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Origen Censors Scripture Reading

In the prologue to his commentary on the Song of Songs, Origen recommends that certain portions of scripture, in particular the Song of Songs, should not be read by people who are not sufficiently mature:

“But solid food is for the mature” and requires such people as listeners who “have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” [Hebrews 5:14-HN] Thus, if those we have called “little ones” come to these places in Scripture, it can happen that they receive no profit at all from this book or even that they are badly inured either by reading what has been written or by examining what has been said to interpret it. . . .For this reason I give warning and advice to everyone who is not yet free of the vexations of flesh and blood and who has not withdrawn from the desire for corporeal nature that he completely abstain from reading this book and what is said about it. . . . [Source: Ancient Commentary on Christian Scripture, New Testament X, Hebrews, p. 79]

Now I have frequently thought that a number of passage might be restricted, though I’m uncertain just why the first chapters of Genesis are considered that way, unless the issue is the first couple naked in the garden. I’d wonder about Judges, especially starting with chapter 13, and even more especially with chapter 17. Ezekiel 16 might be a good candidate, along with Numbers 31.

One might not want children to get too clear a picture of what goes on in those chapters. I suspect, however, that new believers will be a different matter, and that converts will be much less likely to submit to censorship of their reading of Christian scripture.

In addition, this provides an interesting application of Hebrews 5:14, one I had never thought of before. I have considered that certain scriptures could be (and have been) dangerous in the wrong hands, but I’d never thought of treating it as a maturity issue.

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