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Iron Man

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven..." Matthew 10.32

Nicknamed the "man of iron" because of his resistance to torture, Origen (c. 184-253) emerges as a particularly gifted leader of the early church and his example and insights remain influential to this day. American scholar, Christopher Hall, draws particular attention to Origen's biblical exegesis (method of interpreting the Bible), his theology and the habits of spiritual formation which he taught.

In his interpretation of the Bible (biblical exegesis), Origen commended four stages: everyone should start by acquiring a literal understanding of the text. Next they should mine it for moral instruction. Then they should ponder its theological significance, in terms of its illumination of the relationship between God and creation. The ultimate level is to read the passage as referring to Jesus in an allegorical way. On this last point, Origen has attracted much criticism through the ages. Does encouraging people to read the Bible allegorically not open the door to all sorts of wacky interpretations?

Surely not if the focus remains on a deeper understanding of Jesus and his significance? The very fact that our Bibles today contain both Old and New Testaments suggest the enduring relevance of both and that must mean more than that the Old Testament simply provides historical context in which to understand the New. Rather, along with Origen, we can surely expect that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, both will point us to Jesus? Origen proved his point by preaching through Leviticus and then wrote up the sermon series as a book. Christmas reading anyone?



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