Origen Otherwise than Origen: Toward an Alternative Approach to Origen’s Incarnational View of Scripture and of Scriptural Exegesis

Vlad M. Niculescu
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois

Abstract: In a provocative and insightful study of the Pauline corpus, Daniel Boyarin has identified spiritual allegoresis as a source of universalist hermeneutic politics, while pointing out the assimilationist and supersessionist downsides of this exegetically authorised universalism. French post-structuralism, on which Boyarin relies to no small extent, has labelled such spiritualist universalisms as logocentric. This paper attempts to test the applicability of the recent critique of logocentrism to the views of a paradigmatic Logos-committed theologian and allegorical exegete such as Origen of Alexandria. While agreeing that an interpretation of the incarnate Logos as a metaphysical first principle of the creation and of Scripture leads to the universalist exegetic politics that Boyarin describes, I shall bring up the possibility of a non-metaphysical reading of the Origenian Logos, which could entail an alternative, less assimilatory, exegetic politics. More precisely I shall take Origen’s construal of the Logos’ coming in the world and in the text (the historical and the textual incarnation of the Logos) as messianic events, rather than as metaphysical acts of world- and text- foundation. Ultimately, the contrast between a speculative-metaphysical and a messianic-eventmental reading of Origen’s exegesis will configure a possible criticism of the post-structuralist reading of early Christian logocentrism as too exclusively reliant on a metaphysical interpretation of the Logos and of Logos-authorised exegetic politics.