Dissertation Defense: Benjamin P. Blosser
Final Examination of
Benjamin P. Blosser
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
3:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 333
Committee in Charge
Chair: Rev. Msgr. Thomas Green, J.C.D.
Secretary: Rev. Christopher Begg, S.T.D., Ph.D.
Director: Susan Wessel, Ph.D.
Reader: Matthias Vorwerk, Ph.D.
Reader: John P. Galvin, Dr. Theol.
Summary of Coursework
THEO 753 Patristics Seminar: Agustine
THEO 764 Modern Catholicism
THEO 701 Intro to Medieval Theology
THEO 717 Theol Von Balthasar
THEO 778 Vatican II: History Theol
THEO 794 Agtn Thm in Bonaventure
THEO 704 Liturgy of Hours
THEO 767 Soteriology
THEO 801 Rome Constantinople
THEO 870 Providence of God
CHST 527 Counter-Reformation
ECH 773 Prayer Worship Early Church
FREN 500 Reading for Comprehension
Psyche in Origen of Alexandria:
Origen's Doctrine of the Soul in Relation to the Middle Platonic Philosophical Tradition
Benjamin Philip Blosser
Director: Susan Wessel, Ph.D.
A longstanding debate exists among Origen scholars as to whether Origen (185-254 A.D.) is to be seen primarily as a systematizer of Middle Platonic philosophical speculation, or as an authentically Christian and mystical theologian. Of special importance to this debate is Origen's theological anthropology, in particular his view of the soul. Scholars are beginning to ask whether, and to what extent, Middle Platonic views of the soul influenced Origen's theological system, and the ways in which Origen responded to specific Middle Platonic arguments about the soul.
This study attempts to answer these questions by way of an historical critical approach, exploring the extent to which Origen incorporates Middle Platonic terminology and concepts into his own theological system, and the way in which these gain new meaning in the process. It describes the trajectory of Middle Platonism up until Origen's time and critically analyzes his reception of that tradition. This study consists of a close textual analysis of passages in which Origen addresses Middle Platonic formulations regarding the soul, a summary of Origen's own systematic teaching on the soul, and a treatment of the role of the soul in Origen's comprehensive theological vision of sacred history. While a focus is
given to Origen's De principiis and other systematic works, due attention is also paid to Origen's exegetical corpus.
This study finds that, while Origen was highly aware of Middle Platonic speculations on the soul and does borrow extensively from their vocabulary, he never accepts the underlying philosophical assumptions, and is in fact subtly critical of Middle Platonic theories of the soul. His own views on the soul, in its own constitutive elements and in its context in salvation history, are framed less by speculative, philosophical concerns than by Christian revelation, especially concerning the moral and ascetical dynamics of the spiritual life, whereby the soul is reunited with the divine Logos in whose image it was created.