Even though the theology of Origen of Alexandria has shaped the Christian Tradition in almost every way, the controversies over his legacy have been seemingly endless. One major interpretative trend, for example, has suggested Origen’s theology is really akin to the heterodox Gnostics against whom he wrote than the actual teaching of the Gospel, since he (supposedly) had a disdainful attitude towards Creation and ultimately saw little redemptive meaning in the Passion.
In Cross and Creation: A Theological Introduction to Origen of Alexandria, Mark Therrien offers an original interpretation of Origen’s theology. Focusing on some of Origen’s most important works (especially On First Principles and the Commentary on John, but ultimately making reference to his writings more broadly), this book retrieves and examines some of the foundational pillars of Origen’s theology through close readings and re-examinations of those texts. It examines eight of these theological foundations: God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the end, the soul, the world, the cross, and deification. Moreover, by showing the connections between Origen’s understanding of these foundational pillars, it also shows the coherence of his theology as a whole. Taken collectively, what emerges from these eight chapters is that two doctrines specially shape Origen’s theology: Cross and Creation. As Therrien shows, Origen did not hold contempt for Creation. Rather, Origen thinks that Creation emerges from the very life of God as eternally foreknown and provided for in the person of Christ, the Wisdom of God the Father. Moreover, he also holds that, though fallen, Creation will be restored according to its original, eternal intention in God precisely through the Passion of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The Cross is thus not minimalized in Origen’s theology; it is rather its very center.
"Therrien succeeds in showing that even the early Origen had a coherent, and essentially orthodox, Christian theology. I know of no book in the standard scholarship on Origen that would compete with this."~Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ, Fordham University
"Recovering Origen as a powerful theological voice of the third century, rather than reading into his work only the beliefs later accorded him in condemnation, has been central to the work of ressourcement over the last century. But alongside detailed studies into the different parts of his corpus, and into individual themes in his work, we need introductions to his thought as a whole. In this succinct, but admirably well referenced book, Mark Therrien provides us with just that, an excellent and penetrating overview. I look forward to recommending this book to my students."~Lewis O. Ayres, Durham University
"A very welcome addition to the increasing body of literature reevaluating Origen, seeing him as a devoted disciple of Christ, Scripture, and the Cross. Accessible and insightful, this will be an essential study for all students of Origen, early Christianity, and theology generally."~John Behr, University of Aberdee
"Mark Therrien’s book is a part of a long overdue reevaluation of Origen’s thought and its sources. Therrien insists that Origen must be understood through his engagement with Scripture rather than from ideas drawn from Greek philosophy or Gnosticism. Working from this starting point, the book is a close and careful rereading of critical texts in the De Principiis supplemented with other texts, especially from the Commentary on the Gospel of John. It is a book that every scholar of Origen should read."~Ronald E. Heine, Bushnell University
"Therrien soundly studies Origen as a Biblical theologian, showing Origen’s theology as centered in the Creation and the Cross. Focusing on his First Principles and Commentary on John, he rectifies some still widespread misunderstandings related, for instance, to Origen’s supposed contempt for creation and the eternity of creation. Apokatastasis or universal restoration in Origen’s thought is correctly seen as affected by Christ and the Spirit. Therrien shows that Origen was essentially ‘orthodox’ and anti-Gnostic (even in regard to apokatastasis) and anticipated the main Trinitarian dogmas, especially 'One Essence, Three Hypostases.' Origen is rightly considered to be a martyr (a confessor), who participated in Christ’s Crucifixion and redemptive act, in keeping with Origen's clearly Pauline Theology of the Cross."~Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, University of Cambridge
"This is an excellent book, a rare introductory text at the same time accessible to advanced undergraduates and profitable for long-time specialists… If Therrien’s portrait of Origen is correct, the authentic theology of Greek antiquity’s most learned biblical theologian has been lost to view for centuries and deserves urgent reappraisal. Highly recommended."~Catholic Books Review
" Cross and Creation is but the latest in the ongoing debate and rehabilitation of the theology of Origen of Alexandria. Therrien has an undeniable love for Origen and his theology and this book is a welcome addition to the critical debates surrounding one of the most influential early church fathers."~VoegelinView
"Meets the need for a clear overview of Origen’s theological system that does not get bogged down in biography or in scholarly controversy."~Reviews in Religion and Theology
"This is an excellent book, a rare introductory text at the same time accessible to advanced undergraduates and profitable for long-time specialists. Copious notes support claims without making the work verbose, and an ample bibliography helps readers pursue inquiries into further research as desired. If Therrien’s portrait of Origen is correct, the authentic theology of Greek antiquity’s most learned biblical theologian has been lost to view for centuries and deserves urgent reappraisal. Highly recommended."~Catholic Books Review