Origen Con. Cels., 1.27; 7.10

1.27 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 among them some persons of moderate intelligence, and gentle disposition, and possessed of understanding, and capable of comprehending allegories.


2.1 The first book of our answer to the treatise of Celsus, entitled A True Discourse, which concluded with the representation of the Jew addressing Jesus, having now extended to a sufficient length, we intend the present part as a reply to the charges brought by him against those who have been converted from Judaism to Christianity. And we call attention, in the first place, to this special question, viz., why Celsus, when he had once resolved upon the introduction of individuals upon the stage of his book, did not represent the Jew as addressing the converts from heathenism rather than those from Judaism, seeing that his discourse, if directed to us, would have appeared more likely to produce an impression. But probably this claimant to universal knowledge does not know what is appropriate in the matter of such representations; and therefore let us proceed to consider what he has to say to the converts from Judaism. He asserts that they have forsaken the law of their fathers, in consequence of their minds being led captive by Jesus; that they have been most ridiculously deceived, and that they have become deserters to another name and to another mode of life. Here he has not observed that the Jewishconverts have not deserted the law of their fathers, inasmuch as they live according to its prescriptions, receiving their very name from the poverty of the law, according to the literal acceptation of the word; for Ebion signifies poor among the Jews, and those Jews who have received Jesus as Christ are called by the name of Ebionites. Nay, Peter himself seems to have observed for a considerable time the Jewishobservances enjoined by the law of Moses, not having yet learned from Jesus to ascend from the law that is regulated according to the letter, to that which is interpreted according to the spirit,— a fact which we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. For on the day after the angel of God appeared to Cornelius, suggesting to him to send to Joppa, to Simon surnamed Peter, Peter went up into the upper room to pray about the sixth hour. And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth; wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spoke unto him again the second time, What God has cleansed, call not common. Now observe how, by this instance, Peter is represented as still observing the Jewish customs respecting clean and unclean animals. And from the narrative that follows, it is manifest that he, as being yet a Jew, and living according to their traditions, and despising those who were beyond the pale of Judaism, stood in need of a vision to lead him to communicate to Cornelius (who was not an Israelite according to the flesh), and to those who were with him, the word of faith. Moreover, in the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul states that Peter, still from fear of the Jews, ceased upon the arrival of James to eat with the Gentiles, and separated himself from them, fearing them that were of the circumcision; and the rest of the Jews, and Barnabasalso, followed the same course. And certainly it was quite consistent that those should not abstain from the observance of Jewish usages who were sent to minister to the circumcision, when they who seemed to be pillars gave the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas, in order that, while devoting themselves to the circumcision, the latter might preach to the Gentiles. And why do I mention that they who preached to the circumcision withdrew and separated themselves from the heathen, when even Paulhimself became as a Jew to the Jews, that he might gain the Jews? Wherefore also in the Acts of the Apostles it is related that he even brought an offering to the altar, that he might satisfy the Jews that he was no apostate from their law. Now, if Celsus had been acquainted with all these circumstances, he would not have represented the Jew holding such language as this to the converts from Judaism: What induced you, my fellow citizens,to abandon the law of your fathers, and to allow your minds to be led captive by him with whom we have just conversed, and thus be most ridiculously deluded, so as to become deserters from us to another name, and to the practices of another life?


2.4 The Jew, then, continues his address to converts from his own nation thus: Yesterday and the day before, when we visited with punishment the man who deluded you, you became apostates from the law of your fathers; showing by such statements (as we have just demonstrated) anything but an exact knowledge of the truth. But what he advances afterwards seems to have some force, when he says: How is it that you take the beginning of your system from our worship, and when you have made some progress you treat it with disrespect, although you have no other foundation to show for your doctrines than our law? Now, certainly the introduction to Christianity is through the Mosaic worship and the prophetic writings; and after the introduction, it is in the interpretation and explanation of these that progress takes place, while those who are introduced prosecute their investigations into the mystery according to revelation, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest in the Scriptures of the prophets, and by the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. But they who advance in the knowledge of Christianity do not, as you allege, treat the things written in the law with disrespect. On the contrary, they bestow upon them greater honour, showing what a depth of wise and mysterious reasons is contained in these writings, which are not fully comprehended by the Jews, who treat them superficially, and as if they were in some degree even fabulous. And what absurdity should there be in our system— that is, the Gospel— having the law for its foundation, when even the Lord Jesus Himself said to those who would not believe upon Him: If you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words? Nay, even one of the evangelists— Mark— says: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the prophet Isaiah, Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You, which shows that the beginning of the Gospel is connected with the Jewish writings. What force, then, is there in the objection of the Jew of Celsus, that if any one predicted to us that the Son of God was to visit mankind, he was one of our prophets, and the prophet of our God? Or how is it a charge against Christianity, that John, who baptized Jesus, was a Jew? For although He was a Jew, it does not follow that every believer, whether a convert from heathenism or from Judaism, must yield a literal obedience to the law of Moses.

3.60 And as we teach, moreover, that wisdom will not enter into the soul of a base man, nor dwell in a body that is involved in sin, Wisdom 1:4 we say, Whoever has clean hands, and therefore lifts up holy hands to God, and by reason of being occupied with elevated and heavenly things, can say, The lifting up of my hands is as the evening sacrifice, let him come to us; and whoever has a wise tongue through meditating on the law of the Lord day and night, and by reason of habit has his senses exercised to discern between good and evil, let him have no reluctance in coming to the strong and rational sustenance which is adapted to those who are athletes in piety and every virtue. And since the grace of God is with all those who love with a pure affection the teacher of the doctrines of immortality, whoever is pure not only from all defilement, but from what are regarded as lesser transgressions, let him be boldly initiated in the mysteries of Jesus, which properly are made known only to the holy and the pure. The initiated of Celsus accordingly says, Let him whose soul is conscious of no evil come. But he who acts as initiator, according to the precepts of Jesus, will say to those who have been purified in heart, He whose soul has, for a long time, been conscious of no evil, and especially since he yielded himself to the healing of the word, let such an one hear the doctrines which were spoken in private by Jesus to His genuine disciples. Therefore in the comparison which he institutes between the procedure of the initiators into the Grecian mysteries, and the teachers of the doctrine of Jesus, he does not know the difference between inviting the wicked to be healed, and initiating those already purified into the sacred mysteries!

3.81 And do not suppose that it is not in keeping with the Christian religion for me to have accepted, against Celsus, the opinions of those philosophers who have treated of the immortality or after-duration of the soul; for, holding certain views in common with them, we shall more conveniently establish our position, that the future life of blessedness shall be for those only who have accepted the religion which is according to Jesus, and that devotion towards the Creator of all things which is pure and sincere, and unmingled with any created thing whatever. And let him who likes show what better things we persuade men to despise, and let him compare the blessed end with God in Christ—that is, the word, and the wisdom, and all virtue—which, according to our view, shall be bestowed, by the gift of God, on those who have lived a pure and blameless life, and who have felt a single and undivided love for the God of all things, with that end which is to follow according to the teaching of each philosophic sect, whether it be Greek or Barbarian, or according to the professions of religious mysteries; and let him prove that the end which is predicted by any of the others is superior to that which we promise, and consequently that that is true, and ours not befitting the gift of God, nor those who have lived a good life; or let him prove that these words were not spoken by the divine Spirit, who filled the souls of the holy prophets. And let him who likes show that those words which are acknowledged among all men to be human, are superior to those which are proved to be divine, and uttered by inspiration. And what are the better things from which we teach those who receive them that it would be better to abstain? For if it be not arrogant so to speak, it is self-evident that nothing can be denied which is better than to entrust oneself to the God of all, and yield oneself up to the doctrine which raises us above all created things, and brings us, through the animate and living word— which is also living wisdom and the Son of God— to God who is over all. However, as the third book of our answers to the treatise of Celsus has extended to a sufficient length, we shall here bring our present remarks to a close, and in what is to follow shall meet what Celsus has subsequently written.

5.33 The remarks which we have made not only answer the statements of Celsus regarding the superintending spirits, but anticipate in some measure what he afterwards brings forward, when he says: Let the second party come forward; and I shall ask them whence they come, and whom they regard as the originator of their ancestral customs. They will reply, No one, because they spring from the same source as the Jews themselves, and derive their instruction and superintendence from no other quarter, and notwithstanding they have revolted from the Jews. Each one of us, then, has come in the last days, when one Jesus has visited us, to the visible mountain of the Lord, the Word that is above every word, and to the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And we notice how it is built upon the tops of the mountains, i.e., the predictions of all the prophets, which are its foundations. And this house is exalted above the hills, i.e., those individuals among men who make a profession of superior attainments in wisdom and truth; and all the nations come to it, and the many nations go forth, and say to one another, turning to the religion which in the last days has shone forth through Jesus Christ: Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in them. For the law came forth from the dwellers in Sion, and settled among us as a spiritual law. Moreover, the word of the Lord came forth from that very Jerusalem, that it might be disseminated through all places, and might judge in the midst of the heathen, selecting those whom it sees to be submissive, and rejecting the disobedient, who are many in number. And to those who inquire of us whence we come, or who is our founder, we reply that we have come, agreeably to the counsels of Jesus, to cut down our hostile and insolent ‘wordy’ swords into ploughshares, and to convert into pruning-hooks the spears formerly employed in war. For we no longer take up sword against nation, nor do we learn war any more, having become children of peace, for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader, instead of those whom our fathers followed, among whom we were strangers to the covenant, and having received a law, for which we give thanks to Him that rescued us from the error (of our ways), saying, Our fathers honoured lying idols, and there is not among them one that causes it to rain. Our Superintendent, then, and Teacher, having come forth from the Jews, regulates the whole world by the word of His teaching. And having made these remarks by way of anticipation, we have refuted as well as we could the untrue statements of Celsus, by subjoining the appropriate answer.

7.10 But if he were dealing honestly in his accusations, he ought to have given the exact terms of the prophecies, whether those in which the speaker is introduced as claiming to be God Almighty, or those in which the Son of God speaks, or finally those under the name of the Holy Spirit. For thus he might have endeavoured to overthrow these assertions, and have shown that there was no divine inspiration in those words which urged men to forsake their sins, which condemned the past and foretold the future. For the prophecies were recorded and preserved by men living at the time, that those who came after might read and admire them as the oracles of God, and that they might profit not only by the warnings and admonitions, but also by the predictions, which, being shown by events to have proceeded from the Spirit of God, bind men to the practice of piety as set forth in the law and the prophets. The prophets have therefore, as God commanded them, declared with all plainness those things which it was desirable that the hearers should understand at once for the regulation of their conduct; while in regard to deeper and more mysterious subjects, which lay beyond the reach of the common understanding, they set them forth in the form of enigmas and allegories, or of what are called dark sayings, parables, or similitudes. And this plan they have followed, that those who are ready to shun no labour and spare no pains in their endeavours after truth and virtue might search into their meaning, and having found it, might apply it as reason requires. But Celsus, ever vigorous in his denunciations, as though he were angry at his inability to understand the language of the prophets, scoffs at them thus: To these grand promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning; for so dark are they as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them so as to suit his own purposes. This statement of Celsus seems ingeniously designed to dissuade readers from attempting any inquiry or careful search into their meaning. And in this he is not unlike certain persons, who said to a man whom a prophet had visited to announce future events, Wherefore came this mad fellow to you?

7.11 I am convinced, indeed, that much better arguments could be adduced than any I have been able to bring forward, to show the falsehood of these allegations of Celsus, and to set forth the divine inspiration of the prophecies; but we have according to our ability, in our commentaries on Isaiah, Ezekiel, and some of the twelve minor prophets, explained literally and in detail what he calls those fanatical and utterly unintelligible passages. And if God give us grace in the time that He appoints for us, to advance in the knowledge of His word, we shall continue our investigation into the parts which remain, or into such at least as we are able to make plain. And other persons of intelligence who wish to study Scripture may also find out its meaning for themselves; for although there are many places in which the meaning is not obvious, yet there are none where, as Celsus affirms, there is no sense at all. Neither is it true that any fool or impostor can explain the passages so as to make them suit his own purposes. For it belongs only to those who are wise in the truth of Christ (and to all them it does belong) to unfold the connection and meaning of even the obscure parts of prophecy, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and interpreting each passage according to the usage of Scripture writers. And Celsus is not to be believed when he says that he has heard such men prophesy; for no prophets bearing any resemblance to the ancient prophets have appeared in the time of Celsus. If there had been any, those who heard and admired them would have followed the example of the ancients, and have recorded the prophecies in writing. And it seems quite clear that Celsus is speaking falsely, when he says that those prophets whom he had heard, on being pressed by him, confessed their true motives, and acknowledged that the ambiguous words they used really meant nothing. He ought to have given the names of those whom he says he had heard, if he had any to give, so that those who were competent to judge might decide whether his allegations were true or false.

7.42 Celsus next refers us to Plato as to a more effective teacher of theological truth, and quotes the following passage from the TimæusIt is a hard matter to find out the Maker and Father of this universe; and after having found Him, it is impossible to make Him known to all. To which he himself adds this remark: You perceive, then, how divine men seek after the way of truth, and how well Plato knew that it was impossible for all men to walk in it. But as wise men have found it for the express purpose of being able to convey to us some notion of Him who is the first, the unspeakable Being—a notion, namely; which may represent Him to us through the medium of other objects—they endeavour either by synthesis, which is the combining of various qualities, or by analysis, which is the separation and setting aside of some qualities, or finally by analogy—in these ways, I say, they endeavour to set before us that which it is impossible to express in words. I should therefore be surprised if you could follow in that course, since you are so completely wedded to the flesh as to be incapable of seeing ought but what is impure. These words of Plato are noble and admirable; but see if Scripture does not give us an example of a regard for mankind still greater in God the Word, who was in the beginning with God, and who was made flesh, in order that He might reveal to all men truths which, according to Plato, it would be impossible to make known to all men, even after he had found them himself. Plato may say that it is a hard thing to find out the Creator and Father of this universe; by which language he implies that it is not wholly beyond the power of human nature to attain to such a knowledge as is either worthy of God, or if not, is far beyond that which is commonly attained (although if it were true that Plato or any other of the Greeks had found God, they would never have given homage and worship, or ascribed the name of God, to any other than to Him: they would have abandoned all others, and would not have associated with this great God objects which can have nothing in common with Him). For ourselves, we maintain that human nature is in no way able to seek after God, or to attain a clear knowledge of Him without the help of Him whom it seeks. He makes Himself known to those who, after doing all that their powers will allow, confess that they need help from Him, who discovers Himself to those whom He approves, in so far as it is possible for man and the soul still dwelling in the body to know God.

7.46 We are careful not to oppose fair arguments even if they proceed from those who are not of our faith; we strive not to be captious, or to seek to overthrow any sound reasonings. But here we have to reply to those who slander the character of persons wishing to do their best in the service of God, who accepts the faith which the meanest place in Him, as well as the more refined and intelligent piety of the learned; seeing that both alike address to the Creator of the world their prayers and thanksgivings through the High Priest who has set before men the nature of pure religion. We say, then, that those who are stigmatized as lamed and mutilated in spirit, as living only for the sake of the body which is dead, are persons whose endeavour it is to say with sincerity: For though we live in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God. It is for those who throw out such vile accusations against men who desire to be God’s servants, to beware lest, by the calumnies which they cast upon others who strive to live well, they lame their own souls, and mutilate the inner man, by severing from it that justice and moderation of mind which the Creator has planted in the nature of all His rational creatures. As for those, however, who, along with other lessons given by the Divine Word, have learned and practised this, when reviled to bless, when persecuted to endure, when defamed to entreat, they may be said to be walking in spirit in the ways of uprightness, to be purifying and setting in order the whole soul. They distinguish— and to them the distinction is not one of words merely— between substance, or that which is, and that which is becoming; between things apprehended by reason, and things apprehended by sense; and they connect truth with the one, and avoid the errors arising out of the other; looking, as they have been taught, not at the things becoming or phenomenal, which are seen, and therefore temporary, but at better things than these, whether we call them substance, or spiritual things, as being apprehended by reason, or invisible, because they lie out of the reach of the senses. The disciples of Jesus regard these phenomenal things only that they may use them as steps to ascend to the knowledge of the things of reason. For the invisible things of God, that is, the objects of the reason, from the creation of the world are clearly seen by the reason, being understood by the things that are made. And when they have risen from the created things of this world to the invisible things of God, they do not stay there; but after they have sufficiently exercised their minds upon these, and have understood their nature, they ascend to the eternal power of God, in a word, to His divinity. For they know that God, in His love to men, has manifested His truth, and that which is known of Him, not only to those who devote themselves to His service, but also to some who are far removed from the purity of worship and service which He requires; and that some of those who by the providence of God had attained a knowledge of these truths, were yet doing things unworthy of that knowledge, and holding the truth in unrighteousness, and who are unable to find any excuse before God after the knowledge of such great truths which He has given them.

8.20 There are, then, among the righteous some who are carbuncles, others sapphires, others jaspers, and others crystals, and thus there is among the righteous every kind of choice and precious stone. As to the spiritual meaning of the different stones—what is their nature, and to what kind of soul the name of each precious stone especially applies—we cannot at present stay to examine. We have only felt it necessary to show thus briefly what we understand by temples, and what the one Temple of God built of precious stones truly means. For as if in some cities a dispute should arise as to which had the finest temples, those who thought their own were the best would do their utmost to show the excellence of their own temples and the inferiority of the others—in like manner, when they reproach us for not deeming it necessary to worship the Divine Being by raising lifeless temples, we set before them our temples, and show to such at least as are not blind and senseless, like their senseless gods, that there is no comparison between our statues and the statues of the heathen, nor between our altars, with what we may call the incense ascending from them, and the heathen altars, with the fat and blood of the victims; nor, finally, between the temples of senseless gods, admired by senseless men, who have no divine faculty for perceiving God, and the temples, statues, and altars which are worthy of God. It is not therefore true that we object to building altars, statues, and temples, because we have agreed to make this the badge of a secret and forbidden society; but we do so, because we have learned from Jesus Christ the true way of serving God, and we shrink from whatever, under a pretence of piety, leads to utter impiety those who abandon the way marked out for us by Jesus Christ. For it is He who alone is the way of piety, as He truly said, I am the way, the truth, the life.