Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 8—Origines Alexandrinus. A.D. 230.

Origen is called by Jerom, writing against the Pelagians, their Beloved,[1] their Master,[2] the Prince, or author of their error;[3] and says, that their doctrine is Origenis ramusculus, “a sprig of Origen.” It need not therefore bethought strange that there are in his writings passages which smell rank of free will in the grossest sense; and  especially since many of his works come to us through the hands of Ruffinus, said to be a friend to the Pelagian scheme; and indeed it is no wonder that Origen himself should be somewhat tainted with principles tending that way, seeing he succeeded Clemenis and Pantaenus, men both addicted to the stoic philosophy, which obtained in their school, whereby the gospel began to be stripped of its native simplicity. However, notwithstanding all this, it is certain that Origen held the doctrine of original sin, and was sensible of the corruption and weakness of human nature, and of the necessity of the grace and help of God to every good work; and that even to have a will to that which is good, is from the Lord. That he understood the doctrine of original sin, and the guilt and pollution of mankind by it, will appear evident from the following instances; “In Adam,[4] as saith the word, all die, and are condemned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, which the divine word says not so much of some one, as of all mankind—for e ara tou Adam koine panton esti, the curse of Adam is common to all.”

Again,[5] “But if you please to hear what other saints have thought of this birth, hear David, saying, I am  conceived in iniquity, and in sin my mother brought me forth; showing, that whatever soul is born in the flesh, iniquitatis et peccati sorde polluitur, is defiled with the filth of sin and iniquity.” These words he elsewhere says,[6] David spoke ex persana omnium nascentium,in the person of all born of flesh and blood;” and therefore it is said, which we have already mentioned above, “for no man is pure from filth, the same work,[7] “Every one that comes into this world is said to be made in some defilement, wherefore the Scripture says, no man is pure from filth, though his life is but of one day; and this defilement,” he says “is in the mother's womb, and that in the mother the child is polluted, even in the very conception. In another place, he says,[8] “The first man, Adam, being wickedly persuaded, through the deceit of the serpent, hath declined from the right way of paradise, to the evil and crooked paths of mortal life; wherefore consequently, omnes qui ex ipsius successione in hunc mundum veniunt declinaverunt,all who come into this world by succession from him have turned aside,' and are together become unprofitable with him.” And in the same commentary he thus argues,[9] “If Levi, who was born in the fourth generation after Abraham, is said to be in the loins of Abraham, multo magis omnes homines qui in hoc mundo nascuntur, et nati sunt, in lumbis erant Adae, cum adhuc esset in paradiso, ‘ much more were all men, who are born in this world, in the loins of Adam, when he was yet in paradise;' and all men with him, or in him, were driven out of paradise when he was drove from thence; and by him death, which came to him through his transgression, consequently passed upon them who were reckoned in his loins.” Once more, says he,[10] if any one considers this body of humility in which we are born, if any one considers this, no man is pure from filth, though his life is but of one day, and his months are numbered; he will see how gegenemetha meta akatharsias, ‘we are born with impurity,' and the uncircumcision of our heart.” In the same work he has this expression,[11] “In Adam all die, and so the whole world fell, and needs rising, again, that all men be made alive in Christ; the devil, he says,[12] “is called a murderer, not because he killed some one privately, but because he killed all mankind” So elsewhere[13] commenting on these words, Through the offense of one death reigned by one;This” he says, shows, that through sin the kingdom is given to death; nor could it reign many, unless it receives the right of reigning from sin; by which seems to be pointed out, that whereas the soul was created free by God, ipsa se in servitutem redigat per delictum, it could reduce itself into bondage through sin.” Hence he frequently suggests the weakness of human nature, and its insufficiency to do any thing that is good, and the need it stands in of the assistance of God. “Human nature,” he says,[14] “is weak, and that it may be made stronger, divine auxilio inditer, ‘it needs divine help.' We read, the flesh is weak, therefore, by what help is it to be confirmed? Verily, by the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak; he that would be stronger ought to be strengthened only by the Spirit. And in another place,[15]We in our earth (for it was said to Adam, Earth thou art) have need of the strength of God, cwriv de thv dunamewv tov Qeou, ‘for without the power of God' we are not able to perform those things which are contrary to the wisdom of the flesh.” Again,[16] “What need is there to say, what wisdom do we want to consider the works of Abraham? and what power to do them? h poiav dunamewv deomeqa, ‘what power do we need but Christ's,' who is the power of God, and wisdom of God?” He further observes,[17] that “if the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, it is evident that the disciples of the word, the intelligible branches, of the true Vine, the Word, ou dunantai pherein tons karpous tes aretes, cannot bear the fruit of virtue, except they abide in the true Vine, the Christ of God;” or, according to another copy, “who is God.” And in the same work he says,[18] “Because ouk autarkes era ciera proairesis, ‘our free will is not sufficient to have a clean heart, but we are in need of God, who creates such an one; therefore it is said by him, who knew how to pray, Create in me a clean heart, O God!” And a little after,[19] “We say, that ouk autarkes e anthropine phusi, ‘human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner,' and to find him, purely, unless helped by him that is sought. As he will not allow[20] what is done by man to be properly good, and no good thing to be done without God,[21] so he denies that a will to do good is from man, but ascribes it to God; mentioning those words of Christ, If any man will come after me, etc., he makes this observation,[22] “Hereby is shown, that to will to come after Jesus, and follow him, ouk apo tou tuchontos andragathematos ginetai, ‘does not arise from any heroic action done by men,' for no man, not denying himself, can follow Jesus.” And in another place he says,[23] “Not only to will, but also to work, as saith the apostle Paul, ek tou Theos estin, is of God; to work, always following to will well, as its yoke-fellow?' wherefore this doctrine does not at all discourage diligence and industry, study and endeavor to perform good works in a dependence on divine grace and assistance.


[1] Adv. Pelag. 1. 3, p. 102, H.

[2] Ibid. 1. 1, p. 89, M.

[3] Ad Ctesiphont. p. 84, G.

[4] Contr. Cels. 1. 4, p. 191.

[5] In Leviticus homil. 8, fol. 75, A.

[6] In Luc. homil. 9, fol. 23, C. Vide Comment. in Matt. p. 891, ed. Huet.

[7] In Lev. homil. 12, fol. 85, E.

[8] In Romans 1:3, fol. 153, A.

[9] Ibid. 1.5, fol. 169, G.

[10]  In Jer. homil. 5, p. 86.

[11] Ibid. homil. 8, p. 96.

[12] Comm. in Joannem, p. 316.

[13] In Romans 1.5, fol. 173, E.

[14] In Luc. homil. 11, fol. 98, H.

[15] In Jerem. homil. 8, p. 95.

[16] Comm. in Joan. p. 296.

[17] Contr. Cels. 1. 5, p. 239.

[18] Ibid. 1, 7, p. 354.

[19] Ibid. p. 360.

[20] Com. in Matthew p. 377.

[21] In Psalm, p. 38.

[22] In Matthew p. 287.

[23] In Joan. p. 312.