Origen of Alexandria was a Christian of the early third century who was the first theologian to formulate a systematic system. He lived in a turbulent period for the Christian Church, a period of Roman persecutions and loose doctrinal consensus. He was a priest, ordained under controversial conditions citation needed. His writings were extensive, much of which is not extant. In later centuries some extreme views by followers were attributed to him and his name was brought under suspicion. He was anathematized by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, specifically in its eleventh Canon:
- If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their heretical books, and also all other heretics who have already been condemned and anathematized by the holy, catholic and apostolic church and by the four holy synods which have already been mentioned, and also all those who have thought or now think in the same way as the aforesaid heretics and who persist in their error even to death: let him be anathema.
However, some scholarly controversy exists over the authenticity of fifteen additional "Anathemas against Origen", which specifically spell out his erroneous doctrines. Disagreement exists over whether or not these specific canons were produced by the Ecumenical Council or by a Constantinopolitan Synod. This has been misinterpreted from time to time as indicating that Origen and his doctrines were not anathematized and his doctrines not deemed heretical. Nevertheless, it is not the anathematization of Origen nor condemnation of his doctrines as heresy that is in question but the Ecumenical authenticity of fifteen additional anathemas pronounced against specific aspects of Origen's teachings.
Origen's full name was Origenes Adamantius. His dates of birth and death are not known exactly. He was born about 185, most probably in Alexandria. He was born into a Christian family. He is believed to have been educated by his father, Leonides. He used this education to revive and teach, as didaskalos, at the ‘'catechetical school in Alexandria in 203, under the jurisdiction of Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria. This was after his father died a martyr in 202 in the persecutions under Septimius Severus. Origen was then seventeen and apparently succeeded Clement of Alexandria who had been driven out of Alexandria by the persecutions.
In around 215 he went to Palestine where he was invited to preach by Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus, bishop of Caesarea, even though he was not ordained. His teaching there was considered a breach of discipline by Demetrius.
In 230, he was ordained a priest in Palestine by Bishops Alexander and Theoctistus. This was without the authority of Demetrius who subsequently expelled him from Alexandria. Following his expulsion he moved to Caesarea where he founded a school.
He died a martyr's death in the persecutions of 250, probably in 254, and most probably in Caesarea. It was claimed that he died in Tyre and that his sepulchre was behind the high altar of the cathedral there. The evidence for him moving to Tyr remains unclear.
Origen wrote extensively. According to Epiphanius he produces some 6,000 works. In addition to some spurious efforts, his writings can be divided into four classes: text criticism; exegesis; systematic, practical, and apologetic theology; and letters. Of all these works his most important writing was the Hexapla, a textual criticism that compared various translations of the Old Testament. However, only some portions of this work have come down to us. The full text is no longer extant.