[Celsus' 'A True Discourse' is a lost work, but fragments survive in Origen's ' Contra Celsum,' which are here collected. Origen returns to the same remarks of . On the true doctrine: a discourse against the Christians External-identifier: urn: acs6:ontruedoctrine00cels:pdfc0eba6d-. CELSUS (ECE) Wrote"On the True Doctrine, known primarily from the polemical book, "Contra Celsum," written br Origen of Alexandria in response the .
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For if it is a doctrine of [Christian] faith that men can survive being poisoned . The True Word or True Doctrine of Celsus was divided into two sections. In the first. Celsus presents Jews and Christians as descendants of the rebellion against ancient peoples, who held and practiced an ancient account, the True Doctrine. The True Word is a lost treatise in which the ancient Greek philosopher Celsus addressed Celsus gave a point by point critique of Christian doctrine, and why it should not have been . Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.
His theory was not new, as even Jews at that time were saying the same.
Celsus also found Christian philosophy lacking when compared to secular philosophy, and declared that "things are stated much better among the Greeks". The only connection Celsus made between Greek philosophy and Christianity was when he asserted that "Jesus perverted the words of the philosopher" i. Celsus could deduce no explanation for the actions of the Christian God, such as the floods, natural disasters, and the introduction of evil into the world, except that God wanted to draw attention to his greatness because he felt humanity was giving him "less than his due".
In his opinion, the main tenet of Christianity was "Do not ask questions, just believe" and "Thy faith will save thee". He claimed that Christians actively sought out and converted the ignorant, uneducated, and lower class, as they were the only people who would believe in such a ridiculous theology and blindly follow its doctrines. Celsus revealed himself to be a member of the upper class when he makes his statements regarding Jesus; who obviously could not be the son of god as he was born a peasant.
The True Word stated that Mary would have been unworthy to be noticed by God "because she was neither rich nor of royal rank". Celsus declared that Christians convert by "lead[ing] on wicked men by empty hopes, and to persuade them to despise better things, saying that if they refrain from them it will be better Adherence to the state supported Roman religion was compulsory and the Roman authorities felt it was necessary for the effective management of the political system.
Do they not report that his soul frequently quitted his body, and flitted about in an incorporeal form? I relate further what is told of Cleomedes of Astypalaea, who entered into an ark, and although shut up within it, was not found therein, but through some arrangement of the divinity, flew out, when certain persons had cut open the ark in order to apprehend him.
And one might name many others of the same kind. In worshipping him who was taken prisoner and put to death, they are acting like the Getae who worship Zamolxis, and the Cilicians who worship Mopsus, and the Acarnanians who pay divine honors to Amphilochus, and like the Thebans who do the same to Amphiaraus, and the Lebadians to Trophonius.
The Egyptians, having been taught to worship Antinous, the favorite of Adrian, will not endure his being compared with Apollo or Zeus, though the honor paid to him falls little short of that which the Christians render to Jesus. Faith, having taken possession of their minds, makes them yield the assent which they give to the doctrine of Jesus; for of a truth it is faith which does produce such an assent.
They regard this Jesus, who was but a mortal body, displaying all the infirmities and impurities belonging to the flesh, as a god, and suppose that they act piously in so doing. I would compare the mortal flesh of Jesus to gold, and silver, and stone; the former is more liable to corruption than the latter.
Well, after he has laid aside these qualities, he will be a god: and if so, why not rather Aesculapius, and Dionysus, and Hercules? They ridicule those who worship Jupiter, because his tomb is pointed out in the island of Crete; and yet they worship him who rose from the tomb, although ignorant of the grounds on which the Cretans observe such a custom. Some very few individuals who are considered Christians, of the more intelligent class, make objections against the doctrine of Jesus.
Thus the following are the rules laid down by them:—Let no one come to us who has been instructed, or who is wise or prudent, for such qualifications are deemed evil by us; but if there be any ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence. By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their god, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid.
It is only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children, of whom the teachers of the divine word wish to make converts.
For why is it an evil to have been educated, and to have studied the best opinions, and to have both the reality and appearance of wisdom? What hindrance does this offer to the knowledge of God?
Why should education not rather be an assistance, and a means by which one might be better able to arrive at the truth? Moreover, it is an excellent thing for a man to be wise, but not to seem so. Nay, we see, indeed, that even those individuals, who in the market-places perform the most disgraceful tricks, and who collect crowds around them, would never approach an assembly of wise men, nor dare to exhibit their arts and show off their tricks before them; but wherever they see young men, and a mob of slaves, and a gathering of foolish and unintelligent persons, thither they thrust themselves in, and make a display, showing themselves off.
We see, indeed, in private houses workers in wool and leather, and fullers, and persons of the most uninstructed and rustic character, not venturing to utter a word in the presence of their elder and wiser masters; but when they get hold of the children privately, and certain women as ignorant as themselves, they pour forth wonderful statements, to the effect that they ought not to give heed to their father and to their teachers, but should obey them; that the former are foolish and stupid, and neither know nor can perform anything that is really good, being preoccupied with empty trifles; that they alone know how men ought to live, and that, if the children obey them, they will both be happy themselves, and will make their home happy also.
These most rustic of mankind carefully incite young boys to wickedness, and women to forsake their fathers and teachers, and follow them, calling those teachers triflers and fools, who teach better things. That I bring no heavier charge than what the truth compels me, any one may see from the following remarks. But let us hear what kind of persons these Christians invite. Every one, they say, who is a sinner, who is devoid of understanding, who is a child, and, to speak generally, whoever is unfortunate, him will the kingdom of God receive.
They say that it was to sinners that God has been sent. Do you not call him a sinner, then, who is unjust, and a thief, and a house-breaker, and a poisoner, and a committer of sacrilege, and a robber of the dead? What other persons would a man invite if he were issuing a proclamation for an assembly of robbers?
Why was he not sent to those who were without sin? What evil is it not to have committed sin? They assert that God will receive the unrighteous man if he humble himself on account of his wickedness, but that he will not receive the righteous man [Matthew ], although he look up to him, adorned with virtue from the beginning. Those persons who preside properly over a trial make those individuals who bewail before them their evil deeds to cease from their piteous wailings, lest their decisions should be determined rather by compassion than by a regard to truth; whereas God does not decide in accordance with truth, but in accordance with flattery!
This much is indeed apparently true, that somehow the human race is naturally inclined to sin. All men, then, without distinction, ought to be invited, since all indeed are sinners. Why this preference for sinners over others?
They utter these exhortations for the conversion of sinners, because they are able to gain over no one who is really good and righteous, and therefore open their gates to the most unholy and abandoned of men. Sometimes, also, when very abandoned men are willing to accept the doctrine of future punishment, on account of the hope which is based upon repentance, they are prevented from so doing by their habit of sinning, being constantly dipped, and, as it were, dyed in wickedness, and possessing no longer the power to turn from it easily to a proper life, and one regulated according to right reason.
And yet, indeed, it is manifest to every one that no one by chastisement or punishment, much less by merciful treatment, could effect a complete change in those who are sinners both by nature and custom, for to change nature is an exceedingly difficult thing. But they who are without sin are partakers of a better life. They say that God will be able to do all things.
True, but he will not desire to do anything wicked. Those who are inclined to sin by nature and habit, no one could completely reform and change for the better; entirely to change a nature is exceedingly difficult. As if God, like those who are overcome with pity, being himself overcome, alleviates the sufferings of the wicked through pity for their wailings, and casts off the good, who do nothing of that kind, which is the height of injustice!
The teacher of Christianity acts like a person who promises to restore patients to bodily health, but who prevents them from consulting skilled physicians, by whom his ignorance would be exposed. They seek after the unintelligent, with their vulgar discourses. Their teacher acts like a drunken man, who, entering a company of drunkards, should accuse those who are sober of being drunk.
Such an one, their teacher, amongst a company of those who are afflicted with ophthalmia, accuses those who are sharp-sighted of being blind.
These charges I have to bring against them, and others of a similar nature, not to enumerate them one by one, and I affirm that they are in error, and that they act insolently towards God, in order to lead on wicked men by empty hopes, and to persuade them to despise better things, saying that if they refrain from them it will be better for them.
Thus they are won over through vain hopes. God Came Down for What? But that certain Christians and all Jews should maintain, the former that there has already descended, the latter that there will descend, upon the earth a certain God, or son of a God, who will make the inhabitants of the earth righteous, is a most shameless assertion, and one the refutation of which does not need many words.
He is said by the Christians to have already come, but by the Jews that his advent as Messiah is still future. What is the meaning of such a descent upon the part of God? Was it in order to learn what goes on amongst men? Does he not know all things? And if he does know, why does he not make men better? Is it then not possible for him, by means of his divine power, to make men better, unless he send some one for that special purpose? Then God does know all things indeed, but does not make men better, nor is able to do so by His divine power!
If God Himself will come down to men, then he has left his own abode, although if you were to change a single one, even the least, of things on earth, all things would be overturned and disappear. Now I suppose God, being unknown amongst men, and deeming himself on that account to have less than his due, would desire to make himself known, and to make trial both of those who believe upon him and of those who do not, like those of mankind who have recently come into the possession of riches, and who make a display of their wealth; and thus they testify to an excessive but very mortal ambition on the part of God.
God does not desire to make himself known for his own sake, but because he wishes to bestow upon us the knowledge of himself for the sake of our salvation, in order that those who accept it may become virtuous and be saved, while those who do not accept may be shown to be wicked and be punished.
After so long a period of time, then, did God now bethink himself of making men live righteous lives, but neglect to do so before? It is perfectly manifest that they babble about God in a way that is neither holy nor reverential, like those who in the Bacchic mysteries introduce phantoms and objects of terror. The belief has spread among them, from a misunderstanding of the accounts of these occurrences, that after lengthened cycles of time, and the returns and conjunctions of planets, conflagrations and floods are wont to happen.
Because after the last flood, which took place in the time of Deucalion, the lapse of time, agreeably to the vicissitude of all things, requires a conflagration, this made them give utterance to the erroneous opinion that God will descend, and come down bearing fire like a torturer.
The True Theology And again let us resume the subject from the beginning, with a larger array of proofs. And I make no new statement, but say what has been long settled. God is good, and beautiful, and blessed, and that in the best and most beautiful degree. But if he come down among men, he must undergo a change, and a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, from happiness to misery, and from best to worst.
Who, then, would make choice of such a change? It is the nature of a mortal, indeed, to undergo change and remolding, but of an immortal to remain the same and unaltered. God, then, could not admit of such a change.
God either really changes himself, as these assert, into a mortal body, and the impossibility of that has been already declared; or else he does not undergo a change, but only causes the beholders to imagine so, and thus deceives them, and is guilty of falsehood. Now deceit and falsehood are nothing but evils, and would only be employed as a medicine, either in the case of sick and lunatic friends, with a view to their cure, or in that of enemies when one is taking measures to escape danger.
But no sick man or lunatic is a friend of God, nor does God fear any one to such a degree as to shun danger by leading him into error. God does not fear any one, so as to escape danger by leading into error those who conspire against him, nor is anyone who is either in a state of sickness or mental alienation a friend of God. Concerning this coming, the Jews teach that human life, being filled with all wickedness, needed one sent from God, that the wicked might be punished, and all things purified in a manner analogous to the first deluge which happened.
The Christians make statements additional to this. Moses, who wrote the account of the tower, and the confusion of tongues, has perverted the story of the sons of Aloeus, and referred it to the tower. The destruction by fire, moreover, of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis ] on account of their sins, related by Moses in Genesis, is like the story of Phaethon.
The Christians, making certain additional statements to those of the Jews, assert that the son of God has been already sent on account of the sins of the Jews; and that the Jews having chastised Jesus, and given him gall to drink, have brought upon themselves the divine wrath. Ants and Worms The race of Jews and Christians, are all of them like to a flight of bats or to a swarm of ants issuing out of their nest, or to frogs holding council in a marsh, or to worms crawling together in the corner of a dunghill, and quarrelling with one another as to which of them were the greater sinners, and asserting that God shows and announces to themselves all things beforehand; and that, abandoning the whole world, and the regions of heaven, and this great earth, he becomes a citizen among themselves alone, and to themselves alone makes his intimations, and does not cease sending and inquiring, in what way they may be associated with him for ever.
They are like worms which assert that there is a God, and that immediately after him, we who are made by him are altogether like unto God; and that all things have been made subject to us,—earth, and water, and air, and stars,—and that all things exist for our sake, and are ordained to be subject to us.
The worms—that is, they themselves—say that now, since certain amongst us commit sin, God will come to us or will send his son to consume the wicked with fire, that the rest of us may have eternal life with him. Such wranglings would be more endurable amongst worms and frogs than betwixt Jews and Christians who quarrel with one another!
The Christians say that God, having abandoned the heavenly regions, and despising this great earth, takes up his abode amongst themselves alone, and to themselves alone makes His announcements, and ceases not his messages and inquiries as to how they may become his associates for ever.
The Jews were fugitives from Egypt, who, though beloved by God, never performed anything worthy of note, and never were held in any reputation or account! Concerning those names, from which the Jews deduce their genealogies, never, during the long antecedent period, had there been any dispute about these names, but at the present time the Jews dispute about them with certain others.
History proves the claims to great antiquity put forth by many nations, as the Athenians, and Egyptians, and Arcadians, and Phrygians, who assert that certain individuals have existed among them who sprang from the earth, and who each adduce proofs of these assertions. The Jews, then, leading a grovelling life in some corner of Palestine, and being a wholly uneducated people, who had not heard that these matters had been committed to verse long ago by Hesiod and innumerable other inspired men, wove together some most incredible and insipid stories, viz.
A woman was taken from his side, and God issued certain commands, and a serpent opposed these, and gained a victory over the commandments of God; the serpent counteracted the injunctions given by God to the man.
The more modest among Jews and Christians are ashamed of these things, and endeavor to give them somehow an allegorical signification. They speak, in the next place, of a deluge, and of a monstrous ark, having within it all things, and of a dove and a crow as messengers, falsifying and recklessly altering the story of Deucalion; not expecting, I suppose, that these things would come to light, but imagining that they were inventing stories merely for young children.
God presented his sons with asses, and sheep, and camels! God gave wells also to the righteous. The story of Lot and his daughters is worse than the crimes of Thyestes. The narrative describes the hatred of one brother for another, brothers who treacherously sally out on account of the insult offered to their sister, who had been violated by the son of a king, brothers selling one another, a brother sold, and a father deceived.
They tell of the dreams of the chief butler and chief baker, and of Pharaoh, and of the explanation of them, in consequence of which Joseph was taken out of prison in order to be entrusted by Pharaoh with the second place in Egypt. He who had been sold behaved kindly to his brethren who had sold him, when they were suffering from hunger, and had been sent with their asses to purchase provisions. The more modest among the Jewish and Christian writers endeavor somehow to give these stories an allegorical signification, taking refuge in allegory because they are ashamed of these things.
But their writings are incapable of admitting an allegorical meaning; on the contrary they are commonplace and exceedingly silly inventions, and those who give them an allegorical interpretation do violence to the meaning of the writers. The allegorical explanations which have been devised are much more shameful and absurd than the fables themselves, inasmuch as they endeavor to unite with marvellous and altogether insensate folly things which cannot at all be made to harmonize.
It is not my purpose, however, to confute the statements contained in such works; for their fallacy is manifest to all, especially if any one will have the patience to read the books themselves. Rather do I wish to show that Nature teaches this, that God made nothing that is mortal, but that his works, whatever they are, are immortal, while mortal things are the works of others, and the soul is a work of God, while the nature of the body is different.
And in this respect there is no difference between the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, and that of a man; for the matter is the same, and their corruptible part is alike. None of these: the body of a man or the snakes which come out of the body; the body of an ox, or the bees which come from the ox; the body of a horse or of an ass, and the wasps which come from a horse, and the beetles which proceed from an ass, is the work of God.
One common nature pervades all the previously mentioned bodies, and one which goes and returns the same amid recurring changes. No product of matter is immortal. On this point these remarks are sufficient; and if any one is capable of hearing and examining further, he will come to know the truth.
There neither were formerly, nor are there now, nor will there be again, more or fewer evils in the world than have always been.
For the nature of all things is one and the same, and the generation of evils is always the same. It is not easy, indeed, for one who is not a philosopher to ascertain the origin of evils, though it is sufficient for the multitude to say that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and dwell among mortal things.
The course of mortal things is the same from beginning to end, and the same things must always, according to the appointed cycles, recur in the past, present, and future. This is sufficient to say to the multitude regarding the origin of evils. Neither have visible things been given to man by God, but each individual thing comes into existence and perishes for the sake of the safety of the whole passing agreeably to the change, which I have already mentioned, from one thing to another.
The world was uncreated and incorruptible, and it was only the things on earth which underwent deluges and conflagrations, and all these things did not happen at the same time. There will neither be more nor less good and evil among mortals. God does not need to amend his work afresh; although a thing may seem to you to be evil, it is by no means certain that it is so; for you do not know what is of advantage to yourself, or to another, or to the whole world.
Their writings repeat words of anger addressed by God to the ungodly, and of threatenings directed against sinners. Is it not ridiculous to suppose that, whereas a man, who became angry with the Jews, slew them all from the youth upwards, and burned their city, so powerless were they to resist him;—the mighty God, as they say, being angry, and indignant, and uttering threats, should instead of punishing them send his own son, who endured the sufferings which He did?
But that I may speak not of the Jews alone, for that is not my object, but of the whole of nature, as I promised, I will bring out in a clearer light what has been already stated.
Animals Rule They are blameworthy for asserting that God made all things for the sake of man. The history of animals, and the sagacity manifested by them, show that all things came into existence not more for the sake of man than of the irrational animals.
Thunders, and lightnings, and rains are not the works of God; even if one were to grant that these are the works of God, they are brought into existence not more for the support of us who are human beings, than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns. Although you may say that these things, viz. Irrational animals are more beloved by God than men, and have a purer knowledge of divinity.
We indeed by labor and suffering earn a scanty and toilsome subsistence, while all things are produced for them without their sowing and plowing. For the night is created for them in order that they may rest, and the day that they may see and resume their work. If one were to call us the lords of the animal creation because we hunt the other animals and live upon their flesh, we would say,—Why were not we rather created on their account, since they hunt and devour us?
Nay, we require nets and weapons, and the assistance of many persons, along with dogs, when engaged in the chase; while they are immediately and spontaneously provided by nature with weapons which easily bring us under their power.
With respect to your assertion, that God gave you the power to capture wild beasts, and to make your own use of them, we would say that, in all probability, in the beginning, before cities were built, and arts invented, and societies such as now exist were formed, and weapons and nets employed, men were generally caught and devoured by wild beasts, while wild beasts were very seldom captured by men.
In this way God rather subjected men to wild beasts. If men appear to be superior to irrational animals on this account, that they have built cities, and make use of a political constitution, and forms of government, and sovereignties, this is to say nothing to the purpose, for ants and bees do the same. Bees, indeed, have a sovereign, who has followers and attendants; and there occur among them wars and victories, and slaughterings of the vanquished, and cities and suburbs, and a succession of labors, and judgments passed upon the idle and the wicked; for the drones are driven away and punished.
And so also the Jewish historians I avoid using the word "prophets," that I may not appear to prejudge the case have related that the Assyrians were enemies of the Jews. Observe at once, then, the arbitrary procedure of this individual, who believes the histories of these nations on the ground of their being learned, and condemns others as being wholly ignorant.
For listen to the statement of Celsus: "There is," he says, "an authoritative account from the very beginning, respecting which there is a constant agreement among all the most learned nations, and cities, and men. How much more impartial than Celsus is Numenius the Pythagorean, who has given many proofs of being a very eloquent man, and who has carefully tested many opinions, and collected together from many sources what had the appearance of truth; for, in the first hook of his treatise On the Good, speaking of those nations who have adopted the opinion that God is incorporeal, he enumerates the Jews also among those who hold this view; not showing any reluctance to use even the language of their prophets in his treatise, and to give it a metaphorical signification.
It is said, moreover, that Hermippus has recorded in his first book, On Lawgivers, that it was from the Jewish people that Pythagoras derived the philosophy which he introduced among the Greeks.
And there is extant a work by the historian Hecataeus, treat ing of the Jews, in which so high a character is bestowed upon that nation for its learning, that Herennius Philo, in his treatise on the Jews, has doubts in the first place, whether it is really the composition of the historian; and says, in the second place, that if really his, it is probable that he was carried away by the plausible nature of the Jewish history, and so yielded his assent to their system.
I must express my surprise that Celsus should class the Odrysians, and Samothracians, and Eleusinians, and Hyperboreans among the most ancient and learned nations, and should not deem the Jews worthy of a place among such, either for their learning or their antiquity, although there are many treatises in circulation among the Egyptians, and Phoenicians, and Greeks, which testify to their existence as an ancient people, but which I have considered it unnecessary to quote.
For any one who chooses may read what Florins Josephus has recorded in his two books, On the Antiquity, of the Jews, where he brings together a great collection of writers, who bear witness to the antiquity of the Jewish people; and there exists the Discourse to the Greeks of Tatian the younger, in which with very great learning he enumerates those historians who have treated of the antiquity of the Jewish nation and of Moses.
It seems, then, to be not from a love of truth, but from a spirit of hatred, that Celsus makes these statements, his object being to asperse the origin of Christianity, which is connected with Judaism. Nay, he styles the Galactophagi of Homer, and the Druids of the Gauls, and the Getae, most learned and ancient tribes, on account of the resemblance between their traditions and those of the Jews, although I know not whether any of their histories survive; but the Hebrews alone, as far as in him lies, he deprives of the honour both of antiquity and learning.
And again, when making a list of ancient and learned men who have conferred benefits upon their contemporaries by their deeds , and upon posterity by their writings, he excluded Moses from the number; while of Linus, to whom Celsus assigns a foremost place in his list, there exists neither laws nor discourses which produced a change for the better among any tribes; whereas a whole nation, dispersed throughout the entire world, obey the laws of Moses.
Consider, then, whether it is not from open malevolence that he has expelled Moses from his catalogue of learned men, while asserting that Linus, and Musaeus, and Orpheus, and Pherecydes, and the Persian Zoroaster, and Pythagoras, discussed these topics, and that their opinions were deposited in books, and have thus been preserved down to the present time.
And it is intentionally also that he has omitted to take notice of the myth, embellished chiefly by Orpheus, in which the gods are described as affected by human weaknesses and passions.
In what follows, Celsus, assailing the Mosaic history, finds fault with those who give it a tropical and allegorical signification. And here one might say to this great man, who inscribed upon his own work the title of a True Discourse, "Why, good sir, do you make it a boast to have it recorded that the gods should engage in such adventures as are described by your learned poets and philosophers, and be guilty of abominable intrigues, and of engaging in wars against their own fathers, and of cutting off their secret parts, and should dare to commit and to suffer such enormities; while Moses, who gives no such accounts respecting God, nor even regarding the holy angels, and who relates deeds of far less atrocity regarding men for in his writings no one ever ventured to commit such crimes as Kronos did against Uranus, or Zeus against his father, or that of the father of men and gods, who had intercourse with his own daughter , should be considered as having deceived those who were placed under his laws, and to have led them into error?
But of your learned poets the very writings would seem no longer to be preserved, although they would have been carefully treasured up if the readers had perceived any benefit likely to be derived from them ; whereas the works of Moses have stirred up many, who were even aliens to the manners of the Jews, to the belief that, as these writings testify, the first who enacted these laws and delivered them to Moses, was the God who was the Creator of the world.
For it became the Creator of the universe, after laying down laws for its government, to confer upon His words a power which might subdue all men in every part of the earth. And this I maintain, having as yet entered into no investigation regarding Jesus, but still demonstrating that Moses, who is far inferior to the Lord, is, as the Discourse will show, greatly superior to your wise poets and philosophers. After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated.
For, maintaining that there have been, from all eternity, many conflagrations and many deluges, and that the flood which lately took place in the time of Deucalion is comparatively modern, he clearly demonstrates to those who are able to understand him, that, in his opinion, the world was uncreated.
But let this assailant of the Christian faith tell us by what arguments he was compelled to accept the statement that there have been many conflagrations and many cataclysms, and that the flood which occurred in the time of Deucalion, and the conflagration in that of Phaethon, were more recent than any others.
And if he should put forward the dialogues of Plato as evidence on these subjects, we shall say to him that it is allowable for us also to believe that there resided in the pure and pious soul of Moses, who ascended above all created things, and united himself to the Creator of the universe, and who made known divine things with far greater clearness than Plato, or those other wise men who lived among the Greeks and Romans, a spirit which was divine.
And if he demands of us our reasons for such a belief, let him first give grounds for his own unsupported assertions, and then we shall show that this view of ours is the correct one. And yet, against his will, Celsus is entangled into testifying that the world is comparatively modern, and not yet ten thousand years old, when he says that the Greeks consider those things as ancient, because, owing to the deluges and conflagrations, they have not beheld or received any memorials of older events.
But let Celsus have, as his authorities for the myth regarding the conflagrations and inundations, those persons who, in his opinion, are the most learned of the Egyptians, traces of whose wisdom are to be found in the worship of irrational animals, and in arguments which prove that such a worship of God is in conformity with reason, and of a secret and mysterious character.
The Egyptians, then, when they boastfully give their own account of the divinity of animals, are to be considered wise; but if any Jew, who has signified his adherence to the law and the lawgiver, refer everything to the Creator of the universe, and the only God, he is, in the opinion of Celsus and those like him, deemed inferior to him who degrades the Divinity not only to the level of rational and mortal animals, but even to that of irrational also!
And if the Egyptians related fables of this kind, they are believed to convey a philosophical meaning by their enigmas and mysteries; but if Moses compose and leave behind him histories and laws for an entire nation, they are to be considered as empty fables, the language of which admits of no allegorical meaning!
The following is the view of Celsus and the Epicureans: "Moses having," he says, "learned the doctrine which is to be found existing among wise nations and eloquent men, obtained the reputation of divinity. Moses did indeed hear a somewhat ancient doctrine, and transmitted the same to the Hebrews; that if the doctrine which he heard was false, and neither pious nor venerable, and if notwithstanding, he received it and handed it down to those under his authority, he is liable to censure; but if, as you assert, he gave his adherence to opinions that were wise and true, and educated his people by means of them, what, pray, has he done deserving of condemnation?
Would, indeed, that not only Epicurus, but Aristotle, whose sentiments regarding providence are not so impious as those of the former , and the Stoics, who assert that God is a body, had heard such a doctrine! Then the world would not have been filled with opinions which either disallow or enfeeble the action of providence, or introduce a corrupt corporeal principle, according to which the god of the Stoics is a body, with respect to whom they are not afraid to say that he is capable of change, and may be altered and transformed in all his parts, and, generally, that he is capable of corruption, if there be any one to corrupt him, but that he has the good fortune to escape corruption, because there is none to corrupt.
Whereas the doctrine of the Jews and Christians, which preserves the immutability and unalterableness of the divine nature, is stigmatized as impious, because it does not partake of the profanity of those whose notions of God are marked by impiety, but because it says in the supplication addressed to the Divinity, "Thou art the same," it being, moreover, an article of faith that God has said, "I change not.
After this, Celsus, without condemning circumcision as practised by the Jews, asserts that this usage was derived from the Egyptians; thus believing the Egyptians rather than Moses, who says that Abraham was the first among men who practised the rite. And it is not Moses alone who mentions the name of Abraham, assigning to him great intimacy with God; but many also of those who give themselves to the practice of the conjuration of evil spirits, employ in their spells the expression "God of Abraham," pointing out by the very name the friendship that existed between that just man and God.
And yet, while making use of the phrase "God of Abraham," they do not know who Abraham is! And the same remark applies to Isaac, and Jacob, and Israel; which names, although confessedly Hebrew, are frequently introduced by those Egyptians who profess to produce some wonderful result by means of their knowledge.
The rite of circumcision, however, which began with Abraham, and was discontinued by Jesus, who desired that His disciples should not practise it, is not before us for explanation; for the present occasion does not lead us to speak of such things, but to make an effort to refute the charges brought against the doctrine of the Jews by Celsus, who thinks that he will be able the more easily to establish the falsity of Christianity, if, by assailing its origin in Judaism, he can show that the latter also is untrue.
After this, Celsus next asserts that "Those herdsmen and shepherds who followed Moses as their leader, had their minds deluded by vulgar deceits, and so supposed that there was one God.
Let him establish, therefore, the existence of Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses by Zeus; or of Themis, the parent of the Hours; or let him prove that the ever naked Graces can have a real, substantial existence. But he will not be able to show, from any actions of theirs, that these fictitious representations of the Greeks, which have the appearance of being invested with bodies, are really gods.
And why should the fables of the Greeks regarding the gods be true, any more than those of the Egyptians for example, who in their language know nothing of a Mnemosyne, mother of the nine Muses; nor of a Themis, parent of the Hours; nor of a Euphrosyne, one of the Graces; nor of any other of these names?
How much more manifest and how much better than all these inventions! For all are parts of the world, while God is no part of the whole. But God cannot be imperfect, as a part is imperfect. And perhaps profounder consideration will show, that as God is not a part, so neither is He properly the whole, since the whole is composed of parts; and reason will not allow us to believe that the God who is over all is composed of parts, each one of which cannot do what all the other parts, can.
After this he continues: "These herdsmen and shepherds concluded that there was but one God, named either the Highest, or Adonai, or the Heavenly, or Sabaoth, or called by some other of those names which they delight to give this world; and they knew nothing beyond that. If, then, we shall be able to establish, in reference to the preceding statement, the nature of powerful names, some of which are used by the learned amongst the Egyptians, or by the Magi among the Persians, and by the Indian philosophers called Brahmans, or by the Samanaeans, and others in different countries; and shall be able to make out that the so-called magic is not, as the followers of Epicurus and Aristotle suppose, an altogether uncertain thing, but is, as those skilled in it prove, a consistent system, having words which are known to exceedingly few; then we say that the name Sabaoth, and Adonai, and the other names treated with so much reverence among the Hebrews, are not applicable to any ordinary created things, but belong to a secret theology which refers to the Framer of all things.
These names, accordingly, when pronounced with that attendant train of circumstances which is appropriate to their nature, are possessed of great power; and other names, again, current in the Egyptian tongue, are efficacious against certain demons who can only do certain things; and other names in the Persian language have corresponding power over other spirits; and so on in every individual nation, for different purposes.
And thus it will be found that, of the various demons upon the earth, to whom different localities have been assigned, each one bears a name appropriate to the several dialects of place and country.
He, therefore, who has a nobler idea, however small, of these matters, will be careful not to apply differing names to different things; lest he should resemble those who mistakenly apply the name of God to lifeless matter, or who drag down the title of "the Good" from the First Cause, or from virtue and excellence, and apply it to blind Plutus, and to a healthy and well-proportioned mixture of flesh and blood and bones, or to what is considered to be noble birth.
And perhaps there is a danger as great as that which degrades the name of "God," or of "the Good," to improper objects, in changing the name of God according to a secret system, and applying those which belong to inferior beings to greater, and vice versa.
And I do not dwell on this, that when the name of Zeus is uttered, there is heard at the same time that of the son of Kronos and Rhea, and the husband of Hera, and brother of Poseidon, and father of Athene, and Artemis, who was guilty of incest with his own daughter Persephone; or that Apollo immediately suggests the son of Leto and Zeus, and the brother of Artemis, and half-brother of Hermes; and so with all the other names invented by these wise men of Celsus, who are the parents of these opinions, and the ancient theologians of the Greeks.
For what are the grounds for deciding that he should on the one hand be properly called Zeus, and yet on the other should not have Kronos for his father and Rhea for his mother?
And the same argument applies to all the others that are called gods. But this charge does not at all apply to those who, for some mysterious reason, refer the word Sabaoth, or Adonai, or any of the other names to the true God.
And when one is able to philosophize about the mystery of names, he will find much to say respecting the titles of the angels of God, of whom one is called Michael, and another Gabriel, and another Raphael, appropriately to the duties which they discharge in the world, according to the will of the God of all things.
And a similar philosophy of names applies also to our Jesus, whose name has already been seen, in an unmistakeable manner, to have expelled myriads of evil spirits from the souls and bodies of men , so great was the power which it exerted upon those from whom the spirits were driven out. And while still upon the subject of names, we have to mention that those who are skilled in the use of incantations, relate that the utterance of the same incantation in its proper language can accomplish what the spell professes to do; but when translated into any other tongue, it is observed to become inefficacious and feeble.
And thus it is not the things signified, but the qualities and peculiarities of words, which possess a certain power for this or that purpose.
And so on such grounds as these we defend the conduct of the Christians, when they struggle even to death to avoid calling God by the name of Zeus, or to give Him a name from any other language. For they either use the common name--God--indefinitely, or with some such addition as that of the "Maker of all things," "the Creator of heaven and earth"--He who sent down to the human race those good men, to whose names that of God being added, certain mighty works are wrought among men.
And much more besides might be said on the subject of names, against those who think that we ought to be indifferent as to our use of them.
And if the remark of Plato in the Philebus should surprise us, when he says, "My fear, O Protagoras, about the names of the gods is no small one," seeing Philebus in his discussion with Socrates had called pleasure a "god," how shall we not rather approve the piety of the Christians, who apply none of the names used in the mythologies to the Creator of the world?
And now enough on this subject for the present. But let us see the manner in which this Celsus, who professes to know everything, brings a false accusation against the Jews, when he alleges that "they worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor. But without any wish whatever that this should appear, he views as Jewish errors what are no errors at all. And Celsus having promised to make us acquainted, in a subsequent part of his work, with the doctrines of Judaism, proceeds in the first place to speak of our Saviour as having been the leader of our generation, in so far as we are Christians, and says that "a few years ago he began to teach this doctrine, being regarded by Christians as the Son of God.
Could it have come to pass without divine assistance, that Jesus, desiring during these years to spread abroad His words and teaching, should have been so successful, that everywhere throughout the world, not a few persons, Greeks as well as Barbarians, learned as well as ignorant, adopted His doctrine, so that they struggled, even to death in its defence, rather than deny it, which no one is ever related to have done for any other system?
I indeed, from no wish to flatter Christianity, but from a desire thoroughly to examine the facts, would say that even those who are engaged in the healing of numbers of sick persons, do not attain their object--the cure of the body--without divine help; and if one were to succeed in delivering souls from a flood of wickedness, and excesses, and acts of injustice, and from a contempt of God, and were to show, as evidence of such a result, one hundred persons improved in their natures let us suppose the number to be so large , no one would reasonably say that it was without divine assistance that he had implanted in those hundred individuals a doctrine capable of removing so many evils.
And if any one, on a candid consideration of these things, shall admit that no improvement ever takes place among men without divine help, how much more confidently shall he make the same assertion regarding Jesus, when he compares the former lives of many converts to His doctrine with their after conduct, and reflects in what acts of licentiousness and injustice and covetousness they formerly indulged, until, as Celsus, and they who think with him, allege, "they were deceived," and accepted a doctrine which, as these individuals assert, is destructive of the life of men; but who, from the time that they adopted it, have become in some way meeker, and more religious, and more consistent, so that certain among them, from a desire of exceeding chastity, and a wish to worship God with greater purity, abstain even from the permitted indulgences of lawful love.
Any one who examines the subject will see that Jesus attempted and successfully accomplished works beyond the reach of human power. For although, from the very beginning, all things opposed the spread of His doctrine in the world, --both the princes of the times, and their chief captains and generals, and all, to speak generally, who were possessed of the smallest influence, and in addition to these, the rulers of the different cities, and the soldiers, and the people,--yet it proved victorious, as being the Word of God, the nature of which is such that it cannot be hindered; and becoming more powerful than all such adversaries, it made itself master of the whole of Greece, and a considerable portion of Barbarian lands, and convened countless numbers of souls to His religion.
And although, among the multitude of converts to Christianity, the simple and ignorant necessarily outnumbered the more intelligent, as the former class always does the latter, yet Celsus, unwilling to take note of this, thinks that this philanthropic doctrine, which reaches to every soul under the sun, is vulgar, and on account of its vulgarity and its want of reasoning power, obtained a hold only over the ignorant.
And yet he himself admits that it was not the simple alone who were led by the doctrine of Jesus to adopt His religion; for he acknowledges that there were amongst them some persons of moderate intelligence, and gentle disposition, and possessed of understanding, and capable of comprehending allegories.
And since, in imitation of a rhetorician training a pupil, he introduces a Jew, who enters into a personal discussion with Jesus, and speaks in a very childish manner, altogether unworthy of the grey hairs of a philosopher, let me endeavour, to the best of my ability, to examine his statements, and show that he does not maintain, throughout the discussion, the consistency due to the character of a Jew.
For he represents him disputing with Jesus, and confuting Him, as he thinks, on many points; and in the first place, he accuses Him of having "invented his birth from a virgin," and upbraids Him with being "born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery; that after being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God.
For birth is an aid towards an individual's becoming famous, and distinguished, and talked about; viz. And if one were to examine more fully the history of such an individual, why should he not seek to know in what manner, after being reared up in frugality and poverty, and without receiving any complete education, and without having studied systems and opinions by means of which he might have acquired confidence to associate with multitudes, and play the demagogue, and attract to himself many hearers, he nevertheless devoted himself to the teaching of new opinions, introducing among men a doctrine which not only subverted the customs of the Jews, while preserving due respect for their prophets, but which especially overturned the established observances of the Greeks regarding the Divinity?
And how could such a person--one who had been so brought up, and who, as his calumniators admit, had learned nothing great from men--have been able to teach, in a manner not at all to be despised, such doctrines as he did regarding the divine judgment, and the punishments that are to overtake wickedness, and the rewards that are to be conferred upon virtue; so that not only rustic and ignorant individuals were won by his words, but also not a few of those who were distinguished by their wisdom, and who were able to discern the hidden meaning in those more common doctrines, as they were considered, which were in circulation, and which secret meaning enwrapped, so to speak, some more recondite' signification still?
The Seriphian, in Plato, who reproaches Themistocles after he had become celebrated for his military skill, saying that his reputation was due not to his own merits, but to his good fortune in having been born in the most illustrious country in Greece, received from the good-natured Athenian, who saw that his native country did contribute to his renown, the following reply: "Neither would I, had I been a Seriphian, have been so distinguished as I am, nor would you have been a Themistocles, even if you had had the good fortune to be an Athenian!
Now, would not any one who investigated with ordinary care the nature of these facts, be struck with amazement at this man's victory? And yet it is a rate thing for distinguished men to succeed in acquiring a reputation for several things at once. For one man is admired on account of his wisdom, another for his military skill, and some of the Barbarians for their marvellous powers of incantation, and some for one quality, and others for another; but not many have been admired and acquired a reputation for many things at the same time; whereas this man, in addition to his other merits, is an object of admiration both for his wisdom, and for his miracles, and for his powers of government.
For he persuaded some to withdraw themselves from their laws, and to secede to him, not as a tyrant would do, nor as a robber, who arms his followers against men; nor as a rich man, who bestows help upon those who come to him; nor as one of those who confessedly are deserving of censure; but as a teacher of the doctrine regarding the God of all things, and of the worship which belongs to Him, and of all moral precepts which are able to secure the favour of the Supreme God to him who orders his life in conformity therewith.
Now, to Themistocles, or to any other man of distinction, nothing happened to prove a hindrance to their reputation; whereas to this man, besides what we have already enumerated, and which are enough to cover with dishonour the soul of a man even of the most noble nature, there was that apparently infamous death of crucifixion, which was enough to efface his previously acquired glory, and to lead those who, as they who disavow his doctrine assert, were formerly deluded by him to abandon their delusion, and to pass condemnation upon their deceiver.
And besides this, one may well wonder how it happened that the disciples--if, as the calumniators of Jesus say, they did not see Him after His resurrection from the dead, and were not persuaded of His divinity--were not afraid to endure the same sufferings with their Master, and to expose themselves to danger, and to leave their native country to teach, according to the desire of Jesus, the doctrine delivered to them by Him.
For I think that no one who candidly examines the facts would say that these men devoted themselves to a life of danger for the sake of the doctrine of Jesus, without profound belief which He had wrought in their minds of its truth, not only teaching them to conform to His precepts, but others also, and to conform, moreover, when manifest destruction to life impended over him who ventured to introduce these new opinions into all places and before all audiences, and who could retain as his friend no human being who adhered to the former opinions and usages.
For did not the disciples of Jesus see, when they ventured to prove not only to the Jews from their prophetic Scriptures that this is He who was spoken of by the prophets, but also to the other heathen nations, that He who was crucified yesterday or the day before underwent this death voluntarily on behalf of the human race,--that this was analogous to the case of those who have died for their country in order to remove pestilence, or barrenness, or tempests?
For it is probable that there is in the nature of things, for certain mysterious tea-sons which are difficult to be understood by the multitude, such a virtue that one just man, dying a voluntary death for the common good, might be the means of removing wicked spirits, which are the cause of plagues, or barrenness, or tempests, or similar calamities. Let those, therefore, who would disbelieve the statement that Jesus died on the cross on behalf of men, say whether they also refuse to accept the many accounts current both among Greeks and Barbarians, of persons who have laid down their lives for the public advantage, in order to remove those evils which had fallen upon cities and countries?