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Origen and the History of Justification

The Legacy of Origen's Commentary on Romans

Thomas P. Scheck

Publication Year: 2008

Standard accounts of the history of interpretation of Paul’s Letter to the Romans often begin with St. Augustine. As Thomas P. Scheck demonstrates, however, the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 CE) was a major work of Pauline exegesis which, by means of the Latin translation preserved in the West, had a significant influence on the Christian exegetical tradition. Scheck begins by exploring Origen’s views on justification and on the intimate connection of faith and post-baptismal good works as essential to justification. He traces the enormous influence Origen’s Commentary on Romans had on later theologians in the Latin West, including the ways in which theologians often appropriated Origen’s exegesis in their own work. Scheck analyzes in particular the reception of Origen by Pelagius, Augustine, William of St. Thierry, Erasmus, Cornelius Jansen, the Anglican Bishop Richard Montagu, and the Catholic lay apologist John Heigham, as well as Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and other Protestant Reformers who harshly attacked Origen’s interpretation as fatally flawed. But as Scheck shows, theologians through the post-Reformation controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries studied and engaged Origen extensively, even if not always in agreement. An important work in patristics, biblical interpretation, and historical theology, Origen and the History of Justification establishes the formative role played by Origen’s Pauline exegesis, while also contributing to our understanding of the theological issues surrounding justification in the western Christian tradition.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

In the opening two or three pages of the introduction to his anthology of Origen’s writings, Hans Urs von Balthasar sketched, brilliantly and with compact elegance, the history of Origen’s thought up to his condemnation at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553, and beyond the council to the Middle Ages. Von Balthasar invoked two striking images to make his point...

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Acknowledgments and Dedication

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pp. xi

This book began as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Iowa (“The Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans in the Latin West,” 2004). I am grateful to the members of my interdisciplinary Ph.D. committee for their guidance and support. Thomas Williams was my thesis supervisor. James McCue and Dwight Bozeman were committee members, as well as...

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pp. 1-12

In his magnum opus, Medieval Exegesis, Henri de Lubac stated that the full significance of Rufinus of Aquileia’s Latin translations of Origen for the development of Christian thought and Western culture has not yet been fully measured.1 For me Lubac’s words constitute a challenge, and I hope that the following investigation will contribute in a small way to...

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Chapter 1: Origen’s Doctrine of Justification

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pp. 13-62

Since the sixteenth century, and primarily on account of the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of justification has been the subject of an enormous body of theological literature. This pattern has continued through the twentieth century down to the present day and shows no signs of abating.1 In the literature of the early ages of the Catholic Church, however,...

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Chapter 2: Pelagius’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 63-85

Rufinus’s Latin edition of Origen’s CRm was published in 406.1 The first known student of the work was the British monk Pelagius (360?–420) who was sojourning in Rome at the time the translation was being composed. He was able to make a thorough study of it before writing his own Commentary on Romans, which was completed in Rome before 4102 and...

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Chapter 3: Augustine’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 86-103

St. Augustine (354–430), a contemporary of Rufinus and Pelagius, established a great theological legacy in the Latin West by the way he synthesized theological topics into a coherent system of thought. Augustine’s theology developed over time, the watershed being the Pelagian controversy. This means that the difference between the early and late Augustine...

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Chapter 4: William of St. Thierry’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 104-128

In the Middle Ages the stage was set for a favorable reception of Origen’s Pauline exegesis, to begin with, when St. Jerome (d. 420) had sanctioned it by integrating a substantial portion of it into his own. This certainly applies to Jerome’s commentaries on Ephesians,1 Galatians, and Philemon.2 Jerome never wrote a commentary on Romans, but it does not...

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Chapter 5: Erasmus’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 129-172

In the twentieth century the Augustinian priest Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) was respected by an outstanding series of illustrious Catholic historians and theologians, beginning with Cardinal Gasquet, H. Grisar, R. Padberg, H. de Lubac, G. Chantraine, L. Bouyer, L. Halkin, J. Olin, R. DeMolen, and H. Pabel. The most formidable of these was perhaps...

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Chapter 6: Luther and Melanchthon’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 173-204

Grech wondered how the Reformers would have received Origen’s exegesis of Paul.1 This chapter will endeavor to answer that question by examining the reception of Origen’s doctrine of justification by Martin Luther (1483–1546) and Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560). Melanchthon, a Greek scholar, was Martin Luther’s most important theological colleague. At the...

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Chapter 7: Post-Reformation Controversies over Origen’s Exegesis of Romans

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pp. 205-216

Luther and Melanchthon appear to have found a more receptive audience for their repudiation of Origen’s doctrine of justification among the Calvinists than among their immediate successors in the Lutheran Church. Theodore Beza (1519–1605), Calvin’s successor at Geneva, wrote, “I condemn none of the ancients more bitterly than one Origen, whom I am so...

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Conclusion: Origen and Modern Exegesis

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pp. 217-219

J. Lienhard recently observed, “The study that traces the full extent of Origen’s influence on the church’s exegetical tradition is still to be written.”1 This book does not pretend to have filled this lacuna in scholarship, which in any case is beyond the capacities of a single scholar or a single study. Yet it is my hope that this study will at least make a small contribution. I have...

List of Abbreviations and Short Titles of Frequently Cited Works

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pp. 221-223


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pp. 225-274


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pp. 275-288

Index of Passages Cited from Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans

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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780268092672
E-ISBN-10: 0268092672
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268041281
Print-ISBN-10: 0268041288

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2008