In the first book of our answer to the work of Celsus, who had boastfully entitled the treatise which he had composed against us A True Discourse, we have gone through, as you enjoined, my faithful Ambrosius, to the best of our ability, his preface, and the parts immediately following it, testing each one of his assertions as we went along, until we finished with the tirade of this Jew of his, feigned to have been delivered against Jesus. And in the second book we met, as we best could, all the charges contained in the invective of the said Jew, which were levelled at us who are believers in God through Christ; and now we enter upon this third division of our discourse, in which our object is to refute the allegations which he makes in his own person.
He gives it as his opinion, that
the controversy between Jews and Christians is a most foolish one, and asserts that
the discussions which we have with each other regarding Christ differ in no respect from what is called in the proverb, ‘a fight about the shadow of an ass.’ and thinks that
there is nothing of importance in the investigations of the Jews and Christians: for both believe that it was predicted by the Divine Spirit that one was to come as a Saviour to the human race, but do not yet agree on the point whether the person predicted has actually come or not. For we Christians, indeed, have believed in Jesus, as He who came according to the predictions of the prophets. But the majority of the Jews are so far from believing in Him, that those of them who lived at the time of His coming conspired against Him; and those of the present day, approving of what the Jews of former times dared to do against Him, speak evil of Him, asserting that it was by means of sorcery that he passed himself off for Him who was predicted by the prophets as the One who was to come, and who was called, agreeably to the traditions of the Jews, the Christ.
But let Celsus, and those who assent to his charges, tell us whether it is at all like
an ass’s shadow, that the Jewish prophets should have predicted the birth-place of Him who was to be the ruler of those who had lived righteous lives, and who are called the
heritage of God; and that Emmanuel should be conceived by a virgin; and that such signs and wonders should be performed by Him who was the subject of prophecy; and that His word should have such speedy course, that the voice of His apostles should go forth into all the earth; and that He should undergo certain sufferings after His condemnation by the Jews; and that He should rise again from the dead. For was it by chance that the prophets made these announcements, with no persuasion of the truth in their minds, moving them not only to speak, but to deem their announcements worthy of being committed to writing? And did so great a nation as that of the Jews, who had long ago received a country of their own wherein to dwell, recognise certain men as prophets, and reject others as utterers of false predictions, without any conviction of the soundness of the distinction? And was there no motive which induced them to class with the books of Moses, which were held as sacred, the words of those persons who were afterwards deemed to be prophets? And can those who charge the Jews and Christians with folly, show us how the Jewish nation could have continued to subsist, had there existed among them no promise of the knowledge of future events? And how, while each of the surrounding nations believed, agreeably to their ancient institutions, that they received oracles and predictions from those whom they accounted gods, this people alone, who were taught to view with contempt all those who were considered gods by the heathen, as not being gods, but demons, according to the declaration of the prophets,
For all the gods of the nations are demons, had among them no one who professed to be a prophet, and who could restrain such as, from a desire to know the future, were ready to desert to the demons of other nations? Judge, then, whether it were not a necessity, that as the whole nation had been taught to despise the deities of other lands, they should have had an abundance of prophets, who made known events which were of far greater importance in themselves, and which surpassed the oracles of all other countries.
In the next place, miracles were performed in all countries, or at least in many of them, as Celsus himself admits, instancing the case of Æsculapius, who conferred benefits on many, and who foretold future events to entire cities, which were dedicated to him, such as Tricca, and Epidaurus, and Cos, and Pergamus; and along with Æsculapius he mentions Aristeas of Proconnesus, and a certain Clazomenian, and Cleomedes of Astypalæa. But among the Jews alone, who say they are dedicated to the God of all things, there was wrought no miracle or sign which might help to confirm their faith in the Creator of all things, and strengthen their hope of another and better life! But how can they imagine such a state of things? For they would immediately have gone over to the worship of those demons which gave oracles and performed cures, and deserted the God who was believed, as far as words went, to assist them, but who never manifested to them His visible presence. But if this result has not taken place, and if, on the contrary, they have suffered countless calamities rather than renounce Judaism and their law, and have been cruelly treated, at one time in Assyria, at another in Persia, and at another under Antiochus, is it not in keeping with the probabilities of the case for those to suppose who do not yield their belief to their miraculous histories and prophecies, that the events in question could not be inventions, but that a certain divine Spirit being in the holy souls of the prophets, as of men who underwent any labour for the cause of virtue, did move them to prophesy some things relating to their contemporaries, and others to their posterity, but chiefly regarding a certain personage who was to come as a Saviour to the human race?
And if the above be the state of the case, how do Jews and Christians search after
the shadow of an ass, in seeking to ascertain from those prophecies which they believe in common, whether He who was foretold has come, or has not yet arrived, and is still an object of expectation? But even suppose it be granted to Celsus that it was not Jesus who was announced by the prophets, then, even on such a hypothesis, the investigation of the sense of the prophetic writings is no search after
the shadow of an ass, if He who was spoken of can be clearly pointed out, and it can be shown both what sort of person He was predicted to be, and what He was to do, and, if possible, when He was to arrive. But in the preceding pages we have already spoken on the point of Jesus being the individual who was foretold to be the Christ, quoting a few prophecies out of a larger number. Neither Jews nor Christians, then, are wrong in assuming that the prophets spoke under divine influence; but they are in error who form erroneous opinions respecting Him who was expected by the prophets to come, and whose person and character were made known in their
Immediately after these points, Celsus, imagining that the Jews are Egyptians by descent, and had abandoned Egypt, after revolting against the Egyptian state, and despising the customs of that people in matters of worship, says that
they suffered from the adherents of Jesus, who believed in Him as the Christ, the same treatment which they had inflicted upon the Egyptians; and that the cause which led to the new state of things in either instance was rebellion against the state. Now let us observe what Celsus has here done. The ancient Egyptians, after inflicting many cruelties upon the Hebrew race, who had settled in Egypt owing to a famine which had broken out in Judea, suffered, in consequence of their injustice to strangers and suppliants, that punishment which divine Providence had decreed was to fall on the whole nation for having combined against an entire people, who had been their guests, and who had done them no harm; and after being smitten by plagues from God, they allowed them, with difficulty, and after a brief period, to go wherever they liked, as being unjustly detained in slavery. Because, then, they were a selfish people, who honoured those who were in any degree related to them far more than they did strangers of better lives, there is not an accusation which they have omitted to bring against Moses and the Hebrews,— not altogether denying, indeed, the miracles and wonders done by him, but alleging that they were wrought by sorcery, and not by divine power. Moses, however, not as a magician, but as a devout man, and one devoted to the God of all things, and a partaker in the divine Spirit, both enacted laws for the Hebrews, according to the suggestions of the Divinity, and recorded events as they happened with perfect fidelity.
Celsus, therefore, not investigating in a spirit of impartiality the facts, which are related by the Egyptians in one way, and by the Hebrews in another, but being bewitched, as it were, in favour of the former, accepted as true the statements of those who had oppressed the strangers, and declared that the Hebrews, who had been unjustly treated, had departed from Egypt after revolting against the Egyptians,— not observing how impossible it was for so great a multitude of rebellious Egyptians to become a nation, which, dating its origin from the said revolt, should change its language at the time of its rebellion, so that those who up to that time made use of the Egyptian tongue, should completely adopt, all at once, the language of the Hebrews! Let it be granted, however, according to his supposition, that on abandoning Egypt they did conceive a hatred also of their mother tongue, how did it happen that after so doing they did not rather adopt the Syrian or Phœnician language, instead of preferring the Hebrew, which is different from both? But reason seems to me to demonstrate that the statement is false, which makes those who were Egyptians by race to have revolted against Egyptians, and to have left the country, and to have proceeded to Palestine, and occupied the land now called Judea. For Hebrew was the language of their fathers before their descent into Egypt; and the Hebrew letters, employed by Moses in writing those five books which are deemed sacred by the Jews, were different from those of the Egyptians.
In like manner, as the statement is false
that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion, so also is this,
that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers; for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defence of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors. And truly, if we look a little deeper into things, we may say regarding the exodus from Egypt, that it is a miracle if a whole nation at once adopted the language called Hebrew, as if it had been a gift from heaven, when one of their own prophets said,
As they went forth from Egypt, they heard a language which they did not understand.
In the following way, also, we may conclude that they who came out of Egypt with Moses were not Egyptians; for if they had been Egyptians, their names also would be Egyptian, because in every language the designations (of persons and things) are kindred to the language. But if it is certain, from the names being Hebrew, that the people were not Egyptians,— and the Scriptures are full of Hebrew names, and these bestowed, too, upon their children while they were in Egypt—it is clear that the Egyptian account is false, which asserts that they were Egyptians, and went forth from Egypt with Moses. Now it is absolutely certain that, being descended, as the Mosaic history records, from Hebrew ancestors, they employed a language from which they also took the names which they conferred upon their children. But with regard to the Christians, because they were taught not to avenge themselves upon their enemies (and have thus observed laws of a mild and philanthropic character); and because they would not, although able, have made war even if they had received authority to do so—they have obtained this reward from God, that He has always warred in their behalf, and on certain occasions has restrained those who rose up against them and desired to destroy them. For in order to remind others, that by seeing a few engaged in a struggle for their religion, they also might be better fitted to despise death, some, on special occasions, and these individuals who can be easily numbered, have endured death for the sake of Christianity—God not permitting the whole nation to be exterminated, but desiring that it should continue, and that the whole world should be filled with this salutary and religious doctrine. And again, on the other hand, that those who were of weaker minds might recover their courage and rise superior to the thought of death, God interposed His providence on behalf of believers, dispersing by an act of His will alone all the conspiracies formed against them; so that neither kings, nor rulers, nor the populace, might be able to rage against them beyond a certain point. Such, then, is our answer to the assertions of Celsus,
that a revolt was the original commencement of the ancient Jewish state, and subsequently of Christianity.
But since he is manifestly guilty of falsehood in the statements which follow, let us examine his assertion when he says,
If all men wished to become Christians, the latter would not desire such a result. Now that the above statement is false is clear from this, that Christians do not neglect, as far as in them lies, to take measures to disseminate their doctrine throughout the whole world. Some of them, accordingly, have made it their business to itinerate not only through cities, but even villages and country houses, that they might make converts to God. And no one would maintain that they did this for the sake of gain, when sometimes they would not accept even necessary sustenance; or if at any time they were pressed by a necessity of this sort, were contented with the mere supply of their wants, although many were willing to share (their abundance) with them, and to bestow help upon them far above their need. At the present day, indeed, when, owing to the multitude of Christian believers, not only rich men, but persons of rank, and delicate and high-born ladies, receive the teachers of Christianity, some perhaps will dare to say that it is for the sake of a little glory that certain individuals assume the office of Christian instructors. It is impossible, however, rationally to entertain such a suspicion with respect to Christianity in its beginnings, when the danger incurred, especially by its teachers, was great; while at the present day the discredit attaching to it among the rest of mankind is greater than any supposed honour enjoyed among those who hold the same belief, especially when such honour is not shared by all. It is false, then, from the very nature of the case, to say that
if all men wished to become Christians, the latter would not desire such a result.
But observe what he alleges as a proof of his statement:
Christians at first were few in number, and held the same opinions; but when they grew to be a great multitude, they were divided and separated, each wishing to have his own individual party: for this was their object from the beginning. That Christians at first were few in number, in comparison with the multitudes who subsequently became Christian, is undoubted; and yet, all things considered, they were not so very few. For what stirred up the envy of the Jews against Jesus, and aroused them to conspire against Him, was the great number of those who followed Him into the wilderness—five thousand men on one occasion, and four thousand on another, having attended Him there, without including the women and children. For such was the charm of Jesus’ words, that not only were men willing to follow Him to the wilderness, but women also, forgetting the weakness of their sex and a regard for outward propriety in thus following their Teacher into desert places. Children, too, who are altogether unaffected by such emotions, either following their parents, or perhaps attracted also by His divinity, in order that it might be implanted within them, became His followers along with their parents. But let it be granted that Christians were few in number at the beginning, how does that help to prove that Christians would be unwilling to make all men believe the doctrine of the Gospel?
He says, in addition, that
all the Christians were of one mind, not observing, even in this particular, that from the beginning there were differences of opinion among believers regarding the meaning of the books held to be divine. At all events, while the apostles were still preaching, and while eye-witnesses of (the works of) Jesus were still teaching His doctrine, there was no small discussion among the converts from Judaism regarding Gentile believers, on the point whether they ought to observe Jewish customs, or should reject the burden of clean and unclean meats, as not being obligatory on those who had abandoned their ancestral Gentile customs, and had become believers in Jesus. Nay, even in the Epistles of Paul, who was contemporary with those who had seen Jesus, certain particulars are found mentioned as having been the subject of dispute—viz., respecting the resurrection, and whether it were already past, and the day of the Lord, whether it were near at hand or not. Nay, the very exhortation to
avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing, have erred concerning the faith, is enough to show that from the very beginning, when, as Celsus imagines, believers were few in number, there were certain doctrines interpreted in different ways.
In the next place, since he reproaches us with the existence of heresies in Christianity as being a ground of accusation against it, saying that
when Christians had greatly increased in numbers, they were divided and split up into factions, each individual desiring to have his own party; and further, that
being thus separated through their numbers, they confute one another, still having, so to speak, one name in common, if indeed they still retain it. And this is the only thing which they are yet ashamed to abandon, while other matters are determined in different ways by the various sects. In reply to which, we say that heresies of different kinds have never originated from any matter in which the principle involved was not important and beneficial to human life. For since the science of medicine is useful and necessary to the human race, and many are the points of dispute in it respecting the manner of curing bodies, there are found, for this reason, numerous heresies confessedly prevailing in the science of medicine among the Greeks, and also, I suppose, among those barbarous nations who profess to employ medicine. And, again, since philosophy makes a profession of the truth, and promises a knowledge of existing things with a view to the regulation of life, and endeavours to teach what is advantageous to our race, and since the investigation of these matters is attended with great differences of opinion, innumerable heresies have consequently sprung up in philosophy, some of which are more celebrated than others. Even Judaism itself afforded a pretext for the origination of heresies, in the different acceptation accorded to the writings of Moses and those of the prophets. So, then, seeing Christianity appeared an object of veneration to men, not to the more servile class alone, as Celsus supposes, but to many among the Greeks who were devoted to literary pursuits, there necessarily originated heresies—not at all, however, as the result of faction and strife, but through the earnest desire of many literary men to become acquainted with the doctrines of Christianity. The consequence of which was, that, taking in different acceptations those discourses which were believed by all to be divine, there arose heresies, which received their names from those individuals who admired, indeed, the origin of Christianity, but who were led, in some way or other, by certain plausible reasons, to discordant views. And yet no one would act rationally in avoiding medicine because of its heresies; nor would he who aimed at that which is seemly entertain a hatred of philosophy, and adduce its many heresies as a pretext for his antipathy. And so neither are the sacred books of Moses and the prophets to be condemned on account of the heresies in Judaism.
Now, if these arguments hold good, why should we not defend, in the same way, the existence of heresies in Christianity? And respecting these, Paul appears to me to speak in a very striking manner when he says,
For there must be heresies among you, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you. For as that man is
approved in medicine who, on account of his experience in various (medical) heresies, and his honest examination of the majority of them, has selected the preferable system—and as the great proficient in philosophy is he who, after acquainting himself experimentally with the various views, has given in his adhesion to the best,— so I would say that the wisest Christian was he who had carefully studied the heresies both of Judaism and Christianity. Whereas he who finds fault with Christianity because of its heresies would find fault also with the teaching of Socrates, from whose school have issued many others of discordant views. Nay, the opinions of Plato might be chargeable with error, on account of Aristotle’s having separated from his school, and founded a new one—on which subject we have remarked in the preceding book. But it appears to me that Celsus has become acquainted with certain heresies which do not possess even the name of Jesus in common with us. Perhaps he had heard of the sects called Ophites and Cainites, or some others of a similar nature, which had departed in all points from the teaching of Jesus. And yet surely this furnishes no ground for a charge against the Christian doctrine.
After this he continues:
Their union is the more wonderful, the more it can be shown to be based on no substantial reason. And yet rebellion is a substantial reason, as well as the advantages which accrue from it, and the fear of external enemies. Such are the causes which give stability to their faith. To this we answer, that our union does thus rest upon a reason, or rather not upon a reason, but upon the divine working, so that its commencement was God’s teaching men, in the prophetical writings, to expect the advent of Christ, who was to be the Saviour of mankind. For in so far as this point is not really refuted (although it may seem to be by unbelievers), in the same proportion is the doctrine commended as the doctrine of God, and Jesus shown to be the Son of God both before and after His incarnation. I maintain, moreover, that even after His incarnation, He is always found by those who possess the acutest spiritualvision to be most God-like, and to have really come down to us from God, and to have derived His origin or subsequent development not from human wisdom, but from the manifestation of God within Him, who by His manifold wisdom and miracles established Judaism first, and Christianity afterwards; and the assertion that rebellion, and the advantages attending it, were the originating causes of a doctrine which has converted and improved so many men was effectually refuted.
But again, that it is not the fear of external enemies which strengthens our union, is plain from the fact that this cause, by God’s will, has already, for a considerable time, ceased to exist. And it is probable that the secure existence, so far as regards the world, enjoyed by believers at present, will come to an end, since those who calumniate Christianity in every way are again attributing the present frequency of rebellion to the multitude of believers, and to their not being persecuted by the authorities as in old times. For we have learned from the Gospel neither to relax our efforts in days of peace, and to give ourselves up to repose, nor, when the world makes war upon us, to become cowards, and apostatize from the love of the God of all things which is in Jesus Christ. And we clearly manifest the illustrious nature of our origin, and do not (as Celsus imagines) conceal it, when we impress upon the minds of our first converts a contempt for idols, and images of all kinds, and, besides this, raise their thoughts from the worship of created things instead of God, and elevate them to the universal Creator; clearly showing Him to be the subject of prophecy, both from the predictions regarding Him— of which there are many— and from those traditions which have been carefully investigated by such as are able intelligently to understand the Gospels, and the declarations of the apostles.
But what the legends are of every kind which we gather together, or the terrors which we invent, as Celsus without proof asserts, he who likes may show. I know not, indeed, what he means by
inventing terrors, unless it be our doctrine of God as Judge, and of the condemnation of men for their deeds, with the various proofs derived partly from Scripture, partly from probable reason. And yet— for truth is precious— Celsus says, at the close,
Forbid that either I, or these, or any other individual should ever reject the doctrine respecting the future punishment of the wicked and the reward of the good! What terrors, then, if you except the doctrine of punishment, do we invent and impose upon mankind? And if he should reply that
we weave together erroneous opinions drawn from ancient sources, and trumpet them aloud, and sound them before men, as the priests of Cybele clash their cymbals in the ears of those who are being initiated in their mysteries; we shall ask him in reply,
Erroneous opinions from what ancient sources? For, whether he refers to Grecian accounts, which taught the existence of courts of justice under the earth, or Jewish, which, among other things, predicted the life that follows the present one; he will be unable to show that we who, striving to believe in grounds of reason, regulate our lives in conformity with such doctrines, have failed correctly to ascertain the truth.
He wishes, indeed, to compare the articles of our faith to those of the Egyptians;
among whom, as you approach their sacred edifices, are to be seen splendid enclosures, and groves, and large and beautiful gateways, and wonderful temples, and magnificent tents around them, and ceremonies of worship full of superstition and mystery; but when you have entered, and passed within, the object of worship is seen to be a cat, or an ape, or a crocodile, or a goat, or a dog! Now, what is the resemblance between us and the splendours of Egyptian worship which are seen by those who draw near their temples? And where is the resemblance to those irrational animals which are worshipped within, after you pass through the splendid gateways? Are our prophecies, and the God of all things, and the injunctions against images, objects of reverence in the view of Celsus also, and Jesus Christ crucified, the analogue to the worship of the irrational animal? But if he should assert this— and I do not think that he will maintain anything else— we shall reply that we have spoken in the preceding pages at greater length in defence of those charges affecting Jesus, showing that what appeared to have happened to Him in the capacity of His human nature, was fraught with benefit to all men, and with salvation to the whole world.
In the next place, referring to the statements of the Egyptians, who talk loftily about irrational animals, and who assert that they are a sort of symbols of God, or anything else which their prophets, so termed, are accustomed to call them, Celsus says that
an impression is produced in the minds of those who have learned these things; that they have not been initiated in vain; while with regard to the truths which are taught in our writings to those who have made progress in the study of Christianity (through that which is called by Paul the gift consisting in the
word of wisdom through the Spirit, and in the
word of knowledge according to the Spirit), Celsus does not seem even to have formed an idea, judging not only from what he has already said, but from what he subsequently adds in his attack upon the Christian system, when he asserts that Christians
repel every wise man from the doctrine of their faith, and invite only the ignorant and the vulgar; on which assertions we shall remark in due time, when we come to the proper place.
He says, indeed, that
we ridicule the Egyptians, although they present many by no means contemptible mysteries for our consideration, when they teach us that such rites are acts of worship offered to eternalideas, and not, as the multitude think, to ephemeral animals; and that we are silly, because we introduce nothing nobler than the goats and dogs of the Egyptian worship in our narratives about Jesus. Now to this we reply,
Good sir, (suppose that) you are right in eulogizing the fact that the Egyptians present to view many by no means contemptible mysteries, and obscure explanations about the animals (worshipped) among them, you nevertheless do not act consistently in accusing us as if you believed that we had nothing to state which was worthy of consideration, but that all our doctrines were contemptible and of no account, seeing we unfold the narratives concerning Jesus according to the ‘wisdom of the word’ to those who are ‘perfect’ in Christianity. Regarding whom, as being competent to understand the wisdom that is in Christianity, Paul says: ‘We speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who come to nought, but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew.’
And we say to those who hold similar opinions to those of Celsus:
Paul then, we are to suppose, had before his mind the idea of no pre-eminent wisdom when he professed to speak wisdom among them that are perfect? Now, as he spoke with his customary boldness when in making such a profession he said that he was possessed of no wisdom, we shall say in reply: first of all examine the Epistles of him who utters these words, and look carefully at the meaning of each expression in them— say, in those to the Ephesians, and Colossians, and Thessalonians, and Philippians, and Romans,— and show two things, both that you understand Paul’s words, and that you can demonstrate any of them to be silly or foolish. For if any one give himself to their attentive perusal, I am well assured either that he will be amazed at the understanding of the man who can clothe great ideas in common language; or if he be not amazed, he will only exhibit himself in a ridiculous light, whether he simply state the meaning of the writer as if he had comprehended it, or try to controvert and confute what he only imagined that he understood!
And I have not yet spoken of the observance of all that is written in the Gospels, each one of which contains much doctrine difficult to be understood, not merely by the multitude, but even by certain of the more intelligent, including a very profound explanation of the parables which Jesus delivered to
those without, while reserving the exhibition of their full meaning for those who had passed beyond the stage of exoteric teaching, and who came to Him privately in the house. And when he comes to understand it, he will admire the reason why some are said to be
without, and others
in the house. And again, who would not be filled with astonishment that is able to comprehend the movements of Jesus; ascending at one time a mountain for the purpose of delivering certain discourses, or of performing certain miracles, or for His own transfiguration, and descending again to heal the sick and those who were unable to follow Him whither His disciples went? But it is not the appropriate time to describe at present the truly venerable and divine contents of the Gospels, or the mind of Christ— that is, the wisdom and the word— contained in the writings of Paul. But what we have said is sufficient by way of answer to the unphilosophic sneers of Celsus, in comparing the inner mysteries of the Church of God to the cats, and apes, and crocodiles, and goats, and dogs of Egypt.
But this low jester Celsus, omitting no species of mockery and ridicule which can be employed against us, mentions in his treatise the Dioscuri, and Hercules, and Æsculapius, and Dionysus, who are believed by the Greeks to have become gods after being men, and says that
we cannot bear to call such beings gods, because they were at first men, and yet they manifested many noble qualifies, which were displayed for the benefit of mankind, while we assert that Jesus was seen after His death by His own followers; and he brings against us an additional charge, as if we said that
He was seen indeed, but was only a shadow! Now to this we reply, that it was very artful of Celsus not here clearly to indicate that he did not regard these beings as gods, for he was afraid of the opinion of those who might peruse his treatise, and who might suppose him to be an atheist; whereas, if he had paid respect to what appeared to him to be the truth, he would not have feigned to regard them as gods. Now to either of the allegations we are ready with an answer. Let us, accordingly, to those who do not regard them as gods reply as follows: These beings, then, are not gods at all; but agreeably to the view of those who think that the soul of man perishes immediately (after death), the souls of these men also perished; or according to the opinion of those who say that the soul continues to subsist or is immortal, these men continue to exist or are immortal, and they are not gods but heroes,— or not even heroes, but simply souls. If, then, on the one hand, you suppose them not to exist, we shall have to prove the doctrine of the soul’s immortality, which is to us a doctrine of pre-eminent importance; if, on the other hand, they doexist, we have still to prove the doctrine of immortality, not only by what the Greeks have so well said regarding it, but also in a manner agreeable to the teaching of Holy Scripture. And we shall demonstrate that it is impossible for those who were polytheists during their lives to obtain a better country and position after their departure from this world, by quoting the histories that are related of them, in which is recorded the great dissoluteness of Hercules, and his effeminate bondage with Omphale, together with the statements regarding Æsculapius, that their Zeus struck him dead by a thunderbolt. And of the Dioscuri, it will be said that they die often—
How, then, can they reasonably imagine that one of these is to be regarded as a god or a hero?
But we, in proving the facts related of our Jesus from the prophetic Scriptures, and comparing afterwards His history with them, demonstrate that no dissoluteness on His part is recorded. For even they who conspired against Him, and who sought false witnesses to aid them, did not find even any plausible grounds for advancing a false charge against Him, so as to accuse Him of licentiousness; but His death was indeed the result of a conspiracy, and bore no resemblance to the death of Æsculapius by lightning. And what is there that is venerable in the madman Dionysus, and his female garments, that he should be worshipped as a god? And if they who would defend such beings betake themselves to allegorical interpretations, we must examine each individual instance, and ascertain whether it is well founded, and also in each particular case, whether those beings can have a real existence, and are deserving of respect and worship who were torn by the Titans, and cast down from their heavenly throne. Whereas our Jesus, who appeared to the members of His own troop — for I will take the word that Celsus employs— did really appear, and Celsus makes a false accusation against the Gospel in saying that what appeared was a shadow. And let the statements of their histories and that of Jesus be carefully compared together. Will Celsus have the former to be true, but the latter, although recorded by eye-witnesses who showed by their acts that they clearly understood the nature of what they had seen, and who manifested their state of mind by what they cheerfully underwent for the sake of His Gospel, to be inventions? Now, who is there that, desiring to act always in conformity with right reason, would yield his assent at random to what is related of the one, but would rush to the history of Jesus, and without examination refuse to believe what is recorded of Him?
And again, when it is said of Æsculapius that a great multitude both of Greeks and Barbarians acknowledge that they have frequently seen, and still see, no mere phantom, but Æsculapius himself, healing and doing good, and foretelling the future; Celsus requires us to believe this, and finds no fault with the believers in Jesus, when we express our belief in such stories, but when we give our assent to the disciples, and eye-witnesses of the miracles of Jesus, who clearly manifest the honesty of their convictions (because we see their guilelessness, as far as it is possible to see the conscience revealed in writing), we are called by him a set of
silly individuals, although he cannot demonstrate that an incalculable number, as he asserts, of Greeks and Barbarians acknowledge the existence of Æsculapius; while we, if we deem this a matter of importance, can clearly show a countless multitude of Greeks and Barbarians who acknowledge the existence of Jesus. And some give evidence of their having received through this faith a marvellous power by the cures which they perform, revoking no other name over those who need their help than that of the God of all things, and of Jesus, along with a mention of His history. For by these means we too have seen many persons freed from grievous calamities, and from distractions of mind, and madness, and countless other ills, which could be cured neither by men nor devils.
Now, in order to grant that there did exist a healing spirit named Æsculapius, who used to cure the bodies of men, I would say to those who are astonished at such an occurrence, or at the prophetic knowledge of Apollo, that since the cure of bodies is a thing indifferent, and a matter within the reach not merely of the good, but also of the bad; and as the foreknowledge of the future is also a thing indifferent— for the possessor of foreknowledge does not necessarily manifest the possession of virtue— you must show that they who practise healing or who forefell the future are in no respect wicked, but exhibit a perfect pattern of virtue, and are not far from being regarded as gods. But they will not be able to show that they are virtuous who practise the art of healing, or who are gifted with foreknowledge, seeing many who are not fit to live are related to have been healed; and these, too, persons whom, as leading improper lives, no wise physician would wish to heal. And in the responses of the Pythian oracle also you may find some injunctions which are not in accordance with reason, two of which we will adduce on the present occasion; viz., when it gave commandment that Cleomedes — the boxer, I suppose— should be honoured with divine honours, seeing some great importance or other attaching to his pugilistic skill, but did not confer either upon Pythagoras or upon Socrates the honours which it awarded to pugilism; and also when it called Archilochus
the servant of the Muses— a man who employed his poetic powers upon topics of the most wicked and licentious nature, and whose public character was dissolute and impure— and entitled him
pious, in respect of his being the servant of the Muses, who are deemed to be goddesses! Now I am inclined to think that no one would assert that he was a
pious man who was not adorned with all moderation and virtue, or that a decorous man would utter such expressions as are contained in the unseemly iambics of Archilochus. And if nothing that is divine in itself is shown to belong either to the healing skill of Æsculapius or the prophetic power of Apollo, how could any one, even were I to grant that the facts are as alleged, reasonably worship them as pure divinities?— and especially when the propheticspirit of Apollo, pure from any body of earth, secretly enters through the private parts the person of her who is called the priestess, as she is seated at the mouth of the Pythian cave! Whereas regarding Jesus and His power we have no such notion; for the body which was born of the Virgin was composed of human material, and capable of receiving human wounds and death.
Let us see what Celsus says next, when he adduces from history marvellous occurrences, which in themselves seem to be incredible, but which are not discredited by him, so far at least as appears from his words. And, in the first place, regarding Aristeas of Proconnesus, of whom he speaks as follows:
Then, with respect to Aristeas of Proconnesus, who disappeared from among men in a manner so indicative of divine intervention, and who showed himself again in so unmistakeable a fashion, and on many subsequent occasions visited many parts of the world, and announced marvellous events, and whom Apollo enjoined the inhabitants of Metapontium to regard as a god, no one considers him to be a god. This account he appears to have taken from Pindar and Herodotus. It will be sufficient, however, at present to quote the statement of the latter writer from the fourth book of his histories, which is to the following effect:
Of what country Aristeas, who made these verses, was, has already been mentioned, and I shall now relate the account I heard of him in Proconnesus and Cyzicus. They say that Aristeas, who was inferior to none of the citizens by birth, entering into a fuller’s shop in Proconnesus, died suddenly, and that the fuller, having closed his workshop, went to acquaint the relatives of the deceased. When the report had spread through the city that Aristeas was dead, a certain Cyzicenian, arriving from Artace, fell into a dispute with those who made the report, affirming that he had met and conversed with him on his way to Cyzicus, and he vehemently disputed the truth of the report; but the relations of the deceased went to the fuller’s shop, taking with them what was necessary for the purpose of carrying the body away; but when the house was opened, Aristeas was not to be seen, either dead or alive. They say that afterwards, in the seventh year, he appeared in Proconnesus, composed those verses which by the Greeks are now called Arimaspian, and having composed them, disappeared a second time. Such is the story current in these cities. But these things I know happened to the Metapontines in Italy 340 years after the second disappearance of Aristeas, as I discovered by computation in Proconnesus and Metapontium. The Metapontines say that Aristeas himself, having appeared in their country, exhorted them to erect an altar to Apollo, and to place near it a statue bearing the name of Aristeas the Proconnesian; for he said that Apollo had visited their country only of all the Italians, and that he himself, who was now Aristeas, accompanied him; and that when he accompanied the god he was a crow; and after saying this he vanished. And the Metapontines say they sent to Delphi to inquire of the god what the apparition of the man meant; but the Pythian bade them obey the apparition, and if they obeyed it would conduce to their benefit. They accordingly, having received this answer, fulfilled the injunctions. And now, a statue bearing the name of Aristeas is placed near the image of Apollo, and around it laurels are planted: the image is placed in the public square. Thus much concerning Aristeas.
Now, in answer to this account of Aristeas, we have to say, that if Celsus had adduced it as history, without signifying his own assent to its truth, it is in a different way that we should have met his argument. But since he asserts that he
disappeared through the intervention of the divinity, and
showed himself again in an unmistakeable manner, and
visited many parts of the world, and
made marvellous announcements; and, moreover, that there was
an oracle of Apollo, enjoining the Metapontines to treat Aristeas as a god, he gives the accounts relating to him as upon his own authority, and with his full assent. And (this being the case), we ask, How is it possible that, while supposing the marvels related by the disciples of Jesus regarding their Master to be wholly fictitious, and finding fault with those who believe them, you, O Celsus, do not regard these stories of yours to be either products of jugglery or inventions? And how, while charging others with an irrational belief in the marvels recorded of Jesus, can you show yourself justified in giving credence to such statement as the above, without producing some proof or evidence of the alleged occurrences having taken place? Or do Herodotus and Pindar appear to you to speak the truth, while they who have made it their concern to die for the doctrine of Jesus, and who have left to their successors writings so remarkable on the truths which they believed, entered for the sake of
fictions (as you consider them), and
juggleries, upon a struggle which entails a life of danger and a death of violence? Place yourself, then, as a neutral party, between what is related of Aristeas and what is recorded of Jesus, and see whether, from the result, and from the benefits which have accrued from the reformation of morals, and to the worship of the God who is over all things, it is not allowable to conclude that we must believe the events recorded of Jesus not to have happened without the divine intervention, but that this was not the case with the story of Aristeas the Proconnesian.
For with what purpose in view did Providence accomplish the marvels related of Aristeas? And to confer what benefit upon the human race did such remarkable events, as you regard them, take place? You cannot answer. But we, when we relate the events of the history of Jesus, have no ordinary defence to offer for their occurrence—this, viz., that God desired to commend the doctrine of Jesus as a doctrine which was to save mankind, and which was based, indeed, upon the apostles as foundations of the rising edifice of Christianity, but which increased in magnitude also in the succeeding ages, in which not a few cures are wrought in the name of Jesus, and certain other manifestations of no small moment have taken place. Now what sort of person is Apollo, who enjoined the Metapontines to treat Aristeas as a god? And with what object does he do this? And what advantage was he procuring to the Metapontines from this divine worship, if they were to regard him as a god, who a little ago was a mortal? And yet the recommendations of Apollo (viewed by us as a demon who has obtained the honour of libation and sacrificial odours ) regarding this Aristeas appear to you to be worthy of consideration; while those of the God of all things, and of His holy angels, made known beforehand through the prophets— not after the birth of Jesus, but before He appeared among men— do not stir you up to admiration, not merely of the prophets who received the Divine Spirit, but of Him also who was the object of their predictions, whose entrance into life was so clearly predicted many years beforehand by numerous prophets, that the whole Jewish people who were hanging in expectation of the coming of Him who was looked for, did, after the advent of Jesus, fall into a keen dispute with each other; and that a great multitude of them acknowledged Christ, and believed Him to be the object of prophecy, while others did not believe in Him, but, despising the meekness of those who, on account of the teaching of Jesus, were unwilling to cause even the most trifling sedition, dared to inflict on Jesus those cruelties which His disciples have so truthfully and candidly recorded, without secretly omitting from their marvellous history of Him what seems to the multitude to bring disgrace upon the doctrine of Christianity. But both Jesus Himself and His disciples desired that His followers should believe not merely in His Godhead and miracles, as if He had not also been a partaker of human nature, and had assumed the human flesh which
lusts against the Spirit; but they saw also that the power which had descended into human nature, and into the midst of human miseries, and which had assumed a human soul and body, contributed through faith, along with its divine elements, to the salvation of believers, when they see that from Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine, not in Jesus alone, but in all those who not only believe, but enter upon the life which Jesus taught, and which elevates to friendship with God and communion with Him every one who lives according to the precepts of Jesus.
According to Celsus, then, Apollo wished the Metapontines to treat Aristeas as a god. But as the Metapontines considered the evidence in favour of Aristeas being a man— and probably not a virtuous one— to be stronger than the declaration of the oracle to the effect that he was a god or worthy of divine honours, they for that reason would not obey Apollo, and consequently no one regarded Aristeas as a god. But with respect to Jesus we would say that, as it was of advantage to the human race to accept him as the Son of God— God come in a human soul and body— and as this did not seem to be advantageous to the gluttonous appetites of the demons which love bodies, and to those who deem them to be gods on that account, the demons that are on earth (which are supposed to be gods by those who are not instructed in the nature of demons), and also their worshippers, were desirous to prevent the spread of the doctrine of Jesus; for they saw that the libations and odours in which they greedily delighted were being swept away by the prevalence of the instructions of Jesus. But the God who sent Jesus dissipated all the conspiracies of the demons, and made the Gospel of Jesus to prevail throughout the whole world for the conversion and reformation of men, and caused Churches to be everywhere established in opposition to those of superstitious and licentious and wicked men; for such is the character of the multitudes who constitute the citizens in the assemblies of the various cities. Whereas the Churches of God which are instructed by Christ, when carefully contrasted with the assemblies of the districts in which they are situated, are as beacons in the world; for who would not admit that even the inferior members of the Church, and those who in comparison with the better are less worthy, are nevertheless more excellent than many of those who belong to the assemblies in the different districts?
For the Church of God, e.g., which is at Athens, is a meek and stable body, as being one which desires to please God, who is over all things; whereas the assembly of the Athenians is given to sedition, and is not at all to be compared to the Church of God in that city. And you may say the same thing of the Church of God at Corinth, and of the assembly of the Corinthian people; and also of the Church of God at Alexandria, and of the assembly of the people of Alexandria. And if he who hears this be a candid man, and one who investigates things with a desire to ascertain the truth, he will be filled with admiration of Him who not only conceived the design, but also was able to secure in all places the establishment of Churches of God alongside of the assemblies of the people in each city. In like manner, also, in comparing the council of the Church of God with the council in any city, you would find that certain councillors of the Church are worthy to rule in the city of God, if there be any such city in the whole world; whereas the councillors in all other places exhibit in their characters no quality worthy of the conventional superiority which they appear to enjoy over their fellow citizens. And so, too, you must compare the ruler of the Church in each city with the ruler of the people of the city, in order to observe that even among those councillors and rulers of the Church of God who come very far short of their duty, and who lead more indolent lives than others who are more energetic, it is nevertheless possible to discover a general superiority in what relates to the progress of virtue over the characters of the councillors and rulers in the various cities.
Now if these things be so, why should it not be consistent with reason to hold with regard to Jesus, who was able to effect results so great, that there dwelt in Him no ordinary divinity? While this was not the case either with the Proconnesian Aristeas (although Apollo would have him regarded as a god), or with the other individuals enumerated by Celsus when he says,
No one regards Abaris the Hyperborean as a god, who was possessed of such power as to be borne along like an arrow from a bow. For with what object did the deity who bestowed upon this Hyperborean Abaris the power of being carried along like an arrow, confer upon him such a gift? Was it that the human race might be benefited thereby, or did he himself obtain any advantage from the possession of such a power?— always supposing it to be conceded that these statements are not wholly inventions, but that the thing actually happened through the co-operation of some demon. But if it be recorded that my Jesus was received up into glory, I perceive the divine arrangement in such an act, viz., because God, who brought this to pass, commends in this way the Teacher to those who witnessed it, in order that as men who are contending not for human doctrine, but for divine teaching, they may devote themselves as far as possible to the God who is over all, and may do all things in order to please Him, as those who are to receive in the divine judgment the reward of the good or evil which they have wrought in this life.
But as Celsus next mentions the case of the Clazomenian, subjoining to the story about him this remark,
Do they not report that his soul frequently quitted his body, and flitted about in an incorporeal form? And yet men did not regard him as a god, we have to answer that probably certain wicked demons contrived that such statements should be committed to writing (for I do not believe that they contrived that such a thing should actually take place), in order that the predictions regarding Jesus, and the discourses uttered by Him, might either be evil spoken of, as inventions like these, or might excite no surprise, as not being more remarkable than other occurrences. But my Jesus said regarding His own soul (which was separated from the body, not by virtue of any human necessity, but by the miraculous power which was given Him also for this purpose):
No one takes my life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. For as He had power to lay it down, He laid it down when He said,
Father, why have You forsaken Me? And when He had cried with a loud voice, He gave up the ghost, anticipating the public executioners of the crucified, who break the legs of the victims, and who do so in order that their punishment may not be further prolonged. And He
took His life, when He manifested Himself to His disciples, having in their presence foretold to the unbelieving Jews,
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again, and
He spoke this of the temple of His body; the prophets, moreover, having predicted such a result in many other passages of their writings, and in this,
My flesh also shall rest in hope: for You will not leave my soul in hell, neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption.
Celsus, however, shows that he has read a good many Grecian histories, when he quotes further what is told of Cleomedes of Astypalæa,
who, he relates,
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. Now this story, if an invention, as it appears to be, cannot be compared with what is related of Jesus, since in the lives of such men there is found no indication of their possessing the divinity which is ascribed to them; whereas the divinity of Jesus is established both by the existence of the Churches of the saved, and by the prophecies uttered concerning Him, and by the cures wrought in His name, and by the wisdom and knowledge which are in Him, and the deeper truths which are discovered by those who know how to ascend from a simple faith, and to investigate the meaning which lies in the divine Scriptures, agreeably to the injunctions of Jesus, who said,
Search the Scriptures, and to the wish of Paul, who taught that
we ought to know how to answer every man; nay, also of him who said,
Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks of you a reason of the faith that is in you. If he wishes to have it conceded, however, that it is not a fiction, let him show with what object this supernatural power made him, through some arrangement of the divinity, flee from the ark. For if he will adduce any reason worthy of consideration, and point out any purpose worthy of God in conferring such a power on Cleomedes, we will decide on the answer which we ought to give; but if he fail to say anything convincing on the point, clearly because no reason can be discovered, then we shall either speak slightingly of the story to those who have not accepted it, and charge it with being false, or we shall say that some demoniac power, casting a glamour over the eyes, produced, in the case of the Astypalæan, a result like that which is produced by the performers of juggling tricks, while Celsus thinks that with respect to him he has spoken like an oracle, when he said that
by some divine arrangement he flew away from the ark.
I am, however, of opinion that these individuals are the only instances with which Celsus was acquainted. And yet, that he might appear voluntarily to pass by other similar cases, he says,
And one might name many others of the same kind. Let it be granted, then, that many such persons have existed who conferred no benefit upon the human race: what would each one of their acts be found to amount to in comparison with the work of Jesus, and the miracles related of Him, of which we have already spoken at considerable length? He next imagines that,
in worshipping him who, as he says,
was taken prisoner and put to death, we are acting like the Getæ; who worship Zamolxis, and the Cilicians who worshipMopsus, and the Acarnanians who pay divine honours to Amphilochus, and like the Thebans who do the same to Amphiaraus, and the Lebadians to Trophonius. Now in these instances we shall prove that he has compared us to the foregoing without good grounds. For these different tribes erected temples and statues to those individuals above enumerated, whereas we have refrained from offering to the Divinity honour by any such means (seeing they are adapted rather to demons, which are somehow fixed in a certain place which they prefer to any other, or which take up their dwelling, as it were, after being removed (from one place to another) by certain rites and incantations), and are lost in reverential wonder at Jesus, who has recalled our minds from all sensible things, as being not only corruptible, but destined to corruption, and elevated them to honour the God who is over all with prayers and a righteous life, which we offer to Him as being intermediate between the nature of the uncreated and that of all created things, and who bestows upon us the benefits which come from the Father, and who as High Priest conveys our prayers to the supreme God.
But I should like, in answer to him who for some unknown reason advances such statements as the above, to make in a conversational way some such remarks as the following, which seem not inappropriate to him. Are then those persons whom you have mentioned nonentities, and is there no power in Lebadea connected with Trophonius, nor in Thebes with the temple of Amphiaraus, nor in Acarnania with Amphilochus, nor in Cilicia with Mopsus? Or is there in such persons some being, either a demon, or a hero, or even a god, working works which are beyond the reach of man? For if he answer that there is nothing either demoniacal or divine about these individuals more than others, then let him at once make known his own opinion, as being that of an Epicurean, and of one who does not hold the same views with the Greeks, and who neither recognises demons nor worships gods as do the Greeks; and let it be shown that it was to no purpose that he adduced the instances previously enumerated (as if he believed them to be true), together with those which he adds in the following pages. But if he will assert that the persons spoken of are either demons, or heroes, or even gods, let him notice that he will establish by what he has admitted a result which he does not desire, viz., that Jesus also was some such being; for which reason, too, he was able to demonstrate to not a few that He had come down from God to visit the human race. And if he once admit this, see whether he will not be forced to confess that He is mightier than those individuals with whom he classed Him, seeing none of the latter forbids the offering of honour to the others; while He, having confidence in Himself, because He is more powerful than all those others, forbids them to be received as divine because they are wicked demons, who have taken possession of places on earth, through inability to rise to the purer and diviner region, whither the grossnesses of earth and its countless evils cannot reach.
But as he next introduces the case of the favourite of Adrian (I refer to the accounts regarding the youth Antinous, and the honours paid him by the inhabitants of the city of Antinous in Egypt), and imagines that the honour paid to him falls little short of that which we render to Jesus, let us show in what a spirit of hostility this statement is made. For what is there in common between a life lived among the favourites of Adrian, by one who did not abstain even from unnatural lusts, and that of the venerable Jesus, against whom even they who brought countless other charges, and who told so many falsehoods, were not able to allege that He manifested, even in the slightest degree, any tendency to what was licentious? Nay, further, if one were to investigate, in a spirit of truth and impartiality, the stories relating to Antinous, he would find that it was due to the magical arts and rites of the Egyptians that there was even the appearance of his performing anything (marvellous) in the city which bears his name, and that too only after his decease—an effect which is said to have been produced in other temples by the Egyptians, and those who are skilled in the arts which they practise. For they set up in certain places demons claiming prophetic or healing power, and which frequently torture those who seem to have committed any mistake about ordinary kinds of food, or about touching the dead body of a man, that they may have the appearance of alarming the uneducated multitude. Of this nature is the being that is considered to be a god in Antinoopolis in Egypt, whose (reputed) virtues are the lying inventions of some who live by the gain derived therefrom; while others, deceived by the demon placed there, and others again convicted by a weak conscience, actually think that they are paying a divine penalty inflicted by Antinous. Of such a nature also are the mysteries which they perform, and the seeming predictions which they utter. Far different from such are those of Jesus. For it was no company of sorcerers, paying court to a king or ruler at his bidding, who seemed to have made him a god; but the Architect of the universe Himself, in keeping with the marvellously persuasive power of His words, commended Him as worthy of honour, not only to those men who were well disposed, but to demons also, and other unseen powers, which even at the present time show that they either fear the name of Jesus as that of a being of superior power, or reverentially accept Him as their legal ruler. For if the commendation had not been given Him by God, the demons would not have withdrawn from those whom they had assailed, in obedience to the mere mention of His name.
The Egyptians, then, having been taught to worship Antinous, will, if you compare him with Apollo or Zeus, endure such a comparison, Antinous being magnified in their estimation through being classed with these deities; for Celsus is clearly convicted of falsehood when he says,
that they will not endure his being compared with Apollo or Zeus. Whereas Christians (who have learned that their eternal life consists in knowing the only true God, who is over all, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent; and who have learned also that all the gods of the heathen are greedy demons, which flit around sacrifices and blood, and other sacrificial accompaniments, in order to deceive those who have not taken refuge with the God who is over all, but that the divine and holy angels of God are of a different nature and will from all the demons on earth, and that they are known to those exceedingly few persons who have carefully and intelligently investigated these matters) will not endure a comparison to be made between them and Apollo or Zeus, or any being worshipped with odour and blood and sacrifices; some of them, so acting from their extreme simplicity, not being able to give a reason for their conduct, but sincerely observing the precepts which they have received; others, again, for reasons not to be lightly regarded, nay, even of a profound description, and (as a Greek would say) drawn from the inner nature of things; and among the latter of these God is a frequent subject of conversation, and those who are honoured by God, through His only-begotten Word, with participation in His divinity, and therefore also in His name. They speak much, too, both regarding the angels of God and those who are opposed to the truth, but have been deceived; and who, in consequence of being deceived, call them gods or angels of God, or gooddemons, or heroes who have become such by the transference into them of a good human soul. And such Christians will also show, that as in philosophy there are many who appear to be in possession of the truth, who have yet either deceived themselves by plausible arguments, or by rashly assenting to what was brought forward and discovered by others; so also, among those souls which exist apart from bodies, both angels and demons, there are some which have been induced by plausible reasons to declare themselves gods. And because it was impossible that the reasons of such things could be discovered by men with perfect exactness, it was deemed safe that no mortal should entrust himself to any being as to God, with the exception of Jesus Christ, who is, as it were, the Ruler over all things, and who both beheld these weighty secrets, and made them known to a few.
The belief, then, in Antinous, or any other such person, whether among the Egyptians or the Greeks, is, so to speak, unfortunate; while the belief in Jesus would seem to be either a fortunate one, or the result of thorough investigation, having the appearance of the former to the multitude, and of the latter to exceedingly few. And when I speak of a certain belief being, as the multitude would call it, unfortunate, I in such a case refer the cause to God, who knows the reasons of the various fates allotted to each one who enters human life. The Greeks, moreover, will admit that even among those who are considered to be most largely endowed with wisdom, good fortune has had much to do, as in the choice of teachers of one kind rather than another, and in meeting with a better class of instructors (there being teachers who taught the most opposite doctrines), and in being brought up in better circumstances; for the bringing up of many has been amid surroundings of such a kind, that they were prevented from ever receiving any idea of better things, but constantly passed their life, from their earliest youth, either as the favourites of licentious men or of tyrants, or in some other wretched condition which forbade the soul to look upwards. And the causes of these varied fortunes, according to all probability, are to be found in the reasons of providence, though it is not easy for men to ascertain these; but I have said what I have done by way of digression from the main body of my subject, on account of the proverb, that
such is the power of faith, because it seizes that which first presents itself. For it was necessary, owing to the different methods of education, to speak of the differences of belief among men, some of whom are more, others less fortunate in their belief; and from this to proceed to show that what is termed good or bad fortune would appear to contribute even in the case of the most talented, to their appearing to be more fully endowed with reason and to give their assent on grounds of reason to the majority of human opinions. But enough on these points.
We must notice the remarks which Celsus next makes, when he says to us, that
faith, having taken possession of our minds, makes us yield the assent which we give to the doctrine of Jesus; for of a truth it is faith which does produce such an assent. Observe, however, whether that faith does not of itself exhibit what is worthy of praise, seeing we entrust ourselves to the God who is over all, acknowledging our gratitude to Him who has led us to such a faith, and declaring that He could not have attempted or accomplished such a result without the divine assistance. And we have confidence also in the intentions of the writers of the Gospels, observing their piety and conscientiousness, manifested in their writings, which contain nothing that is spurious, or deceptive, or false, or cunning; for it is evident to us that souls unacquainted with those artifices which are taught by the cunning sophistry of the Greeks (which is characterized by great plausibility and acuteness), and by the kind of rhetoric in vogue in the courts of justice, would not have been able thus to invent occurrences which are fitted of themselves to conduct to faith, and to a life in keeping with faith. And I am of opinion that it was on this account that Jesus wished to employ such persons as teachers of His doctrines, viz., that there might be no ground for any suspicion of plausible sophistry, but that it might clearly appear to all who were capable of understanding, that the guileless purpose of the writers being, so to speak, marked with great simplicity, was deemed worthy of being accompanied by a diviner power, which accomplished far more than it seemed possible could be accomplished by a periphrasis of words, and a weaving of sentences, accompanied by all the distinctions of Grecian art.
But observe whether the principles of our faith, harmonizing with the general ideas implanted in our minds at birth, do not produce a change upon those who listen candidly to its statements; for although a perverted view of things, with the aid of much instruction to the same effect, has been able to implant in the minds of the multitude the belief that images are gods, and that things made of gold, and silver, and ivory, and stone are deserving of worship, yet common sense forbids the supposition that God is at all a piece of corruptible matter, or is honoured when made to assume by men a form embodied in dead matter, fashioned according to some image or symbol of His appearance. And therefore we say at once of images that they are not gods, and of such creations (of art) that they are not to be compared with the Creator, but are small in contrast with the God who is over all, and who created, and upholds, and governs the universe. And the rational soul recognising, as it were, its relationship (to the divine), at once rejects what it for a time supposed to be gods, and resumes its natural love for its Creator; and because of its affection towards Him, receives Him also who first presented these truths to all nations through the disciples whom He had appointed, and whom He sent forth, furnished with divine power and authority, to proclaim the doctrine regarding God and His kingdom.
But since he has charged us, I know not how often already,
with regarding this Jesus, who was but a mortal body, as a God, and with supposing that we act piously in so doing, it is superfluous to say any more in answer to this, as a great deal has been said in the preceding pages. And yet let those who make this charge understand that He whom we regard and believe to have been from the beginning God, and the Son of God, is the very Logos, and the very Wisdom, and the very Truth; and with respect to His mortal body, and the human soul which it contained, we assert that not by their communion merely with Him, but by their unity and intermixture, they received the highest powers, and after participating in His divinity, were changed into God. And if any one should feel a difficulty at our saying this regarding His body, let him attend to what is said by the Greeks regarding matter, which, properly speaking, being without qualities, receives such as the Creator desires to invest it with, and which frequently divests itself of those which it formerly possessed, and assumes others of a different and higher kind. And if these opinions be correct, what is there wonderful in this, that the mortal quality of the body of Jesus, if the providence of God has so willed it, should have been changed into one that was ethereal and divine?
Celsus, then, does not speak as a good reasoner, when he compares the mortal flesh of Jesus to gold, and silver, and stone, asserting that the former is more liable to corruption than the latter. For, to speak correctly, that which is incorruptible is not more free from corruption than another thing which is incorruptible, nor that which is corruptible more liable to corruption than another corruptible thing. But, admitting that there are degrees of corruptibility, we can say in answer, that if it is possible for the matter which underlies all qualities to exchange some of them, how should it be impossible for the flesh of Jesus also to exchange qualities, and to become such as it was proper for a body to be which had its abode in the ether and the regions above it, and possessing no longer the infirmities belonging to the flesh, and those properties which Celsus terms
impurities, and in so terming them, speaks unlike a philosopher? For that which is properly impure, is so because of its wickedness. Now the nature of body is not impure; for in so far as it is bodily nature, it does not possess vice, which is the generative principle of impurity. But, as he had a suspicion of the answer which we would return, he says with respect to the change of the body of Jesus,
Well, after he has laid aside these qualities, he will be a God: (and if so), why not rather Æsculapius, and Dionysus, and Hercules? To which we reply,
What great deed has Æsculapius, or Dionysus, or Hercules wrought? And what individuals will they be able to point out as having been improved in character, and made better by their words and lives, so that they may make good their claim to be gods? For let us peruse the many narratives regarding them, and see whether they were free from licentiousness or injustice, or folly, or cowardice. And if nothing of that kind be found in them, the argument of Celsus might have force, which places the forenamed individuals upon an equality with Jesus. But if it is certain that, although some things are reported of them as reputable, they are recorded, nevertheless, to have done innumerable things which are contrary to right reason, how could you any longer say, with any show of reason, that these men, on putting aside their mortal body, became gods rather than Jesus?
He next says of us, that
we ridicule those who worship Jupiter, because his tomb is pointed out in the island of Crete; and yet we worship him who rose from the tomb, although ignorant of the grounds on which the Cretans observe such a custom. Observe now that he thus undertakes the defence of the Cretans, and of Jupiter, and of his tomb, alluding obscurely to the allegorical notions, in conformity with which the myth regarding Jupiter is said to have been invented; while he assails us who acknowledge that our Jesus has been buried, indeed, but who maintain that He has also been raised from the tomb—a statement which the Cretans have not yet made regarding Jupiter. But since he appears to admit that the tomb of Jupiter is in Crete, when he says that
we are ignorant of the grounds on which the Cretans observe such a custom, we reply that Callimachus the Cyrenian, who had read innumerable poetic compositions, and nearly the whole of Greek history, was not acquainted with any allegorical meaning which was contained in the stories about Jupiter and his tomb; and accordingly he accuses the Cretans in his hymn addressed to Jupiter, in the words: —
The Cretans are always liars: for your tomb, O king,
The Cretans have reared; and yet you did not die,
For you ever live.
Now he who said,
You did not die, for you ever live, in denying that Jupiter’s tomb was in Crete, records nevertheless that in Jupiter there was the beginning of death. But birth upon earth is the beginning of death. And his words run:—
And Rhea bore you among the Parrhasians; —
whereas he ought to have seen, after denying that the birth of Jupiter took place in Crete because of his tomb, that it was quite congruous with his birth in Arcadia that he who was born should also die. And the following is the manner in which Callimachus speaks of these things:
O Jupiter, some say that you were born on the mountains of Ida, others in Arcadia. Which of them, O father, have lied? The Cretans are always liars, etc. Now it is Celsus who made us discuss these topics, by the unfair manner in which he deals with Jesus, in giving his assent to what is related about His death and burial, but regarding as an invention His resurrection from the dead, although this was not only foretold by innumerable prophets, but many proofs also were given of His having appeared after death.
After these points Celsus quotes some objections against the doctrine of Jesus, made by a very few individuals who are considered Christians, not of the more intelligent, as he supposes, but of the more ignorant class, and asserts that
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, with women and children. In reply to which, we say that, as if, while Jesus teaches continence, and says,
Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart, one were to behold a few of those who are deemed to be Christians living licentiously, he would most justly blame them for living contrary to the teaching of Jesus, but would act most unreasonably if he were to charge the Gospel with their censurable conduct; so, if he found nevertheless that the doctrine of the Christians invites men to wisdom, the blame then must remain with those who rest in their own ignorance, and who utter, not what Celsus relates (for although some of them are simple and ignorant, they do not speak so shamelessly as he alleges), but other things of much less serious import, which, however, serve to turn aside men from the practice of wisdom.
But that the object of Christianity is that we should become wise, can be proved not only from the ancient Jewish writings, which we also use, but especially from those which were composed after the time of Jesus, and which are believed among the Churches to be divine. Now, in the fiftieth Psalm, David is described as saying in his prayer to God these words:
The unseen and secret things of Your wisdom You have manifested to me. Solomon, too, because he asked for wisdom, received it; and if any one were to peruse the Psalms, he would find the book filled with many maxims of wisdom: and the evidences of his wisdom may be seen in his treatises, which contain a great amount of wisdom expressed in few words, and in which you will find many laudations of wisdom, and encouragements towards obtaining it. So wise, moreover, was Solomon, that
the queen of Sheba, having heard his name, and the name of the Lord, came to try him with difficult questions, and spoke to him all things, whatsoever were in her heart; and Solomon answered her all her questions. There was no question omitted by the king which he did not answer her. And the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, and the possessions which he had and there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, The report is true which I heard in my own land regarding you and your wisdom; and I believed not them who told me, until I had come, and my eyes have seen it. And, lo, they did not tell me the half. You have added wisdom and possessions above all the report which I heard. It is recorded also of him, that
God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And the wisdom that was in Solomon greatly excelled the wisdom of all the ancients, and of all the wise men of Egypt; and he was wiser than all men, even than Gethan the Ezrahite, and Emad, and Chalcadi, and Aradab, the sons of Madi. And he was famous among all the nations round about. And Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were five thousand. And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop which springs out of the wall; and also of fishes and of beasts. And all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth who had heard of the fame of his wisdom.
And to such a degree does the Gospel desire that there should be wise men among believers, that for the sake of exercising the understanding of its hearers, it has spoken certain truths in enigmas, others in what are called
dark sayings, others in parables, and others in problems. And one of the prophets— Hosea— says at the end of his prophecies:
Who is wise, and he will understand these things? Or prudent, and he shall know them? Daniel, moreover, and his fellow-captives, made such progress in the learning which the wise men around the king in Babylon cultivated, that they were shown to excel all of them in a tenfold degree. And in the book of Ezekiel it is said to the ruler of Tyre, who greatly prided himself on his wisdom,
Are you wiser than Daniel? Every secret was not revealed to you.
And if you come to the books written after the time of Jesus, you will find that those multitudes of believers who hear the parables are, as it were,
without, and worthy only of exoteric doctrines, while the disciples learn in private the explanation of the parables. For, privately, to His own disciples did Jesus open up all things, esteeming above the multitudes those who desired to know His wisdom. And He promises to those who believe upon Him to send them wise men and scribes, saying,
Behold, I will send unto you wise men and scribes, and some of them they shall kill and crucify. And Paul also, in the catalogue of
charismata bestowed by God, placed first
the word of wisdom, and second, as being inferior to it,
the word of knowledge, but third, and lower down,
faith. And because he regarded
the word as higher than miraculous powers, he for that reason places
workings of miracles and
gifts of healings in a lower place than the gifts of the word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen bears witness to the great learning of Moses, which he had obtained wholly from ancient writings not accessible to the multitude. For he says:
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. And therefore, with respect to his miracles, it was suspected that he wrought them perhaps, not in virtue of his professing to come from God, but by means of his Egyptian knowledge, in which he was well versed. For the king, entertaining such a suspicion, summoned the Egyptian magicians, and wise men, and enchanters, who were found to be of no avail as against the wisdom of Moses, which proved superior to all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
But it is probable that what is written by Paul in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, as being addressed to Greeks who prided themselves greatly on their Grecian wisdom, has moved some to believe that it was not the object of the Gospel to win wise men. Now, let him who is of this opinion understand that the Gospel, as censuring wicked men, says of them that they are wise not in things which relate to the understanding, and which are unseen and eternal; but that in busying themselves about things of sense alone, and regarding these as all-important, they are wise men of the world: for as there are in existence a multitude of opinions, some of them espousing the cause of matter and bodies, and asserting that everything is corporeal which has a substantial existence, and that besides these nothing else exists, whether it be called invisible or incorporeal, it says also that these constitute the wisdom of the world, which perishes and fades away, and belongs only to this age, while those opinions which raise the soul from things here to the blessedness which is with God, and to His kingdom, and which teach men to despise all sensible and visible things as existing only for a season, and to hasten on to things invisible, and to have regard to those things which are not seen—these, it says, constitute the wisdom of God. But Paul, as a lover of truth, says of certain wise men among the Greeks, when their statements are true, that
although they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. And he bears witness that they knew God, and says, too, that this did not happen to them without divine permission, in these words:
For God showed it unto them; dimly alluding, I think, to those who ascend from things of sense to those of the understanding, when he adds,
For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful.
And perhaps also from the words,
For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the base things, and the things which are despised, has God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh may glory in His presence; some have been led to suppose that no one who is instructed, or wise, or prudent, embraces the Gospel. Now, in answer to such an one, we would say that it has not been stated that
no wise man according to the flesh, but that
not many wise men according to the flesh, are called. It is manifest, further, that among the characteristic qualifications of those who are termed
bishops, Paul, in describing what kind of man the bishop ought to be, lays down as a qualification that he should also be a teacher, saying that he ought to be able to convince the gainsayers, that by the wisdom which is in him he may stop the mouths of foolish talkers and deceivers. And as he selects for the episcopate a man who has been once married rather than he who has twice entered the married state, and a man of blameless life rather than one who is liable to censure, and a sober man rather than one who is not such, and a prudent man rather than one who is not prudent, and a man whose behaviour is decorous rather than he who is open to the charge even of the slightest indecorum, so he desires that he who is to be chosen by preference for the office of a bishop should be apt to teach, and able to convince the gainsayers. How then can Celsus justly charge us with saying,
Let no one come to us who is ‘instructed,’ or ‘wise,’ or ‘prudent?’ Nay, let him who wills come to us
prudent; and none the less, if any one be ignorant and unintelligent, and uninstructed and foolish, let him also come: for it is these whom the Gospel promises to cure, when they come, by rendering them all worthy of God.
This statement also is untrue, that 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. Such indeed does the Gospel invite, in order to make them better; but it invites also others who are very different from these, since Christ is the Saviour of all men, and especially of them that believe, whether they be intelligent or simple; and
He is the propitiation with the Father for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. After this it is superfluous for us to wish to offer a reply to such statements of Celsus as the following:
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 it not rather be an assistance, and a means by which one might be better able to arrive at the truth? Truly it is no evil to have been educated, for education is the way to virtue; but to rank those among the number of the educated who hold erroneous opinions is what even the wise men among the Greeks would not do. On the other hand, who would not admit that to have studied the best opinions is a blessing? But what shall we call the best, save those which are true, and which incite men to virtue? Moreover, it is an excellent thing for a man to be wise, but not to seem so, as Celsus says. And it is no hindrance to the knowledge of God, but an assistance, to have been educated, and to have studied the best opinions, and to be wise. And it becomes us rather than Celsus to say this, especially if it be shown that he is an Epicurean.
But let us see what those statements of his are which follow next in these words:
Nay, we see, indeed, that even those individuals, who in the market-places perform the most disgraceful tricks, and who gather crowds around them, would never approach an assembly of wise men, nor dare to exhibit their arts among them; but wherever they see young men, and a mob of slaves, and a gathering of unintelligent persons, there they thrust themselves in, and show themselves off. Observe, now, how he slanders us in these words, comparing us to those who in the market-places perform the most disreputable tricks, and gather crowds around them! What disreputable tricks, pray, do we perform? Or what is there in our conduct that resembles theirs, seeing that by means of readings, and explanations of the things read, we lead men to the worship of the God of the universe, and to the cognate virtues, and turn them away from contemning Deity, and from all things contrary to right reason? Philosophers verily would wish to collect together such hearers of their discourses as exhort men to virtue—a practice which certain of the Cynics especially have followed, who converse publicly with those whom they happen to meet. Will they maintain, then, that these who do not gather together persons who are considered to have been educated, but who invite and assemble hearers from the public street, resemble those who in the market-places perform the most disreputable tricks, and gather crowds around them? Neither Celsus, however, nor any one who holds the same opinions, will blame those who, agreeably to what they regard as a feeling of philanthropy, address their arguments to the ignorant populace.
And if they are not to be blamed for so doing, let us see whether Christians do not exhort multitudes to the practice of virtue in a greater and better degree than they. For the philosophers who converse in public do not pick and choose their hearers, but he who likes stands and listens. The Christians, however, having previously, so far as possible, tested the souls of those who wish to become their hearers, and having previously instructed them in private, when they appear (before entering the community) to have sufficiently evinced their desire towards a virtuous life, introduce them then, and not before, privately forming one class of those who are beginners, and are receiving admission, but who have not yet obtained the mark of complete purification; and another of those who have manifested to the best of their ability their intention to desire no other things than are approved by Christians; and among these there are certain persons appointed to make inquiries regarding the lives and behaviour of those who join them, in order that they may prevent those who commit acts of infamy from coming into their public assembly, while those of a different character they receive with their whole heart, in order that they may daily make them better. And this is their method of procedure, both with those who are sinners, and especially with those who lead dissolute lives, whom they exclude from their community, although, according to Celsus, they resemble those who in the market-places perform the most shameful tricks. Now the venerable school of the Pythagoreans used to erect a cenotaph to those who had apostatized from their system of philosophy, treating them as dead; but the Christians lament as dead those who have been vanquished by licentiousness or any other sin, because they are lost and dead to God, and as being risen from the dead (if they manifest a becoming change) they receive them afterwards, at some future time, after a greater interval than in the case of those who were admitted at first, but not placing in any office or post of rank in the Church of God those who, after professing the Gospel, lapsed and fell.
Observe now with regard to the following statement of Celsus,
We see also those persons who in the market-places perform most disreputable tricks, and collect crowds around them, whether a manifest falsehood has not been uttered, and things compared which have no resemblance. He says that these individuals, to whom he compares us, who
perform the most disreputable tricks in the market-places and collect crowds, would never approach an assembly of wise men, nor dare to show off their tricks before them; but wherever they see young men, and a mob of slaves, and a gathering of foolish people, there do they thrust themselves in and make a display. Now, in speaking thus he does nothing else than simply load us with abuse, like the women upon the public streets, whose object is to slander one another; for we do everything in our power to secure that our meetings should be composed of wise men, and those things among us which are especially excellent and divine we then venture to bring forward publicly in our discussions when we have an abundance of intelligent hearers, while we conceal and pass by in silence the truths of deeper import when we see that our audience is composed of simpler minds, which need such instruction as is figuratively termed
For the word is used by our Paul in writing to the Corinthians, who were Greeks, and not yet purified in their morals:
I have fed you with milk, not with meat; for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able, for you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying and strife, are you not carnal, and walk as men? Now the same writer, knowing that there was a certain kind of nourishment better adapted for the soul, and that the food of those young persons who were admitted was compared to milk, continues:
And you have become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Would then those who believe these words to be well spoken, suppose that the noble doctrines of our faith would never be mentioned in an assembly of wise men, but that wherever (our instructors) see young men, and a mob of slaves, and a collection of foolish individuals, they bring publicly forward divine and venerable truths, and before such persons make a display of themselves in treating of them? But it is clear to him who examines the whole spirit of our writings, that Celsus is animated with a hatred against the human race resembling that of the ignorant populace, and gives utterance to these falsehoods without examination.
We acknowledge, however, although Celsus will not have it so, that we do desire to instruct all men in the word of God, so as to give to young men the exhortations which are appropriate to them, and to show to slaves how they may recover freedom of thought, and be ennobled by the word. And those among us who are the ambassadors of Christianity sufficiently declare that they are debtors to Greeks and Barbarians, to wise men and fools, (for they do not deny their obligation to cure the souls even of foolish persons,) in order that as far as possible they may lay aside their ignorance, and endeavour to obtain greater prudence, by listening also to the words of Solomon:
Oh, you fools, be of an understanding heart, and
Who is the most simple among you, let him turn unto me; and wisdom exhorts those who are devoid of understanding in the words,
Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mixed for you. Forsake folly that you may live, and correct understanding in knowledge. This too would I say (seeing it bears on the point), in answer to the statement of Celsus: Do not philosophers invite young men to their lectures? And do they not encourage young men to exchange a wicked life for a better? And do they not desire slaves to learn philosophy? Must we find fault, then, with philosophers who have exhorted slaves to the practice of virtue? With Pythagoras for having so done with Zamolxis, Zeno with Perseus, and with those who recently encouraged Epictetus to the study of philosophy? Is it indeed permissible for you, O Greeks, to call youths and slaves and foolish persons to the study of philosophy, but if we do so, we do not act from philanthropic motives in wishing to heal every rational nature with the medicine of reason, and to bring them into fellowship with God, the Creator of all things? These remarks, then, may suffice in answer to what are slanders rather than accusations on the part of Celsus.
But as Celsus delights to heap up calumnies against us, and, in addition to those which he has already uttered, has added others, let us examine these also, and see whether it be the Christians or Celsus who have reason to be ashamed of what is said. He asserts,
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 elders 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. And while thus speaking, if they see one of the instructors of youth approaching, or one of the more intelligent class, or even the father himself, the more timid among them become afraid, while the more forward incite the children to throw off the yoke, whispering that in the presence of father and teachers they neither will nor can explain to them any good thing, seeing they turn away with aversion from the silliness and stupidity of such persons as being altogether corrupt, and far advanced in wickedness, and such as would inflict punishment upon them; but that if they wish (to avail themselves of their aid) they must leave their father and their instructors, and go with the women and their playfellows to the women’s apartments, or to the leather shop, or to the fuller’s shop, that they may attain to perfection;— and by words like these they gain them over.
Observe now how by such statements he depreciates those among us who are teachers of the word, and who strive in every way to raise the soul to the Creator of all things, and who show that we ought to despise things
visible, and to do our utmost to reach communion with God, and the contemplation of things that are
invisible, and a blessed life with God, and the friends of God; comparing them to
workers in wool in private houses, and to leather-cutters, and to fullers, and to the most rustic of mankind, who carefully incite young boys to wickedness, and women to forsake their fathers and teachers, and follow them. Now let Celsus point out from what wise parent, or from what teachers, we keep away children and women, and let him ascertain by comparison among those children and women who are adherents of our doctrine, whether any of the opinions which they formerly heard are better than ours, and in what manner we draw away children and women from noble and venerable studies, and incite them to worse things. But he will not be able to make good any such charge against us, seeing that, on the contrary, we turn away women from a dissolute life, and from being at variance with those with whom they live, from all mad desires after theatres and dancing, and from superstition; while we train to habits of self-restraint boys just reaching the age of puberty, and feeling a desire for sexual pleasures, pointing out to them not only the disgrace which attends those sins, but also the state to which the soul of the wicked is reduced through practices of that kind, and the judgments which it will suffer, and the punishments which will be inflicted.
But who are the teachers whom we call triflers and fools, whose defence is undertaken by Celsus, as of those who teach better things? (I know not,) unless he deem those to be good instructors of women, and no triflers, who invite them to superstition and to unchaste spectacles, and those, moreover, to be teachers not devoid of sense who lead and drag the young men to all those disorderly acts which we know are often committed by them. We indeed call away these also, as far as we can, from the dogmas of philosophy to our worship of God, by showing forth its excellence and purity. But as Celsus, by his statements, has declared that we do not do so, but that we call only the foolish, I would say to him,
If you had charged us with withdrawing from the study of philosophy those who were already preoccupied with it, you would not have spoken the truth, and yet your charge would have had an appearance of probability; but when you now say that we draw away our adherents from good teachers, show who are those other teachers save the teachers of philosophy, or those who have been appointed to give instruction in some useful branch of study.
He will be unable, however, to show any such; while we promise, openly and not in secret, that they will be happy who live according to the word of God, and who look to Him in all things, and who do everything, whatever it is, as if in the presence of God. Are these the instructions of workers in wool, and of leather-cutters, and fullers, and uneducated rustics? But such an assertion he cannot make good.
But those who, in the opinion of Celsus, resemble the workers in wool in private houses, and the leather-cutters, and fullers, and uneducated rustics, will, he alleges, in the presence of father or teachers be unwilling to speak, or unable to explain to the boys anything that is good. In answer to which, we would say, What kind of father, my good sir, and what kind of teacher, do you mean? If you mean one who approves of virtue, and turns away from vice, and welcomes what is better, then know, that with the greatest boldness will we declare our opinions to the children, because we will be in good repute with such a judge. But if, in the presence of a father who has a hatred of virtue and goodness, we keep silence, and also before those who teach what is contrary to sound doctrine, do not blame us for so doing, since you will blame us without good reason. You, at all events, in a case where fathers deemed the mysteries of philosophy an idle and unprofitable occupation for their sons, and for young men in general, would not, in teaching philosophy, make known its secrets before worthless parents; but, desiring to keep apart those sons of wicked parents who had been turned towards the study of philosophy, you would observe the proper seasons, in order that the doctrines of philosophy might reach the minds of the young men. And we say the same regarding our teachers. For if we turn (our hearers) away from those instructors who teach obscene comedies and licentious iambics, and many other things which neither improve the speaker nor benefit the hearers (because the latter do not know how to listen to poetry in a philosophic frame of mind, nor the former how to say to each of the young men what tends to his profit), we are not, in following such a course, ashamed to confess what we do. But if you will show me teachers who train young men for philosophy, and who exercise them in it, I will not from such turn away young men, but will try to raise them, as those who have been previously exercised in the whole circle of learning and in philosophical subjects, to the venerable and lofty height of eloquence which lies hid from the multitude of Christians, where are discussed topics of the greatest importance, and where it is demonstrated and shown that they have been treated philosophically both by the prophets of God and the apostles of Jesus.
Immediately after this, Celsus, perceiving that he has slandered us with too great bitterness, as if by way of defence expresses himself as follows:
That I bring no heavier charge than what the truth compels me, any one may see from the following remarks. Those who invite to participation in other mysteries, make proclamation as follows: ‘Every one who has clean hands, and a prudent tongue;’ others again thus: ‘He who is pure from all pollution, and whose soul is conscious of no evil, and who has lived well and justly.’ Such is the proclamation made by those who promise purification from sins. 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. Do you not call him a sinner, then, who is unjust, and a thief, and a housebreaker, and a poisoner, and a committer of sacrilege, and a robber of the dead? What others would a man invite if he were issuing a proclamation for an assembly of robbers? Now, in answer to such statements, we say that it is not the same thing to invite those who are sick in soul to be cured, and those who are in health to the knowledge and study of divine things. We, however, keeping both these things in view, at first invite all men to be healed, and exhort those who are sinners to come to the consideration of the doctrines which teach men not to sin, and those who are devoid of understanding to those which beget wisdom, and those who are children to rise in their thoughts to manhood, and those who are simply unfortunate to good fortune, or— which is the more appropriate term to use— to blessedness. And when those who have been turned towards virtue have made progress, and have shown that they have been purified by the word, and have led as far as they can a better life, then and not before do we invite them to participation in our mysteries.
For we speak wisdom among them that are perfect.
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 sacredmysteries!
Not to participation in mysteries, then, and to fellowship in the wisdom hidden in a mystery, which Godordained before the world to the glory of His saints, do we invite the wicked man, and the thief, and the housebreaker, and the poisoner, and the committer of sacrilege, and the plunderer of the dead, and all those others whom Celsus may enumerate in his exaggerating style, but such as these we invite to be healed. For there are in the divinity of the word some helps towards the cure of those who are sick, respecting which the word says,
They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; others, again, which to the pure in soul and body exhibit
the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest by the Scriptures of the prophets, and
by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which
appearing is manifested to each one of those who are perfect, and which enlightens the reason in the true knowledge of things. But as he exaggerates the charges against us, adding, after his list of those vile individuals whom he has mentioned, this remark,
What other persons would a robber summon to himself by proclamation? we answer such a question by saying that a robber summons around him individuals of such a character, in order to make use of their villainy against the men whom they desire to slay and plunder. A Christian, on the other hand, even though he invite those whom the robber invites, invites them to a very different vocation, viz., to bind up these wounds by His word, and to apply to the soul, festering amid evils, the drugs obtained from the word, and which are analogous to the wine and oil, and plasters, and other healing appliances which belong to the art of medicine.
In the next place, throwing a slur upon the exhortations spoken and written to those who have led wicked lives, and which invite them to repentance and reformation of heart, he asserts that we say
that it was to sinners that God has been sent. Now this statement of his is much the same as if he were to find fault with certain persons for saying that on account of the sick who were living in a city, a physician had been sent them by a very benevolent monarch. God the Word was sent, indeed, as a physician to sinners, but as a teacher of divine mysteries to those who are already pure and who sin no more. But Celsus, unable to see this distinction—for he had no desire to be animated with a love of truth—remarks,
Why was he not sent to those who were without sin? What evil is it not to have committed sin? To which we reply, that if by those
who were without sin he means those who sin no more, then our Saviour Jesus was sent even to such, but not as a physician. While if by those
who were without sin he means such as have never at any time sinned—for he made no distinction in his statement—we reply that it is impossible for a man thus to be without sin. And this we say, excepting, of course, the man understood to be in Christ Jesus, who
did no sin. It is with a malicious intent, indeed, that Celsus says of us that we assert that
God will receive the unrighteousness man if he humble himself on account of his wickedness, but that He will not receive the righteous man, although he look up to Him, (adorned) with virtue from the beginning. Now we assert that it is impossible for a man to look up to God (adorned) with virtue from the beginning. For wickedness must necessarily first exist in men. As Paul also says,
When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. Moreover, we do not teach regarding the unrighteous man, that it is sufficient for him to humble himself on account of his wickedness in order to his being accepted by God, but that God will accept him if, after passing condemnation upon himself for his past conduct, he walk humbly on account of it, and in a becoming manner for the time to come.
After this, not understanding how it has been said that
every one who exalted himself shall be abased; nor (although taught even by Plato) that
the good and virtuous man walks humbly and orderly; and ignorant, moreover, that we give the injunction,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; he says that
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. Now, what words of flattery and piteous wailing are contained in the Holy Scriptures when the sinner says in his prayers to God,
I have acknowledged my sin, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord, etc., etc.? For is he able to show that a procedure of this kind is not adapted to the conversion of sinners, who humble themselves in their prayers under the hand of God? And, becoming confused by his efforts to accuse us, he contradicts himself; appearing at one time to know a man
without sin, and
a righteous man, who can look up to God (adorned) with virtue from the beginning; and at another time accepting our statement that there is no man altogether righteous, or without sin; for, as if he admitted its truth, he remarks,
This is indeed apparently true, that somehow the human race is naturally inclined to sin. In the next place, as if all men were not invited by the word, he says,
All men, then, without distinction, ought to be invited, since all indeed are sinners. And yet, in the preceding pages, we have pointed out the words of Jesus:
Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. All men, therefore, labouring and being heavy laden on account of the nature of sin, are invited to the rest spoken of in the word of God,
for God sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
But since he says, in addition to this,
What is this preference of sinners over others? and makes other remarks of a similar nature, we have to reply that absolutely a sinner is not preferred before one who is not a sinner; but that sometimes a sinner, who has become conscious of his own sin, and for that reason comes to repentance, being humbled on account of his sins, is preferred before one who is accounted a lesser sinner, but who does not consider himself one, but exalts himself on the ground of certain goodqualities which he thinks he possesses, and is greatly elated on their account. And this is manifest to those who are willing to peruse the Gospels in a spirit of fairness, by the parable of the publican, who said,
Be merciful to me a sinner, and of the Pharisee who boasted with a certain wicked self-conceit in the words,
I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. For Jesus subjoins to his narrative of them both the words:
This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. We utter no blasphemy, then, against God, neither are we guilty of falsehood, when we teach that every man, whoever he may be, is conscious of human infirmity in comparison with the greatness of God, and that we must ever ask from Him, who alone is able to supply our deficiencies, what is wanting to our (mortal) nature.
He imagines, however, that we utter these exhortations for the conversion of sinners, because we are able to gain over no one who is really good and righteous, and therefore open our gates to the most unholy and abandoned of men. But if any one will fairly observe our assemblies we can present a greater number of those who have been converted from not a very wicked life, than of those who have committed the most abominable sins. For naturally those who are conscious to themselves of better things, desire that those promises may be true which are declared by God regarding the reward of the righteous, and thus assent more readily to the statements (of Scripture) than those do who have led very wicked lives, and who are prevented by their very consciousness (of evil) from admitting that they will be punished by the Judge of all with such punishment as befits those who have sinned so greatly, and as would not be inflicted by the Judge of all contrary to right reason. Sometimes, also, when very abandonedmen 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 although Celsus observes this, he nevertheless, I know not why, expresses himself in the following terms:
And yet, indeed, it is manifest to every one that no one by chastisement, 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.
Now here Celsus appears to me to have committed a great error, in refusing to those who are sinners by nature, and also by habit, the possibility of a complete transformation, alleging that they cannot be cured even by punishment. For it clearly appears that all men are inclined to sin by nature, and some not only by nature but by practice, while not all men are incapable of an entire transformation. For there are found in every philosophical sect, and in the word of God, persons who are related to have undergone so great a change that they may be proposed as a model of excellence of life. Among the names of the heroic age some mention Hercules and Ulysses, among those of later times, Socrates, and of those who have lived very recently, Musonius. Not only against us, then, did Celsus utter the calumny, when he said that
it was manifest to every one that those who were given to sin by nature and habit could not by any means— even by punishments— be completely changed for the better, but also against the noblest names in philosophy, who have not denied that the recovery of virtue was a possible thing for men. But although he did not express his meaning with exactness, we shall nevertheless, though giving his words a more favourable construction, convict him of unsound reasoning. For his words were:
Those who are inclined to sin by nature and habit, no one could completely reform even by chastisement; and his words, as we understood them, we refuted to the best of our ability.
It is probable, however, that he meant to convey some such meaning as this, that those who were both by nature and habit given to the commission of those sins which are committed by the most abandoned of men, could not be completely transformed even by punishment. And yet this is shown to be false from the history of certain philosophers. For who is there that would not rank among the most abandoned of men the individual who somehow submitted to yield himself to his master, when he placed him in a brothel, that he might allow himself to be polluted by any one who liked? And yet such a circumstance is related of Phædo! And who will not agree that he who burst, accompanied with a flute-player and a party of revellers, his profligate associates, into the school of the venerable Xenocrates, to insult a man who was the admiration of his friends, was not one of the greatest miscreants among mankind? Yet, notwithstanding this, reason was powerful enough to effect their conversion, and to enable them to make such progress in philosophy, that the one was deemed worthy by Plato to recount the discourse of Socrates on immortality, and to record his firmness in prison, when he evinced his contempt of the hemlock, and with all fearlessness and tranquillity of mind treated of subjects so numerous and important, that it is difficult even for those to follow them who are giving their utmost attention, and who are disturbed by no distraction; while Polemon, on the other hand, who from a profligate became a man of most temperate life, was successor in the school of Xenocrates, so celebrated for his venerable character. Celsus then does not speak the truth when he says
that sinners by nature and habit cannot be completely reformed even by chastisement.
That philosophical discourses, however, distinguished by orderly arrangement and elegant expression, should produce such results in the case of those individuals just enumerated, and upon others who have led wicked lives, is not at all to be wondered at. But when we consider that those discourses, which Celsus terms
vulgar, are filled with power, as if they were spells, and see that they at once convert multitudes from a life of licentiousness to one of extreme regularity, and from a life of wickedness to a better, and from a state of cowardice or unmanliness to one of such high-toned courage as to lead men to despise even death through the piety which shows itself within them, why should we not justly admire the power which they contain? For the words of those who at the first assumed the office of (Christian) ambassadors, and who gave their labours to rear up the Churches of God—nay, their preaching also—were accompanied with a persuasive power, though not like that found among those who profess the philosophy of Plato, or of any other merely human philosopher, which possesses no other qualities than those of human nature. But the demonstration which followed the words of the apostles of Jesus was given from God, and was accredited by the Spirit and by power. And therefore their word ran swiftly and speedily, or rather the word of God through their instrumentality, transformed numbers of persons who had been sinners both by nature and habit, whom no one could have reformed by punishment, but who were changed by the word, which moulded and transformed them according to its pleasure.
Celsus continues in his usual manner, asserting that
to change a nature entirely is exceedingly difficult. We, however, who know of only one nature in every rational soul, and who maintain that none has been created evil by the Author of all things, but that many have become wicked through education, and perverse example, and surrounding influences, so that wickedness has been naturalized in some individuals, are persuaded that for the word of God to change a nature in which evil has been naturalized is not only not impossible, but is even a work of no very great difficulty, if a man only believe that he must entrust himself to the God of all things, and do everything with a view to please Him with whom it cannot be that
Both good and bad are in the same honour,
Or that the idle man and he who laboured much
But even if it be exceedingly difficult to effect a change in some persons, the cause must be held to lie in their own will, which is reluctant to accept the belief that the God over all things is a just Judge of all the deeds done during life. For deliberate choice and practice avail much towards the accomplishment of things which appear to be very difficult, and, to speak hyperbolically, almost impossible. Has the nature of man, when desiring to walk along a rope extended in the air through the middle of the theatre, and to carry at the same time numerous and heavy weights, been able by practice and attention to accomplish such a feat; but when desiring to live in conformity with the practice of virtue, does it find it impossible to do so, although formerly it may have been exceedingly wicked? See whether he who holds such views does not bring a charge against the nature of the Creator of the rational animal rather than against the creature, if He has formed the nature of man with powers for the attainment of things of such difficulty, and of no utility whatever, but has rendered it incapable of securing its own blessedness. But these remarks may suffice as an answer to the assertion that
entirely to change a nature is exceedingly difficult. He alleges, in the next place, that
they who are without sin are partakers of a better life; not making it clear what he means by
those who are without sin, whether those who are so from the beginning (of their lives), or those who become so by a transformation. Of those who were so from the beginning of their lives, there cannot possibly be any; while those who are so after a transformation (of heart) are found to be few in number, being those who have become so after giving in their allegiance to the saving word. And they were not such when they gave in their allegiance. For, apart from the aid of the word, and that too the word of perfection, it is impossible for a man to become free from sin.
In the next place, he objects to the statement, as if it were maintained by us, that
God will be able to do all things, not seeing even here how these words are meant, and what
the all things are which are included in it, and how it is said that God
will be able. But on these matters it is not necessary now to speak; for although he might with a show of reason have opposed this proposition, he has not done so. Perhaps he did not understand the arguments which might be plausibly used against it, or if he did, he saw the answers that might be returned. Now in our judgment God can do everything which it is possible for Him to do without ceasing to be God, and good, and wise. But Celsus asserts— not comprehending the meaning of the expression
God can do all things—
that He will not desire to do anything wicked, admitting that He has the power, but not the will, to commit evil. We, on the contrary, maintain that as that which by nature possesses the property of sweetening other things through its own inherent sweetness cannot produce bitterness contrary to its own peculiar nature, nor that whose nature it is to produce light through its being light can cause darkness; so neither is God able to commit wickedness, for the power of doing evil is contrary to His deity and its omnipotence. Whereas if any one among existing things is able to commit wickedness from being inclined to wickedness by nature, it does so from not having in its nature the ability not to do evil.
He next assumes what is not granted by the more rational class of believers, but what perhaps is considered to be true by some who are devoid of intelligence,— viz., that
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. Now, in our judgment, God lightens the suffering of no wicked man who has not betaken himself to a virtuous life, and casts off no one who is already good, nor yet alleviates the suffering of any one who mourns, simply because he utters lamentation, or takes pity upon him, to use the word pity in its more common acceptation. But those who have passed severe condemnation upon themselves because of their sins, and who, as on that account, lament and bewail themselves as lost, so far as their previous conduct is concerned, and who have manifested a satisfactory change, are received by God on account of their repentance, as those who have undergone a transformation from a life of great wickedness. For virtue, taking up her abode in the souls of these persons, and expelling the wickedness which had previous possession of them, produces an oblivion of the past. And even although virtue do not effect an entrance, yet if a considerable progress take place in the soul, even that is sufficient, in the proportion that it is progressive, to drive out and destroy the flood of wickedness, so that it almost ceases to remain in the soul.
In the next place, speaking as in the person of a teacher of our doctrine, he expresses himself as follows:
Wise men reject what we say, being led into error, and ensnared by their wisdom. In reply to which we say that, since wisdom is the knowledge of divine and human things and of their causes, or, as it is defined by the word of God,
the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; and the brightness of the everlasting light, and the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness, Wisdom 7:25-26 no one who was really wise would reject what is said by a Christian acquainted with the principles of Christianity, or would be led into error, or ensnared by it. For true wisdom does not mislead, but ignorance does, while of existing things knowledge alone is permanent, and the truth which is derived from wisdom. But if, contrary to the definition of wisdom, you call any one whatever who dogmatizes with sophistical opinions wise, we answer that in conformity with what you call wisdom, such an one rejects the words of God, being misled and ensnared by plausible sophisms. And since, according to our doctrine, wisdom is not the knowledge of evil, but the knowledge of evil, so to speak, is in those who hold false opinions and who are deceived by them, I would therefore in such persons term it ignorance rather than wisdom.
After this he again slanders the ambassador of Christianity, and gives out regarding him that he relates
ridiculous things, although he does not show or clearly point out what are the things which he calls
ridiculous. And in his slanders he says that
no wise man believes the Gospel, being driven away by the multitudes who adhere to it. And in this he acts like one who should say that owing to the multitude of those ignorant persons who are brought into subjection to the laws, no wise man would yield obedience to Solon, for example, or to Lycurgus, or Zaleucus, or any other legislator, and especially if by wise man he means one who is wise (by living) in conformity with virtue. For, as with regard to these ignorantpersons, the legislators, according to their ideas of utility, caused them to be surrounded with appropriate guidance and laws, so God, legislating through Jesus Christ for men in all parts of the world, brings to Himself even those who are not wise in the way in which it is possible for such persons to be brought to a better life. And God, well knowing this, as we have already shown in the preceding pages, says in the books of Moses:
They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. And Paul also, knowing this, said,
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, calling, in a general way, wise all who appear to have made advances in knowledge, but have fallen into an atheistic polytheism, since
professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
He accuses the Christian teacher, moreover of
seeking after the unintelligent. In answer we ask, Whom do you mean by the
unintelligent? For, to speak accurately, every wicked man is
unintelligent. If then by
unintelligent you mean the wicked, do you, in drawing men to philosophy, seek to gain the wicked or the virtuous? But it is impossible to gain the virtuous, because they have already given themselves to philosophy. The wicked, then, (you try to gain;) but if they are wicked, are they
unintelligent? And many such you seek to win over to philosophy, and you therefore seek the
unintelligent. But if I seek after those who are thus termed
unintelligent, I act like a benevolent physician, who should seek after the sick in order to help and cure them. If, however, by
unintelligent you mean persons who are not clever, but the inferior class of men intellectually, I shall answer that I endeavour to improve such also to the best of my ability, although I would not desire to build up the Christian community out of such materials. For I seek in preference those who are more clever and acute, because they are able to comprehend the meaning of the hard sayings, and of those passages in the law, and prophecies, and Gospels, which are expressed with obscurity, and which you have despised as not containing anything worthy of notice, because you have not ascertained the meaning which they contain, nor tried to enter into the aim of the writers.
But as he afterwards says that
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, we shall inquire in reply,
What are the physicians to whom you refer, from whom we turn away ignorant individuals? For you do not suppose that we exhort those to embrace the Gospel who are devoted to philosophy, so that you would regard the latter as the physicians from whom we keep away such as we invite to come to the word of God. He indeed will make no answer, because he cannot name the physicians; or else he will be obliged to betake himself to those of them who are ignorant, and who of their own accord servilely yield themselves to the worship of many gods, and to whatever other opinions are entertained by ignorant individuals. In either case, then, he will be shown to have employed to no purpose in his argument the illustration of
one who keeps others away from skilled physicians. But if, in order to preserve from the philosophy of Epicurus, and from such as are considered physicians after his system, those who are deceived by them, why should we not be acting most reasonably in keeping such away from a dangerous disease caused by the physicians of Celsus,— that, viz., which leads to the annihilation of providence, and the introduction of pleasure as a good? But let it be conceded that we do keep away those whom we encourage to become our disciples from other philosopher-physicians—from the Peripatetics, for example, who deny the existence of providence and the relation of Deity to man—why shall we not piously train and heal those who have been thus encouraged, persuading them to devote themselves to the God of all things, and free those who yield obedience to us from the great wounds inflicted by the words of such as are deemed to be philosophers? Nay, let it also be admitted that we turn away from physicians of the sect of the Stoics, who introduce a corruptible god, and assert that his essence consists of a body, which is capable of being changed and altered in all its parts, and who also maintain that all things will one day perish, and that God alone will be left; why shall we not even thus emancipate our subjects from evils, and bring them by pious arguments to devote themselves to the Creator, and to admire the Father of the Christian system, who has so arranged that instruction of the most benevolent kind, and fitted for the conversion of souls, should be distributed throughout the whole human race? Nay, if we should cure those who have fallen into the folly of believing in the transmigration of souls through the teaching of physicians, who will have it that the rational nature descends sometimes into all kinds of irrational animals, and sometimes into that state of being which is incapable of using the imagination, why should we not improve the souls of our subjects by means of a doctrine which does not teach that a state of insensibility or irrationalism is produced in the wicked instead of punishment, but which shows that the labours and chastisements inflicted upon the wicked by God are a kind of medicines leading to conversion? For those who are intelligent Christians, keeping this in view, deal with the simple-minded, as parents do with very young children. We do not betake ourselves then to young persons and silly rustics, saying to them,
Flee from physicians. Nor do we say,
See that none of you lay hold of knowledge; nor do we assert that
knowledge is an evil; nor are we mad enough to say that
knowledge causes men to lose their soundness of mind. We would not even say that any one ever perished through wisdom; and although we give instruction, we never say,
Give heed to me, but
Give heed to the God of all things, and to Jesus, the giver of instruction concerning Him. And none of us is so great a braggart as to say what Celsus put in the mouth of one of our teachers to his acquaintances,
I alone will save you. Observe here the lies which he utters against us! Moreover, we do not assert that
true physicians destroy those whom they promise to cure.
And he produces a second illustration to our disadvantage, saying that
our teacher acts like a drunken man, who, entering a company of drunkards, should accuse those who are sober of being drunk. But let him show, say from the writings of Paul, that the apostle of Jesus gave way to drunkenness, and that his words were not those of soberness; or from the writings of John, that his thoughts do not breathe a spirit of temperance and of freedom from the intoxication of evil. No one, then, who is of sound mind, and teaches the doctrines of Christianity, gets drunk with wine; but Celsus utters these calumnies against us in a spirit very unlike that of a philosopher. Moreover, let Celsus say who those
sober persons are whom the ambassadors of Christianity accuse. For in our judgment all are intoxicated who address themselves to inanimate objects as to God. And why do I say
Insane would be the more appropriate word for those who hasten to temples and worship images or animals as divinities. And they too are not less insane who think that images, fashioned by men of worthless and sometimes most wicked character, confer any honour upon genuine divinities.
He next likens our teacher to one suffering from ophthalmia, and his disciples to those suffering from the same disease, and says that
such an one among a company of those who are afflicted with ophthalmia, accuses those who are sharp-sighted of being blind. Who, then, would we ask, O Greeks, are they who in our judgment do not see, save those who are unable to look up from the exceeding greatness of the world and its contents, and from the beauty of created things, and to see that they ought to worship, and admire, and reverence Him alone who made these things, and that it is not befitting to treat with reverence anything contrived by man, and applied to the honour of God, whether it be without a reference to the Creator, or with one? For, to compare with that illimitable excellence, which surpasses all created being, things which ought not to be brought into comparison with it, is the act of those whose understanding is darkened. We do not then say that those who are sharp-sighted are suffering from ophthalmia or blindness; but we assert that those who, in ignorance of God, give themselves to temples and images, and so-called sacred seasons, are blinded in their minds, and especially when, in addition to their impiety, they live also in licentiousness, not even inquiring after any honourable work whatever, but doing everything that is of a disgraceful character.
After having brought against us charges of so serious a kind, he wishes to make it appear that, although he has others to adduce, he passes them by in silence. His words are as follows:
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. In answer to which, it might be said that from the power which shows itself in those who are converted to Christianity, it is not at all the
wicked who are won over to the Gospel, as the more simple class of persons, and, as many would term them, the
unpolished. For such individuals, through fear of the punishments that are threatened, which arouses and exhorts them to refrain from those actions which are followed by punishments, strive to yield themselves up to the Christian religion, being influenced by the power of the word to such a degree, that through fear of what are called in the word
everlasting punishments, they despise all the tortures which are devised against them among men—even death itself, with countless other evils—which no wise man would say is the act of persons of wicked mind. How can temperance and sober-mindedness, or benevolence and liberality, be practised by a man of wicked mind? Nay, even the fear of God cannot be felt by such an one, with respect to which, because it is useful to the many, the Gospel encourages those who are not yet able to choose that which ought to be chosen for its own sake, to select it as the greatest blessing, and one above all promise; for this principle cannot be implanted in him who prefers to live in wickedness.
But if in these matters any one were to imagine that it is superstition rather than wickedness which appears in the multitude of those who believe the word, and should charge our doctrine with making mensuperstitious, we shall answer him by saying that, as a certain legislator replied to the question of one who asked him whether he had enacted for his citizens the best laws, that he had not given them absolutely the best, but the best which they were capable of receiving; so it might be said by the Father of the Christian doctrine, I have given the best laws and instruction for the improvement of morals of which the many were capable, not threatening sinners with imaginary labours and chastisements, but with such as are real, and necessary to be applied for the correction of those who offer resistance, although they do not at all understand the object of him who inflicts the punishment, nor the effect of the labours. For the doctrine of punishment is both attended with utility, and is agreeable to truth, and is stated in obscure terms with advantage. Moreover, as for the most part it is not the wicked whom the ambassadors of Christianity gain over, neither do we insult God. For we speak regarding Him both what is true, and what appears to be clear to the multitude, but not so clear to them as it is to those few who investigate the truths of the Gospel in a philosophical manner.
Seeing, however, that Celsus alleges that
Christians are won over by us through vain hopes, we thus reply to him when he finds fault with our doctrine of the blessed life, and of communion with God: As for you, good sir, they also are won over by vain hopes who have accepted the doctrine of Pythagoras and Plato regarding the soul, that it is its nature to ascend to the vault of heaven, and in the super-celestial space to behold the sights which are seen by the blessed spectators above. According to you, O Celsus, they also who have accepted the doctrine of the duration of the soul (after death), and who lead a life through which they become heroes, and make their abodes with the gods, are won over by vain hopes. Probably also they who are persuaded that the soul comes (into the body) from without, and that it will be withdrawn from the power of death, would be said by Celsus to be won over by empty hopes. Let him then come forth to the contest, no longer concealing the sect to which he belongs, but confessing himself to be an Epicurean, and let him meet the arguments, which are not lightly advanced among Greeks and Barbarians, regarding the immortality of the soul, or its duration (after death), or the immortality of the thinking principle; and let him prove that these are words which deceive with empty hopes those who give their assent to them; but that the adherents of his philosophical system are pure from empty hopes, and that they indeed lead to hopes of good, or— what is more in keeping with his opinions— give birth to no hope at all, on account of the immediate and complete destruction of the soul (after death). Unless, perhaps, Celsus and the Epicureans will deny that it is a vain hope which they entertain regarding their end—pleasure—which, according to them, is the supreme good, and which consists in the permanent health of the body, and the hope regarding it which is entertained by Epicurus.
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.