Sunday, 22 March 2015

Andrew Blaski: The Epinoiai and the Changing Flesh of Christ in Origen's Contra Celsum

Origen of Alexandria's claim that the body of Jesus "differed in accordance with the capacity of those who saw it" (Contra Celsum 6.77) has never ceased to puzzle his readers. While John McGuckin has demonstrated that Origen's concerns here are largely soteriological rather than material, partially exonerating him from charges of "doceticism" or "gnosticism" ("The Changing Forms of Jesus"), we are still left without a comprehensive framework with which to understand this peculiar doctrine. In line with McGuckin's suggestion, I intend to argue that the key to understanding Origen's doctrine of the changing flesh of Christ is first to understand his doctrine of the epinoiai (the numerous "aspects" or titles of Christ). Remarkably, Origen explicitly connects the two in Contra Celsum 2.64, among other places, where he defends the notion that Jesus did not "appear alike to all" by pointing to the numerous "I am" statements ("I am the way, the truth, and the life", "I am the bread", "I am the door", etc.). By placing this discussion within the framework of the epinoiai, we will see that, for Origen, Jesus accommodates his physical appearance to each individual in the very same manner than the Son accommodates himself through his numerous aspects or titles. Paradoxically, this connection will ultimately reveal the reality of Jesus' flesh, despite the immaterial quality of the epinoiai.

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