Origen: Platonism and the Preexistence of Souls in the Gospel of John
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Philosophy and religion have been at odds nearly as long as both have existed. There is a never ending tension between philosophy and religion, reason and faith. Many believe these categories are completely separated, with no need to use one with the other. Others believe reason is essential to faith, otherwise it is impossible to know what one really believes. Origen of Alexandria was one of these people. An early church father who was considered the father of biblical scholasticism, he is the perfect example of what it means to integrate philosophy with theology. But Origen was not a true Platonist, as many believe. He simply used Platonism as a means to interpret scripture more accurately, which can be seen in his Commentary on the Gospel according to John. This paper looks at both the historical and literary contexts and Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John to show that he was first and foremost a Christian who used his philosophical knowledge to find scriptural truths. It specifically focuses on the doctrine of the preexistence of souls and how his language surrounding it is misused as evidence of Platonism.