Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03.02.22


Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars. A History of an Idea. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. Pp. xvi + 189. $49.95. ISBN 0-19-826462-3.


Reviewed by Lee T. Pearcy, The Episcopal Academy.

Origen and the Life of the Stars, a revision of Scott's 1988 Yale dissertation, presents an account of the belief that the stars are in some way alive or ensouled. S. devotes his first 110 pages to a survey of that belief from the Presocratics through Clement of Alexandria. Only in the last third of the book does he deal specifically with Origen. Two chapters analyze Origen's doctrines on the nature of the stars and on resurrection bodies, the forms in which human beings were to be raised into heaven upon their resurrection. A brief conclusion and two appendices, one on "Rufinus as a Translator" and the other on Origen's use of A)NTIZW/NH, complete the text. There is a bibliography, an index of Scriptural references, and a general index.

Those interested in Origen's ideas on the stars will find the final section of this book enlightening. S. places Origen in the context of earlier Greco-Roman and Judaic thought, and his discussions of particular passages in Origen carry conviction. (On earlier thinkers, for whom he has less sympathy, he is less convincing.) S.'s subject is a large one and constitutes an important difference between our world and that of the ancients. Paradigms have shifted, and we no longer gaze at the same heavens.

Other things shift as well. There was a time when books published at Oxford did not tell us that "Origen's ideas on the stars and their life is part of a much broader philosophical tradition" (p. xv), talk about the "principle ways Mithraism differed from" gnosticism (p. 82), or use "key" as a predicate adjective (p. 94).