Posted by: John Adams | June 17, 2009

The Answer to Yesterday’s Quiz



Surprising as it may seem, the quote in yesterday’s post came not from the pen of a 19th-century higher critic, but from the early church father Origen (c. 185-254).

According to Wikipedia, Origen married Platonic philosophy to Christian theology, resulting in some truly bizarre theological conclusions such as the transmigration of souls and universal reconciliation (the idea that all being, even evil spirits, will one day be reconciled to God). The Catholic Encyclopedia modifies that view somewhat by stating that Origen frequently “recognizing the contradiction of the incompatible elements that he is trying to unify, recoils from the consequences, protests against the logical conclusions, and oftentimes corrects by orthodox professions of faith the heterodoxy of his speculations.”

Whatever your view of Origen’s theological speculations, what is of interest in the quote posted yesterday is that it proves that a non-literal reading of Genesis is by no means a product of 19th-century higher criticism or Darwinian biology. On the contrary, early church interpretations of the creation accounts (and there are actually two creation accounts, not one, in Genesis) were as varied as those in the post-Enlightenment era. Despite its popularity today among evangelical Protestants, a literal, six-day reading of Genesis 1-2 was by no means the accepted reading in early church history, nor is it even the majority view across 20 centuries of church tradition.



  1. D’accord, je viens de boire de l’huile ! Origen was a fruitcake. Thanks for the challenge.

  2. That was my next guess… Pfff

  3. Shoot, I read this too late. I wrote a bio on Origen last year for Hermeneutics. Not saying I would have known the quote right off. 🙂

  4. i just wrote to you but i sent it to the return address from the last letter you sent… i don’t think it was the one i’d sent to before. i hope you get it!

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