Friday, 8 May 2015

Ky Heinze: Origen's Ransom to the Devil and Porphyry's Sacrifices to Evil Daemons

In this paper, I argue that Origen's use of the Devil in his later commentaries (c.240s) was similar to Porphyry's use of evil daemons in De abstinentia (c.260s). Heidi Marx-Wolf's recent publications show that Porphyry sought to discredit traditional animal sacrifices and the ordinary priests who offered them by saying that they interacted with evil daemons rather than with the true gods. Marx-Wolf believes that Porphyry learned to use evil daemons polemically in this way from Origen and the Judeo-Christian tradition, which portrayed paganism as a religion of daemons. Marx-Wolf's claim has merit, but I argue that Porphyry's evil daemons were not simply polemical: they allowed him to reconcile traditional stories of successful propitiation and blood sacrifice with his philosophical belief that the gods never accepted such sacrifices. By saying that evil daemons desired these sacrifices, Porphyry simultaneously validated tradition and saved his philosophical gods. In light of this, Porphyry's strategy was not related to Origen's polemic against pagan religion but to his theory of Jesus' ransom to the Devil. In 1979, Frances Young observed that, because Origen believed in a philosophical God without change, anger, or vindictiveness, he could not understand why the Father would have required the death of his own Son as a sacrifice or ransom to forgive sins. According to Young, Origen solved the problem by saying that Jesus had offered himself, not to the Father, but to the Devil. Thus, both Origen and Porphyry used evil spirits to reconcile philosophy with their respective religious traditions.

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