Was Origen an Evangelical?

No. While he espoused some idea of inerrancy, Michael Holmes reminds us that his inerrancy was only in the gnostic, or spiritual sense,

Did Origen, the most influential Biblical scholar in the early centuries of the Church, believe in the “inerrancy” of Scripture? Yes. Does this mean that he may be cited as evidence in support of the thesis that “the Church throughout its history has always held to the inerrancy of the literal sense of the text”?1No. As we shall see in the following pages, Origen did hold a high view of the divine author-ship and inspiration of Scripture, and from this he formulated a theory of the “inerrancy” of Scripture. But for Origen this theory of the full veracity of all Scripture applied only to the spiritual sense of the text, not to the ordinary or literal sense—which in fact, according to Origen, contains numerous errors, impossible statements, and even fictional elements. He held, as it were, to what may be termed the “analogical inerrancy” rather than to the “literal inerrancy” of Scripture. Following a brief discussion of these views of Origen we shall conclude by mentioning some of the implications of these findings for certain aspects of the contemporary “inerrancy debate.”

See here for the rest of his pdf. The issue with taking any of these ancient authors as supporters for the modern, Evangelical view of inerrancy is that you have to first make them Evangelicals. Origen doesn’t really believe in inerrancy of the written text, only in what it can be allegorically made to say. He didn’t advocate plain sense, which is where inerrancy seems to really lie (yes, that word has a double meaning), but supported that Scripture was only useful in a heavily philosophized way.


Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Was Origen an Evangelical?

    1. he believed it. his wasn’t extra-unorthdox in that regard, or much when it comes to the actual positions of the Church. He would have loved the bible codes…

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