Thursday, December 28, 2017

Origen of Alexandria and hUPODEESTEROS (Contra Celsum 8.15)

The best place to check for a synchronic definition of
this term is Lampe's patristic Greek lexicon. For now,
I offer diachronic information from
Liddell-Scott-Jones. This lexicon points out that
hUPODEESTEROS (ὑποδεέστερος) is the comparative form
of hUPODEHS (ὑποδεής). The adnominal hUPODEHS itself can
mean "somewhat deficient, inferior" and may be used
of persons with the sense "lower in degree" or "younger."
Based on the context in which Origen is contrasting
the Father's might with the Son's lesser might or greatness,
it seems that the meaning "inferior" or lower in degree is
preferable to the denotation "younger."

Under the entry hUPODEHS, BDAG also notes that the
Greek morpheme can denote "pertaining to being in a
lower position, inferior." It references Diognetus 10.5
regarding "those who are inferior" (hOI
hUPODEESTEROI). The word also pertains "to being
responsive to authority, subservient." Used
substantively, hUPODEHS potentially means "someone's
subordination" (TO hUPODEES TINOS). See 1 Clement

In Origen, however, I don't believe that the
Alexandrian is simply arguing the Son is positionally
lower in relation to his Father. The context itself
suggests another understanding of hUPODEESTEROS.
Henri Crouzel (Origen: The Life and Thought of
the First Great Theologian
, page 203) argues that
Origen believes the Father is greater than the Son and
Holy Spirit vis-a-vis DOXA and not DUNAMIS. But
Origen's focus in Contra Celsum 8.15 is different. He
seems to be concerned with the power or might of the
Father over against the relative inferiority of the Son.


Keefa Ben Yahchanan said...


[you said]Origen believes the Father is greater than the Son and
Holy Spirit

[reply} This is an outstanding observation. I submit this quote.

"Thus far, Origen presents us with so varied and nuanced a picture that it is easy to see why his relation to Arianism has been the subject of so much dispute. A few points, however, should be clear. First of all, Arius stands in the tradition of Origen in so far as he holds to the transcendence of the Father, the impossibility of believing in two co-ordinate agen(n)ata, self-sufficient first principles"...Arius: Heresy and Tradition[Rowan Williams] pg. 143

Origen believes that the Father is transcendental and the only one who is AGEN(N)ETOS.

Edgar Foster said...

Brother Keefa,

That is an excellent study about Arius and the quote is appreciated. Since you like studying Arian history and in view of the fact that you mentioned Origen, please allow me to recommend two other works dealing with the man from Alexandria:

See Henri Crouzel, Origen, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1999 printing, ©1989.

J. Nigel Rowe, Origen's Doctrine of Subordination, Berne: P. Lang, copyr. 1987.

Edgar Foster said...

I found Rowe's thesis online: