is that the Bible is interpreted according to the bare letter rather than being understood in its spiritual sense.
Origen has a series of Pauline texts which constantly justify his discernment of a spiritual or christological reading.44 They are repeatedly found in his writings, and include Romans 7:14; 1 Corinthians 2:2,10,12-13,16; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:4 and 11; 2 Corinthians 3:6, 15-17; and Galatians 4:24. In addition we find in the De principiis reference to Hebrews 8:5, an epistle which Origen here appears to accept as coming from the apostle despite his acknowledgement elsewhere that no one apart from God knows who wrote this letter.45 On the basis of such indicators, the Bible is to be regarded as full of mysteries - some simply incomprehensible, others 'types' of what is to come. Prophecies are full of riddles and dark sayings. It is hardly surprising that thousands make mistakes in their interpretation. Origen finds the key in Proverbs 22:20-1, which he understood to be an instruction to set forth words of truth in a threefold way.46 The simple are to be edified by the flesh of scripture, that is, the obvious interpretation; the person who has made progress is to be edified by scripture's soul; and the one who is perfect will be edified by the spiritual law, which has 'a shadow of the good things to come'. According to the apostle, he will 'speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nothing; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory' (1 Cor 2:6-7). As a person consists of body, soul and spirit, so does scripture. However, it is difficult to apply this threefold theory, as spelt out in the De principiis, to his actual exegetical practice. In most of his commentaries and other exegetical writings, Origen actually operates with multiple possible meanings that fall into two categories: 'accordingto the letter' and 'accordingto the spirit'. Prima facie those scripture passages which he exploited to justify his approach also suggest a twofold meaning.
In his theoretical discussion, Origen hastens on to show that some passages have 'no bodily sense at all', and the reader must immediately search for the soul or spirit ofthe passage. Origen is worried that, if the meaning were transparent, the reader would never realise what lay beyond it. So, he suggests, the Word of God has arranged for certain stumbling blocks, as it were, and hindrances and impossibilities to be inserted in the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not be completely drawn away by the sheer attractiveness of the
44 Heine, 'Gregory of Nyssa's apology for allegory'.
45 Quoted in Euseb. HE 6.25.
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