Fleshing out Christ: Origen of Alexandria and the scriptural incarnation of the Word
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Blaski, Andrew James
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This thesis explores and analyzes Origen of Alexandria’s conviction that Scripture is itself the enfleshed Christ, or that “in the Scriptures the Word became flesh that he might tabernacle among us” (Philoc 15.19). For Origen, Scripture as the “Word of the Lord” is identical to the Word who was “with God,” and who “was God” in the Johannine Prologue. The Word assumes flesh not only in his birth, but also through the words and phrases of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. As a result, many scholars have noted the interesting “parallel” or “analogy” Origen draws between Scripture and the Incarnation, but this study provides the first comprehensive and focused treatment of Scripture as incarnate Word in Origen’s work. Ultimately, it demonstrates that for Origen, biblical interpretation is nothing less than a direct noetic encounter with the person of Christ, allowing the reader to know him in any time or place, to see him transfigured in the movement from the letter to the spirit, and even to consume his flesh and blood. Following an introductory chapter, the project consists of two parts. Part One (Chapters Two and Three) addresses the nature of “scriptural flesh” in Origen’s work. Chapter Two seeks to articulate what it means for the Word to become “flesh” in the first place, as well as what is required to “lift the veil” and perceive that flesh as divine. By examining the role of the cross in Origen’s Christology, it demonstrates that it is only in light of the Passion, through the lens of the crucified Christ, that the divinity of both man (Jesus) and text (Scripture) is made manifest. Chapter Three looks to define this scriptural “flesh” in Origen’s thought, specifically by relying on the doctrine of the epinoiai (the “aspects” or biblical titles of Christ). It is the epinoiai that clothe Christ and give him shape through the text. Part Two (Chapters Four and Five) addresses the theological and spiritual implications for the reader and interpreter of Scripture. Chapter Four examines the “coming of Christ” (parousia) as an individualized noetic phenomenon, brought about by the Christological reading of Scripture in any time or place. Finally, Chapter Five addresses the consumption of Christ through the Scriptures, which turns out to be much more about hermeneutics than about sacramental theology. A short conclusion follows, raising some of the broader implications for Origen studies as well as for the study of early Christian biblical exegesis.