Beyond the Body: Exegesis and Anthropology in Origen

Origen was clear throughout his corpus of writings that the image of God that was given to humanity in creation (Gen. 1:26) did not involve corporeality because the body was corruptible. Though some label this mystical approach to anthropology and soteriology as Gnostic, this paper will apply rhetorical criticism to several of Origen’s uses of Gen. 1:26 to instead demonstrate that the Alexandrian’s anthropology was intimately connected to his rhetorically-conditioned exegesis. The separability of meaning from reference was an Aristotelian move that provided the foundation to Origen’s entire project. In his exegesis, Origen taught that Scripture’s true meaning and value was not found on the outside, but the inside. He makes the same rhetorical move in his anthropology: corporeality was antithetical to spirituality in the same way reading the literal sense of Scripture was to understanding the spiritual sense. The separability of meaning and reference led Origen to believe that the body was like the surface of a text; true value was found by pushing beyond the body. The image of God and the spiritual meaning of Scripture both come from moving beyond the literal, bodily frame to the inner, spiritual sense, a procedure he adopted and adapted from Aristotelian rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “Beyond the Body: Exegesis and Anthropology in Origen”

  1. I think this is a good thesis
    I think this is a good thesis that shows Origen was not simply a Gnostic anti materialist but there was something deeper at work in his view of the human body

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  2. philosophy and exegesis
    This proposal shows interpretive sophistication, and I am interested to hear more about an Aristotelian separation between reference and meaning. This paper addresses interpretive issues with respect to Genesis as well as broader themes such as theological anthropology.

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  3. Suggested grouping
    Suggested grouping in program:

    Ante-Nicene Anthropology:

    Origen (Kneeland)
    Clement (Hedges)
    Origen (Sutherland)

    Or titled, Patristic Anthropology and add

    Chrysostom (Naidu)

    Reply

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