Origen's Technical Meaning of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]
Origen, far from being a precursor of "Arianism," as he was depicted during the Origenist controversy and is often still misrepresented today, was the main inspirer of the Nicene-Cappadocian line. (1) The Trinitarian formulation of this line, which was represented above all by Gregory of Nyssa, is that God is one and the same nature or essence ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) in three individual substances ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), and that the Son is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] to the Father. Indeed, the three members of the Trinity share in the same ovoia. (2) This formulation was followed by Basil in his last phase; Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus from 362 onwards; Evagrius; and numerous later authors. (3) Origen himself had already maintained both things: that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit have the same ovoia but are three different [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], and Gregory of Nyssa closely followed him. (4) As I set out to argue, Origen's thought represented a novel and fundamental theorization with respect to the conununality of ovoia and the individuality of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], conceived as individual substances, in the Trinity. He influenced not only subsequent Trinitarian theology, but perhaps even "pagan" Neoplatonism. (Likewise, on the christological side, Annewies van den Hoek (5) has insighffully demonstrated the importance of Origen in asking--and endeavoring to answer--the question of the unification of humanity and divinity in Christ, and Origen's influence on later formulations.)
Of course, Origen did not use [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] only in a technical Trinitarian meaning; for instance, he also used it in the sense of"foundation"; (6) of material or incorporeal "substance"; (7) of "existence"; (8) "constitution," or "coming into existence"; (9) and of "reality" as opposed to "appearance"; "conceptuality" or"insubstantiality." (10) Comm. Jo. 10.37.246 shows the last meaning, reality vs. appearance or mere conceptuality, in the Trinitarian context: here Origen criticizes those who differentiate the Father and the Son conceptually ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) but not in their substance ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]).
Origen, on the contrary, maintains that the Father is endowed with his own hypostasis or individual substance and the Son with his own, different from the Father's. This is a conceptual and linguistic novelty that Origen introduced into the Christian theological field, I shall argue. That Father and Son each are made up of two distinct individual substances is repeated in Cels. 8.12, in which Origen opposes those who deny that they are "two different hypostases" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). This attestation is all the more important in that it is preserved in the original Greek and is not a fragment, nor does it come from a work of uncertain attribution. The same polemic against those who denied that the Father and the Son have two different individual substances is reflected in another important passage by Origen that is preserved in Greek: Comm. Matt. 17.14. (11) Here Origen maintains that the Father and the Son are distinct both conceptually and in their individual substance. Of equal importance, both for its sure authenticity and for being preserved in Greek, is Comm. Jo. 2.10.75, in which Origen asserts that not only the Father and the Son, but also the Spirit are three different individual substances. (12) In Fr. in Io. 37 Origen insists that the Spirit is a hypostasis, an individual substance, and not simply an activity of God. This also confirms Schol. Matt. PG 17.309.47, which is of uncertain attribution, and moreover introduces the concept of the identity of nature/ essence between the Persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit "are one not for the confusion of the three, but because they have one and the same nature; their individual substances are three, perfect in all of them." (13) In Comm. Jo. 2.23.149, indeed, Origen explains that the Father and the Son are the same in their essence or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], but at the same time they are "not the same thing" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), evidently in that they are two different individuals, having different individual substances or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.].
In another authentic passage preserved in Greek, Comm. Jo. 1.24.151, Origen criticizes adversaries who do not conceive of the Son as having an individual substance of his own, distinct from that of the Father, and who do not clarify what his essence is (his ovoia, which Origen deems divine and common to the whole Trinity); (15) these theologians rather consider the Son to be a sort of emanation from the Father, consisting only in an empty name ("in syllables") (16) and not in a personal, real, and individual substance ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). Origen here may be attacking Valentinian conceptions. The same is stressed in Comm. Jo. 1.34.243: the Son, the Wisdom of God, is not a mere representation ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), but "has a real substance of his own, an incorporeal and, so to say, living substance" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). It is notable that in the immediately subsequent chapter (1.35.253) Origen expressly criticizes "heretics" who, from their writings, seem to be again Valentinians. Origen further explores the individual substance of the Son in Comm. Jo. 1.39.292: Christ-Logos has its substance in the Wisdom of God, which is the principle of all. (7) The closeness to Sel. Ps. PG 12.1125.2 is manifest: here the individual substance of God's Logos, that is, its very hypostasis, includes its being Wisdom. (18) In Comm. Jo. 2.35.215, the testimony of the Baptist concerning Christ is said to reveal Christ's "preeminent hypostasis or individual substance" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), in that, qua Logos, Christ permeates the world, being in all rational souls. In Comm. Jo. 32.16.192-193, the divine hypostasis of the Son ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) is said to be separated by some from Christ's human aspects. In Comm. ser. Matt. 146.5, virtues are declared to be attached to Christ's individual substance, (19) and in Princ. fr. 33, a reliable Greek fragment quoted by Athanasius in Decr. 27.1-2, to which I shall return, Origen affirms that Christ-Logos is the image, not of the nature of God generically, but "of the Father's own ineffable and unspeakable individual substance." (20)
There are several other references to Christ's hypostasis in Greek passages from works of less certain authenticity or that have survived only in translation, but those I have adduced so far would suffice even in absence of the following. However, the correspondence between the former and the latter in the Trinitarian conception of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], especially in reference to the Son, seems to confirm the value of the following attestations. In Sel. Gen. PG 12.109.46 Origen is criticizing those who do not admit that the Son has a substance of his own, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. These adversaries base their argument on Jesus's words, "The Father and I are one and the same thing," which in Origen's view does not imply that the Son has no individual substance of his own, distinct from that of the Father. In order to make it clear that with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] he means "individual substance," in this case that of the Son, Origen adds idia; as I shall show, the expression [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] was common in the philosophy of his day and was used to specify that a substance was not to be taken generally, but was proper to some particular being. The dignity of the hypostasis of the Son is referred to in Sel. Ps. PG 12.1581.32: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. At the same time, the Son is said to be God by essence ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) in Fr. Jo. 1. In Comm. Rom. 7.12.146-147 Origen criticizes haeretici who deny that the Father and the Son have the same essence or nature ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), but are different in their proprietates: "male separant Filium a Patre ut alterius naturae Patrem alterius Filium dicant." Origen opposes to this what he regards as the correct view: the "properties" of each Person of the Trinity should be considered to belong to each Person's individual substance or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], while the essence or nature is common to both ("proprietates quidem Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto suas cuique dabit, nihil autem diuersitatis esse confitebitur in substantia uel natura"). "Substantia uel natura" renders ovoia. Rufinus in Adult. lib. Orig. 1 explicitly states that Origen applied [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] to the Father-Son relationship: Patrem et Filium unius substantiae, quod graece homoousion dicitur, designavit. In Fr. Jo. 123 the individual substance that is referred to is that of the Spirit, and here again the addition of idia is found, to emphasize that it is the substance proper to the Spirit alone, as distinct from God the Father; the polemic is against those who deem the Spirit simply "God's energy or activity, without a substantial existence of its own" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]).
The Dialogue with Heraclides, discovered on a Toura papyrus from the end of the sixth century and unknown from any other source before this find, (21) offers a stenographic record of a public discussion, part of which is highly relevant to the present investigation in that it is devoted to an assessment of the Father-Son relationship. First in a series of questions to Heraclides, and then in his own exposition, Origen clarifies how it is that the Father and the Son are two and distinct from one another, but at the same time they are one God. Although the key term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] does not pop up here--probably for the sake of simplicity and the lack of a philosophical context--Origen's conception of two distinct hypostases in one and the same divine nature is clear and extensively illustrated. In 2.18 and 21-22 the Son is presented as distinct, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], from the Father, (22) and this distinction resides in the difference [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] of the two. At the same time, both the Son and the Father are God, and yet they are not two Gods. (23) Origen, who posited two hypostases, or better three if we take into consideration the Spirit as well, had to be careful not to give the impression of positing two or three Gods. Thus, in 2.30-31 he sets out to explain "in which respect the Father and the Son are two, and in which these two are one and the same God." And in 3.20-4.9 his explanation makes it clear that his conception of two hypostases but one divine nature or essence countered both a kind of pre-"Arianism" or "adoptionism," which denied the divinity of the Son, and what Origen himself calls [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], which postulated only one divine hypostasis, that of the Father. (24) The term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] appears only here among all extant works of Origen. It does not mean one single power or authority, but rather one single principle, one single [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. This "heresy," indeed, denied the hypostatic distinction between the Father and the Son, whereas Origen maintained three distinct hypostases in the Trinity, coinciding with the three [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] of all. His very [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], which opens with a treatment of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and resumes this same treatment in Book 4 as a conclusion to the whole investigation, probably refers in its title to these three [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. (25) The three principles for Origen coincide with the three hypostases of the Trinity, but God is one, and the distinct hypostases share the same divine ovoia.
In a fragment preserved by Pamphilus, Apol. 50, from Origen's lost commentary on 1 Timothy, Origen criticizes those Christians who consider the Father and the Son to be one and the same hypostasis in an effort to avoid the accusation of ditheism:
uti ne uideantur duos deos dicere neque rursum negare Saluatoris deitatem, unam eandemque subsistentiam Patris et Filii adseuerant, id est duo quidem nomina secundum diuersitatem causarum recipientem, unam tamen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] subsistere (id est unam personam duobus nominibus subiacentem, qui latine patripassiani appellantur).
What I have put in parentheses is a gloss by Rufinus, who first chose to translate [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] with subsistentia, which is typical of him and already of Victorinus, (26) and then to leave the very Greek term; finally, in his own gloss he translated [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] with the Latin persona. Thus, Origen in this passage reaffirms that the Father and the Son are two different hypostases.
Also, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] is used by Origen to refer to the substance of each soul, for example in Cels. 6.26. (27) Especially from Princ. 3.1.22 it is clear that for Origen, exactly as with the Trinity, rational creatures share in one and the same nature, but each of them has its own individual substance or hypostasis. (28) Rational creatures' individual substances are all distinct from one another, but they all share in the same nature. This parallel between humanity (or all rational creatures) and the Trinity on this score--i.e., each individual of each of these two natures has its own hypostasis or individual substance, but all individuals within the same nature share in one and the same essence--is the basis of Gregory of Nyssa's so-called social analogy, which I deem inspired by Origen's present conception. (29) This is hardly surprising if Gregory drew inspiration from Origen for his core Trinitarian conception of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. The individuality of the substance of each rational creature and, in the specific case of human beings, of each soul, is emphasized in Sel. Ezech. PG 13.817.21: "Each soul has its own individual substance, which consists in its own rationale, and not a different one." (30) For Origen, this is true both of each soul and of each Person of the Trinity.
Origen's idea that all human beings, and even all rational creatures, each one having its own [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], nevertheless share in one and the same nature or essence (ovoia), was arguably formed and strengthened against the backdrop of his antiValentinian polemic. Whereas the Valentinians divided humanity into three different natures ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.])--i.e., material, animal, and spiritual, which also implied different behaviors and different eschatological destinies--Origen insisted that all humans and all rational creatures have the same ovoia, and that their behaviors and eschatological destinies depend on each one's free will. Both the Valentinian division of humanity into different [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] and Origen's treatment of ovoia against this conception are evident in Heracleon's fragments and Origen's criticism of his work. (31) The same ovoia and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] for all the souls is also asserted in a fragment preserved by Pamphilus (Apol. 33, from Origen's lost commentary on 1 Timothy), in the framework of an anti-Valentinian argument, which, as usual, shows Origen's concern for theodicy: "non omnes humanas animas unius eiusdemque dicunt esse substantiae sed diuersas naturas animarum, inter eas haereses numerandi sunt quae iniquitatem in Excelso loquuntur ac iniustitiam inaequalitatemque eius accusant."
Thus, Origen's distinct conception of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], as opposed to ovoia, emerges manifestly both in his Trinitarian discourse and in his discourse on the rational beings, or logika: both the divine nature and the rational nature are divided into a multiplicity (respectively three or many) of individual substances or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.].
The Lack of a Technical Theological Meaning for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the Writings of Theologians Prior to Origen (and Gregory of Nyssa)
Origen, as I have just shown, distinguished ovoia and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] clearly when speaking of the Trinity, thereby creating a technical terminology. In this, as I am going to argue next, he differs from earlier theologians--and from Athanasius and even the Fathers who issued the Nicene canons, who used the two terms rather interchangeably; this interchangeable use went on as far as the Cappadocians' mature thought. An eloquent example of such interchangeability from Clement is Strom. 18.104.22.168; another from irenaeus is Haer. 1.8.16. (32) In Irenaeus [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] usually means substance in general, that of a whole category. (33) Unlike Origen, Irenaeus never uses [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the sense of "individual substance." In Athenagoras a combined expression, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], is even found (Leg. 24.5). Neither does Tatian seem to have any distinctive usage of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] as "individual substance." He employs this term in the sense of "substance" (34) or "foundation." God is the foundation and principle of all that came into existence (Or. 5.1); (35) in Or. 6.2 Tatian is speaking of the resurrection, when the body's substance ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), visible only to God after one's physical death, will be restored to its original state. In 15.3 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] seems to designate the category of the demons. (36)
But even after Origen, and before Gregory of Nyssa and the late phase of the Cappadocians, the technical distinction between ovoia and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the Trinitarian field failed to be perceived by many. Athanasius provides an interesting example in a remarkable quotation from Origen in Decr. 27.1-2. While Origen's own text in this quotation displays the above-mentioned distinction, Athanasius's words, which paraphrase Origen's text, entirely overlooks that distinction, since [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] is employed by him in the sense of ovoia:
Regarding the eternal coexistence of the Logos with the Father and its not having a different essence or substance [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], but its being the Father's own offspring ... you can hear again also from Origen the hardworker: "If he is the image of the invisible God, he is an invisible image. I would even dare add that, being also similar to the Father, there is no time when he did not exist. For, when is it that God did not have the effulgence of his own glory, so that someone would dare posit a beginning of the Son, while he did not exist before? When is it that the image and impression of the ineffable and inexpressible substance [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] of the Father, the Logos who knows the Father, did not exist? The person who dares say, 'There was a time when the Son did not exist,' should consider that she or he will also affirm: 'Once upon a time Wisdom did not exist, the Logos did not exist, Life did not exist.'"
Athanasius quotes Origen verbatim, and in Origen's own words ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) means "individual substance;" for it is only the Father who is ineffable and impossible to name, not the Son, who reveals the Father. On the contrary, when in the introduction Athanasius says, in his own words, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], he uses [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the sense of "substance," but not of "individual substance," which Origen distinguished for the three Persons of the Trinity. In Athanasius's own words, ovoia and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] are synonyms. Indeed, he means that the Father and the Son have the same substance, and not the same individual substance. Athanasius uses the two terms interchangeably in his Tomus ad Antiochenos as well. (37) The same indistinctive use of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], different from Origen's tech-nical distinction, is found in the earliest Nicene document, Eusebius's Letter to his own Church, preserved by Socrates Hist. Eccl. 1.8 and quoted by Athanasius himself (Decr. 33). (38) In [section] 4 Eusebius quotes the first credal formula proposed by the bishops. Then, he explains, Constantine introduced "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]" ([section] 7). Thus, Eusebius quotes the second Creed issued by the bishops and the emperor, which, in the passage concerning the Son, explains that he was generated from the very essence or nature of the Father, and is of the same nature as the Father. (39) Then, anathemas are appended against those who claimed that "there was a time when the Son did not exist," that "before being begotten, the Son did not exist," that he "came into being from non-being" as a creature ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), and, most interestingly for the present argument, that the Son is "of a different hypostasis or ousia" from the Father ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). Here [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] does not indicate the individuality of the Father or the Son, but the "substance" or "essence" of all the Trinity--the meaning being that the Father and the Son have the very same substance--and is a synonym of ovoia. Thus here,just as in Athanasius's words and in Basil's earlier usage, (40) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] are treated as synonyms, differently from what happens in Origen's works.
Lack of Acknowledgment of Origen's Innovation and of Investigation into Its Source(s)
Against the backdrop of the analysis conducted so far, the terminological and conceptual specificity of Origen stands out all the more clearly. This specificity and its import are due to the fact that Origen first introduced the use of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] as "individual substance" into Christian Trinitarian terminology. This is a remarkable innovation that laid the foundations of a consistent Trinitarian doctrine, and indeed proves fundamental in light of its Wirkungsgeschichte (reception history), especially in that it was inherited by Gregory of Nyssa and the orthodox Constantinopolitan formulation. But scholars have often failed to realize this innovation and, what is more, have left its intellectual background and roots in darkness. Even Jurgen Hammerstaedt's foundational study does not pay to Origen and his sources of inspiration the attention they deserve. (41) Nor do many scholars who have studied the development of the hypostasis doctrine in later Christianity acknowledge the writings of Origen and his sources of inspiration--either in the past century (42) or in the latest years. (43) The same is true also in connection with the Trinitarian concept of essence/substance (ovoia). Christopher Beeley takes a particular position regarding the relationship between [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the Trinity according to Gregory Nazianzen. Against a backdrop of causality and monarchy of the Father, divine unity is located "in the monarchy of the Father, by which the Father fully shares his being with the Son and the Spirit." (44) As noted by Christophe Erismann, John of Damascus posited [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] as individual substance and ovoia as the essence of all members of a species. I observe this is Origen's use; John inherited it via the Cappadocians and Maximus the Confessor. (45)
To my knowledge, only Alastair Logan has attempted to explain briefly what might have inspired Origen on this score, and has hypothesized that "gnostics," (46) especially "Valentinians," (47) first might have used this terminology in their Platonic exegesis. (48)
This is uncertain, however. First of all, let me point to Comm. Jo. 1.24.151, in which, as I have shown, Origen criticizes adversaries who deny that the Son has an individual substance ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) different from that of the Father. If these adversaries were "Valentinians," as is likely, this would suggest that there is more of an opposition than of a continuity between Origen's notion of an individual [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] for each Person of the Trinity and the Valentinian conception. Moreover, I have already observed that Origen's technical use of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] to designate a nature that is one and the same for all Persons of the Trinity, and on the other hand one and the same for all rational creatures (whereas each divine Person and each rational creature has an individual substance of its own), developed in the context of his debate against "Valentinianism," which divided humanity into three different natures or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. Thus, it is unlikely that there was a Valentinian notion of one [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] and more [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] for the divine nature just as for the human nature. Also, there is no evidence of a gnostic technical use of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] as "individual substance." (49) Marcellus of Ancyra may suggest this in a passage edited by Logan, (50) but he uses the vocabulary of his post-Nicene times, and we cannot be sure that Valentinus used it. Marcellus is criticizing the Arians for their doctrine of three [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. This is, of course, the doctrine that was eventually accepted by the church as "orthodox," but Marcellus deemed it heretical and preferred to adhere to what has been defined as a "monoprosopic" view; in fact it was a "monohypostatic" view. In the passage under examination, Marcellus assimilates the Arians' "heretical" doctrine to Valentinus's "heretical" doctrine: the Arians "teach three hypostases [TEXT …