The Universalist Hope in the Early Church

I confess that my recent immersion in the eschatological views of Fr Dumitu Staniloae has been depressing and discouraging. Perhaps in his divine foresight God saw that this would be the case, and so he provided an antidote. Last week I received an email from my local library informing me that they had finally obtained through ILL a copy of Ilaria L. E. Ramelli’s massive work of scholarship, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis. The book weighs in at 890 pages, as well as at the hefty price of $328 (yep, you read that right). I have been dipping into the book from time to time in order to maintain my sanity. It is a remarkable work of critical scholarship. Ilaria Ramelli is no mean scholar. She is highly regarded by her professional peers and has published dozens of books, essays, and monographs in patristic scholarship.

The rehabilitation of Origen and a correct reading of his doctrine of apokatastasis has been one of her primary projects. She devotes over 90 pages of the book to Origen’s teachings. If her reading of Origen is correct, then the Emperor Justinian and his theological pereti did Origen a terrible injustice when they posthumously anathematized him and proscribed his writings. Two examples:

Indeed, in Origen’s view, like in Gregory of Nyssa’s afterwards, the eventual apokatastasis entirely depends on Christ, and not on a metaphysical necessity or even a physico-cosmological necessity, as in the case of Stoicism (in contrast to the purported dependence of the apokatastasis theory on “pagan philosophy”). In particular, apokatastasis depends on Christ’s inhumanation, death, and resurrection. (p. 190)

It clearly emerges that for Gregory [of Nyssa], just as for Origen, the doctrine of apokatastasis is a Christological, and indeed Christocentrical, doctrine. In their view, it is a specifically Christian doctrine. This is also why Origen was at such pains to distinguish his own, Christian notion of apokatastasis from the Stoic. Both in Origen’s and in Gregory’s view, universal apokatastasis is made possible, not by any metaphysical or cosmological necessity, but by Christ’s inhumanation, sacrifice, and resurrection, and by the grace of God. The very fact that for both Origen and Gregory the eventual universal restoration begins with, and coincides with a holistic vision of, the resurrection makes it clear that their concept of apokatastasis is throroughly Christian, given the Christian—and not “pagan” or “Platonic”—roots of the doctrine of the resurrection. Moreover, it is certainly the case that Origen’s and Gregory’s main metaphysical pillar for the eventual universal restoration, namely, the ontological non-subsistence of evil and its tenet of Platonism, and they both very probably deemed it a tenet of Christian Platonism as well, but they also found it in the Bible, especially in 1 Cor 15:23-28, and indeed they grounded it in the authority of Scripture, and not in that of Plato or Plotinus. (p. 390)

See her essays: “Origen, Bardaisan, and the Origin of Universal Salvation,” “Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism,” and “The Debate on Apokatastasis in Pagan and Christian Platonists.”

Ramelli makes clear that the universalist hope was affirmed by many Christian theologians. She lists the following: “Bardaisan, Clement, Origen, Didymus, St. Anthony, St. Pamphilius Martyr, Methodius, St Macrina, St. Gregory of Nyssa (and probably the two other Cappadocians [!]), St Evagrius Ponticus [saint in Oriental Orthodox Churches?], Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. John of Jerusalem, Rufinus, St. Jerome [until his famous repudiation of Origen] and St. Augustine (at least initially), Cassian, St. Isaac of Nineveh, St. John of Dalyatha, Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite, probably St. Maximus the Confessor, up to John the Eriugena” (p. 11). St Ambrose of Milan also comes close with his belief in the salvation of the baptized.

She concludes her study with this summary of her conclusions:

The doctrine of apokatastasis, as is found, from the New Testament to Eriugena, in many Christian texts and Patristic authors, is a Christian doctrine and is grounded in Christ. This Christocentrical characterization is especially evident in Bardaisan, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius, and Eriugena. Indeed, the Christian doctrine of apokatastasis is based on the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, and on God’s being the supreme Good. It is also founded upon God’s grace, which will “bestow mercy upon all,” and the divine will—which these Patristic authors saw as revealed by Scripture—“that all humans be saved and reach the knowledge of Truth.” They also considered it to be revealed in Scripture, and in particular in a prophecy by St. Paul, that in the telos, when all the powers of evil and death will be annihilated and all enemies will submit (for Origen and his followers, in a voluntary submission), “God will be all in all.” The apokatastasis doctrine is historically very far from having been produced by an isolated character, excessively influenced or even “contaminated” by Greek theories, such as Origen has been long considered to be. (817)

There are, of course, some presuppositions in Greek philosophy, but these were far from being simply taken over by Christian supporters of apokatastasis. Origen himself makes it crystal clear, as I have pointed out, that the Stoic concept of apokatastasis was very different from his own, Christian doctrine of apokatastasis, especially because of its necessitarianism—evident from the eternal repetition of the same people and things in each aeon—and of its idea of an infinite succession of aeons, without an end. Both of these elements are indeed opposite to Origen’s own notion of apokatastasis. From Origen’s point of view, the aeons will come to an end with the apokatastasis itself, and are the theatre of rational creatures’ free choices and their consequences. (p. 817)

The doctrine of apokatastasis as the eventual universal salvation is an authentically Christian, or Jewish-Christian, doctrine. Before Christianity, no religion or philosophy had ever maintained it, not even Plato or mystery religions. Outside Christianity, in the Patristic age, only some Neoplatonists, such as Macrobius and Proclus, seem to have maintained it, but only when “pagan” Neoplatonism was a sort of parallel to Christianity, and in any case in a different way from the Patristic doctrine of apokatastasis (e.g. excluding the resurrection, as I mentioned). (p. 819)

One fundamental characteristic of Patristic apokatastasis is, as I have mentioned, its Christocentrism. Another is—what at first might sound paradoxical—its orthodoxy. In fact, the main Patristic supporters of this theory, Origen and Nyssen, did support it in defense of Christian “orthodoxy,” against those which were regarded as the most dangerous heresies of their times, as I have argued: Origen supported it against “Gnosticism” and Marcionism, and Gregory against “Arianism.” (p. 823)

All who would claim that belief in eternal damnation and conscious torment is the dogmatic teaching of the Christian Church must now grapple with the massive scholarship of Dr. Ilaria Ramelli.

Unfortunately, I only have access to this book for another two months before I have to return it to the library. If anyone would like to give me a copy of this exorbitantly priced book … (hint, hint).

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31 Responses to The Universalist Hope in the Early Church

  1. Oddly enough, I was perusing this very book on Google’s preview this morning. I did a search on WorldCat and couldn’t find it although now I will have to endeavor to order it. Based on what I could tell, Dr. Ramelli has some good arguments that the even the NT could be read in favor of apokatastasis (hope I spelled that right). Of course, I wonder, since she is a Catholic and teaches seminary courses, on what grounds this affects her personal beliefs and how she navigates Church teaching with her book. At the same time, it seems she admits the Oecumenical Council did condemn Origen’s views on universalism outright (contra Metro. Hilarion Alfeyev’s own view on the council?). If that is the case, how can Christians of the Apostolic Churches react to this book – given the views of the council, leaving aside for a moment the additional councils of the Catholic Church.

    I’d also like to ask Dr. Ramelli as to how and when could any Jewish sect at that time, given the views of 2nd Temple Judaism, develop plausibly into universalism. Of course, it’s an interesting twist of history that rabbinic Judaism – at least in my experience – tends to differentiate itself from Christianity precisely in the fact that Gehinnom is usually purificatory, lasting a year’s time, for most except the most heinous and resolute sinners – a view I’ve never seen actually have its history been traced from apocalyptic to rabbinic Judaism.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Dante, you ask how a faithful Catholic should regard the 15 anti-Origenist anathemas. As you know, Catholic theologians have given a fair amount of thought to the interpretation of dogmatic formulae.

      The first question Catholic theologians would ask is, Did the council in question formally pronounce these anathemas? There are good grounds to think that it did not. I won’t say the evidence is probative (I’m not a historian), but it was strong enough to persuade Kenneth Tanner not to include them in his collection of ecumenical decrees. If they weren’t officially promulgated by the council, then they do not enjoy conciliar authority.

      The second question they would ask is, What specific teachings did the council, or at least Justinian, intend to anathematize? In order to answer this question, one would have to assess the historical evidence. Even a quick perusal of the anathemas suggest that the teachings were “way out there” and nothing like the eschatological views of Origen or St Gregory of Nyssa. This is true even for anathema #14. Dogmatic anathemas should not be applied to views they were not intended to address.

      The third question they would ask is, Is there evidence that suggests that the Council Fathers, even if they did intend to address the views of Origen (as they understood them), in fact misunderstood his views?

      Etc., etc. There’s a fair amount of Roman Catholic wiggle room here.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      “I’d also like to ask Dr. Ramelli as to how and when could any Jewish sect at that time, given the views of 2nd Temple Judaism, develop plausibly into universalism.”

      I’m been mulling this over a bit. I don’t know how Ramelli would respond (though she does mention a passage of the Enochic Book of Parables as possibly pointing in the universalist direction); but I’d like to offer my own suggestion: once Jesus has been raised from the dead, all bets are off! By Jewish standards the resurrection of the Nazarene renders Christianity utterly implausible, yet it happened and the Church was born. New wine, new wineskins.


      • That’s what I was thinking, but then it seems odd that rabbinic Judaism also has made Gehenna into a purgatorial place at least for most people except for a few exceptions which are vividly described in the Talmud. It’s almost as if apocalyptic Judaism out of which both Christianity and rabbinic Judaism got their start became retracked by both religions or maybe Judaism had a purificatory undercurrent we just don’t see on the surface in apocalyptic works. God’s work with his People, perhaps.


  2. armsopenwide says:

    I read a sermon by St. Gregory of Nazanzius recently (SVS Press, Festal Sermons) – on Pascha, I believe. He seemed to be open to the possibility, but did not positively affirm apokatastasis. Of course I’m only reading an English translation, and I think I’m simply stating what a note said.


  3. Jon Anderson says:

    Reblogged this on Hipsterdox.


  4. John Carter says:

    That’s a relief! I thought I was going to have to repent at some point.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      One of my favorite stories of the desert fathers:

      When Abba Sisoes was about to die, and the fathers were sitting with him, they saw that his face was shining like the sun. He said unto them, “Behold, Abba Anthony has come.” After a little while he said again, “Behold, the company of prophets has come,” and his face shone twice as bright. Suddenly, he became as one speaking with someone else, and the fathers sitting there asked him, “Show us with whom you are speaking, father.”

      Immediately, Abba Sisoes said to them, “Behold, the angels came to take me away and I asked them to leave me so that I might tarry here a little longer and repent.” And the old men said unto him, “You have no need to repent, father.” And Abba Sisoes said to the fathers, “I do not know in my soul if I have rightly begun to repent,” and they all realized that the old man was perfect.


    • brian says:

      Apparently you don’t know what apokatastasis means. It doesn’t meant you won’t have to repent. It means that eventually everyone will.


    • Right. Either in this life or the next, and most everybody can’t keep our old “selves” and expect to enter heaven without being transformed through repentance in some way – which often feels superficially like a great loss. At least that’s how C.S. Lewis depicted it in his “Great Divorce.”


  5. Jeremy says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you AL. This is awesome!


  6. Kevin says:

    I was lucky enough to have received a copy of this book from Brill for review. Only through 70 pages so far, but what I’ve read has been great. I particulary liked the pages (33-36?) on the use of aiwnois and aidios in the New Testament. The pricetag of this book is a pity and obviously prohibitive to this study becoming more accessible to theology students and teachers.


  7. Agni Ashwin says:

    It’s unfortunate that the term “apokatastasis” is so widely used in this context, because the term itself — which literally means a “re-establishing” or a “re-setting” — implies that there was an original, godly, state that all souls/persons enjoyed, and that there might be a “re-establishing” of each soul/person to that original, godly state. I believe Origen held to this idea of apokatastasis: that each soul existed before birth, enjoying God’s presence; and that each soul — via Christ’s work of incarnation — may re-turn to their original state, in God’s presence. This form of apokatastasis was condemned in the Anathemas Against Origen (traditionally — and probably inaccurately — associated with the Second Council of Constantinople):

    “If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.”

    However, “universalism” (“all will or may be saved”) is a broader category than “apokatastasis” (“the return of each one to one’s original state”). A truly Christian universalism would posit that the human soul/person did not pre-exist in the spiritual realm, but was created on earth, in intimate conjunction with a body and mind; and that each such person may — via Christ’s incarnational work, including any necessary purificatory process — enjoy God’s eschatological presence. A Christian universalism is not a re-turn to an original condition, since the original condition is that of a psycho-physical person within a fallen world, at best.

    If Origen held to apokatastasis, then even if his apokatastasis was founded on the centrality of Christ, you still have the problem of Origen’s anthropology of humanity’s original state (spiritual existence in communion with God), which is inconsistent with Christian tradition. However, Ramelli seems also to say that Origen’s apokatastasis involved the resurrection as a psycho-physical person, in which case Origen’s apokatastasis would not really be an “apokatastasis” (a “re-turn” to one’s original state), but would be what might be called an “entheostasis” (an unending immersion of the person within the process of theosis).


    • Gabe Martini says:

      Indeed, and thank you for adding this helpful corrective.

      Let’s be frank: If Origen is to be ‘rehabilitated,’ it can only be done outside of the context of Orthodox Tradition.

      Modern scholars, with little fidelity to or concern for Orthodox Tradition, want to reject the anathemas of both Emperor Saint Justinian the Great and the Fifth Ecumenical Council as ‘additional’ or not truly a part of this holy synod. However, this is refuted by Canon I of the Ecumenical Council at Trullo (A.D. 692), the so-called ‘Quinisext’ council:

      Also we recognize as inspired by the Spirit the pious voices of the one hundred and sixty-five God-bearing fathers who assembled in this imperial city in the time of our Emperor Justinian of blessed memory, and we teach them to those who come after us; for these synodically anathematized and execrated Theodore of Mopsuestia (the teacher of Nestorius), and Origen, and Didymus, and Evagrius, all of whom reintroduced feigned Greek myths . . .

      I’m sure some unbelieving scholar has a reason for rejecting Trullo, as well, but I’m not interested.

      This is not to say anything with regards to the other content of this post or the overall topic at hand. I just think we (Orthodox folk) should be a little more reserved when it comes to outright rejections or revisions of Ecumenical Councils, especially for the sake of theologoumena or pious speculation.


      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Gabe, I hardly think the Council of Trullo poses much of a problem here. The key question is: What exactly did the 2nd Contstantinople officially and formally declare about Origen and why. I briefly discuss this in my article “What is Orthodox Hell?” It does seem clear that the “Origenist” doctrines with which Justinian & Company were concerned had very little to do with Origen’s actual writings and beliefs. This in itself well justifies a re-evaluation of Origen, in my opinion. We sure don’t want to attribute infallibility to conciliar blunders, do we?


        • Gabe Martini says:

          Whether the fifteen anathemas are part of the formal proceedings of the Council or not, the Council does mention Origen (alongside Theodore and others) by name, as falling under Ecumenical anathema.

          This is not in dispute even among those who reject the fifteen anathemas as being part of the Council (e.g. Hefele, vol. 4, Book 13, Sec. 257).

          It’s merely an assertion to say the Council misunderstood Origen’s writings and beliefs. I don’t believe that to be the case. From what I’ve read above, and in some excerpts from this enormous volume you’ve cited, it seems more likely that Origen (and alleged associates) are being misrepresented and conflated with those who teach similar, albeit significantly different ideas.

          And come on . . . the roll call of “Christian theologians” in her work, beginning with an Assyrian Gnostic and culminating with St. Maximos (!), is a bit much. Honestly. 😉


        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Gabe, I remember Fr John Meyendorff once remarking that Orthodoxy does not ask us to believe anything that is not true.

          If arguendo the Emperor Justinian and the Fathers of the II Constantinople misunderstood and misinterpreted the theological writings of Origen, and if this can be demonstrated by modern scholarship, why should this not be acknowledged?


  8. Edward De Vita says:

    Your statement to the effect that Dr. Ramelli admits that the 5th ecumenical council condemned Origen’s universalism outright is, I believe, mistaken. Here is what she has to say about the subject:

    “The so-called ‘condemnation of Origen by ‘the Church’ in the sixth century probably never occurred proper, and even if it occurred it did so only as a result of a long series of misunderstandings, when the anthropological, eschatological, and psychological questions were no longer felt as open to investigation — as Origen and still Nazianzen considered them –, but dogmatically established. The aforementioned condemnation was in fact a condemnation, not at all of Origen, but rather of a late and exasperated form of Origenism; moreover, it was mainly wanted by emperor Justinian — or better his counsellors, given that he was not a theologian –and only partially, or even not at all, ratified by ecclesiastical representatives.”

    And later, she states:

    “The Council that is usually cited as that which ‘condemned Origen’ is the fifth ecumenical council, the second Constantinopolitan Council, in 553 CE. First of all, its ecumenicity is in fact doubtful, since it was wanted by Justinian and not by Vigilius, the bishop of Rome, or other bishiops; Vigilius was even brought to Constantinople by force, by the emperor’s order, and moreover he did not accept to declare that the council was open (Justinian had to do so). ………And Vigilius’s documents, which were finally emanated by a council that was not wanted by him, most remarkably do not even mention Origen’s name. Origen was never formally condemned by any Christian ecumenical council. ”

    Your point about how Dr. Ramelli can reconcile her clear universalist sympathies with her Cathollic faith is an interesting one. I e-mailed her some time ago to ask her this very question, but have yet to receive a reply. Nevertheless, as a Catholic who has thought hard about this, I do have some thoughts on the issue. It seems to me that we have to ask the question: why is universalism of the type espoused by St. Gregory of Nyssa considered by so many to be heretical? Given that God’s purpose in the Incarnation of Christ is precisely the salvation of every human being, it would seem that one ought to presume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that God will achieve his purpose. I would venture to say that those who object to universalism do so, because they do believe there is evidence to the contrary. They find their evidence in the scriptures which speak of the “eternal” fire which will engulf the wicked on the day of judgment. So, they argue that many will be lost. Universalists, such as Origen and St. Gregory, on the other hand, argue that the word translated “eternal” means simply “pertaining to the world to come” and does not, in itself, indicate duration. Indeed, St. Paul speaks quite clearly of an “aionian” punishment (i.e., a punshment of the world to come) which is purely temporal when he refers to those whose works will be burned though they themselves will be saved “so as by fire.” Moreover, Origen and St. Gregory point to the many passages of scripture which speak of God’s plan to save all, of how when Christ subjects all his enemies to himself, he will then subject himself to the Father and God will be all in all, or how the Good Shepherd goes after the lost sheep, not until he gives up, but until he finds it. How can one reconcile all of these universalistic passages in scripture with passages referring to judgment and punishment? One can take the Balthasarian route and hold them in existential tension. Or, one could argue that punishments will indeed occur in proportion to man’s sin, but that they will have an end. The latter view is criticized because, so it is argued, it does not take human freedom seriously. This would be a surprise to both Origen and St. Gregory, who both argued that no one will find salvation apart from their cooperation with God’s grace. But they believed that the cross of Christ was so powerful a magnet that it would eventually draw all men freely unto itself.

    Given all of this, it seems to me that a Catholic, while not denying the possibility of someone rejecting God forever (i.e., the dogma of an eternal hell), may, nevertheless, have a strong hope that all punishment will end up being purgatorial in nature. In other words, the aionian punishments to which scripture refers, while they include the possibility of strictly eternal punishments, nevertheless, point mainly to punishments that reform the sinner and hence, will have an end. Since God desires the salvation of all, one can hope that all such punishments will be temporal.


    • Thanks. The preview didn’t go that far so I couldn’t see her explanation for it.


    • Actually, in the wake of this post, I was reading an older pdf article from John Sachs, S.J., entitled “Current Eschatology: Universal Salvation and the Problem of Hell.” I have not read Balthasar so Sach’s explanation of assymetrical grace was new to me. It seems that, for Sachs, resisting God in theory – forever – is possible but becomes increasingly unlikely.

      This is kind of off topic, but it’s interesting that Revelations (a passage which Ramelli cites) mentions that the doors of the New Jerusalem were open to the nations. Now, if I were a synchronic reader not too concerned about critical history or maybe reading beyond it, organically, I would contrast that with the closed doors that Jesus mentions like in the case of the bridesmaids and oil lamps as well as “Keep on knocking, and the door shall be opened.” It’s interesting the tension that creates and kind of puts “eternal” passages in perspective.


  9. Robert C Singler Jr says:

    I’ve been working through this book. I promised to send it to a friend of mine, but after about the first three hundred pages my mind had more or less melted like that guy in the Indiana Jones movie when the Ark of the covenant is revealed.

    (I recently dropped most of my tax refund purchasing many others recommended on the site related to the same theme, so thanks for the recommendations.) I don’t really give a shit about lineage and “divine right of kings” stuff that is so popular in Orthodoxy, and that may not really be an issue for Ramelli the way it seemed to be in Ware’s brief essay (available on AFKImel’s Scribd account), BUT she is frighteningly intelligent in this work.

    Her statements on the second death are useful because Annihiliationism is such a big problem. Conversely, I’ve also never cared much about the eternity or age debates (even an ‘age’ seems awfully eye-for-an-eye punishment), although surely she’s finished off Piper (who opposed that Rob Bell fellow). Other writings by Ramelli on this theme are probably more helpful. Ramelli is so dense that I’m sure I’m going to misunderstand her, but at a glimpse, right now I think that anyone who disagrees with her is either dangerously smart, nit-picking for one-upsmanship where it just isn’t likely to happening, or sexist. At first I felt that her book should be required reading at Seminaries, and I might still feel that way, but I’m not sure many Seminarians could handle this piece. [A few classes debating Origen’s anathemas might be fun.] The way I described this book to a friend when I first got it was this texting monologue: “10 pages of abbreviations” “ten bro” Teeeeeehhhhnnn” “this chick is unreal” That still more or less sums it up. This is seriously intense, critical scholarship covering so many languages that C-3PO would be a little frightened.

    I won’t understand this book when I finish it. Maybe again when I am old.

    Good Luck Kimel. Keep up the good work.

    One of the odd sentences that caught me off guard was how she brought up metempsychosis a few times and then mentioned the demons going into the swine herd, which then ran off a cliff. It seemed like she was taking a subtle swipe at N.T. Wright’s anti-Mannichean anti-platonic metempsychosis stuff, but if she were NOT opposed to the “trans-migration of souls,” and supported, than something odd was afoot that I just couldn’t keep up with yet.

    (I’m really not worthy in the least to say anything about her book. It was far too smart for my distracted mind. I didn’t expect to get my ass handed to me so thoroughly by the terrible density of her writing.) Finally, it’s too bad so many men of the church are such sexist bastards with genius like her processing the Christian religion so well.


  10. Karen says:

    I really wish it wasn’t so expensive, but I may just have to purchase this book someday. In the meantime, interlibrary loan!


  11. Edward De Vita says:

    Gabe Martini,
    Perhaps you can explain to us all why it is that Origen was so admired and praised by the likes of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Anthony and a host of other orthodox and eminent men. They had read his works and knew his thoughts. Are you trying to tell us that these men knew that Origen taught the things condemned at the 5th Council and yet defended and revered him? Doesn’t that make them complicit in his “heresies”?
    But more than this, perhaps you can tell us what Origen’s heresies were in detail. And I don’t mean for you to simply refer to the 5th Council. You should be able to show us where Origen taught the things of which he is accused.


  12. Agni Ashwin says:

    “The doctrine of apokatastasis as the eventual universal salvation is an authentically Christian, or Jewish-Christian, doctrine. Before Christianity, no religion or philosophy had ever maintained it, not even Plato or mystery religions.”

    She makes an interesting claim here: “Before Christianity, no religion or philosophy had ever maintained it.”

    Does she argue this point in depth in the book? She may have a point if she limited herself to the western Mediterranean, but I’m not sure it would apply east of the Indus.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Good point. I was wondering about Zoroastrianism, e.g.


    • Actually, I have read a couple of her other essays on this topic (“The Debate on Apokatastasis in Pagan and Christian Platonists: Martianus, Macrobius, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine”). She makes a compelling case that none of Greco-Roman philosophers nor mystery religions (Michael Grant also mentions this in his chapter on the “Early Greeks” in the “Rise of the Greeks”) prior to Late Antiquity, contemporaneous and perhaps in reaction to Christianity, held apokatastasis. However, she does limit her span to the Mediterranean world. John Sachs, S.J., in his shorter essay on universalism actually takes that global view and remarks how unusual Judeo-Christian religion is that they have as little emphasis on apokatastasis as they do. I suspect he had Zoroastrianism in mind where the great and final fire is explicitly for purification. Read at face, Sachs and Ramelli seem to saying opposite things.


  13. Julianna says:

    This is a great resource and thank you a great amount for all of your work and detailed scholarship of going through these sources on this difficult theme. As someone working upon a doctorate in theology it is very helpful to have your contributions. I may have further comments and questions to give you at a later date.


  14. ddpbf says:

    Well, I must admit I did not red book, but I was aware of this stream in Roman Catholic theology which seeks rehabiitation of Origen. I remember Croatian translation of About Origins, had long prologue where there was similar line of reasoning. But just to mae few general notions. Its wrong to make equation between views of Origen and Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Saint Gregory was clearly Orgienist. But we had to bear in mind Origenism is not same thing as Origen’s teachings. And Origenism, also is not some kind of monolithic movement in theology. We should rather speak about Origenisms. Saint Gregory is on right end of Origenism. And yes we had idea of apokatastasis in his works, but its not same teachign as Origen. Altough, we could say he acquired origenistic spirit. As far as of ther two Capadocian fathers, well, I dont really see where we could find their Origenistic ideas? Just to be clear, they were part of theological tradition established by Origen, via Saint Gregory Wonderworker. Yett, they are far more part of Neo-Alexandrine movement, via Saint Athanasisus. Interesting note abut Maximus the Confessor, but all we have about his suposed origenism is detail from Syrian biography from, probably Maronite-Monothelite sources. This Syrian bigraphy calim he was raised by Origenistc abbot in Palestine. Of course, author maybe came to this conclusion trough reading of Maximus’ works, altough I suspect this is just juding by assotiation, like most of names mentioned here.
    Anyway, lumping Saint Antony the Great and Origen, is weeeeeel, big no no. There is also question of wheather he was proponent of Unviersal salvation, or not. Egyptian monks were later bigest enemies of Origenism. Even if many of them were Universalists, they were driving force behind Anti-origenism. And in one or other way they are spritual fruit of St. Antony. Similar things could be said about Theodore of Mpsuestia and Isaac Syrian. They were ofsrping of Antiochene school, which is ultimately reponsable for condemnation of Origen.
    Now to touch question of Fifth Eccumenical Council. Its true, Origensts end up as one of loosing parties, but we must be carefull to offer ahistoric interpretation. Emperor St. Justinian , (well, unlike Evagrius and Didymus, he is Eastern Orthodox Saint, and Roman Catholic I think) was not some determined enemy of Origenism, in fact he was surrounded by Origenists. His antipathy towards origenism came from concstant clashes between Palestinian monks about Origen. Those clashes were allready lasting two centuries in his time. But it stil does not mean Origneists could not reach Emperor’s attention. In end entire Fifth council was inciative of Origenists (led by Theodore Askida metropolitan of Casarea Capadocean). Yes, it was manouvre. But proponents of theologians condemned by three caphters (Theodore of Mopsuestia is one of those three) rightly pointed out on heterodoxy of left Origenists. In end, its not teaching about universal salvation which made Origen condemned, but teachings about pre-existance of souls, about moon and sun as inteligent being, subordinationism in Christology etc.


  15. Edward De Vita says:

    Origen did not teach the pre-existence of souls. Not according to Ramelli at least. What he did teach is the prelapsarian existence of intellectual beings called logike, I believe. These beings were all corporeal, since for Origen, all beings other than God are, to some extent corporeal. These beings fell from grace. Among them was man who, after his fall, took on mortal flesh, I.e., the “garments of skin” to which Genesis refers. I believe that St. Gregory of Nyssa took a similar view of the fall, though I may be mistaken. As for St. Gregory’s view of apokatastasis, it does not differ in any essentials from that of Origen. Indeed, Gregory is even more emphatic about the final salvation of the demonic powers than is Origen.



    • ddpbf says:

      But it is still pre-existence. Not as aeternal pre-existence, but again soul pre-exist to body. I dont remember finding anything alike at Saint Gregory of Nyssa. I could be mistaken, but I red his books more than Origen. Saint Gregory referrs to “garments of skin”, but in his view its not same with flesh. He, use allegory, quite Origenic method indeed, but he say its mortality. Anyway, we should e aware that Origen himself made clear difference between views of Church empathicaly expressed (dogma), and his own, where he followed his speculations in arreas where doctrine was not defined. Also about subordinationism, well, its true that Fathers were using his works, but thing is Origen was cited by Arians too. Dont forget his biggest apologetist, Eusebius was semi-Arian. Also, Origen was indeed ambigous in his formulations. He for example writes about Son and Spirit not having same essence as Father, also says that Father and Spirit are greater than any thing, but Father is greater than them. I did not red Origen’s execetica commentaries where he writes about Trinity, but John Behr’s and Kiprian Kern’s interpretations. I also know V. V. Bolotov worte study about Origen’s Triadology, whre he decidely speak about subordinationist views.


  16. Edward De Vita says:

    An additional note. Origen was not subordinationist. Indeed, St. Athanasius and the Cappadocians all used Origen’s arguments when defending the divinity do the Son. When I get a chance, I will try to translate Ilaria Ramelli’s essay entitled “Origene: una theologia trinitaria anti-subordinationista”. (Origen: a trinitarian anti-subordinationist theology.). Her argument is quite strong in my opinion.


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