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Jeffrey Van Wagoner
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Format: Kindle Edition
This volume consists of the writings of Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, and Origen. Tertullian takes up about 30% of this volume and is a continuation of Volume 3 of this series, which was entirely dedicated to his writings. He is considered the `father of Latin Christianity'. He lived from roughly 160 - 225 AD. His writings are mostly accepted as orthodox by traditional Christians, though he is joined the Montanist sect in later life, which is considered a heretical group. He is best known as the first Latin writer to use the term Trinity and define it in similar terms to what later became part of mainstream Christianity.
This volume mainly contains a bunch of his shorter works. Examples include discourses on the apparel of women, veiling of virgins, chastity, monogamy, modesty, and fasting. As noted in my review of volume 3, I personally found that most of his writings did not interest me much, especially compared with the writings of earlier writers in the first two volumes of this work. Much of it covered topics that are not of interest to modern readers. The only thing of interest that I found was that he considered the ‘Prophecy of Enoch’ to be genuine, which was later excluded from the canon. He is also a believer in free will.
The writings of Minucius Felix made up only 2% of this volume and consist of one work, Octavius. This work was written sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century and is considered a contemporary of Tertullian. It is a dialogue between a Pagan and a Christian and is an apologetic work not much different in tone than Tertullian’s works.
The writings of Commodianus made up only 2% of this volume and consists of instructions in favor of Christian Discipline. This was written in the middle of the 3rd century and was initially in the form of a poem but is presented here in the form of prose. It was interesting, and gives an interesting look at how early converts from Paganism were taught.
The rest of the volume, about 66%, is made up of a selection from the works of Origen. He thrived in the early 3rd century and was a pupil of Clement of Alexandria and wrote in Greek. He is a colorful character who castrated himself following Matthew 19:2. He was a very prolific writer and only a small portion of his works is included here. Most of his works are considered orthodox, but he had some views that were considered unorthodox that prevented him from becoming canonized as many other early church fathers were. These beliefs include the preexistence of the human soul, that the preexistent soul of Jesus was born of the Father before any other soul, that the resurrection is ethereal (not corporeal), and that everyone (including devils) will be restored through the mediation of Christ.
Besides the above, other interesting things he taught include that he believes in free will, but thinks that actions we took before our birth impacted our station in life. He believes in creation out of ‘shapeless matter’. He taught that God abandoned the Jews since they no longer have prophets nor miracles and says that traces of miracles were still seen to a considerable extent during his day, but does admit that they are diminishing. He says that Jesus is ‘a God next to the God and Father of all things’.
He also teaches that people are born innocent and become wicked through education, example, and surrounding influences. He also believes that men may become gods be partaking of ‘His divine nature’.
I found his description of the unity of the Father and Son interesting. He said: “We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will.”
Overall, I found Origen to be a good read (much better than Tertullian). He is a good writer whose logic makes sense. Having said this, there is still a lot of boring material to go through that most people will not relate to. I continue to find the variety of early Christian beliefs to be very interesting.