The Catholic University of America

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

German

Latin

Greek

Abstract

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.