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Kirchengeschichte: Alte Kirche, Christliche Archäologie


Somos, Róbert


Logic and Argumentation in Origen.


Münster: Aschendorff Verlag 2015. 238 S. = Adamantiana, 7. Geb. EUR 45,00. ISBN 978-3-402-13717-8.


Anna Usacheva

Observing a prevalence of Origenian studies, which has long since crossed the borders of theological disciplines and engaged special-ists in philosophy, philology and history, it might seem unlikely that nowadays any new field of research can be introduced in this terrain. Nevertheless, Róbert Somos, director of the institute of philosophy, art & theory of the University of Pécs has remarkably succeeded in challenging Origenian studies by investigation of the epistemology and strategy of rationalization and systematization of theology and exegesis in Origen. S.’ central theme is captured in his title »Logic and argumentation in Origen«. The investigation of the me­thodology and epistemology of the Alexandrian master opens the prospect of elucidating the implicit meaning of Origen’s exegesis and finding a key to a better understanding of his theology as a coherent unity. The significance of such a shift in research approach to the heritage of the great Alexandrian has been recently realized by scholars. Yet, the recently issued works devoted to the methodological topics rather explored some aspects of Origen’s argumentation than provided a systematic investigation of the subject. Conceiving of a poor study of Origen’s logic and argumentation S. points to a misapprehension of the framework and scopes of logic, which entails undervaluing dominion of logic in Origen’s theol-ogy and exegesis. The benefits from the investigation of theological and exegetical methodology in Origen, however, are consonant with the complexities of study to be undertaken by a researcher of the epistemology and argumentation of the Alexandrian master because, in the terms of Hellenic science, logic was interwoven with different fields of philosophy such as theory of science, ontology, ethics, as well as with linguistics (theory of language, etymology and grammar) and medicine (anthropology and exploration of physiological seeds of the human rationality).
In dealing with these intricate matters S. uses the following methodology: he treats various aspects of the logical discipline, focusing chiefly of the rational syllogistic and linguistic exegetic issues. He takes as his point of departure a comprehensive defini-tion of logic as a rational discipline, which due to a likeness of the created mind to divine intellect and due to the providential activ-ity of God guarantees a possibility of attaining the true knowledge about the universe and divinity. In his argument S. draws upon the basic terms of Hellenic epistemology, such as lex naturalis, κοινὴ ἔννοια and φυσικὴ ἔννοια, which likewise formed the pillars of Origen’s rationale. S. outlines as arguably most significant in Origen’s system that the common conceptions and natural notions, whose formation is processed by a clearly articulated logical and physical practice, at the same time, constitute the field of faith. Following from this is a recasting of the rational discipline resulting in the formation of objectively-valid generalizable rules of theol-ogical argumentation or demonstration, which in Origen’s system stand analogous to the dialectical argument (sc. Greek proof). The parallel which S. unveils here is a double one: at the same time he shows that in Origen’s theological science the fundamental statements of Christian teaching (from the traditio apostolica) serve as basic propositions for argumentation, he also argues for Origen’s insisting on critical investigation of the Scriptures by means of his own exegetical method and the use of the standard logical procedures. The case made for exegetical procedure in the Commentary on John beautifully outlines Origen’s treatment of homonyms, which consisted in collecting different words denoting one concept (συν-αγωγή) and detection of the several meanings of certain notions (διαίρεσις). By means of the inductive and deductive practices Origen examined the attributes of Christ (ἐπίνοιαι) whose order and harmony, likewise the sequence of the letters in alphabet, consti-tutes an organic unity of the true knowledge. S. highlights that armed with logical argumentation Origen undertook a scientific strategy of debate with his opponents. In the last chapters of his monograph S. thoroughly analyses and sharply displays the details and dialectic components of Origen’s polemics.
A less explicit and detailed case for Origen’s use of logical philosophical terminology leads S. to propose an existence of ›Platonic-Peripatetic school-independent attitude‹ to terminology. A basic problem poses itself in light of this statement. Admitting that a general trend to harmonization of the philosophical doctrines of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoa occurred already in Middle Platonism and that the great achievements of the Alexandrian Mouseion, especially in the field of exegesis and grammar, were closely entangled with the Stoic concepts, the existence of the school logical terminology limited only by the Platonic and Peripatetic traditions and blind to the logic of Stoa appears implausible. That S. does not emphasize any of the Stoic traces in the Origenian methodological system (though some of them he does indicate) appears, however, understandable, for it is his explicit aim to disprove the scholarly opinion of a direct influence of the Stoa on Origen. Still, as long as in the case of late antiquity we are obliged to talk of any directness with a great consciousness for even a verbatim Aristotelian definition of homonymy, which S. indicates in Origen, does not match with a practical employment of the notion by the Alexandrian master, a deeper investigation of a contemporary philosophical tradition, where Origen’s groundbreaking theological system oc-curred, would seem necessary.
In the whole monograph S. convincingly demonstrates that the methodological analysis of Origen’s argumentation will challenge the present vision of the underlying logic of Alexandrian theology and exegesis and encourage further research.