306 The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
Origen from the Gnostic teachers of the second century who,
as we are to see, may be regarded as, in certain respects, his fore-
runners. The Church for him is a true brotherhood of believers.
Yet the mere faith of the simple believer, sound though it is,
does not exhaust the wisdom of God or that knowledge of God
which has been imparted to mankind in the books of Scripture.
'The holy Apostles', he writes,1 'when preaching the faith of Christ,
took certain doctrines, those namely which they believed to be neces-
sary ones, and delivered them in the plainest terms to all believers, even
to such as appeared to be somewhat dull in the investigation of divine
knowledge. The grounds of their statements they left to be investigated
by such as should merit the higher gifts of the Spirit, and in particular
by such as should afterwards receive through the Holy Spirit himself
the graces of language, wisdom, and knowledge. There were other
doctrines, however, about which the apostles simply said that things
were so, keeping silence as to the "how" or "why"; their intention un-
doubtedly being to supply the more diligent of those who came after
them, such as should prove to be lovers of wisdom, with an exercise
Ľon which to display the fruit of their ability.'
Among such 'lovers of wisdom' Origen was pre-eminent.
Within the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New he
discovered and brought to light a comprehensive Gnosis of
"which most believers were ignorant. The Bible, Origen held,
was, like mankind, threefold in its nature, consisting of body,
soul, and spirit. The simple believer receives edification from
the literal meaning of the Scripture, that is from its body. The
believer who is making progress (TTPO/COTTTODV) in divine knowledge
penetrates further and is edified by the Scripture's soul. Lastly
the spirit of the Scripture, 'the shadow of the good things to
come' (Heb. x. i), is apprehended by those who are 'perfect' in
What then was the doctrine concerning God, man, and the
1 First Principles, Book I, preface, Engl. trans, by G. W. Buttenvorth.