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Passages of Celsus concerning christian principles.
He also says,
1. • LETa us now see,' says Origen, how lie affects to • lessen us with regard to our moral doctrine, saying, that'
it is only the same with that of other pbilosophers, and . contains in it nothing weighty and new.' • Thato others, as well as the christiaus, had disallowed the divinity of gods made with hands, forasmuch as oftentimes they were formed by wicked men.'
Whether there be here any reference to Acts xix, 26, I cannot say certainly: but it hence appears, that the christian moral doctrine had nothing in it to which any just exceptions could be made. Celsus, indeed, would not allow it to have any superior excellence above the doctrine of the philosopliers; but he does not deny it to be like to their doctrine, and equal to that of the best sort of the philosophers.
2. • Hed says, the same things are better taught by the • Greeks, and without the threatenings or promises of God, • or bis Son. And thate Plato did not pretend to come * from heaven, and declare such things.'
Supposing, for the present, that the same things had been taught by others; they would not, and did not so effectually influence men, as when taught with authority from God, and with assurances of suitable recompences.
It would have been more material, if Celsus could have shown, where the heathen deities, or their priests with authority under them, had recommended sobriety and other virtues; adding likewise threatenings of misery to the refractory, and promises of happiness in a future state to such as feared the gods, and practised righteousness and mercy to their neighbours. Augustine, in his work of the City of God, observes, that f the gods of the pagans had vever authorized the doctrine of virtuous living. & L. i. sect. 4, 5. p. 6.
Το κοινον ειναι και προς αλλες φιλοσοφες ως και σεμνον τι και καινον μαθημα. Sect. 4.
-λεγων, αυτος δια τατο μη νομιζειν αυτες χειροποιητες θεες. Sect. 5. Φασκων, βελτιον αυτα παρ’ Ελληνων είρησθαι. κ. λ.--L. vi. sect. 1. p.
e L. vi. sect. 10. p. 281. f Sed demonstrentur vel commemorentur loca, talibus aliquando convei. ticulis consecrata; non ubi ludi agerentur obscenis vocibus et motibus histrionum---sed ubi populi audirent, quid Dii præciperent de cohibendî
3. · Celsus thinks, that we, by worshipping one that was apprehended, and died, do much the same thing with • the Getæ, who worship Zamolxis, and the Cilicians, who worship Mopsus.' 'Again" he says of us, that we
laugh at those who worship Jupiter, because his tomb is • shown in Crete; nevertheless we worship one that was • buried.'
The difference is manifest; the Cretans knew of no miracles done by Jupiter; whereas, the christians knew of many iniracles done by Jesus in person, and by others in his name, after his resurrection.
A part of Origen's answer here is to this purpose. “All i • this we have been forced to say by way of answer to
Celsus, who, little favourable to Jesus, believes it to be • true which is written of him, that he died, and was buried ; • but esteems it a fiction only, that he was raised from the · dead; although his resurrection had been foretold by the
prophets, and there were many proofs of bis being alive again after he had died.' Compare Acts i. 3.
4. Butk the christians, according to Celsus, making some additions to the Jewish notions, say, that the Son of • God has been already sent, because of the sins of the
Jews; and that the Jews, having punished Jesus, and given him gall to drink, have brought upon themselves the anger of God.'
Which, Origen says, is a plain case; and if it is not ' so, let any man show it. For Jerusalem was destroyed ' within two and forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus, • and ever since they have been in subjection to others, ' without their own proper rites and worship; which is one . of those things, that manifests Jesus to have had in him • somewhat divine and sacred; forasmuch as upon his ac· count the Jews have suffered so many and so great calamities, and for so long a time.'
5. He argues against a resurrection in this manner. But m ' that is another absurdity of theirs, that when God shall * throw a fire on the world, and all other things shall be
destroyed, they alone shall remain: and that not only the • living, but they also who have been ever so long dead,
avaritiâ, ambitione fragendâ, luxuriâ refrænandâ---Dicatur, in quibus locis hæc docentium Deorum solebant præcepta recitari, et a cultoribus eorum populis frequenter audiri. De Civ. Dei, 1. ji. cap. vi. Vid. et cap. xix. et xxii. 8 L. iii. sect. 34. p. 131.
h L. iii. sect. 43. p. 136. i Ibid. sect. 43. p. 137.
k L. iv, sect. 22. p. 174. και χολην ποτισαντες, επι σφας αυτες εκ θεα χoλον επεσπασαντο. 15 in L. iv. sect. 14. p. 240.
shall come forth out of the earth in their own bodies, [or * in the same flesh:] which is no other than the hope of
For what soul of a man would desire a putrified · body? Nor is this doctrine of yours agreed to by all chris• tians : for some among you reject it as impure, and abomi
nable, and impossible. For how is it possible, that a body, · which has entirely been corrupted, should return to its
own nature, and to its own primitive constitution, which it • has once lost? When they are able to make no answer to • this, they fly to that absurd refuge, that all things are pos• sible with God. But neither can God do any thing that • is shameful; nor will be do what is contrary to nature. · Nor because you perversely desire any thing, is God there• fore able to do it, or is it to be supposed, that he will do • it. For God is not the author of extravagant desires, nor
of any unbecoming disorders, but of what is right and fit. • God inay give everlasting life to the soul; but dead bodies, • as Heraclitus says, are more contemptible than dung. To
inake flesh, full of filthiness not fit to be named, eternal, is ' a thing so unreasonable, that God neither can nor will do • it; for he is himself the reason of all things in nature; • and, therefore, can no more do any thing contrary to reason, than contrary to himself.'
I have transcribed this long passage, to show at once the heathen sentiments and reasonings, upon this point; but ] do not intend a laboured confutation of thcın. Celsus affects to despise the body; but I presume he goes upon an ill-grounded principle, that the human soul may be as happy, or more happy, without the body, than with it; and, as Origen observes, the budy, at the resurrection, is to be changed for the better, and made fit for the soul in a state of perfection. Which, I think, removes all these difficulties, in the reunion of the soul and body, which to Celsus appeared so formidable.
What we are here to observe, is, that it hence appears, christians then expected a change or resurrection of the living and the dead at the end of the world, or the dissoJution of the present state of things, according to what St. Paul writes, I Cor. xv. 51-54, and 1 Thess iv. 13-17.
Says Dr. Cudworth, The true Intellectual System of the Universe, B. i. ch. v. p. 877, However, our christian faith assures us, that the souls of good
men shall at length be clothed with spiritual and heavenly bodies, such as are, in Aristotle's language, avaloya TW TWv aspwv solXely analogous to the • element of the stars. Which christian resurrection, therefore, “ to life and
immortality," is far from being as Celsus reproached it, okwinkwv elmiç, the • mere hope of worms.'
When Celsus says, that christians were not all agreed about the doctrine of the resurrection, it may be doubtsul, whether he intends some of his own time, or whether he refers to 1 Cor. xv. 12, and the following context.
66 Now if Christ be preached, that he rose from the dead; how say some among you, that there is no resurrection of the dead ?"
However that may be, none of my readers will omit to observe, that here is a reference to the above-mentioned texts of the first epistle to the Corinthians, and the first to the Thessalonians.
6. It is, I suppose, with regard to the expectation of the resurrection of the body, that, as Origen says, Celsuso called the christians ' a sort of men that were very fond of * the body. And yet in another place he says: Is P it not * exceeding absurd, that you should desire and hope for the • j'esurrection of the same body, as if we had nothing more
excellent, nor more precious; and yet to expose it to all * manner of sufferings as a thing of no value ?'
This needs no answer; but it ought to be observed, that Celsus here again lets us know, that christians were then in a suffering condition; and he bears testimony to their steadiness and fortitude under the tortures, and all the variety of sufferings, which they met with. This ought to be taken notice of.
7. But,'' says Celsus, omitting inany things that might • be alleged against what they say of their master, let us * allow him to be truly an angel. Is he the first, and the
only one, that has come? or, have there been others be• fore ? If they should say, he only: they are easily con• victed of falsehood. For they say, that others have often
And in particular, that there came an angel to ' his sepulchre: some say one, others, two, to tell the women, * that he was risen: for the Son of God, it seems, could not 'open the sepulchre, but wanted another to remove the
And there came also an angel to the carpenter * about Mary's pregnancy; and another angel to direct them
to take the child, and flee. And what need is there to ' reckon up particularly all that were sent to Moses, and 6 others?'
The design of this argument is to draw off christians from
Λεγει δ' ημας ειναι και φιλοσωματον γενος. L. vii. sect. 39. p. 357. 1' Ετι δε πως 8κ ατοπα υμων ταυτα, το μεν σωμα ποθειν, και ελπιζειν, ότι αυτο τ8το ανασησεται, ώς εδεν ήμιν Τατα κρειττον εδε τιμιωτερον παλιν δ' αυτο ριπτειν εις κολασεις, ως ατιμον. L. viii. sect. 46. p. 409.
1 L. v. sect. 52. p. 265, 266.
their peculiar veneration for Jesus. "He reminds them, therefore, that there had been, even according to themselves, many other messengers from God, whoin they might respect as well as him.
From this passage we Icarn, that the main point with christians was a faith in Jesus, whom they esteemed their inaster: nor would they forsake him upon any account.
Beside the references to the conception of Jesus in the womb of his mother Mary, and his flight into Egypt, observed forinerly, here are also references to many circumstances of our Saviour's resurrection, as related in the gospels. There was a stone at the door of the sepulchre: an angel came, and rolled it away: women came to the sepulchre, who saw there an angel: which also told them, that Jesus was risen. The resurrection of Jesus was recorded by inore than one : for Celsus observes, that some said there was one, others two, angels, who told the women that Jesus was risen. So it is in our g'ospels. For St. Matthew xxviji. 5, Mark xvi. 5, mention but one angel. Luke xxiv. 4, and John xx. 12, speak of two angels.
But the angel did not remove the stone, as Celsus insinuates, because Jesus was not himself able to do it; but it was fit, that so great a person as Jesus, should have the attendance and service of angels upon so great an occasion, as his resurrection from the grave.
Finally, any one may now judge, whether Celsus was not well acquainted with our gospels, and whether lie has not given a very valuable testimony to them.
8. I shall here take another passage, somewhat resembling that alleged just now.
• After these things,' says Origen, . he bespeaks us in • this manner. How much better were it for
you, • affect novelties, to attend to some other of those who have died nobly, and to whom that fiction of deity might be better applied ? For instance, if you did not like Hercules, nor Esculapius, nor others already consecrated, you had
Orpheus, a man endowed with a holy spirit, as all allow, * who likewise suffered a violent deató. "But, perhaps, he • has been already taken by some others. Well then, you * might have thought of Anaxarchus, who when thrown into
a inortar, and cruelly pounded in it, despised it all, saying; • " Beat on, beat the case of Anaxarchus. For you do not • beat him.” Which is, indeed, the saying of a divine spirit. · But here you are prevented by some naturalists, who have already followed lvim. Still,"liad you not Epictetus, who
s 1. vi, sect. 53. p. 367.