In What Sense is the Prototokos a Kosmos? Origen's Exegesis of John 8:32*

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To conclude a discursive exegesis of John 8:32, Origen asks in what way the, “Firstborn (Prototokos) of all creation is able to be a world.” The word translated as “world” in John’s gospel and in Origen’s text is κόσμος (kosmos). Origen then proceeds to explain in what sense he thinks the Prototokos is able to be a kosmos—but the explanation itself seems to require explanation. What sense of the word kosmos does Origen mean? The problem is unresolved. In fact, the use of kosmos here is so cryptic that even in Lampe’s Lexicon the lexical entry for κόσμος contains a sub-definition that cites only the present passage from Origen as an example of this particular meaning of the word. Yet the meaning itself remains unclear. Origen is using the word in a new way, and in so doing makes a radical Christological claim. This article will present the problem as it stands, introduce prior attempts at interpreting the cryptic passage, and finally put forth an original interpretation. In addition to attempting a better understanding of this particular passage in Origen’s commentary on John, the question has implications for our understanding of how Origen viewed the very dynamics of creation.

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