study of theology and his scholarly work on the scriptures.22 So he divided up his pupils and entrusted the introductory lessons to Heraclas, one of his most promising students, while concentrating on the higher education of more advanced pupils. Eusebius speaks of the many educated people who came to Origen's school, where, after preparatory studies including geometry and arithmetic, he instructed them in Greek philosophy, discussing the different systems of the philosophers, and giving many a general grounding which would stand them in good stead for study of the scriptures.23 This begins to sound more like the account given by Theodore of his curriculum in Caesarea.

What then was this 'catechetical school'? The notion of something like the Academy, of which there was a series of well-known heads, both prior and subsequent to Origen's tenure, is probably imposed on the material by hindsight, though it may represent Eusebius' attempt to identify the lineage of orthodox teachers in a context where heterodox teachers also practised. The accounts suggest something rather simpler: that the bishop asked Origen to undertake the necessary catechesis of converts in an emergency; and that in response to demand, Origen combined duties for which he was patronised by the bishop with the development of a more advanced programme undertaken as a freelance teacher. In other words, Origen engaged in different levels of teaching activity concurrently.

Interestingly enough, this suggestion coheres well with recent reassessment24 of the distinction, which Origen apparently makes in his writings, between different levels of Christian believer, classifying people according to their capacity to read scripture literally, morally or spiritually. It seems that, so far from categorising persons, Origen means to suggest that the three levels of meaning relate to three stages in an educational process. He knew it was possible to move from one level to another, and that none of the levels of meaning was exclusive of the others. It is clear from his homilies that Origen was aware of differing levels of understanding in his audience, and in response to Celsus' jibes, Origen is pleased to admit that Christianity could educate even slaves and women to be good, unlike philosophy, with its elitist character.25 Maybe these attitudes were the fruit of his experience of teaching at a wide range of levels concurrently during the years in Alexandria. His teaching activities in Caesarea, as priest, homilist and philosophical teacher, would appear to have been similarly diverse.

24 Torjesen, '"Body", "Soul", and "Spirit"'. See further below, p. 498.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment