Plagues and Epidemics Caused by D(a)emons in Origen and Porphyry and Potential Interrelations


This essay will address how Origen, an early Christian writer, theologian, and pastor, referred to plagues, epidemics, and misfortunes, and how he construed these phenomena in his theology, literary works, and pastoral practice. A comparison with Porphyry will be offered, who likely drew part of his daemonology from Origen. Those responsible for plagues in both Origen’s philosophical theology and in Porphyry’s philosophy are δαίμονες (demons or fallen angels for Origen, daemons for Porphyry; Origen knew and referred to the two views). Porphyry’s attribution of his daemonology to “certain Platonists” who “divulged” these theories probably alludes to Origen and situates Origen within the Platonic school. I suspect that Porphyry was influenced by Origen’s demonology in general and possibly by On Daemons, if his. Porphyry’s terminology of “divulging” corresponds to that used in his anecdote about Origen who, notwithstanding the oath not to divulge Ammonius’ esoteric doctrines, nevertheless did so in On Daemons and The King Is the Only Creator. This indirectly confirms that Porphyry was speaking of the same Origen. Porphyry’s conviction that evil daemons are responsible for plagues, epidemics, and natural disasters is the same as Origen’s in Contra Celsum, which Porphyry knew. Origen was aware that spiritual plagues are worse than physical ones, that misfortunes mostly befall the just, and took over Jesus’ criticism of the ancient view of misfortunes as divine punishments for an individual or his parents or ancestors.


plagues; epidemics; evil; Demons; Origen; Porphyry; Ammonius; Eusebius; Cyril; Jesus

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Published : 2021-06-15

Ramelli, I. (2021). Plagues and Epidemics Caused by D(a)emons in Origen and Porphyry and Potential Interrelations. Vox Patrum, 78, 89-120.

Ilaria L.E. Ramelli
KUL, Durham University, Cambridge University, Erfurt University MWK, Sacred Hea  United Kingdom