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Particulars of Christianity:
301 Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism (Part 9)

Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Roman Catholicism (Part 3)
Roman Catholicism (Part 4)
Roman Catholicism (Part 5)
Roman Catholicism (Part 6)
Roman Catholicism (Part 7)
Roman Catholicism (Part 8)
Roman Catholicism (Part 9)
Roman Catholicism (Part 10)
Roman Catholicism (Part 11)
Roman Catholicism (Part 12)
Addendum: In Their Own Words

The Pontifex Maximus

Having determined then that the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal authority and Roman primacy did not originate with Jesus Christ we must turn to our secondary question: where, then, did the RCC get this teaching?

Unlike the search for Scriptural origins for the doctrine of papal authority and Roman primacy the search for non-Biblical origins of this teaching are readily available from the imperial court of the Roman Empire. Both the title and structure of the Roman Catholic Church are directly derived from the title and structure of the Roman imperial cult.

One of the names that is often used to refer to the Roman Catholic pope is the title Pontiff.

"Pope - The Annuario Pontificio (official directory of the Holy See) describes the office of the pope by the following titles: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiffof the Western Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City. The title pope or papa (abbreviated PP.) is officially used only as a less solemn style." - Britannica.com

"Roman Catholicism - The multiplicity and variety of papal titles themselves indicate the complexity of the papal office. In the Annuario Pontificio, the official Vatican directory, the pope is described as bishop of Rome, vicar of Jesus Christ, successor of the prince of the Apostles, pontifex maximus ('supreme pontiff') of the universal church, patriarch of the West, primate of Italy, archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman province, sovereign of the state of Vatican City, and servant of the servants of God." - Britannica.com

"Pontifex - The title pontifex was used of Roman Catholic bishops and pontifex maximus of the pope by the end of the 4th century. In modern usage, both terms generally refer to the pope." - Britannica.com

Though the common term "pope" is used as a less official reference, the term Supreme Pontiff is an official designation. This term is used in various forms to refer to the pope as well as things related to this office including: the Pontifex Maximus, pontificate, pontifical, Annurio Pontificio (the official Vatican directory), etc. And while the term pope was not used to refer to the bishop of Rome until the 10th century, the term pontifex maximus is a title of much earlier origination.

The title and concept for the Roman papal office comes directly from the pontifex maximus, originally employed to refer to the high priest of the Roman paganism. Likewise, the Roman Catholic college of bishops, which rule together with the pope, but in subordination to him, and from which the popes are elected, is also directly taken from Roman paganism.

"Pontifex - (Latin: "bridge builder"), plural Pontifices, member of a council of priests in ancient Rome. The college, or collegium, of the pontifices was the most important Roman priesthood, being especially charged with the administration of the jus divinum (i.e., that part of the civil law that regulated the relations of the community with the deities recognized by the state), together with a general superintendence of the worship of gens and family." - Britannica.com

"Pontifex - The college existed under the monarchy, when its members were probably three in number; they may be considered as having been legal advisers of the rex in all matters of religion. Under the republic they emerge into prominence under a pontifex maximus, or supreme priest, who took over the king's duties as chief administrator of religious law. During the republican period the number of pontifices increased until by the time of Julius Caesar there were 16. Included in the collegium were also the rex sacrorum, the flamines, three assistant pontifices (minores), and the Vestal Virgins, who were all chosen by the pontifex maximus. Vacancies in the body of pontifices were originally filled by co-optation; but from the second Punic War onward the pontifex maximus was chosen by a peculiar form of popular election, and in the last age of the republic this was true for all the members. They all held office for life." - Britannica.com

"Pontifex - The immense authority of the collegium centred in the pontifex maximus, the other pontifices forming his consilium, or advising body. His functions were partly sacrificial or ritualistic, but the real power lay in the administration of the jus divinum." - Britannica.com

"Pontifex - It is obvious that a priesthood with such functions and holding office for life must have been a great power in the state, and for the first three centuries of the republic it is probable that the pontifex maximus was in fact its most powerful member. The office might be combined with a magistracy, and, though its powers were declaratory rather than executive, it may be described as quasi-magisterial. Under the later republic it was coveted chiefly for the great dignity of the position; Julius Caesar held it for the last 20 years of his life, and Augustus took it after the death of Lepidus in 12 BC, after which it became inseparable from the office of the reigning emperor." - Britannica.com

"pontifex maximus - highest priest of Roman religion and official head of the college of pontifices. As the chief administrator of religious affairs he regulated the conduct of religious ceremonies, consecrated temples and other holy places, and controlled the calendar. During the time of the empire, and until Christianity became firmly established, the emperor was designated pontifex maximus. After the supremacy of Christianity, the popes assumed the title." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Additionally, the idea of the pope as the vicar of Christ is modeled after Roman imperial paganism and pontifex maximus. Roman Catholicism employs the term vicar of Christ to the pope. One of the meanings of the word vicar is given below.

"vicar - 1 : one serving as a substitute or agent; specifically : an administrative deputy" - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

Therefore, in Roman Catholic theology the pope is the representative of Jesus Christ who physically rules over the earth in the place and authority of the Lord. This idea is directly taken from the Roman imperial view of the emperor, who, like the Roman Catholic pope, was the pontifex maximus.

This office of pontifex maximus was held by emperor Constantine.

"Constantine the Great - For a time it seemed as if merely tolerance and equality were to prevail. Constantine showed equal favour to both religions. As pontifex maximus he watched over the heathen worship and protected its rights." - Catholic Encyclopedia

It was Constantine's close associate, court theologian, and biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea, who is responsible for developing the organizational structure of the RCC as well as the Roman Catholic understanding for how the Church should relate to the state.

"Christianity - Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340) was the court theologian of Emperor Constantine the Great, who formed the Orthodox understanding of the mutual relationship of church and state. He saw the empire and the imperial church as sharing a close bond with one another; in the centre of the Christian empire stood the figure of the Christian emperor rather than that of the spiritual head of the church." - Britannica.com

"Christianity - Eusebius made this idea the basis of his political theology, in which the Christian emperor appears as God's representative on Earth in whom God himself 'lets shine forth the image of his absolute power.'" - Britannica.com

Eusebius, modeled the Roman Catholic pontifex maximus, or pope, directly after the Roman imperial pontifex maximus, who was the vicar of Sol Invictus.

"Christianity - Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340) was the court theologian of Emperor Constantine the Great, who formed the Orthodox understanding of the mutual relationship of church and state… Eusebius made this idea the basis of his political theology, in which the Christian emperor appears as God's representative on Earth in whom God himself 'lets shine forth the image of his absolute power.' This religious interpretation of the Christian emperor reinterpreted in the Christian sense the ancient Roman institution of the god-emperor. Some of Eusebius' remarks echo the cult of the Unconquered Sun, the Sol Invictus, who was represented by the emperor according to pagan understanding. The emperor-in this respect he also resembled the pagan god-emperor who played the role of the pontifex maximus (high priest) in the state cult-took the central position within the church as well…The Christian emperor entered not only the political but also the sacred succession of the Roman god-emperor. Next to such a figure, an independent leadership of the church could hardly develop." - Britannica.com

We will take a look at Eusebius of Caesarea, a little more later on in our study since he plays an important role in forming the theology of 4th century Christianity. For now we must simply recognize that one of his most significant contributions was to transform the office of the pagan high priest, or pontifex maximus, into the office of the pope. (Of course, the term "pope" was not used exclusively of the Bishop of Rome until the eleventh century. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia itself states that, "From the beginning of the fourth century the supremacy of Rome is writ large upon the page of history." Thus, it is the Bishop of Rome - later called the pope - who is the reinvented pontifex maximus.) The parallels between the pontifex maximus and the pope are too overwhelming to be overlooked. It is clear from this examination that the Roman Catholic papacy is directly derived from and corresponding to ancient Roman imperial paganism in title, in authority, in structure, and in function.

This is syncretism, pure and simple. Syncretism is the incorporation of religious elements from separate religious systems into a single theological construct. To be clear, this most-unparalleled occurrence of syncretism demonstrates the exact opposite of the RCC's claim to be the true Church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching. Instead of being the true, unadulterated Church of Jesus Christ and sole possessor of His teachings, the RCC is a highly developed blend of Christianity and Roman imperial paganism.

So, while the idea of the pope is not to be found in the New Testament scripture or other early Christian writing, it is quite completely found in the high council of Roman paganism. All of the elements of the Roman Catholic papacy can be traced directly to the Roman pagan priests or pontifices and the high priest, the pontifex maximus. The pontifex maximus was elected from the body of pontifices. He ruled for life. And he along with the college of pontifices held the authority over the administration of all religious affairs of the empire.

Each of these characteristics is ultimately expressed in the Roman Catholic pope and college of bishops. The pope is elected from the body or college of bishops. He holds his office for life. And the pope, together with the bishops under his supremacy, are vested with the authority to administer all religious matters of faith and morality.

Conclusions about the Roman Catholicism and The Doctrine of Roman Papal Supremacy

Having arrived at the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is defined by and founded upon a doctrine that originates NOT with the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, but with Roman imperial paganism and a blend of Christian theology, we must remember the high level of significance that the Catholic Encyclopedia places upon this doctrine.

"The Pope - The position of St. Peter after the Ascension, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles, realizes to the full the great commission bestowed upon him. He is from the first the chief of the Apostolic band -- not primus inter pares, but the undisputed head of the Church (see CHURCH, THE, III). If then Christ, as we have seen, established His Church as a society subordinated to a single supreme head, it follows from the very nature of the case that this office is perpetual, and cannot have been a mere transitory feature of ecclesiastical life. For the Church must endure to the end the very same organization which Christ established. But in an organized society it is precisely the constitution which is the essential feature. A change in constitution transforms it into a society of a different kind. If then the Church should adopt a constitution other than Christ gave it, it would no longer be His handiwork. It would no longer be the Divine kingdom established by Him. As a society it would have passed through essential modifications, and thereby would have become a human, not a Divine institution. None who believe that Christ came on earth to found a Church, an organized society destined to endure for ever, can admit the possibility of a change in the organization given to it by its Founder. The same conclusion also follows from a consideration of the end which, by Christ's declaration, the supremacy of Peter was intended to effect. He was to give the Church strength to resist her foes, so that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. The contest with the powers of evil does not belong to the Apostolic age alone. It is a permanent feature of the Church's life. Hence, throughout the centuries the office of Peter must be realized in the Church, in order that she may prevail in her age-long struggle. Thus an analysis of Christ's words shows us that the perpetuity of the office of supreme head is to be reckoned among the truths revealed in Scripture. His promise to Peter conveyed not merely a personal prerogative, but established a permanent office in the Church. And in this sense, as will appear in the next section, His words were understood by Latin and Greek Fathers alike." - Catholic Encyclopedia

In summary, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Church ceases to be a Divine institution and instead becomes a human institution if and when it's organization changes away from the organization given to it by its Founder. Based upon this statement and the historical considerations, which we have examined in great detail in our study we must conclude that the Roman Catholic Church has adopted a constitution other than that, which Christ gave to the Church and is therefore not the handiwork of Christ, but is merely a human, rather than divinely mandated institution. Since, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia organizations must endure perpetually under the organization given to them by their founder without admitting the possibility of change in that organization the RCC must be understood to be an organization, which was formed by the abandonment of God's foundational and organizational constitution and the subsequent replacement of that constitution with structures borrowed directly from Roman imperial paganism.

Since the Roman Catholic Church exhibits such a significant change in the organization of the Church from that, which was instituted by Christ, by inventing a position of supreme authority in the Apostle Peter and the bishops of Rome, which was not instituted by Jesus Christ himself but perfectly mimics the Roman imperial paganism, we therefore conclude that the RCC cannot be the true Church of Jesus Christ, as it claims. Instead the RCC must be seen as a pretender to the throne, which must be abandoned by all those who wish to remain faithful to the original teachings of Jesus Christ, who made the authority of the Church inherently dependent upon adherence to His own teachings, which were taught to the Church by His Apostles.

Roman Catholicism - Christian, Neoplatonic Paganism

We have already shown that the Roman Catholic Church, in its essential organization and fundamental teaching cannot be said to be the true Church of Jesus Christ or even to possess authentic Christian teaching. On these grounds we have instead shown that the RCC is rather a product of syncretistic blending of Christianity and Roman imperial paganism. However, we have so far limited this study to the single area of the RCC's teaching on the authority and organization of the Church, which is of course one of the defining characteristics of the RCC. Along the way we have also demonstrated that the RCC contradicts and denies the teaching of the early Church contained in both the New Testament scriptures as well as in many 1st and 2nd century Christian writings, both of which the RCC claims are the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Thus by claiming both to be inspired and then contradicting each, the RCC exhibits an inherently self-contradictory theology, thus disqualifying itself as a God-given, authoritative source for Christian teaching.

This being said, however, no study of the Roman Catholic Church would be complete without also spending at least a little time on the Neoplatonic and Gnostic beliefs, which also have had a significant impact on the theology of the RCC. The Neoplatonic nature of Roman Catholic theology can be traced through two main sources: Augustine of Hippo and Eusebius of Caesarea.

(Because, in this section we will be drawing strong connections between influential Roman Catholic writers and Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, we recommend that readers not familiar with these belief systems first read our articles entitled "Why Christianity" in the In-Depth studies section of our website, especially the section on Mysticism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. Our overlapping application of these terms, which is due to the common elements they hold, is more adequately explained in that series of articles.)

Augustine's Neoplatonic Influence on Roman Catholic Theology

The first and foremost scholar of Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity is Augustine. This fact is almost universally acknowledged. However, what is so interesting about Augustine as an influence on modern Christian theology, is the overwhelming influence Neoplatonic paganism had on his theology. To trace the Neoplatonic influence of Augustine, one could simply start with Augustine himself, for ample evidence abounds on this matter, which we will cover momentarily. However, before we get to Augustine's theology it is first important to take a look at the work of those writers who influenced him. The chief of these men is Ambrose, bishop of Milan, but the line of thinking actually starts much earlier in Alexandria Egypt with Origen.

Origen lived and wrote between 185 and 254 A.D.

"Origen - born c. 185, probably Alexandria, Egypt died c. 254, Tyre, Phoenicia [now S ur, Lebanon] Latin in full Oregenes Adamantius the most important theologian and biblical scholar of the early Greek church. His greatest work is the Hexapla, which is a synopsis of six versions of the Old Testament." - Britannica.com

The most important thing to remember about Origen is his heavy dependence upon Neoplatonic and Gnostic thought from his youth through his adult life as a Christian theologian.

"Origen - Origen was born of pagan parents, according to the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, but of Christian parents, according to the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius of Caesarea, whose account is probably more accurate. Eusebius stated that Origen's father, Leonides, was martyred in the persecution of 202, so that Origen had to provide for his mother and six younger brothers." - Britannica.com

"Origen - According to Porphyry, Origen attended lectures given by Ammonius Saccas, the founder of Neoplatonism. A letter of Origen mentions his 'teacher of philosophy,' at whose lectures he met Heraclas, who was to become his junior colleague, then his rival, and who was to end as bishop of Alexandria refusing to hold communion with him. Origen invited Heraclas to assist him with the elementary teaching at the Catechetical school, leaving himself free for advanced teaching and study. During this period (from c. 212), Origen learned Hebrew and began to compile his Hexapla." - Britannica.com

It is to Origen that the Church, at least in part, owes thanks for the division of essential and non-essential Christian teaching. Teaching designated as "non-essential" is often treated as unnecessary for disciples of Christ to understand, to believe, or to have in common.

"Origen - Prior to 231 Origen wrote De principiis, an ordered statement of Christian doctrine on an ambitious scale, based on the presupposition that every Christian is committed to the rule of faith laid down by the Apostles (the Creator as God of both Old and New Testaments, the incarnation of the preexistent Lord, the Holy Spirit as one of the divine triad, the freedom of rational souls, discarnate spirits, the noneternity of the world, judgment to come) but that outside this restriction the educated believer is free to speculate." - Britannica.com

Apparently, Origen put his assessment that Christian teaching was open to speculation to great use in developing his form of Christian theology.

"Origen - Origen was writing long before the conciliar definitions of Chalcedon (451) concerning the Trinity and the Person of Christ and at a period when a far larger area of doctrine could be regarded as open for discussion and argument than was the case by 400. De principiis diverged in its speculations from later standards of orthodoxy." - Britannica.com

Origen's Neoplatonic influence can be seen throughout his works, including Contra Celsum, in which Origen agrees with the Platonic presuppositions of his opponent, pagan philosopher, Celsus.

"Origen - Origen's great vindication of Christianity against pagan attack, Contra Celsum, written (probably in 248) at Ambrose's request, survives in its entirety in one Vatican manuscript, with fragments in the Philocalia and on papyruses. Paragraph by paragraph it answers the Alethes logos ("The True Doctrine" or "Discourse") of the 2nd-century anti-Christian philosopher Celsus and is therefore a principal source for the pagan intelligentsia's view of 2nd-century Christianity as well as a classic formulation of early Christian reply. Both protagonists agree in their basic Platonic presuppositions, but beside this agreement, serious differences are argued. Celsus' brusque dismissal of Christianity as a crude and bucolic onslaught on the religious traditions and intellectual values of classical culture provoked Origen to a sustained rejoinder in which he claimed that a philosophic mind has a right to think within a Christian framework and that the Christian faith is neither a prejudice of the unreasoning masses nor a crutch for social outcasts or nonconformists." - Britannica.com

Likewise, Origen's theology affirms notions of Gnostic transcendence of the soul through a hierarchy of levels of existence.

"Origen - Origen's experience as a teacher is reflected in his continual emphasis upon a scale of spiritual apprehension. Christianity to him was a ladder of divine ascent, and the beginner must learn to mount it with the saints in a never-ceasing advance." - Britannica.com

"Origen and Origenism - (2) Original Equality of the Created Spirits. 'In the beginning all intellectual natures were created equal and alike, as God had no motive for creating them otherwise' (De princip., II, ix, 6). Their present differences arise solely from their different use of the gift of free will. The spirits created good and happy grew tired of their happiness (op. cit., I, iii, 8), and, though carelessness, fell, some more some less (I, vi, 2). Hence the hierarchy of the angels; hence also the four categories of created intellects: angels, stars (supposing, as is probable, that they are animated, 'De princip., I, vii, 3),' men, and demons. But their roles may be one day changed; for what free will has done, free will can undo, and the Trinity alone is essentially immutable in good." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

Additionally, Origen borrows from the Neoplatonic views of the inferiority and unspiritual nature of the material world and the cyclical nature of the universe.

"Origen - The material world was created by God as a means of discipline (and its natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and plagues remind man that this world is not his ultimate destiny). Origen speculated that souls fell varying distances, some to be angels, some descending into human bodies, and the most wicked becoming devils. (Origen believed in the preexistence of souls, but not in transmigration nor in the incorporation of rational souls in animal bodies.) Redemption is a grand education by providence, restoring all souls to their original blessedness, for none, not even Satan, is so depraved and has so lost rationality and freedom as to be beyond redemption. God never coerces, though with reformative intention he may punish. His punishments are remedial; even if simple believers may need to think of them as retributive, this is pedagogic accommodation to inferior capacity, not the truth." - Britannica.com

(Note: Some readers may not understand the problem of Origen's belief that the material world is not man's ultimate destiny. To better understand the problematic nature of this belief, please read Tim Warner's articles entitled "The Kingdom According to Jesus" and "Origins of the Heavenly Destiny Concept".)

"Origen - Thus, redemption restores fallen souls from matter to spirit, from image to reality, a principle directly exemplified both in the sacraments and in the inspired biblical writings, in which the inward spirit is veiled under the letter of law, history, myth, and parable. The commentator's task is to penetrate the allegory, to perceive within the material body of Scripture its soul and spirit, to discover its existential reference for the individual Christian. Correct exegesis (critical interpretation) is the gift of grace to those spiritually worthy." - Britannica.com

"Origen and Origenism - (1) Eternity of Creation Whatever exists outside of God was created by Him: the Alexandrian catechist always defended this thesis most energetically against the pagan philosophers who admitted an uncreated matter ("De princip.", II, i, 5; "In Genes.", I, 12, in Migne, XII, 48-9). But he believes that God created from eternity, for "it is absurd", he says, "to imagine the nature of God inactive, or His goodness inefficacious, or His dominion without subjects" (De princip., III, v, 3). Consequently he is forced to admit a double infinite series of worlds before and after the present world." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

But Origen's most costly and obvious adoption of Gnosticism and Neoplatonic ideas is his assessment that Jesus Christ and the Logos were distinct beings who were joined together rather than the orthodox view that Jesus Christ and the Logos (or Word of God) are one and the same single being. (As we will see later this view may have contributed to the development of the Arian heresy since Arius, the founder of that heresy, was influenced by Origen and both men lived and worked in the church at Alexandria, Egypt.)

"Origen - The climax of redemption is the incarnation of the preexistent Son. One soul had not fallen but had remained in adoring union with the Father. Uniting himself with this soul, the divine Logos, who is the second hypostasis (Person) of the triad of Father, Son, and Spirit (subordinate to the Father but on the divine side of the gulf between infinite Creator and finite creation), became incarnate in a body derived from the Virgin Mary. So intense was the union between Christ's soul and the Logos that it is like the union of body and soul, of white-hot iron and fire. Like all souls Christ's had free will, but the intensity of union destroyed all inclination for change, and the Logos united to himself not only soul but also body, as was apparent when Jesus was transfigured. Origen, influenced by a semi-Gnostic writing, the Acts of John, thought that Jesus' body appeared differently to different observers according to their spiritual capacities. Some saw nothing remarkable in him, others recognized in him their Lord and God. In his commentary on St. John, Origen collected titles of Christ, such as Lamb, Redeemer, Wisdom, Truth, Light, Life. Though the Father is One, the Son is many and has many grades, like rungs in a ladder of mystical ascent, steps up to the Holy of Holies, the beatific vision." - Britannica.com

These criticisms of Origen's unorthodox incorporation of Neoplatonic, Gnostic, and Mystical ideas into Christian theology is well documented. Notice that Origen also champions an allegorical interpretative method for the scriptures. This method is adopted by those who came after him and studied his works with affection, including both Ambrose and Augustine.

"Origen - Thus, redemption restores fallen souls from matter to spirit, from image to reality, a principle directly exemplified both in the sacraments and in the inspired biblical writings, in which the inward spirit is veiled under the letter of law, history, myth, and parable. The commentator's task is to penetrate the allegory, to perceive within the material body of Scripture its soul and spirit, to discover its existential reference for the individual Christian. Correct exegesis (critical interpretation) is the gift of grace to those spiritually worthy." - Britannica.com

"Origen - In his lifetime he was often attacked, suspected of adulterating the Gospel with pagan philosophy." - Britannica.com

"Origen - The chief accusations against Origen's teaching are the following: making the Son inferior to the Father and thus being a precursor of Arianism, a 4th-century heresy that denied that the Father and the Son were of the same substance; spiritualizing away the resurrection of the body; denying hell, a morally enervating universalism; speculating about preexistent souls and world cycles; and dissolving redemptive history into timeless myth by using allegorical interpretation. None of these charges is altogether groundless." - Britannica.com

"Origen - Origen attempted to synthesize the fundamental principles of Greek philosophy, particularly those of Neoplatonism and Stoicism, with the Christianity of creed and Scripture so as to prove the Christian view of the universe to be compatible with Greek thought. Before St. Augustine, Origen was the most influential theologian in the church. His threefold plan of interpreting Scripture (literal, ethical, and allegorical) influenced subsequent exegetical works. In spite of Origen's fame as an apologist for Christianity, there was question as to his orthodoxy. His somewhat recondite blending of pagan philosophy with Christian theology led to his condemnation by Justinian in the Monophysite controversy. There is good reason to believe that he was often the victim of misquotation and unfair interpretation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

"Origen and Origenism - II. ORIGENISM By this term is understood not so much Origen's theology and the body of his teachings, as a certain number of doctrines, rightly or wrongly attributed to him, and which by their novelty or their danger called forth at an early period a refutation from orthodox writers. They are chiefly: Allegorism in the interpretation of Scripture, Subordination of the Divine Persons, The theory of successive trials and a final restoration. Before examining how far Origen is responsible for these theories, a word must be said of the directive principle of his theology." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

"Origen and Origenism - According to Origen, Scripture is inspired because it is the word and work of God…Since Scripture is from God, it ought to have the distinctive characteristics of the Divine works: truth, unity, and fullness. The word of God cannot possibly be untrue; hence no errors or contradictions can be admitted in Scripture (In Joan., X, iii). The author of the Scriptures being one, the Bible is less a collection of books than one and the same book (Philoc., V, iv-vii), a perfect harmonious instrument (Philoc., VI, i-ii). But the most Divine note of Scripture is its fullness: 'There is not in the Holy Books the smallest passage (cheraia) but reflects the wisdom of God' (Philoc., I, xxviii, cf. X, i). True there are imperfections in the Bible: antilogies, repetitions, want of continuity; but these imperfections become perfections by leading us to the allegory and the spiritual meaning (Philoc., X, i-ii)." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

"Origen and Origenism - At one time Origen, starting from the Platonic trichotomy, distinguishes the body, the soul, and the spirit of Holy Scripture; at another, following a more rational terminology, he distinguishes only between the letter and the spirit." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

"Origen and Origenism - Though he warns us that these passages are the exceptions, it must be confessed that he allows too many cases in which the Scripture is not to be understood according to the letter; but, remembering his terminology, his principle is unimpeachable. The two great rules of interpretation laid sown by the Alexandria catechist, taken by themselves and independently of erroneous applications, are proof against criticism. They may be formulated thus: Scripture must be interpreted in a manner worthy of God, the author of Scripture. The corporal sense or the letter of Scripture must not be adopted, when it would entail anything impossible, absurd, or unworthy of God. The abuse arises from the application of these rules. Origen has recourse too easily to allegorism to explain purely apparent antilogies or antinomies. He considers that certain narratives or ordinances of the Bible would be unworthy of God if they had to be taken according to the letter, or if they were to be taken solely according to the letter. He justifies the allegorism by the fact that otherwise certain accounts or certain precepts now abrogated would be useless and profitless for the reader: a fact which appears to him contrary to the providence of the Divine inspirer and the dignity of Holy Writ. It will thus be seen that though the criticisms directed against his allegorical method by St. Epiphanius and St. Methodius were not groundless, yet many of the complaints arise from a misunderstanding." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

Since Origen is so readily identifiable with heretical ideas and pagan syncretistic tendencies, Origen's influence on the Church comes mostly through others, like Ambrose, who were influenced by Origen before his work came into dispute. And like Origen himself, these men had no problem incorporating large aspects of Neoplatonic paganism into Christianity.

(Continued in next section.)