Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Origen and the Eternal Generation

Origen of Alexandria evidently believed: “God was however always Father; he could not change from one condition (not-Father) to another (Father). So the Son exists in God’s timeless eternity.”[1] Therefore, in Origen's writings, the term Father “does not as for Justin imply an act or event. For Origen the Father constantly begets the Son by what modern theologians call ‘eternal generation’” (ibid. 105).[2]


In harmony with the dominical proclamation of John’s Gospel, the ancient Alexandrian insists that the Father and Son are one (John 10:30). Origen also illustrates the oneness of Father and Son with analogies involving wife-husband and church-Christ.

The Son is not intrinsically God, but God by derivation. That is, he is not “self-sufficiently” God (Hall 106). Only the Father is autotheos (ibid). The Son is God in a predicative manner (ibid). “In this and other respects the Son is less than the Father” (106). Hall, however, indicates that Origen’s “subordinationism” may have been balanced by his doctrine of the eternal generation (106). See Contra Celsum 8.15.

Nevertheless, one must qualify talk of eternal generation in Origen. For instance, Hill observes: “Still, eternal generation does not of itself give divine status because Origen views all spiritual beings, both what he calls theoi and human souls, as eternal” (W. J. Hill, Three-Personed God, 39). If what Hill states is valid, however, in what sense does Origen view the Son as divine? Evidently, the "immediacy of the generation" and the fact that God wills that unity obtain between the Son and Father make the Son divine (ibid).

As readers of Origen also know, Origen refers to the Son as a creature. He evidently derives this use of ktisma from Prov 8:22.[3] This particular application of the Greek signifier may also be Neoplatonic in nature (Frend, Rise of Christianity).



[1] Hall, Doctrine and Practice, 105.

[2] See Hom in Her 9.4; Prin 1.2.2 and 4.4.28.

[3] Hill, Three-Personed, 39.

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