Home Dialogika Resources Texts on History of Relations ORIGEN, "Against Celsus" (ca. 248) - excerpts
ORIGEN, "Against Celsus" (ca. 248) - excerpts Print E-mail
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[These selections from Contra Celsum courtesy of newadvent.org]

Note: Toward the end of his life, Origen wrote eight books in response to a Roman anti-Christian polemicist named Celsus. Among other things, Celsus had criticized Christianity as a heretical deviation from Judaism, sometimes using a fictitious Jewish character to make his points. These selections show Origen's efforts to correct Celsus' misstatements about both Christianity and Judaism and to assert that Christians have superseded Jews in the plans of the one God.

Book I

Chapter 26

But let us see the manner in which this Celsus, who professes to know everything, brings a false accusation against the Jews, when he alleges that "they worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor." Now, in what part of the writings of Moses he found the lawgiver laying down the worship of angels, let him tell, who professes to know all about Christianity and Judaism; and let him show also how sorcery can exist among those who have accepted the Mosaic law, and read the injunction, "Neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them." Moreover, he promises to show afterwards "how it was through ignorance that the Jews were deceived and led into error." Now, if he had discovered that the ignorance of the Jews regarding Christ was the effect of their not having heard the prophecies about Him, he would show with truth how the Jews fell into error. But without any wish whatever that this should appear, he views as Jewish errors what are no errors at all. And Celsus having promised to make us acquainted, in a subsequent part of his work, with the doctrines of Judaism, proceeds in the first place to speak of our Saviour as having been the leader of our generation, in so far as we are Christians, and says that "a few years ago he began to teach this doctrine, being regarded by Christians as the Son of God." Now, with respect to this point-His prior existence a few years ago-we have to remark as follows. Could it have come to pass without divine assistance, that Jesus, desiring during these years to spread abroad His words and teaching, should have been so successful, that everywhere throughout the world, not a few persons, Greeks as well as Barbarians, learned as well as ignorant, adopted His doctrine, so that they struggled, even to death in its defence, rather than deny it, which no one is ever related to have done for any other system? I indeed, from no wish to flatter Christianity, but from a desire thoroughly to examine the facts, would say that even those who are engaged in the healing of numbers of sick persons, do not attain their object-the cure of the body-without divine help; and if one were to succeed in delivering souls from a flood of wickedness, and excesses, and acts of injustice, and from a contempt of God, and were to show, as evidence of such a result, one hundred persons improved in their natures (let us suppose the number to be so large), no one would reasonably say that it was without divine assistance that he had implanted in those hundred individuals a doctrine capable of removing so many evils. And if any one, on a candid consideration of these things, shall admit that no improvement ever takes place among men without divine help, how much more confidently shall he make the same assertion regarding Jesus, when he compares the former lives of many converts to His doctrine with their after conduct, and reflects in what acts of licentiousness and injustice and covetousness they formerly indulged, until, as Celsus, and they who think with him, allege, "they were deceived," and accepted a doctrine which, as these individuals assert, is destructive of the life of men; but who, from the time that they adopted it, have become in some way meeker, and more religious, and more consistent, so that certain among them, from a desire of exceeding chastity, and a wish to worship God with greater purity, abstain even from the permitted indulgences of (lawful) love.

Book II

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

Now, since we are upon the subject of Peter, and of the teachers of Christianity to the circumcision, I do not deem it out of place to quote a certain declaration of Jesus taken from the Gospel according to John, and to give the explanation of the same. For it is there related that Jesus said: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all the truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." And when we inquire what were the "many things" referred to in the passage which Jesus had to say to His disciples, but which they were not then able to bear, I have to observe that, probably because the apostles were Jews, and had been trained up according to the letter of the Mosaic law, He was unable to tell them what was the true law, and how the Jewish worship consisted in the pattern and shadow of certain heavenly things, and how future blessings were foreshadowed by the injunctions regarding meats and drinks, and festivals, and new moons, and sabbaths. These were many of the subjects which He had to explain to them; but as He saw that it was a work of exceeding difficulty to root out of the mind opinions that have been almost born with a man, and amid which he has been brought up till he reached the period of maturity, and which have produced in those who have adopted them the belief that they are divine, and that it is an act of impiety to overthrow them; and to demonstrate by the superiority of Christian doctrine, that is, by the truth, in a manner to convince the hearers, that such opinions were but "loss and dung," He postponed such a task to a future season-to that, namely, which followed His passion and resurrection. For the bringing of aid unseasonably to those who were not yet capable of receiving it, might have overturned the idea which they had already formed of Jesus, as the Christ, and the Son of the living God. And see if there is not some well-grounded reason for such a statement as this, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now;" seeing there are many points in the law which require to be explained and cleared up in a spiritual sense, and these the disciples were in a manner unable to bear, having been born and brought up amongst Jews. I am of opinion, moreover, that since these rites were typical, and the truth was that which was to be taught them by the Holy Spirit, these words were added, "When He is come who is the Spirit of truth, He will lead you into all the truth;" as if He had said, into all the truth about those things which, being to you but types, you believed to constitute a true worship which you rendered unto God. And so, according to the promise of Jesus, the Spirit of truth came to Peter, saying to him, with regard to the four-footed beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air: "Arise, Peter; kill, and eat." And the Spirit came to him while he was still in a state of superstitious ignorance; for he said, in answer to the divine command, "Not so Lord; for I have never yet eaten anything common or unclean." He instructed him, however, in the true and spiritual meaning of meats, by saying, "What God has cleansed, call not common." And so, after that vision, the Spirit of truth, which conducted Peter into all the truth, told him the many things which he was unable to bear when Jesus was still with him in the flesh. But I shall have another opportunity of explaining those matters, which are connected with the literal acceptance of the Mosaic law.

Chapter 3

Our present object, however, is to expose the ignorance of Celsus, who makes this Jew of his address his fellow-citizen and the Israelitish converts in the following manner: "What induced you to abandon the law of your fathers?" etc. Now, how should they have abandoned the law of their fathers, who are in the habit of rebuking those who do not listen to its commands, saying, "Tell me, you who read the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons;" and so on, down to the place, "which things are an allegory," etc.? And how have they abandoned the law of their fathers, who are ever speaking of the usages of their fathers in such words as these:"Or does not the law say these things also? For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Doth God care for oxen? or says He it altogether for our sakes? for for our sakes it was written," and so on? Now, how confused is the reasoning of the Jew in regard to these matters (although he had it in his power to speak with greater effect) when he says:" Certain among you have abandoned the usages of our fathers under a pretence of explanations and allegories; and some of you, although, as you pretend, interpreting them in a spiritual manner, nevertheless do observe the customs of our fathers; and some of you, without any such interpretation, are willing to accept Jesus as the subject of prophecy, and to keep the law of Moses according to the customs of the fathers, as having in the words the whole mind of the Spirit." Now how was Celsus able to see these things so clearly in this place, when in the subsequent parts of his work he makes mention of certain godless heresies altogether alien from the doctrine of Jesus, and even of others which leave the Creator out of account altogether, and does not appear to know that there are Israelites who are converts to Christianity, and who have not abandoned the law of their fathers? It was not his object to investigate everything here in the spirit of truth, and to accept whatever he might find to be useful; but he composed these statements in the spirit of an enemy, and with a desire to overthrow everything as soon as he heard it.

Chapter 4

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

Chapter 28

And since this Jew of Celsus makes it a subject of reproach that Christians should make use of the prophets, who predicted the events of Christ's life, we have to say, in addition to what we have already advanced upon this head, that it became him to spare individuals, as he says, and to expound the prophecies themselves, and after admitting the probability of the Christian interpretation of them, to show how the use which they make of them may be overturned. For in this way he would not appear hastily to assume so important a position on small grounds, and particularly when he asserts that the" prophecies agree with ten thousand other things more credibly than with Jesus." And he ought to have carefully met this powerful argument of the Christians, as being the strongest which they adduce, and to have demonstrated with regard to each particular prophecy, that it can apply to other events with greater probability than to Jesus. He did not, however, perceive that this was a plausible argument to be advanced against the Christians only by one who was an opponent of the prophetic writings; but Celsus has here put in the mouth of a Jew an objection which a Jew would not have made. For a Jew will not admit that the prophecies may be applied to countless other things with greater probability than to Jesus; but he will endeavour, after giving what appears to him the meaning of each, to oppose the Christian interpretation, not indeed by any means adducing convincing reasons, but only attempting to do so.

Chapter 34

This Jew of Celsus, ridiculing Jesus, as he imagines, is described as being acquainted with the Bacchæ of Euripides, in which Dionysus says: "The divinity himself will liberate me whenever I wish." Now the Jews are not much acquainted with Greek literature; but suppose that there was a Jew so well versed in it (as to make such a quotation on his part appropriate), how (does it follow) that Jesus could not liberate Himself, because He did not do so? For let him believe from our own Scriptures that Peter obtained his freedom after having been bound in prison, an angel having loosed his chains; and that Paul, having been bound in the stocks along with Silas in Philippi of Macedonia, was liberated by divine power, when the gates of the prison were opened. But it is probable that Celsus treats these accounts with ridicule, or that he never read them; for he would probably say in reply, that there are certain sorcerers who are able by incantations to unloose chains and to open doors, so that he would liken the events related in our histories to the doings of sorcerers."But," he continues, "no calamity happened even to him who condemned him, as there did to Pentheus, viz., madness or discerption." And yet he does not know that it was not so much Pilate that condemned Him (who knew that "for envy the Jews had delivered Him"), as the Jewish nation, which has been condemned by God, and rent in pieces, and dispersed over the whole earth, in a degree far beyond what happened to Pentheus. Moreover, why did he intentionally omit what is related of Pilate's wife, who beheld a vision, and who was so moved by it as to send a message to her husband, saying: "Have nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him?" And again, passing by in silence the proofs of the divinity of Jesus, Celsus endeavours to cast reproach upon Him from the narratives in the Gospel, referring to those who mocked Jesus, and put on Him the purple robe, and the crown of thorns, and placed the reed in His hand. From what source now, Celsus, did you derive these statements, save from the Gospel narratives? And did you, accordingly, see that they were fit matters for reproach; while they who recorded them did not think that you, and such as you, would turn them into ridicule; but that others would receive from them an example how to despise those who ridiculed and mocked Him on account of His religion, who appropriately laid down His life for its sake? Admire rather their love of truth, and that of the Being who bore these things voluntarily for the sake of men, and who endured them with all constancy and long-suffering. For it is not recorded that He uttered any lamentation, or that after His condemnation He either did or uttered anything unbecoming.

Chapter 55

The Jew continues his address to those of his countrymen who are converts, as follows: "Come now, let us grant to you that the prediction was actually uttered. Yet how many others are there who practise such juggling tricks, in order to deceive their simple hearers, and who make gain by their deception?-as was the case, they say, with Zamolxis in Scythia, the slave of Pythagoras; and with Pythagoras himself in Italy; and with Rhampsinitus in Egypt (the latter of whom, they say, played at dice with Demeter in Hades, and returned to the upper world with a golden napkin which he had received from her as a gift); and also with Orpheus among the Odrysians, and Protesilaus in Thessaly, and Hercules at Cape Tænarus, and Theseus. But the question is, whether any one who was really dead ever rose with a veritable body. Or do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance of such, while you have discovered a becoming and credible termination to your drama in the voice from the cross, when he breathed his last, and in the earthquake and the darkness? That while alive he was of no assistance to himself, but that when dead he rose again, and showed the marks of his punishment, and how his hands were pierced with nails: who beheld this? A half-frantic woman, as you state, and some other one, perhaps, of those who were engaged in the same system of delusion, who had either dreamed so, owing to a peculiar state of mind, or under the influence of a wandering imagination had formed to himself an appearance according to his own wishes, which has been the case with numberless individuals; or, which is most probable, one who desired to impress others with this portent, and by such a falsehood to furnish an occasion to impostors like himself."

Now, since it is a Jew who makes these statements, we shall conduct the defence of our Jesus as if we were replying to a Jew, still continuing the comparison derived from the accounts regarding Moses, and saying to him: "How many others are there who practise similar juggling tricks to those of Moses, in order to deceive their silly hearers, and who make gain by their deception?" Now this objection would be more appropriate in the mouth of one who did not believe in Moses (as we might quote the instances of Zamolxis and Pythagoras, who were engaged in such juggling tricks) than in that of a Jew, who is not very learned in the histories of the Greeks. An Egyptian, moreover, who did not believe the miracles of Moses, might credibly adduce the instance of Rhampsinitus, saying that it was far more credible that he had descended to Hades, and had played at dice with Demeter, and that after stealing from her a golden napkin he exhibited it as a sign of his having been in Hades, and of his having returned thence, than that Moses should have recorded that he entered into the darkness, where God was, and that he alone, above all others, drew near to God. For the following is his statement: "Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but the rest shall not come nigh." We, then, who are the disciples of Jesus, say to the Jew who urges these objections: "While assailing our belief in Jesus, defend yourself, and answer the Egyptian and the Greek objectors: what will you say to those charges which you brought against our Jesus, but which also might be brought against Moses first? And if you should make a vigorous effort to defend Moses, as indeed his history does admit of a clear and powerful defence, you will unconsciously, in your support of Moses, be an unwilling assistant in establishing the greater divinity of Jesus."

Chapter 56

But since the Jew says that these histories of the alleged descent of heroes to Hades, and of their return thence, are juggling impositions, maintaining that these heroes disappeared for a certain time, and secretly withdrew themselves from the sight of all men, and gave themselves out afterwards as having returned from Hades,-for such is the meaning which his words seem to convey respecting the Odrysian Orpheus, and the Thessalian Protesilaus, and the Tænarian Hercules, and Theseus also,-let us endeavour to show that the account of Jesus being raised from the dead cannot possibly be compared to these. For each one of the heroes respectively mentioned might, had he wished, have secretly withdrawn himself from the sight of men, and returned again, if so determined, to those whom he had left; but seeing that Jesus was crucified before all the Jews, and His body slain in the presence of His nation, how can they bring themselves to say that He practised a similar deception with those heroes who are related to have gone down to Hades, and to have returned thence? But we say that the following consideration might be adduced, perhaps, as a defence of the public crucifixion of Jesus, especially in connection with the existence of those stories of heroes who are supposed to have been compelled to descend to Hades: that if we were to suppose Jesus to have died an obscure death, so that the fact of His decease was not patent to the whole nation of the Jews, and afterwards to have actually risen from the dead, there would, in such a case, have been ground for the same suspicion entertained regarding the heroes being also entertained regarding Himself. Probably, then, in addition to other causes for the crucifixion of Jesus, this also may have contributed to His dying a conspicuous death upon the cross, that no one might have it in his power to say that He voluntarily withdrew from the sight of men, and seemed only to die, without really doing so; but, appearing again, made a juggler's trick of the resurrection from the dead. But a clear and unmistakeable proof of the fact I hold to be the undertaking of His disciples, who devoted themselves to the teaching of a doctrine which was attended with danger to human life,-a doctrine which they would not have taught with such courage had they invented the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; and who also, at the same time, not only prepared others to despise death, but were themselves the first to manifest their disregard for its terrors.

Chapter 57

But observe whether this Jew of Celsus does not talk very blindly, in saying that it is impossible for any one to rise from the dead with a veritable body, his language being:" But this is the question, whether any one who was really dead ever rose again with a veritable body?" Now a Jew would not have uttered these words, who believed what is recorded in the third and fourth books of Kings regarding little children, of whom the one was raised up by Elijah, and the other by Elisha. And on this account, too, I think it was that Jesus appeared to no other nation than the Jews, who had become accustomed to miraculous occurrences; so that, by comparing what they themselves believed with the works which were done by Him, and with what was related of Him, they might confess that He, in regard to whom greater things were done, and by whom mightier marvels were performed, was greater than all those who preceded Him.

Book IV

Chapter 22

But, according to Celsus, "the Christians, making certain additional statements to those of the Jews, assert that the Son of God has been already sent on account of the sins of the Jews; and that the Jews having chastised Jesus, and given him gall to drink, have brought upon themselves the divine wrath." And any one who likes may convict this statement of falsehood, if it be not the case that the whole Jewish nation was overthrown within one single generation after Jesus had undergone these sufferings at their hands. For forty and two years, I think, after the date of the crucifixion of Jesus, did the destruction of Jerusalem take place. Now it has never been recorded, since the Jewish nation began to exist, that they have been expelled for so long a period from their venerable temple-worship and service, and enslaved by more powerful nations; for if at any time they appeared to be abandoned because of their sins, they were notwithstanding visited (by God), and returned to their own country, and recovered their possessions, and performed unhindered the observances of their law. One fact, then, which proves that Jesus was something divine and sacred, is this, that Jews should have suffered on His account now for a lengthened time calamities of such severity. And we say with confidence that they will never be restored to their former condition. For they committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the Saviour of the human race in that city where they offered up to God a worship containing the symbols of mighty mysteries. It accordingly behooved that city where Jesus underwent these sufferings to perish utterly, and the Jewish nation to be overthrown, and the invitation to happiness offered them by God to pass to others,-the Christians, I mean, to whom has come the doctrine of a pure and holy worship, and who have obtained new laws, in harmony with the established constitution in all countries; seeing those which were formerly imposed, as on a single nation which was ruled by princes of its own race and of similar manners, could not now be observed in all their entireness.

Book V

Chapter 42

It is evident that, by the preceding remarks, Celsus charges the Jews with falsely giving themselves out as the chosen portion of the Supreme God above all other nations. And he accuses them of boasting, because they gave out that they knew the great God, although they did not really know Him, but were led away by the artifices of Moses, and were deceived by him, and became his disciples to no good end. Now we have in the preceding pages already spoken in part of the venerable and distinguished polity of the Jews, when it existed amongst them as a symbol of the city of God, and of His temple, and of the sacrificial worship offered in it and at the altar of sacrifice. But if any one were to turn his attention to the meaning of the legislator, and to the constitution which he established, and were to examine the various points relating to him, and compare them with the present method of worship among other nations, there are none which he would admire to a greater degree; because, so far as can be accomplished among mortals, everything that was not of advantage to the human race was withheld from them, and only those things which are useful bestowed. And for this reason they had neither gymnastic contests, nor scenic representations, nor horse-races; nor were there among them women who sold their beauty to any one who wished to have sexual intercourse without offspring, and to cast contempt upon the nature of human generation. And what an advantage was it to be taught from their tender years to ascend above all visible nature, and to hold the belief that God was not fixed anywhere within its limits, but to look for Him on high, and beyond the sphere of all bodily substance! And how great was the advantage which they enjoyed in being instructed almost from their birth, and as soon as they could speak, in the immortality of the soul, and in the existence of courts of justice under the earth, and in the rewards provided for those who have lived righteous lives! These truths, indeed, were proclaimed in the veil of fable to children, and to those whose views of things were childish; while to those who were already occupied in investigating the truth, and desirous of making progress therein, these fables, so to speak, were transfigured into the truths which were concealed within them. And I consider that it was in a manner worthy of their name as the"portion of God" that they despised all kinds of divination, as that which bewitches men to no purpose, and which proceeds rather from wicked demons than from anything of a better nature; and sought the knowledge of future events in the souls of those who, owing to their high degree of purity, received the spirit of the Supreme God.

Chapter 43

But what need is there to point out how agreeable to sound reason, and unattended with injury either to master or slave, was the law that one of the same faith should not be allowed to continue in slavery more than six years? The Jews, then, cannot be said to preserve their own law in the same points with the other nations. For it would be censurable in them, and would involve a charge of insensibility to the superiority of their law, if they were to believe that they had been legislated for in the same way as the other nations among the heathen. And although Celsus will not admit it, the Jews nevertheless are possessed of a wisdom superior not only to that of the multitude, but also of those who have the appearance of philosophers; because those who engage in philosophical pursuits, after the utterance of the most venerable philosophical sentiments, fall away into the worship of idols and demons, whereas the very lowest Jew directs his look to the Supreme God alone; and they do well, indeed, so far as this point is concerned, to pride themselves thereon, and to keep aloof from the society of others as accursed and impious. And would that they had not sinned, and transgressed the law, and slain the prophets in former times, and in these latter days conspired against Jesus, that we might be in possession of a pattern of a heavenly city which even Plato would have sought to describe; although I doubt whether he could have accomplished as much as was done by Moses and those who followed him, who nourished a "chosen generation," and "a holy nation," dedicated to God, with words free from all superstition.

Chapter 44

But as Celsus would compare the venerable customs of the Jews with the laws of certain nations, let us proceed to look at them. He is of opinion, accordingly, that there is no difference between the doctrine regarding "heaven" and that regarding "God;" and he says that "the Persians, like the Jews, offer sacrifices to Jupiter upon the tops of the mountains,"-not observing that, as the Jews were acquainted with one God, so they had only one holy house of prayer, and one altar of whole burnt-offerings, and one censer for incense, and one high priest of God. The Jews, then, had nothing in common with the Persians, who ascend the summits of their mountains, which are many in number, and offer up sacrifices which have nothing in common with those which are regulated by the Mosaic code,-in conformity to which the Jewish priests "served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," explaining enigmatically the object of the law regarding the sacrifices, and the things of which these sacrifices were the symbols. The Persians therefore may call the "whole circle of heaven" Jupiter; but we maintain that "the heaven" is neither Jupiter nor God, as we indeed know that certain beings of a class inferior to God have ascended above the heavens and all visible nature: and in this sense we understand the words, "Praise God, you heaven of heavens, and you waters that be above the heavens: let them praise the name of the Lord."

Chapter 60

If, however, it be necessary to express ourselves with precision in our answer to Celsus, who thinks that we hold the same opinions on the matters in question as do the Jews, we would say that we both agree that the books (of Scripture) were written by the Spirit of God, but that we do not agree about the meaning of their contents; for we do not regulate our lives like the Jews, because we are of opinion that the literal acceptation of the laws is not that which conveys the meaning of the legislation. And we maintain, that "when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart," because the meaning of the law of Moses has been concealed from those who have not welcomed the way which is by Jesus Christ. But we know that if one turn to the Lord (for "the Lord is that Spirit"), the veil being taken away, "he beholds, as in a mirror with unveiled face, the glory of the Lord" in those thoughts which are concealed in their literal expression, and to his own glory becomes a participator of the divine glory; the term "face" being used figuratively for the "understanding," as one would call it without a figure, in which is the face of the "inner man," filled with light and glory, flowing from the true comprehension of the contents of the law.

Book VII

Chapter 20

Celsus adds, that it was foretold to the Jews, that if they did not obey the law, they would be treated in the same way as they treated their enemies; and then he quotes from the teaching of Christ some precepts which he considers contrary to those of the law, and uses that as an argument against us. But before proceeding to this point, we must speak of that which precedes. We hold, then, that the law has a twofold sense,-the one literal, the other spiritual,-as has been shown by some before us. Of the first or literal sense it is said, not by us, but by God, speaking in one of the prophets, that "the statutes are not good, and the judgments not good;" whereas, taken in a spiritual sense, the same prophet makes God say that "His statutes are good, and His judgments good." Yet evidently the prophet is not saying things which are contradictory of each other. Paul in like manner says, that "the letter kills, and the spirit gives life," meaning by "the letter" the literal sense, and by "the spirit" the spiritual sense of Scripture. We may therefore find in Paul, as well as in the prophet, apparent contradictions. Indeed, if Ezekiel says in one place, "I gave them commandments which were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live," and in another, "I gave them good commandments and judgments, which if a man shall do, he shall live by them," Paul in like manner, when he wishes to disparage the law taken literally, says, "If the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?" But when in another place he wishes to praise and recommend the law, he calls it "spiritual," and says, "We know that the law is spiritual;" and, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."

Chapter 21

When, then, the letter of the law promises riches to the just, Celsus may follow the letter which kills, and understand it of worldly riches, which blind men; but we say that it refers to those riches which enlighten the eyes, and which enrich a man"in all utterance and in all knowledge." And in this sense we "charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." For, as Solomon says, "riches" are the true good, which "are the ransom of the life of a man;" but the poverty which is the opposite of these riches is destructive, for by it "the poor cannot bear rebuke." And what has been said of riches applies to dominion, in regard to which it is said, "The just man shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight." Now if riches are to be taken in the sense we have just explained, consider if it is not according to God's promise that he who is rich in all utterance, in all knowledge, in all wisdom, in all good works, may not out of these treasures of utterance, of wisdom, and of knowledge, lend to many nations. It was thus that Paul lent to all the nations that he visited, "carrying the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum." And as the divine knowledge was given to him by revelation, and his mind was illumined by the Divine Word, he himself therefore needed to borrow from no one, and required not the ministry to any man to teach him the word of truth. Thus, as it had been written, "You shall have dominion over many nations, and they shall not have dominion over you," he ruled over the Gentiles whom he brought under the teaching of Jesus Christ; and he never "gave place by subjection to men, no, not for an hour," as being himself mightier than they. And thus also he "filled the earth."

Chapter 22

If I must now explain how the just man "slays his enemies," and prevails everywhere, it is to be observed that, when he says, "Every morning will I destroy the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all workers of iniquity from the city of Jehovah," by "the land" he means the flesh whose lusts are at enmity with God; and by "the city of Jehovah" he designates his own soul, in which was the temple of God, containing the true idea and conception of God, which makes it to be admired by all who look upon it. As soon, then, as the rays of the Sun of righteousness shine into his soul, feeling strengthened and invigorated by their influence, he sets himself to destroy all the lusts of the flesh, which are called "the wicked of the land," and drives out of that city of the Lord which is in his soul all thoughts which work iniquity, and all suggestions which are opposed to the truth. And in this way also the just give up to destruction all their enemies, which are their vices, so that they do not spare even the children, that is, the early beginnings and promptings of evil. In this sense also we understand the language of the 137th Psalm: "O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be that rewards you as you have served us: happy shall he be that takes and dashes your little ones against the stones." For "the little ones" of Babylon (which signifies confusion) are those troublesome sinful thoughts which arise in the soul and he who subdues them by striking, as it were, their heads against the firm and solid strength of reason and truth, is the man who "dashes the little ones against the stones;" and he is therefore truly blessed. God may therefore have commanded men to destroy all their vices utterly, even at their birth, without having enjoined anything contrary to the teaching of Christ; and He may Himself have destroyed before the eyes of those who were" Jews inwardly" all the offspring of evil as His enemies. And, in like manner, those who disobey the law and word of God may well be compared to His enemies led astray by sin; and they may well be said to suffer the same fate as they deserve who have proved traitors to the truth of God.

Chapter 23

From what has been said, it is clear then that Jesus, "the man of Nazareth," did not promulgate laws opposed to those just considered in regard to riches, when He said, "It is hard for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of God;" whether we take the word "rich" in its simplest sense, as referring to the man whose mind is distracted by his wealth, and, as it were, entangled with thorns, so that he brings forth no spiritual fruit; or whether it is the man who is rich in the sense of abounding in false notions, of whom it is written in the Proverbs," Better is the poor man who is just, than the rich man who is false." Perhaps it is the following passages which have led Celsus to suppose that Jesus forbids ambition to His disciples: "Whoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all;" "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them," and "they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors." But there is nothing here inconsistent with the promise, "You shall rule over many nations, and they shall not rule over you," especially after the explanation which we have given of these words. Celsus next throws in an expression in regard to wisdom, as though he thought that, according to the teaching of Christ, no wise man could come to the Father. But we would ask in what sense he speaks of a wise man. For if he means one who is wise in"the wisdom of this world," as it is called, "which is foolishness with God," then we would agree with him in saying that access to the Father is denied to one who is wise in that sense. But if by wisdom any one means Christ, who is"the power and wisdom of God," far from such a wise man being refused access to the Father, we hold that he who is adorned by the Holy Spirit with that gift which is called "the word of wisdom," far excels all those who have not received the same grace.

Chapter 24

The pursuit of human glory, we maintain, is forbidden not only by the teaching of Jesus, but also by the Old Testament. Accordingly we find one of the prophets, when imprecating upon himself certain punishments for the commission of certain sins, includes among the punishments this one of earthly glory. He says, "O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, rather, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy;) let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and set my glory up on high." And these precepts of our Lord, "Take no thought what you shall eat, or what you shall drink. Behold the fowls of the air, or behold the ravens: for they sow not, neither do they reap; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. How much better are you than they! And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field;"-these precepts, and those which follow, are not inconsistent with the promised blessings of the law, which teaches that the just"shall eat their bread to the full;" nor with that saying of Solomon, "The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the belly of the wicked shall want." For we must consider the food promised in the law as the food of the soul, which is to satisfy not both parts of man's nature, but the soul only. And the words of the Gospel, although probably containing a deeper meaning, may yet be taken in their more simple and obvious sense, as teaching us not to be disturbed with anxieties about our food and clothing, but, while living in plainness, and desiring only what is needful, to put our trust in the providence of God.

Chapter 25

Celsus then extracts from the Gospel the precept, "To him who strikes you once, you shall offer yourself to be struck again," although without giving any passage from the Old Testament which he considers opposed to it. On the one hand, we know that "it was said to them in old time, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;" and on the other, we have read, "I say unto you, Whoever shall smite you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also." But as there is reason to believe that Celsus produces the objections which he has heard from those who wish to make a difference between the God of the Gospel and the God of the law, we must say in reply, that this precept, "Whosoever shall strike you on the one cheek, turn to him the other," is not unknown in the older Scriptures. For thus, in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, it is said, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth: he sits alone, and keeps silence, because he has borne it upon him. He gives his cheek to him that smites him; he is filled full with reproach." There is no discrepancy, then, between the God of the Gospel and the God of the law, even when we take literally the precept regarding the blow on the face. So, then, we infer that neither "Jesus nor Moses has taught falsely." The Father in sending Jesus did not "forget the commands which He had given to Moses:" He did not "change His mind, condemn His own laws, and send by His messenger counter instructions."

Chapter 26

However, if we must refer briefly to the difference between the constitution which was given to the Jews of old by Moses, and that which the Christians, under the direction of Christ's teaching, wish now to establish, we would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles, and with their subjection to the Roman government; and on the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged, supposing that they should embrace the Gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies, or condemn to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands, those who had broken the law, and were therefore condemned as deserving of these punishments; since the Jews themselves, however desirous of carrying out their law, are not able to inflict these punishments. But in the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would be to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them; for their very laws would in that case restrain them, and prevent them from resisting the enemy. And that same providence which of old gave the law, and has now given the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not wishing the Jewish state to continue longer, has destroyed their city and their temple: it has abolished the worship which was offered to God in that temple by the sacrifice of victims, and other ceremonies which He had prescribed. And as it has destroyed these things, not wishing that they should longer continue, in like manner it has extended day by day the Christian religion, so that it is now preached everywhere with boldness, and that in spite of the numerous obstacles which oppose the spread of Christ's teaching in the world. But since it was the purpose of God that the nations should receive the benefits of Christ's teaching, all the devices of men against Christians have been brought to nought; for the more that kings, and rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more have they increased in number and grown in strength.


Chapter 29

But it is to be observed that the Jews, who claim for themselves a correct understanding of the law of Moses, carefully restrict their food to such things as are accounted clean, and abstain from those that are unclean. They also do not use in their food the blood of an animal nor the flesh of an animal torn by wild beasts, and some other things which it would take too long for us at present to detail. But Jesus, wishing to lead all men by His teaching to the pure worship and service of God, and anxious not to throw any hindrance in the way of many who might be benefited by Christianity, through the imposition of a burdensome code of rules in regard to food, has laid it down, that "not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth; for whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth are evil thoughts when spoken, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Paul also says, "Meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse." Wherefore, as there is some obscurity about this matter, without some explanation is given, it seemed good to the apostles of Jesus and the elders assembled together at Antioch, and also, as they themselves say, to the Holy Spirit, to write a letter to the Gentile believers, forbidding them to partake of those things from which alone they say it is necessary to abstain, namely, "things offered to idols, things strangled, and blood."

Chapter 69

Celsus, then, as if not observing that he was saying anything inconsistent with the words he had just used, "if all were to do the same as you," adds: "You surely do not say that if the Romans were, in compliance with your wish, to neglect their customary duties to gods and men, and were to worship the Most High, or whatever you please to call him, that he will come down and fight for them, so that they shall need no other help than his. For this same God, as yourselves say, promised of old this and much more to those who served him, and see in what way he has helped them and you! They, in place of being masters of the whole world, are left with not so much as a patch of ground or a home; and as for you, if any of you transgresses even in secret, he is sought out and punished with death." As the question started is, "What would happen if the Romans were persuaded to adopt the principles of the Christians, to despise the duties paid to the recognized gods and to men, and to worship the Most High?" this is my answer to the question. We say that "if two" of us "shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father" of the just, "which is in heaven;" for God rejoices in the agreement of rational beings, and turns away from discord. And what are we to expect, if not only a very few agree, as at present, but the whole of the empire of Rome? For they will pray to the Word, who of old said to the Hebrews, when they were pursued by the Egyptians, "The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace;" and if they all unite in prayer with one accord, they will be able to put to flight far more enemies than those who were discomfited by the prayer of Moses when he cried to the Lord, and of those who prayed with him. Now, if what God promised to those who keep His law has not come to pass, the reason of its nonfulfilment is not to be ascribed to the unfaithfulness of God. But He had made the fulfilment of His promises to depend on certain conditions,-namely, that they should observe and live according to His law; and if the Jews have not a plot of ground nor a habitation left to them, although they had received these conditional promises, the entire blame is to be laid upon their crimes, and especially upon their guilt in the treatment of Jesus.