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Letter to Friends in Alexandria

Origen of Alexandria

Origen, writing to inform his companions in Alexandria, defends himself against those who have falsely accused him of teaching a heresy called “apocatastasis,” the idea that all will be eventually saved, including satan and those who are damned to hell.

1. On the Slanderers and Their False Accusation

Some of those persons who take pleasure in accusing their neighbors bring, against us and our teaching, the charge of blasphemy; though, from us, they have never heard anything of the kind. Let them take heed to themselves how they refuse to mark that solemn warning, which says that “Revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10), when they declare that I hold that [satan,] the father of wickedness and perdition (that is, the devil), and of those who are cast forth from the kingdom of God are to be saved—a thing which no man can say, even if he has departed from his senses and is manifestly insane.

2. Saint Paul Was Also Slandered, and Writings Forged Under His Name

Yet it is no wonder, I think, if my teaching is falsified by my adversaries, and is corrupted and adulterated in the same manner as the epistle of Paul the Apostle. Certain men, as we know, compiled a false epistle under the name of Paul, so that they might trouble the Thessalonians, as if the day of the Lord were near at hand, and thus deceive them. It is on account of that false epistle, that he wrote these words, in the second epistle to the Thessalonians: “We implore you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him; that you be not quickly shaken in your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter as if sent from us, as if the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man deceive you in any way” (2 Thess. 2:1-3). It is something of the same kind, I perceive, which is happening to us also.

3. On Certain Men Who Forged Writings Under Origen's Name

A certain promoter of heresy, after a discussion which had been held between us, in the presence of many persons, and [of which] notes of it had been taken, procured the document from those who had written out the notes, and added or removed whatever he chose, and changed things as he thought right, and published it abroad as if it were my work, but pointed in triumphant scorn at the expressions which he had himself inserted. The brethren in Palestine, indignant at this, sent a man to me, at Athens, to obtain from me an authentic copy of the work. Up to that time, I had never even read it over again or revised it: it had been so completely neglected and thrown aside, that it could hardly be found. Nevertheless, I sent it, and—God is witness that I am speaking the truth—when I met the man himself who had adulterated the work, and took him to task for having done so, he answered, as if he were giving me satisfaction: “I did it, because I wished to improve that treatise, and to purge away its faults.” What kind of a purging was this that he applied to my treatise? Such a purging as Marcion, or [as] Apelles his successor, after they added to the Gospels and to the writings of the Apostle; they subverted the true text of Scripture. And this man, similarly, first took away the true statements which I had made, and then inserted what was false, to furnish grounds for accusation against me.

But, though those who have dared to do this are impious and heretical men, yet those who give credence to such accusations against us shall not escape the judgment of God. There are others also (not [just] a few), who have done this through a wish to throw confusion into the churches. Recently, a certain heretic who had seen me at Ephesus and had refused to meet me, and had not opened his mouth in my presence, but for some reason or another had avoided doing so, afterwards composed a treatise according to his own fancy—partly mine, partly his own—and sent it to his disciples in various places; I know that it reached those who were in Rome, and I do not doubt that it also reached others. He was also behaving in the same reckless way at Antioch, before I came there; and the treatise which he brought with him, came into the hands of many of our friends. But when I arrived, I took him to task in the presence of many persons, and, when he persisted, with a complete absence of shame, in the impudent defense of his forgery, I demanded that the book should be brought in among us, so that my mode of speech might be recognized by the brethren who, of course, knew the points on which I am accustomed to insist, and the method of teaching which I employ. However, he did not dare to bring in the book, and his assertions were refuted by them all, and he himself was convicted of forgery, and thus the brethren were taught a lesson on not to give ear to such accusations.

4. On the Divine Punishment Against the Slanderers

If, then, any one is willing to trust me at all—I speak in the sight of God—let him believe what I say about the things which are falsely inserted into my letter. But if any man refuses to believe me, and chooses to speak evil of me, it is not to me that he does the injury: he will, himself, be arraigned as a false witness before God, since he is either bearing false witness against his neighbor, or giving credit to those who bear it.

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