Origen’s Revenge: The Greek and Hebrew Roots of Christian Thinking on Male and Female

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Is the difference of male and female to be "completely shaken off" so that men and women are no longer men and women but merely human beings? The great seventh-century saint Maximus the Confessor said yes, but such thinking is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with much else in Christian tradition that obliges men and women to live as either men or women.

Origen's Revenge contrasts the two main sources of early Christian thinking on male and female: the generally negative view of Greek philosophy, limiting sexual distinction to the body and holding the body in low regard, and the much more positive view of Hebrew Scripture, in which sexual distinction and reproduction are both deemed naturally good and necessary for human existence. These two views account for much of the controversy in early Christianity concerning marriage and monasticism. They also still contribute to current controversies over sex roles, gender identity, and sexual ethics.

Origen's Revenge also develops the more Hebrew line of early Christian thought to propose a new understanding of male and female with a firmer grounding in scripture, tradition, theology, and philosophy and with profound implications for all human relationships, whether social, political, or spiritual.

“Although much has been written about early Christian views of sexuality, no one has put all the pieces together in the same bold and comprehensive way as in this work. Mitchell describes the tensions that existed in Christian teaching about sexuality from the beginning and offers a positive proposal for how these tensions can be resolved. A fascinating and provocative book.”

—David Bradshaw, University of Kentucky

“Mitchell’s careful analysis of conflicts between Greek philosophy and the Hebrew view of male and female, together with his exploration of sex, sexuality, and the distinctively human way of life that is part of God’s created goodness, is thoughtful, provocative, and well worth reading.”

—Mark J. Cherry, St. Edward’s University

“Drawing on an astonishing array of both primary and secondary sources, Mitchell offers a perspective on early Christian views of sexual difference that can shed a much-needed light on contemporary discussions. Anyone who wishes to engage in these discussions in a genuinely fruitful way needs to read this book.”

—D.C. Schindler, John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family


BRIAN PATRICK MITCHELL has a PhD in theology from the University of Winchester and is a protodeacon of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. He has been a cabinet-level speechwriter, the Washington bureau chief of Investor’s Business Daily, a spokesman for a major oil-and-gas company, and an infantry and counterintelligence officer. He is also the author of seven books on politics and religion, including a work of political theory that has been used to teach politics at Yale, entitled Eight Ways to Run the Country; an epic historical romance set in the early fourth century, entitled A Crown of Life; a scholarly analysis of the place of deaconesses in Christian tradition, entitled The Disappearing Deaconess; and, more recently, Origen’s Revenge: The Greek and Hebrew Roots of Christian Thinking on Male and Female. He has appeared on scores of television and radio shows, including CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s Nightline, NBC’s Today, and CNN’s Larry King Live, and he has been a guest speaker at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the University of Connecticut, the University of Pennsylvania, George Mason University, Catholic University of America, Rose Hill College, and Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary. He has also spoken often at annual meetings of the Academy of Philosophy and Letters, of which he is a member and former board member.