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“Gregory Thaumaturgus on Origen and Philosophy”

Address of Thanksgiving to Origen, extracts from chapters 6 and 13

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General Introduction

Frances Young

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6. And from the very first day of his receiving us (which day was, in truth, the first day to me, and the most precious of all days, if I may so speak, since then for the first time the true Sun began to rise upon me), while we, like some wild creatures of the fields, or like fish, or some sort of birds that had fallen into the toils or nets, and were endeavouring to slip out again and escape, were bent on leaving him, and making off for Berytus or our native country, he studied by all means to associate us closely with him, contriving all kinds of arguments, and putting every rope in motion (as the proverb goes), and bringing all his powers to bear on that object. With that intent he lauded the lovers of philosophy with large laudations and many noble utterances, declaring that those only live a life truly worthy of reasonable creatures who aim at living an upright life and who seek to know first of all themselves, what manner of persons they are, and then the things that are truly good, which man ought to strive after, and then the things that are really evil, from which man ought to flee. And then he reprehended ignorance and all the ignorant: and there are many such, who, like brute cattle, are blind in mind, and have no understanding even of what they are, and are as far astray as though they were wholly void of reason, and neither know themselves what is good and what is evil, nor care at all to learn it from others, but toil feverishly in quest of wealth, and glory, and such honours as belong to the crowd, and bodily comforts, and go distraught about things like these, as if they were the real good. And as though such objects were worth much, yea, worth all else, they prize the things themselves, and the arts by which they can acquire them, and the different lines of life which give scope for their attainment,—the military profession, to wit, and the juridical, and the study of the laws. And with earnest and sagacious words he told us that these are the objects that enervate us, when we despise that reason which ought to be the true master within us. I cannot recount at present all the addresses of this kind which he delivered to us, with the view of persuading us to take up the pursuit of philosophy. Nor was it only for a single day that he thus dealt with us, but for many days and, in fact, as often as we were in the habit of going to him at the outset; and we were pierced by his argumentation as with an arrow from the very first occasion of our hearing him (for he was possessed of a rare combination of a certain sweet grace and persuasiveness, along with a strange power of constraint), though we still wavered and debated the matter undecidedly with ourselves, holding so far by the pursuit of philosophy, without however being brought thoroughly over to it, while somehow or other we found ourselves quite unable to withdraw from it conclusively, and thus were always drawn towards him by the power of his reasonings, as by the force of some superior necessity. For he asserted further that there could be no genuine piety towards the Lord of all in the man who despised this gift of philosophy,—a gift which man alone of all the creatures of the earth has been deemed honourable and worthy enough to possess, and one which every man whatsoever, be he wise or be he ignorant, reasonably embraces, who has not utterly lost the power of thought by some mad distraction of mind. He asserted, then, as I have said, that it was not possible (to speak correctly) for any one to be truly pious who did not philosophize. And thus he continued to do with us, until, by pouring in upon us many such argumentations, one after the other, he at last carried us fairly off somehow or other by a kind of divine power, like people with his reasonings, and established us (in the practice of philosophy), and set us down without the power of movement, as it were, beside himself by his arts. Moreover, the stimulus of friendship was also brought to bear upon us,—a stimulus, indeed, not easily withstood, but keen and most effective,—the argument of a kind and affectionate disposition, which showed itself benignantly in his words when he spoke to us and associated with us. For he did not aim merely at getting round us by any kind of reasoning; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy, and most especially also in those other gifts which the Deity has bestowed on him above most men, or, as we may perhaps say, above all men of our own time. I mean the power that teaches us piety, the word of salvation, that comes to many, and subdues to itself all whom it visits: for there is nothing that shall resist it, inasmuch as it is and shall be itself the king of all; although as yet it is hidden, and is not recognised, whether with ease or with difficulty, by the common crowd, in such wise that, when interrogated respecting it, they should be able to speak intelligently about it. And thus, like some spark lighting upon our inmost soul, love was kindled and burst into flame within us,—a love at once to the Holy Word, the most lovely object of all, who attracts all irresistibly toward Himself by His unutterable beauty, and to this man, His friend and advocate. And being most mightily smitten by this love, I was persuaded to give up all those objects or pursuits which seem to us befitting, and among others even my boasted jurisprudence,—yea, my very fatherland and friends, both those who were present with me then, and those from whom I had parted. And in my estimation there arose but one object dear and worth desire,—to wit, philosophy, and that master of philosophy, this inspired man.....

13. And besides all his other patient and laborious efforts, how shall I in words give any account of what he did for us, in instructing us in theology and the devout character? and how shall I enter into the real disposition of the man, and show with what judiciousness and careful preparation he would have us familiarized with all discourse about the Divinity, guarding sedulously against our being in any peril with respect to what is the most needful thing of all, namely, the knowledge of the Cause of all things? For he deemed it right for us to study philosophy in such wise, that we should read with utmost diligence all that has been written, both by the philosophers and by the poets of old, rejecting nothing, and repudiating nothing (for, indeed, we did not yet possess the power of critical discernment), except only the productions of the atheists, who, in their conceits, lapse from the general intelligence of man, and deny that there is either a God or a providence. From these he would have us abstain, because they are not worthy of being read, and because it might chance that the soul within us that is meant for piety might be defiled by listening to words that are contrary to the worship of God.



 

 

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original Greek text
In Origenem Oratio Panegyrica
The Oration and Panegyric addressed to Origen
Origen and Philosophy
Migne Greek Text
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Graeca

 

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