Forced to support the family because of his father's martyrdom before Origen was 20 years old, he taught grammar for a time and then became head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria.
Devoting himself to the duties of this post for the next 12 years or so, Origen adopted notably ascetic habits of life. He extended his own studies to the point of attending the lectures of the Platonist philosopher Ammonius Saccas. During these years Origen also learned Hebrew and began the compilation of his Hexapla, famous in the history of textual criticism. It was an edition of the Old Testament in six parallel columns, one each for the Hebrew text, the Hebrew text in Greek characters, and four different Greek versions.
A local outburst of violence against Christians about 215 prompted Origen to leave Alexandria and to journey to Palestine. There his fame had preceded him, and he was asked, though a layman, to preach publicly in church. News of this irregular proceeding reached the ears of Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, who forthwith recalled Origen home. Once in Alexandria, Origen began an intense period of literary work facilitated by shorthand writers and transcribers supplied by his wealthy friend and convert Ambrose.
The most famous of Origen's writings from this period was the work De principiis (On First Principles). In it he articulated a comprehensive and coherent statement of the Christian doctrines of creation and redemption. Drawing guardedly upon contemporary currents of philosophical and Gnostic speculation, he projected a cosmic history of rational beings, created before the material universe, who fell from their original love of God and who then entered bodies in the material world created by God as a place of corrective education. God's providential care for his rational creatures was brought to a decisive turning point by the Incarnation of His Word in Jesus Christ, whose role was to lead souls freely joined to him in faith and love back to the original state from which they fell in their premundane existence. Origen believed that even Satan and his angels would one day be led back to God, one of his teachings that in his lifetime and in later centuries brought him into disrepute.
About 230, on a journey to a theological disputation in Greece, Origen stopped off in Palestine, where he was ordained presbyter by his admirers, the bishops of Caesarea and Jerusalem. His ordination outside the jurisdiction of Demetrius brought Origen's tense relations with the bishop of Alexandria to a climax. At Alexandria he was formally condemned, a decree not honored elsewhere in the Eastern Church.
Thereafter, Origen lived at Caesarea, where for 2 decades he was active as teacher, preacher, biblical commentator, and Christian apologist. As a teacher of prospective scholars and Church leaders, Origen developed a carefully planned course of studies that proceeded from logic through physics and ethics to theology and the interpretation of Scripture. His sermons abounded in shrewdly critical observations on the state of the Church, including sharp comments on the laxity and venality of bishops. His expositions of Scripture, the main bulk of his vast literary output, were marked by extensive use of allegorical interpretations. Two chief purposes of this were to block any suggestion that unworthy conceptions of God are to be found in the Bible and to display the Bible as offering differing levels of insight according to the varying capacities of men in their gradual progress toward spiritual perfection. According to St. Jerome, Origen wrote about 800 exegetical and apologetic works.
In 250, during the persecution of the Church by Emperor Decius, Origen was imprisoned and tortured. He died in Tyre.
Origen, reportedly trained in the school of Clement and by his father, has long been considered essentially a Platonist with occasional traces of Stoic philosophy. Patristic scholar Mark J Edwards has argued that many of Origen's positions are more properly Aristotelian than strictly Platonic (for instance, his philosophical anthropology). Nonetheless, he was thus a pronounced idealist, as one regarding all things temporal and material as insignificant and indifferent, the only real and eternal things being comprised in the idea. He, therefore, regards as the purely ideal centre of this spiritual and eternal world, God, the pure reason, whose creative powers call into being the world with matter as the necessary substratum.
Origen's cosmology is complicated and controverted, but he seems to have held to a hypothesis of the preexistence of souls. Before the known world was created by God, he created a great number of spiritual intelligences. At first devoted to the contemplation and love of their creator, almost all of these intelligences eventually grew bored of contemplating God, and their love for him cooled off. Those whose love for God diminished the most became demons. Those whose love diminished moderately became human souls, eventually to be incarnated in fleshly bodies. Those whose love diminished the least became angels. One, however, who remained perfectly devoted to God became, through love, one with the Word (Logos) of God. The Logos eventually took flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary, becoming the God-man Jesus Christ. The diverse conditions in which human beings are born is actually dependent upon what their souls did in this pre-existent state. Thus what seems unfair, some being born poor and others wealthy, some sick and others healthy, and so forth, is, Origen insists, actually a by-product of the free-will of souls. Thus, material creation is at least implicitly of a lesser ontological category than the immaterial, or spiritual, and the heavy material bodies that man assumes after the fall will eventually be cast off. Origen, however, still insisted on a bodily resurrection, but in contrast to Athenagoras, who believed that earthly bodies would be precisely reconstituted in the hereafter, Origen argued that Paul's notion of a flourishing spiritual body is more appropriate.
He was a rigid adherent of scripture, making no statement without adducing some scriptural basis. To him, the scriptures were divinely inspired, as was proven both by the fulfillment of prophecy and by the immediate impression which the scriptures made on those who read them. Since the divine Logos spoke in the scriptures, they were an organic whole and on every occasion, he combatted the Gnostic tenet of the inferiority of the Old Testament.
In his exegesis, Origen sought to discover the deeper meaning implied in the scriptures. One of his chief methods was the translation of proper names, which enabled him, like Philo, to find a deep meaning even in every event of history (see hermeneutics), but at the same time he insisted on an exact grammatical interpretation of the text as the basis of all exegesis.
A strict adherent of the Church, Origen yet distinguished sharply between the ideal and the empirical Church, representing "a double church of men and angels",  or, in Platonic phraseology, the lower church and its celestial ideal. The ideal Church alone was the Church of Christ, scattered over all the earth; the other provided also a shelter for sinners. Holding that the Church, as being in possession of the mysteries, affords the only means of salvation, he was indifferent to her external organization, although he spoke sometimes of the office-bearers as the pillars of the Church, and of their heavy duties and responsibilities.
More important to him was the idea borrowed from Plato of the grand division between the great human multitude, capable of sensual vision only, and those who know how to comprehend the hidden meaning of scripture and the diverse mysteries, church organization being for the former only.
It is doubtful whether Origen possessed an obligatory creed; at any rate, such a confession of faith was not a norm like the inspired word of scripture. The reason, illumined by the divine Logos, which is able to search the secret depths of the divine nature, remains as the only source of knowledge.
"Although Christ was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was, God. "
"You yourself are even another little world and have within you the sun and the moon and also the stars. "
"The physical voice we use in prayer need not be great nor startling; even should we not lift up any great cry or shout, God will yet hear us. "
"The human heart is no small thing, for it can embrace so much. "
"The Word of God is like a lamp to guide us. "
"What man of sense will agree with the statement that the first, second and third days, in which the evening and morning were named, were without sun, moon and stars? What man is found such an idiot as to suppose that God planted trees in Paradise, in Eden, Like a Husbandman?"
"Where there is division, there is sin. "
Quotes from others about the person
"More and more, as the organic world was observed, the vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for their sustenance. . .. Origen had dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was six times greater than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it during a hundred years. "
Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) Vol. 1 p. 54