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Apocatastasis (; from Greek: ἀποκατάστασις, also anglicized as apokatastasis) is reconstitution, restitution,[1] or restoration to the original or primordial condition.[2]


  • Etymology and definition 1
  • Concepts 2
    • Stoicism 2.1
    • Judaism 2.2
    • New Testament 2.3
    • Patristic Christianity 2.4
    • Gnosticism 2.5
  • Meaning of apocatastasis in Christian theology 3
    • Early Christianity 3.1
    • Luther 3.2
    • 19th-century Universalism 3.3
    • Recent works 3.4
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7

Etymology and definition

The Liddell and Scott entry (with expansion of definitions and references), gives the following examples of usage:

ἀποκατάστᾰσις, εως, ἡ, restoration, re-establishment;
  • “τοῦ ἐνδεοῦς” Aristotle MM, 1205a4; into its nature εἰς φύσιν id. 1204b 36, 1205b 11;
  • return to a position, Epicurus, Epistolae, 1, p.8 U.;
  • especially of military formations, reversal of a movement, Asclepiodotus, Tacticus, 10.1, 10:6, etc.; generally
  • of all things “πάντων” Acts, 3.21;
  • of souls, Proclus, Institutio Theologica, 199.
  • of the body back into its old form “τῆς φύσιος ἐς τὸ ἀρχαῖον” Aretaeus Medicus CD 1.5; recovery from sickness, SA 1.10;
  • “τῶν ὁμήρων εἰς τὰς πατρίδας” Polybius 3.99.6; εἰς ἀ. ἐλθεῖν, into the restoration of the affairs of a city, 4.23.1;
Astrological uses:

The word is reasonably common in papyri.[3]



According to Edward Moore, apokatastasis was first properly conceptualized in early Stoic thought, particularly by Chrysippus whose thinking was influenced by the theory of recurrence and cosmic cycles in Babylonian astronomical thought. The return (apokatastasis) of the planets and stars to their proper celestial signs, namely their original positions, would spark a conflagration of the universe (ekpyrosis). The original position was believed to consist of an alignment of celestial bodies with Cancer. Thereafter, from fire, rebirth would commence, and this cycle of alternate destruction and recreation was correlated with a divine Logos. Antapocatastasis is a counter-recurrence when the stars and planets align with Capricorn, which would mark destruction by a universal flood.[4]

The Stoics identified Zeus with an alternately expanding and contracting fire constituting the universe. Its expansion was described as Zeus turning his thoughts outwards, resulting in the creation of the material cosmos, and its contraction, the apocatastasis, as Zeus returning to self-contemplation.[5][6] Leibniz explored both Stoic and his understanding of Origen's philosophy in two essays written shortly before his death, Apokatastasis and Apokatastasis panton (1715).[7]


The concept of "restore" or "return" in the Hebrew Bible is the common Hebrew verb שׁוּב (shuwb/shuv),[8] as used in Malachi 4:6, the only use of the verb form of apocatastasis in the Septuagint. This is used in the "restoring" of the fortunes of Job, and is also used in the sense of rescue or return of captives, and in the restoration of Jerusalem.

This is similar to the concept of tikkun olam in Hasidic Judaism.[9]

New Testament

The word, apokatastasis, appears only once in the New Testament, in Acts 3:21.[1] Peter healed a beggar with a disability and then addressed the astonished onlookers. His sermon set Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says:

[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
— Acts 3:19-21 KJV

Grammatically, the relative pronoun "ὧν" ("of which", genitive plural), could refer to "χρόνων" ("of times"), in which case the central phrase would mean "till a restitution of all times of which God spake", or to "πάντων" ("of all" or "of all things"), meaning "till times of a restitution of all things of which God spake".[10]

The usual view taken of Peter's use of the "apokatastasis of all the things about which God spoke" is that it refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel and/or the Garden of Eden and not "all things that ever existed".[11]

The verbal form of apokatastasis is found in the Septuagint Malachi 3:23LXX (i.e. Malachi 4:6), a prophecy of Elijah turning back the hearts of the children to their fathers; in Matthew 17:11 ("he will restore all things"), echoing Malachi, and in Hebrews 13:19 ("that I may be restored to you the sooner").

Nineteenth-century German theologian Jakob Eckermann interpreted "the 'apocatastasis of all things' to mean the universal emendation of religion by the doctrine of Christ, and the 'times of refreshing' to be the day of renewal, the times of the Messiah."[12]

Patristic Christianity

The significance of apocatastasis in early Christianity is today being re-evaluated. In particular it is now questioned whether Origen, often listed as the most notable advocate of universal salvation did in fact teach or believe in such a doctrine.[13][14][15]

Frederick W. Norris, in his article , states that the positions that Origen takes on the issue of universal salvation have often seemed to be contradictory. "In scattered places Origen says quite clearly that he thinks all created intelligence will be restored to God at the end of time. In other places he says, equally clearly, that only souls who make the choice for God and practice the virtues God demands will come to rest in heaven. Those who do not live for God shall suffer eternally in hell or perhaps be annihilated there. If in coming years Origen's treatise on the resurrection is rediscovered, this apparent contradiction may be settled." He concludes: "One could not know in advance which audience would be most likely to accept the gospel, because of the hope engendered by God's overpowering love or because of the fear stimulated by God's threat of hell coupled with God's demand for ethical living. Most audiences of hearers or readers include both groups; knowing this, Origen the pastoral preacher probably kept his view of salvation economically 'open' for a greater effectiveness."[16][17][18]

Konstantinovsky (2009)[19] states that the uses of apocatastasis in Christian writings prior to the Synod of Constantinople (543) and the anathemas (553) pronounced against "Origenists" and Evagrius Ponticus were neutral and referred primarily to concepts similar to the general "restoration of all things spoken" (restitutio omnium quae locutus est Deus) of Peter in Acts 3:21 and not for example the universal reconciliation of all souls which had ever been.

The term apocatastasis is mentioned in the 14th of the 15 anathemas of 553: "If anyone shall say ... that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the reigned pre-existence: let him be anathema."[20]

A form of apocatastasis was also attributed to Gregory of Nyssa[21] and possibly the Ambrosiaster, attributed to Ambrose of Milan. Gregory of Nazianzus discussed it without reaching a decision.

A local Synod of Constantinople (543) condemned a form of apocatastasis as being Anathema, and the Anathema was formally submitted to the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553). Since apocatastasis had been used earlier in writers commenting on Peter's use in the New Testament, the form of apocatastasis condemned in 543 and 553 was a later development.

Origen of Alexandria's other teachings about the possibility of glorified man falling again also played a role in that condemnation.[22] In fact, most historians today would recognize a distinction between Origen's own teachings (or at least those that have survived) and the theological positions of later "Origenists". Even beliefs long attributed to Origen himself, such as a Platonic version of souls existing before bodies, the possibility of a second fall, are found to be much more nuanced and difficult to pin down in Origen's own writings. The Anathema against apocatastasis, or more accurately, against the belief that hell is not eternal, was not ratified despite support from the Emperor, and it is absent from the Anathemas spoken against Origen at Constantinople II.

The Alexandrian school adapted Platonic terminology and ideas to Christianity while explaining and differentiating the new faith from all the others.[22][23] Proponents cited Biblical passage in in support.


The gnostic Gospel of Philip 180–350c contains the term itself but does not teach universal reconciliation:

There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary to be born again through the image. Which one? Resurrection. The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration (apokatastasis). Not only must those who produce the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, do so, but have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him.[24]

Meaning of apocatastasis in Christian theology

Early Christianity

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) generally uses the term apokatastasis to refer to the "restoration" of the "gnostic" Christians, rather than that of the universe or of all Christians, but with universal implications.[25]

As indicated above, the position of Origen (186–284) is disputed, with works as recent as the New Westminster Dictionary of Church History presenting him as speculating that the apocatastasis would involve universal salvation.[26]

In early Christian theological usage apocatastasis meant the ultimate restoration of all things to their original state, which early exponents believed would still entail a purgatorial state,[26] Both Origen and Gregory of Nyssa hoped that all creatures would be saved.[26] The word was still very flexible at that time, but in the mid-6th century it became virtually a technical term referring, as usually today, to a specifically Origenistic doctrine of universal salvation.[27] Maximus the Confessor outlined God's plan for "universal" salvation alongside warnings of everlasting punishment for the wicked.[26]


The Vulgate translation of apokatastasis, "in tempora restitutionis omnium quae locutus est Deus" (the restitution of all things of which God has spoken) was taken up by Luther to mean the day of the restitution of the creation, but in Luther's theology the day of restitution was also the day of resurrection and judgment, not the restitution of the wicked.[28] In Luther's Bible he rendered Greek apokatastasis with German herwiedergebracht werde, "will be brought back."[29] This sense continued to be used in Lutheran sermons.[30]

Luther explicitly disowned belief that the devils would ultimately reach blessedness.[31][32]

19th-century Universalism

During the 19th and early 20th centuries several histories published by early Christianity and in the Reformation, and ascribed Universalist beliefs to Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and others.

Recent works

In recent writing, apocatastasis is generally understood as involving some form of universal reconciliation, without necessarily attributing this understanding to Origen and other Fathers of the Church.

  • , described apocatastasis as universal reconciliation.
  • , translated in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, described apocatastasis as universal reconciliation.
  • , defined apocatastasis as "a name given in the history of theology to the doctrine which teaches that a time will come when all free creatures shall share in the grace of salvation; in a special way, the devils and lost souls."[33]
  • [34]
  • Professor Constantinos A. Patrides surveyed the history of apocatastasis in his .[35]
  • , devoted a whole chapter, under the heading "Apocatastasis?", to the topic of universal reconciliation, "sometimes technically known as apocatastasis".[36]
  • [37]
  • [38]
  • Peter Stravinskas, in the short article on apocatastasis in [39] and the still shorter entry in his Catholic Dictionary (1993),[40] defines it as the belief "that all rational creatures are saved, including the fallen angels and unrepentant sinners".
  • describes apocatastasis as "a theory... that all angels and human beings, even the demons and the damned, will ultimately be saved".[41]
  • Morwenna Ludlow (2001), in , writes that, though the meaning was very flexible until the mid-6th century, "the word apokatastasis is now usually used to refer to a specifically Origenistic doctrine of universal salvation".[27]
  • Peter L. Berger, in his book , calls apocatastasis "the conviction that, in the end, all will be saved and the entire creation will be reconciled with God".[42]
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (third edition 2005) explains the term as meaning the doctrine of the ultimate salvation of all.[43]
  • Justo L. González, in Essential Theological Terms (2005), says that "theories of the apocatastasis usually involve the expectation that in the end all, including the devil, will be saved".[44]
  • , explains apocatastasis as "the idea that all things will be ultimately reconciled to God through Christ – including the damned in hell and even Satan and his demons".[45]
  • Ilaria Ramelli, (2013). The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis. A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena, Leiden, Brill.

Stravinskas identifies apocatastasis with universalism or universal reconciliation, and some of the older sources do so also.[2] But most writers do not simply identify apocatastasis with universal reconciliation. González points out that a distinction exists, in that "it is possible to hold universalist views without believing that all of creation will return to its original state".[44] And both Ludlow[27] and McGarry[38] state that the word apokatastasis is today usually understood as referring to one specific doctrine of universal salvation, not to all versions of universalism.

See also


  1. ^ Greek: ὃν δεῖ οὐρανὸν μὲν δέξασθαι ἄχρι χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ᾿ αἰῶνος αὐτοῦ προφητῶν.
    Vulgate: quem oportet caelum quidem suscipere usque in tempora restitutionis omnium quae locutus est Deus per os sanctorum suorum a saeculo prophetarum.
  2. ^ In addition, two recent works that do not discuss apocatastasis give the corresponding Greek word as the source from which "universalism" is derived.[46][47]


  1. ^ .
  2. ^
  3. ^ apokatastasisPerseus database entries for listing as follows:

    1 Friedrich Preisigke, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten;
    7 P.Oxy., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri;
    7 Polybius, Histories;
    2 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews;
    2 Diodorus Siculus, Library;
    3 Stud.Pal., Studien zur Palaeographie und Papyruskunde;
    1 Acts 3:21 New Testament;
    1 PSI, Papiri greci e latini;
    1 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers;
    2 P.Cair.Masp., Papyrus grecs d'époque byzantine, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire;
    3 P.Ryl, Rylands Papyri;
    1 P.Col., Columbia Papyri;
    2 P.Flor., Papiri greco-egizii, Papiri Fiorentini;
    3 Aretaeus, The Extant Works of Aretaeus, The Cappadocian.;
    1 UPZ, Urkunden der Ptolemäerzeit (ältere Funde);
    1 P.Ross.Georg., Papyri russischer und georgischer Sammlungen;
    1 P.Cair.Isid., The Archive of Aurelius Isidorus in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the University of Michigan;
    1 P.Abinn., The Abinnaeus Archive: Papers of a Roman Officer in the Reign of Constantius II;
    1 Pap.Choix, Choix de papyrus grecs: Essai de traitement automatique;
    1 P.Athen.Xyla, P.Sta.Xyla: The Byzantine Papyri of the Greek Papyrological Society,;
    1 O.Joach., Die Prinz-Joachim-Ostraka

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  20. ^ , 2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, "Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II, 553Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, trans H. R. Percival, in The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b .
  23. ^ .
  24. ^ .
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c d Benedetto & Duke 2008, p. 37: "Origen (186–284) theorized the apokatastasis as a recovery of the prehistoric stasis, or rest, enjoyed by spiritual creatures before their fall and embodiment. …Gregory of Nyssa (335–95) shared Origen's hope of all creatures being saved but argued that the final restoration would be a return not to a prehistorical unity but to that ultimate perfection that God originally projected for humanity."
  27. ^ a b c .
  28. ^
  29. ^ modernized as: "welcher muss den Himmel einnehmen bis auf die Zeit, da herwiedergebracht werde alles, was Gott geredet hat durch den Mund aller seiner heiligen Propheten von der Welt an".
  30. ^
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  32. ^ .
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  35. ^ reprinted in
  36. ^ .
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  38. ^ a b
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  42. ^ .
  43. ^ ; cf. article "Universalism".
  44. ^ a b .
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