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Origen’s Vacillating Stances toward his “Valentinian” Colleague Heracleon

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When Origen of Alexandria presents numerous extensive quotations from Heracleon, whom he explicitly presents as a follower of Valentinus, one might expect a uniformly adversarial attitude toward this “Valentinian” sectarian. Instead, Origen’s stances are found to vacillate significantly from general renunciation and emphatic criticism, via considered disagreement and hypothetical approval, all the way to agreement and praise. The fascinating interplay between the stance taken and the dogmatic and philological matters in view implies that while dogmatic issues at stake are decisive for whether Origen agrees or disagrees with Heracleon, the full range of variance in Origen’s stances is determined by Heracleon’s philological methodology and presentation of evidence. Origen’s responses to Heracleon reveal that he viewed this predecessor not simply as a heterodox teacher, but also as a colleague in interpreting the New Testament using methods from Greco-Roman literary criticism.

Affiliations: 1: Uppsala University


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