Origen, son of the martyr Leonides, oldest in a family of seven children was born probably at Alexandria 184/85 and died probably in Tyre 253/54 after imprisonment and torture during the Decian persecution. Surnamed “man of steel” Origen was an outstanding theologian of the early Greek-speaking Church, a man of the virtue and a genius with a prodigious capacity for work, an excellent teacher to whose lectures students flocked “and did not give him time to breathe for one bath of pupils after another kept frequenting from morn till night his lecture-room” (Eusebius, H.E. 6, 15).
As an author Origen surpasses all the writers of the Early Church in literary output. A list complied by Eusebius, now unfortunately lost, credited Origen with some 2000 books. Even a far shorter list known to St. Jerome and mentioned by him in his Letter To Paula giving the number of 786 works is still impressive. Jerome then goes on to add some reflections. “Do you see the Greeks and Latins outstripped by the work of one man? Who could ever read all that he wrote? What reward did he receive for this exertion? He is condemned by bishop Demetrius; except for the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia and Achaia the world concurs in his condemnation. Rome itself convokes an assembly against this man not because of novelty of teachings, not because of heresy as now mad dogs pretend against him, but because they could not bear the fame of his eloquence and learning and were considered speechless when he spoke”. (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, vol.54, pp.253-59).
Origen’s chief aim was to be an interpreter of the Scriptures. To this end he composed scientific commentaries on various books of the Old and New Testaments, homilies, and short exegetical notes. The translations presented here belong to the second category. Though he did not reject the literal sense of Scripture Origen here is more intent upon the spiritual meanings of passages selected from Genesis and Exodus.