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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

THE Gentile philosophers, themselves, among the Greeks who flourished in the age of Origen, bear witness to his proficiency in these studies, in whose works we find frequent mention made of the man; at one time quoting his own words, at another referring their own labours to his judgment as to a master. Why should we say this, when even Porphyry, who was our contemporary, who wrote books against us, and attempted to slander the sacred writings; when he mentioned those that had expounded them, and, unable to urge any opprobrious censure against the doctrines, for want of argument, turned to reviling, and to slander especially the commentators, is particularly fierce against Origen, saying that he knew him when he was a young man? But, in fact, without knowing it, he commends the man, saying some things in confirmation of the truth when he could not do otherwise, and in other matters uttering falsehoods where he thought he would not be detected. Sometimes he accuses him as a Christian, and sometimes he admires and describes his proficiency in the branches of philosophy. Hear his own words: “But some,” says he, “ambitious rather to find a solution of the absurdities of the Jewish writings than to abandon them, have turned their minds to expositions, inconsistent with themselves, and inapplicable to the writings; which, instead of furnishing a defence of these foreigners, only give us encomiums and remarks in their praise. For boasting of what Moses says plainly in his writings, as if they were dark and intricate propositions, and attaching to them divine influence, as if they were oracles replete with hidden mysteries; and in their vanity pretending to great discrimination of mind, the thus produce their expositions.”

Then, again, he says: “But let us take an example of this absurdity, from the very man whom I happened to meet when I was very young, and who was very celebrated, and is still celebrated by the writings that he has left; I mean Origen, whose glory is very great with the teachers of these doctrines. For this man having been a hearer of Ammonius, who had made the greatest proficiency in philosophy among those of our day, as to knowledge, derived great benefit from his master, but with regard to a correct purpose of life, he pursued a course directly opposite. For Ammonius, being a Christian, had been educated among Christians, by his parents, and when he began to exercise his own understanding, and apply himself to philosophy, he immediately changed his views, and lived according to the laws. But Origen, as a Greek, being educated in Greek literature, declined to this barbarian impudence; to which, also, betaking himself, he both consigned himself and his attainments in learning, living like a Christian, and swerving from the laws; but in regard to his opinions, both of things and the Deity, acting the Greek, and intermingling Greek literature with these foreign fictions. For he was always in company with Plato, and had the works also of Numenius and Cranius, of Apollophanes and Longinus, of Moderatus and Nicomachus, and others whose writings are valued, in his hands. He also read the works of Chæremon, the stoic, and those of Cornutus. From these he derived the allegorical mode of interpretation usual in the mysteries of the Greeks, and applied it to the Jewish Scriptures.”

Such are the assertions made by Porphyry, in the third book of his works, against the Christians, in which he asserts the truth respecting the study and great learning of the man, but also plainly asserts a falsehood (for what would not a man do writing against Christians?) when he says that he went over from the Greeks to the Christians, and that Ammonius apostatised from a life of piety to live like the heathen. For the doctrine of Origen, and his Christian instruction, he derived from his ancestors, as our history has already shown; and Ammonius continued to adhere unshaken, to the end of his days, to the unadulterated principles of the inspired philosophy. This is evident from the labours of the man that are extant, in his written works, which establish his reputation with most men, even at the present day. As, for instance, that work with the title, “The Harmony of Moses and Jesus,” and whatsoever others are found among the learned Let these, therefore, suffice to evince both the calumnies of the false accuser, and also the great proficiency of Origen in the branches of Grecian literature. Respecting this, he defends himself, in an epistle, against the allegations of some who censured him for devoting so much study to them, writing as follows: “But,” says he, “when I had devoted myself wholly to the word, and a fame went abroad concerning my proficiency, as I was sometimes visited by heretics, sometimes by those who were conversant with the studies of the Greeks, especially those that were pursuing philosophy, I was resolved to examine both the opinions of the heretics, and those works of the philosophers which pretend to speak of truth. This we have also done in imitation of Pantænus, by whom so many have been benefited before us, and who was not meanly furnished with erudition like this. In this I have also followed the example of Heraclas, who has now a seat in the presbytery of Alexandria, who I have found persevered five years with a teacher of philosophy before I began to attend to these studies. Wherefore, also, as he had before used a common dress, he threw it aside, and assuming the habit of philosophers, retains it even until now. He also still continues to criticise the works of the Greeks with great diligence.” These remarks were made by Origen, when he defended himself for his application to the study of the Greeks.

About the same time, also, whilst he was staying at Alexandria, a soldier arriving, handed a letter both to Demetrius, the bishop of the place, and to the prefect of Egypt, from the governor of Arabia; the purport of which was that he should send Origen to him, in all haste, in order to communicate to him his doctrine. Wherefore he was sent by them. But, ere long, having finished the objects of his visit, he again returned to Alexandria. Some time after, however, when a considerable war broke out in the city, he made his escape; and not thinking it would be safe to stay in Egypt, came to Palestine, and took up his abode in Cæsarea. There he was also requested by the bishops to expound the sacred Scriptures publicly in the church, although he had not yet obtained the priesthood by the imposition of hands. This might also be shown, from what was written to Demetrius respecting him, by Alexander bishop of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus bishop of Cæsarea, who defended him in the following manner:— “He has added (i. e. Demetrius) to his letter, that this was never before either heard or done, that laymen should deliver discourses in the presence of the bishops. I know not how it happens that he is here evidently so far from the truth. For, indeed, wheresoever there are found those qualified to benefit the brethren, these are exhorted by the holy bishops to address the people. Thus at Laranda, Euelpis was exhorted by Neon, and at Iconium, Paulinus by Celsus, and at Synada, Theodore by Atticus, our blessed brethren. It is also probable, that this has happened in other places, but we know not that it has.” In this way the selfsame Origen was honoured, when yet a young man, not only by his own familiar friends, but also by bishops abroad. But Demetrius, recalling him by letter, and urging his return to Alexandria, by sending members and deacons of the church, he returned and pursued the accustomed duties of his occupation.








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