Dialogue of Origen and Heracleides

Origen was an early Christian scholar and theologian living in Alexandria during the third century. At an assembly of bishops, he entered into the following dialogue with Bishop Heracleides:

Origen: I charge you, father Heracleides: God is the almighty, the uncreated, the supreme God who made all things. Do you hold this doctrine?
Heracleides: I do. That is what I also believe.
Origen: Christ Jesus who was in the form of God, being other than the God in whose form he existed, was he God before he came into the body or not?
Heracleides: He was God before.
Origen: Was he God before he came into the body or not?
Heracleides: Yes, he was.
Origen: Was he God distinct from this God in whose form he existed?
Heracleides: Obviously he was distinct from another being and, since he was in the form of him who created all things, he was distinct from him.
Origen: Is it true then that there was a God, the Son of God, the only begotten of God, the firstborn of all creations, and that we need have no fear of saying that in one sense there is two Gods, while in another there is one God?
Heracleides: What you say is evident. But we affirm that God is the almighty, God without beginning, without end, containing all things and not contained by anything; and that his Word is the son of the living God, God and man, through whom all things were made, God according to the spirit, man inasmuch as he was born of Mary.
Origen: You do not appear to have answered my question. Explain what you mean. For perhaps I failed to follow you. Is the Father God?
Heracleides: Assuredly.
Origen: Is the Son distinct from the Father?
Heracleides: Of course. How can he be the Son if he is also the Father?
Origen: While being distinct from the Father is the Son himself also God?
Heracleides: He himself is also God.
Origen: And do two Gods become a unity?
Heracleides: Yes.
Origen: Do we confess two Gods?
Heracleides: Yes. The power is one.1

Apparently afterward there was a gasp as the bishops must have thought that Origen’s phrasing walked too closely to polytheism. Of course that wasn’t Origen’s intention; a dedicated Christian, he would late endure torture and death for his faith in Jesus of Nazareth. But he did not see the need for overt flowery language that mystified the Godhead he worshiped; rather, he saw the beauty and need of simple language. Elsewhere Origen wrote,

“There are many persons who are sincerely concerned about religion and who here fall into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods. As a result, their fear drives them into doctrines that are false and wicked. They sometimes deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own, besides that of the Father. They thereby make Him whom they call the Son to be the God, all but in name.”2


1. Quoted from W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 382.
2. Origen, “Commentary on the Gospel of John,” Book II, 2.