The Conflicting Portrayals of Origen in the Byzantine Tradition

Mario Baghos, PhD
Associate Lecturer
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College

Abstract: The portrayal of Origen the Alexandrian represents a conundrum for the Byzantine tradition. The allegorical tendencies in his writings were exaggerated by some of his admirers, leading to a repudiation of his person and works by such prominent figures as St Epiphanius of Salamis, St Jerome and Theophilus of Alexandria. These repudiations anticipated his condemnation as a heretic by the emperor Justinian and the fifth ecumenical council. Paradoxically, Origen’s condemnation by the Byzantine establishment was inconsistent with the views of those saints, venerated by the same establishment, who considered him a holy person, including Sts Pamphilus and Gregory Thaumaturgus. These two representations, both negative and positive, will be explored below for the purpose of demonstrating that the former portrayal is far too often emphasised at the expense of the latter, which, it is made clear, deserves much more attention.