The first published works of Origen were his Homilies, which appeared in 1475, although neither the name of the publisher nor the place of publication is given. These were followed by the treatise against Celsus in the translation of Christopher Persana, which appeared at Rome in 1481; and this, again, by an edition of the Homilies at Venice in 1503, containing those on the first four books of Moses, Joshua, and Judges. The first collective edition of the whole works was given to the world in a Latin translation by James Merlin, and was published in two folio volumes, first at Paris in 1512 and 1519, and afterwards at Paris in 1522 and 1530. A revision of Merlin's edition was begun by Erasmus, and completed, after his death, by Beatus Rhenanus. This appeared at Basle in 1536 in two folio volumes, and again in 1557 and 1571. A much better and more complete edition was undertaken by the Benedictine Gilbertus Genebrardus, which was published also in two volumes folio at Paris in 1574, and again in 1604 and 1619. Hoeschel published the treatise against Celsus at Augsburg in 1605; Spencer, at Cambridge in 1658 and 1677, to which was added the Philocalia, which had first appeared in a Latin translation by Genebrardus, and afterwards in Greek by Tarinus at Paris in 1618 and 1624, in quarto. Huet, Bishop of Avranches, published the exegetical writings in Greek, including the Commentaries on Matthew and John, in two volumes folio, of which the one appeared at Rouen in 1668, and the other at Paris in 1679. The great edition by the two learned Benedictines of St. Maur -- Charles de la Rue, and his nephew Vincent de la Rue -- was published at Paris between the years 1733 and 1759. This is a work of immense industry and labour, and remains the standard to the present time. It has been reprinted by Migne in his series of the Greek Fathers, in nine volumes, large 8vo. In Oberthür's series of the Greek Fathers, seven volumes contain the chief portion of Origen's writings; while Lommatzsch has published the whole in twenty-five small volumes, Berlin, 1831-48, containing the Greek text alone.
For further information upon the life and opinions of Origen, the reader may consult Redepenning's Origenes, 2 vols., Bonn, 1841, 1846; the articles in Herzog's Encyclopädie and Wetzer's and Wette's Kirchen-Lexikon, by Kling and Hefele respectively; the brilliant sketch by Pressensé in his Martyrs and Apologists; and the learned compilation of Huet, entitled Origeniana, to be found in the ninth volume of Migne's edition.
[In the Edinburgh series the foregoing Life was delayed till the appearance of the second volume. The earlier volume appeared with a preface, as follows:] --
The name of the illustrious Origen comes before us in this series in connection with his works De Principiis, Epistola ad Africanum, Epistola ad Gregorium, and the treatise Contra Celsum.
It is in his treatise Peri 'Archon, or, as it is commonly known under the Latin title, De Principiis, that most fully develops his system, and brings out his peculiar principles. None of his works exposed him to so much animadversion in the ancient Church as this. On it chiefly was based the charge of heresy which some vehemently pressed against him, -- a charge from which even his firmest friends felt it no easy matter absolutely to defend him. The points on which it was held that he had plainly departed from the orthodox faith, were the four following: First, That the souls of men had existed in a previous state, and that their imprisonment in material bodies was a punishment for sins which they had then committed. Second, That the human soul of Christ had also previously existed, and been united to the Divine nature before that incarnation of the Son of God which is related in the Gospels. Third, That our material bodies shall be transformed into absolutely ethereal ones at the resurrection; and Fourth, That all men, and even devils, shall be finally restored through the mediation of Christ. His principles of interpreting Scripture are also brought out in this treatise; and while not a little ingenuity is displayed in illustrating and maintaining them, the serious errors into which they might too easily lead will be at once perceived by the reader.
It is much to be regretted that the original Greek of the De Principiis has for the most part perished. We possess it chiefly in a Latin translation by Rufinus. And there can be no doubt that he often took great liberties with his author. So much was this felt to be the case, that Jerome undertook a new translation of the work; but only small portions of his version have reached our day. He strongly accuses Rufinus of unfaithfulness as an interpreter, while he also inveighs bitterly against Origen himself, as having departed from the Catholic Faith, specially in regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. There seems, however, after all, no adequate reason to doubt the substantial orthodoxy of our author, although the bent of his mind and the nature of his studies led him to indulge in many vain and unauthorized speculations.
The Epistle to Africanus was drawn forth by a letter which that learned writer had addressed to Origen respecting the story of Susanna appended to the book of Daniel. Africanus had grave doubts as to the canonical authority of the account. Origen replies to his objections, and seeks to uphold the story as both useful in itself, and a genuine portion of the ancient prophetical writings.
The treatise of Origen Against Celsus is, of all his works, the most interesting to the modern reader. It is a defence of Christianity in opposition to a Greek philosopher named Celsus, who had attacked it in a work entitled 'Alethes Logos, that is, The True Word, or The True Discourse. Of this work we know nothing, except from the quotations contained in the answer given to it by Origen. Nor has anything very certain been ascertained respecting its author. According to Origen, he was a follower of Epicures, but others have regarded him as a Platonist. If we may judge of the work by those specimens of it presented in the reply of Origen, it was little better than a compound of sophistry and slander. But there is reason to be grateful for it, as having called forth the admirable answer of Origen. This work was written in the old age of our author, and is composed with great care; while it abounds with proofs of the widest erudition. It is also perfectly orthodox; and, as Bishop Bull has remarked, it is only fair that we should judge from a work written with the view of being considered by the world at large, and with the most elaborate care, as to the mature and finally accepted views of the author.
The best edition of Origen's works is that superintended by Charles and Charles Vincent de la Rue, Paris, 1783, 4 vols. fol., which is reprinted by Migne. There is also an edition in 25 volumes, based upon that of De la Rue, but without the Latin translation, by Lommatzsch, Berlin, 1831-1848. The De Principiis has been separately edited by Redepenning, Leipzig, 1836. Spencer edited the Contra Celsum, Cambridge, 1677.
[Professor Crombie was assisted in the Contra Celsum by the Rev. W. H. Cairns, M.A., Rector of the Dumfries Academy. Mr. Cairns (since deceased) was the translator of Books VII. and VIII. of that work.]
[The Works of Origen included in this volume having been placed in my hands by the Right Reverend Editor of the present series (who restricts himself to a limited task of supervision), I have endeavoured to do for them that which seemed needful in the circumstances. The temptation was strong to enter upon annotations, for which no one of the authors among the Ante-Nicene Fathers offers larger room, and to insert corrections of various sorts, based upon modern progress and research. But, in accordance with the plan of this series, I have been forced to resist this temptation, and have striven only to be useful in matters which, though of great moment, are toilsome, and in no wise flattering to editorial vanity or conceit.
I have silently corrected numerous typographical errors which exist in the Edinburgh edition, and have sought to secure uniformity in the details of reproducing the work, and, above all, accuracy in all its parts. Particularly, I may mention that the Scripture references needed correction to the extent of more than a hundred places, and that references to classical and other writers were often quite astray. A very few notes, enclosed in brackets, are all that I have deemed it expedient or proper, on my part, to add.
While no one who is aware of human infirmity will ever dare to claim perfection in the typography of a book which has passed through the press under his hands, yet in the present case I venture to assure the student and reader that no pains or effort have been spared in order to make the volume as accurate as possible in this respect. Much experience and training incline me to hope and believe that success has attended my efforts. S.]