User:Ret.Prof/Celsus

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CELSUS

Our Lady of Vladimir, depicts the Theotokos which Celsus calls into question.


Celsus (Greek: Κέλσος) was a 2nd century Greek philosopher and opponent of Early Christianity. He is known for his literary work, The True Word (Λόγος Ἀληθής), preserved by Origen which is the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity. According to Celsus, Jesus was not the Messiah but rather a poor Jewish peasant who practiced sorcery and presented himself as a god. Although anti-Christian in nature, some scholars now believe this discourse confirms "indirectly" what historians know about Jesus.

The author and his work[edit]

Celsus, who was born early in the Second Century, was a major opponent of Christianity. During the hundred or so years following the crucifixion, opposition to Jesus had grown. Celsus reduced this anti-Christian tradition to writing in his work titled The True Word, which is the earliest recorded comprehensive attack on the Christian Faith. Modern scholars believe the The True Word was widely read and "had a lasting impact". It has given scholars valuable insight into the Jewish oral tradition because Celsus "made extensive use of contemporary Jewish polemic against Christians". [1] [2]

Celsus was a "remarkably well-informed" opponent of Early Christianity, which flourished in Rome and Alexandria. He was interested in Ancient Egyptian religion, and he seemed to know of Jewish logos-theology, both of which suggest The True Word was composed in Alexandria. [3] [4]

Celsus became a major challenge to Christian orthodoxy. It was during the reign of Philip the Arab that Origen received this work for rebuttal. "So careful is Origen to cite the very words of his opponent" that scholars have been able to reconstruct the text of Celsus from Origen's refutation of The True Word. Thus about ninty percent of the treatise can be accurately reconstructed. [5] [6] [7]

Celsus' criticism on Jesus and his followers[edit]

Celsus mounts a vitriolic attack on Jesus of Nazareth, who is regarded as the founder of the Christian faith. Jesus' conception, birth, childhood, ministry, death, and resurrection, all come under disparaging attack. Celsus records that Jesus' forebears came from a Jewish hamlet. His mother was a "poor country girl" who earned her living by weaving cloth. This Rabbi Jesus performed his miracles by sorcery (black magic from Egypt) and kept the Jewish Law, including sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. He attracted only a few disciples and taught them his worst habits, including begging for money. Celsus further states these apostles, amounting to ten boatmen and a couple of tax collectors were not respectable. The accounts of his Resurrection came from "an hysterical female", and belief in the Resurrection was the result of Jesus' sorcery, the crazed thinking of his followers and "mass hallucinations", for the sole purpose of recruiting others into a life of begging. [8] [9] [10]

Celsus stated in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the bastard child of the Roman soldier, Pantera. This is the earliest datable statement of the Jewish charge that Jesus was conceived as the result of adultery, (see Jesus in the Talmud) and that his true father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. (Note, Pantera was a common name among Roman soldiers of that period.) Finally according to Celsus, Jesus has no standing in the Hebrew Bible prophecies and talk of his resurrection was foolishness. [11] [12] [13]

Authenticity[edit]

Most scholars believe the passages preserved by Origin to be authentic. There are no signs of interpolation, nor would Origin be likely to falsify such anti-Christian material. However even though Origen has fairly given us the substance of Celsus' arguments in his exact words, caution is in order. Nevertheless, there is a consensus among scholars that Origen reports Celsus' remarks about Christianity with a "fair degree of accuracy" and about nine-tenths of the treatise can be reconstructed with "practical certainty". [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

Celsus and the historical Jesus[edit]

Scholars agree that Celsus is only of limited value regarding the historical Jesus. It is unlikely that Jesus was as nefarious as Celsus alleges. However, if one factors out the negative bias of this "hostile witness", then this independent source provides us with indirect evidence regarding the historical Jesus. The importance of this "modicum of information" lies in the fact that Celsus was a "detached pagan observer, interested in, but with no strong feelings about, religion." Contained within the hostile testimony of the True Word is the following information: [19] [20] Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). [21] [22] [23]

  • There was a Jew named Jesus, who followed the teachings of his faith; [24]
  • Jesus was a carpenter; [25]
  • The circumstances of his birth are "highly suspect"; [26]
  • Jesus had approximately 10 disciples, who were boat men (fishermen?) and tax collectors; [27] [28]
  • Jesus and his followers were poor; [29]
  • Jesus performed miraculous signs, which were perceived by opponents as sorcery; [30] [31]
  • After his death there were reports of his resurrection from an hysterical female. [32]

Interesting is the fact that although Celsus did not believe Jesus was the promised Messiah, Celsus did not question the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. In the end, the statements of Celsus give solid understanding of the opponents of Jesus making his witness "especially valuable". [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. pp 64-69
  2. ^ Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching, Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. p 276
  3. ^ Henry Chadwick (ed)., Origen:Contra Celsum, Cambridge University Press, 1980. p ix to p xxvii See also Origen, Contra Celsum, book 1, preface: "I know not, my pious Ambrosius, why you wished me to write a reply to the false charges brought by Celsus against the Christians, and to his accusations directed against the faith of the Churches in his treatise; ... I venture, then, to say that this "apology" which you require me to compose will somewhat weaken that defense (of Christianity) which rests on facts, and that power of Jesus which is manifest to those who are not altogether devoid of perception. Notwithstanding, that we may not have the appearance of being reluctant to undertake the task which you have enjoined, we have endeavored, to the best of our ability, to suggest, by way of answer to each of the statements advanced by Celsus, what seemed to us adapted to refute them, although his arguments have no power to shake the faith of any (true) believer."
  4. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Krauss, Samuel. "Celsus". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  5. ^ New Catholic encyclopedia, Volume 3, Edition 2, Thomson/Gale Pub, 2003. pp 329-330
  6. ^ Henry Chadwick (ed)., 'Origen:Contra Celsum, Cambridge University Press, 1980. p. xiv.
  7. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. pp 65-66
  8. ^ Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching, Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. p 153
  9. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. pp 65-66
  10. ^ Raymond Edward Brown, Mary in the New Testament, Paulist Press, 1978. pp 261-262
  11. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. pp 66-67
  12. ^ James D. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, Simon and Schuster, 2006. p 64
  13. ^ Raymond Edward Brown, Mary in the New Testament, Paulist Press, 1978. pp 261-262
  14. ^ Bernhard Lang, International Review of Biblical Studies, Volume 54, Publisher BRILL, 2009. p 401
  15. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 65
  16. ^ Sir DavidBrewster, Sir David Brewster & Richard R. Yeo, The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, Volume 8, Routledge, 1999. p 541
  17. ^ New Catholic encyclopedia, Volume 3, Edition 2, Thomson/Gale Pub, 2003. pp 329-330
  18. ^ Henry Chadwick (ed)., Origen:Contra Celsum, Cambridge University Press, 1980. p ix
  19. ^ Frank Leslie Cross & Elizabeth A. Livingstone, "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 2005. p 314
  20. ^ Craig A. Evans (ed)., The Historical Jesus, Volume 4, Taylor & Francis, 2004. p 384
  21. ^ Stanley E. Porter & Andrew Pitts, Christian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture: Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament, BRILL, 2012. p 138
  22. ^ Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, Yale University Press, 2003. p 109
  23. ^ Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study, InterVarsity Press, 1999. p 254
  24. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 66
  25. ^ Maurice Casey, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?, Verlag A&C Black, 2014. p 213
  26. ^ Bart D. Ehrman & Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament, Oxford University Press, 2014. p 21
  27. ^ Henry Chadwick (ed)., Origen:Contra Celsum, Cambridge University Press, 1980. p 56]
  28. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 66
  29. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 66
  30. ^ Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching, Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. p 276
  31. ^ Craig A. Evans, The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus, Routledge, 2014. p 383
  32. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 66
  33. ^ John Dickson, The Christ Files:How Historians Know What They Know about Jesus, Zondervan, 2010. p 36
  34. ^ Craig A. Evans (ed)., The Historical Jesus, Volume 4, Taylor & Francis, 2004. p 384 - 385
  35. ^ Craig A. Evans (ed), Encyclopedia of the historical Jesus, Publisher Routledge, 2008. p 604
  36. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament: an introduction to the ancient evidence, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. p 68
  37. ^ Paul Verhoeven, Jesus of Nazareth, Seven Stories Press, 2010. p 21

External links[edit]