Sunday, 10 February 2019

Harry Lines: Origen of Alexandria: Scripture as the guide to its own exegesis

As the foremost proponent of an ‘allegorical’ method of reading Scripture, Origen’s understanding of the text as a well of hidden secrets has received plentiful scholarly attention. In this paper, I intend to outline the way in which Origen believes Scripture to teach its reader the means of its own exegesis. This will primarily involve an investigation of Origen's understanding of parables and proverbial sayings in Contra Celsum. My assessment will focus on the distinction in Origen’s conceptualization between what may be termed supernatural gifts and natural faculties, between grace given by God and knowledge attained by the mind’s own capabilities, a distinction that I suggest reflects his distinction between divine and human wisdom. Scripture, as the divine will in human words, requires its reader to be capable in both. Thus, the reading of Scripture provides spiritual grace which enlarges one’s spiritual capacities, enabling one to receive further spiritual enlightenment. However, conceptually though not de facto distinct, Scripture also sharpens the mind’s ability to decipher signs and linguistic forms, quite apart from the spiritual enlargement of the soul. That Scripture provides the means of its own exegesis is important in providing Origen justification in believing Christianity to be its own self-sustaining belief system, even where his methods clearly draw from philosophical traditions.

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