Origen’s construal of the Bible as a textual incarnation of the Word encourages an assimilationist interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures as a proto-Christian gospel. Although in partial agreement with this thesis, this study suggests a non-assimilationist reading of Origen’s biblical exegesis.
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If, as Origen believed, humanity’s hope for salvation has been answered by a divine Word, whose coming into the world has unfolded history according to a messianic intrigue, Origen’s messianic reading of world history as a soteriological discourse should not come as a surprise. How does Origen refer to this discourse? As a speech that spells the coming Word, this discourse would have to be soteriological in its very "wording": it would have to "happen" soteriologically. The Word’s historical unfolding would have to be approached as a gospel, a good-news or a revelatory speech event, which, literally, "spells" salvation. Receiving this messianic Word would necessarily imply the believer’s application to the study of the Bible as Gospel. The task of this study is twofold. In addition to offering a detailed analysis of Origen’s understanding of exegesis as a liturgical attending to the Word’s evangelic advent in the Bible (a sort of textual redoubling of the incarnation), it also addresses a recent concern regarding the totalizing potential of Origen’s Logos-centered reading of history as evangelic or Christian. One may indeed wonder whether Origen’s exegetical spelling of the Word as universal Gospel can prevent the silencing of the speech of, let us say, the Greek or the Jew outside of Christianity? Ultimately, one may wonder whether it is possible to dissociate Origen’s Christian understanding of the Bible-incarnate Word from the totalizing rigor of a universalist metaphysics and what would be the consequences of such an attempt?
Michael V. Niculescu is assistant professor of philosophy at Bradley University. His training includes a degree in classics and doctoral studies in patristic and contemporary continental philosophy. In a series of published articles Niculescu has proposed a critical-phenomenological interpretation of the thought of Greek Patristic authors such as Origen of Alexandria, the Cappadocians or Evagrius Ponticus. In addition to his continued interest in Patristic literature, Niculescu’s current research is focused on the post-modern criticism of the reductionist, power-driven, use of reason (the so-called “logocentrism”) in post-Enlightenment continental philosophy, with a particular concentration on logocentrism’s contribution to the ideological repression of the rational-critical and religious-testimonial forms of dissent in recent totalitarianisms.