Monday, September 20, 2021

Origen's approach to interpreting scripture

Origen's approach to interpreting scripture is quite a unique and interesting approach.  I can't say I've ever read anything quite like his approach to scripture, though Origen was known for having some rather odd perspectives on the scriptures, the universe, and the cycle of time, to name a few.

Origen quotes Proverb 22:20-21 (KJV) referencing a threefold approach to wisdom given by King Solomon. What's interesting is that if you look at a more accurate translation, such as the NIV, the "threefold" is translated "thirty."  The ESV also renders it thirty.  In any case, Origen is at least correct in that scripture tends to divide the person up into three main areas, body, soul, and spirit (Kerr, p. 47). So Origen regards the scriptures in the same way, to be properly considered as threefold, body, soul, and spirit.  He considers the body of the scriptures to be the plain basic truths in the scriptures.  He considers the soul to be the medium level truths of the scriptures, that which are deeper.  And he regards the spirit of the scriptures to be those hidden truths that are discerned properly by the perfect believer. 

As a wesleyan holiness theology advocate, I certainly appreciate the reference to Christian perfection.  And I think there is at least some merit to the idea of basic truths, and deeper truths discerned from the scriptures.  It brings to mind Jesus' statement that he spoke in parables so that some would perceive the deeper reality and others would find it to be a stumbling block.  Origen mentions that he believes certain fantastical elements, or impossibilities are included in the scriptures for the simple purpose of being stumbling blocks to the haughty.  Once again, I find this an appealing concept.  I tend to see something similar, when I read certain passages in the scriptures, I have this sneaking suspicion that God may have placed these accounts that seem so fantastical for the simple purpose of being a stumbling block to the proud.  Of course that's just an idea, I can't really prove it. 

The intellectual framework of Christianity is absolutely vital to Origen because he is dealing with arguments from attackers like Celsus that suggest Christians are ignorant and stupid.  How incredibly ironic, as we read the great minds of church history, and how incredibly brilliant they were.  And as I think of so many great modern Christian minds, to think that people like Celsus, and to today, Richard Dawkins, and many others, so often regard Christians as ignorant rubes, is indeed, quite ironic. The memes never die over the centuries, do they? The Satan has no new attacks, only ancient ones.