Celsus

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For other people named Celsus, see Celsus (disambiguation).

According to the Christian father Origen, Celsus (/ˈsɛlsəs/; Greek: Κέλσος) was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and opponent of Early Christianity. He is known for his literary work, The True Word (also Account, Doctrine or Discourse; Greek: Λόγος Ἀληθής), which survives exclusively in Origen's quotations from it in Contra Celsum. This work, c. 177[1] is the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity.

Work[edit]

According to Origen, Celsus was the author of an anti-Christian work titled The True Word (Alēthēs logos). This work was lost, but we have Origen's account of it in his writings.[2] It was during the reign of Philip the Arab that Origen received this work for rebuttal.[3] Origen's refutation of The True Word contained its text, interwoven with Origen's replies. Origen's work has survived and thereby preserved Celsus' work with it.[4]

Celsus seems to have been interested in Ancient Egyptian religion,[5] and he seemed to know of Jewish logos-theology, both of which suggest The True Word was composed in Alexandria.[6] Celsus wrote at a time when Christianity was being persecuted[7] and when there seems to have been more than one emperor.[8][9][10][11][12]

As an anti-Christian Greek philosopher, Celsus mounted an attack on Christianity. Celsus wrote that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. The views of Celsus drew responses from Origen who considered it a fabricated story.[13][14] Raymond E. Brown states that the story of Pantera is a fanciful explanation of the birth of Jesus which includes very little historical evidence—Brown's analysis does not presuppose the doctrine of the "virgin birth", but cites the lack of historical evidence for Celsus' assertion.[15] In addition, Celsus addressed the miracles of Jesus, holding that "Jesus performed His miracles by sorcery (γοητεία)":[16][17][18]

O light and truth! he distinctly declares, with his own voice, as ye yourselves have recorded, that there will come to you even others, employing miracles of a similar kind, who are wicked men, and sorcerers; and Satan. So that Jesus himself does not deny that these works at least are not at all divine, but are the acts of wicked men; and being compelled by the force of truth, he at the same time not only laid open the doings of others, but convicted himself of the same acts. Is it not, then, a miserable inference, to conclude from the same works that the one is God and the other sorcerers? Why ought the others, because of these acts, to be accounted wicked rather than this man, seeing they have him as their witness against himself? For he has himself acknowledged that these are not the works of a divine nature, but the inventions of certain deceivers, and of thoroughly wicked men.[19][20]

Origen wrote his refutation in 248. Sometimes quoting, sometimes paraphrasing, sometimes merely referring, Origen reproduces and replies to Celsus' arguments. Since accuracy was essential to his refutation of The True Word,[21] most scholars agree that Origen is a reliable source for what Celsus said.[22][23]

Celsus shows himself familiar with the story of Jewish origins.[24] Conceding that Christians are not without success in business (infructuosi in negotiis), he wants them to be good citizens, to retain their own belief but conform to the state religion. It is an earnest and striking appeal on behalf of the Empire, and shows the terms offered to the Christian sects, as well as the importance of the various sects at the time. It is not known how many were Christians at the time of Celsus but as a comparison the estimation of Wilken of the Jewish population of the empire to have been about 10% may be quoted.[25] The Christians were certainly fewer. It is unlikely their influence was greater than what the physical evidence reveals throughout AD 100–400.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ H.Chadwick, Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP 1965. p xxviii
  2. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxviii
  3. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen: Contra Celsum. Cambridge University Press (1965), p. xiv. The work can be dated to this period by a statement of Eusebius, HE VI, 36, 2
  4. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, preface 4.
  5. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum 3, 17, 19; 8, 58. He quotes an Egyptian musician named Dionysius in CC 6, 41.
  6. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxviii-xxix
  7. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 8, 69
  8. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 8, 71
  9. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxvi
  10. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 1, 68
  11. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Krauss, Samuel. "Celsus". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  12. ^ Chadwick, H. Origen: Contra Celsum, introduction.
  13. ^ Contra Celsum by Origen, Henry Chadwick, 1980, ISBN 0-521-29576-9, page 32
  14. ^ Patrick, John, The Apology of Origen in Reply to Celsus, 2009, ISBN 1-110-13388-X, pages 22–24,
  15. ^ Mary in the New Testament by Raymond Edward Brown, et al., 1978, ISBN 0-8091-2168-9, page 262
  16. ^ Hendrik van der Loos (1965). The Miracles of Jesus. Brill Publishers. Retrieved 14 June 2012. According to Celsus Jesus performed His miracles by sorcery (γοητεία); ditto in II, 14; II, 16; II, 44; II, 48; II, 49 (Celsus puts Jesus' miraculous signs on a par with those among men). 
  17. ^ Margaret Y. MacDonald (3 October 1996). Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 14 June 2012. Celsus calls Jesus a sorcerer. He argues that the miracles of Jesus are on the same level as: 'the works of sorcerers who profess to do wonderful miracles, and the accomplishments of those who are taught by the Egyptians, who for a few obols make known their sacred lore in the middle of the market-place and drive daemons out of men and blow away diseases and invoke the souls of heroes, displaying expensive banquets and dining tables and cakes and dishes which are non-existent, and who make things move as though they were alive although they are not really so, but only appear as such in the imagination.' 
  18. ^ Philip Francis Esler (2000). The Early Christian World, Volume 2. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 14 June 2012. To disprove the deity of Christ required an explanation of his miracles which were recorded in scripture. Celsus does not deny the fact of Jesus' miracles, but rather concentrates on the means by which they were performed. Perhaps influenced by rabbinical sources, Celsus attributes Jesus' miracles to his great skills as a magician. 
  19. ^ Ernest Cushing Richardson, Bernhard Pick (1905). The Ante-Nicene fathers: translations of the writings of the fathers down to A.D. 325, Volume 4. Scribner's. Retrieved 14 June 2012. But Celsus, wishing to assimilate the miracles of Jesus to the works of human sorcery, says in express terms as follows: "O light and truth! he distinctly declares, with his own voice, as ye yourselves have recorded, that there will come to you even others, employing miracles of a similar kind, who are wicked men, and sorcerers; and Satan. So that Jesus himself does not deny that these works at least are not at all divine, but are the acts of wicked men; and being compelled by the force of truth, he at the same time not only laid open the doings of others, but convicted himself of the same acts. Is it not, then, a miserable inference, to conclude from the same works that the one is God and the other sorcerers? Why ought the others, because of these acts, to be accounted wicked rather than this man, seeing they have him as their witness against himself? For he has himself acknowledged that these are not the works of a divine nature, but the inventions of certain deceivers, and of thoroughly wicked men." 
  20. ^ Origen (30 June 2004). Origen Against Celsus, Volume 2. Kessinger Publishing. Retrieved 14 June 2012. But Celsus, wishing to assimilate the miracles of Jesus to the works of human sorcery, says in express terms as follows: "O light and truth! he distinctly declares, with his own voice, as ye yourselves have recorded that there are as ye yourselves have recorded, that there will come to you even others, employing miracles of a similar kind, who are wicked men, and sorcerers; and he calls him who makes use of such devices, one Satan. So that Jesus himself does not deny that these works at least are not at all divine, but are the acts of wicked men; and being compelled by the force of turth, he at the same time not only laid open the doings of others, but convicted himself of the same acts. Is it not, then, a miserable inference, to conclude from the same works that the one is God and the other sorcerers? Why ought the others, because of these acts, to be accounted wicked rather than this man, seeing they have him as their witness against himself? For he has himself acknowledged that these are not the works of a divine nature; but the inventions of certain deceivers, and of thoroughly wicked men." 
  21. ^ James D. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 2006. p 64
  22. ^ Sir DavidBrewster, Sir David Brewster & Richard R. Yeo, The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, Volume 8, Routledge, 1999. p 362
  23. ^ Bernhard Lang, International Review of Biblical Studies, Volume 54, Publisher BRILL, 2009. p 401
  24. ^ Martin, Dale B. (2004). Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocratics to the Christians. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 141, 143. ISBN 0-674-01534-7. 
  25. ^ Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, (Yale: University Press, 2nd edition, 2003)
  26. ^ Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire: AD 100–400, (Yale: University Press, 1989)

Further reading[edit]

  • Theodor Keim, Gegen die Christen. (1873) [Celsus' wahres Wort], Reprint Matthes & Seitz, München 1991 (ISBN 3-88221-350-7)
  • Pélagaud, Etude sur Celse (1878)
  • K. J. Neumann's edition in Scriptores Graeci qui Christianam impugnaverunt religionem
  • article in Hauck-Herzog's Realencyk. für prot. Theol. where a very full bibliography is given
  • W. Moeller, History of the Christian Church, i.169 ff.
  • Adolf Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, ii. 129 if.
  • J. A. Froude, Short Studies, iv.
  • Bernhard Pick, "The Attack of Celsus on Christianity," The Monist, Vol. XXI, 1911.
  • Des Origenes: Acht Bücher gegen Celsus. Übersetzt von Paul Koetschau. Josef Kösel Verlag. München. 1927.
  • Celsus: Gegen die Christen. Übersetzt von Th. Keim (1873) [Celsus' wahres Wort], Reprint Matthes & Seitz, München 1991 (ISBN 3-88221-350-7)
  • Die »Wahre Lehre« des Kelsos. Übersetzt und erklärt von Horacio E. Lona. Reihe: Kommentar zu frühchristlichen Apologeten (KfA, Suppl.-Vol. 1), hrsg. v. N. Brox, K. Niederwimmer, H. E. Lona, F. R. Prostmeier, J. Ulrich. Verlag Herder, Freiburg u.a. 2005 (ISBN 3-451-28599-1)
  • "Celsus the Platonist", Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Dr. B.A. Zuiddam, "Old Critics and Modern Theology", Dutch Reformed Theological Journal (South Africa), part xxxvi, number 2, June 1995.
  • [1] Stephen Goranson, "Celsus of Pergamum: Locating a Critic of Early Christianity", in D. R. Edwards and C. T. McCollough (eds), The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the "Other" in Antiquity: Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers (Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2007) (Information Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 60/61).

External links[edit]