Nesterova Olga

The philosophy of Moses vs the philosophy of Solomon and the ranging of senses of Scripture in Origen

Nesterova Olga (2021) "The philosophy of Moses vs the philosophy of Solomon and the ranging of senses of Scripture in Origen ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2021, vol. 93, pp. 11-26 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202193.11-26


In upholding the distinction of three levels of interpretation of Biblical text, Origen attributed certain meaningful characteristics to the senses of the two superior grades, i.e. the psychic and the pneumatic. The fi rst is qualifi ed as moral and the second as making it possible to comprehend the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. Following this, some scholars traced the origin of this conception back to the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria, where the four parts of “Moses’ philosophy” are related to the Platonic formula that described the sequence of philosophical disciplines (ethics, physics, and epoptics), and where was given the enumeration of the four way by which the doctrine of the Law was proclaimed. The article also deals with the divergences between Origen and Clement in their approaches to the problem of structural affi nities between the system of profane philosophy and the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. Clement acknowledges the scriptural dimension of Moses’ teaching as stated in the books of the Law, but his aim is still to demonstrate its philosophical nature, though he hardly manages to achieve a strict parallelism between the fourfold classifi cation of the types of the Pentateuchal texts (historical, legal, liturgical, and theological) and the triple division of philosophy. Origen, in his turn, associates the distinction of three parts of philosophy not with the name of Moses, but with Solomon as the alleged author of the three books of wisdom, much better suitable for the above-mentioned scheme. But as far as his own doctrine of multiple senses was formulated in accordance with the conception of progressive Revelation, which is carried out through the three phases in the history of salvation and refl ects three consequent grades of knowledge, he chooses an oblique mode to establish a sort of equation, though just partial, between the threefold scale of scriptural senses and the mundane philosophy. For him Solomon represents the community of profane philosophers, who have turned out to be capable of attaining the ethical stage of knowledge corresponding to the psychic level of scriptural interpretation as well as to the exoteric part of the New Testament doctrine, which constitutes a preliminary stage on the way to the highest, spiritual contemplation. As for Moses, he is considered by Origen not as the great precursor or originator of philosophy, but as one of the chosen recipients of divine revelation, and thus his writings contain not a series of philosophical doctrines, but an inner sequence of overlapping meanings, the order of which is most adequately determined by the Pauline distinction of carnal, psychical and spiritual dimensions of human nature. For this reason, he was hardly interested in using as foundation of his own methodological theory Clement’s reasoning on the philosophical value of Moses’ Law, more relevant to apologetic rather than exegetic context.


Origen, three senses of Scripture, threefold division of philosophy, Christian exegetics, Clement of Alexandria, Philo of Alexandria, Holy Scripture, Moses, Solomon


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Information about the author

Nesterova Olga

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philology;
Academic Rank: Senior Research Fellow;
Place of work: Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences; 25A Povarskaya Str., Moscow, 121069, Russian Federation;
Post: senior researcher;
ORCID: 0000-0001-8049-8141;
Email: adeodatus@yandex.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.