Origen’s life is just as significant today as it was when he lived it during the 2nd and 3rd Century A.D. He taught at Christian schools, wrote many commentaries on the Bible, and produced some of the greatest defenses of the faith in his time.
But his life was almost cut short by martyrdom when he was still a young boy.
Origen was an early Christian, born somewhere around 185 A.D. We know he grew up in the home of Christian parents, because church historians tell us his father was arrested for being a Christian and condemned to die.
When he learned of his father’s arrest, imprisonment, and fate, Origen reserved himself to die alongside his father. But his mother wouldn’t have it.
So she did what any quick-thinking mother would: she hid his clothes.
Not being able to find his clothes, Origen was forced to stay at home. (I guess Origen was willing to die for Jesus, just not willing to die for Jesus naked!) From home, he wrote an impassioned treatise on martyrdom addressed to his father in prison, encouraging him to remain faithful till the end. That would be the first of many important documents Origen would write.
While many historians give Origen’s mother credit for saving his life, it was really God who did the sparing. And that’s because God had an incredible purpose for Origen’s life.
Origen went on to teach the Christian faith in powerful ways. He lectured on the subject of Christian philosophy at schools and became so famous, both Christians and pagans came to hear him. Even more impressive than his teaching was his writing, both in quantity and quality.
His literary output was enormous. He compiled the Hexapla, a version of the Bible that included six different translations, side-by-side, in an attempt to make the Word of God more accessible to more people.
As an apologist, he also penned powerful defenses of the Christian faith; perhaps his most famous is Against Celsus, a document that corrected and rebuked the many errors of the heretic named Celsus. Celsus wrote that Jesus deserved the suffering and death He received because He was ultimately guilty. Celsus also wrote that Jesus was nothing more than an illegitimate son Mary conceived with a Roman soldier. Finally, and most importantly, Celsus called into question the entire purpose of Jesus’ Incarnation.
Origen was able to soundly defeat these and many other half-truths of his day.
In addition to “defending” the faith, Origen went on the “offensive” to proclaim Christianity as a valid and believable faith. His systematic theology On First Principles served as a philosophical exposé on the Christian faith. Further, he played a major role in helping select the final list of books to be included in the New Testament.
Think about it: none of these tremendous deeds would have come to fruition had Origen suffered martyrdom when he was a young boy.
Unfortunately for Origen, though he considered it fortunate, he would eventually face his own persecution. Under the rule of Emperor Decius, Origen was tortured, but not put to death. However, the injury incurred by the elderly saint was severe enough he died shortly thereafter at about 70 years of age.
By God’s design, Origen received the martyr’s crown, and we received the benefit of his life’s work.
The Story of Christianity Volume 1 by Justo L. Gonzalez. HarperCollins, 1984, Pages 78-79.
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