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Patristics Patristics is the study of early Christian writers, known as the Church Fathers.

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Old 30th May 2010, 12:18 AM
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Origen And The Early Doctrine Of Pre-mortal Existence Of Souls

POST ONE OF TWO

Sunny Seraphim asked : “I am somewhat confused... I have heard Origen called a heretic before, and yet I have heard him called a Saint. What am I to beleive? Was he a heretic in his teachings, or is he really a Doer of the Word of the Lord?

Christos Anesti replied : Some of his speculations were rejected by the Church ( like the pre-existence of souls for example) and some of his later followers took those speculations to even more extream ends. To protect the faithful from being mislead he was anathmatized by the Church long after his death. Many of his writtings still posses a lot of wisdom though and he was often quoted and praphrased by various Saints and Fathers of the Church . His bibilical commentaries were especially influential. It was mainly his work "On First Principles" that had the most grevious errors. He isn't recognized as a saint and has no feast day in either the Orthodox or Roman Catholic Church.
I thought I’d offer a bit of balance to the opinions on Origen since he was correct on many, many things; He was very, very influencial in early Christianity and one of the greatest of the early theologians. When you hear of him being called a Heretic, remember that it was three centuries AFTER Origen’s death that the Emporer-Politician issued his Anathematisms (543 a.d.) which gave him that label of heretic and the reasons for anathematisms had mixed motives.


One might keep in mind that the very doctrine of Pre-mortal Existence of souls which christos Anesti mentioned WAS PERFECTLY ORTHODOX IN JUDAO-CHRISTIANITIES OF THE FIRST CENTURY and, as the Roman Church moved away from such doctrines it only BECAME IN LATER CENTURIES, heretical, whereas it was once orthodox.


I think this SPECIFIC mistake by the Roman Church was one of it’s greatest errors of theological history and reminds me of the error the Roman Church made in imprisoning Galileo for teaching that the Earth was not the center of the Universe.

Just as history vindicated Galileo and his discoveries that proved to be true, Historians of early Christianities have similar reason to honor Origen as he became vidicated for the things he got right such as the doctrine of Pre-Mortal existence of Souls.

Pre-mortal existence of Souls was one of several authentic early doctrines whose abandonment has caused endless headaches, confusion and arguments among philosophers and theologians that the early Christians were not subject to before the doctrine was abandoned.

Many, many, many of the earliest Judao-Christian sacred Texts, relate the expansive doctrine of the pre-mortal realm and the nature of spirits there and God’s purposes for creation. The theme of pre-creation and what happened there is written into the early sacred texts, their hymns contain the doctrine; virtually ALL of the ascension literature contains the doctrine, the war in heaven texts certainly contain the doctrine; the earliest liturgies contain the doctrine; the midrashic texts contain the doctrine, the Jewish Haggadah contains the doctrine, the Zohar contains it; the testament literature is full of it. One simply cannot READ the earliest sacred Judao-Christian texts without reference to this early Christian doctrine. This vast early literature is part of the context for early christians and illuminates their understanding of biblical texts that reference this pre-creation time period and what happened there.


For examples :

Enoch, in his vision of pre-creation heaven, relates :
... I saw a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand, ten million times ten million, an innumerable and uncountable (multitude) who stand before the glory of the Lord of the Spirits. (1st Enoch 40:1)
The great scribe Enoch is commanded by the angel to :
... write all the souls of men, whatever of them are not yet born, and their places, prepared for eternity. 5 For all souls are prepared for eternity, before the composition of the earth.” 2nd Enoch 23:4-5
In his vision the angel bids Enoch, “Come and I will show you the souls of the righteous who have already been created and have returned, and the souls of the righteous who have not yet been created.” After seeing various souls, a midrashic explanation is given us by Enoch regarding these many souls
“the spirit shall clothe itself in my presence” refers to the souls of the righteous which have already been created in the storehouse of beings and have returned to the presence of god; and “the souls which I have made” refers to the souls of the righteous which have not yet been created in the storehouse.” 3rd Enoch 43:1-3
The vast ascension literature, describes the pre-creation realm of spirits. Abraham, in his ascension Vision describes the unnumbered spirits he sees, many of whom are waiting to come into mortality. The angel says to Abraham :
Look now beneath your feet at the firmament and understand the creation that was depicted of old (i.e. planned). Among other things Abraham says “I saw there a great crowd of men and women and children, half of them on the right side of the portrayal, and half of them on the left side of the portrayal.”... He asks : “Eternal, Mighty One! What is this picture of creation?” 2 And he said to me, “This is my will with regard to what is in the council and it became good before my face (i.e. according to his plan).. “These who are on the left side are a multitude of tribes who existed previously...and through you. some (who have been) prepared for being put in order (slav” restoration”), others for revenge and perdition at the end of the age....those on the right side of the picture are the people set apart for me of the people with azazel; these are the ones I have prepared to be born of you and to be called my people The Apocalypse of Abraham 21:1-7 and 22:1-5 and 23:1-3;
The doctrine of pre-mortal existence of the spirits within men permeates the Old Testament biblical text as well. A knowledge of this simple principle explains and underlying so many of the quotes in many other texts as well. In the Old testament it was said : “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (ecclesiates 12:7). This principle is mirrored in multiple other early Judao Christian texts as well : When God the Father commands the son to “Go, take the soul of my beloved Sedrach, and put it in Paradise.” The only begotten Son said to Sedrach, “give me that which our Father deposited in the womb of your mother in your holy dwelling place since you were born.” (The Apocalypse of Sedrach 9:1-2 and 5). When the Son finally DOES take the Soul of the Mortal Sedrach, he simply takes it back to God “where it came from”. It is simply a rephrase of Ecclesiates 12:7. And this principle is repeated in many different texts.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you will find the Kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return.” (THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS v 49)
Therefore, fear not death. For that which is from me, that is the soul, departs for heaven. That which is from the earth, that is the body, departs for the earth from which it was taken.” (The Greek Apocalypse of Ezra 6:26 & 7:1-4)
The Early Christian usage of Ecclesiates 12:7 was used in this same way by the Apostle Peter as he explained to Clement that "This world was made so that the number of spirits predestined to come here when their number was full could receive their bodies and again be conducted back to the light." (Recognitions)

Under this early context, the question God asked Job was NOT rhetorical, but it was a reminder :
"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)
Under the early context, Job KNEW the answer when God asked where Job was when God laid the foundations of the earthand all the sons of God shouted for joy”. The texts are explicit that the spirits were taught regarding God’s plan to send the spirits of men to earth. They knew they would undergo a fall of Adam and Of the pre-mortal Redeemer. Seth relates this time period when these sons of God shouted for Joy. The redeemer said regarding this time period before creation in a assembly of spirits :
And I said these things to the whole multitude of the multitudinous assembly of the rejoicing Majesty. The whole house of the Father of Truth rejoiced that I am the one who is from them.... And they all had a single mind, since it is out of one. They charged me since I was willing. I came forth to reveal the glory to my kindred and my fellow spirits.” (The second treatise of the Great Seth)
In explaining the relationship of this life to the pre-mortal realm of spirits, the messiah explained
After we went forth from our home, and came down to this world, and came into being in the world in bodies, we were hated and persecuted, not only by those who are ignorant, but also by those who think that they are advancing the name of Christ, since they were unknowingly empty, not knowing who they are, like dumb animals. They persecuted those who have been liberated by me, since they hate them...” (The second treatise of the Great Seth)
The early doctrine of Pre-mortal existence of the spirits of men took the arbitrariness out of God have created spirits unequally. IN this model, the spirits are partly responsible for their nature upon entering this life. Instead of arbitrarily creating spirits with defects (which spirits may be punished for later), in this early christian context, the Lord creates the body in relationship to certain characteristics the spirit has already obtained (or did not obtain) in it’s heavenly abode over vast periods of time. For example from the testament literature :
For just as a potter knows the pot, how much it holds, and brings clay for it accordingly, so also the Lord forms the body in correspondence to the spirit,” and, because the Lord knows and has known the spirit over eons, “ the Lord knows the body to what extent it will persist in goodness, and when it will be dominated by evil. For there is no form or conception which the Lord does not know since he created every human being according to his own image.” (Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs - Napthali 2:2-5)
In the context of the spirit of man existing long before other spirits, Jewish Haggadah relates that
Instead of being the last, man is really the first work of creation...With the soul of Adam the souls of all the generations of men were created. They are stored up in a promptuary, in the seventh of the heavens, whence they are drawn as they are needed for human body after human body.” The Haggadah (The Soul of Man)
This it the very same teaching the Apostle Peter taught Clement in the Clementine Recognitions, (remember, Clement was ALSO in the earlier New Testament Canon), the apostle Peter tells the young christian convert Clement about the pre-earth council and man’s place within this plan :
"which (plan) He [God the Father] of his own good pleasure announced in the presence of all the first angels which were assembled before Him. Last of all He made man whose real nature, however, is older and for whose sake all this was created."
This principle (that man’s spirit pre-exists the creation) was one of the FIRST things the Apostle Peter teaches Clement. I believe there is a reason for this. Perhaps, for such theists, the key to understanding what God is doing with mankind is contained inside of the concept that we are eternally spiritual.

POST TWO OF TWO FOLLOWS

Last edited by Clearly; 30th May 2010 at 05:19 PM.
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  #2  
Old 30th May 2010, 12:19 AM
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POST TWO OF TWO


Many early Judao-Christian texts are quite explicit in explaining the doctrines underlying the New Testament Theology on this subject. For example : Speaking of the souls of men and the manner after which they are sent from their heavenly dwelling place to earth, the Haggadah relates :
The soul and body of man are united in this way: When a woman has conceived...God decrees what manner of human being shall become of it – whether it shall be male or female, strong or weak, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, long or short, fat or thin, and what all it’s other qualities shall be. Piety and wickedness alone are left to the determination of man himself. “Then God makes a sign to the angel appointed over the souls, saying, “Bring me the soul so-and-so, which is hidden in Paradise, whose name is so-and-so, and whose form is so-and-so.” The angel brings the designated soul, and she bows down when she appears in the presence of God, and prostrates herself before him.”
Occasionally the spirit is reluctant to leave the untainted pre-mortal heaven for an earth where she knows her existence will be more difficult as she gains her moral education by coming to earth. In such accounts, God is NOT angry but the text says “ God consoles her. The text relates God telling the soul that
The world which I shall cause you to enter is better than the world in which you have lived hitherto, and when I created you, it was only for this purpose.”
The entire chapter regarding the soul of man discussed in detail what happens with spirits before they enter the body and it relates their forgetting of their prior preparation and existence with God. (I might mention that souls anciently are all described in the female gender - like ships are - in modern parlance)

Such principles in the Haggadic text (which is related to the talmudic history) is mirrored in several other texts. For example, the Zohar confirms the doctrine as it relates essentially the same description. :
At the time that the Holy One, be blessed, was about to create the world, he decided to fashion all the souls which would in due course be dealt out to the children of men, and each soul was formed into the exact outline of the body she was destined to tenant. Scrutinizing each, he saw that among them some would fall into evil ways in the world. Each one in it’s due time the Holy One, be blessed, bade come to him, and then said: “Go now, descend into this and this place, into this and this body.” Yet often enough the soul would reply: “Lord of the world, I am content to remain in this realm, , and have no wish to depart to some other, where I shall be in thralldom, and become stained.” Whereupon the Holy One, be blessed, would reply: “Your destiny is, and has been from the day of thy forming, to go into that world.” Then the soul, realizing it could not disobey, would unwillingly descend and come into this world.
“” The Zohar - The Destiny of the Soul [/quote]In very symbolic language, the Zohar relates the creation of the souls in heaven to the point that they become formed and cognizant and take on characteristics they will keep with them when they are placed into bodies at birth, even to the point of having gender. Speaking of which fully developed souls it says :
the soul of the female and the soul of the male, are hence preeminent above all the heavenly hosts and camps.” The question in the sacred text is then asked : It may be wondered, if they are thus preeminent on both sides, why do they descend to this world only to be taken thence at some future time? “This may be explained by way of a simile: A king has a son whom he sends to a village to be educated until he shall have been initiated into the ways of the palace. When the king is informed that his son is now come to maturity, the king, out of his love, sends the matron his mother to bring him back into the palace, and there the king rejoices with him every day. In this wise, the Holy One, be blessed, possessed a son from the matron, that is, the supernal holy soul. He dispatched it to a village, that is, to this world, to be raised in it, and initiated into the ways of the King’s palace. Informed that his son was now come to maturity, and should be returned to the palace, the King, out of love, sent the matron for him to bring him into the palace....” Speaking of those left behind who mourn it was taught “Withal, the village people weep for the departure of the king’s son from among them. But one wise man said to them: ‘Why do you weep? Was this not the king’s son, whose true place is in his father’s palace and not with you?...’ “If the righteous were only aware of this, they would be filled with joy when their time comes to leave this world. For does it not honor them greatly that the matron comes down on their account, to take them into the King’s palace, where the King may every day rejoice in them?....And so, happy are the righteous and in the world to come, ... (THE ZOHAR - A SEAL UPON YOUR HEART)
I have to stop here but will try to post in about 48 hours to give examples of how this early doctrine was still used by several theologians in later years as the usage of the doctrine became less popular and then finally abandoned by the roman church. I’ll also have to return later to check for errors and re-format as I ran out of time at this point.


Clearly

END OF POST TWO

Last edited by Clearly; 30th May 2010 at 05:22 PM.
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  #3  
Old 13th June 2010, 07:00 PM
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I think some of those quotes could be explained by the foreknowledge of God and thus a "prexistence" in the mind of God "prior" to creation. Many of those quotes come from non-Christian or heretical sources though.
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Old 14th June 2010, 12:33 PM
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Hi Christos Anesti;

Christos Anesti pointed out in post #3 : "I think some of those quotes could be explained by the foreknowledge of God and thus a "prexistence" in the mind of God "prior" to creation. Many of those quotes come from non-Christian or heretical sources though.
I very MUCH agree that early sacred texts could be, have been and will continue to be interpreted in many, many, many different ways as exampled by hundreds of inconsistent, conflicting and competing doctrines that competing Christians proclaim, yet use the same source (Bible) as their justification for teaching various irreconcilable doctrines. Try to remember also that certain books (Old Testament Enoch for example) were popular NOT just to Christians, but to the JEWS as well. (The Old Testament used by Christians today is a JEWISH production...)

The value of showing that this doctrine of Pre-existence of souls was very orthodox in a VERY wide range of ancient literature is to avoid the temptation to misuse a very small ancient context and apply a global and modern meaning to it. Remember, what was considered heretical CHANGES over historical time periods.

In my example of Galileo : By teaching that the earth was not the immovable center of the universe, Galileo was clearly teaching HERETICAL DOCTRINE in the 1600s (and he was punished by the roman church for this), whereas his doctrine is NOT HERETICAL (in the main) in the 1900s (and he is now honored by scholars for his advances in knowledge). Thus he was punished by the Roman Church for HERESY in the 1600s whereas he is NOW HONORED for discovering what is NOW become ORTHODOXY in the 1900s. It is very important to understand this historical view of changing orthodoxy and how your personal view of what is heresy and what is orthodoxy is, for most individuals, relative to THEIR personal beliefs (which beliefs are so often dramatically affected by what was taught them during the time and culture in which they live.)

Thus your own church NOW, may teach as orthodox, the very thing it labeled heresy in the past. If you teach that the earth rotates and is not the center of our solar system, then to a 1600s era pope, you are teaching heresy, whereas, to a 1900s era pope, you are teaching orthodoxy. Heresy is, in this way, a completely relative term. The temptation to misuse and misapply the word "heresy" is strong for those who want to lend an “official” sounding word to a personal opinion.




I’m NOT saying Origen got ALL early doctrines “right”. I am simply honoring him for what he DID get right.

AS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT ORIGEN GOT WRONG : EX-NIHILO CREATION

Though Origen correctly described the early Christian doctrine of pre-creation existence of souls, he DID become contaminated by the later doctrine of CREATION OUT OF ‘NOTHING”. That is, he started teaching the early “heresy” of “ex-nihilo” creation. This doctrine, which became very popular in the 4th century, virtually took over to become “ORTHODOXY”, (whereas the early Judao-Christian literature taught creation from pre-existing, chaotic matter). THUS ORIGEN WAS OBVIOUSLY CONTAMINATED BY THE LATER DOCTRINE OF "CREATION FROM NOTHING" (i.e. ex-nihilo creation).

Thus, origens description of early orthodoxy of pre-existence of souls was very orthodox in a very wide range of early sacred judao-christian documents, and later becomes heresy, whereas the heretical doctrine of creation from “nothing” which was heresy (i.e. inaccurate teaching) to the ancients, became very popular to the point that it is, I think, the theory of most christians today. In this way, what was ancient orthodoxy (pre-existence) becomes modern heresy, and what was ancient heresy (ex-nihilo creation) becomes modern orthodoxy.

I hope these concepts of evolving and changing doctrine over time make sense. I do NOT think Religious history can make sense without some acceptance of and understanding of these basic concepts.

Good luck in your personal spiritual journey Christos Anesti.


Clearly
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Old 17th July 2010, 02:16 AM
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Clearly,
You are clearly right! Over in General Theology and in Theologia Crucis we have had polls on whether the soul exists before conception. A large minority have chosen "Yes". Even among Lutherans, stongly committed by Luther to Traducianism that the soul and body are generated simultaneously at conception, nine of 24 have voted for preexistence.
You seem to have omitted the strongest proof-text for preexistence, Eph. 1:3-5. God knew us before our world was created.
You castigate the Roman Catholics for anti-Origenism, but it is actually the Eastern Orthodox that are adamant in condemning Origen. RC scholars over a hundred years ago showed the 553 Second General Council of Constantinople considered rebuking Origen, but this was never finally approved. The EO argue that the resolution was finalized at the council.
And yes, I go for the strong view, that God created out of (and using) the original chaos of physical and spiritual stuff. We humans came out of something that existed before God chose us. This is very important, as it gets us around the Problem of Evil. Evil already existed before God made the universe to redeem us.

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Old 17th July 2010, 03:43 PM
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Korah;


Korah wrote : You castigate the Roman Catholics for anti-Origenism, but it is actually the Eastern Orthodox that are adamant in condemning Origen. RC scholars over a hundred years ago showed the 553 Second General Council of Constantinople considered rebuking Origen, but this was never finally approved. The EO argue that the resolution was finalized at the council.
Korah, I think I contributed to the confusion by an example that was more complex than it needed to be AND, the examples involved BOTH the (#1) condemnation of individuals and the separate issue of (#2) changing orthodoxy (e.g. abandonment of one doctrine and adoption of another doctrine).

Regarding individuals : I was not castigating the Catholics for Anti-Origenism (2nd century) Per se, but rather for their initial condemnation of Galileo (16th century) and his teaching that the earth moved (though he might now be revered by them for the very doctrine he had been condemned in the 1600s)

Regarding doctrinal changes : I was criticizing the roman church’s abandonment of the doctrine of pre-existence taught by Origen.


I hope this added context allows a re-reading of my comments to make more sense :

In Post #1 - I was speaking strickly of ORIGEN AND THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CONDEMNATION of his teaching by Emporer-Politician Justinian in the Ecumenical Council in 553 ad when I said regarding Origen :
Clearly wrote concerning ORIGEN : “ I thought I’d offer a bit of balance to the opinions on Origen since he was correct on many, many things; He was very, very influencial in early Christianity and one of the greatest of the early theologians. When you hear of him being called a Heretic, remember that it was three centuries AFTER Origen’s death that the Emporer-Politician issued his Anathematisms (543 a.d.) which gave him that label of heretic and the reasons for anathematisms had mixed motives.
In Post #4 I was speaking of GALILEO AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONDEMNATION of his teaching
Clear wrote : By teaching that the earth was not the immovable center of the universe, Galileo was clearly teaching HERETICAL DOCTRINE in the 1600s (and he was punished by the roman church for this), whereas his doctrine is NOT HERETICAL (in the main) in the 1900s (and he is now honored by scholars for his advances in knowledge). Thus he was punished by the Roman Church for HERESY in the 1600s whereas he is NOW HONORED for discovering what is NOW become ORTHODOXY in the 1900s. It is very important to understand this historical view of changing orthodoxy and how your personal view of what is heresy and what is orthodoxy is, for most individuals, relative to THEIR personal beliefs (which beliefs are so often dramatically affected by what was taught them during the time and culture in which they live.) Post #4
I apologize if I did not make clear the two examples I was using : 2nd century Origen and 16th century Galileo to demonstrate the principle changing religious orthodoxies.

Clearly

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Last edited by Clearly; 19th July 2010 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 1st September 2010, 10:08 AM
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I was just reading "The Pillar and Ground of Truth, An Essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters" by the New Martyr Fr Paul Florensky and came across a quote from Clement of Alexandria that I thought would go good here. It seems he disagreed with his successor Origen.

"We, already existed before this world, because our creation was decided by God long before our actual creation. Before our creation we therefore existed in the thought of God, we who later turned out to be intelligent creatures of the Divine Word. Thanks to Him, we are very ancient in our origin, because, 'in the beginning was the Word".
- Clement of Alexandria

St Gregory Nazianzus seems to say something very similar:

"the world-generating Reason also considered , in His mind's great representations, the images of the world formed by Him, this world which was generated later, but, which, for God was present even then. Everything is before God's eyes: what will be, what was, and what is now. For me such a division is set by time: that one thing is ahead, another thing behind. But for God all merges into one, and all is held in the arms of the Great Deity."
-St Gregory Nazianzus
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Old 4th September 2010, 07:16 PM
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Hi Christos;

Thank you for the added quotes from 3rd and 4th century Christianty. I apologize for not writing earlier, but I have limited time, especially as winter approaches. Still, I enjoy our conversations and value your insight.


The centuries following the death of Christ were described by a logia of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas as follows :
Jesus said, “The kingdom of the [father] is like a certain woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking [on the] road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her [on] the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty.

This logia is one of many sad descriptions of the failed attempt to pass on the doctrines and traditions of the early Christianities to later generations, however, in the last days, when one looks inside of modern Christian Churches, one finds that most of the substance that gave the early Church it’s value, is no longer to be found in it
. This principle of loss and apostasy was spoken of by many sacred writers and If we are to speak of the loss of early doctrines and HOW such doctrines were lost, despite good efforts to maintain them, one may certainly start with Clement.

I certainly agree that some later christianities (e.g. 3rd and 4th century) de-emphasize the early doctrine of a literal pre-existence as a foundational principle. As the poster Korah correctly points out in his post number 5 above, many Christians nowadays believe in some form of pre-existence of our spirits despite not having the conscious teaching and reminders of this principle that the ancient Judao-Christians had. Since Korah pointed this out, I have considered why it was that a large portion of Christians on the forums believe in the early doctrine that our spirit lived before birth, yet late second and third century philosophers / theologians felt theological pressures to attempt to abandon this early doctrine.

I think that for the Egyptian Clement of Alexandria, his Platonist training and views, and the surrounding milieu of Hellenistic / Platonist Philosophy was an intense pressure to eschew materialism (which views encouraged the evolving doctrine of creation from “nothing” and affected the later evolving versions of “the trinity”) and underlie his habit of intellectualizing and spiritualizing and allegorizing and mythologizing prior beliefs (such as pre-existence). I think the eminent Catholic writer Bousset is correct in his assessment of Clement in saying :
In Clement of Alexandria the old teachings began to shrink to a purely intellectual content... - Bousset ”
Regarding the sacrament Bousset continues to say Clement intellectualizes the old teachings “until he spiritualizes the sacraments to the point of being incomprehensible, nothing but a mere game of words”.

H. Wolfson is certainly correct when he maintains that the Jew Philo, in many respects must be considered the forerunner and model of scholastic thinking, because Philo, who was also an important influence for Clement of Alexandria and St. Ambrose of Milan, achieved “a workable assimilation of stoic and biblical thought”. In this specific context, “ASSIMILATION OF stoic and biblical thought” means “CONTAMINATION OF biblical thought THROUGH assimilation of stoic thought”.

This spiritualizing and allegorizing and mythologizing of prior doctrines the scholars are describing, becomes one dominant doctrinal pattern during this period so that it drives not only the change in a literal pre-existence, but such motives ultimately underlie the evolution from the former Judao-Christian Belief in “creation from matter” into a “creation from NOTHING” since creation from vile and “dirty” matter was unworthy for a pure and unworldly and ineffable God who had little to do with “vile matter”. Such social and theological pressures from without and from platonists within Christianity to change theological thought from within Christianity were not new. I think this neoplatonic shunning of vile and common matter is why Peter the Apostle taught Clement of Rome that “we do not believe that matter is inherently evil” even before teaching Clement of Rome salvational doctrines.

We modern Christians can appreciate in a SMALL way certain societal and theological pressures placed on a still fledgling Christian religious movement by considering the comparatively light pressure for doctrinal change surrounding modern Christianity and Homosexuality we are seeing today.

Whether it is Right or wrong, portions of society today are, to a certain extent, pressuring Christian congregations to accept; adopt; and assimilate homosexuality within Christian doctrines and practice. In certain locals, there is a great deal of “Social pressure” and “political expediency” (political "correctness") to change current Christian doctrines and practices to accept; accommodate and assimilate homosexuality with it's accompanying sexual morals into the Christianities of our day.

Those Christianities who maintain the traditional early Christian moral stance view the “homosexual Christianities” as moral apostates who taint the gospel with moral decadence, while those who accept and assimilate homosexuality into their Christianity may denounce the other Christianities as “homophobic” and as “lacking charity” (and thus clearly not “christian” in their eyes). Both types of christianities may maintain that they represent the current “new orthodoxy” of our age and decry the other as the “new heretical christianity”.

Such modern theological influences and pressures are only a shadow of ancient pressures which created many martyrs because of friction between Christian beliefs and societal beliefs. (Nowadays, no one is thrown to the lions or burned if they will not recant their doctrine.) Early Christianities in their various forms found themselves between the relative rock of religious pressures on one hand and the hard place of philosophical and societal pressures on the other hand. Such pressures place artificial conditions on doctrinal development. Christian apologists were faced on the one hand with the accusation of polytheism from Judaism on one hand, and on the other hand by the popular and influential Hellenistic interpretations of mythological gods and personified manifestations of the Supreme Unity governing the universe.

Remember too, many important, foundational doctrines we discuss nowadays had not been even formulated yet.

For example : Clement of Alexandria in still in the process of formulating his personal belief
on creation from “nothing”. Clement of Alexandria is one of the first (if not the first) to use apparent creation ex nihilo language, but without the later doctrinal connotations that came to be associated with such language in later centuries. Chadwick argued that although the declaration that the world is made “out of nothing” occurs three times in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata (his “miscellaneous notes"), his usage is similar to that of Philo, referring to the ordering of formless matter. Chadwick points out that in each case the phrase he employs is “ek me ontos”, and not "ex ouk ontos”, that is to say, it is made not from that which is absolutely non-existent, but from relative non-being or unformed matter, so shadowy and vague that it cannot be said to have the status of “being” which is imparted to it by the shaping hand of the creator.

Whereas in Clement’s “hymn to the Paedogogus”, he clearly believes in the early creation from pre-existent matter.
O King...Maker of all, who heaven and heaven’s adornment by the Divine Word alone didst make; ...according to a well-ordered plan; out of a confused heap who didst create This ordered sphere, and from the shapeless mass of matter didst the universe adorn...
Clement is in a process of changing and DEVELOPING the various doctrines he will ultimately believe in and teach. The point is that Clement is, like everyone else, trying to look at the various data and formulate in his own mind, what he personally believes and it is a PROCESS from one step to another until he feels he has the best version of something he can accept; then believe in and, ultimately, teach to others as doctrine.

Even Clement’s successor Origen explicitly acknowledges that when he wrote around the middle of the third century a.d., there were still many very, very basic doctrines which had not been settled.

For example
: The issue of divine embodiment of God had yet to be settled
in the Church: Origen wrote :
How God himself is to be understood, – whether as corporeal, and formed according to some shape, or of a different nature from bodies” – is “a point which is not clearly indicated in our teachings.
At some point, Clement and Origen both consider multiple issues they do not know the answer to; they then consider the data open to them and then ultimately, they decide what they personally believe and they write about it. However, it is important to understand that these influential individuals are not simply EXPLAINING confirmed, accepted, doctrine, but they are THEORIZING and are CREATING new doctrines. It is the creation of doctrine by influential individuals for the consumption of the general masses.


The influences which drove the creation of the doctrine of “ex-nihilo” and the de-emphasis of “pre-existence” also affected the evolution of other doctrines such as the various versions of the Christian Trinity. As Prestige reminds us : ”The recognition of divine monarchy [monotheism] and the proclamation of a divine triad were originally presented as independent facts".

Origen’s great value as a witness is not that he was correct on all of his personal speculations (none of the others were either), but much of his value lay in his descriptions as to what the early Christians believed and taught. Many of his statements actually say, in effect, “I do not believe this doctrine, but this is still what the early christians taught.”

While a prophet or apostle lived, the church was alive and correct doctrine could be had by revelation from an authorized source. However, these great apostolic and prophetic lights went out. Without clear and simple scriptural statements and texts that explained new questions as they arose, then I think these individuals such as Origen and Clement simply did the best they could with what they had.

And what was it they used to develop doctrines for their particular Christianity? Origen proposed to make theological questions a matter of rational and scriptural investigation with a view to formulating a coherent body of doctrine “by means of illustrations and arguments, – either those...discovered in holy Scripture, or...deduced by closely tracing out the consequences and following “a correct method”. (Whatever “method” meant to Origen). The point is, that Origen is in the same position as the rest of us are. He is left to his own wit and logic and bias and back ground, and whatever limited data he can bring to the task. This is exactly what the rest of us have to determine what we are to believe.

Origen recieved a literary education of greek classics. He later studied philosophy under the renowned middle-platonist Ammonius, Saccas, who later taught Plotonius, (the thinker usually credited with founding Neoplatonism). Origen also knew and respected works of a number of non-christian middle-platonists, including Numenius, (whose most important contribution to the tradition was his Platonic doctrine of God). Origen's background AND his biases both blesses AND plagues him in his personal development of Christian beliefs. The same can be said for all theologians and for the rest of us.

For example : In Origen’s sustained polemics against those who affirmed God’s humanlike embodiment, Origen follows his “method” of doctrinal development. First, he tried to show that corporeality is logically incompatible with philosophical (Platonist) conception of the divine nature. This is no different than Augustine, who, disagrees with some of the early doctrines, NOT because they disagree with scripture, but because they disagree with the philosophy or science of his day.

Secondly, Origen engages in painstaking exegesis and deeply allegorical interpretation that are often tenuous and personal interpretations in his labors to convince his fellow Christians that the scriptures, notwithstanding their literal import, do not disprove divine incorporeality. What we are left with is simply another Philo-like assimilation of a philosophy with biblical verses in the mix.

I think this represents an oversimplification of motives and methods behind the changes in Christian doctrines over the centuries, but I hope it gives some idea as to a very few issues of import in considering why doctrines evolved and changed.

Clearly

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Last edited by Clearly; 5th September 2010 at 01:34 AM.
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Old 5th September 2010, 05:12 PM
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I was under the impression that it was adherence to Platonic philosophy that caused Origen to accept the idea of the pre-existence of souls despite the lack of apostolic lineage for such a concept. The Neo-platonists teach an eternal "creation" by means of emanation from the One. This doesn't seem to mesh that well with the Christian concept of creation ex nihlio.

Even Clement’s successor Origen explicitly acknowledges that when he wrote around the middle of the third century a.d., there were still many very, very basic doctrines which had not been settled.
I can agree in part. No one had come up with percise terminology used in later Chistological and Trinitarian disputes for example. The early Fathers knew the Trinity even if they didn't have the more percise terminolgy to express their knowlege though. In that sense doctrine didn't change because the Mystery it was pointing to stayed the same. It was merely expounded more percisly at a later time when the existence of threating heresies demaned greater percision on the part of those who knew the Trinity experientially. I would agree that a great many issues that were important to the Hellenic world were not specifically adressed by the Apostles and that teachings regarding those issues developed over time though.

The point is, that Origen is in the same position as the rest of us are. He is left to his own wit and logic and bias and back ground, and whatever limited data he can bring to the task.
Which is percisly one of the reasons he isn't honored as a Saint. He was an excellent philosopher but he relied excessivly on human reason to pry into the mysteries of God. The Saints of the church however teach theology based on illumination and gnosis. Their theology comes from prayer and contemplation. They teach what they have personally experienced. They are taught directly by God.

While a prophet or apostle lived, the church was alive and correct doctrine could be had by revelation from an authorized source. However, these great apostolic and prophetic lights went out. Without clear and simple scriptural statements and texts that explained new questions as they arose, then I think these individuals such as Origen and Clement simply did the best they could with what they had.

I don't believe the Church was ever left without people of that spiritual caliber. St Maximus the Confessor, St Anthony the Great, Sts Barsanuphius and John, St Cyril of Alexandria, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Seraphim of Sarov, St Herman of Alaska, etc... all the way down to our times. God never left the Church. There have alway been people who communicated directly with God and the angels.
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Old 5th September 2010, 08:24 PM
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1) FIRSTLY
Christos Anesti said : “I was under the impression that it was adherence to Platonic philosophy that caused Origen to accept the idea of the pre-existence of souls
Perhaps the confusion lies in your assumptions. Origen may have believed in pre-existence initially, but he ultimately rejected the belief in the pre-existence of souls. What he did do in the final analysis, was to leave us a witness as to what it was the early christians taught.

As I mentioned, many of the later doctrines such as ex-nihilo, or the modern trinity, or the abandonment of pre-existence for the adoption of other theories had not yet taken place. Origen’s main value as a witness of pre-existence is that he tells us what the early church “used to teach”. His witness is that pre-existence was the earliest teaching and he discusses it in some depth, but he ultimately becomes swayed by more modern theories. You have not described your theory as to the origin of the spirit so I cannot compare the first century theory with yours using early sacred texts.



2) SECONDLY
Clearly said : "Even Clement’s successor Origen explicitly acknowledges that when he wrote around the middle of the third century a.d., there were still many very, very basic doctrines which had not been settled.” and then he quoted Origen’s third century admission that : “How God himself is to be understood, – whether as corporeal, and formed according to some shape, or of a different nature from bodies” – is “a point which is not clearly indicated in our teachings.

Christo Anesti replied : “I can agree in part. No one had come up with percise terminology used in later Chistological and Trinitarian disputes for example. The early Fathers knew the Trinity even if they didn't have the more percise terminolgy to express their knowlege though.
I think it is a fallacy to think the fancy terminology that had to be employed by later philosophers and later theologians were developed to express what the Judao-Christians had already BEEN teaching for centuries. I believe the esoteric terminology was developed by later theologians to express NEW theories and NEW concepts in an attempt to explain the NEWER and much, much, much more complicated modern theories of the later Christianities they were developing.

The early Judao-christian texts contained language that was very, very simple because the early concepts were very simple
. The early Judao-Christians needed no rhetorical language or other devices to explain what was, for them, very simple concepts.

For example, when the Prophet Enoch relates his ascension into heaven, he sees God the Father (who went by many names in such texts such as the “chief of days; he who precedes time; the antecedent of time). Enoch says
At that place, I saw the One to whom belongs the chief of days. And his head was white like wool, and there was with him another individual whose face was like that of a human being. His countenance was full of grace like that of one among the holy angels. 2 And I asked the one ... who was going with me, ... “from where could he be, and for what reason does he go with him who precedes time?”. 3 And he answered me and said to me, “This is the Son of Man, to whom belongs righteousness, and with whom righteousness dwells. And he will open all the hidden storerooms; for the Lord of the Spirits has chosen him, and he is destined to be victorious before the Lord of the Spirits in eternal uprightness. 1st Enoch 46:1-6
Such descriptions NEEDED no new complicated language to revise or re-interpret it. It simply meant what it seemed to mean. Even non-historians can grasp what is being said. It was only when the early theology is removed from IT'S context, that such texts become unintelligible and require rhetoric to translate them to mean something else.

In the early Judo-Christian texts, the trinity of three individuals WAS three individuals. There was no fancy attempt to use rhetoric to produce a “three is really one” God, or to try to come up with a “monotheistic polytheism” or a “polytheistic monotheism” that so occupied the minds and over which arguments have ensued over CENTURIES since the later “tri-une” theories were developed. For the last 1700 years (approx) of it's existence, the modern theory of the nature of the trinity continues to be debated and argued and continued attempts are made to try to explain it’s “mystery”.

In the early Judao-christian texts, the description remained very simple. It was obvious in these texts that God the Father and his Son, (the Son of Man) were separate individuals. It was the pressures of Judaic claims to polytheism which discomforted the later christians and drove the development of fancy language and incomprehensible theories as to how “three is really one”.

The point is NOT that the early Judao-Christian texts are correct and you are wrong. You could be right and they be wrong. The point is, that, like it or not, these were the early doctrines as their texts indicate. Those non-historians, who are not willing to study the texts from inside the ancient contexts are very likely to make a misjudgement and call early Judo-Chritianity “polytheistic”. Still, inside their ancient context, is was always monotheistic in that there was always a Lord God to which all other beings, god-like or not, were subservient.

Please, you are VERY WELCOME to use the early sacred texts from the Judao-Christian period to show otherwise and I can be convinced that I and others are in error, but do not expect me to be impressed by a quote from a 4th century theologian who has his own theory as to what is really correct. My interest is in Pre-and FIRST century Judo-Christianity and what THEY believed and how THEY described this early Judao-Christianity from THEIR own texts and from THEIR view point.



2) THIRDLY

In trying to explain the concept that early theologians such as Clement of Alexandria, and Origen; and Augustine and St. Ambrose and others were NOT “bad” people who were consciously attempting to make the changes in doctrine that ultimately took place,
clearly said : “The point is, that Origen is in the same position as the rest of us are. He is left to his own wit and logic and bias and back ground, and whatever limited data he can bring to the task.

Christos replied : “Which is percisly one of the reasons he isn't honored as a Saint. He was an excellent philosopher but he relied excessivly on human reason to pry into the mysteries of God. The Saints of the church however teach theology based on illumination and gnosis. Their theology comes from prayer and contemplation.
You are getting away from an analysis of the early doctrine of Pre-destination and the circumstances surrounding it’s generation, and veering off into your personal theory and modern theology. I think this is presumptive to think that all theologians that disagree with a specific modern theology that Christo has, were not illuminated, and that yours only, had the “gnosis”, or that only your saints prayed or contemplated. This sort of elitism that “your saints” are better than “their saints” is simply incorrect. I do not know of any historically significant theologians of the first six centuries that did not make significant errors or changes in the early theology. Regarding pre-existence, most of them simply ran their trains of thought along the same tracks others had placed rails on before them.

Christo Anesti says of his saints “ They teach what they have personally experienced. They are taught directly by God.” I do not deny that your "saints" could have experienced the visitation of angels (that is irrelevant), nor do I deny that your saints may have had ascension visions just like the ancient prophets I am quoting had. What I am saying is that they teach a different Gospel than the sacred judo-christian texts I have quoted concerning prophets who traditionally have taught “what they have personally experienced and were “taught directly by God”.

To imply your saints are somehow "better" simply sounds like a used car salesman’s technique to one-up his competitor. Christos, I am not protestant, but I cannot claim that catholic or eastern orthodox theologians were any more honest hearted or more correct than the Abraham, or Enoch, or Sedrach, or any other of the ancient Prophets I have quoted in the opening Posts.

Regardless of revelation, None of your saints, had the advantage of being authorized Prophets of God quoted in the ancient Judao-Christian texts as were Enoch and Abraham, nor are the theologies of your saints superior to the theologies of enoch and Abraham as described by these sacred texts.

This is what I meant when I said “While a prophet or apostle lived, the church was alive and correct doctrine could be had by revelation from an authorized source. However, these great apostolic and prophetic lights went out. Without clear and simple scriptural statements and texts that explained new questions as they arose, then I think these individuals such as Origen and Clement simply did the best they could with what they had.”



3) FOURTHLY
Christos responded : “I don't believe the Church was ever left without people of that spiritual caliber. St Maximus the Confessor, St Anthony the Great, Sts Barsanuphius and John, St Cyril of Alexandria, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Seraphim of Sarov, St Herman of Alaska, etc... all the way down to our times. God never left the Church. There have alway been people who communicated directly with God and the angels.
I think I have to agree that there probably have always been individuals who may have had the same level of intelligence as the apostles in all areas of the world; the same care and commitment to moral obedience to God as they understood God in all areas of the world ; had the same quality of and desires for good in their prayers in all areas of the world; i.e. there have always been individuals who have received revelations from God in all areas of the world; etc. However, this is another irrelevant point and it adds nothing about the earliest Judo-christian doctrine of pre-existence. Remember, this is a HISTORICAL THREAD. You simply confirmed that important members of your theology don’t believe in the earliest Judao-Christian doctrines that I expounded on from the early Judao-Christian texts in the original posts. This has been my point. The MODERNS no longer believe in the same theology"

This statement of yours adds nothing to our understanding of early Christianity.

I do understand your somewhat disconnected desire to self-confirm the religious theories that you have generated, have come to believe and wish to teach to others. However, this is what all other honest and good individuals are trying to do.

Please Christos - try to stay on track , If you have another subject you want to discuss, make a new thread, and, if it actually relates to Early, pre- and first century Judao-Christianity, then I will be interested.

If you simply point out that you do not agree with the earliest theories, this is fine since we are in agreement on this point.

This was my point from the beginning - Modern's do not believe the same as the ancients when we look at the ancient teaching from the early Judao-Christian sacred texts.


Clearly
drsetzhh

Last edited by Clearly; 5th September 2010 at 08:49 PM.
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