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On First Principles

On First Principles

Author: Origen

Foreword by: John C. Cavadini

Introduction by: Henri de Lubac

Price: $25.00

Format: Paperback

Pages: 576

Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches

ISBN: 978-0-87061-279-4

Imprint: Christian Classics

On-sale date: December 9, 2013

More History, Reference, Spirituality, Theology


Origen’s On First Principles is a foundational work in the development of Christian thought and doctrine: it is the first attempt in history at a systematic Christian theology. For over a decade it has been out of print with only expensive used copies available; now it is available at an affordable price and in a more accessible format.

On First Principles is the most important surviving text written by third-century Church father, Origen. Origen wrote in a time when fundamental doctrines had not yet been fully articulated by the Church, and contributed to the very formation of Christianity. Readers see Origen grappling with the mysteries of salvation and brainstorming how they can be understood. This edition presents G. W. Butterworth’s trusted translation in a new, more readable format, retains the introduction by Henri de Lubac, and includes a new foreword by John C. Cavadini. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor of the Church, wrote: “Origen is the stone on which all of us were sharpened.”



"Origen of Alexandria truly was a figure crucial to the whole development of Christian thought."

Pope Benedict XVI

"The most breathtaking work bequeathed to us by Christian antiquity."

"Origen offers perhaps the most sublime evocation of the Incarnation in patristic literature, the mystery in the face of which, 'the human understanding with its narrow limits is baffled, and struck with amazement at so mighty a wonder knows not which way to turn.' Therefore, 'we must pursue our contemplation with all fear and reverence' ( This 'fear and reverence,' diffused from contemplation of the Incarnation into every nook and cranny of the text, also passes into the soul of the reader, and, almost imperceptibly, elevates it. Such is the benefit of reading the most breathtaking work bequeathed to us by Christian antiquity."

John C. Cavadini
Department of Theology
University of Notre Dame

"It is good to have Origen’s theological masterpiece available again."

“Vatican II taught that scripture is the soul of theology. Few so fully embraced that conviction as did Origen. In this he remains an inspiration for all who see the vital connection among proclamation, catechesis, and theology. Thus it is good to have Origen’s theological masterpiece, On First Principles, available again. As Henri de Lubac writes in his splendid introduction: “It is the work of a good and brave man whose supreme desire was to know the truth.”

Rev. Robert Imbelli
Associate Professor of Theology
Boston College

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