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Become Like the Angels

Become Like the Angels

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 301
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  • Book Info
    Become Like the Angels
    Book Description:

    Become Like the Angels explores Origen's legacy and, in particular, his teachings about the origin, nature, and destiny of the human person. By way of a historical critical approach, Benjamin P. Blosser discusses the influence of Middle Platonic philosophy on the human soul and then compares it with Origen's teaching.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2002-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    None today can doubt that Origen of Alexandria (c. AD 185–254), a catechist, presbyter, and confessor of the ancient church, is a foundational figure in the establishment of early Christian theology. Yet, in part due to the posthumous condemnation of certain (supposed) propositions from his works at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553, his legacy has always remained somewhat ambiguous. The present work is an attempt to explore that legacy, and particularly that element which appears to be at its core: Origen’s teaching about the origin, nature, and destiny of the human person. While this work does not intend...


    • CHAPTER 1 Soul Division
      (pp. 17-37)

      Before establishing Origen’s own teaching on the soul, it is necessary to explore Origen’s analysis of, and response to, the teaching of his Middle Platonic contemporaries, where these can be found. In the following three chapters, three distinct Middle Platonic formulations will be examined—soul division, embodiment, and dual souls—with a view toward grasping Origen’s treatment of each formulation. As all three of these formulations are treated most explicitly in one section of his On First Principles (3, 4), that passage will be at the forefront of these chapters. A beginning will be made with the question of soul...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Body and the Soul
      (pp. 38-59)

      Perhaps no question more occupied classical philosophers, especially the Middle Platonists, than the relationship between soul and body, and in particular the question of the effects of embodiment on the life of the soul. In his answer to this question, Origen moves deftly between the Platonic suspicion of matter and the Christian embrace of it, the latter position as embodied in the doctrines of creation and Incarnation. Accordingly, Origen is willing to admit, with Plato, that embodiment is the cause of the soul’s evils, so long as this relationship is considered to be “indirect”—that is, matter itself is not...

    • CHAPTER 3 Two Souls
      (pp. 60-76)

      The more conventional debates that have been addressed thus far—soul composition and the soul-body relationship—coexisted at all times with a potentially more radical doctrine of the soul, that of two distinct souls. At first it might seem odd even to raise this doctrine in connection with Origen, since the doctrine of two distinct souls is generally associated with Gnosticism, a religious system that Origen spent his life opposing. Our first task, however, shall be to distinguish between two variations of the two souls doctrine, which may be called the “conflict” and “hierarchical” models. It will become clear that...


    • CHAPTER 4 Higher Soul
      (pp. 79-99)

      Having examined Origen’s understanding of the “two souls” doctrine and his conviction that a “hierarchical” relationship between a higher and lower soul could make sense of moral struggle, further study must be carried out as to Origen’s conception of the “higher soul.” After an examination of the “higher soul” in Plato and the Middle Platonic schools, Origen’s own view of the soul will be presented. While Origen accepts the Platonic identification of the higher soul with “mind” or rationality, he enriches this concept by associating the mind with the divine Logos incarnated in Christ (Jn 1:18), along with the biblical...

    • CHAPTER 5 Lower Soul
      (pp. 100-142)

      With Origen’s rich and complex understanding of the “higher soul” (“mind” or “heart”) established, it remains to examine how he understands the “lower soul” that stands below it. To appreciate Origen’s contributions to this discussion, it is necessary to appreciate the problems bequeathed to him by his philosophical predecessors, especially the convoluted and half-successful attempts to integrate the “higher soul” (which carries out cognitive functions) and the “lower soul” (which carries out vital functions). Origen, however, approaches the question not as an exclusively philosophical but also as a theological problem, in light of man’s creation in God’s image and his...


    • CHAPTER 6 Preexistence of Souls
      (pp. 145-182)

      After examination of Origen’s view of the “higher soul” and “lower soul,” in relation to his philosophical contemporaries and predecessors, it remains to outline a cosmic “history” of the soul, to trace its role in Origen’s grand vision of salvation history. This history begins for Origen not in this life but in a previous, preexistent state. The Middle Platonic tradition had a long history of speculation about such a state, beginning in the writings of Plato himself, and Origen draws extensively from the vocabulary and concepts of this tradition. Yet Origen’s view of the preexistent state is vastly different from...

    • CHAPTER 7 Descent of Souls
      (pp. 183-219)

      Having noted Origen’s crucial distinction between the Triune God and his creation, and the importance of this distinction for his belief in preexistent souls, we now explore Origen’s belief in the “descent” of these souls into their present state. Origen’s belief on this topic, however, must be viewed against the background of Plato’s dialogues and the Middle Platonic developments that followed upon them. As will become clear, Origen picks up important themes from the Middle Platonic tradition—such as the conviction that the soul “merits” its present embodiment by a freely committed fault in the preexistent state—yet in very...

    • CHAPTER 8 Destiny of Souls
      (pp. 220-264)

      A treatment of Origen’s theology of the soul must culminate in Origen’s view of the soul’s grand destiny, that to which his entire anthropology is ordered. Origen’s eschatological views were not without relation to his Middle Platonic predecessors—for example, on the soul’s immortality and goal of “likeness to God”; but Origen’s eschatology, informed most decisively by his Christology and his more positive view of material creation, ends up with a surprisingly different vision of the soul’s telos. In particular, while the Middle Platonists tend to discuss the soul’s immortality in terms that are impersonal, mechanistic, and individualistic,¹ Origen’s views...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 265-268)

    This concluding section will assess, briefly, the individual conclusions of each chapter, followed by a general conclusion. A subsequent appendix will address how Origen’s anthropology influenced the later Greek patristic tradition.

    The first three chapters treated Origen’s responses to Middle Platonic speculations on the soul—the questions regarding its division, its relation to the body, and whether or not one could speak of “two souls” in Origen’s theology. Chapter 1 concluded that Origen rejects tripartite soul division, but does seem to allow for some modified form of soul bipartition, while insisting on a primordial unity for the soul. The soul,...

  9. APPENDIX: The Influence of Origen’s Anthropology on the Greek Patristic Tradition
    (pp. 269-274)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-284)
  11. Index
    (pp. 285-290)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)