Alexandria was the great city of Egypt, seen here in a 19th century German map of the city during Roman times. For 1,000 years until the Muslim conquest in 641, it was the cosmopolitan center of Hellenistic culture. The capital of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt. Famous for its lighthouse, one of the great wonders of the world and, of course, its library, which was lost, it was second only to Rome in power and authority. It's likely that the gospel reached Egypt in this first century, where there was a large Greek-speaking population. Early Christian legend has it that the founder of Christianity in Egypt was none other than St. Mark himself. But our evidence is fragmentary. But what is known is that, by the mid second century, Christianity was established in Egypt. The Church emerged under the figure of Clement of Alexandria, about whom we do not know a great deal. We do know that he was not born in the city, but had arrived some time in the second century. Eventually, Christianity began to penetrate the educated society of Alexandria. And one of Clement's greatest achievements was in working out the relationship, or at least beginning to work out the relationship between the Church and Greek culture, philosophy and pagan literature. Clement spoke positively of philosophy, while at the same time attacking those gnostic heretics who were dominant in the City of Alexandria. Clement's work was continued by the towering figure of Origen, seen here in a 16th century representation. Like Clement, Origen sought the reconciligation of platonic philosophy with Christianity. He was himself classically educated, brilliant, but he devoted himself to the study, above all, of philosophy and the scriptures. By all accounts, he was a true genius, and it was said that even his father was in awe of his precocious child. The child who demonstrated a capacity to learn and a memory which astonished all. In fact, for all of his life, Origen was known for his prodigious memory. Yet at the same time, this difficult age in Egypt, Origen felt himself to be part of the persecuted Church, and very much defined himself in those terms. And he did so with good reason. His father had died the death of a martyr when Origen himself was only 18 years old. And for the rest of life, Origen believed that he too would die for the faith. But however, Origen himself had a negative view of classical culture. And although he studied throughout his life philosophy in order to defend Christianity, he did not give Plato or the other philosophers much credit. He knew their tradition intimately, but rigorously, or vigorously argued that the Bible was the true source of wisdom, the only source of wisdom. Origen saw himself as a figure of the Church, and he lived an austere life of prayer and study, devoting himself to the service of Christianity. This brought with it the struggle against the Jews, which meant for Origen that it was essential for Christians to have an accurate text of the Old Testament. His own teachers had been Jews. And his Hebrew was remarkable. He was one of the first Christians to take an interest in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. As of result, he compiled a vast compilation of the Old Testament versions in a work which is known as the Hexapla. And here we have an example of this remarkable text. He placed in parallel columns Hebrew and transliteration of the Hebrew into Greek characters. The central rule of the Hexapla was to ensure the accuracy of the the inspired translation of the Old Testament made in Alexandria and used by Christian churches. What Origen saw himself as doing is defending the Church and orthodoxy against heresy. And he decided that he needed to draw up a comprehensive account of Christianity in order to refute both heretics and gnostics. The work was known as On First Principles, and it is a creation of enormous learning, demonstrating that Christianity was to be defended on its own terms. It is a work that is at times highly speculative, even controversial in many of the ways in which Origen spoke about creation. Origen saw human life as one of purification, of purification as one journeyed towards God. Origen himself was familiar with journeys. He traveled extensively. He went to Caesarea in Palestine in the year 215, and then would return ten years later after a quarrel with the bishop in Alexandria. He would remain in Caesarea for the rest of his life. It is while he was there that he wrote his extensive biblical commentaries. And in so doing was the first Christian to comment on the books of the Old and New Testament. His work is distinguished by close attention to the text. He was, as I said, a brilliant linguist. But also, it was distinguished by his emphasis on the spiritual meaning. His theological work was also enhanced by a defense of Christianity, that took a slightly different character. This time, it was directed against the Greek philosopher, Celsus, who himself had a strong knowledge of Christianity and used Greek philosophy to attack the tenants of the Christian faith. Origen, true to his character, studied under philosophers so that he could take on Celsus and refute him. It was in the end, however, not a work of philosophy. Above all, what Origen sought to do was to produce a work that invited pagan philosophers and others into the Christian faith. He speaks of his purpose in doing, and I quote, when false witnesses testified against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, He remained silent, and when unfounded charges were brought against him, he returned no answer. Believing that his whole life and conduct among the Jews were a better refutation than any answer to the false testimony, or than any formal defence against the accusations. And I know not, my pious Ambrosius, why you wished me to write a reply to the false charges brought by Celsus against the Christians, and to his accusations directed against the faith of the Churches in his treatise. As if the facts themselves did not furnish a manifest refutation, and the doctrine a better answer than any writing, seeing it both disposes of the false statements, and does not leave to the accusations any credibility or validity. Origen, one of the great figures of the early Church, in the end did suffer greatly for his faith. In the Decian persecution of 249 he was imprisoned, bound in chains, and stretched on the rock. Although he did not die at that moment, the torture broke his life, and in 253 he came to a horrible end. The legacy of Origen was greatly contested on account of many of his theological views, which were deemed questionable by some of his successors and later teachers of the Church. There were also rumors about him that he was so devoted to his study and to the Church that he castrated himself, although we do not know for certain whether this was the case. As I say, he traveled widely. He was in Arabia on his journeys. His legacy takes many forms. His greatest achievement, however, and that which made him a true son of Alexandria, was in bringing the chief intellectual achievements of the Hellenistic culture together with Christianity. In his brilliance, Origen formed a new type of Christianity, one that would shape the whole of Mediterranean culture.