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Raised on Christian MilkFood and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity$
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John David Penniman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300222760

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300222760.001.0001

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Animal, Vegetable, Milk

Animal, Vegetable, Milk

Origen’s Dietary System

(p.109) Four Animal, Vegetable, Milk
Raised on Christian Milk

John David Penniman

Yale University Press

In Origen of Alexandria, there is a consistent emphasis on the slow transformation of material bodies into spiritual beings—that is, of the passage from a corporeal to a noetic existence. And certain types of food play a crucial role within this ongoing process of transformation insofar as eating becomes a mechanism for integrating body and soul and elevating them into a nature of spirit. Origen uses the Pauline food categories found in 1 Corinthians 3 as a hermeneutical key to unlock the whole of scripture and its significance for the structure and formation of the Christian life. This chapter demonstrates how Origen employs the symbol of breast milk as one of several “diets” for those embodied souls undergoing the slow transformation into a spiritual body. Crucially, Origen is the first to develop at length the relationship between the milk and solid food of 1 Corinthians and the “vegetables for the weak” found in Romans 14. The inclusion of vegetables enables Origen to harmonize Paul’s threefold anthropology of fleshy, soulish, and spiritual. As a result, he creates an elaborate taxonomy of souls—a dietary system for classifying the different statuses of souls among Christians.

Keywords:   Origen, Nous, Theological Anthropology, Noetic Exegesis, Spiritual Body, Food, Social Status, History of Biblical Interpretation

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