Notes on Origen on Romans
Since I've just finished typing up my notes of volume 1 (of 2) of Origen's Commentary on Romans (The Fathers of the Church vol 103, Trans. Thomas P Scheck), I thought I might as well post them.
Notes regarding the atonement/salvation
1.18.6 The good angels support men in their struggle against the devil, his angels, evil spirits and all evil powers and principalities.
1.18.7 Origen identifies “death” with the devil when “death” is described as “the last enemy” (1 Cor 15:26)
2.5.3 By “perseverance” (Rom 2:7) Paul is referring to the fact that to do good we must struggle against the powers and rules (Eph 6:12)
2.13.29 ““We have been redeemed not at a corruptible price of silver and gold but with the precious blood of the only begotten.” (1 Pet 1:18-19) If then we have been bought at a price, as Paul also confirms (1 Cor 7:23), undoubtedly we were bought from someone whose slaves we were, who also demanded the price he wanted so that he might release from his authority those whom he was holding. Now it was the devil who was holding us, to whom we had been dragged off by our sins. Therefore he demanded the blood of Christ as the price for us.”
3.1.9 “righteousness is rightly and deservedly hostile to and opposed to unrighteousness, just as life is hostile to and opposed to death and light to darkness...
Consequently God, who is righteousness, shall not seem unjust when he vents his anger against unrighteousness. For it would not befit him to be favourable toward it. But this wrath too reaches unto men who have offered themselves as servants of the unrighteousness with which God is angry....
righteousness is the disposition... found first of all in God and then also in those who imitate him.”
3.1.14 “By the coming of the truth of God and his wisdom and his word he has exposed and confuted every falsehood and he has undercut all the assertions of false teachings by faith in the truth.”
3.7.14 “The term “redemption” refers to that which is given to enemies for those whom they are keeping in captivity, in order that they might restore them to their original freedom. Captives conquered by sin, as if by war, were being held fast, then, by the enemies of the human race. The Son of God came... he handed himself over to thee enemies... and this is the redemption accomplished for those who believe...”
3.8 This chapter is a long and complicated discussion of “propitiation” in Rom 3:25. Origen sees an allegory between Christ and the mercy seat on the Ark. In short, Origen thinks that Christ is a propitiation because he frees us from sin and brings us to God.
4.7.7 By Rom 4:23-25 “He wanted to show that even we must abhor and reject the things on account of which Christ was handed over. For if we believe he was handed over on account of our sins, why do we not regard every sin as hostile and injurious to us, seeing that it is recorded to be on account of these sins that our redeemer was handed over to death? For if any fellowship or friendship should again occur between us and sin, we are showing that we have no regard for the death of Christ Jesus since we are embracing and following the things which he fought against and conquered.
4.8.1 On “peace” in Rom 5:1:
“So then, we who were once God's enemies by following that enemy and tyrant, the devil, now most assuredly have peace with God, if we have thrown down the devil's arms and have taken up the sign of Christ and the banner of his cross.” (cf Rom 5:10, Col 1:20)
4.11.4 Regarding “how Christ died for us and in what way he, since he is the lamb of God, would take away the sin of the world and bear our weaknesses and sufferpain on our behalf”, he says that Jesus “having taken the form of a slave, in accordance with the Father's will, he offered himself as a sacrifice for the whole world by handing over his own blood to the ruler of this world. This was in accordance with the wisdom which “none of the rulers of this world understood; for it they would have understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of majesty” (1 Cor 2:7-8); nor would that blood after which they thirsted have quenched, not so much their thirst as their power; nor would it have destroyed their kingdom; nor would what the Lord said in the Gospel have befallen them: “Behold, now the ruler of this world has been condemned” (Jn 16.11); and, “Behold, I was seeing Satan falling like lightning from heaven.” (Lk 10:18)”
5.1.31 Regarding Rom 5:12-14 he says “Therefore it seems to me that in these matters the Apostle is describing death as if the hostile entrance of some tyrant who wanted to invade the dominions of a rightful king. First he would seize the very passes and entrances into the kingdom by means of collusion with the guard. Then he would attempt to turn the hearts of everyone in the kingdom to himself and, for the most part, he would succeed. In this way he would lay claim to a kingdom not his own. Therefore, while he is ruling through tyranny a commander chosen by the rightful king is sent – Moses, who must call back the people who have been taken over by the tyrant to the laws of civilized rule and must teach them to make use of the laws.... And so it was only then that a certain part of mankind began to be liberated from the kingdom of sin and death. For that tyrant, who is called death, was exercising dominion from Adam, who was the first to give entrance to him by his own collusion, so that he could pass through to all men....
5.1.32 To people who from the beginning choose to work for goodness, sin manifests itself only as a “light infection”, whilst “in those who surrender themselves to it with their entire mind and allegiance, it seizes dominion and rules over them with complete authority.”
5.1.33 “But because his [the tyrant's] power of domination was so great, greater even than the strength of the law, prophets are sent as reinforcements to the law. But even they, realizing that the tyrant's power exceeded their strength, pray for the coming and presence of the king.... Therefore Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and “in the law was weak through the flesh, God, by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom 8:3) Indeed he also reconciled the world to God (2 Cor 5:19) and disarmed the principalities and powers of the tyrant, triumphing over them in himself. (Col 2:15)
5.1.37 If tyrant who was “keeping souls bound in the underworld, is said to exercise dominion, then we shall understand it to mean that even the saints had fallen prey to that death certainly under the law of dying, even if not under the punishment of sin. But it was on this account that Christ descended into the underworld, not only because he would not be held by death, but also in order that he might release those who were held there, as we said, not so much through the crime of transgression as much as by the condition of dying... In this as well the prophet's sayings were fulfilled, in which he said of Christ, “In ascending on high he lead captivity captive.” (Ps 68.18) Thus by his own resurrection he has already destroyed the dominions of death, which is also why it is written that the set captivity free. Listen now to when the Apostle says that the enemy and tyrant, whose dominions Christ destroyed, is going to be destroyed: He says, “The last enemy is destroyed, death.” (1 Cor 15:26) The kingdom of death has already been destroyed, then, and the captivity which was being held under its authority has been led away. But because that enemy and tyrant is still ultimately to be destroyed at the end of the age, that is why we see him even now, I do not say reigning so much as robbing.”
5.3.7 “Since we have indeed said that death had held dominion until the arrival of Christ who is life, but the Apostle says that Christ had come not only to destroy death but also him who was holding the power of death, i.e., the devil (Heb 2:14), who [then] is reigning [now, after Christ has done this]?” Since it “is [currently] before that which is written happens, “Then comes the end when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor 15:24) For if we should say what is logical, that life reigns when death has been destroyed, it could be objected to us: Why then is sin still being committed? It is clear that death exercises dominion through sin. But if we should say that Christ, i.e., life, reigns in certain souls, and death in certain others, what persons shall we find in whom the dominion of life exists in such a way that the dominion of death has no authority in them? In other words, who is entirely free from sin? These matters seem to me to pertain instead to the future kingdom, and there those things are to be fulfilled where it is said, “That God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28) For this is why we are taught to say in the Lord's prayer, “Your kingdom come!” as if it has not yet come.... The present time, however, I would say seems not so much a time of reigning as of war. Through this war the future kingdom is being striven for. Yet Christ can be said to reign even in this time of war, since the dominion of death is now broken in par and being gradually destroyed, a dominion which had previously spread itself out to all men.... Therefore the fight must be fought for a long time by those who want to reign in life through Jesus Christ, until “death, the last enemy, should be destroyed.” (1 Cor 15:26)
5.5.9 “So then Adam offered sinners a model thorough his disobedience; but Christ, in contrast, gave the righteous a model by his obedience..... It is also on this account that he “became obedient unto death,” (Phil 2:8) in order that those who follow the example of his obedience might be made righteous by righteousness itself, just as those others were made sinners by following the model of Adam's disobedience.”
5.7.5 “Therefore, suppose someone, admonished by the death of Christ, who “died for the ungodly,” (Rom 5:6) repents of all these things and he expels the one exercising dominion in his flesh like an extremely wicked king, and makes himself a stranger to his desires and commands. Then he will truly be said to have died to sin through the death of Christ. Now in this passage [Rom 6:1-2] I believe the author of sin is being called sin.”
5.7.7 “Now indeed it does occasionally happen that a person ceases to continue in sin, but after desisting from it, returns again to his own vomit (Prov 26:11) and becomes infinitely wretched so that, after having expelled from himself the kingdom of sin and death and after having received the kingdom of life and righteousness, the person surrenders himself all over again to the tyranny of sin and death. The Apostle calls this the shipwreck of one's faith (1 Tim 1:19).
5.10.11 Let us imagine an upright and noble king who wants to wage a war against some unjust tyrant, but in such a way that he should not seem to conquer by means of a violent and bloody conflict; for even the soldiers serving under the tyrant were his own men whom he was not desiring to destory but to liberate. Therefore under a better plan he assumes the dress of those who were under the tyrant, and in appearance he becomes like them in every way until, while placed under the tyrant's sphere of rule, he persuades at least those who were serving him to leave off and turn back to the rightful kingdom. Then at the opportune time he binds the strong man and despoils his powers and principalities and leads away the captives which had been seized and were being held by the tyrant.
5.10.12 “It was certainly in this way, then, that Christ also emptied himself voluntarily and took the form of a slave (Phil 2:7-8) and endured the dominion of the tyrant, having become obedient unto death. Through that death he destroyed him who was holding the power of death, i.e., the devil (Heb 2:14-15), so that he could liberate those who were being held fast by death. For when Christ had bound the strong man (Mt 12:29) and triumphed over him by means of his cross (Col 2:15), he even advanced into his house, the house of death in the underworld, and from there he plundered his possessions, that is, he led away the souls which the devil was keeping... So then, first he bound him at the cross and thus he entered his house, the underworld, and from there “ascending on high he led captivity captive,” (Ps 68:18) namely those who have been raised together with him and have entered the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). Therefore it is right that the Apostle says in the present passage (Rom 6:8-10), “Death will no longer exercise dominion over him.” For he will no longer give himself over to the tyrant's sphere of lordship nor will he empty himself again by taking the form of a slave and by becoming obedient unto death (Phil 2:7-8). Never again will he endure the domination of the tyrant and of death in the form of a slave, even though he was put in this position voluntarily and not by compulsion.”
41-42. (Intro) Origen on “works of the law”: In 8.6, explaining Rom 11:6, Origen says “the works which Paul repudiates and frequently criticises are not the works of righteousness which are commanded in the law, but those in which they boast, who keep the law according to the flesh; that is to say, the circumcision of the flesh, the sacrificial rituals, and the observance of Sabbaths and new moon festivals (cf Col 2:18). These and works of a similar nature are the works by which he says no one can be saved.” Origen thinks true good works are necessary.
1.4.4 “... a person is very impious not to concede to God that what we see in the past he can see in the future.”
1.5.1 Origen insists that predetermine is different to determine because predetermination happens earlier in time.
1.5.3 In Paul's conception, the soul sits half way between the flesh (ie fleshly nature) and spirit (ie spiritual nature) and can attach itself to either one or the other.
1.16.1-2 Origen takes Rom 1:18-23 to be referring specifically to Gentile philosophers – wise men who should know about God through their wisdom yet continue to worship idols.
1.16.4 The wrath being revealed is the wrath of sin and the devil's as opposed to God's own wrath.
1.16.6 The internal nature of God is concealed from created beings, but there will be some to whom it will eventually be revealed.
1.17.1 Though Rom 1:18-23 is speaking of all created beings it primarily refers to philosophers whose job it is to know God by reason.
1.19.6 So in Rom 1 Paul dealt with
a) Those who worship idols = Pagans
b) Those knowledgeable who didn't acknowledge God = Pagan philosophers
c) Those who utter blasphemies = Heretics
2.1.2-3 “By common acknowledgement a good man ought not be punished, nor should an evil one obtain good things. Therefore, if, for instance, someone has done evil at some time, it is certain that he was evil at that time when he was doing evil things. However, suppose he, repenting of his past deeds, reforms his mind toward good things, behaves well, speaks well, thinks well, and turns his will toward the good. Is it not clear to you that he who does these things is a good man who deserves to receive good things? In like manner if someone should convert from good to evil, he shall no longer be judged as the good man he was and is no longer, but as the evil man that he is. You see, deeds pass away, whether good or evil... Accordingly it shall be unjust to punish a good mind for evils committed or to reward an evil mind for good deeds..... How will it be just to condemn a pious soul for ungodliness, or a just soul for injustice, or a soul practising moderation for excess?”
2.2.1 Rom 2:3 => If Bishops and Deacons condemn pagans for these crimes yet commit the same crimes themselves they will not escape.
2.2.2 God's judgement is beneficial => it corrects and restores and heals.
2.4.3 Lots of scriptures on the “Day of Wrath” regarding Rom 2:5-6. See: Amos 5:16-20, Joel 1:14-15, 2:1-5, 2:11, Zeph 1:7, 1:14-18, Isa 13:9,13.
2.4.6 What is currently happening to people now dead is a mystery. He mentions intercession of the saints as a possibility.
2.4.7 The fact that Rom 2 teaches judgement by works shows that faith alone is not enough. The Gentiles who do good and behave correctly are not excluded from reward.
2.6.1-2 Origen takes the unusual linguistic structure of Rom 2:8-9 to mean that wrath, fury, affliction etc are natural results of wickedness and that God is not the cause of them. Origen gives 1 Sam 2:30 and Isa 50:11 as examples of similar passages.
2.6.3 An analogy of that is a person who makes themselves more sick through disobeying the doctor's advice.
2.7.4 An example of the people who keep doing good as described in Rom 2:7 are Christian martyrs who have persevered to the end.
2.8.2 Speaking generally about all kinds of sin: “nearly all people commit sin”.
2.8.4-5 Though people have to accept Christ as Lord either now or in the next life to share eternal life, non-Christians will still be rewarded for any good deeds they do.
2.11.1-3 Rom 2:1 is not talking about everyone, only about those who condemn others for the things they do themselves. A similar idea applies for Rom 2:27.
2.11.5-8 Rom 2:21-23 are metaphorical charges against the Jews for rejecting Christianity. Eg “stealing” refers to the Jews stealing the glory of Christ by denying him.
2.13.2 Origen uses Baptism in an analogy corresponding to circumcision.
2.14.15 Origen thinks “faithfulness of God” in Rom 3.3 is either:
a) God's own faithfulness to man
b) Man's faithfulness like God's => “the faithfulness of God which is in us”.
2.14.17 Virtually everyone, even good people make an error (sin?) occasionally.
3.1.11 “... God destroys man in respect to what is human in order that afterwards he can make him into a god at that time when God shall be all in all.
3.2.28 Chrildren cannot sin until they gain a capacity for distinguishing good and evil. (Repeated in 5.1.24)
3.32 Paul's meaning in Rom 3 regarding “no one has done good” means that no one has brought goodness to completion, no one has achieved perfection.
3.6.1 Origen thinks “law” in Rom 3:20 is not natural law but Mosaic law.
3.6.7 Origen takes “no flesh is justified by works of the law” to be things done by those “in the flesh” as opposed to things that concern spiritual obedience to the law. Spiritual obedience to the law does justify.
3.8.9 Jesus can't be “predetermined” because you can only predetermine something before it exists and Jesus never didn't exist.
4.1.12 For faith to achieve “reckoned righteous” it needs to lead you to perfection. Other virtues can thus lead to righteousness too. (Translator points to Ps 106.31 where Phineas' zeal leads to righteousness)
4.1.14 Origen insists that man, no matter what he does, can never merit anything from God.
4.1.14-15 He takes the “wages” mentioned tin Rom 4:4 as punishment for works of sin as opposed to the gift for good works. (cf Rom 6:23)
4.3.1 “Precept is laid on slaves, but faith is sought by friends.” (cf John 15:15)
4.5.11 “...man was indeed made in the image of God in the beginning, but the likeness was postponed so that he might first trust in God and thus become like him and might himself hear that everyone who trusts in him becomes like him.”
4.7.6 “...righteousness cannot be reckoned to an unrighteous man” (Origen discusses this earlier too... book 1?)
4.12.1 There are degrees of righteousness and degrees of sin.
4.12.4 Rom 5:10-11 should be understood in conjunction with Eph 2:11-18
5.1.19 When Christ “became sin” (2 Cor 5:21) it means he “took flesh”
5.3.8 We can achieve increased grace by works, ie striving in good works makes grace abound to us.
5.5.3-4,7 “It is one thing to have sinned, another to be a sinner. One is called a sinner who, by committing many transgressions, has already reached the point of making sinning into a habit and, so to speak, a course of study. Just as, on the other hand, one is not called righteous who has once or twice done some righteous act, but who continually behaves justly and keeps righteousness in use and makes it habitual. For if someone is unjust in nearly all other matters but should carry out some just work one or two times, he will indeed be said to have acted justly in that work in which he practised justice' nevertheless he will not be a just man. Similarly it will indeed be said that a righteous man has sinned if he has at some time committed what is not lawful. But he will not on that account be labelled a sinner, since he does not hold fast to the practice and habit of sinning....
4. For it can happen that all people commit sin, even if they are holy... For who is there who does not sin either in deed or in word or, if one is extremely cautious, at least in thought?....
7. You may find in the Holy Scriptures many things of this sort in which you will discover both that the righteous man has committed sin and the sinner has done some righteous things. Nevertheless you will not find either the righteous man called a sinner because he sinned in some matter, or the sinner designated as a righteous man because he did something just.
5.5.8 Rom 5. We become unrighteous through the disobedience of “one man” but become righteous through the obedience of merely “one”, not “one man”. That one “is doubtless righteousness itself, as the same Apostle also says about Christ, “Who has become for us rihgteousness from God.””
5.8.2 Origen thinks Baptism itself doesn't achieve much, rather the person needs to have died to sin before they are baptised or it is of no use whatsoever.
5.9.11 The body's innate defilement (ie original sin in a vague sense) is the reason for baptism of children.
5.10.13-14 In heaven there will still be free will, but no one will fall away, because “love never falls away” (1 Cor 13:8), so when our love is perfected in heaven it will never fail.