorii Nysseni Opera; vol. 3.1; Leiden: Brill,
1958) 7185: 81.1025.
142
On which see Jol Letellier, Le Logos chez Origne, RSPT 75 (1991) 587611; Joseph
Wolinski, Le recours aux epinoiai du Christ dans le Commentaire sur Jean dOrigne, in Origeniana
Sexta (ed. Gilles Dorival and Alain Le Boulluec; Leuven: Peeters, 1995) 46592; Joseph OLeary,
Logos, in The Westminster Handbook to Origen (ed. John A. McGuckin; Louisville: John Knox,
2004) 14245; my Clements Notion of the Logos All Things As One: Its Alexandrian Background
in Philo and its Developments in Origen and Nyssen, in Alexandrian Personae: Scholarly Culture
and Religious Traditions in Ancient Alexandria (ed. Zlatko Plee; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012).

336

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

2ULJHQVWKHVLVWKDW&KULVW/RJRVLVQHLWKHUQRUVLQFH
Origen was the only Christian supporter of this thesis then. Precisely Porphyrys
polemic and Origens interpretation were known to Eusebiusthe author of an
H[WHQVLYHUHIXWDWLRQRI3RUSK\U\ZKRUHHFWVWKHPLQEccl. theol. 2.9.1. Here he
posits the same problem of the individual subsistence of the Son-Logos as raised
by Porphyry, and even uses the same notion and vocabulary of Christ-Logos
IURPWKH)DWKHUDVIRXQGLQ3RUSK\U\VREMHFWLRQKHWXUQVLWDJDLQVW
0DUFHOOXVEXWQRWWRFODLPWKDW&KULVWLVDORJRVKHUDWKHUDVVHUWV
that Christ-Logos is similar to it.
One last hint is found in the title and content of Eusebiuss Praep. ev. 11.21. Its
title, chosen by Eusebius himself, exactly coincides with that chosen by Porphyry for
Enn. This cannot be accidental, all
the more in that here, on the basis of the Platonic Second LetterGH WKHVDPHWKDW
Plotinus cited in Enn. 5.1.8 to provide a basis for his doctrine of the three principles,
EXWQRWDEO\ZLWKRXWVSHDNLQJRIK\SRVWDVHVXQOLNH3RUSK\U\ (XVHELXVDUJXHVWKDW
Platos triad depends on the Jewish oracles, the Sapientia Salomonis. This theology
was interpreted by the exegetes of Plato, i.e., Plotinus and Porphyry, as a reference to
WKHWKUHHK\SRVWDVHV UVWJRGVHFRQGFDXVHDQGWKLUGJRGRUZRUOGVRXO DQG
by the Christian tradition as a reference to the Trinity. This tradition was represented
by Clement, who interpreted the three kings of the Second Letter in reference to
both the Trinity and the Platonic principles. But Eusebius knew that it was Origen
ZKRUVWVSRNHRIWKH3HUVRQVRIWKH7ULQLW\LQWHUPVRIK\SRVWDVHVSUREDEO\LQVSLULQJ
even Porphyry, who read Plotinuss principles as individual substances in Origens
sense, and who further tried to ascribe this novelty, not to Origen, but to Plato, who
in fact did not anticipate it. Porphyry had the Second Letter in mind, that to which
Clement, Origen, Plotinus, and then Eusebius referred. Clement, Origen, and Plotinus
may have derived the interpretation of that letter from Ammonius; Eusebius was well
acquainted with their, and Porphyrys, exegesis of that letter. Now, Plotinus did not
speak of hypostases in his exegesis of it, but Porphyry, inspired by Origen, did so in
his history of philosophy and in the title he chose for Enn. 5.1, and Eusebiuss choice
of his own title suggests that he was thinking precisely of Origen and Porphyry. Did
KHVXVSHFWDQ\LQXHQFHRIWKHIRUPHURQWKHODWWHU"
2Q WKH EDVLV RI WKH DQDO\VLV RI WKH  WHUPLQRORJ\ LQ 3ORWLQXV DQG
Porphyry that I have conducted, and of all the considerations I have expounded

,ILWKDVDK\SRVWDVLVRILWVRZQ>@DQGWKXVLVDGLIIHUHQWEHLQJWKDQ
*RG>@0DUFHOOXVVODERULVLQYDLQDQGLIDOWKRXJKLWSURFHHGHGIURP*RGVLPLODUO\
WRRXUORJRVLWUHPDLQHGLQVHSDUDEOH>@IURPWKH)DWKHUWKHQLWKDVDOZD\V
and uninterruptedly been in God, even while it was working.

Eusebius knew Plotinus through Porphyrys edition (this is the conclusion of Marie-Odile
Goulet-Caz, Deux traits plotiniens chez Eusbe de Csare, in The Libraries of the Neoplatonists
>HG&ULVWLQD'$QFRQD/HLGHQ%ULOO@ $FFRUGLQJWR3DXO.DOOLJDV7UDFHVRI/RQJLQXV
Library in Eusebius Praeparatio Evangelica, CQ  (XVHELXVNQHZ3ORWLQXVDV
well as most of Porphyry, from Longinuss library.

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

337

LQWKHFRXUVHRIWKHSUHVHQWVHFWLRQ,GRVXVSHFWDSRVVLEOHLQXHQFHRI2ULJHQ
RQ3RUSK\U\LQUHVSHFWWRWKHWHFKQLFDOPHDQLQJRIDVK\SRVWDVLV
3RUSK\U\PLJKWKDYHHYHQDVFULEHGLWWR3ORWLQXVXQGHUWKHLQXHQFHRI2ULJHQDQ
LQXHQFHWKDWKRZHYHUKHZRXOGKDYHQHYHUDFNQRZOHGJHG7KLVLVZK\3RUSK\U\
attempted, rather, to trace this innovation back to Plato. This would not be the only
H[DPSOHRI2ULJHQVLQXHQFHRQ3RUSK\U\)RULQVWDQFH5REHUW0*UDQWKDV
maintained that Origens Stromateis inspired many exegetical quaestiones in his
work against the Christians.

QThe Scriptural Side: Hebrews 1:3


In addition to the philosophical side, Scripture must necessarily be taken into
consideration in an investigation into the sources of Origens technical conception of
)RUEHVLGHV*UHHNSKLORVRSKHUV2ULJHQVWKRXJKWZDVLQIRUPHGE\WKH
Bible, both the LXX and the New Testament, and he always buttressed his rational
arguments, even in his philosophical masterpiece, with scriptural quotations and
LQWHUSUHWDWLRQV,QWKH1HZ7HVWDPHQWWKHPHDQLQJFRQGHQFHIRU
is found in Pauls authentic letters, especially 2 Corinthians. But the most
interesting passages for the present investigation belong to the Book of Hebrews.
+HUHWKHVHQVHFRQGHQFHLVIRXQGDJDLQDWOHDVWLQZKLOHLQ&RULQWKLDQV
WKH FRQQRWDWLRQ LV DOZD\V QHJDWLYH KHUH LW LV YHU\ SRVLWLYH DQG  DV
FRQGHQFHDVVXPHVDPHDQLQJWKDWLVYHU\FORVHWRIDLWK Indeed, in 11:1
DSSHDUVLQWKHYHU\GHQLWLRQRIIDLWK
7KHH[SUHVVLRQLVGLIFXOWWRWUDQVODWHWKHRSV, like the ASV, renders:
)DLWKLVWKHDVVXUDQFHRIWKLQJVKRSHGIRUWKH KJV, like the Webster, is closer
WR'DQWHVUHQGHULQJOHVVHWKLFDODQGPRUHRQWRORJLFDO)DLWKLVWKHVXEVWDQFH
RIWKLQJVKRSHGIRU 'DQWHKDG)HGHqVXVWDQ]DGLFRVHVSHUDWHPar. 
/LNHZLVHWKH'DUE\%LEOH)DLWKLVWKHVXEVWDQWLDWLQJRIWKLQJVKRSHGIRU,QKLV
Latin version of Origens Commentary on Romans  5XQXVDGKHULQJWRWKH
RQWRORJLFDOOLQHWUDQVODWHG LQDTXRWDWLRQRI+HEDVsubstantia.
The same translation is found in the Vetus Latina and the Vulgate.
%XW WKH SDVVDJH IURP +HEUHZV WKDW PRVW RI DOO VHHPV WR KDYH LQXHQFHG
2ULJHQV7ULQLWDULDQXVHRILVVXUHO\LQZKLFKWKH6RQLVGHVFULEHG
DV sc. of the

The Stromateis of Origen, in Epektasis. Mlanges J. Danlou HG-DFTXHV)RQWDLQHDQG
&KDUOHV.DQQHQJLHVVHU3DULV&HUI 




0         
ZHKDYHEHFRPHSDUWLFLSDQWVLQ&KULVWLIRQO\ZHNHHSRXULQLWLDOFRQGHQFH
steadfast until the end.

)or this passage we have Origens Greek, preserved in 3&DLUDQGFRG9DWJU



338

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

)DWKHU 7KH6RQLVWKHHIIXOJHQFHRIWKH)DWKHUVJORU\DQGWKHH[SUHVVLRQWKH
H[SUHVVLPDJHVWDPSLPSULQWRUH[DFWUHSUHVHQWDWLRQRIWKH)DWKHUVRZQVXEVWDQFH
It is remarkable that this is precisely the passage on which Origen commented while
DVVHUWLQJWKHFRHWHUQLW\RIWKH6RQZLWKWKH)DWKHULQWKHDIRUHPHQWLRQHGIUDJPHQW
quoted by Athanasius, to which I shall return in a moment. And in Heb 1:3 Origen
IRXQGWKDWD3HUVRQRIWKH7ULQLW\LQWKLVFDVHWKH)DWKHUKDVDRILWV
RZQ7KH6RQLVOLNHWKHLPSUHVVLRQRIWKHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIWKH)DWKHUWKXV
KHPXVWLQWXUQKDYHDRIKLVRZQGLIIHUHQWIURPWKDWRIWKH)DWKHU
7KHQRWLRQRIWKDWHPHUJHVLQ+HELVVLPLODUWRWKDWZKLFK,
have pointed out in Philo. Indeed, there exist interesting convergences between
Hebrews and Philo, whose works, according to some scholars, were known to the
author of the letter.1500RVWUHFHQWO\)RONHU6LHJHUWKDVFODLPHGWKDWDPRQJ1HZ
7HVWDPHQWZULWLQJVWKHFOHDUHVWHYLGHQFHRIDWOHDVWLQGLUHFW3KLORQLFLQXHQFHDUH
the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of John.151 The former was addressed
to Jewish Christians in Rome and, according to some scholars, its author may be

$OUHDG\ &OHPHQW FRPPHQWHG RQ +HE  LQ Strom. 7.3.16: the Son is the character of
WKHXQLYHUVDO.LQJDQGDOPLJKW\)DWKHUDQGcharacterRIWKH*ORU\RIWKH)DWKHU6HH-DPHV:
Thompson, The Epistle to the Hebrews in the Works of Clement of Alexandria, in Transmission
and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies (ed. Jeff Childers and David
&3DUNHU3LVFDWDZD\1-*RUJLDV HVS
150
The main comparative studies of Philo and Hebrews are: eslas Spicq, Lptre aux Hbreux
YROV3DULV/HFRIIUH ZKRFRQWHQGVWKDWWKHDXWKRURI+HEUHZVZDVD3KLORQLDQZKR
converted to Christianity; Sidney Sower, The Hermeneutics of Philo and Hebrews =ULFK (9=
 5RQDOG:LOOLDPVRQPhilo and the Epistle to the Hebrews /HLGHQ%ULOO .XPDU'H\
The Intermediary World and Patterns of Perfection in Philo and Hebrews (SBLDS 25; Missoula,
0RQW6FKRODUV ZKRGRHVQRWVHHVSHFLFFRQWDFWVEHWZHHQ3KLORDQG+HEUHZVEXWDGPLWV
that they probably had a common cultural background; Lincoln Hurst, The Epistle to the Hebrews:
Its Background of Thought 617606  &DPEULGJH 8. &DPEULGJH 8QLYHUVLW\ 3UHVV  
according to whom it is not proven that Hebrews had Philo and Middle Platonism in its intellectual
background (which is admitted by Harold Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews>3KLODGHOSKLD)RUWUHVV
1989] 29, and David Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature: A Survey>0LQQHDSROLV)RUWUHVV
@ .HQQHWK6FKHQFNA Brief Guide to Philo /RXLVYLOOH:HVWPLQVWHU-RKQ.QR[ HVS
LQWKHFKDSWHU3KLORDQG&KULVWLDQLW\DGYRFDWHVFORVHVLPLODULWLHVLQWKHFRQFHSWLRQRIWKH
/RJRVWKHLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRIWKH7DEHUQDFOHDQGWKHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQRIDQJHOV VHHHVSIRU
FRQYHUJHQFHVZLWK+HEUHZV LGHP3KLORDQGWKH(SLVWOHWRWKH+HEUHZV5RQDOG:LOOLDPVRQV6WXG\
after Thirty Years, SPhilo Annual  QRWHVWKDWWKHPDLQGLIIHUHQFHLVWKDW+HEUHZVLV
eschatologically oriented, while Philo is not, and that the latter allegorizes Scripture, while Hebrews
does not, but the similarities are more remarkable; he calls attention to the quotations from the OT that
are uniquely common to Hebrews and to Philo. See also Gert Steyn, Torah Quotations Common to
Philo, Hebrews, Clemens Romanus, and Justin Martyr, in The New Testament Intepreted (ed. Cilliers
%UH\WHQEDFK-RKDQ7KRPDQG-HUHP\3XQW/HLGHQ%ULOO ZKRWKLQNVWKDWWKHDXWKRU
of Hebrews was acquainted with Philos works, and wrote from Alexandria to Christians in Rome.
151

Philo and the New Testament, in The Cambridge Companion to Philo (ed. Adam Kamesar;
&DPEULGJH 8. &DPEULGJH 8QLYHUVLW\ 3UHVV    DW  )RU WKH SUHVHQFH RI
Platonism in Hebrews, see Peter J. Tomson, Le Temple cleste: pense platonisante et orientation
apocalyptique dans lptre aux Hbreux, in Philon dAlexandrie. Un penseur lintersection des
cultures grco-romaine, orientale, juive, et chrtienne (eds. Baudouin Decharneux and Sabrina
,QRZORFNL7XUQKRXW%UHSROV 

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

339

3ULVFDRQHRIWKHUVWDSRVWOHVDQGKHDGVRIFKXUFKHV6LHJHUWGDWHVLWEHIRUH
C.E. and, while admitting that there is no evidence that Roman Jews possessed
Philos writings at that time, he deems it safe to assume that the author of Hebrews,
like other Jews in Rome, may have learned of Philos teachings orally, even from
hearing him directly.152 To the convergences already highlighted by scholars (for
instance, in the conception of the Logos, in that of angels, in the interpretation of
WKH7DEHUQDFOHHWF ,DGGWKHSUHVHQWRQHFRQFHUQLQJWKHFRQFHSWRI
(YHQPRUHVSHFLFDOO\MXVWDV3KLORLQWKHDIRUHPHQWLRQHGSDVVDJHLQZKLFKKH
XVHGLQWKHVHQVHRILQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHZDVVSHDNLQJRIWKH
VRLVWKHDXWKRURI+HEUHZVKHUHVSHDNLQJRIWKH6RQDVDQRIWKH
)DWKHUVJORU\DQGDVVXFKKHDOVRGHQHVKLPDVWKHH[SUHVVLRQRIWKH)DWKHUV
individual substance. In the light of this previously unnoticed close parallel, I
wonder whether the author of Hebrews even had Philos passage in mind while he
was describing the Son in such terms. The correspondences are indeed striking, to
the point of suggesting a dependence on Philos passage:
 
 DVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
GHULYDWLRQRIWKHIURPLWVSURGXFHU GHULYDWLRQRIWKH6RQfrom

WKH)DWKHU153
,QWKLVSDVVDJHRI+HEUHZVZKHWKHURUQRWLQXHQFHGE\3KLOR2ULJHQIRXQGD
FRQFHSWRIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHIXUWKHUPRUHRQHVSHFLFDOO\DSSOLHG
WRWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQ+HWKHQLQWHUSUHWHGZKDWKHIRXQGLQWKH1HZ7HVWDPHQW
FRQFHUQLQJWKHRIWKH6RQDQGWKH)DWKHULQOLJKWRIWKHSKLORVRSKLFDO
XVHRILQSDUWLFXODUWKDWIRXQGLQWKHHDUO\LPSHULDOSHULRG
,QRUGHUWRGHPRQVWUDWHWKDW2ULJHQV7ULQLWDULDQQRWLRQRIGHYHORSHG
LQFRQQHFWLRQZLWKKLVH[HJHVLVRI+HEOHWPHEULH\DQDO\]HDOOH[WDQWSDVVDJHV

152
153

6LHJHUW3KLOR

Moreover, another passage of Philo could lie behind Heb 1:3: Opif.LQZKLFKWKHKXPDQ
EHLQJLVGHVFULEHGDVDNLQWR*RG  
DQGDQRI*RGEHFDXVHRILWVDIQLW\ZLWK*RGV/RJRV
+HUH
KRZHYHU:LVFRXOGKDYHZRUNHGDVDFRPPRQVRXUFHRILQVSLUDWLRQZKLOHWKLVFDQQRWEH
the case for the striking parallel I have pointed out in the text. Again, the characterization of the
6RQDVRIWKH)DWKHUKDVDSDUDOOHOLQDet.>sc. @

(see also, but less relevant, Plant.
Williamson, PhiloDQG7KRPSVRQ7KH(SLVWOHWRWKH+HEUHZVXQGHUOLQHWKHFRQWLQXLW\
between Philo, Hebrews, and Clement in this description of the Logos as ,QUHVSHFWWR
my main argument, however, and to Origens understanding, Heb 1:3 is different, since it describes
the Son as the express image of the Fathers individual substance, and not of the divine power
in general. The latter, in Origens view, is shared by the Son, whereas the Son does not share the
)DWKHUVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH

340

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

in which he interprets this biblical verse. In Hom. Jer.KHTXRWHV+HE


MRLQHGWR:LVLQVXSSRUWRIWKHHWHUQDOJHQHUDWLRQRIWKH6RQIURPWKH)DWKHU
just as the light always produces its splendor;155KHRQO\TXRWHVWKHUVWSDUWRIWKH
YHUVHQRWWKHVXEVHTXHQWSKUDVHFRQWDLQLQJ/LNHZLVHLQComm. Jo.
KHTXRWHVWKHUVWSDUWFRPELQLQJLWZLWK:LVDQGDJDLQLQ
ZLWKLQDUHHFWLRQRQWKHJORU\RI*RG7KHVDPHWKHPHRFFXUVDJDLQ
in Comm. Rom.LQZKLFK2ULJHQTXRWHVWKHVHFRQGSDUWRIWKHYHUVH
DVZHOO5XQXVWUDQVODWHGDVsubstantia, and Origen interpreted the
verse in reference to the generation of the Son as the irradiation of the glory of
WKH)DWKHUZKRLVLWVVRXUFH156 The mediating role of Christ-Logos is clear in this
description, in which Christ-Logos is the seat of all Ideas, therefore of all virtues,
all capacities, etc. Rational creatures do not possess these virtues, capacities,
and so on, but participate in them insofar as they participate in Christ-Logos.157
/LNHZLVH LQ  WKH GHQLWLRQ RI &KULVW LQ +HE  LV TXRWHG HQWLUHO\
DQGLVUHQGHUHGDVsubstantia.158 In Princ. 1.2.5, too, Origen joins Heb
WR:LVWKH6RQVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHLVKHUHUHQGHUHGsubsistentia
E\ 5XQXV DV D WUDQVODWLRQ RI  LQ OLQH ZLWK KLV WHFKQLFDO UHQGHULQJ
VKRUWO\ EHIRUHKDQG LQ WKH TXRWDWLRQ IURP +HE   LV UHQGHUHG E\
5XQXVDVsubstantiaEXWSUREDEO\XQGHUWKHLQXHQFHRIWKH9HWXV/DWLQD 159
7KLVLVFRQUPHGE\Princ. 1.2.2, in which Origen speaks of the Sons individual
substance, identifying the Son with Gods eternal Wisdom. Origen thus counters
a monarchian view of the Trinity, which denies that the Son had an individual
substance; on the contrary, he claims that the Son-Wisdom is not anything
without substance (aliquid insubstantivum EXWVRPHWKLQJWKDWPDNHVSHRSOH
wise: the Son of God is Gods Wisdom which subsists as an individual substance
UHVDOLTXDTXDHVDSLHQWHVHIFLDW)LOLXP'HLVDSLHQWLDPHLXVHVVH substantialiter
subsistentem 7KHODVWWZRZRUGVDUHRIWKHXWPRVWLPSRUWDQFHWKHXQGHUO\LQJ
*UHHNKHUHOLNHO\ZDVLQDQ\FDVHRUD

In addition to those I shall discuss, Origen quotes Heb 1:3 also in a number of other passages
among those preservedand we have lost a great dealsuch as Sel. Ps. 3*
DQGCels. 
DQG
155



156

Quia sit splendor gloriae et imago expressa substantiae eius. Perque haec declaratur ipsum
IRQWHP JORULDH 3DWUHP GLFL H[ TXR VSOHQGRU JORULDH )LOLXV JHQHUDWXU FXLXV SDUWLFLSDWLRQH RPQHV
creaturae gloriam habere dicuntur.
157
See, for instance, Cels.2XU6DYLRUGRHVQRWSDUWLFLSDWHLQMXVWLFHEXWLV-XVWLFHLWVHOI
and the just participate in him.
158
Haec autem gloria quae speratur . . . numquam destruitur; est enim talis de qua idem apostolus
dicit loquens de Christo: qui est, inquit, splendor gloriae et JXUDH[SUHVVDVXEVWDQWLDHHLXV.
159

6SOHQGRUJORULDHHWJXUDH[SUHVVDVXEVWDQWLDHHLXV,QYHQLPXVQLKLORPLQXVHWLDPLQ6DSLHQWLD
quae dicitur Salomonis descriptionem quandam de Dei Sapientia . . . . Vapor est enim, inquit, virtutis
'HLHW LGHVWPDQDWLR JORULDHRPQLSRWHQWLVSXULVVLPD6DSLHQWLDPYHUR'HLGLFLPXV
subsistentiam habentem non alibi nisi in eo, qui est initium omnium, ex quo et nata est.

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

341

derivative was surely present in Origens syntagm. Origen clearly insists on the
QRWLRQRIWKH6RQVLQGLYLGXDOLQGHSHQGHQWDQGUHDOVXEVWDQFHKLV
DQGGHYHORSVWKLVSUHFLVHO\ZKLOHUHHFWLQJRQWKHGHQLWLRQRIWKH6RQLQ+HE
In Princ. 2ULJHQIRFXVHVVSHFLFDOO\RQWKHH[SODQDWLRQRIWKHPHDQLQJRI
LQ+HE,Q5XQXVVWUDQVODWLRQKHFRPPHQWV
RQ+HEJXUDH[SUHVVD substantiae vel subsistentiae eius, trying to determine
KRZ WKH JXUH RI WKH )DWKHUV LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFH LV VDLG WR GLIIHU IURP WKH
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRUH[LVWHQFHRI*RGWKH)DWKHU TXRPRGRDOLDSUDHWHULSVDP
Dei substantiam vel subsistentiam . . . JXUD substantiae HLXVHVVHGLFDWXU . Here
5XQXVUHQGHUHGDVsubstantia et subsistentia, twice, probably feeling
that substantiaDORQHDVZDVWUDQVODWHGLQWKH9HWXV/DWLQDDQGWKHQ
WKH9XOJDWHFRXOGDOVRUHQGHU LQGHHG6RFUDWHVLQDWLPHYHU\FORVHWR
5XQXVV LQ Hist. Eccl. 3.7 noticed that the more recent philosophers used
LQWKHVHQVHRIWKHUHIRUHVXEVWDQFHHVVHQFH 5XQXVZDQWHG
WRDYRLGDPELJXLW\LQWKHOLJKWRI2ULJHQVIRFXVRQDVLQGLYLGXDO
substance. It is noteworthy that in the passage under examination Origen
FRQFHLYHVWKH6RQDVDWKDWLVGLIIHUHQWIURPWKH)DWKHUV
alia praeter ipsam Dei VXEVWDQWLDPYHOVXEVLVWHQWLDP KHUH5XQXVUVWTXRWHV
WKH9HWXV/DWLQDVWUDQVODWLRQRIsubstantia, then adds his own, more
technical, version: subsistentia 7KH6RQVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHGLIIHUVIURPWKDW
RIWKH)DWKHUKRZHYHULWLVDQLPDJHRILWDQGUHYHDOVLWVHFXQGXPKRFLSVXP
TXRGLQWHOOLJLDWTXHDJQRVFLIDFLW'HXPJXUDP substantiae vel subsistentiae eius
dicatur exprimere.
7KH VDPH LV FRQUPHG LQ Princ. fr. 33, from Athanasius Decr. 27, which I
have quoted above in extenso and which supports my idea that Origen developed
KLV7ULQLWDULDQQRWLRQRIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHLQWKHFRQWH[WRI
his exegesis of Heb 1:3. In this core passage, Origen observes that the Son is the
LPDJHRUH[SUHVVLRQRIWKH)DWKHUVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRUK\SRVWDVLVZKLFKLV
ineffable,160DQGIXUWKHUPRUHLQVLVWVRQWKHFRHWHUQLW\RIWKH)DWKHUVDQGWKH6RQV
LQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHV+HUHLQGLFDWHVWKHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIWKH
)DWKHUQRWWKHFRPPRQVXEVWDQFHQDWXUHRIWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQZKLFK2ULJHQ
FDOOVDQGWKLVPHDQLQJDV,DUJXHZDVVXJJHVWHGE\2ULJHQVUHHFWLRQ
on Heb 1:3. Also, in Hom. Gen. 1.13 Origen is saying that the human being is
made in the image of God, that is, Christ, who is splendor aeterni luminis et
JXUDH[SUHVVD substantiae Dei, that is to say, of the individual substance of the
)DWKHU+HUHsubstantiaWUDQVODWHV 5XQXVNHSWDJDLQWKHWUDQVODWLRQ
of the Vetus Latina, since this is a biblical quotation; this is why he did not use his
technical subsistentia DQG2ULJHQLQWHUSUHWVLWDVWKH)DWKHUVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
DVLVFRQUPHGE\WKHHTXDWLRQDeus = Pater in the immediately subsequent lines.
An interesting corroboration comes from a change in terminology in Cels.
+HUH2ULJHQSDUDSKUDVHV+HEEXWWUDQVIRUPVZKLFKLQKLV
160

.

342

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

RZQ 7ULQLWDULDQ WHUPLQRORJ\ LV WHFKQLFDO WKH )DWKHUV RU WKH 6RQV LQGLYLGXDO
VXEVWDQFH LQWRZKLFKLVPRUHDSWWRWKHGHEDWHZLWKD0LGGOH3ODWRQLVW
7KXVWKHFRQFHSWKHUHLVQRORQJHUWKH)DWKHUVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIZKLFK
the Son is the express image, but the nature of God altogether.161 Indeed, Middle
3ODWRQLFWKHRORJ\GLGQRWFRQWHPSODWHWKUHH3HUVRQVEHLQJRQH*RGEXWDUVWDQG
DVHFRQG DQGVRPHWLPHVDWKLUG *RGWKHVHFRQGIXQFWLRQLQJDVDPHGLDWRU162
But in the same work, when his argument requires this, Origen does introduce his
Trinitarian terminology and distinction, interestingly again in connection with
a discussion and quotation of Heb 1:3, in Cels. 8.12. Here Origen distinguishes
EHWZHHQWKHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH RIWKH)DWKHUDQGWKDWRIWKH6RQ
LQWKHLUUHVSHFWLYHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWZRGLVWLQFW
beings, but in their concord they are one and the same thing.163
One of the most important attestations of Heb 1:3 in Origen, and one of the most
relevant to my present argument, is found in Princ. fr. 33 quoted by Athanasius
(Decr ZKLFK,KDYHDOUHDG\FLWHGVLQFHKHUH2ULJHQVUHHFWLRQRQ+HE
OHDGVKLPWRDVVHUWWKHFRHWHUQLW\RI&KULVW/RJRVZLWKWKH)DWKHU LQGHHGWKLVLV
RQHRIWKHPDLQDWWHVWDWLRQVRI2ULJHQVXVHRIWKHIRUPXOD
anti-Arian ante litteram; Origen himself imported it from the Greek philosophical
GHEDWHLQWRWKHFKULVWRORJLFDOHOGDV,KRSHWRKDYHGHPRQVWUDWHGHOVHZKHUH 
Here, indeed, Origen argues that the Son, being the image of the individual substance
RIWKH)DWKHUZKLFKLVHQWLUHO\LQHIIDEOHPXVWQHFHVVDULO\H[LVWHWHUQDOO\DQGKDYH
existed ab aeterno.165 That Origen attached the argument for the coeternity of the

161
7           

162
In Comm. Cant.SURORJXHXQIRUWXQDWHO\SUHVHUYHGRQO\LQ5XQXVV/DWLQWUDQVODWLRQ2ULJHQ
paraphrases Heb 1:3 by saying that the Logos is the image and splendor of the invisible God; no
HTXLYDOHQWRIKRZHYHUDSSHDUVKHUHJLYHQWKDWWKHLPDJHRI*RGVLPSOLHVWKHSKUDVH
WKHH[SUHVVLPDJHRIWKH)DWKHUVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH:HGRQRWNQRZZKHWKHUWKHVLPSOLFDWLRQ
LVGXHWR5XQXVRUZDVDOUHDG\SUHVHQWLQ2ULJHQVSURORJXH%XWDSSHDUVDWComm.
Cant. 2: the Son of God, the Logos, is the splendor of the glory and of the individual substance of
*RGWKH)DWKHUWKHVLPSOLFDWLRQKHUHLQYROYHVWKHHOLPLQDWLRQRIIURPWKHTXRWDWLRQ
of Heb 1:3. In Comm. Cant. 3 Origen explains that the left hand of the Logos represents its passion
and the healing of humanity, by the assumption of the human nature; its right hand represents its
divine nature, the nature that is all right, and all light, and splendor, and glory. Here Origen is
focusing on Christs human and divine nature, not on the individual substance and common nature
of the Persons of the Trinity.
163
7
                


Ramelli, Maximus.
165




ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

343

)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQWRKLVUHHFWLRQRQLQ+HELVDOVRFRQUPHG
by Princ. fr. 32.166
Two other passages are revealing. They come from Origens lost commentary
on Hebrews,167 are preserved by Pamphilus, a reliable source, and focus on Heb
7KHUVWLQGLFDWHVWKDW2ULJHQZDVDFFXVHGRISRVLWLQJWZRHTXDOSULQFLSOHV
SUHFLVHO\IRUKLV7ULQLWDULDQUHHFWLRQRQWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKH)DWKHUDQG
the Son, each one endowed with an individual substance of his own, and exactly
LQFRQQHFWLRQZLWKKLVH[HJHVLVRI+HEDQG:LVDQGKLVSRVWXODWLRQ
RIWKHFRHWHUQLW\RIWKH6RQZLWKWKH)DWKHU
+RZ HOVH VKRXOG WKH HWHUQDO OLJKW EH XQGHUVWRRG WKDQ *RG WKH )DWKHU"
)RUWKHUHZDVQRWLPHZKHQWKHOLJKWH[LVWHGEXWLWVHIIXOJHQFHGLGQRWH[ist along with it. . . . If this is true, there was no time when the Son did not
exist. Now, he existed not as innate, as we have said concerning the eternal
light, to avoid the impression of introducing two principles of the light, but as
the effulgence of the ingenerated light, having that light as its principle and
spring, since it is born from that light, to be sure, but there was no time when
it did not exist.168 (Apol.  

Origen was charged with the introduction of two equal and innate principles, as
LVDOVRFRQUPHGE\Pamphilus Apol. 87: they say he described the Son of God
DVLQQDWH GLFXQWHXPLQQDWXPGLFHUH)LOLXP'HL  Such an accusation is easily
XQGHUVWDQGDEOH LQ WKH OLJKW RI KLV GLVWLQFWLRQ RI WZR  RU LQGLYLGXDO
VXEVWDQFHV RQH RI WKH )DWKHU DQG RQH RI WKH 6RQ 0DUFHOOXV RI$QF\UD IU 
from Eusebius C. MarcDFFXVHG2ULJHQRIUHJDUGLQJWKH/RJRVDVDVHFRQG
substance, clearly because of Origens characterization of the Logos as a distinct
K\SRVWDVLV GLIIHUHQW IURP WKDW RI WKH )DWKHU 0DUFHOOXV PLVXQGHUVWRRG 2ULJHQ
EHFDXVHKHGLGQRWJUDVSWKHGLIIHUHQFHEHWZHHQDQGGUDZQE\
Origen in his technical terminology.
The second passage, too, Apol.FRPHVIURPWKHVHFWLRQRQ+HERI
2ULJHQVORVWFRPPHQWDU\RQ+HEUHZV$QGLWFOHDUO\VKRZVVWURQJO\FRQUPLQJ
what I have arguedthat it was precisely in commenting on Heb 1:3, in connection
166

S
Koetschau, from Justinians Epistula ad Mennam. This is per se a deeply unreliable source, but
KHUHLWLVWUXVWZRUWK\DVIRUWKHUHODWLRQRIWKHFRHWHUQLW\RIWKH6RQZLWKWKH)DWKHUWKHLULQGLYLGXDO
VXEVWDQFHV DQG +HE  VLQFH LQ WKLV UHVSHFW LW LV FRQUPHG E\$WKDQDVLXV Decr. 27. See also
Pamphilus ApolIURP%RRNRI2ULJHQVORVWFRPPHQWDU\RQ*HQHVLV'HHRTXRGQRQVLW
3DWHUDQWHTXDP)LOLXVVHG coaeternus VLW)LOLXV3DWULLQSULPROLEURGH*HQHVLKDHFDLW1RQHQLP
Deus, cum prius non esset Pater, postea Pater esse coepit . . .
167
168

Apol.ex libris epistulae ad Hebraeos.

Lux autem aeterna quid aliud sentiendum est quam Deus Pater? Qui numquam fuit quando
OX[TXLGHPHVVHWVSOHQGRUYHURHLQRQDGHVVHWTXRGVLXHUXPHVWQXPTXDPHVWTXDQGR)LOLXV
non fuit. Erat autem non sicut de aeterna luce diximus innatus, ne duo principia lucis uideamur
inducere, sed sicut ingenitae lucis splendor, ipsam illam lucem initium habens ac fontem, natus
quidem ex ipsa, sed non erat quando non erat.

344

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

ZLWK:LVWKDW2ULJHQUHHFWHGRQDQGHVWDEOLVKHGWKHWHFKQLFDO7ULQLWDULDQ
XVDJH RI WKH WHUPV  DQG  DQG SRVVLEO\ DOVR  ,Q
Apol. 95 Origen supports the doctrine that the Son of God is God against eos
TXRVSLJHWFRQWHUL'HXPHVVH)LOLXP'HLDQGREVHUYHVWKDWKXPDQQDWXUHKDV
nothing of divine substance (substantia  LQ LWVHOI +HUH VXEVWDQFH WUDQVODWHG
substantiaE\5XQXVGRHVQRWPHDQWKHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIHDFK3HUVRQRI
WKH7ULQLW\EXWGLYLQHQDWXUHRUHVVHQFHLWPXVWKDYHEHHQLQ*UHHN,QWKH
same passage, substantia, subsistentia, and natura probably render, respectively,
DQG,QApol. 99 Origen focuses on the generation of
WKH6RQIURP*RGVVXEVWDQFHWKHGLYLQHHVVHQFHRU169 hence a communio
substantiae EHWZHHQWKH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQ+HUHsubstantia FOHDUO\UHHFWV*UHHN
7KH)DWKHUDQGWKH6RQDUHWZRGLVWLQFWLQGLYLGXDOVZKRVKDUHLQWKHVDPH
 7KHUHIRUH WKH 6RQ LV  id est unius substantiae DV 5XQXV
JORVVHVWKXVJLYLQJWKHLPSUHVVLRQWKDWWKH*UHHNWHUPZDVLQGHHGLQ2ULJHQVWH[W 
ZLWKWKH)DWKHU3DPSKLOXVVFRQFOXVLRQLQApol.VXPPDUL]HV)LOLXP'HLGH
ipsa Dei substantia natum dixerit, id est  TXRGHVWHLXVGHPFXP3DWUH
VXEVWDQWLDH5XQXVJORVVHVDJDLQ 170 Soon after, in Apol.WKHWHUP
was surely introduced in the original Greek in Origens technical Trinitarian sense to
designate the Sons individual substance and existence, in a quotation from Princ.
7KH)DWKHUVZLOOPXVWEHHQRXJKIRUWKHH[LVWHQFHRIZKDWWKH)DWKHUZDQWV
[ad subsistendum hoc quod uult Pater] . . . WKHLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFHRIWKH6RQ>)LOLL
subsistentia] is generated by him. Here subsistentiaUHQGHUVDQGad
subsistendumUHQGHUVRUDIRUPRI
,W LV FOHDU WKHUHIRUH IURP DOO , KDYH DUJXHG VR IDU WKDW 2ULJHQV UHHFWLRQ
RQ WKH LQGLYLGXDO VXEVWDQFHV RU  RI WKH 3HUVRQV RI WKH7ULQLW\ IRU
ZKLFK 2ULJHQ GRHV QRW XVH WKH WHUP  DV , KDYH GHPRQVWUDWHG  DQG
WKHLUFRPPRQGLYLQHQDWXUHDQGHVVHQFH UHVWVXSRQWZRPDLQVRXUFHV
of inspiration: one philosophical and one scriptural, the latter mainly consisting
in Heb 1:3. These sources should be considered to be intertwined, in that Origen
read Scripture in the light of philosophy (especially Middle Platonism and proto1HRSODWRQLVP  0RUHRYHU 6FULSWXUH LWVHOI ZDV IDU IURP EHLQJ LPSHUPHDEOH WR
philosophy; in particular, Heb 1:3 reveals striking correspondences with Philo,
as I have pointed out.
$UHPDUNDEOHFRQUPDWLRQRIWKHLPSRUWDQFHRI+HEIRUWKHXQGHUVWDQGLQJ
of intra-Trinitarian relationships comes from a theologian who was deeply inspired
by Origen, especially in his Trinitarian doctrine: Gregory of Nazianzus.171)RUKH
169
Secundum similitudinem uaporis qui de substantia aliqua corporea procedit . . . sic et Sapientia
ex ea procedens ex ipsa Dei substantia.
170
Compare Fr. in Ps.  GXELRXVEXWQRWQHFHVVDULO\VSXULRXV LQZKLFKWKH6RQLVFDOOHG
ZLWKWKH)DWKHU
.
171

See for instance, Anne Richard, Cosmologie et thologie chez Grgoire de Nazianze (Paris:
,QVWLWXW GpWXGHV DXJXVWLQLHQQHV   DQG PRUH VSHFLFDOO\ DQG ZLWK D VXUYH\ RI SUHYLRXV

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

345

VXUHO\KDGLQPLQG2ULJHQVUHHFWLRQRQ+HEDQGKLVWKHRU\RI&KULVWV
ZKHQKHOLVWHGDQGWKHWZRFKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQVRIWKH6RQ
LQ+HEDPRQJWKRVHRI&KULVWWKDWUHYHDOWKHGLYLQLW\RIWKH6RQ Or.
 DQGDJDLQDPRQJWKHRI&KULVWWKDWLPSO\WKDWWKH6RQ
KDVWKHVDPHQDWXUH DVWKH)DWKHU Or. 
Apart from Heb 1:3 and the New Testament, Origen of course knew the use of
LQWKHLXX+HUHOLNHLQHDUO\&KULVWLDQDXWKRUVZKRZHUHLQXHQFHG
E\ WKH *UHHN %LEOH  PHDQV WKH H[LVWHQFH RI DQ LQGLYLGXDO WKXV WKH
GXUDWLRQRIKLVRUKHUOLIHRULWVEHJLQQLQJLWVRULJLQIRULQVWDQFHLQ3V  
3V  172 Ignatius Phil. 12.3: God is the cause of my birth and the Lord and
SUHVHUYHURIP\H[LVWHQFH  7KLVLVD
meaning that actually has to do with the notion of individual substance or existence;
I deem it probable that Origen, who knew the Septuagint practically by heart, in
DGGLWLRQWRNQRZLQJPDQ\*UHHNSKLORVRSKLFDOVRXUFHVZDVLQGHHGLQXHQFHGE\
this usage as well.
)URPWKHH[DPLQDWLRQ,KDYHFRQGXFWHGLQWKHSUHVHQWVHFWLRQLWHPHUJHVWKDW
2ULJHQVVSHFLFQRWLRQRILQWKH7ULQLWDULDQHOGGHYHORSHGQRWRQO\
RQWKHEDVLVRIWKHLQXHQFHRIHDUO\LPSHULDOSKLORVRSK\EXWDOVRLQFRQQHFWLRQ
with his Scriptural exegesis, especially of Heb 1:3, whether or not the notion of
 LQ WKLV SDVVDJH ZDV LQVSLUHG LQ WXUQ E\ 3KLOR DQRWKHU DXWKRU ZHOO
known to Origen.

QConclusion: The Clement Problem and Origens Role in the


7ULQLWDULDQ8VHRI
Besides joining the biblical use with the philosophical use of his day, Origen surely
NQHZWKHXVHRILQHDUOLHUChristian philosophers, at least in Clement
and Pantaenus, and possibly Justin. Regarding Pantaenus, we know nothing about
KLVQRWLRQRIIURPKLVVFDWWHUHGIUDJPHQWVEXWZHKDYHHQRXJKPDWHULDO
RQ&OHPHQW$QGWKLVUDLVHVDUHPDUNDEOHTXHVWLRQWKDWPXVWEHDWOHDVWEULH\
addressed.
,QPRVWFDVHV&OHPHQWVXVHRILVLQOLQHZLWKWKHPRVWZLGHVSUHDG
meanings of this term I have outlined. In Strom. 2.35.2 Clement means that Paul says
that the Law manifested the knowledge of sin, but did not produce the substance
of it; knowledge of a thing is opposed to the thing itself.173 But in another passage
knowledge is said to become a living substance in the gnostic (Strom. 
scholarship, Joseph Trigg, Knowing God in the Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus:
The Heritage of Origen, in God in Early Christian Thought
172
 VHH
DOVR3V  3V
  (]HN
173




346

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 KHUHDQGDSSHDUWREHYHU\FORVHMXVWDVLQStrom. 5.3.2,
LQZKLFKDQGDUHPHQWLRQHGRQWKHVDPHSODQH175 The
general meaning substance is also found in Ecl. 2.2,176ZKHUH
does not indicate the individual substance of each member of the same species,
but the substance of the abyss, which is unlimited in its own substance per se but
limited by the power of God.
The most interesting passage is Strom. 7KHLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRI
in it is controversial, but it must be tackled, because it depends on whether Clement
anticipated Origen in the application of this term to each Person of the Trinity.
Clement is speaking of the four cardinal virtues theorized by Plato and by the Stoics:
The tetrad of the virtues is consecrated to God; the third stage already connects
to the fourth hypostasisRIWKH/RUG>
    @ 6RPH VFKRODUV LQWHUSUHW
here as step, a rare meaning, never attested elsewhere in Clement;177 Van den
+RHNIROORZV3UHVWLJHLQLQWHUSUHWLQJDVVWDWLRQRUVWRSSDLUHG
ZLWK DERGH  ZKLFK RFFXUV PRUH IUHTXHQWO\ LQ SDVVDJHV LQ ZKLFK WKH
ascent to gnostic perfection is referred to.178 The number four refers to perfection.
7KHRQO\SUREOHPZLWKWKLVH[HJHVLVLVWKDWWKHVWDJHVRURIWKHVSLULWXDO
ascent occur again in Strom. VHHDOVR DQGDUHODWLRQEHWZHHQWKH
notion of abode in spiritual ascent and the number three is found throughout
Strom.DQGDJDLQLQEXWRQO\WKUHHDERGHVDUHPHQWLRQHGQR
TXHVWLRQRIDIRXUWKRUHYHQ$FFRUGLQJWR0RUWOH\ZKRIROORZV
Potter,179WKHIRXUWKLV&KULVWDVVHFRQG/RJRVWKHIRXUWK3HUVRQ
RIWKH7ULQLW\7KLVZRXOGHQWDLODPHDQLQJRIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
applied to each person of the Trinity, exactly as in Origen. However, it is far from


7

175
On this see Matyas Havrda, Some Observations on Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book
5, VC  DW
176


177
See C. Leonard Prestige, Clem. Strom. ,,DQGWKHVHQVHRI, JTS   
 ZKR LQWHUSUHWV WKLV IRXUWK VWHS RU VWDJH DV EDSWLVPDO LQLWLDWLRQ DOVR &OHPHQWH Stromati
LQWUR WUDQV DQG FRPP *LRYDQQL 3LQL 0LODQ 3DROLQH    3LQL UHQGHUV OD WHWUDGH
GHOOHYLUWqFRQVDFUDWDD'LRHJLjODWHU]DWDSSDGHOUHVWRFRQQDFROTXDUWRJUDGLQRFKHqTXHOOR
del Signore. This interpretation is rejected by Witt, Hypostasis, 333, and Camelot in a note in
Clment, Stromate II HGDQGWUDQV&ODXGH0RQGpVHUW6&3DULV&HUI 
178
Annewies van den Hoek, Clement of Alexandria and his Use of Philo in the Stromateis
9&6XS/HLGHQ%ULOO 
179
Raoul Mortley, Connaissance religieuse et hermneutique chez Clment /HLGHQ%ULOO 
-RKQ3RWWHUClementis Alexandrini opera quae extant omnia 2[IRUG9HQLFH 
UHSURGXFHG LQ 3*  $QRWKHU WKHRORJLFDO H[SODQDWLRQ LV RIIHUHG E\ .DUO 3UPP *ODXEH XQG
Erkenntniss im zweiten Buch der Stromateis des Klements, Scholastik  DW 50.

ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

347

certain that Clement himself maintained a conception of a double Logos,180 and I


WKLQN9DQGHQ+RHNLVULJKWQRWWRVHHDUHIHUHQFHWRWKH7ULQLW\ RUD4XDWHUQLW\ 
in the aforementioned passage.181
This idea of two Logoi, rejected by Photius,182 was also ascribed to Clement
by him. Photius is a witness who must not be overlooked, since he was still able
to read the whole of Clements Hypotyposeis, where Clement spoke of the Logos
within the framework of his iblical exegesis. But Photius may easily have been
mistaken in his interpretation.183 Edwards argued that Clement never supported the
YLHZWKDWWKH/RJRVZDVHPEHGGHGIURPHWHUQLW\LQWKH)DWKHUDQGEHFDPHDVHFRQG
K\SRVWDVLVZKHQWKH)DWKHUEURXJKWLWIRUWKEHIRUHWKHDJHVDVDQLQVWUXPHQWRI
creation. I agree that Clement probably never maintained a doctrine of two
Logoi and rather conceived several aspects of the Logos, but without necessarily
conceptualizing them as successive stages of the Logoss existence (which rather
WVLQZLWKD9DOHQWLQLDQYLHZZLWKZKLFK&OHPHQWZDVIDPLOLDUDQGZKLFKKH
also reported in Exc. 3KRWLXVVDIRUHPHQWLRQHGIUDJPHQWUHIHUVDFFRUGLQJ
to Edwardsto Clements conception of ZKLFKFRLQFLGHV
with human logos and which Clement kept distant from divine Logos (Strom.
 7KLVLVRQHUHDVRQZK\3KRWLXVPD\KDYHEHHQPLVWDNHQDQG,QRWHWKDWD
FRQFHUQIRUWKHGLVWLQFWLRQRIDQGIURP&KULVW
Logos is evident in Theophylactus, who lived a little later than Photius and was
a disciple of Psellus;185 the same concern may thus have been at work in Photius.
180

Paden interpreted the Logos in Clement in the light of Nicene theology. This approach was
deemed unhistorical by several scholars, who found two or three Logoi in Clement. One of these
scholars was Robert Casey, Clement and the Two Divine Logoi, JTS     2WKHU
scholars, such as Eric Osborn, Clement of Alexandria (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University
3UHVV IROORZHGUHFHQWO\E\2OHK.LQGL\Christos Didaskalos: The Christology of Clement
of Alexandria 6DDUEUFNHQ0OOHU QGRQO\RQH/RJRVLQ&OHPHQWLGHQWLDEOHZLWKWKH
Son of God.
181

This is also why she has not included it in her treatment of Clements theology in God Beyond
Knowing: Clement of Alexandria and Discourse on God, in God in Early Christian Thought
182
Photius, Bibl. cod. 109 = Clement, fr. 23, III 202 Staehlin.
183
Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria on Trial: The Evidence of Heresy from
Photius %LEOLRWKHFD 9&6XS/HLGHQ%ULOO DQDO\]HVRQHE\RQHWKHHLJKWKHUHVLHVWKDW
Clements Hypotyposeis contained according to Photius, Bibl. cod. 109, considering the differences
between Photiuss post-Nicene theology and Clements. My review is forthcoming in GNOMON.

Mark J. Edwards, Clement of Alexandria and His Doctrine of the Logos, VC  
 Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement on Trial, has devoted a chapter to this Photian fragment
 KHDOVRIDYRUVWKHXQLFLW\RIWKH/RJRVLQ&OHPHQWDQGVXVSHFWVDPLVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRQ
WKHSDUWRI3KRWLXV  &I)DELHQQH-RXUGDQ/H/RJRVGH&OpPHQWVRXPLVjODTXHVWLRQ
RE  
185

Enarr. Joh.3**RGV/RJRVLVQHLWKHUQRU)RUWKRVH
FKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQVDUHSURSHUWRQDWXUDOUHDOLWLHVDQGDFFRUGLQJWRXV KXPDQV EXWVLQFHWKH/RJRV
RIWKH)DWKHULVVXSHULRUWRQDWXUHLWLVQRWVXEMHFWWRLQIHULRUVXEWOHWLHV7KHHYDQJHOLVW>sc.
-RKQ@GHVWUR\HGLQDGYDQFHWKLVVXEWOHDUJXPHQWE\VWDWLQJWKDWDQGDUH
predicated of human and natural logoi, but nothing of the sort can be predicated of the Logos that
is above nature.

348

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

$QRWKHUSRVVLEOHUHDVRQ,QGPD\EHWKDW3KRWLXVZDVTXRWLQJIURP&OHPHQWV
quotation or paraphrase of some gnostic interpretation of the incarnation. This is
Photiuss passage:
$FFRUGLQJ WR &OHPHQW WKH /RJRV GLG QRW EHFRPH HVK EXW GLG VR RQO\ in
appearance. In his monstrous arguments, he posits two Logoi of the Father,
between which it is the inferior one that manifested itself to the human beLQJVRUUDWKHUQRWHYHQWKDWRQH)RUKHVD\V7KH6RQWRRLVFDOOHGLogos,
by homonymy with the Fathers Logos, but it is not this the one that became
HVK, nor indeed the paternal Logos, but rather a kind of power of God, like
an emanation of Gods Logos, became intellect and inhabited the minds of the
human beings186 (BiblFRG

I suspect that Clement was reporting a gnostic conception, misunderstood by


Photiushostile to the assimilation of human logos to divine Logosas his own
GRFWULQH )RU WKDW FRQFHSWLRQ VWULNLQJO\ UHVHPEOHV 9DOHQWLQLDQ LGHDV SUHVHUYHG
precisely by Clement, especially in Excerpta ex Theodoto. The very notion
that several realities are called Logos according to a principle of homonymy
LVW\SLFDOO\JQRVWLFDQGPRUHVSHFLFDOO\9DOHQWLQLDQDV&OHPHQW
himself attests in Exc. 1.25.1, where he asserts that the Valentinians called the aeons
Logoi by homonymy with the Logos.187 Moreover, exactly like in Photiuss passage,
WKH\GLVWLQJXLVKHGD/RJRVSURSHU Exc.  
ZKLFKLVWKH)DWKHUV/RJRVDQGWKH6RQLHWKHRIIVSULQJRIWKDWUVW/RJRVWKH
Son, therefore, which is also the creator/demiurge, is not the highest Logos (Exc.
 188 The Valentinian fragmentation of the Son-Christ-Logos-creator is also
clear in Clements account in Exc. 189 Tellingly, Clement, far from endorsing
the aforementioned fragmentation, criticizes it and opposes to it another doctrine,
which he describes as supported by the Christian group he belongs to (we, on the
FRQWUDU\PDLQWDLQ DQGZKLFKLGHQWLHVWKHKLJKHVW/RJRVWKDWLV*RGZLWK
the Logos that is in God and with the Logos that is the creator of all realities

186
           


             

187

2

188

   


189


 , 
6HHDOVRExc. 


ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI

349

spiritual, intelligible, and sense-perceptiblein Exc. 1.8.1.190 )XUWKHUPRUH WKH


GLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQWKH)DWKHUV/RJRVDQGWKH6RQZKRLVWKHRIIVSULQJRIWKDW
Logos, is related, exactly as in Photiuss passage, to an alternative interpretation of
the Logoss incarnation, in Exc.ZKLFKDJDLQUHSRUWV9DOHQWLQLDQLGHDV191
The concept of a docetic incarnation and the interpretation of the Logoss
incarnation as the presence of the rational faculty in the minds of human beings,
which are found in Photiuss fragment, are also Valentinian rather than Clementine.
That docetism was a feature of Valentinianism does not need to be argued. As
for the incarnation of the Logos in human minds, the vivifying function of the
Logos-rational faculty on human souls is attested by Clement himself in several
passages in Excerpta ex Theodoto in which he reports Valentinian ideas.192 Instead
RIDQLQFDUQDWLRQRQFHDQGIRUDOOZHKDYHKHUHDFRQWLQXDOYLYLFDWLRQRIKXPDQV
on the part of the rational faculty. This coincides with the interpretation of the
incarnation of the Logos that Photius ascribes to Clement, but may refer to the
9DOHQWLQLDQ V KHZDVFLWLQJ
Notably, the notion of a duality or multiplicity of Logoi that Clement found in
his adversaries seems to me to be the same that Origen found in his adversaries as
wellprobably Valentinians, againand refuted in Comm. Jo. LQZKLFK
he emphasizes the unity of the Logos against those who want to kill the Logos and
to break it to pieces . . . to destroy the unity of the greatness of the Logos.
Therefore, Origen, as it seems more probable from my argument so far, did not
QGLQ&OHPHQWDQDQWLFLSDWLRQRIKLVRZQXVHRIDVLQGLYLGXDOVXEVWDQFH
190
               


191
    R       

R

$VKZLQClement on Trial, 70, following Sagnard, thinks
that these words are Clements. I rather suspect that this passage expresses Valentinian ideas.
7KDWLWGRHVQRWUHHFW&OHPHQWVRZQWKRXJKWLVDOVRVXJJHVWHGE\0DUN(GZDUGV*QRVWLFVDQG
9DOHQWLQLDQVLQWKH&KXUFK)DWKHUVJTS   Ashwin-Siejkowski himself notes that
Photius found Clements erroneous theology of the Logos in the Hypotyposeis, but he did not
mention any errors on the same subject in the Stromateis (Clement on Trial WKLVLV,WKLQN
EHFDXVHLQWKHODWWHUKHGLGQRWQGJQRVWLFTXRWDWLRQVRUSDUDSKUDVHVWKDWKHFRXOGPLVWDNHIRU
Clements own thought, since in the Stromateis those quotations were fewer and their markers very
clear, whereas the opposite was the case in the Hypotyposeis and in the Excerpta ex Theodoto.
192
6HHHJ7KHVRXO
LVFRQWLQXDOO\YLYLHGE\WKHORJRV2QWKHYLYLI\LQJIXQFWLRQRIWKHORJRVLQUHVSHFWWRWKHVRXOIRU
WKH9DOHQWLQLDQVVHHDOVR
            
 QRWHDOVRWKHFRQFHSWRIZKLFKDSSHDUV
LQ3KRWLXVVTXRWDWLRQDVZHOO  1.1.3: 
. On the higher plane of the three races postulated by the Valentinians, the whole
HOHFWUDFH WKDWRIWKHSQHXPDWLFV LVDVSDUNOHYLYLHGE\WKH/RJRV

350

HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

applied to the Trinity. Indeed, Clement himself reflected on Heb 1:3 in Strom. 7.6.15,
but he abbreviated the quotation and even dropped the word from
it, thus speaking of the Son as
. Now, if Origen did not find in Clement an anticipation of his
own Trinitarian use of hypostasis as individual substance, he was more closely
influenced by philosophical and medical authors of the early imperial age, and by
Scripture, especially Heb 1:3. Subsequently, it was mainly under the influence of
the Cappadocians that the terminology was clarified and standardized, with the formula
, , which will be used and ascribed to them still by the
Origenist John the Scot Eriugena.193 But they, and especially Gregory of Nyssa, in fact
depended on Origen. With the present research I hope to have clarified the genesis
of that formula, the scriptural and philosophical roots of the Trinitarian concept of
, and the outstanding role of Origen in its definition, to the point that he
might have even influenced the characterization of the Neoplatonic three principles
against Plotinuss useas three Hypostases: .

193
In his Adnotationes in Marcianum 77.8 (Ramelli, Tutti i Commenti a Marziano Capella:
Scoto Eriugena, Remigio di Auxerre, Bernardo Silvestre e anonimi, Essays, improved editions,
translations, commentaries, appendixes, bibliography [Milan: BompianiIstituto Italiano per gli Studi
Filosofici, 2006] 226) God, the threefold One, is beyond all: Eriugena uses to indicate
divine transcendence and interprets in Martianuss phrase
in reference to the Father and the Son ( Pater, Filius), who are different in their Persons
or individual substances () but one in their essence or nature (), according to the
distinction that originated with Origen and was maintained by the Cappadocians, Ps. Dionysus, and
Maximus the Confessor. Eriugena explicitly cites them as sources for the difference between
and in Periphyseon 2.34: Sanctus quidem Dionysius Ariopagita et Gregorius Theologus
eorumque eligantissimus expositor Maximus differentiam esse dicunt inter , id est essentiam,
et , id est substantiam, quidem intelligentes unicam illam ac simplicem divinae
bonitatis naturam, vero singularum personarum propriam et individuam substantiam.
Dicunt enim , hoc est unam essentiam in tribus substantiis.

DOI 10.1007/s12138-011-0264-1

The Philosophical Stance of Allegory in


Stoicism and its Reception in
Platonism, Pagan and Christian:
Origen in Dialogue with the Stoics
and Plato1

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

This article is composed of three parts and an epilogue. In the first part, its point is
that in Stoicism allegory was part and parcel of philosophy, and the author endeavors
to clarify the reason why the Stoics integrated it in their philosophical system. The author tends to rule out that it was only for an apologetic reason, in order to defend the
Stoic doctrines, and a different explanation is offered. In the second section it is argued
that allegory became part of philosophy in Middle and Neoplatonism as well, both
pagan and Christian, and the author studies how a harsh debate arose between the
pagan and the Christian sides about which texts, myths, and traditions to consider
susceptible of allegoresis (i.e., rich in philosophical truths expressed symbolically).
Similarities and differences are also pointed out between Origens and pagan allegoresis, Stoic and Platonic. The third part concentrates on Origens theorization of biblical allegoresis significantly included in his philosophical masterpiece, again qua part
and parcel of philosophy , on the three exegetical levels he defines, literal, moral, and
spiritual, on their antecedents, and on the special status of the scriptural narratives on
the arkh and the telos in his own theorization and exegetical practice. In relation to
these exceptions (narratives that have only an allegorical meaning), the author argues
that Origen was inspired by the special epistemological status of Platos myths, which
he moreover praises. Providing some telling examples, the author demonstrates how

1. This is the revised and expanded version of a lecture delivered on November 15,
2010 at Boston University. I am warmly grateful to the inviters (especially Stephen
Scully and Zsuzsanna Vrhely on behalf of the Study Group on Myth and Religion
of the Department of Classical Studies), to all those who made that event possible,
and to all the participants and those who discussed my draft with me, particularly to Wolfgang Haase for his invitation to publish this article in IJCT, which sincerely honored me.
Ilaria Ramelli, Universit Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Facolt di Lettere e Filosofia, Gregorianum, terzo piano, Largo Gemelli 1, I-20123 Milano, ITALIA
International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Vol. 18, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 335-371.

336

International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

Origen even enters in conversation with Platos myths on the arkh and the telos and,
if necessary, corrects them, and directly compares them with the biblical stories on the
arkh and the telos.

I.

he role of allegory in Stoicism, from the Old Stoa to Neostoicism or


Roman Stoicism, is philosophically remarkable, as allegory and especially allegoresis, i.e. the allegorical exegesis of myths, rituals, etc. was
part and parcel of philosophy in Stoicism. Indeed, I have argued extensively,
and I hope forcefully, that allegory was philosophy for the Stoics, far from being
a mere etymologizing (although etymologies, especially of epithets of deities,
were important in Stoicism, and interpreted in both a physical and an ethical
key).2 Stoic allegory was not, or certainly not only, a literary/rhetorical device
or skhma, but it was primarily philosophical in its value.
Allegoresis had been used since the very beginning of Stoicism, from
Zenos commentaries on Homer and Hesiod onwards.3 Cleanthes also engaged in the allegorical interpretation of archaic poetry, even proposing textual emendations that supported it. He was convinced that poetry is the aptest
way to express the sublimity of what is divine:
Cleanthes maintains that poetic and musical models are better. For
the rational discourse [lo/goj] of philosophy adequately reveals divine and human things, but, per se, it does not possess appropriate
expressions [le/ceij oi0kei= ai] to convey the aspects of divine greatness
[qei=a mege/qh]. This is why meter, melodies, and rhythms reach, insofar as possible, the truth of the contemplation of divine realities (SVF
1.486).
Consistently with this,
Cleanthes [] used to state that the divinities are mystical figures
[mustika\ sxh/mata] and sacred names [klh/seij i9erai/], that the sun is
a bearer of the sacred torch, and that the universe is a mystery
[musth&rion], and used to call those inspired by the divinities priests
capable of initiating people to mysteries [telestai/] (SVF 1.538).4
2.

3.
4.

See I. Ramelli, Allegoria, I, Let classica, Temi metafisici e problemi del pensiero
antico 98, Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2004, chs. 1 and 9, also with wide-ranging discussion of existing scholarship, to which I refer readers and I now add Metaphor,
Allegory, and the Classical Tradition. Ancient Thought and Modern Revisions, ed. G.R.
Boys-Stones, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, and The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, eds. R. Copeland and P.T. Struck, Cambridge: CUP, 2010 (a review
article on which is forthcoming in this Journal). Reviews of Allegoria, I, by F. Ferrari, Athenaeum 95 (2007) 979-983; R. Chiappiniello, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
2006; M.N. Bustos, Stylos 14 (2005) 182-187.
See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 2.1-2; eadem, Allegoristi dellet classica,
Milan: Bompiani, 2007, ch. 1, section 2, on Zeno, with texts and commentaries. Reviewed by M. Herrero de Huregui, Ilu 13 (2008) 333-334.
See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 2.3; the relevant texts and commentaries
are in Allegoristi dellet classica (above, n. 3), ch. 1, section 3, on Cleanthes.

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It is meaningful that Cleanthes does not divide philosophy into logic,


physics, and ethics, which is the standard Stoic partition,5 but into six parts,
which result, I think, from the duplication of the aforementioned three: dialectics and rhetoric, ethics and politics, and physics and theology (SVF 1.482).
The last couple is the most relevant to the present investigation. Physics and
theology are distinguished, but at the same time coupled; in Stoic immanentism, physics ends up coinciding with theology, but Cleanthes attaches a special importance to the religious plane, in a mystical perspective. Although
for Cleanthes, too, the objects of physics and theology are coextensive, nevertheless theology is differentiated from physics, in that it explains the universe
seen as a mystery, the deities seen as mystical figures, and myths, which are
expressed in a more sublime and symbolic form than the discursive logos.
Now, such an explanation is the task of allegorical interpretation. In this way,
theology is constitutively founded upon allegoresis.
My argument, though, is principally based on Chrysippus,6 and not only on
his use of allegoresis in his exegesis of Orpheus, Musaeus, Homer and Hesiod
in Book 2 of his Peri\ qew~n, On Divinities, but especially on his theorization of
allegoresis in Book 1 of the same work (SVF 2.1009, significantly classified by
von Arnim under the heading Physica. VII, and not under theology). Here,
Chrysippus theorized the relation of allegory to theology, as expressed in poetry, rituals, and tradition in general, including visual representations. He
claimed that the expression of truth, of the Logos, takes place through philosophers, poets, and legislators, or institutors of norms and customs, including
rituals. Poetry, expressing myth, and cultic traditions must therefore be interpreted allegorically in order to detect the truth hidden in them, and since truth
is one, just as the Stoic Logos is one, the truth thereby detected will be one
with the philosophical truth of Stoicism. After observing that the beauty and
order of the stars and the cosmos inspired human beings with the notion of the
divinities, Chrysippus goes on to say:
Oi9 to\n peri\ tw~n qew~n parado/ntej sebasmo\n dia\ triw~n e)ce/qhkan h(mi=n
ei0dw~n, prw~ton me\n tou= fusikou=, deu/teron de\ tou= muqikou=, tri/ton de\
tou= th\n marturi/an e)k tw=n no/mwn ei0lhfo/toj. Dida/sketai de\ to\ me\n
fusiko\n u(po\ tw~n filoso/fwn, to\ de\ muqiko\n u(po\ tw~n poihtw~n, to\ de\
nomiko\n u(f 0 e9ka/sthj a)ei\ po/lewj suni/statai.
Those who have handed down the worship of the gods have presented it to us in three forms: first, in the physical form; second, in
the mythical form, and third, in the form attested by norms (laws).
Now, the physical form is taught by philosophers, the mythical one by
poets, and the normative one is established by the individual cities.

5.
6.

See for instance, most recently, J.B. Gourinat and J. Barnes, eds., Lire les stociens,
Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2009, with review by I. Ramelli in Bryn
Mawr Classical Review 2010.
See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 2.4; Allegoristi dellet classica (above, n. 3),
ch. 1, section 4, on Chrysippus, with the relevant texts and commentaries.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

Chrysippus theorization clearly means that allegory is part of theology, which


is a major constituent of Stoic philosophy. Allegory, to be precise, provides the
very link between theology and physics (or sometimes ethics), which is the
very heart of the whole Stoic immanentistic system. It is remarkable that in
what immediately follows the above-quoted passage from SVF 2.1009,
Chrysippus in fact offers an allegorical interpretation, in a physical or ethical
sense, of the deities and heroes of myths, also having recourse to etymology.
In this way, he programmatically confers a systematic character to Stoic allegoresis of theological myths. In this passage he divides the deities into seven
categories: 1) cosmic deities such as Ouranos and Gea, in connection with
whom Chrysippus recalls that human beings gained the notion of divinity
from the contemplation of the stars; 2) beneficent deities; 3) harmful deities;
4) deities representing passions; 5) deities representing virtues; 6) mythical
deities, created by poets and 7) beneficent deities that have a human origin,
like Heracles. Each of these categories, as Chrysippus specifies, corresponds
to an e1nnoia qew~n, an idea of the divinities, and entails a peculiar application of allegory. Allegory, according to Chrysippus, is even the main modality
of the study of theology, in all of its traditional expressions, and connects it
with physics and ethics. Allegory is therefore an important instrument of cultural unity. Now, such a need must have been felt by Chrysippus in a particularly strong way, given his extremely broad cultural interests, reflected in a
great deal of works on a wide range of topics, many of which devoted to linguistics and logic.
Allegoresis of myths was carried out by many exponents of Stoicism afterwards, such as Diogenes of Babylonia in his work on Athena, rich in etymology and consistent with his interests in linguistics and logic; Apollodorus
of Athens, the author of a Peri\ qew~n, On Divinities, of a work on etymology,
and of a Homeric commentary full of allegorical and etymological interpretations; and Crates of Mallus, the author of systematic commentaries on
Homer, who put his own philosophical and philological skills to the service
of his interpretation of Homer, seen as a poet steeped in many disciplines,
from astronomy to geography. Crates himself coined the self-designation kritiko/j, meaning that not only was he versed in philology, grammar, linguistic,
and literature, but that these competences were framed in a philosophical system, the Stoic one.7
Chrysippus theorization was of such import that it is still reflected, not
only in Apollodorus and Crates, or in Varros Theologia Tripertita, but also in
Annaeus Cornutus, in the first century CE. Indeed, Cornutus was strongly influenced by Chrysippus, as well as by Apollodorus.8 In his handbook of alle-

7.

8.

On these allegorists see Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 2.5 (Diogenes) and
ch. 3 (Apollodorus and Crates); Allegoristi dellet classica (above, n. 3), ch. 1, sections on Diogenes, Apollodorus, and Crates with all their allegorical texts commented on.
Extensive treatment in Ramelli Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 6; eadem, Anneo Cornuto: Compendio di teologia greca, saggio introduttivo e integrativo, traduzione e
apparati, Milan: Bompiani, 2003; reviewed by R. Radice, Aevum 79 (2005) 220; F.
Ferrari, Athenaeum 95 (2007) 550-551; J.-B. Gourinat, Philosophie Antique 8 (2008)

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goresis applied to the Greek gods, the )Epidromh/ or Compendium Theologiae


Graecae, in the conclusion ( 35), Cornutus declares that
Ou)x oi9 tuxo&ntej e0ge/nonto oi9 palaioi/, a)lla_ kai\ sunie/nai th_n tou~
ko&smou fu&sin i9kanoi\ kai\ pro_j to_ dia_ sumbo&lwn kai\ ai0nigma&twn
filosofh~sai peri\ au)th=j eu)epi/foroi.
The ancients were not people of no account, but they were both able
to understand the nature of the cosmos and well capable of expressing philosophical truths on it through symbols and allusions.
Allegoresis performs the very task of finding the philosophical truth under
the veil of riddles. This is why it belongs, and must necessarily belong, to philosophy. Cornutus probably joined the Middle Stoic (Posidonian: see Sen. Ep.
90) idea of the excellence of the first human beings, who could directly access
the truth and expressed it through myths and rituals, to the Old Stoic notion
of direct and common access to truth by means of common innate notions or
koinai\ e1nnoiai. The result was the support of the inclusion of allegorical exegesis in philosophy, as an important aspect of philosophy itself. For each divinity, from Ouranos to Hades, Cornutus in his handbook provides an
allegorical-etymological interpretation of its names and epithets, its attributes,
aspects of its myths and rituals, and so on. Physical allegory (Zeus represents
the ether, Hera the air, etc.) is prevalent, although there are also examples of
ethical and even historical exegeses.
From Cornutus (and Chrysippus) perspective, poetry and the other
forms of transmission of ancient theology, such as rituals, cultic epithets,
and visual representations, express various truths in a symbolic way, which allegoresis must decrypt. This operation is philosophical, and more specifically
theological, since its object is the truth on nature and the divinity; in the Stoic
immanentistic framework, indeed, divinity and nature are coextensive, so that
theology and physics are one and the same or rather two sides of the same
coin and allegoresis reveals this very identity. In this connection, etymology
was abundantly employed in Stoicism in the service of philosophical allegoresis, but the latter is far from being reduced to an etymologizing, as has
sometimes been assumed.9 Etymology itself was an expression of the Stoics
philosophical theory of language, according to which names are by nature
(fu/sei), in that the first sounds (prw~tai fwnai/) imitated the objects, and

9.

286-289. On Cornuto are expressly based (see Vorwort, p. VII) the introduction,
translation, and notes of the volume Cornutus: Die Griechischen Gtter. Ein berblick
ber Namen, Bilder und Deutungen, hrsg. v. H.-G. Nesselrath, eingel., bers. u. m. interpretierenden Essays vers. v. F. Berdozzo, G. Boys-Stones, H.-J. Klauck, I. Ramelli
u. A.V. Zadorojnyi, SAPERE 14, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.
See, for instance, P. Steinmetz, Allegorische Deutung und allegorische Dichtung
in der alten Stoa, Rheinisches Museum 129 (1986) 18-29; in part also A.A. Long,
Allegory in Philo and Etymology in Stoicism: a Plea for Drawing Distinctions,
The Studia Philonica Annual 9 (1997) 198-210, esp. 200-201. See also J. Tate, Cornutus and the Poets, Classical Quarterly 23 (1929) 41-45; idem, Plato and Allegorical Interpretation, Classical Quarterly 24 (1930) 1-10, esp. 3; idem, On the
History of Allegorism, Classical Quarterly 28 (1934) 105-114.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

on this basis names were constituted. Etymology was conceived as an instrument both for the understanding of the true nature of the gods, given that etymology goes back to the authentic meaning of a name, and for showing how
traditional names and epithets of deities reflect their nature, physical or ethical. This same nature is expressed allegorically in myths. Etymology demonstrates that the allegorical interpretation of the traditions concerning the gods
is not a mere intellectual game, but that it is true (e1tumoj), in that etymology, according to the Stoic linguistic theory, has a direct grasp on nature. This
is why it is a privileged instrument of allegory.
One may wonder why the Stoics attached to allegory such a philosophical
prominence. This issue in turn bears on the question of the role of allegory in
Stoicism, which I do not believe was simply to support Stoic philosophy (in a
merely apologetic line). This might have been the case at the beginning of
Stoicism, but less so in the day of Chrysippus, and even less in that of Cornutus. It is obviously the case that the Stoics interpretation of myths was a
Stoic interpretation, as is shown for instance by Book 2 of Chrysippus On Divinities, in which the material from Hesiod, Homer, and other poets was
adapted to Stoic theology such as expounded in Book 1 of the same work. The
merely apologetic explanation, however, is unsatisfying vis--vis the apparently growing interest in allegoresis among the Stoics, and their growing allegorical production. If allegoresis was merely meant to prove the truth of the
doctrines of the Stoics, one should expect a decline of their interest in allegoresis of myth over time, when the Stoic system could stand by itself. Moreover, in such a rigorous and structured system, at a certain point the support
of the allegorical exegesis of Homer and other mythological and cultic traditions would have proved too unsystematic and episodic to be helpful to a significant extent.
Rather, I suspect that Stoicism intended to serve the interpretation of theological poems and, more generally, aimed at integrating into its own philosophical system the traditional expressions of theology poetic, cultic,
iconographic ... with a view to the creation of a broad cultural synthesis, including the traditional heritage, but philosophically legitimized in the due
forms. This meant a reevaluation of myth, in its various traditional expressions rituals, epithets, poetry, iconography, ... as bearer of truth, after it had
been corroded by rationalistic criticism. The Stoics, interested as they were in
linguistics, etymology, poetry, and literature, intended to validate poetry and
other expressions of myth and theology, by means of allegoresis according to
their own philosophical system. Such a validation was probably meant to construct a broad and organic cultural unity, systematic and comprehensive,
based on the Logos.10 This is clear, for instance, in Chrysippus and Posidonius. Indeed, the whole of the Stoic allegorical discourse revolves around the
Logos. It is the Logos-Pneuma of which the various deities are partial manifestations; the Logos inspired the poets and the creators of myths and rituals,
and of the natural language which etymology tends to reveal, in order to

10. See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 9.

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341

find the truth in the words. The very insistence on Homer from Zeno to the
first centuries CE, with Heraclitus the Rhetor and the De vita et posi Homeri11
as the possessor of the truths of the various disciplines, from geography to
physics, clearly aims at projecting onto the very origins of culture that unity
grounded in the Logos which was the ideal of Stoicism.
It seems significant to me that in Ciceros De natura deorum, among the
three (four) speeches, namely the Epicurean (Velleius, Book 1), the Stoic (Balbus, Book 2), and the Academic (Cotta, Books 1 and 3),12 the Stoic is the longest
by far, and the one which includes the widest range of interests and disciplines. Balbus rich argument manifestly reflects the Stoic aim of creating a
vast cultural unit focussed on theology and physics, but including contributions from cosmology, astronomy, physiology, logic, mathematics, customs,
ritual, legends, poetry, linguistics, etymology, eloquence, and even more.
The few exceptions to Stoic allegorical practice include Seneca. Certainly,
he disagreed with Posidonius on the excellence of the first human beings. He
thought they could not possibly have had a direct access to the truth concerning the nature of the cosmos and the divine; therefore, the myths invented
by them did not conceal such truths. Thus, a crucial condition for allegoresis
was lacking. This is why Seneca polemicized against allegoresis of myths and,
perhaps, even specifically against Cornutus and Musonius Rufus.13 This is
also why, for his critique of traditional pagan religion, Seneca was appreciated by Christian authors and declared by Tertullian saepe noster (De an. 20):
he often spoke like a Christian. Indeed, in Apol. 12.6 Tertullian depicts
Seneca as pluribus et amarioribus de vestra superstitione perorantem, haranguing with many rather bitter words about your [sc. the pagans] superstition.
II.
The inclusion of allegoresis in philosophy, a typical feature in Stoicism, returns in Middle and Neoplatonism which incorporated significant Stoic elements both on the pagan and on the Christian side. This is the case, for
instance, with a Christian Middle/Neoplatonist such as Origen, who meaningfully chose to include his theorization of Biblical allegorical exegesis right
in his philosophical masterpiece, Peri\ 0Arxw~n (On First Principles),14 in the very
same way as the Stoics considered allegory to be part and parcel of philosophy. Likewise, the question of the aim of Origens allegoresis was he using
the Bible in defense of his metaphysical system, or metaphysics to provide a

11. On this allegorical work ascribed to Plutarch and on Heraclitus see Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), chs. 7-8, and Allegoristi dellet classica (above, n. 3), chs. 8 and
10, with texts and commentaries. On Heraclitus see also D.A. Russell and D. Konstan, eds., Heraclitus: Homeric Problems, Atlanta: SBL, 2005.
12. Analysis of the Stoic argument reported by Cicero in Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above,
n. 2), ch. 5, and text and commentary in Allegoristi dellet classica (above, n. 3), ch.
6.
13. As I argued in Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 6.6.
14. On which see I. Ramelli, Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism:
Re-Thinking the Christianization of Hellenism, Vigiliae Christianae 63 (2009) 217263.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

philosophical basis for the Bible? is the same as that of the purpose of Stoic
allegoresis: did they use myth in defense of their philosophical system, or
philosophical allegoresis in defense of mythical and ritual traditions, integrating them into a great, unitary philosophical system?15 I tend to support
the latter alternative in both cases.
Indeed, as Porphyry attests (F39 von Harnack),16 Origen was very well acquainted with the works of Cornutus and Chaeremon, who, in this way, seem
to have represented a remarkable bridge between Stoic allegoresis and Christian allegoresis:
Th=j dh_ moxqhri/aj tw~n 0Ioudai+kw~n grafw~n ou)k a)po&stasin, lu&sin de/
tinej eu(rei=n proqumhqe/ntej, e0p e0chgh&seij e0tra&ponto a)sugklw&stouj
kai\ a)narmo&stouj toi=j gegramme/noiv [] ai0ni/gmata ga_r ta_ fanerw~j
para_ Mwusei= lego&mena ei]nai kompa&santej kai\ e0piqeia&santej w(j
qespi/smata plh&rh krufi/wn musthri/wn [] e0pa&gousin e0chgh/seij. o(
de\ tro&poj th=j a)topi/aj e0c a)ndro_j w|{ ka)gw_ komidh|= ne/oj w@n e1ti
e0ntetu&xhka, sfo&dra eu)dokimh&santoj kai\ e1ti di w{n katale/loipen
suggramma&twn eu)dokimou=ntoj, pareilh&fqw, 0Wrige/nouj, ou[ kle/oj
para_ toi=j didaska&loij tou&twn tw~n lo&gwn me/ga diade/dotai.
a)krath_j ga_r ou{toj 0Ammwni/ou tou= plei/sthn e0n toi=j kaq h(ma~j
xro&noij e0pi/dosin e0n filosofi/a| e0sxhko&toj gegonw&j. [] Kata\ me\n
to\n bi/on Xristianw~j zw~n kai\ parano/mwj, kata\ de\ ta\j peri\ tw=n
pragma/twn kai\ tou= qei/ou do/caj e(llhni/zwn te kai\ ta\ (Ellh/nwn toi=j
o)qnei/oij u(poballo/menoj mu/qoij. Sunh=n te ga\r a)ei\ tw=| Pla/twni, toi=j
te Noumhni/ou kai\ Kroni/ou Apollofa/
)
nouj te kai\ Loggi/nou kai\ Modera/tou Nikoma/xou te kai\ tw=n e)n toi=j Puqagorei/oij e)llogi/mwn
a)ndrw~n w(mi/lei suggra/mmasi: e)xrh=to de\ kai\ Xairh/monoj tou=
Stwi+kou= Kornou/tou te tai=j bi/bloij, par w{n to\n metalhptiko\n
tw=n par 3Ellhsin musthri/wn gnou\j tro/pon tai=j )Ioudaikai=j
prosh=yen Grafai=j.
Some, out of a desire to get free from the ineptitude of Jewish Scripture, but without simply detaching themselves from it, turned to exegeses that are incoherent and not fitting the texts [] they pretend,
boastfully, that the things Moses said so clearly are enigmata, and
proclaim that they are oracles full of recondite mysteries [] then
they develop their exegeses [] This method, so odd as it is, derives

15. As I tried to argue in Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 9: Chrysippus theorization of theology would already suggest something of the sort.
16. On this fragment, which corresponds to Eusebius HE 6.19.4-8, see I. Ramelli, Origen and the Stoic Allegorical Tradition: Continuity and Innovation, Invigilata
Lucernis 28 (2006) 195-226, and Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism (above, n. 14), also with wide-ranging literature. This passage, according
to Eusebius, comes from Book 3 of Porphyrys work Against the Christians. Pier
Franco Beatrice identifies this with Book 3 of Porphyrys Philosophia ex Oraculis. See
his The Oriental Religions and Porphyrys Universal Way for the Souls Deliverance, in Les religions orientales dans le monde grec et romain, eds. C. Bonnet, V.
Pirenne-Delforge, D. Praet, Etudes de philologie, darchologie et histoire anciennes 45, Bruxelles-Rome: Institut Historique Belge de Rome, 2009, 343-368.

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from a man whom I also met when I was still quite young, who
gained great renown and is still well known thanks to the writings
he left: Origen, whose fame is widespread among the masters of
these doctrines. He was a disciple of Ammonius, who in our time
had a great success in philosophy [] His life was that of a Christian
and contravened the laws, but in his view of the existing realities and
of God his thoughts were those of a Greek, and he turned the Greek
ideas into a substratum of the alien myths. He was always close to
Plato, and was conversant with the writings of Numenius, Cronius,
Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus, Nicomachus, and the most distinguished of the Pythagoreans; he availed himself of the books of the
Stoics Chaeremon and Cornutus, from which he learned the allegorical
method of the Greek mysteries, which he applied, then, to the Jewish Scriptures.
It is interesting that Porphyry considers Origen responsible for the transfer of
the allegorical exegetical method from traditional pagan myths to the Bible.
He does not mention Clement, nor Philo or other Jewish allegorical exegetes
of the Bible. The same noteworthy omission, at least with respect to Philo, is
already found in Celsus (ap. Orig. CC 4.51, which will be discussed below [pp.
347-348]). Confirming Porphyrys information, Jerome also attests that Origen, drawing inspiration from Clements homonymous work, wrote ten books
of Stromateis, where he came up with a remarkable comparative accomplishment:
Hunc imitatus Origenes decem scripsit Stromateas, Christianorum et
philosophorum inter se sententias conparans et omnia nostrae religionis
dogmata de Platone et Aristotele, Numenio Cornutoque confirmans,
Origen, imitating Clement, wrote ten Stromateis, in which he matched
the Christian ideas with those of the philosophers, and confirmed all
the truths of our faith by means of Platos, Aristotles, Numenius, and
Cornutus texts (Hier. Ep. 70.4).
Indeed, Origen shows reminiscences of allegorical interpretations of
myths that are found in Cornutus and in the Stoic allegorical tradition, and of
Stoic etymological interpretations. In CC 1.24 he even mentions the Stoics etymological principles based on their conception of language as being fu/sei.17
In Princ. 2.8.2-3, for instance, yuxh/ is said to derive from yu=xoj, yu=cij according to an old Stoic etymology (SVF 2.222-223). In Origen there are also al-

17. See A. van den Hoek, Etymologizing in a Christian Context: The Techniques of
Clement and Origen, Studia Philonica Annual 16 (2004) 122-168; relationship between etymology and linguistic theories in late antiquity: M. Amsler, Etymology
and Grammatical Discourse in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, AmsterdamPhiladelphia: John Benjamins, 1989. Origen, like Philo before him (D.T. Runia, Etymology as an Allegorical Technique in Philo of Alexandria, Studia Philonica
Annual 16 [2004] 101-121), also interprets Hebrew names: R.P.C. Hanson, Interpretation of Hebrew Names in Origen, Vigiliae Christianae 10 (1956) 103-123. See
furthermore I. Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture in Philo and its
Legacy in Gregory of Nyssa, Studia Philonica Annual 20 (2008) 55-99.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

legorical interpretations of Greek mythical figures that recall those of the Stoic
tradition.18 Besides Cornutus and Chaeremon, Origen also knew Middle Platonic and Neopythagorean allegorists, such as (according to Origen himself,
Porphyry and Jerome) Numenius and the Jew Philo. The former, apparently
without being either Jew or Christian, allegorized the Bible, both the LXX and
some books of what later became the New Testament.19 Philo allegorized the
LXX in the light of Platonism,20 and his cosmological and allegorical exegesis
18. For instance, the Stoic exegesis of Hades as the tenebrous air that wraps the earth,
as developed in Cornutus, Comp. 35, on the basis of earlier Stoic tradition, is also
present in Origen, Princ. 4.3.10: the dead descend to Hades, that is this world, because they are judged deserving of occupying the region around the earth. But already Numenius, F32 des Places, interpreted Hades as the contiguous region
which we call our world. Origen might have drawn this interpretation from him
as well.
19. Origen particularly esteemed Numenius, whom he quotes four times in Contra
Celsum, 1.5 (= Numen. F1b des Places); 4.51 (F10a); 5.38 (F53); 5.57 (F29). In fact, it
is Origen who attests that Numenius, in his desire for learning, wanted to examine our Scriptures, too, and was interested in them as susceptible of allegorical
interpretation, and not full of odd ideas (boulhqe/nta filomaqw~j kai\ ta\ h(me/tera
e0ceta/sai kai\ kinhqe/nta w(j peri\ tropologoume/nwn kai\ ou) mwrw~n suggramma/twn,
CC 4.51). Again, Origen informs us that Numenius, the Pythagorean philosopher,
a man who expounded Plato much better [sc. than Celsus did], and studied the
Pythagorean doctrines in depth, in many passages of his works quotes Moses and
the prophets writings, and offers very likely allegorical interpretations of them, for
example in the work entitled Hoopoe, or in those On numbers and On place. In the
third book of his work On the Good he also cites a story concerning Jesus, without
mentioning his name, and interprets it allegorically (Noumh/nion to\n Puqago/reion,
a1ndra pollw~| krei=tton dihghsa/menon Pla/twna kai\ peri\ tw~n Puqagorei/wn
dogma/twn presbeu/santa, pollaxou= tw~n suggramma/twn au)tou= e)ktiqe/menon ta\
Mwu+se/wj kai\ tw=n profhtw~n kai\ ou)k a)piqa/nwj au)ta\ tropologou=nta, w#sper e)n
) de\
tw=| kaloume/nw| 1Epopi kai\ e)n toi=j Peri\ a)riqmw~n, kai\ e)n toi=j Peri\ to/pou. En
tw~| tri/tw| Peri\ ta)gaqou= e0kti/qetai kai\ peri\ tou= I0 hsou= i9stori/an tina/, to\ o1noma
au)tou= ou) le/gwn, kai\ tropologei= au)th/n, ibid.). Numenius inspired Origen both in
the exegetical and in the theological field (see Ramelli, Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism [above, n. 14]). His allegorical reading of the Bible
parallels his exegesis of Plato, in which, among other things, he associated the
myth of Er with Homers representation of the underworld in the Odyssey. Due to
his allegorical interpretation of Scripture, Origen values Numenius much more
than Celsus, who, like Porphyry, didnt admit any allegorical interpretation of
Scripture: 70Ekti/qetai de\ kai\ th\n peri\ Mwu+se/wj kai\ Iannou=
)
kai\ Iambrou=
)
i9stori/an,
a)ll ou)k e0n e0kei/nh| shmnuno/meqa, a)podexo/meqa d au)to\n ma~llon Ke/lsou kai\ a1llwn
9Ellh/nwn, He [sc. Numenius] also cites Moses, Jannes, and Jambres story, and,
even though we are not at all exalted in it, nevertheless we appreciate Numenius
more than Celsus and the other Greeks - Greeks among whom Origen intended
to include people like Porphyry, who sharply rejected the allegorical reading of
Scripture. The continuation of this passage includes the famous saying: what else
is Plato, if not an Atticizing Moses? (Eus. PE 11.10.14 = Numen. F8 des Places).
Numenius probably influenced Origens view of the relationship between Platonism and Moses philosophy, as Philo understood it. But see below (pp. 347348) for the influence of Clement as well.
20. See Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture etc. (above, n. 17) with documentation.

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was brought into Christian culture by Clement of Alexandria. Moreover, Origen was acquainted with Gnostic allegorists, especially Valentinians, such
as Heracleon, whose allegorical method he criticized, notably in the very same
way as Philo had criticized the Hellenistic Jewish allegorists of the Bible who
preceded him: for both these and the Gnostics,21 in their extreme allegorizing, emptied the literal, historical level of the Bible.22
This is also the main difference between the Christian and the pagan Platonists use of allegoresis: the former retained the historical plane of the Bible,
while the latter thought that the stories of myths never happened historically,
but are exclusively allegories. Philo was praised by Origen with a reference to
those Jews who interpreted the Law not only literally, but also and yet not
exclusively pro\j dia/noian, allegorically (CC 7.20).23 Indeed, Philo accepted
the literal meaning of Scripture, not considering the sacred text as a mythical
tale, a fiction. Both he and Origen considered Scripture as a historical record,
at a first level. The opposite approach was chosen by Neoplatonic exegetes of

21. The complexity of the Gnosticism category is underlined by M. Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category, Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996; K. King, What Is Gnosticism?, Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University, 2003, with my review in Invigilata Lucernis 25 (2003)
331-334; I. Ramelli, Gnosticismo, in A. Di Berardino (ed.), Nuovo Dizionario Patristico e di Antichit Cristiane, Genoa: Marietti, 2007, 2.2364-2380, new English edition forthcoming in Cambridge: James Clarke; Z. Plee, Gnostic Literature, in
R. Hirsch-Luipold, H. Grgemanns, M. von Albrecht, eds., Religise Philosophie und
philosophische Religion der frhen Kaiserzeit, Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 51 = Ratio Religionis Studien 1, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009, 163-198,
who objects to a total deconstruction of the Gnosticism category. H.F. Wei,
Frhes Christentum und Gnosis: Eine rezeptionsgeschichtliche Studie, Wissenschaftliche
Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 225, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010, studies the reception of the New Testament in Gnosticism and accepts this category.
I. O. Dundenberg, Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of
Valentinus, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, builds upon Williams
and Kings arguments and regards the term Gnostic as misleading in particular
for Valentinianism, on which he focuses.
22. Heracleon, a Valentinian, wrote the earliest Christian exegetical commentary we
know of, on the Gospel of John. Origen preserves fragments of it in his own commentary on John; Heracleons interpretation was allegorical. Some Gnostics
used etymology, too, for allegorical purposes: an allegorical etymology similar to
that of the Stoic tradition. A significant example is the one preserved in Hippol. Ref.
5.8.22: The Phrygians also called him Father [Pa/paj] because he stopped
[e1pause] the movement deprived of order and measure in which all things were
tossing about before its manifestation. Some Gnostics were also creators of allegorical myths.
23. In CC 5.44 Origen also states that the Jewish priests, e)n a)por)r(h/tw|, sought and explained the symbolic sense of Scripture. For Philos influence on Origen and Christian allegorists see C. Blnnigen, Der griechische Ursprung der jdisch-hellenistischen
Allegorese und ihre Rezeption in der alexandrinischen Patristik, Frankfurt a.M. et alibi:
Peter Lang, 1992, 228-262; A. van den Hoek, Philo and Origen: A Descriptive Catalogue of Their Relationship, Studia Philonica Annual 12 (2000) 44-121, and
Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture etc. (above, n. 17).

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myths. For instance, Secundus Salustius,24 a friend of the emperor Julian and
strongly influenced by Iamblichus, in Peri\ qew~n kai\ ko/smou, On the Deities and
the World, claims that the events narrated in myths never happened at all, but
are symbols of eternal truths. In 3-4 Salustius, also countering Christian attacks on pagan myths, insists on the antiquity of myths and their didactic
value: they teach that the gods exist (3.3) and, at a deeper and allegorical level,
they reveal truths wrapped up in stories that seem immoral, but are only veils
intended for the exercise of the exegetes minds (3.1-3; cf. 3.4). These things
never happened, but are allegories of eternal truths expressed in divine
myths (3.1), since the highest truths can only be alluded to (3.1; 3.3). The
clearest expression is found in 4.9:
Tau=ta de\ e)ge/neto me\n ou)de/pote, e1sti de\ a)ei/, kai\ o( me\n nou=j a3ma pa/nta
o(ra~|, o( de\ lo/goj ta\ me\n prw~ta ta\ de\ deu/tera le/gei.
These things did not happen at any time, but they exist eternally, and
the intellect sees all of them together at the same time, while the discourse expresses them, some first, and some afterward.
Likewise, the emperor Julian in Ad deorum Matrem 170-171 asserts that mythological events never happened, but are to be interpreted only allegorically.25 Julian, in line with the Neoplatonic tradition of Porphyry, who in De antro
Nympharum had interpreted Od. 13.102-112 as an allegory of the souls voyage
through matter and its liberation, supported the allegorical exegesis of myths
and did not admit of their historicity. In Or. 7.217C he claims that the absurdity of myths (also declared in Deor. Matr. 167D and by Salustius De diis 4.7) induces the mind to seek out their deeper sense; likewise, in 222C he explains
that the irrationality of myth is an exhortation to go beyond the littera, and
peer into its hidden and true sense.
Now, this notion that the defectus litterae, i.e. the absurdity of the plain
meaning of a text also known to Philo, Hippolytus, and Irenaeus is an invitation to go beyond the literal level was definitely shared by Origen. But in
Origens view the defectus litterae only occurs in a few cases, whose specific
function is to provide hints to deeper meanings; normally, the literal level
must be maintained along with the spiritual, allegorical meaning(s). The littera (almost always) relates historical facts that really happened at a certain
time, and not mere symbols of eternal truths. Just as the body has its impor-

24. See I. Ramelli, Giovanni Crisostomo e lesegesi scritturale: le scuole di Alessandria e di Antiochia e le polemiche con gli allegoristi pagani, in Giovanni Crisostomo: Oriente e Occidente tra IV e V secolo. Atti del XXXIII Incontro di Studiosi
dellAntichit Cristiana, Roma, Istituto Patristico Augustinianum 6-8 maggio 2004, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 93/1, Rome: Augustinianum, 2005, 121-162, with
documentation and bibliography, and G.R. Boys-Stones, The Stoics Two Types of
Allegory, in idem, ed., Metaphor, Allegory, and the Classical Tradition: Ancient
Thought and Modern Revisions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 189-216, esp.
211-212.
25. See only F. Grasso, Linterpretazione allegorica in Giuliano Imperatore, Rudiae
8 (1996) 31-40.

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tance in human beings and is destined to resurrection,26 so too the body of


Scripture, that is, the littera, is fundamental in biblical exegesis. The body is the
seat and vehicle of the souls recovery of its former status as nous (Princ. 2.8.3),
a status from which it fell, but to which it must be restored. And the visible
world, created by God and governed by his Logos to the point of being full of
God, favors the final restoration of all rational beings (Princ. 2.1.1-3). On the
other hand, Origen and his spiritual exegesis will be heavily criticized by
Christians who did not appreciate his allegorism, just as many were suspicious of his philosophical formation and use of philosophy in the interpretation of Scripture.27
Origens relationship to Stoic allegoresis was anticipated, and perhaps
influenced, by Clement of Alexandria, who employed Biblical allegoresis not
only on the basis of Pauls typology, but also drawing inspiration from classical pagan allegorists certainly including the Stoic Chaeremon, whose
writings he knew28 and from Philos biblical allegoresis; he also knew Gnostic allegoresis. Clement, who uses the technical terminology of allegory
(a)llhgori/a, su/mbolon, ai1nigma, ai0ni/ttomai), turns to allegoresis when the literal meaning is not satisfying, due either to an internal contradiction or to anthropomorphisms unworthy of God. He thus follows the defectus litterae
method that was adopted by Philo and ancient allegorists, and was then developed by Origen as well as pagan Neoplatonists, as has been shown
above (p. 346). Allegoresis is seen by Clement in the light of a deep continuity between the classical and the Christian world.29 In the exposition of allegoresis in Strom. 5, he remarks that in every people the i9ero\j lo/goj or
expression of religious contents is characterized by hiddenness (e)pi/kruyij) in
the recess (a1duton) of the truth (Strom. 5.419.3-4). All those who spoke about
God, barbarians and Greeks, hid the principles of being, and expounded the
truth only through ai0ni/gmata, su/mbola, a)llhgori/ai, metaforai/, etc., like the
Greeks oracles: for this reason, Apollo Pythius is called Loxias, oblique
(Strom. 5.4.21). Clement interprets Apollos epithet with reference to the
obliqueness of his responses and their veiled form, according to an exegesis
widely spread in Stoic allegoresis, for instance in Cornutus, Comp. 32, with

26. Repeated accusations leveled against Origen of denying the resurrection of the
body are groundless. See, for instance, I. Ramelli, Origens Exegesis of Jeremiah:
Resurrection Announced throughout the Bible and its Twofold Conception, Augustinianum 48 (2008) 59-78.
27. On which ample documentation is found in Ramelli, Giovanni Crisostomo e l esegesi scritturale etc. (above, n. 24), and eadem, Origene allegorista cristiano: il
duplice attacco e la simmetria tra filosofia cristiana e allegoresi biblica, Invigilata
Lucernis 31 (2009) 141-156.
28. Strom. 5.4.20 (on the symbolical, tropic-metaphorical, and allegorical-enigmatic
usage of hieroglyphics), parallel to a passage by Porphyry ap. Eus. HE 6.19.4-8,
seems to be taken precisely from Chaeremon, the author of a work on hieroglyphics (see also Strom. 5.4.19).
29. See I. Ramelli, Musth/rion negli Stromateis di Clemente Alessandrino: aspetti di
continuit con la tradizione allegorica greca, in Il volto del mistero. Mistero e religione nella cultura religiosa tardoantica, ed. A.M. Mazzanti, Castel Bolognese: Itaca
Libri, 2006, 83-120.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

parallels in Heraclitus Allegories and derivations from Apollodorus of Athens


and the ancient Stoics.30 Clement is also on the same line as Justin, according
to whom the deities of Greek myths were evil daemons (1Ap. 5.2), who deformed the truths of Scripture, favoring the absurdities told by poets and
mythographers, who, nonetheless, if led by the Logos, could express hidden
truths as well. Justins idea in 1Ap. 23.3, that daemons sometimes corrupted
the original inventors of myths, and poets incorporated those corrupted myths
in their compositions, recalls the conception of an original theological knowledge corrupted by subsequent incrustations, which is found in Cornutus,
Comp. 17.35; Justin likely read this passage. Thus, according to Clement, the
very analysis of the names of pagan deities reveals their non-divinity, and this
analysis is accomplished by means of the etymological method derived from
Stoic allegoresis, which aimed at unraveling the true (e1tumoj) meaning of
names and epithets.
In this respect, Origens like Clements, and already Philos allegoresis of the Bible, which maintained the validity of the historical level, was very
different both from the old Stoic allegorical tradition (significantly, Origen
used a)llhgori/a and related terms with circumspection, probably because
they were linked with this pagan tradition31) and from Middle/Neoplatonic
allegoresis as well. With the latter, though, Origens allegorical exegesis seems
to share something more: for instance, the division between the immanent
and the transcendent planes vs. the Stoics immanentism, and especially a
more unitary and systematic view and the necessity of intimate coherence in
the allegorical practice.
Indeed, Origen like Clement in part detached himself from Stoic allegoresis, coming closer to Philos method,32 when in his exegesis of the Bible he
insists on unity, wholeness, and coherence.33 Philo had deeply felt this struc-

30. Cf. Ramelli, Cornuto: Compendio (above, n. 8), commentary ad loc.


31. So M.J. Edwards, Origen against Plato, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, 142; J.D. Dawson,
Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity, Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002, 24-27 and M. Simonetti, Origene esegeta e la sua
tradizione, Brescia: Morcelliana, 2004, 15 (on Gal 4:22-31), 25-26, 52-65, 104-105. The
Contra Celsum is the work in which Origen uses a)llhgori/a most extensively,
which confirms that Origen associated it with the pagan practice.
32. However, Clement does not seem to have possessed Philos and Origens fine lexical and philological sensitivity: see D. Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria, Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford: University of California
Press, 1992, 215-218.
33. M. Demura, Origens Allegorical Interpretation and the Philological Tradition of
Alexandria, in Origeniana Nona: Origen and the Religious Practice of his Time, Papers
of the 9th International Origen Congress, Pcs, Hungary, 29 August - 2 September 2005,
eds. G. Heidl - R. Somos, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium
228, Leuven: Peeters, 2009, 149-158, underlines how Origen intended to interpret
the Bible, in a coherent whole. The coherence of Origens scriptural exegesis is
also highlighted by J.A. McGuckin, Origen as a Literary Critic in the Alexandrian
Tradition, in Origeniana Octava: Origen and the Alexandrian tradition/Origene e la
tradizione alessandrina, Papers of the 8th International Origen Congress, Pisa, 27-31 August 2001, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 164, Leuven: Peeters, 2003, 121-136: 125.

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tural unity of the allegorical system, while the Stoics seemed less concerned
with it.34 According to Clement (in his polemic against Gnostics and Marcionites, similar to that of Origen), the Bible is pervaded by the principle of intratextuality: each point in Scripture can be clarified thanks to similar points
(Strom. 7.16.96.2-4). Clement is criticizing Christian exegetes who,
e0klego&menoi ta_ a)mfibo&lwj ei0rhme/na, ei0j ta_j i0di/aj meta&gousi do&caj,
o)li/gaj spora&dhn a)panqizo&menoi fwna&j, ou) to_ shmaino&menon a)p
au)tw~n skopou~ntej, a)ll au)th|~ yilh|~ a)poxrw&menoi th|~ le/cei. [...] h(
a)lh&qeia de\ ou)k e0n tw|~ metatiqe/nai ta_ shmaino&mena eu(ri/sketai ou3tw
me\n ga_r a)natre/yousi pa~san a)lhqh~ didaskali/an , a)ll e0n tw|~
diaske/yasqai ti/ tw|~ Kuri/w| kai\ tw|~ pantokra&tori Qew|~ tele/wj oi0kei=on&
te kai\ pre/pon, ka)n tw|~ bebaiou~n e3kaston tw~n a)podeiknume/nwn kata_
ta_j grafa_j e0c au)tw~n pa&lin tw~n o9moi/wn grafw~n.
selecting ambiguous expressions, turn them into expressing their
own opinions, just picking out a few words here and there, without
looking at their deep meaning, but simply sticking to the mere literal level [] The truth, however, is not to be found in the substitution of meanings for in that way they will subvert every true
teaching , but rather in the investigation of what is perfectly proper
and appropriate to the Lord and the omnipotent God, and in confirming each of the things demonstrated in Scriptures on the basis, again,
of the very same Scriptures, in similar passages.
For instance, when he explains a passage, Clement, like Origen and like the
early rabbis refers to other relevant biblical passages, because Scripture in his
view constitutes a coherent whole, and the meanings of its parts are interconnected.35 In both Clement and Origen, this also involves typological exegesis, which links together figures and episodes of the Old and the New
Testaments. Origen, like Clement, thinks that Scripture consists in a coherent
body, characterized by unity. Origen often speaks of ei9rmo/j36, a)kolouqi/a,
34. See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 9. It must be said, however, that Stoic allegorists were aware of the principle of interpreting Homer with Homer, which
Clement and Origen applied to the Bible (to interpret the Bible with the Bible). Although this was initially a Hellenistic philological principle, it was also used for
philosophy. This principle also parallels that used by the rabbis, who interpreted
Scripture with Scripture, and was not unknown to early Church Fathers, such as
Hippolytus, although no one used it, and theorized the unity of Scripture, to such
an extent as Origen did.
35. As Origen too will do, Clement thinks that the same Logos who inspired Scripture
is also its true e0chghth/j, by whom the human interpreter is illuminated (Strom.
1.26.169). The Logos, thus, guarantees both the unity of Scripture and the coherence of its interpretation. For the concept of the body of Scripture in Origen see
A. van den Hoek, The concept of sw~ma tw~n Grafw~n in Alexandrian theology,
in Studia Patristica, XIX, ed. E.A. Livingstone, Louvain: Peeters, 1989, 250-254.
36. E.g., Princ. 4.2.8; the term was used by philosophers to indicate the concatenation
of causes, especially by the Stoics, who had the terminus technicus ei(marme/nh, fate,
denoting a chain of causes. Origen affirms the ei9rmo\j tw=n pneumatikw=n, the concatenation of spiritual senses within the whole Bible. This use of ei9rmo/j is drawn
from Clem. Strom. 4.1.2.2.

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a(rmoni/a37 and sumfwni/a in all the parts of Scripture, and of the sugge/neia or
affinity of the various exegetical readings to one another, for instance in Philoc.
6 (cf. ibid. 1.30). Therefore, he interprets the Bible with the Bible, relating a passage of Scripture to another in which similar concepts or terms occur: in this
way, he attains the spiritual meaning of both. Moreover, he does not take into
consideration an isolated allegorical point, but rather a whole passage in its allegorical system.38 In Philoc. 2, from the commentary to Psalm 1 (cf. chs. 1-7
too), Origen assimilates Gods Providence and du/namij, which permeates
everything, to the divine inspiration that pervades the whole Scripture, from
top to bottom, as far as the smallest details: traces and hints (i1xnh, a)formai/)39
of Gods Wisdom are to be found everywhere, spread in each letter; for, as
the Jewish masters asserted, the words of Scripture have been calculated meta\
pa/shj a)kribei/aj, with the utmost accuracy; hence, in Scripture not even a
single word is superfluous.40 Thus, it is necessary to investigate Scripture
down to its tiniest details (me/xri tw~n e0laxi/stwn [...] e0reuna=n th\n grafh/n,
Comm. in Io. 32.6.68). So, in Philoc. 2.3 Origen assimilates the Bible to a house
composed of various rooms, the keys of which are interchangeable,41 and to a
musical instrument in which the strings are mutually harmonized (ibid. 6).
The sacred books form one and the same book because they have one and
the same content: Christ (ibid. 5.4-7),42 and the injunction of Ex 12:9b to eat

37. Philoc. 6,2. In Comm. in Io. 10.18.107 Origen speaks of eu)tono/tatai, sterro/tatai
sunoxai/, extremely strong and robust connections which link all parts of Scripture to one another, thus creating the a(rmoni/a th=j pa/shj sunqe/sewj, the harmony of the whole compound, so that in the entire Scripture the unity of pneu=ma
or Spirit/inspiration is unbroken. The Stoic derivation of pneu=ma and to/noj (tension) that permeate everything is clear: see e.g. SVF 2.439-462. On Origens
qewri/a of Scripture as continuous see also Edwards, Origen against Plato (above,
n. 31), 137-138.
38. Origen, CC 4.71, quotes 1 Cor 2:13: compare spiritual realities with other spiritual
realities. Thus, Origen uses a comparative hermeneutical method, bringing together the allegorical meaning of one biblical passage with the allegorical meanings of other biblical passages, both of the Old and New Testaments. Cf. Comm.
in Matth. 10.15; Hom. in Lev. 1.7. This contrasts with the break between the two
Testaments introduced by Gnostics and Marcionites, criticized by Origen because they do not respect the expositive sumfwni/a of Scripture from the beginning to the end (Comm. in Io. 10.42.290). See I. Ramelli, La coerenza della
soteriologia origeniana: dalla polemica contro il determinismo gnostico alluniversale restaurazione escatologica, in Pagani e cristiani alla ricerca della salvezza,
secoli I-III. Atti del XXXIV Incontro di Studiosi dellAntichit Cristiana, Roma, Istituto
Patristico Augustinianum, 5-7 maggio 2005, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 96,
Rome: Augustinianum, 2006, 661-688.
39. )Aformh/ belongs to the Stoic allegorical lexicon, especially of De vita et posi Homeri;
see Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 7.
40. Phil. 6; Comm. in Matth. 16.2; Comm. in Matth. Ser. 89; Hom. in Num. 3.2; 27.1; Hom.
in Ios. 15.3; Comm. in Io. 19.40.89.
41. Cf. Clem. Strom. 7.16.96.2; 3.4.38.1. On the example of the keys see Edwards, Origen against Plato (above, n. 31), 138-139; idem, Origen on Christ, Tropology, and
Exegesis, in Metaphor, Allegory (above, n. 2), 235-256, esp. 241.
42. See Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (above, n. 31),
73.

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wholly the Passover lamb should remind readers that the whole Scripture is
one body (Comm. in Io. 10.103). In this respect, Origen and the Neoplatonists
seem to share a common demand for unity and coherence in their allegorical
exegesis: this was already sought by Philo, whereas the Stoic allegorists would
appear to have cared less for this.
Middle Platonic allegoresis was inspired by Stoic allegoresis in turn. The very
method suggested by Cornutus in order to find out the philosophical truth
hidden in myths and rituals was taken up by Middle Platonists such as
Plutarch or Porphyry.43 That method was a comparison with other peoples
mythological and cultic traditions,44 an interest which is also manifest in another Neostoic: Chaeremon of Alexandria, who allegorized Egyptian mythology and was particularly concerned with the symbolic value of
hieroglyphics.45 In this connection, in many cases a conflict arose with Christian Platonic allegorists, such as Origen, concerning what non-Greek traditions
to consider authoritative. Indeed, some pagan Middle and Neoplatonists such
as Celsus, Porphyry, and the emperor Julian unlike Numenius refused to
recognize the Hebrew (and then Christian) tradition expressed by the Bible,
depriving it of a philosophical nature and rejecting the principle already
supported by Philo, the Jewish exegete close to Middle Platonism, and by his
Jewish Hellenistic predecessors46 that this writing hid deep philosophical
truths to be unveiled by means of philosophical allegoresis. Celsus, for instance, claimed as follows, in Origens quotation (CC 4.48; 50; 51):
Fhsi\n o3ti kai\ Ioudai/
)
wn kai\ Xristianw~n oi9 e)pieike/steroi tau=t a)llhgorou=sin. Le/gei de\ ai)sxunome/nouj e)pi\ tou/toij katafeu/gein e)pi\ th\n
a)llhgori/an. [...] oi9 e)pieike/steroi )Ioudai/wn kai\ Xristianw~n
peirw~ntai/ pwj a)llhgorei=n au)ta/, e1sti d ou)x oi[a a)llhgori/an
e)pide/xesqai/ tina, a)ll a1ntikruj eu)hqe/stata memuqolo/ghtai. [...] Ai9
gou=n dokou=sai peri\ au)tw~n a)llhgori/ai gegra/fqai polu\ tw~n mu/qwn
ai)sxi/ouj ei0si\ kai\ a)topw&terai, ta\ mhdamh= mhdamw~j a(rmosqh=nai
duna/mena qaumasth=| tini kai\ panta/pasin a)naisqh/tw| mwri/a| suna/ptousai.
[Celsus] states that the more reasonable ones among both Jews and
Christians interpret these stories allegorically. He claims that they
have recourse to allegory because they are ashamed of them. [...] The
more reasonable ones among Jews and Christians try to allegorize
these stories in some way; yet, they are not susceptible of any allegorical interpretation, but, on the contrary, they are bare myths, and of the
most stupid kind. [...] However, the allegories that appear to be written on these myths are far more shameful and unlikely than the
43. On Porphyry see Beatrice, The Oriental Religions and Porphyrys Universal Way
for the Souls Deliverance (above, n. 16).
44. See G.R. Boys-Stones, The Stoics Two Types of Allegory, in Metaphor, Allegory,
and the Classical Tradition (above, n. 2), 189-216, and Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n.
2), ch. 9.
45. See Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 7.1; Allegoristi dell et classica (above, n.
3) ch. 9.
46. See Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture etc. (above, n. 17).

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myths themselves, since, with astonishing and totally senseless madness, they link together things that are absolutely and completely incompatible with one another.
Indeed, Celsus believed ple/on tw~n kata\ to\ gra/mma le/cewn mhde/na lo/gon
ei]nai baqu/teron e)n tw~| no/mw| kai\ toi=j profh/taij, that in the Law and the
prophets there is no deeper doctrine beyond the literal sense of the words
(ap. Orig. CC 7.18).
III.
Within this complex framework, special attention will now be paid to the interpretation of the narratives concerning the origin of the world and eschatology, which seem to be subject to special hermeneutical rules, both in Plato
and in Origen. The latter was certainly recalling Plato and interpreted the biblical narratives on the arkh and the telos in a different way than the rest of the
Bible.
In Book 4 of Peri\ )Arxw~n, devoted to scriptural exegesis and preserved
also in Greek in the Philocalia, Origen theorizes47 a threefold interpretation of
the Bible, literal, moral, and spiritual, in which each level corresponds to a
component of the human beingbody, soul, and spirit48and to a degree of
Christian perfection:
exegetical levels: 1) literal
human being:
1) sw~ma
Christians:
1) incipientes

2) moral
2) yuxh/
2) progredientes

3) spiritual
3) pneu=ma
3) perfecti

Origen in Princ. 4.2.4 (Philoc. 1.11) relies on Prov 22:20, interpreted by him in
the sense that one is invited to read the texts trissw~j, in three ways or at
three levels; the aim of a correct reading of Scripture is the salvation of the
human being in all of its three components and phases of development:
Kai\ su\ de\ a)po/grayai au)ta\ trissw~j e)n boulh=| kai\ gnw/sei [] ou)kou=n
trixw~j a)pogra/fesqai dei= ei0j th\n e(autou= yuxh\n ta\ tw=n a(gi/wn
gramma/twn noh/mata, i3na o( me\n a(plou/steroj oi)kodomh=tai a)po\ th=j
oi9onei\ sarko\j th=j grafh=j, ou3twj o)nomazo/ntwn h(mw~n th\n pro/xeiron
e)kdoxh/n, o9 de\ e)pi\ poso\n a)nabebhkw\v a0po\ th=j w(sperei\ yuxh=j au)th=j,
o( de\ te/leioj [] a)po\ tou= pneumatikou= no/mou, skia\n perie/xontoj
tw~n mello/ntwn a)gaqw~n. w3sper ga\r o( a1nqrwpoj sune/sthken e)k
swm/atoj kai\ yuxh=j kai\ pneu/matoj, to\n au)to\n tro/pon kai\ h(
oi)konomhqei=sa u(po\ qeou= ei)j a)nqrw/pwn swthri/an doqh=nai grafh/.

47. On this theorization (Princ. 4.2.4-6; 3.5) see Blnnigen, Der griechische Ursprung der
jdisch - hellenistischen Allegorese (above, n. 23), 205-265, esp. 207-220, and Edwards,
Origen against Plato (above, n. 31), 123-152.
48. See K.J. Torjesen, Body, Soul, and Spirit in Origens Theory of Exegesis, Anglican Theological Review 67 (1985) 17-30; Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the
Fashioning of Identity (above, n. 31), 75, 78 and passim; I. Ramelli, Tricotomia, in
Enciclopedia Filosofica, dir. V. Melchiorre, Milan: Bompiani-Centro di Studi Filosofici
di Gallarate, 2006, vol. XII, 11772-11776.

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And you write them thrice / in three ways in will and knowledge
[] Therefore, it is necessary to write the meanings of the sacred
Scriptures onto ones soul in a threefold way, that the simpler person
may be edified by the flesh, so to say, of Scripture I call in this way
its most obvious meaning ; the person who is advanced to some degree may be edified by its soul, as it were, and the perfect [] by the
spiritual law, which includes in itself the shadow of the future goods.
For, just as the human being consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit, in the
same way also Scripture does, which was given by the divinity in its
providential economy for the salvation of the human beings.
In Philoc. 1.30 Origen considers these three stages of development also from a
historical perspective: the first phase is that of Jewish oi)konomi/a and corresponds to the littera, the body or flesh (sa/rc) of Scripture (see also Comm.
in Io. 6.227; Hom. in Lev. 1.1); the second is that of the Christians at present,
and the third is the spiritual one, in the eschatological dimension.49
Now, the Platonic distinction between the sense-perceptible and the intelligible levels implied a strong allegorical and symbolical dimension, insofar as the inferior level was conceived as a symbol and shadow of the
superior.50 Origen draws a parallel between the sense-perceptible level of reality, Christs human nature, and the littera of Scripture, and, on the other side,
the intelligible level of reality, Christs divine nature, and the spiritual sense
of Scripture (Hom. in Lev. 1.1; Comm. in Matth. Ser. 27). This conception is found
in Origens cosmology, in his exegetical theory, in his ecclesiological and sacramental doctrines, and in his anthropology.51 Among Christians themselves

49. Orig. Hom. in Num. 9.7; in Lev. 10.2 = Philoc. 1.30. Prov 22:20 was already cited by
Clem. Strom. 1.(9.)45.3-4, but with . On the doctrine of the soul in Origen related to the three Scriptural senses: D. Dawson, Allegorical Reading and the Embodiment of the Soul in Origen, in Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric, and
Community, eds. L. Ayres - G. Jones, London: Routledge, 1997, 26-44; Edwards,
Origen on Christ, Tropology, and Exegesis (above, n. 40), 242-243.
50. Comm. in Cant. 3.208 Bae.; Philoc. 1.30; Hom. in Num. 36.5. Thomas Olbricht, Analogy and Allegory in Classical Rhetoric, in Early Christianity and classical culture:
Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe, eds. J.T. Fitzgerald - T.H. Olbricht - L.M. White, Supplements to Novum Testamentum 110, Leiden-Boston:
Brill, 2003, 371-391: 386, observes that in Philo, too, behind allegoresis there is not
rhetoric, but Platonism, with its ontological bipartition.
51. He distinguishes the human being as Gods image in Gen 1:27, who is the nou=j, the
true human being (in Princ. 4.4.7, in line with Platonism, he defines humans as
spirits who avail themselves of bodies), and the man made of dust in Gen 2:7, interpreted as the heavy body derived from sin. Our main u(po/stasij is to be an
image of the Creator, while the other is e0c ai0ti/aj and consists in being made of
dust (Comm. in Io. 20.182). This distinction was already in Philo, Opif. 46.134; LA
1.12.31. Origens allegorical theorization was strongly Christological: the Scripture, divine and qeo/pneustoj (Princ. 4.1; 2.1-2), is considered by him as the revelation of Christ-Logos (1.3.2), who, just as he assumed a human body in his
incarnation, so in the Scriptures is clothed in the wrappings of the littera (CC 6.77;
Hom. in Lev. 1.1; Comm. in Mt. Ser. 27): Scripture is the perpetual Incarnation. This
is strictly linked with the principle of the unity of Scripture, derived from Clement.
Origen speaks of an e1nduma, a garment or veil, a swmatiko/n aspect that covers the

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thus, not only among the Jews the spiritual sense escapes the majority,
due to its difficulty.52 In Princ. 1, praef. 8 Origen presents as a doctrine recognized by the church that
... per Spiritum Dei scripturae conscriptae sint et sensum habeant non eum
solum qui in manifesto est, sed et alium quendam latentem quam plurimos.
Formae enim sunt haec quae descripta sunt sacramentorum quorundam et
divinarum rerum imagines. De quo totius ecclesiae una sententia est, esse
quidem omnem legem spiritalem.
Scriptures have been written by means of the Spirit of God, and have
as a meaning not only that which is patent, but also another one,
hidden, which escapes most people. For the things that are written
in them are the forms of certain mysteries, the images of divine
things. In this respect, the whole church entertains one and the same
opinion: that all the Law is in fact spiritual.
Since the Bible is full of ai)ni/gmata and tu/poi, many (those particularly simple, the a(plou/steroi or simpliciores, most people, quam plurimi, oi( polloi/) interpret Gods anthropomorphisms in the Old Testament literally (pro\j le/cin,
kata\ to\ r(hto/n, Princ. 4.2.1-3). It is interesting to note that criticism of anthropomorphisms ascribed to deities was precisely one of the main reasons that,
in ancient Greece, first led to the allegorical interpretation of myths.53
For Origen, the most important Scriptural sense is undoubtedly the spiritual, reserved to those to whom the Spirit communicates the meanings no
longer through the letters, but through living words (Princ. 4.2.4, with a
meaningful reminiscence of Platos living speech in Phaedr. 276A).54 As results from Princ. 4.3.6ff., the spiritual sense itself seems to be divided into two:
typology, derived from Paul and used by Justin and Irenaeus, and allegory,
used by Clement and Gnosticism. Though Origen in his exegetical practice does not always offer all three of these readings, and furthermore does
not seem to draw a sharp distinction between typology and allegory,55 his the-

52.
53.
54.
55.

spiritual sense (Princ. 3.6.1; 4.1.6; 2.8). The main skopo/j of Scripture is revealing
to the humans the mysteries useful for their salvation; the secondary is to conceal
these mysteries under that veil of texts easy to read, such as historical accounts or
laws, containing at least a moral teaching.
Princ. 4.2.7; Hom. in Ez. 11.1; CC 3.45; 4.76: Cf. Clement, Strom. 6.15.126. In Princ.
4.1.7 a third reason is given: to make a)pisti/a possible too, so that faith can stand
out by opposition.
Ramelli, Allegoria, I (above, n. 2), ch. 1, with all the references.
See Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (above, n. 31),
76.
His vocabulary is not so differentiated between the two (Origne, Philocalie, 1-20,
sur les critures, par M. Harl, La Lettre Africanus sur lHistoire de Suzanne, par N.
de Lange, Sources Chrtiennes 302, Paris: Cerf, 1983, 121). According to Edwards,
Origen on Christ, Tropology, and Exegesis (above, n. 40), 236, the three exegetical levels theorized by Origen are actually all typological; the distinction between
typology and allegory arose only in the IVth century with the controversy between
the exegetical schools of Antioch and Alexandria, on which see I. Ramelli, Giovanni Crisostomo e lesegesi scritturale (above, n. 24) and Olbricht, Analogy and

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orization of multiple interpretations of the text, in which the spiritual meanings of Scripture are inexhaustible, does not seem to be in line with the Stoic
exegetical method of allegoresis, which involved a single level of interpretation of Greek myths, usually physical allegory. The profound unity of Scripture and the multiplicity of interpretations would seem to be two important
respects in which Origens exegesis differs from the Stoic.
Origen drew moral interpretation (moralis interpretatio, moralis locus: Hom.
in Gen. 2.6; moralis doctrina vel ratio: Hom. in Num. 9.7) above all from Philo,
who read the sacred text as an allegory of the troubles of the soul between
good and evil. This psychological exegesis had already been christianized
by Clement. Origen, who uses it much more systematically, considers this
level the soul of Scripture (see above the quotation from Princ. 4.2.4)
useful for those who are making progress (progredientes), thanks to the moral
teaching that they can find in it. The facts of the Old Testament cannot be simple prefigurations of facts of the New; they rather prefigure spiritual truths,
because an elevation of level (a)nagwgh/) has to take place. Old Testament
prophecies, however, had their fulfillment in Christ:56 this is in line with the
typological interpretation according to which facts and characters in the Old
Testament are symbols and prefigurations of the New Testament. This reading was already found in Paul, as Origen notes in Princ. 4.2.6, describing Pauls
exegesis as typological (tupikw~j).57
For all the importance of the spiritual level, and even of the moral level, however, Origen thinks that the literal, historical level of Scripture maintains its
full value in almost all cases, unless a1loga or a)du/nata arise. Indeed, whereas
every Scriptural passage has a spiritual sense, only a few are deprived of literal
meaning (Princ. 4.2.5; 9), because of logical absurdities (a1loga), paradoxes
(para/doca), or material impossibilities (a)du/nata, Princ. 4.3.1-4). Indeed, Origen insists that there are many more passages in Scripture that are endowed
Allegory in Classical Rhetoric (above, n. 49), 381-382; cf. F.M. Young, The Rhetorical Schools and Their Influence on Patristic Exegesis, in The Making of Orthodoxy.
Essays in Honor of H. Chadwick, ed. R. Williams, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1989, 182-199. Against the typology-allegory distinction in Origen see also
Simonetti, Origene esegeta e la sua tradizione (above, n. 31), 51-70; P. Martens, Revisiting the Allegory/Typology Distinction: The Case of Origen, Journal of Early
Christian Studies 16 (2008) 283-317. J.J. OKeefe and R.R. Reno, Sanctified Vision, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2005, chs. 4-5, tend to stick to the traditional distinction
between typology and allegory.
56. Princ. 1.3-6. Origen was inspired by Heb 8:5, where the Hebrew cult is skia/ and
u(po/deigma (shadow and indication) of the heavenly things. The literal sense is a
shadow of the spiritual in CC 2.2; Hom. in Hier. 7.1; 18.2; Comm. in Matth. 10.15;
Comm. in Matth. Ser. 52; Hom. in Num. 24.1; Comm. in Io. 6.625.
57. Origen calls Pauls exegeses a)llhgori/ai; Paul in Gal 4:22-31 says that Hagars and
Sarahs stories were a)llhgorou/mena. Paul himself seems to have theorized the allegorical reading of Scripture in 2 Cor 3:12-18, where the veil on Moses face at
Sinai is considered as follows: for those who are fixated on the text as an end in itself, the text remains veiled, but those who turn to the Lord are enabled to see
through the text to its true aim and meaning (te/loj): for them, the veil is removed.
See Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (above, n. 31),
34-35; 188.

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with a literal meaning (besides the spiritual) than those which are deprived of
the literal meaning and only have a spiritual sense:
multo enim plura sunt quae secundum historiam uera sunt quam ea quae
nudum sensum continent spiritalem,
those passages which are true on the historical plane are much more
numerous than those which have a bare spiritual meaning (ap.
Pamph. Apol. 123 [200 Amacker-Junod]).
Thus, for example, in Pamphilus Apol. 125 (204 Amacker-Junod) Origen
claims that the whole story of the Patriarchs is historical, and likewise that the
miracle of Joshua really happened. As instances of biblical passages deprived
of literal meaning, Origen adduces Gods anthropomorphisms in the Old Testament, contradictions, grammatical or factual incongruities, facts that did not
really happen (Princ. 4.3.1), and legal prescriptions impossible to fulfill.58
These have indeed bare spiritual meanings (gumna\ pneumatika/), not
wrapped in a literal sense, in order to let readers understand that it is necessary to seek for a deeper meaning (Princ. 4.2.9; Phil. 1.16). One significant example comes from Hom. 3 in Ps. 36, 7:
Quoniam brachia peccatorum conterentur. Quomodo potest hoc secundum litteram stare, etiamsi aliquis vim facere conetur per imperitiam?
Sunt multa in scripturis ita posita, quae etiam eum qui valde brutus est et
stertit movere possunt, immo cogere ut necesse habeat littera derelicta ad intellectum conscendere spiritalem.
For the arms of the sinners will be shattered. How can this possibly be true in a literal sense, even in case one should try to force the
meaning out of ineptitude? In Scripture there are many passages of
this kind, which can induce even one who is stupid like a beast and
so asleep as to snore, or better can force such a guy to see that it is
necessary to abandon the literal meaning and to ascend to the spiritual interpretation.
In a remarkable methodological passage, Princ. 4.2.9, Origen observes:
0Eni/ote de\ lo/goj xrh/simoj ou0k e0mfai/netai. Kai\ a1llote kai\ a)du/nata
nomoqetei=tai dia\ tou\j e)ntrexeste/rouj kai\ zhthtikwte/rouj, i3na th=|
basa/nw| th=j e0ceta/sewj tw~n gegramme/nwn e)pidido/ntej e9autou(j,
pei=sma a)cio/logon la/bwsi peri\ tou= dei=n tou= qeou= a1cion nou=n ei)j ta\
toiau=ta zhtei=n.
But sometimes a useful discourse does not appear. And on some
other occasions, even impossible things are prescribed by the law,
for the sake of those who are more expert and particularly fond of investigation, that, applying themselves to the toil of the examination
of Scriptures, they may be persuaded by reason that in Scriptures it
is necessary to look for a meaning that is worthy of God.
58. In Philoc. 1.11 he interprets the widows and orphans of Past. Herm. vis. 2.4.3 as
those Biblical passages devoid of literal sense, and in Hom. in Gen. 2.6 he reads
Noahs ark, built on three and two levels, as a symbol of Scripture, having three
levels of meaning, or just two, whenever the literal is missing.

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It is also notable that here Origen attaches to the study of Scripture the very
lexicon of philosophical investigation (zhthtikwte/rouj, e)ceta/sewj, pei=sma
a)cio/logon, zhtei=n). The reason is that, in his view, the allegorical exegesis of
the Bible is an important part of philosophy; this is also why he decided to include his theorization of biblical allegoresis in his philosophical masterpiece.
In this connection, the very function of the few scriptural passages that are
deprived of a literal meaning is to have the exegete-philosopher realize that a
philosophical scrutiny of Scripture is needed. This scrutiny aims at finding in
the Bible meanings that are worthy of God. Again, this seems to have been
one of the very first factors that produced a search for allegorical meanings of
myths whose literal sense sounded unworthy of the divine.
However, in Origens view, illogicalities and factual impossibilities in
Scripture remain exceptional: the full historicity of the biblical narrative
apart from the arkh and the telos, as I shall point out (below, p. 358f.) is not
in question for Origen, and this is a momentous factor of differentiation from
Stoic and Middle as well as Neoplatonic allegoresis of myth. That for Origen
the reading of a scriptural text on the spiritual plane does not imply the rejection of its literal meaning is also clear from Pamphilus Apol. 113 (188
Amacker-Junod):
Haec enim, licet habeant spiritalem intellectum, tamen manente prius historiae ueritate etiam spiritalis recipiendum est sensus,
Even if these passages have a spiritual meaning, however their spiritual sense must be received only after first maintaining their historical truth.
So, for instance, Jesus miracles, such as healing or resurrections, did take place
historically, even though at the same time they also mean spiritual healing
and spiritual resurrections, e.g.,
caecos semper curat secundum spiritalem intelligentiam, cum ignorantia
obcaecatas illuminat mentes, tamen et corporaliter tunc caecum sanauit,
(Christ) always heals those who are blind in the spiritual sense, when
he illuminates the minds that are blinded by ignorance; however, he
then healed that blind man from the physical point of view as well.
For Origen, only the ascertainment of the littera makes it possible to correctly develop the allegorical exegesis. Furthermore, the literal level is useful
to edify (oi0kodomei=n) those who cannot understand Scripture to a deeper degree (Princ. 4.2.6;8-9, partially quoted above). Precisely for his attention to the
littera, Origen who had once been a grammaticus produced his Hexapla, to
establish the Scriptural text, and discussed philological points in his commentaries, such as that on John. He used the Hexapla not only in his classes,
as his commentaries show, but sometimes even in his preaching, as we know
from his Homilies on Jeremiah, preserved in Greek.59 According to Origen, in
59. Latin translations, instead, eliminated or drastically reduced Origens rich philological apparatus. Remarkable, in this connection, are Origens attention to history and philology, his collation of manuscripts, his journeys to Palestine with the
aim of establishing whether John the Baptist operated in Bethany or Bethabara
(John 1:28; Comm. in Io. 6.40-41), and his concern with the reason why the succes-

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fact, the spiritual sense of Scripture absorbs both its soul and its body, without destroying them. For the purpose of the allegorical reading is to show the
connection between spiritual and material realities, spirit and body, not to
allow the spirit to annihilate the body. Origen illustrates the interrelationship
between spiritual and material being and between littera and allegorical exegesis in Princ. 4.2.9; 3.4.6; Comm. in Matth. 10.14-15; 15.1, and elsewhere. This
interrelationship is particularly evident in Origens doctrine of the spiritual
senses in Princ. 1.1.9 and elsewhere. So, his exegesis of John perfectly reveals
his deep concern against Heracleon for preserving history, including the
incarnation of the Logos, and offering an allegorical exegesis that is consistent with the literal plane.
Within the Bible, however, there are narratives concerning the arkh and the
telos which escape this composite model of interpretation, literal and allegorical. These essentially consist in the very first sections of Genesis, with the account of the creation of the world and of the human being, and the Apocalypse
of John or Revelation. The literal and historical meaning in these accounts was
probably the thinnest of all Biblical books in Origens eyes. In the prologue to
his Commentary on the Song of Songs Origen ascribes a peculiar status to the
first chapters of Genesis, those including the creation account. He declares
that these chapters must be studied only at the end of ones cursus studiorum,
after the rest of the Bible, just like the Song of Songs (these Biblical books constitute what he calls the , since they must come after all the rest in
ones study plan). The reason is easy to see: the Genesis account of creation,
just as the Song of Songs (and we could add Revelation), ought to be entirely
allegorized and cannot absolutely be taken literally. Therefore, they require a
mature student.
I suspect that for the exclusively allegorical interpretation of the accounts
of the arkh and the telos Origen was inspired by Platos philosophical myths,
which Origen explicitly praised as the only way of speaking of what is otherwise impossible to expound. He knew very well that Plato could use only a
mythical, not a theoretical, language precisely when tackling the question of
the arkh in his Timaeus, with which Origen was very well acquainted60 and
the telos, in his eschatological myths such as that of Er at the end of the Republic
and his other accounts of the underworld, with which Origen was deeply familiar as well.61 This is why it is only in a mythical form, and not in a theoret-

sion of events after Jesus baptism in the Gospel of John (1:29-36) is different from
that of the Synoptics (Comm. in Io. 10.3). Moreover, Origen is one of the few exegetes who read literally the story of the magician of Endor in 1 Sam 28, and probably the praise of those who make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven
(Matt. 19:12).
60. See, e.g., G.R. Boys-Stones, Time, Creation, and the Mind of God: The Afterlife
of a Platonist Theory in Origen, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 40 (2011) 319337.
61. See I. Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa Sullanima e la resurrezione, introduzione,
traduzione, note e apparati, Milan: Bompiani-Catholic University, 2007, with four
critical essays, new edition of De anima also based on the Coptic version predating every Greek manuscript, translations and commentaries of De Anima and of In
Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius, appendixes and bibliographies, and the reviews by P. Tza-

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ical one, that Plato presented also the doctrine of metensomatosis, which Origen, like Gregory of Nyssa in De anima, rejected outright. That Origen had in
mind Platos myths in his own considerations on what must be expressed
mythically and allegorically, and that he reflected on the epistemological status of those myths, is also proved by CC 4.39, where he praises Plato because
he used myths with the intention of concealing the truth to the majority and
revealing it only toi=j ei0do/si. The latter, those who know, clearly are those
who are able to interpret Platos myths correctly that is, allegorically. After
quoting an extensive section of Platos Symposium (203BE), containing the
myth of Penia and Poros, Origen goes on to observe that its exegetes will either take it literally and lampoon it, which he hopes Christians will not do because of Platos greatness, or will interpret it allegorically, knowing that Plato
hid his thought behind a myth in order to conceal it to the majority, only revealing it to those who are capable of allegorical interpretation, of course the
philosophers:
1Ara ga\r oi9 e)ntugxa/nontej tou/toij, e)a\n me\n th\n kakoh/qeian tou=
Ke/lsou mimw~ntai, o3per Xristianw=n a)pei/h, katagela/sontai tou=
mu/qou kai\ e)n xleu/h| qh/sontai to\n thlikou=ton Pla/twna. E
0 a\n de\ ta\ e)n
mu/qou sxh/mati lego/mena filoso/fwj e)ceta/zontej dunhqw~sin eu(rei=n
to\ bou/lhma tou= Pla/twnoj, o!yontai ti/na tro/pon dedu/nhtai ta\
mega/la e9autw~| faino/mena do/gmata kru/yai me\n dia\ tou\j pollou\j e)n
tw=| tou= mu/qou sxh/mati, ei)pei=n d w(j e)xrh=n toi=j ei0do/sin a)po\ mu/qwn
eu(ri/skein to\ peri\ a)lhqei/aj tou= tau=ta sunta/cantoj bou/lhma.
Now, those who run into this myth, if they imitate Celsus malignity,
will deride it and will poke fun at Plato, so great as he is. But be this
far from Christians! Or else, if they investigate philosophically the contents that are expressed in the form of a myth, and are thereby able to
find out what Plato meant, they <will see> how he could hide under
the appearance of the myth those doctrines which seemed to him
particularly sublime, because of the majority, while at the same time
revealing them, as appropriate, to those who know how to ferret out
from myths what the author meant concerning the truth.
It is to be remarked that, once again, Origen expressly deems allegorical exegesis a philosophical exercise, and that he takes it for granted that such an allegorical interpretation must be applied to Platos myths. This is the very same
kind of exegesis, allegorical and philosophical, which he claimed for Scripture as well. What is more, in the immediate continuation of the passage at
stake, Origen overtly assimilates Platos myth of Poros to the Genesis account
of the arkh:
malikos, Vigiliae Christianae 62 (2008) 515-523; M.J. Edwards, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009) 764-765; M. Herrero de Huregui, Ilu 13 (2008) 334-336. On
Origens Platonism see Edwards, Origen against Plato (above, n. 31); P. Tzamalikos,
Origen: Philosophy of History and Eschatology, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae
85, Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2007, with my review in Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica 100
(2008) 453-458; and Ramelli, Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism (above, n. 14). Further arguments for the identification of Origen the Christian with Origen the Neoplatonist in I. Ramelli, Origen the Christian
Middle/Neoplatonist, forthcoming in Acta Patristica et Byzantina.

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Tou=ton de\ to\n para\ Pla/twni mu=qon e)ceqe/mhn dia\ to\n par au)tw~| tou=
Dio\j kh=pon paraplh/sio/n ti e1xein dokou=nta tw~| paradei/sw| tou= Qeou=,
kai\ th\n Peni/an tw~| e)kei= o1fei paraballome/nhn, kai\ to\n u(po\ th=j
Peni/aj e0pibouleuo/menon Po/ron tw|~ a)nqrw/pw| e0pibouleuome/nw| u(po\
tou= o1fewj.
I have reported this myth, which is found in Plato, because the garden of Zeus therein seems to have something very similar to the garden/Paradise of God [sc. in the Genesis story], and Penia can be
compared to the serpent found in the garden/Paradise, and Poros,
the victim of Penias plot, can be compared to the human being, the
victim of the serpents plot.
This assimilation of Platos and the Bibles myths, most remarkably, is not confined to the framework of a debate with a Middle Platonist, such as the Contra Celsum, but was also drawn by Origen, and much more extensively and
completely, in his lost Commentary on Genesis. Origens own testimony at the
end of CC 4.39 seems to me unequivocal.62 Moreover, in CC 6 Origen declares
that the Genesis story of the protoplasts sin and their being enveloped in
skin tunics (which for him symbolize mortal and heavy corporeality) must
not be taken literally, but has a mystical and secret meaning, which he assimilates, once again, to the symbolic meaning of Platos myth of the descent
of the soul after it has lost its wings:
That the human being was chased out of Paradise, the man along
with the woman, and was enfolded in the so-called skin tunics,
which God made for those who had sinned because of the transgression of the human beings, well, all this has a kind of secret and
mystical meaning [a)po/rrhto/n tina kai\ mustiko\n e1xei lo/gon], even
more than Platos myth of the descent of the soul has [u(pe\r th\n kata\
Pla/twna ka/qodon th=j yuxh=j], when it loses its wings and falls
down here [pterorruou/shj kai\ deu=ro ferome/nhj], until it becomes
attached to something solid [e3wj a2n stereou= tinoj la/bhtai].
Thus, Origen compared the Genesis story of the creation and fall of the
human being to Platos myths of Poros and Penia and of the fall of the soul,
claiming that they mythically expressed the same content, and that both mythical accounts should be interpreted allegorically, in order to get a philosophi62. Ou1te de\ to\n Pla/twnoj mu=qon ou1te ta\ peri\ to\n o1fin kai\ to\n para/deison tou= Qeou=
kai\ o3sa e)n au)tw=| a)nage/graptai gegone/nai nu=n kairo\j h]n dihgh/sasqai: prohgoume/nwj ga\r e)n toi=j e)chghtikoi=j th=j Gene/sewj, w(j oi[o/n t h]n, ei0j tau=ta
e)pragmateusa/meqa, Now it was not the right occasion for going through both
Platos myth and the story of the serpent and the garden/Paradise of God and all that
happened in it according to what is written. For I have already treated all this in
depth, and as the main subject, in my commentary on Genesis, insofar as I could.
Origen is not simply saying that in his Commentary on Genesis he has analysed
the biblical story of the serpent and the Paradise, but that in that work he has
analysed both Platos myth and the Genesis story, clearly the former in the service
of a comparison with the latter. The short comparison found in CC 4.39, which has
been quoted above, is an extremely compendious version of what was developed
to a much greater extent in Origens lost Commentary.

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cal truth out of them, whereas their literal expositions are simply laughable.
His fuller report in the Commentary on Genesis being lost, from CC 4.39 it is
still possible to grasp not only the very terms of this comparison, but also Origens own explanation of the reason why such striking similarities emerge between Platos myth transformed by Origen into a myth on the arkh and the
Genesis account of the arkh:
Ou) pa/nu de\ dh=lon po/teron kata\ suntuxi/an e)pipe/ptwke tou/toij o(
Pla/twn, h1, w(j oi1ontai/ tinej, e)n th=| ei)j Ai1gupton a)podhmi/a| suntuxw_n kai\ toi=j ta\ 0Ioudai/wn filosofou=si kai\ maqw\n par au)tw~n
ta\ me/n tina teth/rhke, ta\ de\ parepoi/hse, fulaca/menoj prosko/yai
toi=j 3Ellhsi e)k tou= pa/nth| ta\ th=j )Ioudai/wn thrh=sai sofi/aj, diabeblhme/nwn para\ toi=j polloi=j dia\ to\ ceni/zon tw~n no/mwn kai\ th\n
i0dio/tropon kat au)tou\j politei/an.
It is not quite clear whether this story [sc. the myth of Poros] occurred
to Platos mind by chance or, as some believe, during his sojourn in
Egypt Plato also ran into people who adhered to the philosophy of
the Jews, learnt from them, and then retained some things and altered some others, being careful to avoid offending the Greeks by
keeping to the wisdom of the Jews in its entirety and in every respect, since the latter were calumniated by most people for the oddity of their customs and the peculiarity of their way of life.
Among the unnamed some, Clement was prominent, who defined Plato
the philosopher taught by the Hebrews in Strom. 1.1.10.2, and then in ch. 21
offered a chronological explanation of this assertion, similar to Tatians in his
Oratio ad Graecos,63 and in chs. 22-29 showed the indebtedness of Greek philosophy, and above all of Plato, to Moses. Of course, Origen intentionally
speaks of a Jewish philosophy, rather than a Jewish religion, not only because
from that philosophy stemmed what he wanted to present as the Christian
philosophy, but also because the allegorical interpretation of the Hebrew Bible
is in his view a philosophical task, and he knew that this task had already been
performed by Jewish authors, such as Philo and Aristobulus, and other predecessors of Philo. Indeed, in CC 4.51, soon after reporting Celsus denigratory
words (which have been quoted above) against any allegorical interpretation
of the Bible, Origen observes that this is not only an attack on Christian allegoresis of Scripture, but also on Jewish allegoresis of it as represented by Philo,
Aristobulus, and others.64 Origen is thereby creating for himself a non-Christian and pre-Christian ancestry in the philosophical allegoresis of Scripture. In
fact, this ancestry seems to have been completely overlooked by Middle and
Neoplatonists who opposed biblical allegoresis, such as Celsus and Porphyry.

63. See my Diogene Laerzio, Vite e dottrine dei pi celebri filosofi, in collaboration with G.
Reale and G. Girgenti, Milan: Bompiani, 2005, introductory essay, pp. XXXIIICXXXVIII.
64. 1Eoike de\ peri\ tw~n Fi/lwnoj suggramma/twn tau=ta le/gein h2 kai\ tw~n e1ti
a)rxaiote/rwn, o(poi=a/ e)sti ta\ )Aristobou/lou. Stoxa/zomai de\ to\n Ke/lson mh\
a)negnwke/nai ta\ bibli/a, He gives the impression of saying so propos the treatises of Philo or of the even more ancient exegetes, such as Aristobulus. I suppose
that Celsus had not read those books.

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Just as Plato spoke of the arkh and the telos in a mythical fashion, likewise, to
the arkh and the telos, which are before and after human history and historical experience, Scripture necessarily had to apply a mythical and not an historical language, which demands an allegorical interpretation. Indeed,
Origen declares that the arkh and the telos have been left unclarified by the
teaching of the Church (Princ. praef. 7) and are unknown even to angels (Princ.
4.3.14). Indeed, not even the angelic orders really know the and the
:
neque exercitus sanctorum angelorum neque sanctae sedes neque dominationes neque principatus neque potestates scire possunt integre initium omnium et finem uniuersitatis,
not even the hosts of the holy angels, nor the holy thrones, nor the
dominations, nor the principates, nor the powers, can fully know the
beginning of all beings and the end of all things (ap. Pamph. Apol. 82
[140 Amacker-Junod]).
This is why these completely escape human knowledge, and in Scripture they
are described only mythically and allegorically, and not at all historically.
Therefore, Christian philosophical exegetes must apply allegory at its best
when interpreting the arkh and telos accounts. This is what Origen did in his
own interpretation of Revelation, to which he alludes in his Commentary on
Matthew, and which survives both in fragments the scholia65, which have
been demonstrated to be at least partially authentic66 and scattered throughout other extant works of his, such as his Commentaries on John and Matthew,
Homilies on Jeremiah, and Peri\ )Arxw~n. Origen and the Origenian tradition
would always be suspicious toward literal interpretations of the Apocalypse,
which produced millenarianism.67 Origen himself, however, unlike many Origenians, accepted Revelation as belonging to Scripture, commented on it, and
frequently cited it, but he entirely interpreted it in an allegorical way. In Princ.
2.11.2-3 he is obviously criticizing a literal interpretation of Revelation, when
he attacks those exegetes who held that the eschatological beatitude will consist in eating and drinking and other worldly pleasures, and that the heavenly Jerusalem will be an earthly city, made of precious stones, in accord with
a literal interpretation of Rev 21. Rather, Origen explains, the heavenly
Jerusalem depicted in Revelation will be, not a city made of stones and gems,
but a city made of saints (civitas sanctorum), in which each one will be in65. See I. Ramelli, Origens Interpretation of Violence in the Apocalypse: Destruction of Evil and Purification of Sinners, in Violence in the Apocalypse. Proceedings
of the NTP Symposium Interpreting Violent Texts - Ancient Christian Commentators of
the Apocalypse, Catholic University Leuven, 7-11 September 2009, ed. J. Verheyden,
Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus/ Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments 92, Gttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 2011.
66. An early Medieval prologue to an anonymous Irish commentary on the Apocalypse, preserved in ms. Bamberg, Staatliche Bibliothek Patr. 102 [B.V. 18], fols. 101110, attests to the existence of twelve homilies on the Apocalypse by Origen. See
J.F.T. Kelly, Early Medieval evidence for twelve homilies by Origen on the Apocalypse, Vigiliae Christianae 39 (1985) 273-279.
67. See Ramelli, Origens Interpretation of Violence in the Apocalypse (above, n.
63), also with further literature.

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structed in order to become a living precious stone, in an apokatastasis or


restoration of rational creatures to the original plan of God:68
Sapientiae escis nutrita mens ad integrum et perfectum, sicut ex initio factus est homo, ad imaginem Dei ac similitudinem reparetur: ut etiamsi quis
ex hac vita minus eruditus abierit, probabilia tamen opera detulerit, instrui
possit in illa Hierusalem civitate sanctorum, id est edoceri et informari et
effici lapis vivus, lapis pretiosus et electus, pro eo quod fortiter et constanter pertulerit agones vitae et certamina pietatis.
Ones intellect, fed with the food of Wisdom so to become complete
and perfect, just as the human being was made at the beginning,
must be restored to the image and likeness of God. Thus, even if
someone has left this life without being instructed enough, and yet
has produced praiseworthy deeds, this person will be able to be instructed in that famous Jerusalem that is a city of saints, to be taught
and formed so to become a living stone, a precious and select stone,
in that this person has endured with fortitude and perseverance the
trials of life and the battles of faith.
In the same way, Dionysius of Alexandria, a disciple and faithful follower of
Origens, after stating that some ascribed Revelation to Cerinthus, a Gnostic,
did not reject it altogether, but attributed it to a John, different from the
homonymous author of the Gospel and Letters, and, lamenting its obscurity
and solecisms, claimed that it must be interpreted only allegorically (ap. Eus. HE
7.24.3-25.26). Even several centuries later, the first known Greek commentator
on Revelation, Oecumenius (sixth century), who cited the Cappadocian Fathers and Eusebius as auctoritates and was influenced by Origen, defended
the authenticity of Revelation, like Origen himself, but read it, again, allegorically and mystically, against all its chiliastic interpretations.69
Origen not only praised methodologically, as I have pointed out, but also entered in conversation with, Platos myths on the arkh and the telos, without
hesitating to correct them at times. One example concerns his correction of
Platos eschatological myths, and in particular the notion of incurable souls,
which sharply contravened Origens doctrine of apokatastasis and had to be
rejected by him. According to Plato, indeed, some who have done too much
evil are incurable (a)ni/atoi), and therefore their souls, after their detachment
68. See I. Ramelli, Origen and the Apokatastasis: A Reassessment, in Origeniana
Decima, eds. S. Kaczmarek - H. Pietras, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum
Lovaniensium 244, 649-670, Leuven: Peeters, 2011, and eadem, Apokatastasis, forthcoming, chapter on Origen.
69. Oecumenius commentary was recovered by Diekamp only at the end of the nineteenth century. It was edited by H.C. Hoskier, The Complete Commentary of Oecumenius on the Apocalypse, University of Michigam Studies, Humanistic Series XXIII,
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1928, 29-260. Today, the best critical edition is
that by M. de Groote, Oecumenii Commentarius in Apocalypsin, Traditio Exegetica
Graeca 8, Leuven: Peeters, 1999. The first complete English translation, with a discussion, in the introduction, of Oecumeniuss relationship to Origen, is by J.N.
Suggit, Oecumenius: Commentary on the Apocalypse, The Fathers of the Church, a
new translation, 112, Washington: Catholic University of America, 2006.

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from their bodies, cannot be healed through suffering and then restored to the
contemplation of the Ideas, but must remain in Tartarus forever. The concept
of people who are a)ni/atoi both on earth and in hell occurs rather frequently
in Plato. In particular, Origen probably had in mind three famous passages
from Platos descriptions of otherworldly punishments in Phaedo, Gorgias, and
Republic. In Phaed. 113E2 Plato claims that those who are incurable due to the
seriousness of their sins are destined to Tartarus, from where they will never
be released:
Oi4 d a2n do&cwsin a)nia&twj e1xein dia_ ta_ mege/qh tw~n a(marthma&twn,
h2 i9erosuli/aj polla_j kai\ mega&laj h2 fo&nouj a)di/kouj kai\ parano&mouj
pollou_j e0ceirgasme/noi h2 a1lla o3sa toiau~ta tugxa&nei o1nta, tou/touj de\ h( prosh&kousa moi=ra r(i/ptei ei0j to_n Ta&rtaron, o3qen ou1pote
e0kbai/nousin.
Those who seem to be in an incurable condition due to the enormity
of their sins, having committed, for instance, many grave profanations of temples, or many illicit murders against the law, or other
similar crimes, well, the appropriate Fate throws these people into
Tartarus, from where they never exit.
In Gorg. 525C2, Plato, after remarking that only through suffering is it possible to get rid of evil, observes that those who committed extremely serious
sins have become incurable. As a consequence, their torments, which are expressly described again as eternal, do not produce their purification, but are
simply retributive and useful for other people, as a paradigm, and not for
these sinners themselves (this is a kind of punishment that Origen refused to
believe God might ever inflict):
Oi4 d a2n ta_ e1sxata a)dikh&swsi kai\ dia_ ta_ toiau~ta a)dikh&mata a)ni/atoi
ge/nwntai, e0k tou&twn ta_ paradei/gmata gi/gnetai, kai\ ou{toi au)toi\
me\n ou)ke/ti o)ni/nantai ou)de/n, a3te a)ni/atoi o1ntej, a1lloi de\ o)ni/nantai
oi9 tou&touj o(rw~ntej dia_ ta_j a(marti/aj ta_ me/gista kai\ o)dunhro&tata
kai\ foberw&tata pa&qh pa&sxontaj to_n a)ei\ xro&non.
As for those who commit the most extreme kinds of injustice and because of such crimes become incurable, well, these people provide examples to others. They are no longer useful to themselves in
anything, precisely because they are incurable, but they are useful to
others, who see them endure the greatest and most painful and
dreadful sufferings perpetually, due to their sins.
In Resp. 615E3 Plato repeats that tyrants, the worst sinners in his view, and
private citizens who have committed terrible sins are incurable and therefore
are never allowed to leave their place of punishment:
0Ekei=no&n te katei/domen e0cai/fnhj kai\ a1llouv sxedo&n ti au)tw~n tou_j
plei/stouj tura&nnouj: h}san de\ kai\ i0diw~tai/ tinej tw~n mega&la
h(marthko&twn ou4j oi0ome/nouj h1dh a)nabh&sesqai ou)k e0de/xeto to_
sto&mion, a)ll e0muka~to o(po&te tij tw~n ou3twj a)nia&twj e0xo&ntwn ei0j
ponhri/an, h2 mh_ i9kanw~j dedwkw_j di/khn, e0pixeiroi= a)nie/nai.

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We suddenly saw him down there, and others most of them


tyrants, but there were also some private citizens who had committed serious sins , who believed they were finally about to go up, but
whom the opening did not receive, but it mooed every time one of
these people who were in such a situation of incurability in respect to
wickedness, or one who had not paid enough, attempted to go up.
Here Plato is clear in distinguishing those who finish paying their debt with
justice and can exit the place of punishment at a certain point, and those who
are utterly incurable and will never finish paying, and thus will never leave
the place of punishment. Indeed, even apart from the aforementioned passages, sin is often presented by Plato as an illness of the soul that may become
incurable, also in contexts in which he is speaking of human justice.
Now, if Plato thought that some sinners are incurable, Origen corrects
Plato on this point by claiming that no being is incurable for its creator, not
even the devil. Since he created all creatures, Christ-Logos, who is God, will
also be able to heal all of them from the illness of evil:
Nihil enim omnipotenti impossibile est, nec insanabile est aliquid factori
suo,
Nothing is impossible for the Omnipotent; no being is incurable for
the One who created it (Princ. 3.6.5).
Origen, who inserts this declaration in the context of a discussion of the eventual conversion and salvation of the devil qua creature of God, is simply introducing the argument of Gods omnipotence, which comes, not from Greek
philosophy, but from the Bible, which Plato could not know (especially Matth
19:25-26 and Mark 10:26-27, exactly in reference to salvation: impossible for
human beings, but nothing is impossible for God70): those who admittedly
are incurable on human standards are not incurable for God. Universal
apokatastasis and salvation i.e., the restoration of all rational creatures to
God, who is the Good, and their consequent salvation will in fact be a divine
miracle.
This debate about Platos position concerning the eventual restoration of
all souls, or not all, lasted long in Platonism, both on its Christian and on it
pagan side. Macrobius, a Neoplatonist who offered a full allegorical reading of Ciceros Somnium Scipionis,71 in the last chapter affirms that, according
70. Matt. 19:25-26: 0Akou/santej de\ oi9 maqhtai\ e0ceplh/ssonto sfo&dra, le&gontej: Ti/j
a1ra du/natai swqh=nai; 0Emble/yaj de\ o( 0Ihsou=j ei]pen au)toi=j: Para\ a)nqrw&poij
tou=to a)du/nato/n e)stin, para\ de\ Qew=| pa/nta dunata/, The disciples got upset when
they heard this, and said: If this is so, who can be saved? Jesus looked at them intensely and said to them: This is impossible for human beings, but everything is
possible for God. Mark 10:26-27: Oi9 de\ perissw~j e)ceplh/ssonto le/gontej pro\j
e9autou/j: Kai\ ti/j du/natai swqh=nai; 0Emble/yaj au)toi=j o9 0Ihsou=j le/gei: Para\
a)nqrw/poij a)du/naton, a)ll ou) para\ Qew~|: pa/nta ga\r dunata\ para\ tw~| Qew~|,
They became quite upset, saying to each other: And who can be saved? Jesus
looked at them intensely and said: Impossible for human beings, but not for God,
since everything is possible for God.
71. See I. Ramelli, Macrobio allegorista neoplatonico e il tardo platonismo latino, in
Macrobio. Commento al Sogno di Scipione, ed. M. Neri, Milan: Bompiani, 2007, 5-163.

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to Plato, all souls will return to their original place, some sooner and others
later, but all of them will eventually return:
Er ille Platonicus [...] saecula infinita dinumerans, quibus nocentium animae, in easdem poenas saepe reuolutae, sero de Tartaris permittuntur emergere et ad naturae suae principia, quod est caelum, tandem impetrata
purgatione remeare. Necesse est enim omnem animam ad originis suae
sedem reuerti. Sed quae corpus tamquam peregrinae incolunt, cito post corpus uelut ad patriam reuertuntur, quae uero corporum illecebris ut suis
sedibus inhaerent, quanto ab illis uiolentius separantur, tanto ad supera
serius reuertuntur.
The famous Er of Plato [...] counts infinite aeons in which the souls
of sinners, after returning many and many times to the same punishments, are finally allowed to emerge from Tartarus, and to return
to the principle of their nature, that is, heaven, after attaining, at last,
purification. For every soul must necessarily return to its original place.
But those souls which inhabit a body as strangers return to their
homes, as it were, soon after abandoning the body, whereas those
which stick to the allurements of the bodies as though they were their
permanent abode, the more violently they are separated from them,
the later they return to heaven.
Even those souls that have erred most of all, after a very long permanence in
Tartarus, will return, purified, to their original condition. Although Plato admitted of some exceptions, for souls who are absolutely incurable, Macrobius
wanted to present Platos thought in his own way, and since he believed in
universal apokatastasis or the restoration of all souls, he ascribed this theory
to Plato as well, so to make it more authoritative.72
Examples could be provided, too, of how Origen corrected Plato, not only
on his eschatological myths, but also on his mythical account of the arkh,
while at the same time he consistently deployed this mythical account. For
Origen read the Genesis story of the arkh in the light of Platos Timaeus,73 as
Philo, the Middle Platonists, and the Christian Middle Platonist, the Syrian
Bardais?an,74 had done. But unlike all (or almost all) of these, Origen again corrected Plato on at least one point: he did not admit of the pre-existence of matter. He himself underlines this difference between his Christian thought and
72. See my The Theory of Apokatastasis in Some Late Platonists, Pagan and Christian, lecture delivered at the International Mediaeval Congress, Leeds 12-17 July
2009, forthcoming in Illinois Classical Studies 31 (2006 [2011]) 197-230..
73. On Origens exegesis of Genesis see Ch. Kckert, Christliche Kosmologie und
kaiserzeitliche Philosophie: Die Auslegung des Schpfungsberichtes bei Origenes, Basilius
und Gregor von Nyssa vor dem Hintergrund kaiserzeitlicher Timaeus-Interpretationen,
Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 56, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009;
A. Tzvetkova-Glaser, Pentateuchauslegung bei Origenes und den frhen Rabbinen,
Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity 7, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2010, also
with the reviews by I. Ramelli respectively in Anzeiger fr die Altertumswissenschaft
2011 and Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.
74. See, also with further literature, I. Ramelli, Bardais?an of Edessa: A Reassessment of the
Evidence and a New Interpretation. Also in the Light of Origen and the Original Fragments from De India, Eastern Christian Studies 22, Piscataway: Gorgias, 2009.

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Greek philosophy on this score in Hom. in Gen. 14.3:


Moralis vero et physica quae dicitur philosophia paene omnia quae nostra
sunt sentit; dissidet vero a nobis cum Deo dicit esse materiam coaeternam,
The doctrines of moral philosophy and of the so-called physical philosophy are almost all the same as ours; they are in disagreement
with us, however, in the claim that matter is coeternal with God.
But even in his philosophical masterpiece, Origen engages in a reductio ad absurdum of the hypothesis that matter is uncreated and coeternal with God
(Princ. 2.4.3). Origen must have treated this question extensively in his lost
Commentary on Genesis. It is from there that, very probably, a long fragment
of Origens preserved by Eusebius (PE 7.20) comes, in which Origen opposes
again to his adversaries the argument of the omnipotence of God:
Ei0 de/ tini prosko/ptei dia\ tou\j a)nqrwpi/nouj texni/taj mh\ du/nasqai
parade/casqai to\n Qeo\n xwri\j u3lhj a)genh/tou u(pokeime/nhj kataskeua/zein ta\ o1nta, e)pei\ mhde\ a)ndriantopoio\j xwri\j xalkou= to\ i1dion
e1rgon poih=sai du/natai, mhde\ te/ktwn xwri\j cu/lwn, mhde\ oi)kodo/moj
xwri\j li/qwn, zhthte/on pro\j au)to\n peri\ duna/mewj Qeou= [...] th\n
ou)si/an o3shj xrh/|zei i9kanh/ e)stin au)tou= h( bou/lhsij poih=sai gene/sqai.
[...] to\ th\n u3lhn, tosau/thn kai\ toiau/thn kai\ toiou/twj e(ktikh\\n tw=|
texni/th| Lo/gw| Qeou=, u(festhke/nai a)genh/twj e)p i1shj e)sti\n a1logon.
If one mistakenly maintains, because of human craftsmen, that it is
impossible to admit that God created the existing beings without the
substratum of uncreated matter, since neither a sculptor can even
begin his own work without bronze, nor a carpenter without pieces
of wood, nor a builder without stones, well, to object to this person
it is necessary to conduct a research into the power of God. [...] Gods
will is sufficient to call to existence the substance he needs. [...] It is
equally absurd that matter may subsist without being created, given
that it is so much, so great, and so capable of Gods creative Logos.
This point, however the so-called creatio ex nihilo doctrine would lead us
too far here.
What is important to point out in connection with the present investigation is
how Origen projected Platos mythical accounts of the arkh and the telos onto
his own exegesis of the biblical accounts of the arkh and the telos, seeing the
same epistemological status both in Platos myths (the Timaeus, probably the
myth of Poros, and the eschatological myths) and in the biblical mythical accounts at the beginning of Genesis and in Revelation, so that, for instance, his
interpretation of the Paradise and the initial fall is allegorical.75 In Princ. 4.3.1

75. Tzvetkova-Glaser, Pentateuch Auslegung bei Origenes und den frhen Rabbinen
(above, n. 71), 117, rightly calls attention to the fact that Philo, Leg. 1,45, offered an
allegorical interpretation of the Paradise as virtue and of Eden as luxury. His exegesis was of course known to Origen. See also G. Brke, Origenes Lehre vom
Urstand des Menschen, Zeitschrift fr katholische Theologie 72 (1950) 1-39, and W.K.
Bietz, Paradiesvorstellungen bei Ambrosius und seinen Vorgngern, Diss. Gieen 1973,

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Origen explicitly included the whole account of the Paradise and the whole
story of creation in Genesis among the scriptural passages deprived of a literal
meaning and susceptible only of an allegorical interpretation:
Ti/j gou=n nou=n e1xwn oi)hs
/ etai prw/thn kai\ deute/ran kai\ tri/thn h(me/ran
e9spe/ran te kai\ prwi+/an xwri\j h(li/ou gegone/nai kai\ selh/nhj kai\
a)ste/rwn; Th\n de\ oi9onei\ prw/thn kai\ xwri\j ou)ranou=; Ti/j d ou3twj
h)li/qioj w(j oi)hqh=nai tro/pon a)nqrw/pou gewrgou= to\n Qeo\n
pefuteuke/nai para/deison e)n 0Ede\m kata\ a)natola/j, kai\ cu/lon zwh=j
e)n au)tw~| pepoihke/nai o(rato\n kai\ ai)sqhto/n, w#ste dia\ tw~n swmatikw~n
o)do/ntwn geusa/menon tou= karpou=, to\ zh=n a)nalamba/nein, kai\ pa/lin
kalou= kai\ ponhrou= mete/xein tina\ para\ to\ memash=sqai to\ a)po\ tou=de
tou= cu/lou lambano/menon; 0Ea\n de\ kai\ Qeo\j to\ deilino\n e)n tw~| paradei/sw| peripatei=n le/ghtai kai\ o9 A
0 da\m u(po\ to\ cu/lon kru/ptesqai, ou)k
oi]mai dista/cein tina\ peri\ tou= au)ta\ tropikw~j dia\ dokou/shj i9stori/aj,
kai\ ou) swmatikw=j gegenhme/nhj, mhnu/ein tina\ musth/ria.
Now, who, if endowed with intelligence, will believe that a first, a
second, and a third day, and an evening and a dawn, took place without sun, moon, and stars? And that the day that should have been the
first took place even without sky? Who is so stupid as to believe that
God, like a human farmer, has planted a garden in Eden toward the
East and put a visible and sense-perceptible tree of life therein, so
that one, by eating its fruit with ones bodily teeth, could acquire life,
and also could participate in good and evil after munching what is
taken from that tree? If, then, God is said to stroll in the garden/Paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide under the tree, I do not think
that anybody will doubt that these things indicate symbolical truths in
an allegorical way, by means of what looks like a historical account, and
yet has never happened corporeally.
After a series of examples taken from the whole story of the creation of the
world and of the human being, the last sentence is particularly weighty: the
story of Adam and the Paradise has never happened corporeally, and therefore has never happened literally and historically, but it is to be interpreted allegorically, in that it encompasses mysteries, that is, truths expressed in a
symbolic way. Thus, for instance, we find many examples of allegorical exegesis of the creation and the Paradise in Origens own exegetical production,
from the mention of intelligible trees (Hom. in Gen. 2.4) to that of intelligible rivers and intelligible woody valleys in Paradise (Sel. in Num. PG
12.581B), up to the etymology of Eden as h1dh, once upon a time, to signify
a primeval state (Fr. in Gen. 236; D15 Metzler76). The whole of the first Homily
on Genesis bristles with passages from the creation story the entire hexameron, including the Eden account of which only an allegorical explanation
is given. The same claim that the creation account must be allegorized emerges
even from Hom. 1 in Ps. 36 (p. 60 Prinzivalli), albeit en passant:
31-32, who both underscore that Origens interpretation of the lost Paradise is exclusively allegorical.
76. Origenes, Die Kommentierung des Buches Genesis, eingel. u. bers. v. Karin Metzler,
Berlin - New York: De Gruyter, 2010.

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369

Dicitur Deus ab initio plantasse paradisum deliciarum, sine dubio in quo


spiritalibus deliciis frueremur,
at the beginning, God is said to have planted a garden/Paradise of
delights, undoubtedly with the intention that in it we might enjoy
spiritual delights.
Since Origen attributed the same epistemological status both to Platos
myths concerning the arkh and the telos and to the biblical mythical accounts
on the arkh and the telos, this is why in these cases, for the initial part of Genesis and for Revelation, Origen abandoned his general rule of maintaining the
literal, historical plane of the Bible along with the allegorical, just as Plato had
abandoned his theoretical and dialectical exposition in order to hint, in myths,
at truths that couldnt possibly be expressed in that other way. Origen praised
Plato for his use of myths that pointed to the truth only for those who could
grasp it through an allegorical interpretation, which is for him an exegesis of
a philosophical nature.
Epilogue
Allegory is only for some, at least in the present condition and in this world;
Origen agreed with Clement on this point. Stoic allegorists did not put the
same emphasis as Clement and Origen did on the necessity of hiding the truth
from those who are unworthy of it and/or not yet prepared to receive it unveiled, and therefore on the importance of allegory as a means to hide the
truth from some while revealing it to others. However, according to the Stoics, only philosophers, and only Stoic philosophers, possessed the key to allegory and could grasp the philosophical truth expressed by ancient myths in
an allegorical way.
The importance of the prerogative of the correct interpretation of myths,
that is, of the possession of the key to allegory, emerged in all its evidence in
the dispute between pagan and Christian Platonists (Middle and Neoplatonists) on what myths were worthy and susceptible of allegorical interpretation. This was tantamount to asking what myths contained philosophical
truths that had to be unveiled, or unlocked, by means of an allegorical exegesis. The virulence of the debate betrays the cruciality of the question. Most
pagan Platonists, apart from Numenius, denied that Biblical myths hid
philosophical truths; this is why Porphyry so sharply criticized the foremost
Christian allegorist, Origen, for having applied the allegorical hermeneutics
inherited from the Stoics to a text (Scripture) that, from his own point of view,
was not susceptible of it.
On the other hand, Christian allegorists such as Clement who allegorized Biblical books or passages in his lost Hypotyposeis77 did receive some al77. In particular, he commented on passages from Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Pauls
letters, and the so-called Catholic epistles. In HE 6.14.1 Eusebius specifies that
Clement commented on the Letter of Jude and the other Catholic epistles, plus the
Letter of Barnabas and Apocalypse of Peter. The Hypotyposeis are partially preserved by Photius, Bibl. Cod. 109, who highlights the unorthodox doctrines expounded in that work (see now P. Ashwin Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria on

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / September 2011

legorical interpretations of pagan myths; other Christian apologists, on the


contrary, insisted that pagan myths were only immoral tales deprived of
any philosophical truth whatsoever; finally, yet other Christians were so suspicious of allegory as a whole which they saw as pagan and sometimes
also as Gnostic that they not only rejected any allegoresis of pagan
myths, but even refused the application of allegorical exegesis to the Bible itself. Such accusations were abundantly leveled against Origen; he was criticized for his biblical allegoresis not only by pagans such as Porphyry, but also
by Christians.78 There was also a more specific reaction from the Christian side
against Origens allegorization of the Genesis narrative in his Commentary,
which also explains the loss of this monumental masterpiece. These polemics
are echoed in Epiphanius Pan. 55.1-2; 58.6-8 and the Antiochenes. At the same
time, in his allegorization of the Old Testament Origen also countered Gnostic and Marcionite claims that the Old Testament had to be separated from
the New as a product of an inferior God, or even an evil demiurge, and therefore could not contain high philosophical truths to be discovered through allegoresis. In Hom. 5 in Ps. 36, 5 Origen is clearly thinking of the Marcionites
and at least some Gnostics when he denounces their distinction between
God the creator and a different, good God superior to the former:
Cum enim haeretici supra conditorem Deum fingunt sibi alium quendam
Deum negantes creatorem omnium Deum Deum esse bonum,
impiis suis praedicationibus extolluntur supra cedros Libani, adversariis
scilicet potestatibus innitentes, quarum inspiratione huiuscemodi adversus creatorem omnium Deum commenta simularunt, pro eo quod legem
secundum litteram tantummodo intellegentes et spiritalem eam esse
ignorantes, decepti sunt in cogitationibus suis.
When the heretics imagine a certain other God superior to God the
Creator and deny that the God who created all things is the good
God, in their impious preaching they exalt themselves beyond the
cedars of Lebanon, clearly leaning on the hostile powers. For they
are inspired by the latter in their claims against God, the Creator of
all, and if they are so mistaken in their thoughts it is because they interpret the Law exclusively in a literal sense, and ignore that the Law is
spiritual.

Trial: The Evidence of Heresy from Photius Bibliotheca, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 101 [Leiden: Brill, 2010]), and in a partial Latin translation, Adumbrationes,
in Cassiodorus, plus fragments from Eusebius, Maximus the Confessor, and others. A manuscript of the Hypotyposeis was discovered in a monastery in Egypt in
1779, but apparently it was lost again (see C. Duckworth - Eric Osborn, Clement
of Alexandrias Hypotyposeis, Journal of Theological Studies 36 [1985] 67-83). Recently, Bogdan Bucur (Angelomorphic Pneumatology [Leiden: Brill, 2009]) also made
extensive use of this work, as well as I. Ramelli, Origen, Greek Philosophy, and
the Birth of the Trinitarian Meaning of Hypostasis, forthcoming in Harvard Theological Review.
78. See Ramelli, Origene allegorista cristiano (above, n. 27).

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371

Very interestingly, Origen here indicates the reason why, in his view, Marcionites and Gnostics were so deceived: just because they did not read the Old
Testament allegorically.
Yet, Origen himself, like Philo, in turn blamed extreme biblical allegorists,
who annihilated the literal, historical plane of Scripture by exclusively adhering to an allegorical reading. In this way, they transformed all the events
narrated by Scripture into myths, which, as pagan Neoplatonists maintained, never happened historically, but were exclusively allegories of eternal
truths. Origen, instead, as I have pointed out, drawing inspiration from Platos
use of myths, distinguished the biblical accounts of the arkh and the telos from
the rest of the Bible: only these accounts are susceptible of an exclusively allegorical interpretation, since they are no historical narratives and they are
even comparable, and actually were compared by Origen, to Platos myths
, while the rest of the Bible maintains its historical value even if it has many
spiritual meanings.

DOI 10.1007/s12138-011-0279-7

REVIEW ARTICLES

Ancient Allegory and its Reception through the Ages1

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Allegory as a literary and philosophical topic has been attracting a good deal
of scholarly attention recently. To limit myself to mentioning relatively comprehensive studies on ancient allegory and its reception in Late Antiquity, the
Middle Ages, and beyond, let me just cite the works by Jean Ppin (Mythe et
allgorie: les origines grecques et les contestations judo-chrtiennes, second edition, Paris: tudes Augustiniennes, 1976; La Tradition de lallgorie: de Philon
dAlexandrie Dante, Paris: tudes Augustiniennes, 1987), Jon Whitman (Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), Glenn W. Most (Cornutus and Stoic Allegoresis:
A Preliminary Report, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Rmischen Welt
[=ANRW], ed. W. Haase - H. Temporini, II 36.3, Berlin - New York: de Gruyter,
1989, 2014-65), Christoph Blnnigen (Der griechische Ursprung der jdisch-hellenistischen Allegorese und ihre Rezeption in der alexandrinischen Patristik, Europische Hochschulschriften, ser. XV: Klassische Sprachen und Literaturen
59, Frankfurt am Main - New York: Lang, 1992),2 David Dawson (Christian
Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity, Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2002), Peter Struck (Birth of the Symbol: Ancient Readers at the Limits of

1.
2.

Review of Rita Copeland and Peter T. Struck, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge, UK - New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), XXIII +
295 pp.
Along with Mosts ANRW article and Ramellis Anneo Cornuto and Allegoristi dellet classica (above, 1), this is the only work among those I cite in paragraph 1
that, oddly enough, is never mentioned in the book under review here (above, n.
1). It is to be hoped that this is not due to its language; indeed, the bibliography
includes English, French, and Italian works (in fact only one in Italian: Ramellis
Allegoria I [above, 1]), but no German ones; the few works originally published
in German are cited in their English translations.

International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Vol. 18, No. 4, December 2011, pp. 569-578.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / December 2011

their Texts, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), and Ilaria Ramelli (Allegoria I: Let classica, Temi metafisici e problemi del pensiero antico 98, Milan:
Vita e Pensiero, 2004), as well as the volumes edited by Jon Whitman (Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period, Brills Studies in Intellectual History 101, Leiden: Brill, 2000), George Boys-Stones (Metaphor, Allegory,
and the Classical Tradition. Ancient Thought and Modern Revisions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), David Konstan and Donald Russell (Heraclitus,
Homeric Problems, Writings from the Greco-Roman World 14, Atlanta: Society
of Biblical Literature, 2005), and Ilaria Ramelli (Anneo Cornuto, Compendio di
teologia greca, Testo greco a fronte. Saggio introduttivo e integrativo,
traduzione e apparati, Milan: Bompiani, 2005; Allegoristi dellet classica: Opere
e frammenti, ser. Il pensiero occidentale, Milan: Bompiani, 2007).
A fine new collection appeared last year with the book under review
here, which provides a rich, if inevitably not comprehensive, overview of the
development of allegory in philosophy and literature from its beginning in
Greece to our day. The essays are arranged in a broadly chronological order,
and the geographical and cultural span covers Europe, something of the Middle East, and North America. There is no treatment, for instance, of allegory
in Chinese culture, while there is in fact a chapter on allegory in Islamic literatures. I would have been happy to see a similar treatment of allegory in ancient Syriac literature, which would be a very fecund and fascinating subject
(with Ephrem, for instance, and John of Dalyatha, and much else), but one
must realize, of course, that choices had to be made. The focus, admittedly, is
on literature, although allegory has also been present in art, mythology, religion, rhetoric, and intellectual culture over the centuries (p. 1). I would add
that it was part and parcel of philosophy, at least in ancient Stoicism and Platonism.3 Indeed, in some of the chapters here devoted to the ancient world
this fortunately does emerge.
As is rightly pointed out by the editors in the Introduction (pp. 1-11),
which comes after a useful chronological timetable (pp. i-xxiii), allegory is
both a manner of composing and an interpretive method. For the sake of terminological clarity, for the latter I normally use allegoresis. The editors are
also right to remark that the Greek term, a)llhgori/a, is far more recent than
the thing itself, and that allegory entered the rhetorical terminology relatively late. I suspect that this is due to the fact that theoretical reflection on allegory, and allegoresis, was born in the philosophical area. More about this
soon. Since the present reviewers scholarly focus is on the classical and late
antique world, both pagan and Christian, and also since there is actually
not much on the reception of the ancient traditions in the later part of the book,
the present review article will deal primarily with the first five essays. For the
rest, some critical remarks will be offered as well when appropriate, but the
treatment will be mostly descriptive and less extensive, especially as far as
the very last essays are concerned.
Dirk Obbink, Early Greek Allegory (pp. 15-25), examines the birth of allegory in early Greek culture and its terminology, which at first revolved
around u(po/noia, su/mbolon, and ai)/nigma. The use of allegory is reasonably
traced back to the most ancient poets, such as Homer, Hesiod, and Alcaeus.
3.

As I have argued in Allegoria I (above, 1).

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But reflection on allegory is significantly found in philosophy. Obbink cites


Democritus and his analogy between a cosmos of words in a literary work
and a cosmos of stoixei=a in the universe. Of course the Presocratics Theagenes
and Metrodorus are cited as those who first applied allegoresis to Homer. I observe that indeed Homeric exegesis probably provided the most fertile field
for ancient allegoresis, and this for many centuries. Socrates was already acquainted with a thriving ethical allegoresis. Special attention is paid to the
Derveni Papyrus, featuring heavy allegoresis of an older Orphic poem at the
hands of an unknown sophist (19). Obbink finely remarks that for this
unidentified allegorist the actions of cultic practice are equally invitations to
interpret (21). This is, I note, the same attitude as Stoic allegorists adopted,
applying allegoresis not only to texts, but also to traditional rituals and cults,
besides traditional iconographical representations. Indeed, I have pointed out
elsewhere close correspondences between allegory in the papyrus and allegory in Stoicism.4
Glenn Most, Hellenistic Allegory and Early Imperial Rhetoric (pp. 2638), covers the Hellenistic and the early imperial periods. Plato rejected the
poets myths and their allegorical interpretation, but did not hesitate to create
myths himself; Aristotle likewise repudiated any attempt to philosophize
poems through allegory, but he did admit that at least some myths contain
a kernel of philosophical truth from before the deluge (26). Most is right to
ascribe a kind of psychological allegoresis to Lucretius (which is what I have
also suggested5). I agree that the Stoics brought allegoresis from the margins
of philosophy to its center. Even if it was not really at the margins earlier, it is
the Stoics who made allegoresis part and parcel of philosophy. This is what I
argued in Allegoria, chaps. II and IX, on the basis of the whole Stoic allegorical production and especially of Chrysippus theorization, from which it is
clear that allegoresis was for the Stoics a constitutive element of philosophy,
and in particular of theology. It was the key to reading theology as physics
an assimilation that was grounded in Stoic immanentism and ethics. I suggested that the scope of this cultural operation was not only and not so much
the support of Stoic doctrines by means of myths, but rather the preservation,
cohesion, and rational justification of the various branches of tradition (myths,
rituals, iconographical representations of deities, etc.) in the framework of a
vast cultural unity based on the Logos. Adequate importance is also given by
Most to Crates of Mallus and Apollodorus of Athens. In their case, I think, a
link between literary and philosophical theory in respect to allegoresis is detectable.6 Most lucidly captures the introduction of allegory into rhetorical theory and practice approximately around the beginning of the imperial age.
Allegory became a rhetorical trope, to be used by skilled rhetoricians in their
own compositions and to be discovered in ancient texts.
Daniel Boyarin, in what is probably the most brilliant essay of the whole
collection, Origen as Theorist of Allegory: Alexandrian Contexts (pp. 3854), focuses on the indefatigable exegete and philosopher-theologian Origen
of Alexandria. And indeed the great Christian Alexandrian deserved a whole

4.
5.
6.

In my Allegoristi dellet classica (above, 1), 897-944.


In Allegoria I (above, 1), chap. V.ii.1-3, esp. 3.
See my Allegoria I (above, 1), chap. III.

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / December 2011

chapter, as he is the main theorizer and practitioner of Biblical allegoresis. Boyarin correctly observes that for Origen the ontological structure of Scripture is analogous (homologous) to that of the universe (p. 40). This is of
course a fundamental principle of Origens Biblical exegesis, and I would like
to remark that it depends on a specific assumption of Origens: the cosmos
and Scripture can have the same ontological structure because both of them,
in Origens view, are the body of Christ. Christs incarnation did not take place
only in the body of Jesus, but also in Scripture, the lo/goj, and in the whole
cosmos, as the cosmic Christ (an idea that was well present already in Bardaisan whose thought Origen probably knew on the basis of Middle Platonic coordinates7). Christs embodiment in Scripture also accounts for the
importance, emphasized by Boyarin (p. 46), of Origens incarnational theology
in the development of his hermeneutical/allegorical theory. This, I surmise, is
also the reason why the Logos is the source of inspiration for human allegorists according to Origen, but not according to Philo: because the latter did
not entertain the notion of an incarnation of the Logos, whether in a human
being or in Scripture.
Boyarins general approach is interesting and makes a lot of sense: rather
than considering how Platonism distorted or improved Christian theologizing in Origens thought, he suggests that Origens Christian theology provided significant solutions to philosophical problems. This is also why in
Origens case I prefer to speak of Christianization of Hellenism rather than
Hellenization of Christianity.8 With David Dawson, Boyarin correctly notes
that Origen did not intend to replace the literal sense of his text (Scripture)
with the allegorical one, but to uphold both levels. I would remark that this is
exactly what differentiates Origens allegoresis from that of the Gnostics;
his stance against extreme allegoresis to the detriment of the historical level of
the Biblical narrative seems to me to parallel Philos criticism of some extreme
allegorists among his predecessors. Likewise, Origens insistence upon retaining the historical plane of the text he interprets is also very different from
the kind of allegoresis practiced by pagan Middle- and Neoplatonists, for
whom the facts narrated in their own texts (the myths) never happened at
all, but were allegories of eternal truths (Secundus Salustius, De diis et mundo
3.1; see also 4.9).9 Boyarin appropriately points to Philos exegesis as a model
of scriptural allegoresis with which Origen engaged. I would add another
model, which Origen simply could not ignore, but against which he indeed
polemicized: Gnostic biblical allegoresis and even allegory, i.e. Gnostic
myths. In fact, one of the very few shortcomings of this volume may be precisely that Gnostic allegory is barely touched upon (but for five lines in

7.

8.
9.

See my Bardaisan of Edessa: A Reassessment of the Evidence and New Interpretation,


Eastern Christian Studies 22, Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2009; Eadem (ed.), Bardaisan on Free Will, Fate and Human Nature: The Liber Legum Regionum, forthcoming
in Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
See Ilaria Ramelli, Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism: ReThinking the Christianisation of Hellenism, Vigiliae Christianae 63 (2009), 217-263.
See my The Philosophical Stance of Allegory in Stoicism and Its Reception in Platonism, Pagan and Christian: Origen in Dialogue with the Stoics and Plato, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 18 (2011), 335-371.

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Strucks essay, p. 62) and is not shown in relation to contemporary alternative


allegorical systems.
With Mark Julian Edwards, Boyarin rightly observes that allegory in the
Christian use of Scripture is not an exotic plant, but the corollary of faith (p.
41). I have endeavored to demonstrate that on this score Origen based himself
on the Stoic model: for both the Stoics and Origen who assiduously read
Stoic allegorists such as Cornutus and Chaeremon, as we are informed by Porphyry allegoresis was an essential part of philosophy itself, so much so that
Origen included his theorization of allegoresis not in an exegetical work but
in Book 4 of his philosophical masterpiece, Peri\ 0Arxw=n (see my The Philosophical Stance of Allegory etc. [above, n. 9]). A further interesting feature in
Boyarins essay is the comparison between Origens and Rabbinic exegesis of
Scripture. For this I limit myself to referring to The Exegetical Encounter between
Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity, eds. Emmanouela Grypeou and Helen
Spurling, Jewish and Christian Perspectives 18, Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2009, and
Anna Tzvetkova-Glaser, Pentateuchauslegung bei Origenes und den frhen Rabbinen, Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity 7, Frankfurt am Main
New York: Lang, 2010.10
Peter Struck has already contributed an important volume to the investigation of ancient allegory.11 Here he deals with the fascinating subject of allegory in Neoplatonism: Allegory and Ascent in Neoplatonism (pp. 57-70).
It must be said that under Neoplatonism he almost exclusively considers
pagan Neoplatonists, and not Christian Neoplatonists as well, such as Gregory of Nyssa or Evagrius, Synesius of Cyrene or Maximus the Confessor, but
at least a mention is made of Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite, whose theophanic
system was certainly worth treating in a collection like this. (I take Ps. Dionysius to have been a Christian when he wrote his Corpus, and not a pagan
hostile to Christianity, as has been hypothesized in the past and has been recently argued again.) Struck underlines how Plotinus engaged in allegoresis
of myth. As for Porphyry, Struck especially concentrates on his De antro
Nympharum and observes that Porphyry regards the obscurity of the Homeric
passage in question as a signal that it must be understood allegorically. I note
that this is exactly the same procedure as indicated (in Peri\ 0Arxw=n) and followed by Origen in his own allegoresis of Scripture: when, according to him,
the text presents us with obscurities a1loga, a)du/nata this is a sign that it
must be allegorized. Porphyrys investigation of the meaning that the ancients (oi9 palaioi/) intended to encapsulate in their myths as an object of allegorical interpretation is rightly highlighted. It strongly reminds us of
Cornutus statement at the end of his )Epidromh/ that the ancients (oi9
palaioi/) conveyed philosophical truths, by means of symbols and enigmata, in the myths they created. Porphyrys very method of comparing the
mythological traditions of many peoples has much in common I find with
Cornutus approach.12 Iamblichus theory of symbols, Proclus massive use of

10. My review of the latter has appeared in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
11. Birth of the Symbol (above, 1), which I reviewed in Invigilata Lucernis 27 (2005),
370-372.
12. See my Anneo Cornuto, Compendio di teologia greca (above, 1), partially translated
and summarized (as is also acknowledged in the Vorwort, p. VII) in the intro-

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / December 2011

allegoresis in his Platonic commentaries, and Proclus statements of theory of


allegory are also explored by Struck. One of the few weaknesses of the present volume is that it neglects Latin Neoplatonists, such as Macrobius and Martianus Capella, who would have been worth being included, perhaps in this
same chapter, at least for Macrobius commentary on Ciceros Somnium Scipionis and Martianus allegorical De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, also on account of the impressive influence that their works exerted on later
allegorism.13
Denys Turner studies Allegory in Christian late antiquity (pp. 71-82).
He finds in John Cassians Collatio 14 the origin of the Medieval distinction of
the senses of Scripture in historical, tropological, allegorical, and anagogical.
It must be noted here that in a forthcoming work Panayiotis Tzamalikos argues that the Collationes were actually written in their original form in Greek
by Cassian the Sabaite a very learned monk, well steeped in the Origenian
tradition in the sixth century, and not in Latin by John Cassian (the extant
Latin text, according to Tzamalikos, has been tampered with later, in order to
make it appear an early-fifth-century work).14 Augustine is dealt with by
Turner very quickly; it is true that he inherited scriptural allegoresis from Ambrose, but a development should be taken into consideration in his exegesis,
for instance in his interpretation of Genesis, from allegorical to literal. Turner
interestingly highlights how in the Middle Ages Hugh of St. Victor, Thomas
Aquinas, and Nicholas of Lyra all agreed that allegory in Scripture is not a
figure of speech. It does not involve the words of Scripture, but the events described. On account of his allegorical and philosophical exegesis of Scripture,
John the Scot Eriugena would have deserved a mention in this book, possibly
in this essay, or in the preceding one on Neoplatonism; he can in a way be regarded as the last patristic Platonist and was deeply influenced by Origen.15
Islamic allegory is the subject of Peter Heaths chapter, Allegory in Islamic Literatures (pp. 83-100), which shows how allegory flourished in Islamic literature and how it was related to philosophy and mysticism. Allegory
as a developed literary practice began at the turn of the eleventh century. Earlier, foundations are found in the Quran, in anecdotic literature, in the Mirror for Princes genre, and in Sufism. Heath concentrates on Islamic

duction, translation, and notes of Cornutus: Die Griechischen Gtter. Ein berblick
ber Namen, Bilder und Deutungen, Hrsg. Heinz-Gnther Nesselrath, eingel., bers.
u. mit interpretierenden Essays versehen v. Fabio Berdozzo, George Boys-Stones,
Hans-Josef Klauck, Ilaria Ramelli u. Alexei V. Zadorojnyi, Scripta Antiquitatis Posterioris ad Ethicam REligionemque pertinentia (SAPERE)/Schriften der spteren
Antike zu ethischen und religisen Fragen XIV, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.
13. See my The Debate on Apokatastasis in Pagan and Christian Platonists (Martianus, Macrobius, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine), Illinois Classical
Studies 31 (2006), 197-230; Eadem, Tutti i commenti a Marziano Capella: Scoto Eriugena, Remigio di Auxerre, Bernardo Silvestre e Anonimi, Presentazione di Giovanni
Reale, Introduzione, traduzione, note e apparati di I.R., ser. Il pensiero occidentale,
Milan: Bompiani Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 2006.
14. In a double volume which I peer-reviewed this year, which will hopefully be published next year (2012).
15. See the section I have devoted to him in Apokatastasis. Its Development in Christianity
from the New Testament to Eriugena, forthcoming.

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philosophical allegory, which emerged in the tenth century, and analyzes


works by Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Suhrawardi, as well as al-Ghazalis allegorical commentary on the Quran. The last section of the essay is devoted to
allegorical mystical poetry in Arabic and Persian of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries and to the use of political allegory in autocratic regimes as a means
to safely express dissent. Jon Whitman focuses on Twelfth-century Allegory: Philosophy and Imagination (pp. 101-115), especially dealing with the
doctrine of integumenta and involucra in twelfth-century natural philosophy.
After treating an anonymous commentary on Vergils Aeneid, he singles out
William of Conches allegoresis of Plato and Bernardus Silvestris Cosmographia, divided into Megacosmos and Microcosmos. I note that allegory was so
important for Bernardus that an allegorical commentary on Martianus is ascribed to him and may well be his (see my Tutti i commenti a Marziano Capella
[above, n. 13]). The De planctu Naturae by Alain de Lille and the Architrenius
of Jean de Hanville are also analyzed. Kevin Brownlee is the only author in
this volume who examines the presence of allegory in a single work, the thirteenth-century French verse Roman de la rose (Allegory in the Roman de la
rose, pp. 119-127). It is preserved in nearly three hundred manuscripts and
is a work by two authors: Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. The Roman
itself guides readers to its allegorical interpretation, warning that it will reveal its true contents covertement.
Albert Ascoli, Dante and Allegory (pp. 128-135), deals with allegory in
Dante, not in his Commedia, where the very term allegoria does not appear, but
rather in two theoretical statements in his Convivio (1303-1306) and the Lettera
a Cangrande della Scala (1316-1318), in which for the first time a poet offered an
interpretation of his own work. Ascoli interestingly demonstrates that Dante
breaches the distinction he himself proclaimed between allegory of the poets
and allegory of the theologians. Dante did draw this distinction in his Convivio and declared that he would follow the allegory of the poets and not that
of the theologians, but, as Ascoli points out, what he actually did is overcoming such a distinction. The example of poetic allegory that he adduces, that of
the Orpheus figure, is a meta-example (p. 133), in which Orpheus represents Dante himself as a poet, but at the same time is a figura Christi. This does
not mean that Dante intends to suggest an identification between himself and
Christ, but it means that the separation between allegory of poets and allegory of theologians is breached in the very moment it is supposedly illustrated (p. 133). Readers must be warned that the attribution of the Lettera is
contested; Ascoli, however, treats it as a document of Dantes poetics. Dantes
theoretical statements in the Convivio and the Lettera are interpreted as the
poets attempt at controlling the reception of his own writings. Stephanie
Gibbs Kamath and Rita Copeland (Mediaeval Secular Allegory: French and
English, pp. 136-147) treat French and English Mediaeval secular allegory
inspired by the Roman de la Rose, especially French and English poetry of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including Eustache Deschamps and Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucers allegorism is read against that of his immediate
French predecessors. Special attention is paid to Christine de Pizan ( 1430),
the first professional woman writer in French. French and English Mediaeval religious allegory, which in some cases emerged as a reaction to the profane allegory of the Roman de la Rose, is studied by Nicolette Zeeman

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / December 2011

(Mediaeval Religious Allegory: French and English, pp. 148-161). Among


several examples, Guillaume de Deguilevilles Pelerinage de la vie humaine, the
French prose Queste del Saint graal, Piers Plowman and the fourteenth-century
English alliterative
poem are commented on. The last is by a
man who lost his baby daughter, the pearl, and now sees her in the heavenly Jerusalem. The influence of Patristic Biblical commentaries is also well
highlighted, as are the multiple allegories in the fourteenth-century Ovide
moralis.
With Michael Murrins essay, Renaissance Allegory from Petrarch to
Spenser (pp. 162-176), we enter the Renaissance. Spanning from 1350ca to
1600ca, he covers Petrarch and Boccaccio, who agreed that all poetry is allegorical; Cristoforo Landino, who allegorized both Vergil and Dante; Matteo
Maria Boiardo, Cames with his Os Lusadas, the Florentine Platonists Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, and finally Tasso and Spenser, who composed prose explanations of their own poems. I would only express some
reservation regarding Euhemerism, here brought forward in connection with
Boccaccios reading of the Aeneid: it is stated that in antiquity this kind of rationalization of myths was separate from allegoresis (p. 168). In fact, there
seems to have been some examples of coexistence of the two (see my Allegoria I [above 1], chaps. III-VII, passim); I agree, however, that this was not
widespread. Brian Cummings chapter has a religious emphasis: he deals
with Protestant Allegory (pp. 177-190). Notwithstanding the general aversion to allegory among Protestants, from Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli
and Calvin onwards, Cummings can show that in fact the picture is not monolithic and simple. Luthers principle that allegory can be assumed to be present in a passage of Scripture only when the Bible itself says this overtly,
reminds me of the Antiochene Patristic exegetes Diodore of Tarsus and
Theodore of Mopsuestias positions. In turn, their positions have been too
squarely opposed to Alexandrian (and specifically Origens) Biblical allegorism, without taking into consideration the rhetorical bases of their respective positions and without seeing that the Antiochene was suspicious
of pagan Neoplatonic allegoresis of myths much more than it was suspicious of Christian Alexandrian allegoresis of Scripture.16 Moreover, the latter
too was deeply suspicious of pagan Neoplatonic allegoresis of myths, to
the point that Origen himself tended to avoid the very term because he felt it was compromised by the pagan use. The subject of Blair
Hoxbys contributions is the Allegorical Drama (pp. 191-208) in a variety
of manifestations from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance. This is a genre
that teems with allegories. Among the examples that are analyzed are the Castle of Perseverance, which follows Humankind from its birth to its afterlife, and
Caldern de la Barcas La Semilla y la Cizaa. A special section is devoted to
court entertainments, including those of Giorgio Vasari.
The last five chapters of the volume deal with the questions of the de-

16. See my Giovanni Crisostomo e lesegesi scritturale: le scuole di Alessandria e di


Antiochia e le polemiche con gli allegoristi pagani, in Giovanni Crisostomo: Oriente e Occidente tra IV e V secolo. Atti del XXXIII Incontro di Studiosi dellAntichit
Cristiana, Roma, Istituto Patristico Augustinianum 6-8 maggio 2004, I, Studia
Ephemeridis Augustinianum 93.1, Rome: Augustinianum, 2005, 121-162.

Review Articles

577

cline of allegory in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and its revival and
reevaluation in the twentieth and twenty-first. Theresa Kelley offers an
overview of allegory in romanticism (Romanticisms Errant Allegory, pp.
211-228), not only literary but also pictorial allegory. She analyzes William
Blakes Vision of the Daughters of Albion as an allegory against slavery as well
as his Allegory of the Cave of the Nymphs, furthermore Mary Shelleys The Last
Man and Frankenstein, Coleridges theory in his Biographia Literaria and lectures, Hegels Aesthetics, Percy Shelleys Prometheus Unbound, Mask of Anarchy, and Ode to Liberty (Shelley being the only English Romantic who declared
that allegory can be an imaginative and moral agent), and finally Keats with
his Hyperion poems, Turner with his The Slave Ship, and Wordsworth with the
preface to his Lyrical Ballads. Deborah Madsen discusses American Allegory to 1900 (pp. 229-240), which is bound up with philosophy. She studies
the impact of Romantic aesthetics on American allegory and shows how, for
instance, Emersons thought was influenced by Neoplatonic allegorical cosmology. A special section is devoted to the afterlife of Protestant allegory in
American literary culture. Madsens overall judgment is that American allegorical practice in the nineteenth century can be seen as a response to growing skepticism toward religious institutions and the authority of the Bible.
Secular literature was thus privileged, in which the poet took the place of the
Romantic divinely inspired interpreter.
The re-evaluation of allegory by Walter Benjamin in the twentieth century is treated by Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamins Concept of Allegory
(pp. 241-253). Caygill illustrates how Benjamin enlarged the field of allegory
from the aesthetic realm to others such as religion, philosophy, history, and
politics. Special attention is paid to his The Origin of German Tragic Drama
and in particular its second section on Trauerspiel and Allegory as a vindication of allegory, and to the Arcades Project. The latter, which occupied Benjamin from the late 1920s to his death, describes nineteenth-century culture
and modernism in terms of the allegorical. A long fragment is also examined, On Language as Such and on the Language of Mankind, in which the
notion of communication is analyzed by Benjamin by means of an allegorical commentary on Genesis. Here, the symbol is described as what marks the
presence of the non-communicable within language. This strongly reminds
us of what Plato, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen thought about myth and
allegory.
Hermeneutics, Deconstruction, Allegory are the subjects of the contribution by Steven Mailloux (pp. 254-265). He argues that in the second half of
the twentieth century deconstruction and hermeneutics contributed much to
the rehabilitation of both allegory and allegoresis. He mainly deals with Martin Heidegger, Northrop Frye and his literary theories in Anatomy of Criticism
(1957) and other works, in which he pointed out that allegory is a structural
element in narrative; with Hans Georg Gadamers Truth and Method, and Paul
de Mans 1969 essay The Rhetoric of Temporality. Mailloux concludes that
both in Gadamers hermeneutics and in de Mans deconstruction, allegory
can be regarded as a kind of synecdoche for rhetoric tout court. Allegory
and the arts after 1960 are in the focus of the concluding essay by Lynette
Hunter, Allegory Happens: Allegory and the Arts post-1960 (pp. 266-280).
Basing herself on a rich series of examples, Hunter argues that, in the span of

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International Journal of the Classical Tradition / December 2011

time indicated, academic criticism and literary writing have changed the focus
of what allegory is, and performance arts have colonized allegory, transforming it into performativity. In addition to literary works from George
Orwells Animal Farm and Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot to Angela
Carters Nights at the Circus and Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale
Hunter also considers a number of individual critical essays and collections of
essays, such as those edited in 1981 respectively by Morton Bloomfield (Allegory, Myth, and Symbol) and Stephen Greenblatt (Allegory and Representation).
In the end, Hunter offers that an inevitable fragmentation is occurring, due to
the fact that audiences are becoming more diversely selective and, what is
more, that no one can any longer read all that is written and is supposed to be
good.
Apart from a few small flaws, this book makes for quite a rich and engaging reading.17 It further strengthens the growing scholarly panorama of
ancient allegory,18 its motivations and scopes, and its aftermath, albeit in a
necessarily selective manner. Both the editors and the authors deserve the
gratitude of the scholarly community for treating in an enjoyable but rigorous
scholarly way such an important topic. As for the ancient and late-antique
world in particular, I suggest that the relationship between allegory and philosophy, pagan as well as Christian, still requires much further investigation.

Ilaria L.E. Ramelli


Universit Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Facolt di Lettere e Filosofia

17. Typos are rare, e.g. theos + ergos instead of of theos + ergon (p. 64); on p. 71 Origens Peri\ 0Arxw=n is dated to the early fourth century, clearly a lapsus instead
of the early third.
18. It is worth noting that meanwhile this panorama has been further enriched by a
new, although concise, contribution: Jay Kennedy, The Musical Structure of Platos
Dialogues, Durham: Acumen, 2011, in which the whole Chapter 1 (pp. 1-28) is devoted to ancient allegory, from the Derveni Papyrus to the Stoics.

FSR, Inc.

Theosebia: A Presbyter of the Catholic Church


Author(s): Ilaria Ramelli
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Fall 2010), pp. 79-102
Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of FSR, Inc.
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JFSR 26.2 (2010) 79102

THEOSEBIA
A Presbyter of the Catholic Church
Ilaria Ramelli

Theosebia was Gregory of Nyssas sister and a presbyter. She


probably substituted for her brother during his exile and supported him against Arianism, as Ramellis scrutiny of the
sources and comparison with contemporary womens ministries
in Cappadocia demonstrate. Ramellis conclusion constitutes an
advancement in research with remarkable theoretical implications, both because women presbyters are scarcely attested in
the orthodox church and in the light of Gregory of Nyssas and
Origens theology of ministry and the existence of women presbyters in their epochs. Gregorys evaluation of womens ministryand exegesis of New Testament passages on womenwas
inspired by Origen, who deemed it grounded in apostolica auctoritas, admitted womens ministeria including presbyterate, and
overcame difficult New Testament passages through allegory.
While Gregory Nazianzen valued Theosebias ordination, Gregory of Nyssa ascribed priesthood to Macrina, for a conception
of ministry inherited from Origen. A parallel emerges between
Gregory of Nyssas opposition to slavery and his ideas on women,
and his praxis in both respects. Origens orientation to the telos
influenced him: the telos, without discrimination of women or
slaves, is normative for this life. Theological perspectives informed social realities.
Theosebia was Gregory of Nyssas sister and a presbyter; she probably substituted for her brother during his exile and supported him against Arianism.
I am grateful to all friends and colleagues who have read and discussed the present study at various
stages, to the anonymous reviewers of JFSR, to Heather Lee Miller, to Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre,
and to Toni Mortimer for their helpful comments and/or assistance. Thanks to John Turnbull for
typesetting the Greek text.

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80

Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

To argue for this, I scrutinize sources mainly from Origen (third century CE)
and the Cappadocians (fourth century CE) in Greek (and Latin translations)
and compare them with contemporary womens ministries in Cappadocia. The
theoretical implications of my research are remarkable, both because women
presbyters are scarcely attested in the orthodox church (but existed, contrary
to widespread claims) and in light of Gregory of Nyssas and Origens theology
of ministry and the existence of women presbyters in their epochs.
Gregory of Nyssas evaluation of womens ministryand exegesis of New
Testament passages on womenwas inspired by Origen, who deemed womens
ministry grounded in apostolica auctoritas (the authority of the Apostle, specifically St. Paul), admitted womens ministeria (eccesiastical ministries) including
presbyterate, and overcame New Testament passages that could be read as forbidding womens ministries through allegory. While Gregory Nazianzen valued
Theosebias ordination, Gregory of Nyssa ascribed priesthood to his own sister
Macrina, for a conception of ministry inherited from Origen. A parallel emerges
between Gregory of Nyssas opposition to slavery and his ideas on women, and
his praxis in both respects. Origens orientation to the telos influenced Gregory:
the telos, without discrimination against women or slaves, is normative for this
life. Theological perspectives informed social realities.
That women continued to serve as presbyters in the Catholic church in the first
centuries of the common era is well documented. Giorgio Otranto has argued that
at the end of the fifth century, regularly ordained women exercised the presbyterate with their bishops approval in a large area of Southern Italy and probably in
other Italian regions in communion with Rome. According to Pope Gelasius Is Letter 14 (March 11, 494), Canon 26, they were encouraged and confirmed [firmentur] to serve at the sacred altars [ministrare sacris altaribus] and to perform all the
other tasks [cunctaque] which would be assigned only to the service of men. The
term cuncta indicates all aspects of the presbyteral ministry: liturgical, juridical, and
magisterial.
Karen Jo Torjesens reflection on the existence of female deacons and presbyters in the Catholic church in antiquity builds upon Otrantos article and Elisabeth
Schssler Fiorenzas foundational study. Not only can women be found depicted
as apostles, deacons, presbyters, and presidents and heads of churches in the New
Testament but they also continued to be ordained even when the evolution of Christianity toward a public religion in the third and fourth centuries exacerbated the
friction between the social conventions about womens place and womens actual
 Giorgio Otranto, Note sul sacerdozio femminile nellantichit, Vetera Christianorum
19 (1982): 34160; Mary Ann Rossi, Priesthood, Precedent, and Prejudice: On Recovering the
Women Priests in Early Christianity, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 7 (1991): 7394; and
Giorgio Otranto, Il sacerdozio della donna nellItalia meridionale, in Italia meridionale e Puglia
paleocristiane (Bari: Edipuglia, 1991), 94121.
 Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of
Christian Origins (New York: Crossroads, 1992).

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Ramelli: Theosebia

81

long-standing roles as house church leaders, prophets, evangelists, and even bishops. Torjesen concludes, the contemporary controversy over womens ordination
has striking similarities with the conflict over slavery. . . . Contemporary Christian
theologians need to undertake the same task of extricating the essential teachings of
the Christian gospel from the patriarchal gender system in which it is embedded. I
shall argue that at least Gregory of Nyssa was already able to do so, in both respects.
Haye van der Meer showed that the exclusion of women from presbyterate and hierarchy was due to historical circumstances and prejudice, as is confirmed by the investigations of Ida Raming and John Wijngaards on the origin of this exclusion in latemedieval Western canonical jurisprudence, based on sheer misogyny and fictitious
documents. Ute Eisen collected rich epigraphical evidence on ordained women,
including presbyters, which indicates that in the first centuries of the common era,
women were apostles, prophets, teachers, masters, ordained widows, deacons, presbyters, and bishops; Joan Morris concludes that for many centuries, abbesses had
all the powers of bishops in the jurisdiction of the churches and persons in their
territories. Sometimes they had the titles of episcopa, sacerdos maxima, praeposita,
and custos of churches.
Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek have offered the first complete collection
of epigraphic, literary, and canonical sources on women deacons, presbyters, and
bishops in the Greek and Latin churches (partially also in the Syriac) in the first six
to seven centuries CE; previous documentary studies were much less rich. Women
deacons and presbyters were ordained with the imposition of hands (ceirotona), just
as were their male colleagues, and were part of the clergy (clerus, eratik). They
 See, for example, Eldon J. Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress,
2005); and Jerome Murphy-OConnor, Cettina Militello, and Maria-Luisa Rigato, Paolo e le donne
(Assisi: Cittadella, 2006). Quotation from Karen Jo Torjesen, When Women Were Priests (San Franscisco: Harper, 1993), quotation on 3738, see also 157.
 Torjesen, When Women Were Priests, 26869. See also Hellena Moon, Women Priests:
Radical Change or More of the Same? Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24, no. 2 (2008):
11534.
 Haye van der Meer, Priestertum der Frau? (Freiburg: Herder, 1969); Ida Raming, Der Ausschluss der Frau vom priesterlichen Amt (Kln: Bhlau, 1973), Ida Raming, Priesteramt der Frau
(Mnster: Lit-Verlag, 2002); John Wijngaards, The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church
(New York: Continuum, 2001), and John Wijngaards, No Women in Holy Orders? (London: Canterbury, 2002).
 Ute Eisen, Amstrgerinnen in frhen Christentum (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1996), translated as Women Officeholders in Early Christianity (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press,
2000); and Joan Morris, The Lady Was a Bishop (New York: Macmillan, 1973).
 Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); and Ilaria Ramelli, Donne
diacono: fonti e studi recenti sulla Chiesa dei primi secoli, Il Regno, March 15, 2006, 17175. In addition to previous studies already cited, see, for example, Josephine Mayer, Monumenta de viduis diaconissis virginibusque tractantia (Bonn: Hanstein, 1938); Roger Gryson, Le ministre des femmes
dans lglise ancienne (Gembloux: Duculot, 1972); and Aim George Martimort, Les deaconesses
(Rome: Edizioni Liturgiche, 1982).

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

were invested with sacramental functions, such as the administration of baptism and
participation in the Eucharistic consecration, as still attested by Justinian and the Testamentum Domini nostri; their ministry included preaching, prayer, and charitable
works. Abundant sources describe women presbyters in these centuries. For the
East, literary, canonical, and epigraphical evidence is extant in which the meanings a
presbyters wife or old woman for presbutra and presbtij are ruled out; these
terms rather mean woman presbyter. In the West, presbyterae, sacerdotae (both
meaning women presbyters) and a venerabilis episcopa (venerable woman bishop)
are found in texts. According to Madigan and Osiek, The claim that women have
never functioned as presbyters in the orthodox church is simply untrue.
Based on his studies of Western Latin documents from late antiquity and the
early Middle Ages, Gary Macy has determined that women were regularly ordained
during those periods, with well-known rites and precise canonical requirements; the
concept of ordination changed in the late Middle Ages, forcing women into the lay
state, after which many clear examples of their ordination were deliberately canceled
and forgotten.10 Up to the twelfth century, abbesses had presbyteral and episcopal
functions and dignity and text document the presence of diacon(iss)ae, presbyterae,
episcopae, and other ordained women.11 In the Latin church, out of six episcopae, at
least four were certainly not wives of bishops;12 more numerous are the literary and
epigraphic sources that document presbyterae (who wore priestly attire). Rites for
the ordination of presbyterae were identical to those for presbyteri, with the imposition of hands. Liturgies were in the feminine form, but even when they are in the
masculine, a rubric explains that the rite is valid for both; when necessary, it was
declined in the feminine.
In these studies, even one as comprehensive as that of Madigan and Osiek,
there is no mention of Theosebia. Here, I argue that Theosebia, the sister of Basil
 Madigan and Osiek, Ordained Women, 163202.
 Ibid., 9. For the aforementioned claim, see, for example, Sara Butler, The Catholic Priesthood and Women (Chicago: Hillenbrand, 2007).
10 Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Womens Ordination (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2008).
11 Ibid., 4988. In the Roman-Germanic Pontifical they are ordained by bishops through
the imposition of hands, just as bishops and presbyters were, and with the orarium, the stole of
presbyters and bishops. They confessed and excommunicated, not only their nuns but also people
who worked in their territory; they preached and baptized, blessed the people, consecrated nuns,
publicly read liturgical readings, ministered at the altar, gave the consecrated bread and wine to
pilgrims; in some monasteries, the Eucharist was not presided over by a priest, but by the abbess.
In the Mozarabic rite, the abbess received the mitra and the pastoral stick, with prayers such as:
Domine Deus aput quem non est discretio sexuum; in the Roman Pontifical (twelfth century CE)
she received the pastoral stick; other rites highlight the cathedra where she was constituted and her
pastoral guidance of her flock, and adopt a priestly terminology (regimen animarum, and so on).
12 Hildeburga, the wife of bishop Segenfrid (tenth century CE), was called episcopissa, and
the denomination episcopiae for other wives of bishops seems to me different from episcopae. Episcopa indicates the ministerial office of a woman, whereas episcopia is a possessive adjective, also
used as a substantive, from episcopus: the woman of the bishop.

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83

and Gregory of Nyssa, mentioned and extolled by Gregory Nazianzen, very probably
was a presbyter in the Catholic church of Cappadocia in the second half of the fourth
century (not in some heretical sect such as the Marcionites and Montanists, who
regularly ordained women presbyters on the basis of Gal 3:2728). This point is full
of theoretical implications with respect to the question of whether women participated in ecclesiastical ministry.
Available sources on Theosebia come mainly from Gregory of Nazianzus, but
the writings of Gregory of Nyssa and other testimonies on ordained women in the
Cappadocian church in the second half of the fourth century also provide interesting
clues and fruitful comparison. The Cappadocians, especially Gregory of Nyssa and
of Nazianzus, knew the writings of Origen well and were profoundly influenced by
his thought.13 Indeed, the authorship of Philocalia, an anthology of Origens passages,
is traditionally attributed to Basil and Gregory Nazianzen. The Cappadocians read
what Origen wrote in his commentary on Romans and elsewhere about the ordination and ministry of women in the church. Moreover, they read these passages not
in a fourth- or fifth-century Latin compendious translation such as that of Rufinus,
but in the original third-century Greek text. It was natural for them to apply Origens
reflection on the ecclesiastical ministries of women to their own ecclesiastical reality,
that of the Cappadocia of the late fourth century, where several ordained women
besides Theosebia herself were well known. But while those other women seem to
have been deacons, Theosebia was more likely a presbyter, as I shall demonstrate on
the basis of a comparative analysis of the sources.
The passages the Cappadocians would have read in Origen likely resonated
with their knowledge of ordained women in their own ecclesiastical reality: one on
Phoebe dikonoj (according to Rom 16:1 in Greek, the language in which Origen
read it; Rufinuss translation does not render diaconus or diaconos deacon, but
employs the circumlocution in ministerio Ecclesiae, constituted in the ministry of the
Church; also found in the Vulgate), one on ecclesiastical ministries, including those
of women, and two others on the female presbyterate.
In his commentary on Romans 10.17, Origen comments on Phoebe constituted
in ministerio Ecclesiae: her ministry, according to him, was not only material but
above all spiritual (spiritalibus officiis). Origen assimilates Phoebe to Lot and Abraham, who gave hospitality to the Lord, and underscores her officium (office) and
ecclesiastical ministerium (ministry), which he does not consider to be restricted to
this single female officeholder, butas he declares attested by Saint Paul with apostolica auctoritas (the authority of an apostle)to be extended to other women as
well, whom Origen calls ministrae in Ecclesia (ecclesiastical ministers), and likewise
not limited to material cares, but consisting above all in a spiritual ministry. Already
13 Many examples can be found in Ilaria Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa: Sullanima e la resurrezione (Milan: Bompiani-Catholic University, 2007), and the reviews by Panayiotis Tzamalikos, Vigiliae
Christianae 62 (2008): 51523 and Mark J. Edwards, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60, no.4
(2009): 76465. I shall prepare a monograph on Gregorys dependence on Origen.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

some decades before Origen was writing, pagan authors such as Pliny the Younger
and Apuleius were witnesses to womens presence in the church. Pliny uses the
term ministrae, which can be interpreted as women deacons or presbyters.14 Origen
maintains that the women who are invested with this material and spiritual ministry
deserve to be honored. This is remarkable, and I shall soon show that two other
exegeses of Origens confirm that he regarded the existence of womens ministries in
the church, including presbyterate, as grounded in the New Testament. Gregory of
Nyssa inherited this view.
In his appeal to Paul as the apostolica auctoritas for the inclusion of women in
ministerio Ecclesiae, Origen encountered problems insofar as hewith practically
the totality of ancient Christian authorsregarded as authentic and Pauline letters or
passages that could be considered misogynist and contrasting womens ecclesiastical
ministries, such as the Pastoral Epistles,15 the domestic codes of Ephesians and Colossians, and 1 Cor 14:33b35, which some New Testament scholars consider to be
14 Pliny in Ep. 10.96[97].7, to Trajan, offers what is usually considered to be the first pagan
testimony on the Christian liturgical celebration, based on the confession of two ministrae of the
church, who were ancillae. As for Apuleius (Metam. 9.1415), he offers a parody of a Christian
matron, and it is probable that the old woman who visited every day was a deacon who brought the
Eucharist. His accusation that she was drunk already in the morning (ebriosa . . . matutino mero)
corresponds to an anti-Christian charge linked to the Eucharist; Pliny (Ep. 96.7) says that the Eucharist, also as wine, was consumed in the morning. In Acts 2:15, Peter defends the other Christian
disciples against a similar accusation of being drunk in the morning, which may reflect an antiChristian charge current in the day of Luke. See Ilaria Ramelli, I Romanzi antichi e il Cristianesimo:
contesto e contatti (Madrid: Signifer, 2001), chap. 9, and Ilaria Ramelli, Apuleius and Christianity:
The Novelist in Front of a New Religion (lecture delivered at the International Conference on the
Ancient Novel, Lisbon, July 2126, 2008).
15 Scholars almost universally support their late date and pseudo-epigraphic nature. See, for
example, Raymond Collins, Letters That Paul Did Not Write (Wilmington: Glazier 1988); Jerome
Quinn, The Letter to Titus (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 20; Jouette Bassler, 1 Timothy, 2Timothy,
Titus (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 20, 2425; William A. Richards, Difference and Distance in PostPauline Christianity (New York: Lang, 2002); Raymond F. Collins, I-II Timothy and Titus (Louisville: Knox, 2002); Ray Van Neste, Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles (London: T&T
Clark, 2004); Annette Merz, Die fiktive Selbstauslegung des Paulus (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck&
Ruprecht); Perry Stepp, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle (Sheffield: Phoenix, 2005); Wayne Meeks and John Fitzgerald, The Writings of St. Paul (New York: Norton, 2007),
30318; James Aageson, Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church (Peabody: Hendrickson,
2008), 87, 154; and John Marshall, I Left You in Crete, Journal of Biblical Literature 127, no.4
(2008): 781803. They contrast Pauls appreciation of women as church leaders and domesticate
Pauls views along the lines of a traditional Hellenistic household. See Deborah Krause, 1 Timothy
(London: T&T Clark, 2004). Schssler Fiorenza (In Memory of Her, 233) finds that their injunctions
are further developments of the argument in 1 Cor 14:3436; they identify patriarchalism with the
structures of the Christian community (266) and were concerned with showing that Christians did
not disrupt the Greco-Roman order of the patriarchal house and state. According to Benjamin Fiore
(The Pastoral Epistles [Collegeville: Liturgical, 2007], 7179), an adaptation to the cultural context
is found in the prohibition against women teaching in 1 Tim 2:12 and the restrictions on widows,
aimed at excluding women from public ministries under the influence of cultural prejudices, opposite to Pauls praxis of having women leaders and teachers.

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interpolated.16 Other scholars maintain the authenticity of 1 Cor 14:3435, but do not
think that Paul forbade women to speak in public. According to Schssler Fiorenza,
the verses refer only to the wives of Christians, since not all women in the community
were married and not all were married to Christians (1 Cor 7): Pauls major concern
was the protection of the Christian community and that he wanted to prevent the
Christian community from being mistaken for one of the orgiastic, secret, oriental
cults that undermined public order and decency.17
Origen did face problems on this score, for the reasons I have mentioned above,
but he could manage them. As did other authors of uncial and minuscule manuscripts,
Origen treated 1 Cor 14:3435 as a separate paragraph.18 He probably accepted its
Pauline paternity, but he did not regard it as a prohibition of female ordained ministry in the church. In a fragment from his commentary on 1 Corinthians (Catena
in Corinthios A74), commenting on the same verses, he remarks that, according to
Paul, women prophesied, like Philips daughters, and could speak to other Christians
if they had a revelation, but not in churches/assemblies.19 Origen adds that women
can teach, and may say wonderful and holy things, but only to other women. In
light of the existence of women presbyters in Origens day (called presbtidej in the
Didascalia Apostolorum), I think it is possible that he is referring to women presbyters ministry when he echoes Titus 2:34, on presbtidej who are in a consecrated
state (e n katastmati eroprepe) and should teach other womenalthough not
in a public assembly, since there are men there who can announce Gods word as

16 For example, Gottfried Fitzer, Das Weib Schweige in der Gemeinde (Munich: Kaiser, 1963);
Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 246; Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 699; Jouette Bassler, 1 Corinthians, in
Womens Bible Commentary (Louisville: Knox, 1998), 41819; Philip Payne, Ms. 88 as Evidence
for a Text without 1 Cor 14.345, New Testament Studies 44 (1998): 15258; Philip Payne and
Paul Canart, The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus, Novum Testamentum
42 (2000): 10513; Epp, Junia, 1520; Hans-Joseph Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament
(Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006), 3078; and Murphy-OConnor, Militello, and Rigato, Paolo e
le donne, 3941.
17 Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethics (Augsburg: Fortress, 1999), 23033,
quotation on 232. Craig Keener (Paul, Women, and Wives [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992], 7988),
also takes verses 3435 circumstantially: for the sake of order in the church, some women should
not be loud. Compare with Antoinette C. Wire, 1 Corinthians, in Searching the Scriptures II, ed.
Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza (New York: Crossroads, 1994), 18687; Neal Flanagan and EdwinaH.
Snyder, Did Paul Put Down Women in 1 Cor 14:3436? Biblical Theology Bulletin 11 (1981):
1012, according to whom in verses 3435, Paul is quoting the words of the men he reproaches in
verse 36. See also Curt Niccum, The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women, New
Testament Studies 43 (1997): 24255.
18 Compare with Philip Payne, Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.345,
New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 25062.
19 In the Old Testament, prophetesses, such as Deborah, did not speak to the whole people
like Isaiah. In the New Testament, Anna the prophetess did not speak in an assembly/church.

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well.20 All the more so in that Clement and Basil, too, read eroprepe in Titus 2:3,
and that the parallel Titus 2:2 was understandable as a reference to presbyters
rather than old men. Indeed, several manuscripts read presbutrouj instead of
presbtaj there, and that Origen himself read so is proved by a passage whose authenticity is indisputable, Comm. Jo. 32.12.132133, in which Origen refers precisely
to Titus 2:24 and draws connections between the prescriptions to presbteroi and
those to presbtidej therein. Remarkably, the parallel focuses on the task of teaching, which was common to both categories. Therefore, for Origen, Titus 2:34 could
have meant an endorsement of the existence of women presbyters in the church (just
as 1 Tim 3:11 could be read as an endorsement of the existence of women deacons),
all the more so in that this was a reality in his day. This interpretation makes a perfect
pendant to Origens meaningful remarks on Phoebe and female ministries in the
church.
As for other problematic New Testament passages, such as 1 Tim 2:1115, Origens use of allegoresis minimized their possible socioecclesiastical implications. For
example, Origen always allegorizes the statement in 1 Tim 2:15 that women will be
saved only through teknogona or childbearing: he never takes it at face value, but
regularly interprets teknogona as the production of Christ and virtue in ones heart
(Comm. Rom. 4.6.160; Hom. Jer. 4.5; Fr. Luc. 32 Rauer). Likewise, the first transgression of the woman is interpreted in reference to the woman of the Song of Songs,
symbolizing the church, gathered by Christ from among pagans, that is, transgressors, to make of her his own spouse (Comm. Cant. 2 [133 Baehrens]). The allegorical
exegesis of male and female as virtue versus passion also played a crucial role in Origens thought. Philos influence in this respect is patent: in Legum Allegoriae 3.3 and
243 and Quaestiones in Exodum 1.8 Philo allegorized male and female as rationality
versus senses or incorporeality versus matter.21 In Hom. Ex. 2.23, Origen allegorizes
man as rationality, intellect, and virtue, and woman as flesh, bodily matter, vice, and
20 Origen also notes that not all Christian women had a husband to learn from, and solves the
problem by taking ndrej generically as kindred men, such as brothers or sons.
21 On Philos misogynist theory of genders, see Dorothy Sly, Philos Perception of Women (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), esp. 91110, on woman as sense perception; Grard H. Baudry, La
responsibilit dve dans la chute, Mlanges de science religieuse 53 (1996): 293320, esp. 3035;
Petra von Gemnden, La femme passionnelle et lhomme rationnel? Biblica 4 (1997): 45780;
Judith Gundry-Wolf, Paul on Women and Gender, in The Impact of Pauls Conversion on His
Life, Thought, and Ministry, ed. Richard Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 184212,
esp. 195201; Annewies van den Hoek, Endowed with Reasons or Glued to the Senses, in The
Creation of Man and Woman, ed. Gerard Luttikhuizen (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 6375; Joan Taylor,
Virgin Mothers: Philo on the Women Therapeutae, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha
12 (2001): 3763; Elad Filler, Notes on the Concept of Woman and Marriage in Philo, Iyyun 53
(2004): 395408, who argues for a positive view of marriage in Philo; and William Loader, The Septuagint, Sexuality, and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), esp. 69: Philo tends
to see women as flawed by nature. On Philos influence on Origen regarding the allegoresis of man
and woman, see Ilaria Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture in Philo and Its Legacy in
Gregory of Nyssa, Studia Philonica Annual 20 (2008): 5599.

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pleasure (compare with Hom. Gen. 4.4; 5.2).22 The scriptural text is thus referred by
him to virtue and vice, not to men and women; thus, Origen does not draw conclusions concerning womens ministries in the church.
Origens interpretation of 1 Cor 14:3435, together with his use of allegorical
exegesis, attenuated the possible contradiction between this and similar passages,
on the one hand, and that of Phoebe dikonoj and prosttij, on the other, which,
according to Origen himself, grounded in the apostolica auctoritas the constitution
of women in the ecclesiastical ministry. Origens words on Phoebe, of course in Rufinuss translation, were still cited by Abelard in his Letter 7 (ad Heloissam de dignitate
ordinis sanctimonialium [264265 Muckle]), but he ascribes this passage to another
author, Claudius, who in turn cited it.23 Abelard also remarks that women, too, participated in the clergy: nec a clericorum ordine mulierum religio disiuncta uidetur
(womens religion is not kept outside of the clerical order). Moreover, it is precisely
on the Phoebe passage that one of the most important attestations to womens presbyterate in the early church focuses. Atto, bishop of Vercelli in the tenth century,
admitted that women were regularly ordained deacons, presbyters, and presidents
of churches in the early church.24 He also indicates with precision the respective
ecclesiastical offices of women deacons and presbyters: for the former, ministry and
baptism; for the latter, preaching, leading, and teaching. I shall show that the latter
were probably also the offices of the presbyter Theosebia.
Another passage from Origens commentary on Romans was known to the Cappadocians and certainly applied by them to ordained women in their church. In 8.9,
Origen calls ecclesiastical ministerium the episcopate, presbyterate, diaconate, and
the orders of widows and virgins. He makes no distinction between feminine and
masculine orders in applying this term. This strongly confirms what I have observed
22 On Philos conception of don see Alain Le Boulluec, La place des concepts philosophiques dans la rflexion de Philon sur les plaisirs, in Philon dAlexandrie et le langage de la
philosophie, ed. Carlos Lvy (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), 12952.
23 Edition by J. T. Muckle, in Mediaeval Studies 17 (1955): 25382.
24 When a priest asked him how to understand the terms presbytera and diacona that he found
in the canons, Atto replied: It seems to me that in the primitive church, according to the word of the
Lord, the harvest was great and the laborers few, religious women [religiosae mulieres] used also
to be ordained as ministers of the cult [cultrices ordinabantur], as Saint Paul shows in the Letter to
the Romans, when he says, I commend to you my sister Phoebe, who is in the ministry of the church
at Cenchrea. Here it is understood that not only men, but also women presided over the churches
[etiam feminae praeerant ecclesiis], because of their great usefulness. For women, long accustomed
to the rites of the pagans, and instructed also in philosophical teachings, were, for this reason, converted more easily and taught more liberally in the worship of religion . . . those who were called
presbyterae assumed the office of preaching, leading, and teaching, so female deacons had taken up
the office of ministry and of baptizing. Atto acknowledges that all this does not take place any more
in his time, because it is no longer expedient, and he mentions the council of Laodicea according to
which it was not convenient that there were ordained women, praesbyterae and praesidentes, in the
churches. Atto does certainly demolish the notion that the tradition is unanimous in denying the
existence of female priests (Madigan and Osiek, Ordained Women, 192, whose translation I have
followed, with minimal changes).

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

regarding his ideas on womens ecclesiastical ministries as they emerge from his comments on Phoebe and on the presbteroi and presbtidej in Titus 2:24.
Indeed, in the time of Origen, in the early third century, the Didascalia Apostolorum also mentions presbtidej together with virgins and widows as ecclesiastical
orders. It describes women deacons as constituting an ecclesiastical order in their
own right along with male deacons; their relation to the bishop is assimilated to that of
Christ to the Father, and they are said to be worthy of honor as typos of the Holy Spirit.
They are ordained by the bishop with ceirotona, like male deacons and presbyters,
and are included in the clergy. Their office entailed the administration of baptism
(especially to women), postbaptismal instruction, pastoral visits to women, proclamation, travel, ministry, service, and spiritual and material support of women. Again in
the time of Origen, Tertullian attests that women presbyters taught, cured, baptized,
and offered the Eucharistic sacrifice (offerre), all of which he regards as virilia munera (manly tasks), especially the sacerdotale officium or priestly office (Virg. 9.1;
cf. Praescr. 41.5; Bapt. 17.4).25 Similarly, in the years around Origens death, Firmilian
of Caesarea, writing to Cyprian (Letter 75), testifies that in the fourth decade of the
third century in Cappadocia, women consecrated the Eucharist and baptized others.
In the first half of that century, an Ammion presbutra lived in Phrygia; bishop Dioga
dedicated her epitaph, indicating that she was a member of the clergy, not the wife of
a presbyter. One Egyptian mummy inscription that dates to some time between the
second and third century mentions the parents of a presbyter (prsb) Artemidora, but
not a spouse, indicating that she was not a presbyters wife.
The writings of Origen illuminate the ways in which Cappadocians regarded
female ordained ministry in the church. During their time, the existence of women
presbyters in the Catholic church was even better documented than in Origens day.
In the second half of the fourth century, Canon 11 of the Council of Laodicea testifies to the existence of presbtidej who presided over churches (prokaqhmnai). The
Acts of Philip (fourthfifth century) mention presbtidej along with presbteroi
among the clergy, and diaknissai along with dikonoi, suggesting that presbtidej
cannot simply mean elder women. Likewise, in the Martyrdom of Matthew 28, a
converted king is said to have been ordained presbteroj, his wife presbtij, his
son dikonoi, and his wife diaknissa: that the female titles cannot possibly be interpreted as wife of the presbyter and wife of the deacon here is proved by the
explicit inclusion of all four of them in the priestly dignity or erosnh. Canon 2 of the
Synod of Nmes in 394 attests that in some places in the time of the Cappadocians
women were enrolled in ministerium leviticum, that is, they were presbyters. In the
fourth or fifth century, Laeta praesbytera, who died at age forty (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum [CIL] 10.8079), was not the wife of a presbyter, since her husband,
the dedicator of the epitaph, was not a presbyter. The text also describes a Martia
25 Compare with Torjesen, who notes that women actually held significant positions of leadership in the churches. Otherwise, there would have been no need for these fulminations, which
convey the unmistakable tone of threatened authority (When Women, 15860, quotation on 114).

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presbyteria living near Poitiers in Gaul, who made or brought the oblations together
with and in the same way (pariter) as did Olybrius and Nepos (CIL 13.1183).26
Gregory Nazianzen, who also contributed to the redaction of Origens Philocalia,
is the most important source on Theosebia. His Letter 197 consoles Gregory of Nyssa
on the death of Theosebia, his szugoj. Also because of this designation, sometimes
referring to a spouseand probably due to the widespread assumption that women
who were called deacons and presbyters in antiquity were simply wives of deacons
and presbytersit is often maintained that Theosebia was Gregorys wife,27 whereas
I believe the evidence shows she was actually his sister and colleague. Theosebia,
like their sister Macrina, was a consecrated virgin, and may have belonged, at least
initially, to Macrinas domestic monastery. Gregory was likely married at some point,
but his wife was not Theosebia.28 He states in De virginitate that he is far removed
from what he calls the glory of virginity,29 and, although Gregory of Nyssas notion
of virginity is first spiritual and second physical, according to a conception that was
already present in Origen and in Methodius,30 De virginitate is a discussion of the
26 See Madigan and Osiek, Ordained Women, 196.
27 See, for example, Cecilia Robinson, The Ministry of Deaconesses (London: Methuen, 1898),
41; J. Danilou, Le mariage de Grgoire de Nysse et la chronologie de sa vie, Revue des tudes
Augustiniennes 2 (1956): 7178; Carmine Benincasa, Laltra scena: saggi sul pensiero antico, medievale, controrinascimentale (Bari: Dedalo, 1979), 140; Giuliana Caldarelli, La preghiera del Signore (Milan: Paoline, 1983), 12; Francesco Trifoglio, Gregorio di Nazianzo il teologo (Milan: Vita e
Pensiero, 1996), 76; Jos Uriel Patio, Padres de la iglesia: Una tradicin como bsqueda teolgica
(Bogot: San Pablo, 2005), 86; and hundreds of websites, among which are www.womenpriests
.org/care/stsdeac.asp; www.comeandseeicons.com/t/inp88.htm; http://vultus.stblogs.org/2008/01/
the-man-enchanted-with-christ.html; www.serviam.net/formationrelig/histcelibat.htm; http://www
.santiebeati.org/dettaglio/44200; www.cartantica.it/pages/SantiSposi.asp; www.scuoledinfanzia
.it/vita_santi.php?id=844; cincilla.freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=8508482; and
www.parrocchiasantalucia.net/08marzo.doc.
28 Michel Aubineau, Grgoire de Nysse: Trait de la virginit (Paris: Cerf, 1966), 6870, is
right to suppose that Gregory was married, but not to Theosebia, a view shared by Anna Silvas,
Gregory of Nyssa: The Letters (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 100; and Lionel Wickham, Gregory of Nyssa,
Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009): 53439. Susanna Elm, Virgins of God (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1996), 15758, leaves both possibilities open, that Theosebia was Gregorys wife
or his sister. A biographical treatment of Gregory, also with references to recent literature, can be
found in Ramelli, Il dialogo cristiano Sullanima e la resurrezione nelleredit filosofica platonica e
origeniana, in Gregorio di Nissa, 5341, Chapter 1, 732.
29 Recent interpretations of Gregorys De virginitate are discussed by Morwenna Ludlow,
Gregory of Nyssa: Ancient and (Post)Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Some challenge its traditional reading: David Hart thinks Gregorys comments about his married condition are
ironic, Virginia Burrus that Gregory is less cynical: she calls attention to his list of models, among
whom are Elijah, the Baptist, Isaac, and the Virgin. I hypothesize that this list is inspired by Methodiuss examples of virginity in the hymn at the end of his Symposium, strophes LS: this, in the light of
Methodiuss spiritual conception of gnea, which I think was influenced by Origen, would explain
the apparent oddness noticed by Burrus and Ludlow in Gregorys list: its including persons such as
Isaac, who was not a virgin literally.
30 I pointed out this in my review of Ludlow, Gregory of Nyssa, Review of Biblical Literature
(April 2008): http://www.bookreviews.org/BookDetail.asp?TitleId=6173. See, for example, Origen,

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

disadvantages of married life, so Gregorys statement should be read in that context.


Moreover, in the same work, he describes a deep grief for the death of a young wife
in childbirth, which shows such an intense participation as to arouse the suspicion
that this may have occurred to him as well. If that was the case, Gregorys marriage
was probably short lived. It is likely to be located in the phase to which Gregory
Nazianzen refers in Letter 11, where he blames Gregory for preferring to be called
a rhetorician rather than a Christian, and to have slipped to an inferior kind of life,
obviously vis--vis consecrated life.
Gregory Nazianzens Letter 197 and Epigrams 161 and 164 indicate that Theosebia was not Gregorys wife but his colleague in the ecclesiastical ministry. In these
sources, Theosebia is clearly said to have been one of the children of Emmeliaand
therefore a sister of Gregory, Macrina, Basil, and Peterand the szugoj of a presbyter and bishop, Gregory of Nyssa. My reading and lexical analysis of these texts
indicates that szugoj means colleague not wife. Moreover, Gregory Nazianzen
says things that cannot possibly refer to the death of a young wife in childbirth, since
he repeatedly remarks that Theosebia died at an appropriate age (see below), thus
avoiding the sad and painful experiences of life (Letter 197): after asserting that she
died at the right moment (kat kairn), Gregory states that she participated in
the joyous aspects of life, while escaping the painful and sad ones [t d luphr
diafugosa] thanks to her middle age [t mtrw tj likaj] (Letter 197.4). He
also declares both that Theosebia was a szugoj of Gregory during his priesthood,
and that she was his sister, speaking of her with the deepest reverence, as he does in
all the passages in which he mentions her: I admire your spiritual strength and the
philosophical serenity with which you endure the departure of your holy and blessed
sister [tj gaj delfj mn ka makaraj] (197.2), where mn clearly refers to
Gregory and his siblings. Here, sister cannot be interpreted as Christian, that is,
sister in the faith, but must be taken literally, as Gregory Nazianzen himself states
that Theosebia was the daughter of Emmelia. Furthermore, in Letter 197.5, he differentiates his own spiritual kinship (pneumatik suggneia) with Theosebia from
the literal, bodily kinship (swmatik) she shares with Gregory and their siblings.
Moreover, in this letter, too, Gregory Nazianzen repeats that Theosebia died at an
appropriate age. All these elements suggest that Theosebia was not Gregorys wife,
but his consecrated sister, who probably lived at Nyssa.
So in Gregory Nazianzens statement that Gregory of Nyssa lived together with
Theosebia (to have lived together with such a woman [toiatV suzsai]; LetComm. in Rom. 9.1.8791, where he states that bodily virginity means little if it is not accompanied
by all virtues, and 10.14.11014, where he stresses that virginity is not due (ex debito or per praeceptum), but it is a gift that supra debitum offertur, by spiritalibus et perfectioribus. For the
development of Origens conception in Methodius (esp. Symp. 1.1; 11.1), see Ilaria Ramelli, LInno
a Cristo-Logos nel Simposio di Metodio, in Motivi e forme della poesia cristiana antica. Incontro di
studiosi dellAntichit cristiana, Roma, Augustinianum, 35 Maggio 2007 (Rome: Augustinianum,
2008), 25780.

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ter 197.4), it cannot be explained only with a hypothetical marriage between them,
as they were siblings. Rather, this indicates that Gregorys sister Theosebia lived
at Nyssa as well, and collaborated with him. The Benedictine editors (Patrologia
Graeca [PG] 35.4654 and 37.322 n. 54), whose insight has been too much disregarded, suppose that Theosebia was a deacon of the church of Nyssa. Silvaseven
if almost in passing, without discussion of Theosebias functions and ministry, or of
the possible meanings of szugoj or corjregards it as probable that she was the
founder and presbutra of the choir of virgins of Nyssa, to which I shall return.31
Indeed, I find that this is the right path for investigation, and I shall now demonstrate
that Theosebia was a colleague and collaborator of Gregory in his quality of presbyter
and bishop, and that she is likely to have been a presbyter herself.
In Gregory Nazianzens Epigram 164, he praises Theosebia as the support of
pious women (rma gunaikn esebwn), which forms a perfect pendant to his designation of her as tn gunaikn parrhsan, womens confidence, in Letter 197.5.
Theosebia spirituallyand possibly materiallysupported women in her church
and encouraged them, inspiring them with confidence and daring or parrhsa,
which also implies the pride that women could take in her. Additionally, in Letter
197.56, Gregory Nazianzen celebrates Theosebia:
the glory of the Church [t tj e kklhsaj kachma], the adornment
[kallpisma] of Christ, the benefit [feloj] of our generation, the
confidence and daring of women [tn gunaikn parrhsan], the most
wonderful and most outstanding [eprepestthn ka diafanestthn]
amidst so great a splendor of siblings [en tosotJ kllei tn delfn],
Theosebia, the truly sacred [tn ntwj ern] and truly colleague of
a priest and endowed with a dignity equal to his [erwj szugon ka
mtimon], and worthy of the great Mysteries [tn meglwn musthrwn
xan]. Theosebia, with whom the future time also will be acquainted, in
that she will be on immortal stelae, that is, the souls of all those who have
known her and those who will know her subsequently.

Gregory of Nazianzus was a presbyter and even a bishop himself, just like Theosebias brother and colleague Gregory of Nyssa. That he spoke in such high
terms of Theosebia and had such a veneration and reverence for her, whom he
called my Theosebia (Qeoseban tn emn) because of her life consecrated to
God (Letter 197.5), is remarkable. After repeating her name many times while
praising her (5, 6), Gregory Nazianzen adds, addressing Gregory of Nyssa:
Do not wonder if I invoke her many times: it is because I exult even in the
memory of this blessed woman (Letter 197.7).
Even more remarkable is that Gregory Nazianzen deems Theosebia the most
outstanding and illustrious among her illustrious siblings. Of course, delfn may
mean either siblings in general, including sisters and brothers, or only sisters. In
31 Silvas, Letters, 100.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

the former casewhich is more probable, since the epigram is dedicated to all the
siblingsTheosebia would be hyperbolically declared more illustrious and outstanding than Gregory and Basil themselves. Even if one wished to interpret delfn
as indicating only Theosebias sisters, Gregorys words would imply that Theosebia
was more outstanding and illustrious than Macrina herself, the firstborn, so deeply
respected and venerated by Gregory of Nyssa. This, I think, can only be explained
by virtue of Theosebias ecclesiastical ministry, which made of her the glory of the
Church. This ministry was probably the presbyterate.
Indeed, what is most notable of all in Gregory Nazianzens above-quoted words
is that he describes Theosebia as truly sacred and truly colleague of a priest and endowed with a dignity equal to his, and worthy of the great Mysteries. This strongly
suggests that Gregorys sister was a presbyter. First, Theosebia is said to have been
er and a colleague of a erej, a priest (sometimes this term refers to a bishop
as well: see below). That Gregory Nazianzen insists on this idea is noteworthy; in
Epigram 165.161, he depicts Theosebia by the very same expression: eroj szugoj
(here: erwj szugoj). Theosebia was the colleague of a priest; therefore, she was
a priest herself. This is highly significant from a historical point of view, in respect to
the aforementioned claim that women never served as presbyters in the orthodox
church.
That szugoj in Gregory Nazianzens words does not mean wifewhich would
be very difficult to hypothesize, given that Theosebia was Gregorys sisterbut rather
colleague (in particular, a colleague in the priestly office) is confirmed by two elements. First, szugoj does not mean just spouse, but has a wide range of meanings
in Patristic Greek of the fourth century, many metaphorical, including colleague,
occurrences of which appear in the writings of Gregory Nazianzen himself.32 For
example, Eusebius (Dem. ev. 3.5.84) uses it in reference to the twelve apostles, who
were colleagues and collaborators of one another; he even employs it in reference
to the Persons of the Trinity: the Son and the Spirit are colleagues of one another
(Praep. ev. 7.15.16; 16.1). Likewise, again in Patristic writings from the fourth century,
szugoj references the virtues of justice and mercy in God (Eusebius, Comm. Ps. PG
23.1268.15; Didymus, Fr. Ps. fr. 986). In all these cases, the term clearly also indicates
perfect equality.33 Theodoret, commenting on Phil 4:3, insists that szugoj must thus
be understood as colleague or collaborator, not as wife, as some interpreted,
thereby giving birth to the conviction (already found in the writings of Clement of
Alexandria) that Paul was married. The same misconception appears to be that which
many have fallen into in respect to Theosebia. John Chrysostom (Hom. Phil. PG
32 Besides consulting Lampe (1278, s.v. szugoj) and Liddell-Scott (1670, s.v. szugoj), I have
conducted a methodical and thorough research on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, taking into consideration all occurrences from the beginning to Gregory Nazianzen.
33 See also Irenaeus, Haer. 1.6.1a; Origen, Comm. Jo. 2.24.155; Corpus Hermeticum tract The
Good Is Only in God, 1; Gregory of Nazianzus, De vita sua 567; De Filio (oration 30) 10 In sanctum
baptisma (Patrologia Graeca 36.409.33); Basil, Homiliae in Hexameron. 4.5; and John Chrysostom,
De incomprehensibili Hom. 5.

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62.280A) also glosses szugoj with sunergj in Pauls passage. Indeed, from the classical age onward, szugoj can be seen to refer to a person, not only as a spouse but
also as colleague, collaborator, companion, or fellow (for example, Euripides,
Iph. taur. 250; Aristotle, Pol. 945; Epigr. Gr. 318 from Smyrna), and even sibling
(Euripides, Troades 1001). Of course, a good example of the meaning colleague is
found in Phil 4:3, which Gregory Nazianzen would have known well. The meaning
correlate is also found, both in pagan and in Christian authors;34 it corresponds to
colleague on an abstract plane; in this case, too, as with the meaning colleague, the
equality and correspondence of the two syzyga elements is underlined.
Second, that Theosebia was the colleague of a priest, her brother Gregory, is
also confirmed by Gregory Nazianzens words, which in the above-quoted passage
immediately follow erwj szugon. Theosebia is there said not only to be the colleague of a priest but also to be invested with a dignity, and to enjoy an honor, that
is equal to that of a priest: erwj mtimoj is very clear and eloquent. Moreover,
Basil, the other Cappadocian, often uses the term mtimoj to indicate the equality of
dignity and honor between woman and man. For instance, in Homilia in martyrem
Julittam 241A, Basil stresses the complete equality of both genders, deriving from
the same human lump (frama), with the same honor and dignity (mtimoj) and
in perfect equality (e x sou). Men, he observes, even risk being inferior in piety
(241B). Likewise, in Homiliae in Psalmos 1 PG 29.21617, he insists on the fact that
man and woman have one and the same virtue and one and the same nature,
and that their creation was of equal honor and dignity (mtimoj); they have the same
capacity and activity (e nrgeia) and will receive the same reward.35
The expression erwj mtimoj must be understood in this sensewhich, after
all, is the only sense in which one can understand itand is also proved by Gregorys
immediately following statement: after affirming that Theosebia was a colleague and
mtimoj of a priest, he states that she, evidently by virtue of her ecclesiastical office,
had such a dignity (xa) as to be worthy to participate in the celebration of the great
Mysteries, a term that had indicated the celebration of the Mass since the time of
Clement of Alexandria.36 As I have illustrated before, this was not at all an isolated
case in the ancient church, where women dikonoi, presbterai/ presbtidej/
prokaqhmnai, and even bishops are repeatedly found.
Gregory Nazianzens Epigram 164, section 161, further corroborates my thesis.
In this text, he celebrates the extraordinary family of Gregory of Nyssa and exalts Em 34 Examples of pagan authors include the Stoics, Plutarch, Galen, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Themistius, Sinesius, Serenus geometer, and Apollonius Dyscolus. Examples of Christian authors are
Origen, Scholia in Apocalypsin 3; Selecta in Psalmos PG 12.1053.21; Expositio in Proverbios PG
17.185; and Didymus Fragmenta in Proverbios PG 39.1632A.
35 For the equality of genders in the Cappadocians, see Verna E. F. Harrison, Male and
Female in Cappadocian Theology, Journal of Theological Studies 41 (1990): 44171.
36 See Ilaria Ramelli, Mystrion negli Stromateis di Clemente Alessandrino: aspetti di continuit con la tradizione allegorica greca, in Il volto del mistero, ed. Angela M. Mazzanti (Castel
Bolognese: Itaca, 2006), 83120.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

melia and her children. As top praise, he states that among Emmelias children there
were three illustrious priests and one female colleague of a priest. He says: three
of her sons were illustrious priests; a daughter of hers was a colleague of a priest, and
the rest of her children, like a host of saints (trej mn tsde erej gaklej,
deroj szugoj, o d plaj j stratj eagwn). The first three mentioned by
Gregory Nazianzen are Basil, Gregory, and Peter, who were priests and bishops; the
daughter who was the colleague of a priest is clearly Theosebia herself, whom in his
Letter 197, too, Gregory Nazianzen calls colleague and mtimoj of a erej. In the
writings of a contemporary of his like Chrysostom, erej is attested in the sense of
bishop (e.g., Sac. 3.12), and in Gregory Nazianzens epigram, too, it designates a
bishop (also see Ep. 16 PG 37.52A). The works of other fourth- and fifth-century
authors also refer to a bishop (e.g., Constitutiones Apostolicae 2.25.7; Sozomenus,
Historia Ecclesiastica 4.22.22). In several texts of the fourth century, the term designates both a bishop and a priest (e.g., Constitutiones Apostolicae 6.18.11 and 8.2.6
and in Epiphanius, Pan. 80.5). In later texts, erej is a synonym of presbyter (e.g.,
Maximus the Confessor, Scholia in Ecclesiasticam Hierarchiam 5.5: presbutrwn,
oj ka eraj kale; 5.6; Maximus the Confessor, Scholia in Caelestem Hierarchiam 13.4; Ps. John of Damascus, Vita Barlaam et Joasaph 33 PG 96.1177B). In
Gregory Nazianzens words referring to Theosebia, erwj szugoj indicates at least
a woman presbyter. Nazianzen uses this wording twice, as I have pointed out, both
in his epigram and in his letter, because the feminine forms were almost never used,
whereas presbutra/ presbtij and presbytera/ presbitera are fairly common, also
epigraphically:37 reia as priestess, female presbyter is found in Constitutiones
Apostolicae 3.9.3 and Epiphanius, Pan. 79.7, and rissai in Epiphanius, Pan. 79.4,
where it is associated with presbuterdej and may indicate women presbyters or
even women bishops. Here, Epiphanius, according to his anthropology of gender
disparity, which is very different from that of the Cappadocians, indignantly protests
against the existence of women priests (and perhaps also bishops), once again clearly
testifying to it.
Most remarkably, in the above-quoted passage from Epigram 164 Gregory Nazianzen, immediately after the three bishops, Basil, Peter, and Gregory, does not
mention other brothers of theirs, not even Naucratius, who was an exemplary ascetic,
nor does he cite their eldest sister, Macrina, whom Gregory profoundly revered and
who was the founder of the Annesi monastery, but Theosebia. This can only be explained in that Macrina, even if she was the superior of the monastery, and the eldest
among all of her siblings, was only a consecrated virgin, whereas Theosebia had a
presbyteral ordination. This is why, as I have pointed out, Gregory Nazianzen defines Theosebia as the most illustrious and glorious among so many splendid siblings,
positing her even before Macrina, if delfn there means only sisters, or else also
before Gregory, Peter, and Basil, if delfn means siblings.
Somewhat later, in strophe 163, Gregory Nazianzen also celebrates the first 37 See Madigan and Osiek, Ordained Women, 163202.

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born, Macrina. What he underscores, howeverunlike what he emphasizes in his


portrait of Theosebiais her retreat and secluded life: A luminous virgin [parqnon
aglessan], if you have heard of a certain Macrina, the firstborn of the great Emmelia: she hid from the sight of all men, but now she is spoken of by all, and has a
glory that is greater than anyone elses.
Immediately after Macrina, Gregory Nazianzen again extols Theosebia (strophe
164) then Gregory of Nyssa, again called erej (in particular, great erej, strophe
165). In strophe 164, which contains specific praise of Theosebia, Gregory Nazianzen
states for the third time that she was the colleague of a priest and bishop, Gregory,
and for the second time mentions her ministry to the women of her church: And
you, Theosebia, daughter of the great Emmelia and colleague [szuge] of the great
Gregory, have descended under this sacred ground in all serenity and security, you
support of pious women [rma gunaikn esebwn]; you have exited from this life at
the most opportune moment [rioj]. Gregory of Nyssa, Theosebias colleague and
brother, is praised by Gregory Nazianzen soon after her and in close association with
her, in strophe 165; the first and practically only thing that is celebrated of him is that
he was a great priest or bishop (erej mgaj). Clearly, his presbyteral and episcopal
investiture is the most important thing in the eyes of Gregory Nazianzen. He does
not praise him as a great mystic, Christian writer, theologian, or ascetic, which he
was, but only as an ordained ecclesiastical minister.
Thus Theosebias ministry, as described by Gregory Nazianzen, involved participation in the celebration of the Mass, mentioned in his letter, and the spiritual and
perhaps material support offered to pious women of her church, in addition to being
for them a motive for pride, confidence, and daring, as is said both in the letter and
in the epigram. It is noteworthy that the functions of a presbyter or bishop (erej)
that Gregory Nazianzen indicates in Carmina (2.1.13.14 PG 37.1227A), that is, the
celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and care of souls, are identical to those which
he ascribes to Theosebia, the colleague and homotimos of a presbyter.38
Theosebia may also have played a role in the delicate equilibrium between orthodoxy and Arianism in the Cappadocia of the late fourth century. As the collaborator of Gregory of Nyssa, who was even exiled for his non-Arian faith, she too
was likely a faithful supporter of the Nicene faith against Arianism or the NeoArianism.39 As I hypothesize below, she may also have temporarily taken over her
brothers tasks during his forced absence from Nyssa, when he was exiled by the
opposite party. This happened during controversies over orthodoxy, so it was essential for her brother and bishop that his collaborator, Theosebia, supported the orthodox faith.
That ordained women in the church played an important role during struggles
38 The former function is also presented by Basil as a task of a presbyter in Ep. 93 PG
32.485A.
39 On these categories, see Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2004), discussed in Harvard Theological Review 100 (2007): 125241.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

over orthodoxy and Arianism is proved by an eloquent case involving other ordained women in the Cappadocian church, contemporaries of Theosebia herself.
Three daughters of count Terentius, the governor of Cappadocia in the early 370s,
were deacons of the Cappadocian church. Their orthodoxy was crucial for another
anti-Arian and anti-Macedonian bishop, Basil, Gregorys and Theosebias brother,
who in Letter 105, dating to 372 CE, when he was already bishop of Caesarea in
Cappadocia, praised their orthodox (Nicene) faith as crucial in a time of harsh theological debates. Indeed, this letter, which is addressed to the wisdom and modesty
(kosmithj) of these women deacons, focuses not on practical guidelines but on a
doctrinal problem, on faith (per tj pstewj). Basil summarizes his gratefulness
for their orthodoxy in a profession of faith against neo-Arian and Macedonian doctrines, which tended to deny the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I find it very probable too that Theosebia, like Gregory of Nyssa and Basil, from
the doctrinal point of view was anti-Arian and anti-Macedonian, all the more so in
that her ministry must have required her to be a doctrinal guide, and her office was
located in Nyssa, close to her brother. This is confirmed also by Gregory Nazianzens
above-quoted expressions in her praise in Letter 197: she was the advantage of the
generation of the Cappadocians, the adornment of Christ, and the glory of the
church. Given that the church is that of Nyssa and that the eulogist is Gregory of
Nazianzus, it is clear that he is speaking of the orthodox church, not of the Arian
church, whose supporters were so dangerousalso from the political point of
viewto the Cappadocian fathers.
Evidence that Theosebia was a presbyter and also responsible for the corj (literally, choir) of consecrated virgins that existed at Nyssa can be found in Gregory
of Nyssas Letter 6 to bishop Ablabius, written upon his return to Nyssa, probably
after his exile, which was caused by the aforementioned doctrinal controversies and
ended after the death of emperor Valens, who supported the Arian party. Gregory
was deeply loved by the people of Nyssa, who received his return with great affection
and enthusiasm. Among those who welcomed him was the corj of the virgins,
who greeted him at the entrance of the church of Nyssa with lanterns in their hands
( 10) like those of the wise virgins of the gospel parable and those of the final hymn
of Methodiuss Symposium, works with which Gregory (and likely Theosebia) would
have been familiar. The terms with which Gregory describes the scene may be interpreted to mean both a monastic choir and a group of virgins; since there are no details in the letter concerning psalmody or songs, the corj of the virgins here seems
to be identifiable with the group of consecrated virgins of the church of Nyssa. They
lived near the church, which they did not abandon to meet Gregory, and were very
probably led by Theosebia, presbyter of the church of Nyssa, colleague and mtimoj
of their bishop, who lived in Nyssa close to him (which is implied by Gregory Nazianzen when he speaks of Gregorys and Theosebias suzsai).
Gregory of Nyssa himself mentions another corj of virgins at Annesi, in
Macrinas monastery (Vita Macrinae 29). After the death of Macrina, who was the

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superior (goumnh) of both the female and male sections of the double monastery, Gregory and a nun, Vetiana, must decide how to dress Macrinas corpse for
the burial. Lampadion, a female deacon, assists them in this effort: There was a
woman in the diaconal order [e n t tj diakonaj baqm] who was the director
[protetagmnh] of the corj of the virgins. Her name was Lampadion. She said that
she knew exactly what Macrina had disposed for her own burial. Again, corj may
mean either choir or group. In the latter case, Lampadion was the director of the
group of the consecrated virgins at Annesi; the superior, however, was Macrina, who
was no deacon or presbyter herself like Lampadion or Theosebia, so that the precise
role of deacon Lampadion in respect to these virgins would remain unknown. In the
former case, corj means choir and Lampadions office would be the direction of
the choir of the nuns in Annesi. Hers would therefore be a liturgical ministry, for the
Divine Office, to be performed continually. Gregory seems to employ corj in both
meanings in Letter 19. He states that Macrina had gathered a great corj of virgins
around her; she had generated them through her spiritual birth-pangs [like Saint
Paul] and had brought them to perfection (7). Here, corj means group and
indicates all the nuns of Macrinas monastery, including the former slaves of her family.40 But immediately afterward, Gregory observes that psalmodies echoed at every
hour, night and day, in the house ( 8) of Macrina, that is, in the Annesi domestic
monastery. Hence we discover that the group of virgins was also a choir: they sang
and recited the Divine Office. Deacon Lampadion led this choir for a liturgical office
that is every bit as much liturgy as the celebration of Eucharist.41 The same is true
for deacon Publia and her monastery in Antioch. Theodoret notes that this noble
deacon was the abbess of a domestic monastery under Julian (361363) (Historia
Ecclesiastica 3.14). The choir of virgins who lived with her was constantly singing
the praises of God, especially the Psalms. Publia is described as the didskoloj of
the corj. Here, corj is both the group of consecrated virgins who lived in Publias
house and the choir that they formed when they sang the Psalms in the Divine Office
under the guide of a deacon, just like Lampadion at Annesi.
Deacon Lampadion was also Macrinas confidante (and possibly confessor), as
is shown by her knowing Macrinas will. Gregory Nazianzen does not overtly ascribe
40 It is Gregory himself who, with admiration, in Vita Macrinae GNO 8/1.377.25378.5 recounts how Macrina convinced their mother, Emmelia, to enter her ascetic community and live
together with their own former slaves, now made mtimoi (of equal dignity) with their former
masters. Emmelia made all of her ex-slaves her sisters and equals (delfj ka motmouj), not rhetorically, but because she in fact renounced being served by her former slaves (see also 381.2227),
where the keyword mtimoj in reference to Emmelia and her former slaves is repeated. Gregory
also extols his brother Naucratius for adopting a life without possessions (378.17; cf. 382.12),
bringing with himself nothing else than himself. He accepted that one of his former slaves followed him, not to be served by him, but to share the same ascetic life with him (378.1921). Far
from being served by his ex-slave, Naucratius even made himself a servant of old and ill poor people
(379.67).
41 This is rightly remarked by Madigan and Osiek, Ordained Women, 34.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

these two rolesliturgical and confidante/confessorto Theosebia; however, he may


allude to the latter when he speaks of her ministry of support and encouragement of
pious women, and the former (that is, leading the liturgy of the Divine Office), precisely for its liturgical nature, is parallel to Theosebias participation in the celebration
of the Mass. Theosebia very probably led the group of consecrated virgins in Nyssa
and may also have been their confessor. Macrina, although she was the superior at
Annesi, and Gregorys most venerated sister, is not said by any source to have been
ordained, either as a deacon or as a presbyter. This is why Gregory Nazianzen in his
epigram celebrates Theosebia, not Macrina, immediately after Gregory, Basil, and
Peter, as a colleague of a priest and bishop.
Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebaste also knew and esteemed deacon Olympia, the founder and leader of a city monastery in Constantinople, like Theosebia in Nyssa. She was ordained by bishop Nectarius, the predecessor of John Chrysostom: he ordained [eceirotnhse] her deacon [dikonon]
(Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.9). Among the bishops whom she benefited,
Palladius (Dialogus de vita Johannis Chrysostomi 17) lists Nectarius, Gregory (of
Nyssa or of Nazianzus), Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius, and of course Chrysostom.
Palladius (Dial. 1617) also testifies that she courageously received and protected the
Origenian monks, supporters of the doctrine of apokatastasis (the eventual universal
restoration of all rational creatures in God, and universal salvation, after the purification of all sins and the disappearance of evil),42 who had been exiled by Theophilus
of Alexandria. Nobody else dared welcome them, and the protection accorded to
them by Olympia and Chrysostom caused the exile of the latter and subsequently
also of the former. I find it not accidental that Gregory of Nyssa, an Origenian as well,
dedicated to Olympia his exegesis of the Song of Songs (probably his last work), in
which he supported once again the doctrine of apokatastasis, attestations of which
are spread all over his works. The anonymous fifth-century biography of Olympia
(Vita Olympiadis, chap. 6) narrates her ordination as a deacon and the construction
of her urban monastery next to the cathedral, just as that of the virgins headed by
Theosebia was next to the church at Nyssa.
Palladius (Dial. 10.50) reports that at the time of Chrysostoms exile Olympia
was aided by two other female deacons in her monastery in Constantinople, Pentadia and Procla. In Vita Olympiadis 7, Chrysostom ordained three women as deacons
for Olympias monastery; they were Olympias relatives: Olympia, like Macrina, attracted her relatives and former slaves into her monastery. Chrysostom ordained
[ceirotone] deacons [diaknouj] of the holy church three of her relatives, Elisanthia,
Martyria, and Palladia, for the monastery. Thus, by the four diaconal offices, the established procedure would have been accomplished by them uninterruptedly (7).
In this way, the monastery had four deacons in all, including Olympia, who was also
the superior (subsequently, Pentadia and Procla were added or took over the office
42 Documentation on this doctrine is in Ilaria Ramelli, Apocatastasi (Milan: Vita e Pensiero,
2010).

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of two of the previous deacons). Which four diaconal offices is not clear. The fact that
they had to be performed uninterruptedly and the parallel with deacon Lampadion,
protetagmnh to the monastic choir at Annesi, suggest that here, too, the reference
is to the Divine Office. Whether Theosebia guided her virgins in the Divine Office
is not reported in the available sources. What Gregory Nazianzen mentions of her
ministry, mtimoj to that of a erej, is another liturgical office, participation in the
celebration of the Mass, and the support of pious women, to whom she offered motives for pride, daring, and confidence.
The comparative analysis of Theosebias office with those of other ordained
women connected to the Cappadocian church in the second half of the fourth century seems to corroborate the conclusions I have drawn from the attestations of
Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa concerning Theosebia. She, whom Gregory Nazianzen repeatedly describes as colleague and mtimoj of a erej, was certainly ordained, and probably a presbyter. Her offices included the participation in
the celebration of the Mass, perhaps leading the performance of the Divine Office,
and surely the spiritual, and maybe also material, support of pious women, the choir
of virgins in Nyssa and probably also Christian women in Nyssa. This office of hers
may have included also a role as confidante and confessor, and probably involved a
doctrinal direction that was all the more crucial in a period of strong controversies
over orthodoxy. During Gregorys exile from Nyssa, Theosebia likely became a point
of reference for the local church, which remained profoundly faithful to its Nicene
bishop. When he returned, they all welcomed him warmly, and Theosebias virgins
waited for him with lamps at the entrance of the church.
In this connection, it seems to me significant that Gregory, although considering 1Cor 14:3435 to be Pauline, like Origen, nevertheless did not interpret it as
a prohibition against women teaching or speaking publicly in the church. In his In
Ecclesiasten 7 (Gregorii Nysseni Opera [GNO] 5.409.1521) he offers a restrictive
exegesis of this passage, thereby reducing its import. Moreover, he omits verse 34b,
probably the harshest bit against women in this passage, and he never cites verses
3435 anywhere else in all his works (just as, notably, he never cites 1 Tim 2:1115).43
He is commenting on the Qohelet passage that there is a time to speak and a time
to keep silent, and observes that Paul likewise sometimes prescribes speaking and
sometimes keeping silent: speaking if one has something good to say for the edification of faith (prj okodomn tj pstewj), but keeping silent if one has something
bad to say (pa^j lgoj saprj e k to stmatoj mn m e kporeusqw); or if some
women want to learn something they do not know (plin edwke t sig tn kairn,
E d ti maqen qlousin n gnoosin), they should not do so in the church, but at
home. For Gregory, Pauls advice is very far from concerning all Christian women and
establishing a general rule against women teaching or preaching publicly: it regards
43 Only in Contra Eunomium 3.10.16 (GNO 2.295.9) does he refer to verse 14, not, however,
to impose restrictions on women in ministries, but to say that, since a woman was the first transgressor, a woman had to be the first witness and apostle of the resurrection.

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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

only those who are married, in case any of them should want to learn something; they
should not disturb the whole assembly, but rather consult their husbands privately.
Gregory is quite far from seeing Paul as imposing a ban on womens presbyterate.
But why does Gregory of Nyssa keep silent on his sister Theosebia, who lived
in close association with him at Nyssa, while exalting Macrina, the head of the domestic monastery at Annesi, in both her biography/hagiography, Vita Macrinae, and
De Anima et Resurrectione? One element is certainly that Gregory deeply revered
Macrina, his much older teacher, who had imbued him with Christian thought in a
strongly and genuinely Origenian form, and who summarized her teaching for him at
her death. Moreover, Gregory fails to mention others of his numerous siblings as well.
Conversely, Gregory does mention the choir of virgins at Nyssa who welcomed him
after his exile, and thus indirectly also Theosebia, who probably even substituted for
him during that exile. But the main point is that he represents Macrina as a presbyter,
of course not formally, but symbolicallybut this has no less value for him (just as
for Origen, his great inspirer also in fact of allegoresis). Macrinas final prayer in Vita
Macrinae, as Derek Krueger has insightfully shown, is replete with liturgical formulas, among which the anaphoral ritual from the Eucharist is prominent; Gregory emphasizes Macrinas identification with Christ, her participation in Christs passion, and
her offering of herself as a sacrifice.44 He clearly tends to ascribe to her a presbyteral
function, both for the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, here, and for the office of
teaching the Christian doctrine, which he attributes to her in Vita Macrinae and De
Anima et Resurrectione.
Gregory Nazianzen places more emphasis on officially ordained ministry (and,
moreover, probably knew Theosebia more directly than Macrina, who was secluded
at Annesi); Gregory of Nyssa admires asceticism (and Macrinas domestic monasticism) more. For him, Macrina and her colleagues approximate the life of angels with
their philosophical and ascetic life and anticipate the blessed condition of the resurrection and, even more, of the eventual apokatastasis.45 In his eyes, their ministry was
equal to that of deacons, presbyters, and bishops (besides, at least one of them was
44 Derek Krueger, Writing and the Liturgy of Memory in Gregory of Nyssas Life of Macrina, Journal of Early Christian Studies 8, no. 4 (2000): 483510, esp. 5089. For the power of the
Anaphora to perform the Eucharist independently of the minister, see also Derek Krueger, The
Unbounded Body in the Age of Liturgical Reproduction, Journal of Early Christian Studies 17,
no.2 (2009): 26780.
45 See, for example, Elizabeth Clark, Holy Women, Holy Words, Journal of Early Christian
Studies 6 (1998): 41330, esp. 42829. Compare with Elizabeth Clark, Ideology, History and the
Construction of Woman in Late Antique Christianity, Journal of Early Christian Studies 2 (1994):
15584; Rosemary R. Ruether, Misogynism and Virginal Feminism in the Fathers of the Church,
in Religion and Sexism, ed. Rosemary R. Ruether (New York: Simon& Schuster, 1974), 15083.
Virginia Burrus, Macrinas Tattoo, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33, no. 3 (2003):
40317, in The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography, ed.
Dale B. Martin and Patricia Cox Miller (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), chap. 5, esp.
113. Womens history is like the stigma of Macrinas tattoo (or scar), marking a difference; it should
be conceived as a practice of writing that marks and makes a difference, also for the scholarly sub-

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Ramelli: Theosebia

101

an ordained deacon herself: Lampadion, leader of the liturgy of the Divine Office),
and spiritually included even presbyteral functions (not to speak of Macrinas role as
head of a double monastery;46 consider the presbyteral and episcopal functions and
dignity of abbesses until the twelfth century mentioned above).
I suspect that the appreciation of exemplary ascetics over ordained ministers
reveals yet another aspect of Origens heritage in Gregory of Nyssa; for Origen also
conceived of sacraments, ordained ministries, and liturgy at the spiritual/symbolical/allegorical level. Thus in his view, Eucharist is not only the administration of the
sacramental bread by a presbyter but also the rumination of scripture, which is the
body of Christ.47 Likewise, for Origen, ordained ministry is found not only in the
earthly church but also in the heavenly/spiritual church: some deacons, presbyters,
and bishops who belong to the former but are unworthy do not belong to the latter;
some who are not ordained in the former but are worthy are in fact presbyters and
bishops in the latter.48 Macrina surely was one of these presbyters for Gregory.
Gregory of Nyssas de jure and de facto rejection of slaverygrounded not simply in rhetoric or in a rehash of the Stoic doctrine, but in deep, precise theological
arguments, and indeed practiced by him, Naucratius, Peter, Emmelia, Macrina, and
her monastery49likely parallels his rejection of discrimination against women in
church ministries. Remarkably, the word mtimoj (which he uses to indicate that
God endowed masters and slaves with the same dignity, so nobody can be a slave of
a fellow human and Christian masters should free their slaves, and to indicate that
Macrina, her mother, and her siblings made themselves of equal dignity with their
former slaves) is the same term that he and Basil use to designate the equal dignity
of man and woman and that Gregory Nazianzen employs to declare that Theosebia
had the very same ecclesiastical dignity of a erej (erwj szugoj ka mtimoj).
Gregory of Nyssa took Gal 3:2728 seriously.
Origen inspired him also in this respect (as in many others), both with his own
conception of the ministries of women in the church and of the spiritual and symboli-

ject. See Virginia Burrus, Remembering Macrina, in The Sex Lives of Saints: An Erotics of Ancient
Hagiography (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004), 6976.
46 Compare Vita Macrinae 37 and above; also Anna Silvas, Macrina the Younger. Philosopher
of God (Turnhout: Brepols 2008), a sourcebook on Macrina. For the tension between monastic
humility and institutional authority in the time of the Cappadocians, see also Elizabeth Clark, Authority and Humility: A Conflict of Values in Fourth-Century Female Monasticism, Byzantinische
Forschungen 9 (1985): 1733.
47 Origen, DePascha 26,58; 33,2032. See Ilaria Ramelli, Origen and the Stoic Allegorical
Tradition: Continuity and Innovation, Invigilata Lucernis 28 (2006): 195226.
48 Origen, Comm. Matt. 16.2023; Comm. ser. Matt. 12. Compare with Hom. Luc. 13.5: each
church has two bishops, one visible and one invisible.
49 As argued by Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, Slavery as a Necessary Evil or as an Evil that Must Be
Abolished? (paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Boston,
November 2125, 2008).

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102

Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2

cal parallels to earthly liturgy and ordained ministries50 and with the orientation of
the whole of his thought to eschatology.51 Gregory inherited this same orientation:52
the ideal, to be pursued already in this life, is that of the telos, the apokatastasis, in
which gender differences will vanish and evil and its consequences will no longer
exist. In spite of their different cultural and historical contexts, I find a theological affinity on this score between Gregorys eschatological inspiration for historical
Christian praxis and Schssler Fiorenzas notion of the ekklesia of wo/men as an
eschatological symbol that breaks the kyriarchal relations of power underpinning
Western tradition.53
Indeed, for Gregory, Christian life and church practice must always draw their
guidelines from the telos, which corresponds to Gods eternal plan for humanity.
In that plan, slavery does not exist and women are equal to men. This is the theoretical backdrop against which to read Gregorys attribution of presbyteral functions
to Macrina, his attitude toward womens ordained ministries in the church, and his
collaboration with the presbyter Theosebia, his sister. He may even have ordained
Theosebia himself when he was a bishop. This is really an interesting example of how
theological perspectives can inform social realities.

50 What I have said about Origens allegorization of the Genesis narrative is not at odds with
this conclusion. For Origen does not refer the narrative on the womans transgression to a difference
between man and woman, but to the allegorical meaning of man and woman, inherited from
Philo. Therefore, Origen does not conclude from the Genesis story that women should thus be excluded from ecclesiastical ministries.
51 On this orientation, see Panayiotis Tzamalikos, Origen: Philosophy of History and Eschatology (Leiden: Brill, 2007).
52 On the eschatological orientation of Gregorys thought, see Ilaria Ramelli, first Integrative
Essay La dottrina dellapocatastasi eredit origeniana nel pensiero escatologico del Nisseno, in
Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa, 735957.
53 Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza, Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Context (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 7687, 112, and Schssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethics, 7.

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Ilaria Ramelli

Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 75, Number 2, April 2014, pp.
167-188 (Article)
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press
DOI: 10.1353/jhi.2014.0013

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jhi/summary/v075/75.2.ramelli.html

Access provided by Anadolu Universitesi (22 May 2014 03:32 GMT)

The Divine as Inaccessible Object of Knowledge in


Ancient Platonism: A Common Philosophical
Pattern across Religious Traditions

Ilaria Ramelli

I. INTRODUCTION
The notion of the divine as an inaccessible object of human knowledge
and reasoning is prominent in philosopherstheologians of the first four
centuries ce who display a refined cognitive approach to religion and a
sophisticated treatment of the problem of theo-logy. Greek 
means reasoning and speaking ( ) about the divine ( ), but if the
divine is unknowable, how can theology work? Notably, these thinkers all
belong to the same philosophical tradition, that of Platonism (so-called
Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism), but they come from three different
religious traditions. Philo of Alexandria (first century bce to first century
ce) comes from Judaism, in particular Hellenistic Judaism. Plotinus (third
century ce) comes from so-called paganism, a general term for ancient
cultic traditions other than Judaism and Christianity that is more useful
than correct from the point of view of historians of religions.1 Finally, Origen of Alexandria (second to third centuries ce) and Gregory of Nyssa
1
For a discussion of paganism/Hellenism as religion or culture in late antiquity see
e.g. Aaron P. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre. The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); also Johnson,
Ethnicity and Argument in Eusebius Praeparatio Evangelica (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2006); Johnson, Porphyrys Hellenism, in Le traite de Porphyre contre les chretiens, ed. Sebastien Morlet (Paris: Institut dEtudes Augustiniennes, 2011), 16581.

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(fourth century ce) come from Christianity. Philo was a Jewish Platonist,
Plotinus a pagan Platonist, and Origen and Gregory of Nyssa were
Christian Platonists.
Notwithstanding their affiliations to different religious traditions, these
thinkers reflections on the divine as an impossible cognitive object for
humans are remarkably homogeneous. It will be argued that this homogeneity is mainly due to their common philosophical tradition, which provides them with a shared epistemological and ontological pattern. All of
these philosopher-theologians share a dialectic and a tension between a
declared apophaticismthe awareness that the divine is indeed an inaccessible object of knowledge and expression for humansand a discourse
about the divine in which they nevertheless engage. It will therefore be necessary to clarify this dialectic. This will not have to be sought on the religious plane, since the dialectic at stake is trans-religious and common to all
of these imperial and late antique Platonists.

II. PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY


All of these thinkers were both philosophers and theologians. From our
post-Kantian perspective, philosophy and theology are two independent
disciplines, with different methodologies and objects, but this was not the
case in late antiquity. From the viewpoint of Patristic philosophers, and
especially Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, the study of God, i.e. theology,
was the culmination of philosophy. This is why Origen did not teach theology without having taught the rest of philosophy first, and why he banned
atheistic philosophical schools from his teaching, as his disciple Gregory
Thaumaturgus attests in his panegyrical oration for Origen. In his Commentary on the Song of Songs prol. 3.24 Origen, after dividing philosophy
into ethics (ethica), physics (physica), epoptics (epoptica), and logic (logica), posited epoptics as the crowning glory of philosophy.2 Epoptics is the
branch of philosophy that investigates the divine and heavenly things
(epoptica de divinis et caelestibus), that is, theology. Thus Origen regarded
Michael York, Paganism as Root-Religion, The Pomegranate 6 (2004): 1118 classifies
religions as gnostic, dharmic, Abrahamic, and pagan; cf. York, Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York: New York University Press, 2003).
2
Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs prol. 3.24. I will cite all sources in classical
style, whenever book, chapter, and/or paragraph numbers are available. I will make an
exception only when page and/or column or line numbers are the sole citation form
available.

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Ramelli The Divine in Ancient Platonism

theology as part and parcel of philosophy, its highest part in fact, on the
one hand; and on the other hand made it clear that theology could not be
studied alone, without philosophical bases. In his Homilies on Genesis
14.3, too, he admitted that the learned of this world thanks to the study
of philosophy [per eruditionem philosophiae] were able to grasp many
truths.3 Among these truths he included theological tenets. For instance,
many philosophers write that God is one [unum esse Deum] and created
everything [cuncta creaverit]. In this respect they agree with Gods Law.
Some also add that God both made and governs all by means of his Logos
[per Verbum suum], and it is Gods Logos that regulates all.4 Origen in
this passage cited the traditional (Stoic) division of philosophy into logic,
physics, and ethics, but interestingly ascribed to logic the realm of metaphysics and theology as well: Logic is that part of philosophy which confesses God the father of all.5 The incongruence results from the fact that
the tripartite division of philosophy was Stoic, and in Stoic immanentism
both metaphysics and theology were reduced to physics. But Origen, who
was no immanentist, could by no means accept such a reduction.
For Philo, theology was essentially exegesis of Scripture, which is all
about God, and this interpretation was to be performed through the lenses
of philosophy, especially Platonism. His attention focused primarily on
the Bible, as Valentin Nikiprowetzky, David Runia, Peder Borgen, and
David Winston have rightly emphasized.6 Philos approach was therefore
exegetico-theological, but philosophy offered him an indispensable framework for his exegesis. In Plotinuss view, too, philosophy included the investigation of the divine realm, which was metaphysics at its highest level.
Indeed, Aristotle himself treated theology as a synonym of metaphysics as
opposed to physics: Three are the theoretical branches of philosophy: mathematics, physics, and theology [, , ].7 Thus,
Plotinuss discourse on the Oneattempted, suggestive, and limited at the
same time, as will be pointed out shortlyis both protological and theological.
Origen, Homilies on Genesis 14.3.
Origen, Homilies on Genesis 14.3.
5
Origen, Homilies on Genesis 14.3.
6
Peder Borgen, Philo of Alexandria (Leiden: Brill, 1997); Valentin Nikiprowetzky, Lexege`se de Philon dAlexandrie, Revue dHistoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 53 (1973):
30929; Nikiprowetzky, Le commentaire de lecriture chez Philon dAlexandrie (Leiden:
Brill, 1977); David T. Runia, review of La philosophie de Mose, by Richard Goulet,
Journal of Theological Studies 40 (1989): 588602; Runia, Philo of Alexandria. On the
Creation of the Cosmos According to Moses (Leiden: Brill, 2001); David Winston, Philo
and the Wisdom of Solomon on Creation, Revelation, and Providence, in Shem in the
Tents of Japhet, ed. James Kugel (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 10930.
7
Aristotle, Metaph. 1026a18.
3
4

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III. PHILO
Philo of Alexandria interpreted the Hebrew Bible (in its Greek translation,
the Septuagint or LXX) in the light of Platonic philosophy, and indeed he
has many themes in common with so-called Middle Platonism.8 He could
read Scripture with Platonic lenses thanks to an allegorical interpretation.
This is what Christian interpreters of the Bible such as Origen and Gregory
of Nyssa would do as well. However, unlike some extreme Jewish Hellenistic allegorists against whom he seems to have reacted, Philo did not reject
the historical aspect of Scripture. He kept both the historical and the allegorical planes at the same time.9
Likewise, the roots of Philos apophaticism and mysticism, too, are
found in his biblical exegesis.10 Philo interpreted some biblical episodes as
the allegorical expression of the necessity of apophaticism: this meant the
awareness of the limit of human cognitive and discursive-expressive power
when it came to the divinity in itself, that is, its nature or essence as distinct
from its activities and their products. This clearly presupposed a transcendent notion of the divinity, which squares with Platonism but not with an
immanentistic system such as Stoicism (the latter influenced Philo as well,
but more on the ethical than the ontological plane). These allegorical
expressions appeared precisely in passages which have been fruitfully compared11 with the parallel interpretations of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa.
This meant that there was a strong continuity in this respect between Philo,
Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa.
Indeed, Philo inspired Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gregory of
Nyssa with the principle that the divinity is unknowable in its essence
(), and therefore also ineffable, but knowable through its activity.
Indeed, What Is cannot be grasped from itself alone, without anything
else, but only through its works, either qua creator or qua ruler.12 The
8
I limit myself to referring to the synthesis offered by David T. Runia, Philon dAlexandrie, in Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, ed. Richard Goulet, vol. 5/a (Paris:
CNRS, 2011), 36390.
9
See Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, The Philosophical Stance of Allegory in Stoicism and its Reception in Platonism, Pagan and Christian: Origen in Dialogue with the Stoics and Plato,
International Journal of the Classical Tradition 18 (2011): 33571.
10
On the relation between biblical exegesis and mysticism see Steven Katz, Mysticism and
Sacred Scripture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
11
See Ilaria Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis of Scripture in Philo and Its Legacy in
Gregory of Nyssa, Studia Philonica Annual 20 (2008): 5599.
12
        
 , "# #

 %  % , Philo, Abraham 122

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Ramelli The Divine in Ancient Platonism

Godhead in itself is ineffable, unintelligible, impossible to grasp 13; in


The Special Laws 1.32 Philo gives up determining what is Gods essence
or .14 Even the epithets that are ascribed to God in the Bible do not
describe Gods very essence (), that is, Gods true nature or ,
but rather Gods relationship to the creation. These two aspects are kept
distinct from one another.
What humans can know about God is that God is, 15 but not what God
is. Because of Gods transcendence, human intellects cannot grasp the
divine essence, but some help to this end can come from the revelation of
God in Scripture.16 For Philo, just as for Clement, Origen, and Gregory,
divine revelation in Scripture represents an important factor that moderates
negative theology. It is a gnoseological factor in that it allows human beings
to know something of the divinity, which would otherwise be precluded.
This cognitive factor, however, is subject to strict rules of interpretation.
Allegoresis, in the sense of the allegorical exegesis of the sacred textin
this case, that of Scripture, but in the case of pagan Neoplatonists, for
instance, poetry and various forms of traditional myths and ritualsis the
key to grasping the true meaning of the Bible, but it is also a key available
to few, those who master this hermeneutical tool. This tendency to exclusivity in relation to allegoresis is particularly evident in Clement and, to a
degree, in Origen, but also in pagan Middle Platonists and Neoplatonists, from Plutarch to Porphyry to Sallustius, who cherished allegoresis.
Just as Clement, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa after him, Philo bases
his apophatic theology on Exod. 20:21, the passage in which Moses enters
the darkness where God is: Now the people were standing at a distance,
but Moyses went into the darkness where God was. Philo and his followers interpret this darkness ( ) as a reference to Gods unknowability.17
Non-seeing is a metaphor of human cognitive impairment before the divine.
Philo, The Changing of Names 10; 15. On Gods ineffability in Philo see Sean McDonough, YHWH at Patmos: Rev. 1:4 in its Hellenistic and Early Jewish Setting (Tubingen:
Mohr Siebeck, 1999), 7984. For the Middle-Platonic background of the idea of Gods
ineffability in Philo: R. M. Garca, La concepcion de Albino y Apuleio de los atributos
del Dios transcendente, con especial referencia al termino arrhetos, in Arrhetos Theos:
Lineffabilita` del primo principio nel medio platonismo, ed. Francesca Calabi (Pisa: ETS,
2002), with review in Stylos 14 (2005): 17782; also Anna Passoni DellAcqua, Innovazioni lessicali e attributi divini: una caratteristica del Giudaismo alessandrino?, in La
Parola di Dio cresceva, ed. Rinaldo Fabris (Bologna: Dehoniane, 1998), 87108.
14
Cf. Philo The Special Laws 1.43; God Is Immutable 62; The Posterity of Cain 15.
15
Exod. 3:14: I am The One Who Is. See Philo The Life of Moses 1.75. Translation
from NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint), throughout.
16
Philo The Allegories of the Laws 3.100.
17
Philo The Posterity of Cain 14; The Changing of Names 7.
13

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It is a metaphor of apophaticism, that is to say, the awareness that the


human logos (word and thought) cannot grasp and express the divinity.
This is a remarkable limitation to theo-logy (-), reasoning and
discourse on the divine. The divinity in its own nature is an inaccessible
object of human intellectual sight, that is, of human epistemic equipment.
In Exod. 33:2023, God says to Moses that he will be unable to see his
face, but he will only see his back: You shall not be able to see my face.
For a person shall never see my face and live. . . . You shall stand on the
rock. Now, whenever my glory passes by, then I will put you in a hole of
the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I pass by. And I will take
my hand away, and then you shall see my hind parts, but my face will not
appear to you. By means of his allegorical exegesis, Philo refers this passage, as well, to Gods unknowability.18 Philos interpretationwhich, as
will be pointed out, was followed by Origen and Gregory of Nyssais that
Gods existence is easy to grasp, whereas Gods essence is unknowable.
However, the search for God is the noblest among human activities. Thus,
the cognitive impairment of human beings before the divine should not stop
their theo-logical investigation. In On Flight 165, too, Philo interprets
Exod. 33:23 (you shall see my hind parts, but my face will not appear to
you) in the sense that only what is behind God, at his back, is knowable to human beings:
God says: You will see my back parts [# (], but my face
[ ] you will not behold. For it is sufficient for the
wise man to know what comes after and follows [# "
*  ], and the things which are after God [+ # 
]; but he who wishes to see the principal Essence [ '
/ ] will be blinded by the exceeding brilliancy of
its rays before he can see it.19
The visual metaphor of blindness due to the excessive brightness of the
divine essence is typical of Philo.20 As will be demonstrated below, Gregory
of Nyssa followed Philo in his exegesis of precisely this biblical passage in
Philo The Special Laws 1.32.50.
Philo On Flight 165.
20
Francesca Calabi, La luce che abbaglia: una metafora della inconoscibilita` di Dio in
Filone, in Origeniana, vol. 8, Origene e la tradizione alessandrina, ed. Lorenzo Perrone
(Leuven: Peeters, 2003), 22332.
18
19

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Ramelli The Divine in Ancient Platonism

reference to apophaticism; more specifically, Gregory read Philos words


through the filter of Origen.21
IV. PLOTINUS
Like the Jewish exegete Philo, the pagan Neoplatonist Plotinus was also
convinced that it was impossible for human beings to comprehend and
describe the essence of God. This is the supreme principle, what Plotinus
calls the One or 0E. For him, humans can only cognitively grasp, understand and express what is around the divinity and what concerns it or
# * 
 (exactly this notion will appear again in the writings of
Gregory of Nyssa, who was very well acquainted with Plotinuss thought).
Already Numenius, a Neopythagorean and Middle Platonist well known to
Plotinus as well as to Origen, maintained that the first Intellect [
],
which is called absolute Being, is entirely unknown to humans. 22 The
One, however, for Plotinus is even beyond Being, just as it is beyond the
Intellect (N
). The latter proceeds from the One as a second hypostasis
or principle, but the One is above it.
According to Plotinus, human cognitive sight and language imply a
separation between the subject who sees and speaks, and the object of this
sight and speaking. As a result, human intellection and language pertain
not to the One, but to duality; as such, they begin only at the level of the
Intellect, one step after the One.23 Therefore, the One, the supreme principle
David Bradshaw, The Vision of God in Philo of Alexandria, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1998): 483500. Philo was received in Patristic mysticism more
than in ancient Jewish mysticism; on the latter see e.g. Peter Schaefer, The Hidden and
Manifest God: Some Major Themes in Early Jewish Mysticism (Albany: SUNY Press,
1992); Daniel Matt, Varieties of Mystical Nothingness: Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist
Perspectives, Studia Philonica Annual 9 (1997): 31631; Joseph Dan, Ancient Jewish
Mysticism (New York: Mod Books, 1990); Ori Soltes, Mysticism in Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam: Searching for Oneness (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
22
fr. 17 Des Places. Numenius, Fragments, ed. Edouard Des Places (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1973). On the use of negative theology in Neopythagoreanism: John Whittaker,
Neupythagoreismus und negative Theologie, in Der Mittelplatonismus, ed. Clemens
Zintzen (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1981), 16986  Symbolae
Osloenses 44 (1969): 10925. On negative theology in Platonism, see Deirdre Carabine,
The Unknown God: Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition. Plato to Eriugena
(Louvain: Peeters, 1995).
23
These are protological principles, ". For the relationship between protology and
mathematics in Plotinus see Svetla Slaveva Griffin, Plotinus on Number (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2009). On Plotinuss use of language in relation to the One see Frederic
M. Schroeder, Plotinus and Language, in The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, ed.
Lloyd P. Gerson (Cambridge: University Press, 1996), 33655; and Sara Rappe, Reading
21

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of Plotinuss metaphysics, is unspeakable and intellectually invisible,


that is, incomprehensible; it is an impossible object of the human cognitive
faculty. This is because the One, as already mentioned, is anterior and superior to the Intellect, which is the second principle in Plotinuss metaphysical
scheme, and qua talis is inferior to the One. Plotinuss triad of first principlesthe three "* 12: the One, the Intellect, and the Soulis
indeed strictly hierarchical. The second principle derives from, and is subordinated to, the first; in turn the third principle derives from, and is subordinated to, the second.24 Thus, the One comes before, and is beyond, any
human act of intellection and any cognitive grasp. This is why we humans
can only limit ourselves to say something that concerns it or that is
about/around it.25
Plotinus explains the main reason why it is impossible to touch and
grasp the One: because the One, which is beyond Being (
), is infinite (), and it is ridiculous to try to grasp and circumscribe what is infinite by nature.26 Plotinus also uses the reverse argument:
not only can the One not be grasped intellectually because it is infinite, but
moreover it is infinite because its power cannot be grasped or encompassed:
It is necessary to conceive the One as infinite . . . because its power is
impossible to comprehend.27 As will be demonstrated, this argument is
also paramount for Gregory of Nyssas negative theology, which owes
much to that of Plotinus. Plotinus insists that the One, which is infinite, can
be contemplated only on the basis of finite realities, because humans cannot
grasp the infinite and indefinite (, " ): If your mind cannot
find anything definite because the One is none of these things, you just stick
to these, and contemplate on their basis.28
In Plotinuss view, the One can be known and expressed only in the
negative: We say what is not, but what is, we cannot say.29 This is the
Neoplatonism: Non-Discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus, and Damascius (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
24
On the possible influence of Origen on Porphyrys characterization of Plotinuss three
principles see Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, Origen, Greek Philosophy, and the Birth of the Trinitarian Meaning of Hypostasis, Harvard Theological Review 105 (2012): 30250. A
systematic comparison between Origen and Plotinuss thought is badly needed. The only
work available so far is Henri Crouzel, Orige`ne et Plotin. Comparaison doctrinale (Paris:
Tequi, 1991).
25
* 
: Enneads 5.3.1314.
26
 #      2: Enneads 5.5.6.15.
27
 3 *   45
 "4
 2: Enneads 6.9.6.1011.
28
6 ' + 3  , " 4
 74,
  6
, * "
 5: Enneads 6.9.7.
29
 8  9: 8  ,  : Enneads 5.3.14.5. Raoul Mortley,

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Ramelli The Divine in Ancient Platonism

essence of what is called negative theology or apophaticism. The use


of many negative adjectives in reference to the supreme principle or first
divinity was already deployed in Middle Platonism: for instance, ,
ineffable, , unspeakable, ", impossible to circumscribe,  9 , unlimited, etc.30 This trend will continue in
pagan and Christian Platonism as well, as will soon be clear. According
to Plotinus, due to the very superiority of the One to the Intellect, to Being,
and to finitude, humans can have no knowledge of the One on the cognitive-epistemological plane: neither knowledge nor intellective intuition of
it.31 This would later be emphasized by Proclus.32 For this reason it is
necessary for the soul to go far from science and all of its objects, because
every knowledge and every science implies a multiplicity and therefore
detaches the soul from unity and the One itself. In fact, whenever the intellect knows, this immediately produces a duality of knower and known:
For science is reasoning, and reasoning entails multiplicity [
# /  # 3 ; ]. In this way the soul fails to
attain the One, because it falls into number and multiplicity [6
" *

]. . . . The intellect that knows [

] cannot even remain simple itself [3  


<
] . . . since it will make itself double [2 #  ].33
Negative Theology and Abstraction in Plotinus, American Journal of Philology 96
(1975): 36367; Mortley, The Fundamentals of Via Negativa, American Journal of
Philology 103 (1982): 42939. Cf. Marie Anne Vannier, Aux sources de la voie negative, Revue des sciences religieuses 72 (1998): 40319; Giovanni Zuanazzi, Pensare
lassente-Alle origini della teologia negativa (Rome: Citta` Nuova, 2005); William Franke,
On What Cannot Be Said, Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature, and
the Arts, vol. 1. Classic Formulations (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press,
2007). See also Richard Gale, Mysticism and Philosophy, Journal of Philosophy 57
(1960): 47181; Walter Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1961);
Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, ed. Steven Katz (London: Sheldon, 1978); Jerome
Gellman, Mystical Experience of God: a Philosophical Enquiry (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2001).
30
See Henny F. Hagg, Clement of Alexandria and the Beginning of Christian Apophaticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 15962; Calabi, ed., Arrhetos Theos.
31
3
 3 9 
: Enneads 5.3.14.
32
On Procluss use of silence and negative theology in the approach to the One see Mark
Edwards, Image, Word and God in the Early Christian Centuries (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2013), 16567 ; also Carlos Steel, Beyond the Principle of Contradiction? Proclus Parmenides and the Origin of Negative Theology, in Die Logik der Transzendentalen, ed.
Martin Pickave (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), 58199.
33
Plotinus Enneads 6.9.4; 5.3.10.4344. On Plotinus Intellect as one and many see now
Alexandrine Scnhiewind, Le statut des objets intelligibles chez Alexandre dAphrodise
et Plotin, in Plato Revived. Essays on Ancient Platonism in Honour of Dominic J.
OMeara, eds. Filip Karfk & Euree Song (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), 2740: here 3637.

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Union with the One must therefore escape the duality of knowledge
and expression.34 It is especially noteworthy that Plotinus in this connection
shows the awareness of the following tension on the cognitive and communicative plane. The One cannot be expressed or even thought, since this
immediately implies a duality and multiplicity, but the philosopher, nevertheless, does speak of it. He or she does so not in a positive or assertive way,
but by way of indication, to give hints to those who want to contemplate:
The One cannot be said or writtenand nevertheless we speak
and write, to lead people toward it [ 6  ] and to
awaken them from the slumber of words / reasonings to the wake
of contemplation [" 
 *  ], as
though we indicated the way [= ; ] to those
who want to contemplate.35
This methodological statement by Plotinus is also fundamental to keep the
mystical union with the One (which he is going to describe) within the
realm and scope of philosophy. Union with the One thus becomes a kind of
apophatic culmination of the theological branch of philosophy. At the same
time, Plotinus likely wanted to mark the distinction between this union at
the limit of philosophy and any such experience promoted by mystery religions. Plotinuss philosophical theology is notoriously different from later
Neoplatonists religious-theurgical drift. Olympiodorus classified Proclus,
together with his inspirers Iamblichus and Syrianus, among the religious
exponents of Neoplatonism, as opposed to the philosophical exponents
such as Plotinus and Porphyry: Some, such as Plotinus, Porphyry, etc.,
give priority to philosophy; others, such as Iamblichus, Syrianus, Proclus,
and the whole priestly school, give priority to the priestly art, >.36
For Plotinus the One cannot be known intellectually (by the intuitive
intellect,
), let alone reached by means of a discursive approach
(through 2 or discursive reason), but can be contemplated in ecstasy.
At the epistemological level, this difference is decisive. Philosophical discourse on God, on the supreme Principle (the One), is a hint to mystical
union with God. Humans cannot gaze at God, neither with their physical
nor with their intellectual sight, but they can experience God in another
way: in a mystical experience. This is an ecstasy, a mystical union:
Nelson Pike, Mystic Union: An Essay in the Phenomenology of Mysticism (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1992).
35
Plotinus Enneads 6.9.4.
36
Damascius, Commentary on Platos Phaedo 1.172.
34

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The comprehension [] of the One can be attained neither


through science [' ] nor through intellection [#
], as in the case of the other intelligible beings, but thanks
to a presence [# ] that means more than science
[ ]. . . . The One is present [7].37
This reception, which is meta-cognitive proper, is called by Plotinus
, trust/faith, a term which in Plotinus receives a much more positive
connotation than in Plato. Indeed, Plato ranked  with 6 (representation, apprehension through shadows, conjecture) at the lower tiers
of knowledge, far inferior to discursive reason (2) and intuitive intellect (
). However, Plotinuss  bears a different sense than
Christian , faith.38 This act of meta-cognitive comprehension for
Plotinus is not an epistemic possession, which, as has been pointed out,
would immediately imply dualism and separation. Rather, it is the action
of receiving the One as present, in an authentic union:
It will be sufficient to be able to touch it in an intelligible way
[
 2] [. . .] Only later will it be possible to reflect
[] on it. But in that instant it is necessary to believe
[] that one has seen it [. . .] it is necessary to think that it
is present [ @]39
This presence of the One in trust/faith allows the human subject to
touch it (2). This touching is something better and greater
than knowing it or 6, the verb that expresses the cognitive grasping
of objects.40 This experience can be done only by means of abstraction from
everything else. Indeed,  2, remove everything, is Plotinuss
Plotinus Enneads 6.9.4. Kevin Corrigan, Solitary Mysticism in Plotinus, Proclus,
Gregory of Nyssa, and the Pseudo-Dionysius, Journal of Religion 76 (1996): 2842; cf.
Curtis L. Hancock, Negative Theology in Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, ed. R.T. WallisJ. Bregman (Albany: State University of New
York Press, 1992), 16786. Also Raoul Mortley, From Word to Silence, I, The Rise and
Fall of Logos; II, The Way of Negation, Christian and Greek (Bonn: Hanstein, 1986);
John Peter Kenney, Ancient Apophatic Theology, in Gnosticism and Later Platonism:
Themes, Figures, and Texts, eds. John Turner and Ruth Majercik (Atlanta: SBL, 2000),
25975.
38
On classical and Christian notions and terminology of faith see Ilaria Ramelli,
Alcune osservazioni su credere, Maia 51 (2000): 6783; and Ramelli, Studi su Fides
(Madrid: Signifer, 2002).
39
Plotinus Enneads 5.3.17.
40
Ibid. 6.6.
37

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most famous injunction.41 A less pithy and more thoroughly motivated


expression of this principle is found in Enneads 6.9.7.921. Here Plotinus
warns that it is impossible to grasp [
] the One until in the soul
there is the impression [] of something else. Therefore, in order to
contemplate the One, the soul must leave all external realities [2

 9 "] and turn entirely toward its interiority [



  A 2] . . . after giving up knowing everything ["
# 2], first sense-perceptible objects and then the intelligible forms
themselves, one should forget even the knowledge of oneself ["
3 * 1 ]. The negation of all knowledge and the abstraction from all
objects of knowledge bring the soul toward the One in a theology that is
negative in that it draws on such a negation and abstraction. Forgetting
even the knowledge of oneself is the peak of this abstractive process; Christian mystics will build on this and conceive mysticism as a self-offering.42
Abstraction was indicated already in Middle Platonism, by Alcinous,
as a way that leads to some knowledge of God on a par with the analogical
way.43 These would later be labeled via negationis and via analogiae respectively. Likewise Plutarch and Clement of Alexandria presented abstraction
as a way to contemplationClement in particular as a means to ascend to
the first Intellect, N
.44 Porphyry would follow his teacher Plotinus with
regard to abstraction.45
Indeed, for Plotinus the One is present in silence. Since the One has no
existence (  12), one must stop any rational investigation into it
and be silent.46 The One is the silence that remains after the removal of
the Difference that necessarily exists between the subject and the object of
Ibid. 3.17; cf. 6.7.36; 6.8.21.
James Wetzel, What the Saints Know: Quasi-Epistemological Reflections, in The
Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism, ed. Julia Lamm (Oxford: WileyBlackwell, 2013), 55061: There is no conceivable knowledge of God that is not a selfoffering. The inconceivable part is what we receive in return (560). On epistemological
approaches to mysticism: Steven Katz, Language, Epistemology, and Mysticism, in
Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, ed. Steven Katz (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1978), 2274; William Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious
Experience (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991); Michael Stoeber, Constructivist
Epistemologies of Mysticism: A Critique and a Revision, Religious Studies 28 (1992):
10716; Keith Yandell, The Epistemology of Religious Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Evan Fales, Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles (New York: Routledge, 2010).
43
Alcinous Teaching 165.1718 H.
44
Plutarch Platonic Questions 3.10011002B; Clement of Alexandria Strom. 5.71.2.
45
Porphyry Sentences Leading to Intelligible Realities 40.
46
  ", *  " 4 4
 74  3 9 :
Plotinus Enneads 6.8.11.1.
41
42

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thinking.47 Silence, like darkness, is the metaphor for the meta-cognitive


experience of the divine that Plotinus postulates. For both imply the negation of any epistemic experience and expressionnot, however, to preclude
any experience of the divine at all, but rather to open the door to a metaepistemic experience, to point to it, as Plotinus himself says.
V. ORIGEN OF ALEXANDRIA
Origen was a fellow-student of Plotinus at Ammonius Saccass school in
Alexandria, and he can probably be identified with the homonymous Neoplatonist mentioned by Porphyry in the Life of Plotinus, by Proclus, and by
other Neoplatonists.48 Like Philo the Jew, Origen the Christian supported
the thesis of the incomprehensibility of Gods nature or essence on the epistemic plane, and the possibility for humans to know only Gods works and
activities (9 and ):
In the limits of our scarce forces, we have known the divine nature
[divina natura] by considering it more from its works [ex operum
suorum contemplatione] than through our cognitive capacity [ex
nostri sensu contemplatione]. We have observed its visible creatures and have known by faith those invisible, because human
frailty [humana fragilitas] cannot see everything with its eyes and
know everything with its reason [ratione complecti]. For the
human being is the weakest and most imperfect among all rational
beings.49
T 3  , B' 4C
 * . FH # "4   , G
: Enneads 5.1.4.39.
48
Strong arguments for this identification in Pier Franco Beatrice, Porphyrys Judgment
on Origen, in Origeniana, vol. 5, Historica, Text and Method, Biblica, Philosophica,
Theologica, Origenism and Later Developments, ed. Robert J. Daly (Leuven: Peeters,
1992), 35167; Beatrice, Origen in Nemesius Treatise On the Nature of Man, in Origeniana, vol. 9, Origen and the Religious Practice of His Time, ed. Gyorgy Heidl and
Robert Somos (Leuven: Peeters, 2009), 531; Thomas Bohm, OrigenesTheologe und
(Neu-) Platoniker? Oder: Wem soll man misstrauen: Eusebius oder Porphyrius? Adamantius 8 (2002): 723; Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian
Platonism: Re-Thinking the Christianisation of Hellenism, Vigiliae Christianae 63
(2009): 21763; Ramelli, Origen the Christian Middle/Neoplatonist, Journal of Early
Christian History 1 (2011): 98130. On the same line most recently, see Elizabeth
DePalma Digeser, A Threat to Public Piety: Christians, Platonists, and the Great Persecution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2012), 4971.
49
Origen On First Principles 2.6.1. Regrettably, very little is devoted to Origen in Bogdan
Bucur, Mysticism in the Pre-Nicene Era? in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to
Christian Mysticism, ed. Julia Lamm (Malden-Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 13346.
Morealbeit with a different perspective than in the present essayin John Dillon, The
47

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There is something that is precluded to human sight: Gods nature. In


his Commentary on the Gospel of John 19.6.3538, in a passage that will
exert a strong influence on Gregory of Nyssa, Origen claims that Gods
nature and power ( and )50 are even beyond being ().
Thus, humans cannot reach them: they cannot see and observe (;
 )
or contemplate () or perceive () them, but barely peer
at () them. This is precisely a verb for a difficult object of observation, be it physical or intellectual sight (i.e. cognitive faculty).
According to Origen, the Godhead cannot be known by human reason,51 and yet it is mysteriously intelligible, intelligible thanks to an ineffable power or faculty ("  4 2 ), even though it
transcends everything.52 In particular, God transcends being or  and
intellect or
,53 but at the same time is also the supreme Being.54 Indeed,
only the invisible and incorporeal nature ( " * "7)
of God is Being in the fullest and most proper sense.55 Every other being is
a being, an , exclusively by virtue of participation in the Being that is
God.56
Origen felt the need to maintain the identity between God and the
absolute Being because of Exod. 3:14, which in the Septuagint reads: 7
6 ; I, I am the One who Is. This, from the biblical side; but he also
wanted to stick to Platos identification of the Being and the Good. The
divinity is the Good and the Being, while evil, its opposite, is non-being.
This idea will return in Gregory of Nyssa and other Christian Platonists
such as Evagrius, Ps. Dionysius, and Maximus the Confessor. Origen, for
instance, declares that evils are not substances / beings.57 Unlike creatures, which are good insofar as they participate in the Good, the divinity
is the Good. It is the Good itself,  a Numenian termby
essence.58 God is the absolute Good, the Good per se.
Knowledge of God in Origen, in Knowledge of God in the Graeco-Roman World, ed.
John Dillon and Jaap Mansfeld (Leiden: Brill, 1988), 21928.
50
Gods essence/nature and power also appear coupled in Origens Commentary on the
Gospel of John 20.24.207.
51
Origen Against Celsus 6.65.
52
2 : ibid., 7.45.
53
Ibid., 6.64; 7.38.
54
: ibid., 6.64 and On First Principles 1.3.5.
55
 : Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John 20.18.159; cf. invisible
and incorporeal essence,  " * "7 said of God in Origen Against
Celsus 6.71.
56
Origen, Against Celsus 6.64.
57
 9  # 2: Origen, Philoc. 24.4.
58
' : Origen Selected Passages from the Exegesis of the Book of Numbers,
Patrologia Graeca 12.577D.

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If God is the absolute Good, Origen deduces that Gods power


() must also be good and Gods operation or activity ()
manifests itself in the goodness of the divine creation and divine Providence.59 That essence, power, and activity in God must be considered in a
unitary way was also Iamblichuss view,60 on the pagan side of Neoplatonism. Iamblichus knew Origens thought and seems to have been influenced by it in various respects, as is emerging from ongoing research.
After speaking of the epistemic process of deducing Gods essence on
the basis of Gods activity and works in creation, Origen describes God as
a Monad and Henad (a unity) in On First Principles 1.1.6. Since God is
an intelligible nature and not material or corporeal, Origen argues, the
Godhead is simple [intellectualis natura simplex]; absolutely nothing can
be added to it . . . but it is a Monad [2] in an absolute sense, and, so
to say, a Henad [2]: intelligence and spring from which every intelligence
gushes out. This passage is extant in Rufinus of Aquileias Latin translation, but it is noteworthy that Rufinus chose to leave Origens original
Greek terms for monad and henad, without translating them. This is
probably because he considered them to be technical terms. Thus, in Origens view, the Godhead is the principle of everything, and therefore we
must not deem it composite. This absolute simplicity takes God away from
the grasp of human knowledge, just as it does the One according to Plotinus, as has been pointed out above.
Consistent with this, in On First Principles 1.1.5 Origen illustrates the
excellence and cognitive incomprehensibility of the Godhead, who is
incomprehensible and impenetrable in its reality. Every human thought is
inevitably inferior to, and cannot grasp, the Godhead itself, just as a spark
is infinitely inferior to the splendor of the sun. So is human intelligence
inferior to the intellectual and spiritual realities, and these in turn are
inferior to God. God is superior to all of these, ineffably and inestimably
excellent. This is a development of the Platonic metaphysical model of transcendence.

VI. GREGORY OF NYSSA


Gregory of Nyssa, the youngest and most philosophically minded of the
Cappadocian Fathers, is the most insightful follower of Origen and the
59
60

Origen On First Principles 2.9.1; 3.5.2; 4.4.8.


Iamblichus On Mysteries 1.5.18.

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greatest Patristic Platonist along with Origen himself and Augustine of


Hippo. His reflections on apophaticism are marked by a profound influence
of Philo and, above all, of Origen and Plotinus. Indeed, he was very well
acquainted with the works and thought of all of these Platonists.
In his Homilies on Ecclesiastes Gregory interprets Ecclesiastes 3:7 (a
verse concerning a time to speak and a time to be silent) as follows: The
time to be silent is when one wants to investigate the nature of God,
whereas the time to speak is when one wants to announce the wonders of
his works.61 Like Plotinus, Gregory thinks that the very essence or nature
of God is impossible to express and must lie in silence. In Against Eunomius
2.1.105, Gregory declares that divine realities, which exceed both word
and discursive thought [# 13 * 2], must be honored with silence (4

 ). What can be grasped cognitively and
can therefore be expressed is Gods activity in the world, first of all the
Creation.62 Like Plotinus, Philo, and Origen, indeed, Gregory maintains
that Gods nature or essence () is known only in the impossibility of
being understood [
]. 63 This is why Gregory, for instance,
in his dialogue On the Soul and the Resurrectionan intentional Christian
remake of Platos Phaedo64 uses a great many negative adjectives in reference to God. For example, God is invisible, unspeakable, impossible to
define, incorporeal, immaterial, impalpable, unlimited, non-dimensional,
and Gods essence is inaccessible. Gods essence is a precluded cognitive
object, and its characteristics must be inferred by analogy; its existence is
revealed by the contemplation of the world (Psalm 18:2: The heavens are
telling of divine glory, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork).
Like Plotinus, in fact, Gregory maintains that only by analogy can God
be known, and this to a very limited extent. In his Homilies on the Song of
Songs Gregory remarks that, since Gods infinite nature is inaccessible to
human minds, we must proceed by conjecture. We must start from our
knowledge of the world, and try to represent to ourselves the incomprehensible by means of what we can comprehend, on the basis of a certain
analogy.65
Gregorii Nysseni Opera 5 p. 414.
Especially on Gregory of Nyssa see also Philipp Renczes, The Patristic Notion of
Divine Grace on the Horizon of Apophatic Theology, in Silenzio e parola nella patristica (Rome: Augustinianum, 2012), 3953.
63
Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius 1.373.
64
On this dialogue, with commentary, see Ilaria Ramelli, Gregorio di Nissa Sullanima
e la resurrezione (Milan: BompianiCatholic University, 2007); reviews by Panayiotis
Tzamalikos, Vigiliae Christianae 62 (2008): 51523; and Mark Edwards, Journal of
Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009): 76465.
65
9 ": Gregorii Nysseni Opera 6.3638.
61
62

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The infinity of God is a crucial point in Gregory of Nyssas negative


theology, and this point partially depends on Plotinus.66 The latter, as demonstrated earlier, used the following double argument: not only that the
One cannot be grasped intellectually because it is infinite, but also that it is
infinite because its power cannot be grasped or encompassed. The same
argument is repeated by Gregory of Nyssa, who draws on both Plotinus
and Origen on this score: the divinity is impossible to grasp precisely
because it is infinite.67 Gods nature is consequently impossible to touch
and conceive (", " ), and it is superior to any grasp
["] provided by reasoning.68
Gregory, like Plotinus (and Philo), ascribed infinity to Godbut not to
evil. Only what is contrary to Beauty and the Good is limited, whereas
the Good, whose nature is not susceptible of evil, will progress toward the
unlimited and infinite.69 Gregory thus posited God as , and evil as
limited, in that it is the opposite of God. It is not to be ruled out that
Gregory was consciously correcting Plotinus, who, in turn following
Plato, described as  both absolute evil and the One.70 Gregory
probably realized that, if evil is  and the One / Good / Godhead too
is , there is not enough opposition between the two, which therefore risk telescoping into one another.
Gregory of Nyssas apophatic theologythe awareness that the divinity in itself can be known and spoken of only in negative termsrefers
to the specific area of Gods transcendence. Gods nature or essence
( or ), infinite as it is, cannot be known, whereas Gods activities or operations () can be known and spoken of. This is the
same line as Philos and Origens. In his treatise To Ablabius: There Are
Not Three Gods, Gregory states that names do not reveal Gods nature,
what the Godhead is in its essence, since this is unnamable and ineffable (" * ). Rather, names describe something of what pertains to it (literally: what is about/around it [*
Although the connection with Plotinus is not investigated, the centrality of Gods infinity to Gregorys apophaticism is caught by Ari Ojell, The Constitutive Elements of the
Apophatic System of Gregory of Nyssa, in Studia Patristica, vol. 41, eds. Frances Young,
Mark Edwards, and Sarah Parvis (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), 397402; and Robert Brightman, Apophatic Theology and Divine Infinity in St. Gregory of Nyssa, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 18 (1973): 97114.
67
Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius 1.6668.
68
Ibid., 2.158, with the very same terminology as used by Plotinus.
69
  " * "  " : Gregory of Nyssa
On the Soul and the Resurrection 97AB.
70
Plotinus Enneads 1.8.9.
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]: an idea pointed out above in Plotinus and very well known to
Gregory). Now, this something does not at all indicate what divine
nature is in its essence [' ].71
The divinity, invisible in its nature, becomes visible in its works, and
can thus be understood by human intellects in some respects concerning its
nature (literally, again: about/around it [* ]). Here, too, Gregory relies not only on Plotinus, but also on Origen, Against Celsus 6.65,
who used in a similar sense the expression what is around/about, #
. This phrase in turn was already employed by Clement of Alexandria,
between the second and the third century ce, in a passage that deals precisely with the abstractive process in the human cognitive grasp of God.72
Origen elaborated on the same concept and expression in Commentary on
the Gospel of John 13.21.124: it is possible to find in Scripture clues to say
something () regarding Gods nature or essence, * 
.
The same concept and expression is also found in Plotinus, in Enneads
5.3.14: the One is ineffable,   , because to say something about it
is, after all, to say something, , but the One is not merely some thing,
that is, a thing among all others. The very same idea and expression will be
found again in another Origenian, a milestone in Christian apophaticism: the early sixth-century Neoplatonist called Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite, who was deeply influenced by Proclus.73
Gregory specifically follows Philo in his interpretation of Exod. 20:21,
the passage in which Moses enters the darkness where God is.74 Like Philo
and Origen after him, Gregory draws a distinction between Gods essence
or nature, unknowable, and Gods existence, knowable and actually
known. He draws the same connection as Philo did between Exod. 20:21
(Moyses went into the darkness where God was) and Psalm 17:12 (He
made darkness his hideaway; around him was his tent, dark water in clouds
of air) in reference to the very same allegorical interpretation of the cognitive inaccessibility of Gods nature. Now, this connection had already been
Gregorii Nysseni Opera 3/1.4243.
Clement of Alexandria Miscellany 5.11.71.3.
73
Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite Heavenly Hierarchy 2.3. On his negative theology I limit
myself to referring to the most recent work, Charles Stang, Apophasis and Pseudonymity
in Dionysius the Areopagite: No longer I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). On
Ps. Dionysius in the tradition of Christian mysticism see Andrew Louth, The Origins
of the Christian Mystical Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); cf. Louth,
Mysticism: Name and Thing, Archaeus 9 (2005): 921; Bernard McGinn, The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. 1. The Foundations of
Mysticism (New York: Crossroad, 1991); McGinn, ed., The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (New York: Modern Library, 2006).
74
Gregory of Nyssa The Life of Moses 1.47 and 2.110.
71
72

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established by Origen.75 Gregory very probably depends on Origen on this


score; indeed he often reads Philo through Origen.76 Centuries later, the
same connection will appear again in a classical text of mystical tradition
such as the Cloud of Unknowing.77
Gregory, in The Life of Moses 2.219255 draws on Philo once more
in his allegorical exegesis of Exod. 33:2023, where God says to Moses
that he will be unable to see his face, but he will only see his back. Philo, as
already indicated, referred this passage to Gods unknowability in The Special Laws 1.32.50, and so does Gregory. Gregory indeed follows Philo in
his exegesis of Exod. 33:23 in reference to apophaticism, and, in this case
just as in many others,78 he follows him through the lenses of Origen. Gregory observes that this episode must be interpreted allegorically, since it has
no literal meaning, because it speaks of the back of God. This entails a
notion of corporeality, and therefore an anthropomorphism, which is
absurd in reference to God. God has no back, since God has no body whatsoever. God is incorporeal: this is a tenet of Platonismagainst Stoicism
and Epicureanism, for instance.
On the same grounds Philo also denied any anthropomorphic feature
in God, but Gregorys argument and terminology evidently stick to Origens theory of Scriptural allegoresis in On First Principles 4. Here the
absurdities at the literal level of Scripture (" and , things
that are impossible and illogical according to Aristotelian literary-critic
terminology79) are said to reveal that the passages that include them cannot
be interpreted literally, but must be understood allegorically. Exactly divine
anthropomorphismsthe attribution of human or material characteristics
to Godsuch as the notion of the back of God are a kind of absurdity
that Origen adduced as a reason to reject the literal meaning of a biblical
passage and interpret it allegorically. The notion of Gods face is of course
no less anthropomorphic than that of Gods back, but Philo, Origen, and
Gregory tend not to choose this as an example of blatant anthropomorphism. All of them, however, do interpret both Gods face and Gods back
allegorically.
Origen Against Celsus 6.17; Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.172; and Fragments
from the Exegesis of the Gospel of Luke 162.
76
This has been argued in Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis.
77
On this tradition see e.g. Denys Turner, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian
Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
78
As is demonstrated in Ramelli, Philosophical Allegoresis.
79
Aristotle inquired into " in literature, especially myth, in Poetics 1460ab. See
N. J. Richardson, Aristotles Reading of Homer, in Homers Ancient Readers, ed. Robert Lamberton and John Keeney (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 3040.
75

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There are further proofs of how Gregory did know Philos exegesis of
a biblical passage, but decided to keep closer to Origens exegesis of that
passage. Gregory links Exod. 33:23 (interpreted as an exhortation to follow
God) with Deut. 13:4, which speaks of walking after God, and with
Psalm 62:9, about sticking to the back of God. The same connection had
been drawn by Origen.80 Gregory, on the other hand, chose not to interpret
the words my back, what is behind me in an eschatological sense.81 In
so doing he left aside the eschatological exegesis of those wordsperhaps
to be traced back to Philo, On Flight 165: what comes after and followswhich Origen knew and developed.82
In the second of Gregory of Nyssas Homilies on the Song of Songs,
the soul, personified as a character in a dialogue, addresses God as follows:
Your Name is beyond any other name and is inexpressible and incomprehensible to any rational being. Likewise in Homily 6: How is it possible
that the One who is beyond every name be found by means of the pronunciation of a name? Indeed, the divine, from the point of view of its
nature, is ungraspable / untouchable ["] and incomprehensible
[" ] . . . ineffable [  ] and inaccessible ["] to
reasoning.83 This is why we know only its existence, and not its essence.84
This is what Philo also maintained, as has been remarked above.
In his sixth Homily on the Beatitudes, Gregory insists that the divine
nature, in what it is per se, is beyond any thought that can comprehend it,
inaccessible and unapproachable to every conjectural intuition. Likewise
in Against Eunomius 2.67ff. he illustrates the impossibility of grasping
intellectually and expressing the divine substance. He does so by interpreting the migration of Abraham as an allegory of the souls ascent to the One,
that is to say, the Plotinian One identified by Gregory with God the Trinity.85 Gregory explains that from knowledge based on sense-perception,
symbolized by Chaldaean wisdom, one can pass on to the intelligible
realm by analogy. Abrahams first acquisition is negative knowledge of God
and the awareness that Gods nature is unknowable:
Origen Fragments from the Exegesis of Psalms, Patrologia Graeca 12.1489B.
# ( : Exod. 33:23.
82
See Origen, Homily on Psalm 36.4: posteriora mea  quae in novissimis temporibus
implebuntur, my back / what is behind me  what will take place in the eschatological
times, at the end of all; Commentary on the Song of Songs 3.4; Homilies on Jeremiah
16.24; On First Principles 2.4.3.
83
Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius 2, Gregorii Nysseni Opera 1.26566.
84
Ibid., 24748.
85
Ibid., 8496.
80
81

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Ramelli The Divine in Ancient Platonism

In relation to the concepts [1], he went through every


representation [6] of its nature coming from names, purified
his own rational faculty from such suppositions [1 ], and
received a faith that is absolutely pure from every notion [9].
Then he considered it a sure and clear clue of the knowledge of
God to believe that the Godhead is beyond every sign that provides
its knowledge.86
In Gregorys Homilies on the Song of Songs negative and positive theology intermingle,87 after the model of Origens commentary on the Song
of Songs. In the twelfth homily Gregory hammers home and further develops the same apophatic thesis:
As for what always turns out to be beyond any impression that
can reveal it, how could it ever be understood by means of an
indication included in this or that name? This is why the soul
excogitates every meaning of names, in order to indicate that inexpressible Good, but every discursive capacity of reasoning is
always defeated and declared inferior to the object that it is looking for. This is why the soul says: I have called him as I could,
excogitating words that indicate its inexpressible beatitude, but he
was always superior to the indication suggested by their meanings. The same experience often happens to the great David as
well, who invokes God with an infinity of names, and yet recognizes that he has remained inferior to the truth.
For Gregory, just as for Philo, by means of names we can only say
how God is (
 ), and not what God is [ ].88 Divine names
are established by humans on the basis of each of the divine activities
[] that we know89; the divine is denominated with different
appellatives which refer to its manifold activities.90 Indeed, the divinity,
Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 2.89.
This is noted by Martin Laird, Apophasis and Logophasis in Gregory of Nyssas Commentarius in Canticum Canticorum, in Studia Patristica, vol. 37, ed. M. F. Wiles and
E. J. Yarnold (Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 12632; more broadly Laird, Gregory of Nyssa
and the Grasp of Faith. Union, Knowledge, and Divine Presence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
88
 : To Ablabius Gregorii Nysseni Opera 3/1.56.
89
Ibid., 3/1.44
90
Against Eunomius Gregorii Nysseni Opera 1.315.
86
87

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JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS APRIL 2014

who is invisible in its nature, becomes visible in its activities.91 Per se,
God transcends every movement of our mind or 2, the discursive
mind.92 That is to say, the divinity is an inaccessible cognitive object.

VII. CONCLUSION
The notion of the divine as an inaccessible object of human thought and
reasoning is very similar in these philosopher-theologiansPhilo, Plotinus,
Origen, and Gregorywho belonged to the same Platonic philosophical
tradition, but to three different religious traditions. The similarity of their
reflections on the divine as an inaccessible epistemic object for humans,
which can nevertheless be experienced in a meta-cognitive way, seems due
to their common philosophical tradition.
Most interestingly, all of these thinkers show a tension between the
apophaticism they declarerepeatedly proclaiming that the divine is an
impossible object of human thought and languageand the discourse
about the divine (-) that none of them gives up developing. In
order to be able to say something of the divine, notwithstanding all, they
pursue the strategy of differentiation. That is, they establish that the
divines intimate nature or essence is inaccessible, and indeed does not offer
itself as a cognitive object, but that the divine manifests itself in its effects.
For Philo, Origen, and Gregory, moreover, the divine manifests itself
through Scripture. Unlike Plotinus, they considered the Bible to be the revelation of the divinity. However, Plotinus also postulated a direct access to
the divine, not through a cognitive, intellectual process, but through the
mystical experience, which allows one to touch what one cannot see
with the eyes of the body or of the soul. This possibility, too, was admitted
both by Philo and by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa. Philosophical discourse
about the divine, theo-logy, is thus described by Plotinus as an indication, a hint, that points to the mystical, non-dualistic experience of an
object (God) that, qua object of knowledge and therefore qua epistemic
object, is inaccessible.
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and Durham University.

91
92

On the Beatitudes Gregorii Nysseni Opera 7/2.141.


Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 2, Gregorii Nysseni Opera 1.397.

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Niketas Siniossoglou, Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the
Hellenic Intellectual Resistance
Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the Hellenic
Intellectual Resistance by Niketas Siniossoglou,
Review by: IlariaL.E.Ramelli
The Journal of Religion, Vol. 89, No. 3 (July 2009), pp. 413-415
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/600260 .
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Book Reviews
SINIOSSOGLOU, NIKETAS. Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the Hellenic Intellectual Resistance. Cambridge Classical
Studies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. xi267 pp. $95.00
(cloth).
This volume makes a significant contribution to the history of Platonism as
well as to religious studies. According to Niketas Siniossoglou, the late-antique
conflict between pagan and Christian Neoplatonists (for these categories, see
my Gregorio di Nissa Sullanima e la resurrezione [Milan, 2007]) was not between
paganism and Christianity but between the Hellenic and the Judaeo-Christian
intellectual paradigms (xi). One aspect was a conflict of interpretations over
Plato. Theodorets Curatiowhich, I would observe, does not represent the
whole range of Christian attitudes toward Platonism but argues in favor of its
assimilation within Christianityoffered a rhetorical and disruptive reading of
Plato, as opposed to the pagan Neoplatonists philosophical and unitary exegesis. Theodorets unitary and allegorical biblical exegesissimilar to Origens
in these respects, I would sayis rightly contrasted with his reading of Plato:
he refused to apply the same hermeneutics to Plato and Scripture. Indeed,
only a nonunitary Platonic exegesis could claim, for example, that Plato believed in a creation of the world 


. Both Christians like
Theodoret and pagan Neoplatonists like Porphyry claimed exclusivity in allegorical interpretation of Scripture and myths, respectively. Thus, as Siniossoglou observes, while interpreting Plato, Theodoret disregarded a fundamental
rule of Neoplatonic and Philonic (and, I would add, Origenian) exegesis: that
inconsistencies are meant precisely to exhort readers to transcend the literal
interpretation (148).
Siniossoglou remarks that Theodoret was not interested in Platos philosophy per se, but as a tool: thus, he appropriated, rearranged, and even rewrote
and falsified Platos texts (often drawn from Eusebiuss Praeparatio Evangelica
and Clements Stromateis). This, indeed, can be shown to be literary forgery
on the basis of specific criteria that were known and established in the ancient
and late antique world (20). Indeed, Theodorets strategy of appropriating
Platos texts against the pagan Neoplatonists resembles that of Christian testimonia adversus Judaeos (13), for which I refer the reader to Martin Albl (And
Scripture Cannot Be Broken [Leiden, 1999] and Pseudo-Gregory of Nyssa: Testimonia
against the Jews [Atlanta, 2004]). Like other Christian apologists, Theodoret
was interested in the Platonic lexis rather than Platos nous (23). This is the
reverse of what Sophonias, the Christian commentator on Aristotle, regarded
as a good exegesis, and I deem it no accident that in an unpublished melete
on Pauls Athenian speech, which of course Siniossoglou could not have mentioned, Sophonias displays a good acquaintance with the best of patristic philosophy. Differently from Theodoret, I would like to remark, Origen took from
Greek philosophy not only useful quotationsas he perhaps did in his lost
Stromateisbut also the very structure of his philosophical masterpiece (see my
Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism, Vigiliae Christianae
[2009], forthcoming). Of course he, the best patristic philosopher along with
Nyssen, belonged to a different age than Theodorets, was a fellow disciple of
Plotinus at Ammoniuss, and in my view may even be identified with the homonymous Neoplatonist. Inside Christianity there was a drift, unmentioned by
Siniossoglou, against appropriating philosophy: Origen had to justify himself
before such Christians, and Justinianwho, as Siniossoglou mentions, had the

413

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The Journal of Religion


Athenian Platonic School closedis the same ruler who had what he assumed
to be Origens thought condemned.
According to Siniossoglou, Theodorets disruption of Platos works and
thought parallels his attempt at disrupting the Platonic tradition: in order to
claim that the Christians were the true heirs of Plato, who in turn was inspired
by Moses, he had to maintain that the pagan Neoplatonists contemporary with
him were betraying Platos thought. From the theological point of view, they
apostatized from Platos, Numeniuss, and Plotinuss monotheism. Assuming
the pagan Neoplatonists perspective, Siniossoglou remarks that they could accuse Christianity of replacing the cult of gods with that of saintsoverlooking
the difference between veneration and divine worship, I thinkand pagan
oracles with Jewish prophecies.
As Jeremy Schott has emphasized in a study that Siniossoglou could not have
cited (Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity [Philadelphia, 2008]), Celsus and Porphyry contested Christian claims that Christianity
was the ancient universal wisdom, the Ur-theology, and insisted that it was
culturally specific and grounded in a bunch of barbarian texts, culturally marginal and hiding no philosophical truth. Eusebius counterclaimed that Christianity transcended historical and ethnic-geographical boundaries and was culturally universal, while he presented Greek philosophical practice as merely
another native barbarism (137). Siniossoglou carefully analyzes Julians counterattempt to dismiss Christian Hellenism as pseudo-Hellenism (59) because
it was illegitimate to isolate Hellenic religion from Hellenic culture and the
imperial political reality. Theodoret overtly criticized this position.
Siniossoglou does not contend that only Platonists [sc. pagan Middle/Neoplatonists] may interpret Plato (26), but he keenly reveals Theodorets tricks
in his exegesis of Plato. Siniossoglou offers an exact analysis of Theodorets
contradictory interpretation of Platos myths, namely, that Plato is 
about metensomatosis but  about the otherworldly judgment. Here,
Siniossoglou identifies the belief in eternal reward or punishment with the
Christian belief (184). However, in the first four centuries, as Basil also remarked, many Christian philosophers, following Origen, Nyssen, and Evagrius,
supported apokatastasis (vs. eternal punishment) and the exclusively purifying
function of punishment, which Siniossoglou ascribes only to pagan Neoplatonists (18283). Siniossoglou rightly shows that Theodoret provided a theological justification of slavery, tyranny, and social injustice (217); I have demonstrated that his view is diametrically opposed to Nyssens (Slavery as a
Necessary Evil or as an Evil that Must Be Abolished? paper presented at the
annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting, Boston, November 2125, 2008).
According to Theodoret, Plato anticipated Christian (even Trinitarian!)
monotheism, and Christian asceticism was prefigured by Platos ideal of wisdom. Siniossoglou correctly emphasizes that Hellenic henotheism differs from
Christian monotheism, and Greco-Roman askesis was unlike Christian asceticismalthough, I would like to recall, not all of Christian asceticism is like
that described by Theodoret (monks living in cages, loaded with weights),
which sought not self-control but annihilation of the self and disengagement
from society. Basil criticized such extremes, as Siniossoglou himself observes;
the Cappadocians asceticism is very different and, I think, more nourished
with Origens asceticism, which was not unsocial: Origen taught Christians and
pagans, including women, and was invited by empresses, officials, and communities.

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Book Reviews
This is a valuable and stimulating book, to be recommended. It concerns a
crucial issue, Christianity and Greek philosophy in late antiquity, which deserves further careful investigation and reflection.
ILARIA L. E. RAMELLI, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan.
JOHNSON HODGE, CAROLINE. If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity
in the Letters of Paul. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. xi246 pp.
$45.00 (cloth).
Caroline Johnson Hodge asserts that Paul does not present Jews and Gentiles
who follow Jesus as a universal people with no ethnic identity; rather, Paul
values Jewish ethnicity as that of a people chosen by God, and he values gentile
believers in Jesus as people who are related to Abraham.
In her first chapter Johnson Hodge notes that in the first-century Mediterranean world, You are your ancestors (19). She discusses how kinship is
viewed as simultaneously natural and changeable. She signals where the book
is headed by stating that Paul constructs a new heritage for the gentiles by
plugging them into the lineage of Abraham (21). Johnson Hodge suggests
that there are four ways that kinship can be constructed: by blood relationship,
adoption, the reworking of genealogy, and a relationship based on being of
the same mind or spirit (42). These four ways serve as the main ideas of chapters 36.
Before discussing the ways that kinship is constructed, however, she sets up
in chapter 2 what she considers to be an underlying constant through Pauls
letters: Gentiles are not related to the God of Israel, and so they are in bad
shape as degenerate idolaters (66). She claims that only Paul calls the Jews
as a people the circumcised (60). This is a difficult claim that should be
qualified with Horaces curtis Iudaeis and Juvenals tendency to equate the
Jewish people with the practice of circumcision (Horace, Sat. 1.9.6872; Juvenal, Sat. 14.99, 104).
Chapter 3, Adoption by the Spirit, states that texts such as Rom. 6:18 and
8:1417 and Gal. 4:17 describe mythic, originary moments for gentiles-inChrist, a rebirth as sons and heirs of God (77). Chapter 4, Descendants of
a Faithful Ancestor: Hoi Ek Pisteos, is helpful for its reflection on Pauls
phrasesthose from faith in Gal. 3:7 and the one from Abrahams faith in
Rom. 4:16. Johnson Hodge states that the expression can be translated as
Those whose line of descent springs from faithfulness (80). The chapter as
a whole exemplifies how the subjective genitive reading of pistis Christou fits
with the ethnic/biological model for interpreting Pauls language.
In chapter 5, All the Gentiles Will Be Blessed in You, Johnson Hodge relates Pauls in Christ language to the model of sharing in the traits of ones
ancestors. Since Christ is the seed of Abraham, to be in Christ means to be
a full heir of the blessing promised to Abraham. Illustrative examples for how
people are in their ancestors are drawn from Aristotle, Seneca, Philo, the
writers and translators of Genesis, [and] Paul (106). For Paul, Christ departs
from the Abrahamic paradigm: he is an elder sibling, not an ancestor (103).
Is this an unnecessary dichotomy? In light of Rom. 3:26 and Gal. 3:2326, as
discussed in the Descendants of a Faithful Ancestor chapter, it seems possible
to me that Christ as ancestor is also included in Pauls in Christ language.
Johnson Hodge continues the elder sibling idea in chapter 7 with an exegesis

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