The Church



Origen is a churchman, in the fullest sense of the term, his proudest boast is to be an ecclesiastical man. It may even be said that the Scripture and the Church were the most important and essential things about him. He created the critical study of the Old Testament text, and worked out the theology of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New. In doing so, he was handing the Church tradition.

Jean Dani´┐Żlou states that Origen is a churchman, saying, "We have seen from his life that he had been catechist, lector, priest, doctor and martyr by turns: the whole of his life was spent in the discharge of ecclesiastical functions."

Jaroslav Pelikan says,

For one of the most decisive differences between a theologian and a philosopher is that the former understands himself as, in Origen's classic phrase, "a man of the church," a spokesman for the Christian community. Even in his theological speculations and in his polemic against what may have been public teaching in the church of his time, a theologian such as Origen knew himself to be accountable to the deposit of Christian revelation and to the ongoing authority of the church. His personal opinions must be said into the contents of the development of what the church has believed, taught, and confessed on the basis of the Word of God.

Henri de Lubac says,

His intellectual formation, we must not forget, was entirely Christian; we might even say entirely ecclesiastic. Many features of his homilies remind us of it, if need be. "We of the Church," he says; "I a man of the Church, living in the faith of Christ and set in the midst of the Church..." Justin, Tatian, Clement and others like them were converts; because of a turn of mind due to their early formation they remained philosophers. But when Origen affectionately proclaims himself "a man of the Church," he underlines something like an inborn quality that is the mark of his whole genius. When he speaks of the "world," the word is often used in the sense it has in the gospels-the world that passes away, especially the evil world from which Jesus Christ comes to set us free...

He constantly appeals to "the rule of the Church," "the faith of the Church," "the word of the Church," "the preaching of the Church," "the tradition of the Church," "the doctrine of the Church," "the thought and teaching of the Church." In the bones of the paschal Lamb he sees a symbol of the "holy dogmas of the Church" of which not one shall be broken. He does not want "that there be any disagreement on doctrine among Churches." He is Adamantius, "the man of iron;" "doctrinal firmness" is one of the virtues closest to his heart. He exalts constancy in the faith and stability of dogma.

Henri de Lubac also says,

His piety was redoubled by a very strong concern with orthodoxy. For example, in one of his homilies on Saint Luke he says: "As for myself, my wish is to be truly a man of the Church, to be called by the name of Christ and not that of any heresiarch, to have this name which is blessed all over the earth; I desire to be and to be called, a Christian, in my words as in my thoughts."

I, myself a man of the Church, living under the faith of Christ and placed in the midst of the Church, am compelled by the authority of the divine precept to sacrifice calves and lambs and to offer fine wheat flour with incense and oil.

If I belong to the Church, no matter how small I may be, my angel is free to look upon the Face of the Father. If I am outside the Church, he does not dare.

That Origen was devoted to the Church is not debated. What kind of churchman he was is debated. For example, Origen as a teacher preferred to labor in research and open questions rather than in the basics of faith. For Origen, to become part of the church is to think like the Church and to study her theology. But even during this period of his life we find in his writings echoes of the baptismal and Eucharistic liturgies.





Origen is the first to declare the Church to be the City of God here on earth, existing for the time being side by side with the secular state.

It is plain, however, that Christ is describing the Church, which is a spiritual house and the House of God, even as Paul teaches, saying: But if I tarry long, it is that you may know how you ought to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. So, if the Church is the House of God, then-because all things that the Father has are the Son's, it follows that the Church is the House of the Son of God.

St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians, pictures the Church as Christ's building, now growing unto a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2: 21f). Origen speaks of the Church as God's spiritual temple, saying,

The Spirit of Christ dwells in those who bear, so to say, a resemblance in form and feature to Himself. And the Word of God, wishing to set this clearly before us, represents God as promising to the righteous: "I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My People" (2 Cor. 6: 16 Cf. Lev. 26: 12; Jer. 3:33; 32:38; Zech. 8:8). And the Savior says: "If any man hears My words, and does them, I and My Father will come to him, and make our abode with him" (John 14: 23)...

And in other parts of the Holy Scripture where it speaks of the mystery of the resurrection to those whose ears are divinely opened, it says that the temple which has been destroyed shall be built up again of living and most precious stones, thereby giving us to understand that each of those who are led by the word of God to strive together in the duties of piety, will be a precious stone, in the one great temple of God. Accordingly, Peter says, "You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2: 5) and Paul also says, "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord being the chief comer-stone" (Eph. 2: 20). And there is a similar hidden allusion in this passage in Isaiah, which is addressed to Jerusalem: "Behold, I will lay your stones with carbuncles, and lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will make your battlements of jasper, and your gates of crystal, and all your borders of pleasant stones. And all your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness shall you be established" (Isa. 54:11-14).

There are, then among the righteous some who are carbuncles, others sapphires, others jaspers, and others crystals, and thus there is among the righteous every kind of choice and precious stone.

Origen could only admire the attitude of the people of God towards building the tabernacle. Everyone was so eager to offer generously whatever possible, each according to his ability and resources. He experienced the urge to participate in establishing God's spiritual tabernacle within himself, and said:

O Lord Jesus Christ, will you make me worthy to partake in building Your house.

Come, let us build the tabernacle of Jacob's God, Jesus Christ our Lord and adorn it...

God's dwelling place is the sanctity that we are requested to attain... Consequently, everybody, can find a tabernacle for God in his heart. Its ten curtains ( Exod. 26: 1 ) refer to the fulfillment of the ten commandments.

Examining the tabernacle closely, the purple, the blue, the fine twined linen etc. symbolizes the variety of good deeds:

Gold refers to faith ~ Rev. 23: 18 ):

Silver to preaching ( Ps. 12: 6 );

Brass to patience

Timber that does not rot to the acquaintance that the believer gains in the uninhabited wilderness and the everlasting; chastity;

Linen to virginity;

Purple to loving martyrdom;

Scarlet to the brightness of love

Blue to the hope in the heavenly kingdom;

From all these materials, the tabernacle is built...

The soul should have an altar right in the center of the heart. On it sacrifices of prayer and burnt offerings of mercy are offered. Thus, bullocks of pride are slaughtered with the knife of meekness and rams of anger, goats of luxuries and passions are killed.

Let the soul know how to establish a permanently illuminating lampstand, right in the holy of her heart.

Origen calls the Church the "City of God", for she is "the dwelling of God among His people" (See Rev. 21:3). God builds His Church, as His own City; builds it not with stones but with His own elect believers.



Origen describes the Church as the assembly of believers, or the congregation of Christian people, ministered by the clergymen.

His emphasis, of course, is upon the personal pilgrimage to God. But he does not forget the communal character of the Christian life. For example, his treatment of prayer tends to underline its personal aspects, he remembers that prayer in the community is more powerful and must be the Christian's joy as well as his duty. He says, "The angelic powers join the assemblies of the faithful, whither comes the power of our Lord and Savior Himself, where the spirits of the saints gather, both those - so I believe - of the departed who have gone before and, evidently, of those who are still among the living; though to explain this is not an easy matter."



Faith is the core of the church. The Only Begotten Son Himself admired the faith of men (Matt 8:10), while He was not admired with gold, wealth, kingdoms etc. Nothing is so precious to Him like faith. Faith for Him is not just a thought or some word we utter, but a practical acceptance of God's work in our lives.




The Alexandrian Fathers, especially Origen in his Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, adopted this evangelic concept of the Church as the heavenly Bride of Christ, in which they found a genuine basis of relationship between God and man.

Do not believe that the Bride, that is, the Church, has existed only since the Savior’s incarnation. She exists since before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4). So the church’s foundations have been laid from the beginning.


The Church is the Body of Christ, animated by Him as an ordinary body is animated by the soul, and the believer who belongs to her is his member.

We say that the Holy Scriptures declared the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of his body, considered as a whole, to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word.


There can be no salvation without this Church. Thus he states: Extra hanc domum, id est ecclesiam, nemo salvatur. The church is the ark of salvation, receives light from Jesus Christ, has the ability to interpret the Holy Scripture.

Origen states that there is no salvation outside the Church, the house of redemption. According to him, Rahab (Josh. 2) mystically represents the Church, and the scarlet thread the blood of Christ; and only those in her house are saved.

If anyone wishes to be saved... let him come to this house where the blood of Christ is for a sign of redemption. For that blood was for condemnation amongst those who said, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matt. 27 25). Jesus was "for the fall and resurrection of many" (Luke 2: 34); and therefore in respect of those who "speak against His sign" His blood is effective for punishment, but effective for salvation in the case of believers.

Let no one therefore persuade himself or deceive himself: outside this house, that is, outside the Church, no one is saved... The sign of salvation (the scarlet thread) was given through the window because Christ by His incarnation gave us the sight of the light of godhead as it were through a window; that all may attain salvation by that sign who shall be found in the house of her who once was a harlot, being made clean by water and the Holy Spirit, and by the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and power for ever and ever.

For Jesus was "set for the falling and rising of many" (Luke 2:34), and hence for those who deny His "sign" His blood works punishment, for those who believe, salvation... Outside this house (i.e. the Church) none is saved: to leave it makes a man responsible for his own death.


The church has a power to remit sins.

Ernest Latko says,

A careful study of passages found in Origen’s earlier and later works will reveal unmistakably that he maintained that the Church possessed the power of the keys, or the power to remit sin. He refers to that power time and again. Not all authors, however, are agreed that this was his position. Basing their conclusions on one or another difficult passage, which can certainly be clarified when compared with the whole of his doctrine, they come by the conclusion that Origen denied that power to the Church. Thus Harnack writes that it was Pope Callistus, who first insisted that the Church possessed the power to remit sins, and that this edict was a manifestation of a change taking place in the very concept of the church. The early church, he says, regarded itself as a congregation of saints and ascribed the power of remitting sins to God alone.

Moreover, just as the sun and the moon enlighten our bodies so also our minds are enlightened by Christ and the Church.



Origen speaks of the communion of love that unites earth with heaven:

Now the one great virtue according to the Word of God is to love one's neighbor. We must believe that the saints who have died possess this love in a far higher degree towards the ones engaged in the combat of life than those who are still subject to human weakness and involved in the combat along with their weaker brethren. The words, "If one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glories, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26), are confined to those on earth who love their brethren...

If the angels of God came to Jesus and ministered to Him (Matt. 4:11), and if we believe that this ministry of the angels to Jesus was not limited to just the short time during His earthly sojourn... then how many multitudes of angels do you think minister to Jesus to gather together the sons of Israel one by one, and assemble those of the dispersion, and deliver them that are in fear and call upon Him.


Origen beholds the Church as the gate of righteousness, through which Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, enters. The Church’s gates are in the opposite direction of that of death.

Now the gates of Zion may be conceived as opposed to the gates of death, so that there is one gate of death, dissoluteness, but a gate of Zion, self-control. And so a gate of death, unrighteousness, the gate of Zion is righteousness, which the prophet shows forth saying, "This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter into it (Ps. 118:20)."

And again there is cowardice, a gate of death, but manly courage, a gate of Zion;

and want of prudence, a gate of death, but its opposite, prudence, a gate of Zion.

But to all the gates of the "knowledge which is falsely so called (I Tim. 6:20)" one gate is opposed, the gate of knowledge which is free from falsehood.

But consider if, because of the saying, "our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, (Eph. 6:12) etc., you can say that each power and world’s ruler of this darkness, and each one of the "spiritual hosts of the wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12) is a gate of Hades and a gate of death.





The historical Israelites cease to be Israelites, while the believers from the Gentiles become the New Israel. This involves a redefinition of Israel.




Origen interprets the Ark of Noah and its dimensions in a symbolic manner. He looked to the ark as the Church of Christ:

To the width, we attribute the number 50, which is the number sacred to forgiveness and remission. According to the Law, indeed, there was a time for forgiveness of debts every fifty years...

Now Christ, the spiritual Noah, in His ark, that is to say, the Church, in which He saves the human race from destruction, has attributed this number of forgiveness to the width. For if He had not granted the forgiveness of sins to believers, the Church would not have spread across the world.

We have here the application to Christ of the forgiveness symbolized by the number fifty, but no allusion is made to the liturgical Pentecost. This is found elsewhere: "The number 50 contains forgiveness according to the mystery of the Jubilee which takes place every fifty years, or of the feast which takes place at Pentecost."

This symbolism of Pentecost as signifying forgiveness has a particular importance for Origen, for in the seven liturgical weeks he sees the figure of the age-long weeks of weeks through which is achieved the complete forgiveness of all sins and the restoration of all humanity in its perfection through successive existences: "We must examine whether the texts relative to the days, to the months, to the time and to the years, are not relative to the ages (aeones). For if the Law is the shadow of future blessings, it follows that the Sabbaths are the shadow of other Sabbaths. And what should I say of the feast of the seven weeks of days."

It is interesting also to notice that Origen, in the Homilies on the Numbers, sought to find in the Gospel the symbolism of Pentecost as the symbol of forgiveness: "The number fifty contains the mystery of forgiveness and pardon, as we have abundantly shown in many passages of Scripture. The fiftieth day after Easter is considered as a feast by the Law. And in the Gospel also, in teaching the parable of forgiveness and pardon, the Lord speaks of a debtor who had a debt of fifty denarii."




According to the Spirit, your Father is God; your mother is "the heavenly Jerusalem"(Cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22). Learn this from prophetic and apostolic witnesses. This Moses himself writes in a song, "Did not your Father himself acquire you here and possess you? " (Deut. 32:6).

But the Apostle says about "the heavenly Jerusalem": "she is free who is the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26). Therefore, first, your Father is God who begot your spirit and who says, "I have begotten sons and exalted them" (Isa. 1:2). But the Apostle Paul also says, "Let us submit to the Father of spirits and we shall live (Heb. 12:9).


On this account we must explain to those who believe that the sacred books are not the works of men, but that they were composed and have come down to us as a result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the will of the Father of the universe through Jesus Christ, what are the methods of interpretation that appear right to us, who keep to the rule of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ through the succession from the apostles.

Origen believes that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is present among His people in the Church to enlighten their inner eyes.

And now if you so wish in this church and in this congregation your eyes can behold the Lord. For when you direct your loftiest thoughts to contemplate Wisdom and Truth, which the Only Son of the Father, your eyes see Jesus. Blessed is the community of which it is written that the eyes of all, catechumens and faithful, men, women, and children, saw Jesus not with eyes of the flesh, but with those of the Spirit.




Now, the adornment of the world is the Church, Christ being her adornment, who is the first Light of the world.

For the end will come if the salt loses its savor, and ceases to salt and preserve the earth, since it is clear that if iniquity is multiplied and love waxes cold upon the earth, (Matt. 24. 12.) as the Savior Himself uttered an expression of doubt as to those who would witness His coming, saying, (Luke 18:8.) "When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith upon the earth?" then the end of the age will come.

The Church, imitating her heavenly Groom, is the light of the world. Origen invites his opponent to compare the pagan cities with the Christian churches established therein.

The churches formed by Christ, if compared to the assemblies of the cities in which they live appear as lighted torches in the world. For who will not confess that the least good members of the Church are often better than many of those seen in the civil assemblies?

Thus the Church of God which is at Athens is gentle and constant, doing its best to please the supreme God; while the assembly of Athens is tumultuous, and cannot in any way be compared with the Church.

After comparing in the same way the churches of Cornish and Alexandria with these cities, he adds:

If we compare the senate of the Church of God to the senate of each city, it will be found that some of the senators of the Church would be worthy senators of a divine city, if there were such a city of God in the world while the civil senators in no way deserve by their morals the eminent place they occupy among their fellow citizens.

Compare, in the same way, the head of each church to the heads of cities, and you will find that in the churches of God, even those who are in the lowest rank among the senators and heads, and who by comparison seem to be negligent, are yet superior to all the civil magistrates if we put their respective virtues side by side.




R.P. Lawson says, "The exquisite picture that the great Alexandrian portrays of his beloved Church is so vivid and so rich in color... Small wonder that for too many to-day she stands only for an organization, rather than for what she was familiarly in Origen's thought of her-Our Lord and Savior’s mystical Bride!




According to Origen, there is only one church on earth, and it is finally inseparable from the sacramental, hierarchical institution. This church is, in a striking phrase of Origen, "the cosmos of the cosmos, because Christ has become its cosmos, he who is the primal light of the cosmos."

Enlightened by the Logos, the Church becomes the world of worlds. As he believes in the universal restoration, the Church for him comprises not only the whole of humanity, but the whole rational creatures.

Origen sees the unity of the Church based on her one faith, discipline, and rule.

I bear the title of priest and, as you see, I preach the word of God. But if I do anything contrary to the discipline of the Church or the rule laid down in the Gospels-if I give offense to you and to the Church - then I hope the whole Church will unite with one consent and cast me off.

In hom. 9 on Joshua, Origen speaks of the temple of God in which Jesus Christ is able to offer a Sacrifice to the Father. It is built with unbroken stones which not any iron tools was used on them (Deut. 27.5). These are the pure living stones, the saintly apostles who constitute one temple through the unity of their hearts (Acts 1:24) and souls. They pray together in harmony as with one voice (Acts 1:14). They have one mind. In other words true unity is based on saintly life, love (unity of hearts), communal worship (one voice), and oneness of faith (one mind).

Origen looks at the sanctity of every member as a base for the church unity for what a member commits has its bad effects on others. He says: "a single sinner tarnishes the people," and "one who commits a fornication or another crime, casts a stain on the whole people."

The victim is eaten in its entirety in a single house, and no flesh is taken outside. This means that only one house has salvation in Christ, namely, the Church throughout the world, hitherto estranged from God but now enjoying unique intimacy with God because it has received the apostles of the Lord Jesus, just as of old the house of Rahab, the harlot, received the spies of Joshua, and was the only one saved in the destruction of Jericho.

So, however numerous the Hebrew houses were, they were equivalent to a single house, and likewise the churches throughout town and country, however numerous they are, constitute but a single Church. For Christ is one in all of them everywhere, Christ who is perfect and indivisible. Therefore in each house the victim was perfect and was not divided among different houses. For Paul himself says that "we are all one in Christ because there is one Lord and one faith" (Eph. 4:5).

The unity of the Church is based on its continuity in her faith which starts by the Old Testament and continues in the New Testament. Origen summed up the apostolic continuity in the confession "that there is one God, who created and arranged all things, the God of the apostles and of the Old and New Testaments."

Another form of continuity in the apostolic tradition was the continuity of the apostles with one another as the faithful messengers of Christ. Origen spoke in an utterly matter-of-fact way about "the teaching of the apostles," who, like the prophets of the Old Testaments, had been inspired by the Holy Spirit. This definition of apostolic continuity was directed against the isolation of one apostle from the apostolic community.




Origen regards all Christians members of the true Church, though ranked in an ascending scale of faith and knowledge.

Quoting John 14:2 and 1 Cor. 15:39-41, Origen states that there are degrees among those who receive the salvation. He believes that the Gibeonites ( Jos. 9) refers to the least among them. They believe in God and His redeeming deeds but they do not translate this faith in their practical life.

In the Church, there are some Christians who are real believers. They believe in God and do not discuss His commandments. They fulfill their religious duties and desire to serve, but they are not pure in their conducts and private lives. They do not take off the old man with his deeds (Col. 3:9). They are like the Gibeonites who put on their old garments and patched sandals...

He found a symbol of this distinction of believers in the arrangements for carrying the Tabernacle on the march. Aaron and his sons were to wrap the sanctuary and all the vessels of the sanctuary in the appointed covering of badgers' skins or cloths of blue and scarlet; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear them, but they shall not touch any holy thing lest they die.... they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered lest they die. So in our ecclesiastical observances there are some things that all must do, but that all cannot understand. Why, for instance, we should kneel in prayer, or why we should turn our faces to the East, could not, I think, be made clear to everybody. Who again could easily expound the manner of celebration of the Eucharist, or of its reception, or the words and actions, the questions and replies, of Baptism? And yet all these things we carry veiled and covered upon our shoulders, when we so fulfill them as they have been handed down to us by the Great High Priest and his Sons. Only the son of Aaron, the man of spiritual intelligence, might gaze upon the holy things naked and unveiled. To the son of Kohath belonged unquestioning obedience; he carried the burden, but was forbidden to demand the reason. Nor might the son of Aaron declare it. To uncover the mystery, to explain that which the bearer was not able to comprehend, was spiritual homicide.

Origen says that the Church admits the highly spiritual believers and also the weak ones, calling the former men and the latter animals.

But the Church also has animals, hear how it says it in the Psalms: "Lord, you will make men and beasts safe" (Ps. 35:7). These, therefore, who are dedicated to the study of the word of God and of reasonable doctrine, are called men. But those who are living without such studies and do not want exercises of knowledge, but are nevertheless faithful, they are called animals, though, to be sure, clean ones. for just as some are men of God, so some are sheep of God .

Jean Dani´┐Żlou states that Origen touches on a new subject of symbolism, the comparison of the animals in the ark and "those who are saved in the Church." The animals are divided among various degrees of perfection:

As all have neither the same merit, nor is their progress in the faith equal, so the ark did not offer equal accommodation for all... and this shows that in the Church also, though all share the same faith and are washed by the same baptism, all do not equally advance and each one remains in his own class.

Origen also explains that there are wicked persons in the church.

Wherefore let us not be surprised if, before the severing of the wicked from among the righteous by the angels who are sent forth for this purpose, we see our gatherings also filled with wicked persons. And would that those who will be cast into the furnace of fire may not be greater in number than the righteous!



Origen who was aflame with the love of all mankind desires the salvation of all men. When Celsus charges the Christians with believing that God has abandoned the rest of mankind and is concerned for the Church alone, Origen replies that this is not a Christian belief.

But since it was God who wished the Gentiles also to be helped by the teaching of Jesus Christ, every human plot against the Christians has been thwarted, and the more kings and local rulers and peoples everywhere have humiliated them, the more they have grown in numbers and strength.’



Through unity with the Risen Christ, the Church then is called to rise in greater brightness and splendor, as though consummation had come.

"Arise; come, my neighbor, my fair one, my dove; for lo, the winter is past; the rain is gone and has departed to itself; the flowers have appeared on the earth...." (cf. Song 2 12). We can say that it is a sort of prophecy given to the Church, to call her to the promised blessings of the future. She is told to "arise," as though the consummation of the age were already reached and the time of resurrection come. And, because this word of command forthwith seals the work of resurrection, she is invited into the kingdom, as being now, by virtue of the resurrection, brighter and more splendid.

Origen explains that Christ is her life:

And the fact that the Church is the aggregate of many souls and has received the pattern of her life from Christ.





The Church together with her Head, Jesus Christ is in grief till the return of sinners to their God, and subject to the Father. Origen comments on the words, "Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of this vine until I drink it anew with you in the kingdom of My Father" (Matt. 26:29), saying that wine in the holy Scriptures is a symbol of spiritual joy. God promised His people to bless their vines, that is to grant them abundance of spiritual joy. Therefore He prevents the priests to drink wine on their entrance into the temple, for He wants them to be in grief while the sacrifices are offered on behalf of sinners. When all sinners are reconciled with God then their joy will be perfect. Origen believes that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His saints are waiting for the repentance of sinners, therefore, their joy is not yet perfect.

For we must not think that Paul is mourning for sinners and weeping for those who transgress, but Jesus my Lord abstains from weeping when he approaches the Father, when he stands at the altar and offers a propitiatory sacrifice for us. This is not to drink the wine of joy "when he ascends to the altar" because he is still bearing the bitterness of our sins. He, therefore, does not want to be the only one to drink wine "in the kingdom" of God. He waits for us, just as he said, "Until I shall drink it with you." Thus we are those who, neglecting our life, delay his joy.

For now his work is still imperfect as long as I remain imperfect. And as long as I am not subjected to the Father, neither is he said to be "subjected" (1 Cor. 15:28) to the Father. Not that he himself is in need of subjection before the Father but for me, in whom he has not yet completed his work, he is said not to be subjected, for, as we read, "we are the body of Christ and members in part" (1 Cor. 12:27).

But as long as within me "the flesh strives against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17) and I have not yet been able to subject the flesh to the spirit, certainly I am "subjected" to God, not in whole but "in part." But if I could draw my flesh and all my other members into harmony with the spirit, then I will seem to be perfectly "subjected."

But he does not drink now because he stands at the altar and mourns for my sins. On the other hand, he will drink later, when "all things will have been subjected to him" and after the salvation of all and the death of sin is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:28, 26; Rom. 6:6). Then it will no longer be necessary to offer "sacrifices for sin" (Lev. 6: 30). For then there will be joy and delight. Then "the humble bones will rejoice" (Ps. 50:10) and what was written will be fulfilled: "Pain, sorrow and sighing flee away" (Isa. 35:10).

For the saints, when they leave this place, do not immediately obtain the whole reward of their merits. They also wait for us though we delay, even though we remain, For they do not have perfect delight as long as they grieve for our errors and mourn for our sins. Perhaps you do not believe me when I say this. For who am I that I am so bold to confirm the meaning of such a doctrine? But I produce their witness about whom you cannot doubt. For the Apostle Paul is "the teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Tim. 2:7). Therefore, in writing to the Hebrews, after he had enumerated all the holy fathers who were justified by faith, he adds after all that, "But those who had every witness through the faith did not yet obtain the new promise since God was looking forward toward something better for us that they might not obtain perfection without us" (Heb. 11:39-40). You see, therefore, that Abraham is still waiting to obtain the perfect things. Isaac waits, and Jacob and all the Prophets wait for us, that they may lay hold of the perfect blessedness with us.

Therefore, you will have delight when you depart this life if you are holy. But when the delight will be full when you lack none of the members of the body. For you will wait for others just as you also are waited for.

Because if the delight does not seem to be complete for you who are a member, if another member is missing, how much more does our Lord and Savior, who is "the head" (Eph. 4:15-16) and the originator of the whole body, consider his delight to be incomplete as long as he sees one of the members to be missing from his body. And for this reason, perhaps, he poured out this prayer to the Father: "Holy Father, glorify me with that glory that I had with you before the world was" (John 17:5). Thus, he does not want to receive his complete glory without us, that is, He Himself wants to live in this body of his church and in these members of his people as in their soul that he can have all impulses and all works according to his own will, so that that saying of the prophet may be truly fulfilled in us, "I will live in them and walk [among them]" (Lev. 26:12).

Now, however, as long as we are not all "perfected," and "are still in [our] sins" (Phil. 3:15; Rom. 5:8), he is in us "in part." For this reason, "we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 13:9) until each one is worthy to come to that measure which the Apostle says, "I live, but it is no longer I, for Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20), Therefore, "in part," as the Apostle says, now "we are his members" (1 Cor. 12:27) and "in part we are his bones."

You see, therefore, that it is impossible for him to drink the new cup of the new life who still "is clothed by the old person with his deeds." "For no one," it says, "puts new wine into old wine skins." Therefore, if you want to drink from this "new wine," renew yourself and say, "If our outer person is destroyed, the inner person is renewed from day to day" (Col. 3:9; Matt. 9:17; 2 Cor. 4:16). Certainly this statement is sufficient concerning these things.


In chapter 11 we noticed how Origen praises true believers for they conquer the devil and all sins. The true churchmen have trampled upon all the powers by divine grace. Even the gates of Hades cannot overcome them.

Instead of that, when He has torn (the nets) and trampled them, He so emboldens His Church that she too dares to trample now upon the snares, and to pass over the nets, and with all joy to say: Our soul has been delivered as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are delivered (Ps. 123:7).

Who rent the snare, save He who alone could not be held by it (Acts 2:24)? For, although He suffered death, He did so willingly, and not as we do, by necessity of sin; for He alone was free among the dead (Ps 87:6).

And, because he was free among the dead, when He had conquered him who had the empire of death (Heb. 2:14), He brought forth the captives that were being held by death. And He did not raise only Himself from the dead; He also raised, together with Himself, those who were held by death, and made them to sit with Him in the heavenly places. For ascending on high, He lead captivity captive (Eph. 26; 4:8), not only bringing forth the souls, but also raising their bodies, as the Gospel testifies: Many bodies of the saints... were raised,... and appeared to many, and came into the holy city of the living God, Jerusalem (Matt. 27:52; Heb. 12:22).

The church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock (Matt. 7:24), is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it..



The church which Origen sees and loves is ever the ensemble of Christ’s disciples scattered over the face of the earth. That great society can never be confused with the rest of the human race, although it never ceases to attract those who have need of belief and although the anxious crowds of those who are hearkening to its call surround it as with a radiance.

From the beginning of the church the gospel message was proclaimed by the faithful wherever they lived or traveled. In his treatise against Celsus, Origen writes that "Christians do all in their power to spread the faith all over the world. Some of them make it the business of their life to wander not only from city to city but from township to township and village to village, in order to gain fresh converts for the Lord."




The Church of the New Testament has inherited all that was the Old Testament's Church to enjoy, not literary but spiritually. St. Paul who describes the Old Testament Church, "to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the services of God, and the promises" (Rom. 9:4), confirms that these privileges have been transferred to the New Testament Church, because of her belief in Christ, saying: " Therefore, having these promises..." (Cor. 7:1).

But do not think that these words are spoken only to that " Israel " which is " according to the flesh" (cf. 1 Cor. 10:18). These words are addressed much more to you who were made Israel spiritually by living for God, who were circumcised, not in flesh, but in heart.

The Church is new in her life in Christ, for she accepts the work of His Holy Spirit who unceasingly renews our thoughts and our life. She also is very ancient, for she was in the mind of God who planned for our salvation, even before the foundation of this world.

I would not have you suppose that "the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2), or the Church is spoken of only after the coming of the Savior in the flesh, but rather from the beginning of the human race, from the beginning of the human race, from the very foundation of the world; I may follow Paul in tracing the origin of this mystery even further, before the foundation of the world. For Paul says," He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy..." (Eph. 1:4,5).

The Apostle also says that the church is built on the foundation not only of the apostles but also of prophets (Eph. 2:20). Now Adam is numbered among the prophets, and he prophesied the "great mystery in respect of Christ and the Church" when he said; "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall be in one flesh" Gen. 2:24. For the apostle is clearly speaking of these words when he says: "This mystery is great; but I am speaking in respect of Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:32). Further the apostle also says: "For He so loved the church that He gave Himself for Her, sanctifying her with the washing of water" (Eph. 5:25,26)... And in this He shows that it is not the case that she did not exist before. For how could He love her if she did not exist? without doubt she existed in all the saints who had been from the beginning of time. Thus loving the church, He came to her. And as His "Children share in flesh and blood, so He also was made partaker of these" (Heb. 2:14) and gave Himself for them. For these saints were the Church, which He loved so as to increase it in number, to improve it with virtues, and by the "Charity of perfection" (Col. 4:6), transfer it from earth to heaven.



It is impossible that the church be fully-purified, as long as she is on earth.

It is impossible to be pure so that there is no one sinner or non-believer in her, and all are saints, without any sin...

Many who come to the feast, but little are these who sit on the table.

1. On many occasions Origen expresses his grief on account of the Church (of Caesarea), reproving his hearers through love.

Although all the faithful and the catechumens were expected to attend the morning assembly each day, many were apparently lax in their attendance, and others were inattentive or even left after the reading of the scripture. In a petulant mood, Origen once complained about those who did not come to the Synaxis.

It may perhaps seem very severe, but can I cover with plaster a wall which is collapsing?

How can I put pearls in deaf ears and those who turn away?

Does it not cause [the Church] sadness and sorrow when you do not gather to hear the word of God? And scarcely on feast days do you proceed to the Church, and you do this not so much from a desire for the word as from a fondness for the festival and to obtain, in a certain manner, common relaxation.

Tell me, you who come to church only on festal days, are the other days not festal days?...Christians eat the flesh of the lamb every day, that is, they consume daily the flesh of the word.

2. Origen complains that some do not stay for the homily:

Some of you leave immediately as soon as you have heard the texts which are selected readings... Some do not even patiently wait while the texts are being read in church. Others do not even know if they are read, but are occupied with mundane stories in the furthest corners of the Lord's house.

Origen's annoyance grew as his congregation became even more impatient with his explanations of details from the book of Exodus:

But what would it profit should [other things] be discussed by our vast toil indeed, but be despised by hearers who are preoccupied and can scarcely stand in the presence of the word of God a fraction of an hour, and come to nothing?...there are some who understand in heart what is read; there are others who do not at all understand what is said, but their mind and heart are on business dealings or on acts of the world or on counting their profit. And especially, how do you think women understand in heart, who chatter so much, who disturb with their stories so much that they do not allow any silence? Now what shall I say about their mind, what shall I say about their heart, if they are thinking about their infants or wool or the needs of their household?

3. Origen was annoyed because some members of the congregation objected to his method of interpreting the scriptures, in particular to his discovery of a spiritual sense there; biblical literalism is not only a modern temptation. In one homily Origen said:

If I shall wish to dig deeply and open the hidden veins" of living water, " immediately the Philistines will be present and will strive with me. They will stir up disputes and malicious charges against me and will begin to refill my wells with their earth and mud.

Origen is even clearer on the topic of his opponents as he sets out on one of his most challenging and difficult tasks, preaching on the book of Leviticus:

For if, according to some people, who are even among our own, I should follow the plain sense [of Scripture] and understand the voice of the lawgiver without any verbal trick or clouded allegory thus they usually ridicule us then I, a man of the church who lives under faith in Christ and stand in the midst of the church, am compelled by the authority of God's law to sacrifice calves and lambs and to offer flour, along with incense and oil. For they who force us to spend our time on the narrative and to keep the letter of the law do this. But it is time for us to use the words of the blessed Susanna against the unprincipled presbyters, words that they themselves indeed repudiate when they lop the story of Susanna off from the catalogue of inspired books. But we accept this story [as scripture] and conveniently bring its words against them and say: "Straits are round about me." For if I agree with you and follow the letter of the law, "death is my lot:" if I do not agree, "I shall not escape your hands. But it is better for me to fall into your hands without any act than to sin in the sight of the Lord" (Dan 13:22-23).

J.W. Trigg says,

Origen's sermons help us to avoid the all-too-common tendency to idealize the life of the church during the pre-Constantinian period; if we are to believe him, the church in Caesarea was in sorry shape. He complained in the course of his preaching that relatively few Christians bothered to attend any but the Sunday services. Some only came then in order to relax and enjoy the company of their friends and were chatting in the back of the room during the sermon. People did not convert to Christianity in Origen's time for worldly reasons, as they would once Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion of the empire, but many belonged to Christian families and continued in the church out of habit and training rather than out of zeal. There had been no persecutions for a generation, so that the winnowing of adversity had not occurred. Origen found himself looking back wistfully to the heroic days of persecution in his youth:

Then there were believers, when there were noble martyrdoms. As soon as we returned from conveying the martyrs to the cemetery, we gathered together in assembly. The whole church was there, not the least bit anguished, and the catechumens were instructed in the midst of the confessors, and in the midst of the dead who had confessed the truth unto death, nor were they anxious or perturbed, because they believed in the living God. Then we saw great and marvelous signs. Then there were few believers, but they really did believe, and they traveled the strait and narrow way that leads to life. But now we have become numerous...and there are few indeed among the many who profess Christian piety who will actually attain divine election and blessedness.

"The church sighs and grieves when you do not come to the assembly to hear the Word of God. You go to church hardly ever on feast days, and even then not so much out of a desire to hear the word as to take part in a public function." He continues by saying that the greater part of their time, "nearly all of it in fact," is spent on mundane things.

In a sermon on Psalm 36 he addressed this issue:

Watch this only, brethren, that no one of you be found not only not speaking or mediating wisdom, but even hating and opposing those who pursue the study of wisdom. The ignorant, among other faults, have this worst fault of all, that of regarding those who have devoted themselves to the word and teaching as vain useless; they prefer their own ignorance to the study and toil of the learned, and by changing titles they call the exercises of the teacher verbiage, but they call their own unteachableness or ignorance, simplicity.

The sermon actually represents Jesus in the midst of the congregation. When the hearers contemplate the message in the service, "your eyes can behold the Lord. For when you direct your loftiest thoughts to contemplate Wisdom and Truth, which are in the Only Son of the Father, your eyes see Jesus."


Church Tradition


The Church’s traditional rule of faith supplies the foundation for speculation and the main line of his theology. He held fast to church tradition, and tried to use philosophy to interpret it. He said, "We maintain that that only is to be believed as the truth which in no way conflicts with the tradition of the Church and the apostles."

Balthasar says that his Christian gnosis is inseparable from the practice of ecclesiastical sanctity. The entire weight of his preaching points to that unity.


Tradition or "the Canon of Faith" is the body of beliefs currently accepted by Christians. He states that Church tradition is handed down from the apostles and is preserved publicly in the churches that stood in succession with the apostles.

The teaching of the Church, handed down in unbroken succession from the apostles, is still preserved and continues to exist in the churches up to the present day, we maintain that that only is to be believed as the truth which in no way conflicts with the tradition of the church and the apostles.

Together with the proper interpretation of the Old Testament and the proper canon of the New, this tradition of the Church was a decisive criterion of apostolic continuity for the determination of doctrine in the Church catholic.

Origen explains the deposit of Church tradition, which St. Paul refers to in his epistle to Timothy, saying, "O Timothy, Guard the good deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20), as receiving Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit within him.

Likewise, I add the fact that we received Christ, the Lord, as "a deposit" and we have the Holy Spirit as "a deposit." We must watch, therefore, lest we use this holy deposit sacrilegiously and, when sins move us into their assent, we swear that we have not received "the deposit." Certainly, if we have that in us, we cannot consent to sin.

Origen comments on the words, "those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us" (Luke 1:2), saying that there are two important points concerning the church tradition:

a. By saying "eyewitness" he does not mean the bodily eyes, for many saw Jesus Christ according to His flesh, ignoring His Person and His redeeming work, just as Pilate, Jude and the people who cried "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" (John 19:15). The unbeliever cannot see the word of God, this sight to which Christ refers by saying: "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

b. Beholding the Word of God must be correlated to work: "ministers of the Word". For knowledge and practical life are inseparable, or as Origen says that deeds are the crown of knowledge.




Tradition, embodying the teaching of the Apostles, has handed down certain facts, certain usages, which are to be received without dispute; but it does not attempt to explain the why or the whence. It is the office of the sanctified reason to define, to articulate, to co-ordinate, even to expand, and generally to adapt to human needs the faith once delivered to the church.


Church Discipline


Origen speaks of a custom, which indicates a longer period of time. "In the Church of Christ there is this custom, that those who are in notorious sins are dismissed from the common prayer." Origen states that the custom of dismissing from the common prayer such as are manifest in great iniquities, lest the little leaven which would not pray from a pure heart corrupt the whole community. J.W. Trigg says,

Origen spiritualized ecclesiastical discipline similarly. He readily accepted the right of church leaders to exclude notorious sinners from the Eucharist, and he thought that they were betraying their pastoral responsibility if they failed to exercise that power. His concern was not that the presence of sinners would, in some mysterious way, impair the church's standing before God but that they would set a bad example. The toleration of known sinners, he thought, demoralizes a congregation, since the simple think, when they see a Christian sin and remain in the church, that they ought to be able to sin with impunity themselves. A good pastor therefore removes the mangy sheep from the flock, since otherwise its mange will inevitably spread to others. Even so, the church's leaders should use their authority discreetly. It is best to see if exhortation and admonishment will cure sinners before excluding them from fellowship...

At the same time, an unjustified excommunication does not really sever the person excommunicated from the spiritual fellowship of the church. Since Origen believed that the Christian was deprived of nothing by not partaking of the Eucharist, such exclusion did no harm.

The church could readmit to its fellowship the excommunicated Christian who exhibited genuine repentance and a firm resolve not to sin again. Demonstrating such moral reformation was a serious process.

We then for whom these things are said to be written ought to know, that if we shall sin against the Lord, and if we worship the pleasures of our mind, and the desires of the flesh as good, we also are delivered, and through apostolic authority we are delivered to Zabulon. Listen then to him who says this about the person who had destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved (1 Cor. 5:5). You see therefore that not only through his Apostles does God deliver up sinners into the hands of his enemies, but even through those who preside over the Church, and possess the power not only of loosing, but also of binding; sinners are delivered unto destruction of the flesh, whenever they are separated from the body of Christ for their sins... whenever they are dismissed from the Church by the priests.



Discipline must be more strict and firm according to the responsibility and the role of the believer in the church.

All sinners in the Church... deserve punishment, but their punishment will depend on the rank they occupy...

A catechumen deserves more mercy than one of the faithful...

A deacon has a better right to pardon than a priest.

What follows from that you do not need me to tell you... I fear God's judgment and I keep before my imagination a picture of what will happen at it... I bear in mind the saying: If a weight is too heavy for you, do not lift it. What good is it to me to be enthroned at the master's desk in the place of honor... if I cannot do the work my position demands? The torments I shall be punished with will be all the more painful because everyone treats me with respect, as though I were good, whereas in fact I am a sinner.

It is to be noted well that the Lawgiver does not add to the sin of the high priest that he shall have sinned through ignorance or involuntarily. For he who was elevated to teach others could not fall through ignorance.



For he does not wish you, if perhaps you see the sin of your brother, to rush out immediately into a public place and cry out indiscriminately and divulge another's sins because that certainly would not be the act of one correcting but rather of one defaming. He says, "Only between you and him, accuse him" (Cf. Matt. 18:15). For when he who sins sees the secret is kept to himself, he himself will also keep the shame of correction. But if he sees himself defamed, he will immediately be turned to the shamelessness of denial. Not only will you not have corrected the sin, but you will have even doubled it. Therefore, learn the proper order from the Gospels.



Origen cautions one on using power in excommunicating the sinner. He says: "But this should be done rarely."

Origen states that the Church would cut off, or excommunicate, from the congregation of saints, those who after several exhortations to a better life failed to come to repentance for their sins. Thus in one of his Homilies on Joshua he brings this out when he remarks:

We do not maintain that one should be cut off for a light fault; but if for an iniquity one is exhorted and upbraided once, and again, and even a third time, and does not show any signs of improvement, let us use the physician’s method...

If the malignancy of the tumor does not respond to the medications, there remains for us the sole remedy of excommunication.

Origen stresses the fact that only those whose sins are manifest are cut off from the Church. Wherever the iniquity is not evident, one cannot dismiss a person from the community, lest in eradicating the cockle we eradicate the wheat also. It is humiliating to be cut off from the congregation of the saints; it is an infamy.

Therefore St. Paul, who knows that these things are good for the faithful, says of him who sinned: ‘whom I have given,’ he says, ‘to Satan unto the destruction of the flesh’, to be punished by death. This shows which are the fruits of this death, when he says: ‘that the spirit might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ When he says: ‘I have given unto the destruction of the flesh’, that is in affliction of the body, which is wont to be undertaken by the penitents, he calls this the death of the flesh, which death of the flesh brings life to the soul.’


Origen explains that bishops have to expect insults from those whom they excommunicated; and that we should not listen to such tales full of malicious exaggeration spread by those who because they have been excommunicated do great harm to the bishop with their sinful tongues.

Hence I hold that he who fell into the gravest sin in Corinth, for that reason obtained mercy, because while he was upbraided that he was dismissed from the Church, he did not hate the accuser, but rather he accepted the animadversion with patience and put up with it with fortitude. I am of the opinion that he came by an even greater love for Paul, and for those who were obedient to the decrees of Paul in their rebuke of him. Therefore Paul revoked his sentence, and brought the excommunicated one back into the Church.

Prophets and teachers endure from those who do not wish to be healed of their sin the same things that physicians endure from patients unwilling to accept harsh medical treatment... Such undisciplined patients flee their physicians or injure and insult them, treating them as if they were their enemies.

This rebuke should not be difficult to bear. If we find it hard to put up with it now, what would we do if God would rebuke and accuse us in His anger? Therefore if we cannot bear the anger of the bishop who upbraids us, but accept it with indignation, how can we stand the anger of God?




Origen says that "if anyone among us should sin, he is dismissed; even though he is not excommunicated by the bishop, because he hides ."




Cleansing from sin is not established through bodily punishments, but through repentance...




Origen combined the apostolic and the priestly definitions of the Christian ministry when he said that "the apostles and their successors, priests according to the great High Priest... know from their instruction by the Spirit for what sins, and when, and how, they must offer sacrifice."



Joseph W. Trigg clarifies how Origen believes that the main work of the priests of the Old Testament was ritual service while that of the New Testament is education. "The Old Testament priesthood was appealing to Origen, in the first place, because priests were a tribe apart, entirely consecrated to God’s service. On his return to Alexandria after his first sojourn in Caesarea, Origen wrote about this at the beginning of his Commentary on John. Priests, he explains, are persons consecrated to the study of the word of God, and high priests are those who excel at such study. There can be no question that these grades correspond to ecclesiastical offices. Priests, and the high priest in particular, also have privileged access to God. Thus Origen follows Clement of Alexandria in interpreting the priest as a spiritual man But if the priest has a privileged access to divine secrets, this is only so that, as a teacher, he might mediate God’s word to others. Origen transforms the Jewish ritual legislation into an exposition of the priest’s vocation as a teacher. For example, removing the skin of the sacrificial victim symbolizes removing the veil of the letter from God’s word, and taking fine incense in the hand symbolizes making fine distinctions in the interpretation of difficult passages. He also interprets sacrifice as the progressive liberation of the soul from the body that makes possible the apprehension of higher truths. Thus the Levitical priesthood comes to symbolize a moral and intellectual elite of inspired teachers of scripture. This transformation culminates in Origen’s interpretation of the high priest’s vestments, each item of which symbolizes a spiritual qualification."

If the apostle is an inspired exegete, he is also, like the priest, a teacher by vocation, responsible for mediating God’s word to persons at all levels of spiritual progress. Jesus made this clear when he ordered the disciples to allow little children to come to him, thus signifying that more advanced Christians should condescend to the simple. The "works of an apostle" are, in fact, works of teaching. When Jesus commissioned his disciples and gave them power to give sight to the blind and to raise the dead, he had in mind restoring to sight persons "blinded" by false doctrines and raising to life persons "dead" in their sins. Being an apostle is not an official position but function verified in the doing. In arguing to this effect Origen cites Corinthians 9:2: "If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord."

Bishops have a special place in the divine economy, since they share responsibility for their congregations with angelic bishops, with whom they cooperate. As a result of these unique responsibilities, bishops have more powers granted to them than are granted to ordinary Christians, though, conversely, more is required of them... Moses’ selection of Joshua as his successor is thus the pattern for the selection of a bishop:

Here is no popular acclamation, no thought given to consanguinity or kinship;....the government of the people is handed over to him whom God has chosen, to a man who...has in him the Spirit of God and keeps the precepts of God in his sight. Moses knew from personal experience that he was preeminent in the law and in knowledge, so that the children of Israel should obey him. Since all these things are replete with mysteries, we cannot omit what is more precious, although these things commanded literally seem necessary and useful.

Today (Christ) is speaking in our congregation, not only in ours but in other congregations all over the world.

Christ teaches, and He asks instruments which He uses to spread His teaching. Pray that He may find me ready to this and I give homage to Him.

J.W. Trigg says,

As with priests, the prime qualification of the apostles was their insight into the mysteries of the Bible. The ''fields... white already to harvest" which Jesus called upon the Apostles to reap were the books of the Old Testament. When he called upon them to cross the Sea of Galilee, this symbolized his call to pass from the literal to the spiritual sense of Scripture. A prime characteristic of the Apostle's function as an interpreter and teacher of the Bible was the duty to exercise discretion. Paul, the greatest of the Apostles, provided Origen with an example of apostolic discretion. When among spiritual Christians, Paul boldly imparted "a secret and hidden wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 2:7), but among the simple he judged it expedient "to know nothing... except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2). Origen was careful in the case of Apostles, as with priests, to remove any suggestions that those who fulfilled the apostolic function in the church could be identified as the holders of particular positions. Apostles are those who perform the works of an Apostle, works such as restoring to sight those blinded by false doctrine and raising to life those dead in their sins. apostleship is verified in its fruits, or as Paul said: ''If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" ( I Cor. 9:2).



He must also be able to communicate what he knows. "For it is not sufficient for the high priest to have wisdom and to perceive all reason unless he can communicate what he knows to the people."

Origen says that the priest wears the robe of doctrine to teach the advanced and the robe of the word to teach those who are beginning in the faith. Origen comments on the clothes of the priest in and outside the holy of holies saying,

You see, therefore, how this most learned priest when he is within, among the perfect ones as in "the holy of holies," uses one robe of doctrine, but when "he goes out" to those who are not capable he changes the robe of the word and teaches lesser things and he gives to some "milk" to drink as "children" (1 Cor 3:2, 1), to others "vegetables" as "the weak" (Rom. 14:2), but to others, he gives "solid food," of course, for those who, "insofar as they are able, have their senses trained to distinguish good or evil" (Heb. 5:14). Thus, Paul knew how to change robes and to use one with the people, another in the ministry of the sanctuary.



In the tabernacle of the Old Testament, therefore, the pillars are joined by interposed bars; in the Church the teachers are associated by the right hand of fellowship which is given to them.

But let those pillars be overlaid with silver and their bases overlaid with silver. Let two bases, however, be allotted to each pillar; one, which is said to be the "capital" and is placed over it; another, which is truly called the "base" and is placed under the pillar as a foundation.

Let the pillars, therefore, be overlaid with silver because those who preach the word of God shall receive through the Spirit "the words of the Lord," which are "pure words, silver proved by fire" (Ps. 11:7).

But they have the prophets as the base of their preaching, for they erected the Church "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Cf. Eph. 2:20), and using their testimonies they confirm the faith in Christ.

The capital of the pillars, however, I believe, is He of whom the Apostle says, "The head of man is Christ" (1 Cor. 11:3).

I have already said above that the bars of the pillars are the right hand of the apostolic fellowship given to one another. Let the curtains, which after they have been sewn to rings and suspended in circles and tied with cords, are stretched out in the manner of curtains twenty-eight cubits in length and four in breadth, hold the remaining multitude of believers who cling to and hang on the cords of faith. For "a threefold cord is not broken" (Eccl. 4:12). This is the faith in the Trinity, from which the whole Church hangs and by which it is sustained. I think that the law introduced in the Gospels is designated by the twenty-eight cubits in length and the four in breadth which are the measure of one court. For the number seven usually signifies the Law because of the many mysteries of the seventh number. When this number is united with four, four times seven consequently make the number twenty-eight.

These ten courts, however, were constructed that they might contain the whole number of perfection and designate the Decalogue of the Law. But now the appearance of scarlet and blue and linen and purple set forth many diverse works. They disclose the curtains, the exterior and interior veil, and the whole priestly and high priestly attire joined with gold and gems.



Origen says that "according to the image of Him, who gave the priesthood to the Church, the ministers also and the priests of the Church receive the "sins of the people," and in imitation of the Master they grant remission of sin."

Just as the Apostles knew how to use this power, even so they who like the Apostles are priests, according to the High Priest Christ, know the meaning of their power.

Elsewhere he is just as emphatic. He says, in one of his Homilies on Leviticus, that in accordance with the will of Christ, who instituted the priesthood in the Church, the priests of the Church receive the sins of the people, and in imitation of the Divine Master they grant remission of sins..

In his sermon on one of the Psalms, Origen shows the marvelous power of the bishops in which he says that Christ was the great Physician who could cure even malady and infirmity. Now His apostles Peter and Paul, even as the prophets, are physicians; and so are all those who after the apostles have been placed over the Church, to whom the art of healing wounds has been given. It is precisely those ministers whom God has placed as physicians of souls in the Church, because our God does not want the death of sinners, but their penance and conversion.

You see therefore that God not only through His Apostles delivers up sinners into the hands of the enemies, but even through those who are over the church, and possess the power not only of loosing, but also of binding.



The hierarchy of the Church is conceived not as an external priesthood but in accordance with its interior degrees of perfection. This idea of a hierarchy according to it has already appeared in the Eclogae Proplieticae of Clement. We have passed from the official exegesis of the Church to a private and unofficial one.

What good does it do me that I occupy the first chair in the congregation, and receive the honor of an elder, without possessing the works worthy of my dignity? "



Origen affirms on several occasions that the validity of ecclesiastical powers depends upon the priest’s state of soul. "If he is tightly bound with the cords of his own sins, to no purpose does he bind and loose." The right of forgiving sins committed against God is reserved to him who "is inspired by Jesus, as the apostles were, and whom we can know by his fruits as having received the Holy Spirit."

Origen stresses the importance of spiritual qualities in the bishop. He believes that a sinful bishop looses his power to remit sins, saying:

After this let us see in what sense it was said to Peter, and to every believer who is Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 16:19)... When one judges uprighteously, and does not bind upon earth according to His will, the gates of hell prevail against him: but in the case of him against whom the gates of hell do not prevail, this man judges righteously; inasmuch as he has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, opening to those who have been loosed on earth that they may also be loosed in heaven, and free; and closing to those who by his just judgment have been bound on earth that they also be bound in heaven, and condemned. When those who claim the function of the episcopate, use this text even as Peter, and having asserted that they have received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven from Christ, teach that things bound by them, that is to say, condemned, are also bound in heaven, and that those which have obtained remission by them are also loosed in heaven, we must say that they speak well if they have the way of life... and if they are such that upon them the Church is built by Christ, and to them with good reason this could be referred; and the gates of hell ought not to prevail against him when he wishes to bind and loose. But if he is tightly bound with the cords of his sins, to no purpose does he bind and loose.

He complains that one cannot dismiss such persons whose sins are doubtful or concealed.

Nor do we say this of those who obviously and notoriously are sinful, that they should not be expelled from the Church... Because we cannot therefore dismiss those who despise us: let us dismiss those at least whom we can, whose sins are known. Wherever the sin is not evident, we cannot throw anyone out of the Church ‘lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it’.


Some bishops, "particularly in the largest cities," make themselves as inaccessible as tyrants in order to overawe their congregations.




And you will say the like in the case of him who seeks the office of a bishop for the sake of glory with men, or of flattery from men, or for the sake of the gain received from those who, coming over to the word, give in the name of piety; for a bishop of this kind at any rate does not "desire a good work," (I Tim. 3:1) nor can he be without reproach, nor temperate, nor sober minded, as he is intoxicated with glory and intemperately satiated with it. And the same also you will say about the presbyters and deacons.

Origen comments on the behavior of Joshua who received his lot of inheritance after all the tribes and after Caleb, saying,

Why did he desire to the last of all? To assure that he became the first of all (Matt. 19:30). He did not receive his inheritance by his own decision but from the people as the Scripture says, "the children of I Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun" (Jos. 19:49). But now all these things happened to them as examples (1 Cor. 10:11)... It is said, "Increase in behaving humbly then you will increase in greatness and receive a favor from the Lord" (Sirach 3:17), and also, "If they chose you a president don’t be proud, but be among them as one of them" (Sirach. 32:10).

Accordingly, if we do alms before men...we receive the reward from men (cf. Matt. 6:1-4); in general, everything done with an eye on being glorified by men has no reward from Him who....rewards those who act in secret. So, too, those influenced by thoughts of vain glory or love of gain act with sullied motives. The teaching which is thought to be the teaching of the church, if it becomes servile through words of flattery, either when it is used as a pretext for avarice, or when one seeks human glory because of one’s teaching, it is no longer the teaching of those "who have been set up in the church: first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers (1 Cor. 12:28). And you will say the same with regard to one who seeks the office of bishop for the sake of human esteem, or for the sake of gain received form converts to the word who give in the name of piety; a bishop of that sort assuredly does not "aspire to a noble task" (1 Tim. 3:1), nor can he be "irreproachable, temperate, self-controlled," as he is intoxicated with glory and intemperately puffed up with it. The same is also applicable to presbyters and deacons.

Origen, in his homilies and commentaries presents himself as an example for the humbleness of clergymen and teachers.

1. He used to attribute his understanding of the holy Scriptures to the grace of God and to himself.

2. Many times he asked those who attended his speech to hear those who were more wise than him and attained more grace of understanding from God.

Probably a man wiser than I and judged by God worthy of a more penetrating and richer grace-gift of wisdom in exposition from the Spirit of God, and of the gift of knowledge in the word by the Spirit (I Cor. 8:12)...(could give a better exposition here than mine, but I have done my best.’) .

May God grant to whom He chooses a richer word of wisdom and a word made more penetrating by the light of knowledge, that my own exposition compared with one based on such grace-gifts may resemble a candle in the light of the sun.

(Origen’s modest conclusion to his exposition): This is the best I can do...Let the man who is able to receive greater grace for the understanding of this passage speak more and better words.

(None can fully interpret) unless Jesus, who privately explained everything to His own disciples (Mark 4:34), has made His dwelling in his mind and opens all the dark, hidden unseen, treasure-chambers in the parable... Now I have not yet received a mind sufficient and capable of being mingled with the mind of Christ and thus able to attain to such things.

Origen asks all clergy to be humble, imitating Moses the greatest among the prophets who did not dare to chose a successor to himself, asking God Himself to choose who is fit to this position.

Let us admire the greatness of Moses. As he was about to depart from this life, he prayed God to choose a leader for his people. What are you doing Moses? Don’t you have sons of your own, Gershom and Eliezer? If you lack confidence in them, what about your brother, a great man? Why don’t you ask God to make them the leaders of the people?

Would that the princes of the Church, instead of designating in their wills those linked to them by ties of blood or family relationships and instead of trying to set up dynasties in the Church, might learn to rely on God’s judgment and far from choosing as human feelings urge, would leave the designations of their successors entirely in God’s hands. Could not Moses have chosen a leader for the people and chosen him by a wise judgment, a right and just decision...? Who could have chosen a leader more wisely than Moses? But he did not do so. He made no such choice. He did not dare.

Why not? In order to avoid giving those who came after him an example of presumption. Listen: "May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all things, to guide them in all their actions..." (Num 27.16-17) If a great man like Moses did not take upon himself the choice of a leader for the people, the election of his successor, who then will dare, among this people which gives its vote under the influence of emotion, or perhaps of money; who will dare then, even in the ranks of the priests, judge himself capable of pronouncing on this, unless by means of a revelation obtained through prayers and supplication addressed to the Lord?


May every man who sells in the temple, especially if he was a seller of doves... i.e., he sells what the holy Spirit (the Dove) reveals to him asked for money and not freely. As he sells the work of the Spirit he will be moved away from the altar of the Lord.


How is it that the church is in such a sorry state? Has God failed to provide the church with worthy leaders? By no means. But the church sometimes fails to give such persons their proper place of honor and responsibility.

For it frequently happens that he who deals in an humble and abject interpretation and knows earthly things has the preeminent rank of a priest or sits in the chair of a teacher, while he who is spiritual and so free from earthly things that he "judges all things and is judged by no one" either holds a lower rank of ministry or is relegated to the common multitude.

But this anomaly is only external, for on a deeper level the members of the spiritual elite whom Origen describes as priests and apostles are the true leaders of the church:

Whoever has in himself those things that Paul enumerates about a bishop, even if he is not a bishop before men, is a bishop before God, since he did not come to his position by the ordination of men.


The priest must put on the garment of incorruptibility, instead of that of Adam, the skin tunic. Aaron, the high-priest, was dressed with garments by Moses ( Lev. 8:7).

Indeed, it is said that God made those. "For God made skin tunics and clothed Adam and his wife." Therefore, those were tunics of skins taken from animals. For with such as these, it was necessary for the sinner to be dressed. It says, "with skin tunics," which are a symbol of the mortality which he received because of his skin and of his frailty which came from the corruption of the flesh. But if you have been already washed from these and purified through the Law of God, then Moses will dress you with a garment of incorruptibility so that "your shame may never appear" and "that this mortality may be absorbed by life.

For, before everything, the priest who assists at the divine altars ought to be girded with purity, otherwise he will not be able to cleanse the old and establish the new unless he has put on the linens. About the linen clothes, it has been frequently spoken already, and especially when we were speaking about the priestly garments, that this kind has the form of purity, from the fact that the origin of flax is brought forth from the earth so that it conceived without any mixture.

The portions of the priest in the Peace offerings are the breast and the right limb (Lev. 7:30,33), for he has to be sanctified in his heart and in his deeds.

"The fatty parts which are above the breast" are placed on the altar, but "the breast itself is for Aaron and his sons" (Lev. 7: 30)...

I think that if anyone says he is a priest of God, unless he has a breast (or the heart as the source of thoughts) chosen from all the members, he is not a priest...

Such is the limb (Lev. 7: 33) of the priest that the sons of Israel bring it to him for their salvation by which they are saved...

In this offering "the breast" and "the right limb" are made part of the priest that it may be a sign that his breast and heart, which thought evil things before, converted by the labor of the priest, received good thoughts and thus was cleansed that likewise "he may be able to see God." In like manner also, in the limb is the sign that his evil and sinister words, which are certainly wicked and not good, he converts into right that they may be according to God. This is the right limb, which is said to be the priest’s part.

From this I think it is one thing for the priests to perform their office, another thing to be instructed and prepared in all things. For anyone can perform the religious ministry, but few there are who are adorned with morals, instructed in doctrine, educated in wisdom, very well adapted to communicate the truth of things and who expound the wisdom of the faith, not omitting the ornament of understandings and the splendor of assertions which is represented by the ornament "of gold plate" placed on his head. One then is the name of a priest, but there is not one dignity either by the worth of his life or by the virtues of his soul. For this reason, in the things which the divine law describes, even as in a mirror any priest ought to inspect himself and to gather from that place the degrees of his merit, if he sees himself placed in all these high priestly ornaments, which we explained above.



The priest does not leave the House of God, i.e., he loves the heavenly life.

For that reason, if anyone wants to be a high priest not just in name but in worthiness, let him imitate Moses; let him imitate Aaron. What is said about them? "They did not leave the Tent of the Lord" (Lev. 10:7). Moses was constantly in "the Tent of the Lord." What was his work? That he should either learn something from God or teach the people.

It is the duty of the priests to assist the people to attain the forgiveness of sins by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. They cannot realize this unless they be found in the Church, the holy place and the spiritual Tent of Witness (Lev. 6:19), i.e., unless they practice the church life as a holy life.

For it is logical that the ministers and priests of the Church receive "the sins of the people" according to the example of the one who gave the priesthood to the Church ought to be so perfected and learned in the priestly duties that they consume "the sins of the people in a holy place, in the court of the Tent of Witness," not sinning themselves.



The priest is a man of prayer, who assists his people by his prayers to defeat the unseen enemy.

Thus let the priest of the church also pray unceasingly that the people who are under him may defeat the invisible Amalachite hosts who are the demons that assail those who want to live piously in Christ.


Origen in his speech on the authority of priests assures that they are physicians who take care of the sick people, working hard for their healing. They are not rulers but fathers.

For in the Church, the priests and teachers can beget sons, just as that one who said, "My little children, for whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). And again in another place he says, "Although you have myriad teachers in Christ, but not many fathers. For I beget you in Christ Jesus for the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).

Origin’s reminder is always salutary: "he who is called to the episcopacy is called, not to domination, but to the service of the whole church."

God permits priests to feel weakness, so that they might be kind with those who are weak. On discovering their own sins they become decent with the sinners to attract them to repentance.

"The Law appoints human priests who have weaknesses," (Lev. 7:28) in order that just as they can offer for their own weakness, so also they can offer for that of the people...

But what is most to be admired in this kind of priest? Not that he may not sin-because that is impossible, but that he knows and understands his own sin. For he who thinks he has not sinned never corrects himself. In like manner, he is more easily able to pardon those who sin, whose conscience is disturbed by his own weakness.



In one of his homilies on the Psalms Origen calls the bishops physicians who know how to heal wounds.




It is the work of the leaders to create a spirit of leadership in others, so that ministry might not be concentrated in them alone.

But note that God said to Moses in this place, "Go before the people and take with you men advanced in years, that is the elders of the people" (Exod. 17:5). Moses alone does not lead the people to the waters of the rock, but also the elders of the people with him. For the Law alone does not announce Christ, but also the prophets and patriarchs and all "those advanced in years."



Divine grace prepares the prophets, apostles, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to this divine call and works through them. If one neglects it, he falls from his calling.

The shepherhood (of the ministers of the Church) is failure unless Christ shepherds with them.

If to be a "teacher" is a grace gift "according to the measure of the gift of Christ", it is clear that a "shepherd" also, who tends his flock wisely, needs a grace-gift to do so. And how can one be an "evangelist," the "feet" of whose soul (if I may put it so) are not "beauteous"? For this, God must grant the "beauty."

The proper tasks of a priest are twofold: to learn of God by reading and frequently meditating on Holy Scripture, and to teach the people. But let him teach what he has learned from God - not "from his own heart" (Ezek. 13 2) or from human understanding, but the things the Spirit teaches... And so we, meditating on [the Old Testament narratives], recalling them to mind day and night, and continuing instantly in prayer, should pray God that He may deign to reveal to us true knowledge of what we read, and to show us how we may keep the spiritual law, both in our understanding and in our actions. So may we deserve to obtain spiritual grace, enlightened by the law of the Holy Spirit.



In his homilies, Origen refers to the general priesthood of all members of the Church. As an example he says,

Do you want to know the difference between the priests of God and the priests of Pharaoh? Pharaoh gave lands to his priests; the Lord says to his own "I am your lot." Pay attention, readers, all you priests of the Lord.... Let us hear what Christ our Lord enjoins his priests "Every one of you that does not renounce all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple." I tremble when I say these words, for above all it is myself that I accuse, myself that I condemn. Christ refuses to regard as his disciple whosoever possesses something and does not renounce all that he possesses. What are we doing? How can we read this and expound it to the people, we who not only do not renounce that which we have, but also desire to acquire what we never possessed before we came to Christ? Because our consciences accuse us, are we able to dissimulate that which is written? I do not want to make myself doubly guilty...

Origen was training men who would later be the ruling class in the life of the Church. He himself had not yet been ordained to the priesthood but he had long aspired to that grace. In the meantime he regarded his pedagogical functions as something sacred, seeing in them an image of the priesthood of Aaron. Let us remember that St. John represents the Christian people in his vision of the twelve tribes whom he counted around the Lamb. On one side he places the virgins, as first fruits of the faithful of Christ. They are the intellectual elite, the little group of true disciples who, by the study of Holy Scripture, by contemplation as well as by vigilance and perseverance, guard that purity of body and of mind by which the perfect are known. They can be called Levites or priests of Israel because they exercise an inner priesthood.

Do you not know that the priesthood has been given to you, that is to say, to the whole church of God and to the people believers? Hear Peter say to the faithful: "a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, an acquired people" (1 Pet. 2:9). You, then, have the priesthood since you are a priestly race, and so you ought to offer to God a sacrifice of praise, (cf. Heb. 13:15), a sacrifice of prayers, a sacrifice of mercy, a sacrifice of purity, a sacrifice of sanctity.

Most of us devote most of our time to the things of this life and dedicate to God only a few special acts, thus resembling those members of the tribes who had but few transactions with the priests, and discharged their religious duties with no great expense of time. But those who devote themselves to the divine word and have no other employment but the service of God may not unnaturally, allowing for the difference of occupation in the two cases, be called our Levites or priests. And those who follow a more distinguished office than their kinsmen will perhaps be high priests according to the order of Aaron.

In the moral sense, this high priest can be seen as the understanding of piety and religion, which through the prayers and supplications which we pour out to God, performs in us, as it were, a kind of priesthood. If this one should transgress in something, immediately "he makes all the people sin" against the good acts which are within us. For we do not do any right deed when the understanding, the guide of good works, turns aside into wrong. For that reason, for correction of this, not just any kind of offering is required but the sacrifice "of the fatted calf" itself. In like manner, the guilt of the congregation; that is, the correction of all virtues which are within us, is repaired though nothing other than by putting Christ to death.

Observe that there always ought to be "fire on the altar." And you, if you want to be a priest of God, as it is written, "For every one of you will be priests of the Lord" (Isa. 61:6). For it is said that you are "an elect race, a royal priesthood, an acquired people" (1 Pet. 2:9). If, therefore, you want to exercise the priesthood of your soul, let the fire never depart from your altar. This is what the Lord also taught in the Gospels that "your loins be girded and your lamps burning" (Luke 12:35). Thus, let the "fire" of faith and the "lamp" of knowledge always be lit for you.

As we have already said often, you too can function as a high priest before God within the temple of your spirit of you would prepare your garments with zeal and vigilance; if the word of the Law has washed you and made you clean, and the anointing and grace of your baptism remained uncontaminated; if you were to be clothed with two garments, of the letter and of the spirit; if you were also girded twice so that you may be pure in flesh and spirit; if you would adorn yourselves "with a cape" of works and "a breastplate" of wisdom; if also he would crown your head "with a turban" and " golden plate" (Lev. 8:7f.), the fullness of the knowledge of God; although, I would have you know, you may be hidden and unknown before men. "For you are the temple of the living God" if "the Spirit of God lives in you"(2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Cor. 3:16).

Or are you ignorant that to you also, that is, to all of the Church of God and to the people of believers, the priesthood was given? Hear what Peter says about the faithful: You are " an elect race, royal, priestly, a holy nation, a chosen people" (1 Pet. 2:9). Therefore, you have a priesthood because you are "a priestly nation," and for this reason "you ought to offer an offering of praise to God,"(Cf. Heb. 13:15) an offering of prayer, an offering of mercy, an offering of holiness. But in order to offer these things worthily, you must have clean clothes separated from the common clothing of the rest of humanity and have the necessary divine fire, not one "alien" to God but that one which is given people by God, about which the Son of God says, "I came to send fire upon the earth and how I wish that it be ignited." (Luke 12:49) For if we do not use that but another, and this an opposing fire, from that one which transforms itself as "an angel of light" (Cf. 2 Cor. 11:14), without doubt we will suffer the same thing that "Nadab and Abiud " suffered.

Each (believer), according to the providence and choice of God, is called apostle, prophet etc. and the saying.. "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matt 22:14) is fulfilled in accordance with the divine ways of grace.. It is, however, possible for a man to be called as an apostle etc... but to fall from his calling, if he neglects the grace of that calling...

The Word of God is working in the lives of all the members, clergy and laymen, so that all may have their active role.

Just as the soul moves the body which has not been endowed to be moved in a vital manner by itself, so the Word energizing the whole body keeps the Church in motion and each of its several parts.



Church democracy appears in the relation between clergymen and laity which I will speak of on another occasion. Here I refer to the following points:

a. Origen says: "He who is called to the episcopacy is called, not to domination, but to the service of the whole church."

b. St. Clement and Origen spoke of the general ( laity ) priesthood.

Do you know that the priesthood has been given to you that is to say, to the whole church of God and to the believers? Hear Peter say to the faithful: " a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, an acquired people " 1 Pet. 2: 9. You, then, have the priesthood since you are a priestly race, so you ought to offer to God a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13: 15), a sacrifice of prayers, a sacrifice of mercy, a sacrifice of purity, a sacrifice of sanctity.

R. Cadiou says,

We are told by these historians that, according to a number of evidences, the most ancient of which is found in the works of St. Jerome, the bishop of Alexandria, from the earliest times in that church, was one of the members of the local clergy; that he was chosen and delegated by the priests in some such way as the emperor was chosen by the army. This primitive custom, so we are told, ended only under the successors of Demetrius. Beginning with this post-Demetrius period, the "patriarch" was elected and consecrated by the neighboring bishops according to the habitual procedure; and they would have been under no obligation to choose him from the ranks of the clergy of Alexandria.

Origen gives some insight into the election of bishops in his day. Using Origen’s Homily on Numbers 13.4 as evidence, E. Ferguson demonstrates that in the third century there were at least four ways of electing bishops:

1. A popular election.

2. An appointment by a reigning bishop.

3. A testomonium either nominating a person or ratifying one elected by the people.

4. A presbyterial election, Origin’s personal preference.

c. Origen asserts that the presence of the people is required in the ordination of a priest, for they elect him.

For in the ordination of a priest the presence of the people is also required, that all may know for certain that the man elected to priesthood is a man of the whole people the most eminent, the most learned, the holiest, the most outstanding in every virtue.

He says it should be an open decision lest anyone have second thoughts, and he bases this on the fact that "Moses called together the whole assembly."