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In beginning this our sixth book, we desire, my reverend Ambrosius, to answer in it those accusations which Celsus brings against the Christians, not, as might be supposed, those objections which he has adduced from writers on philosophy. For he has quoted a considerable number of passages, chiefly from Plato, and has placed alongside of these such declarations of holy Scripture as are fitted to impress even the intelligent mind; subjoining the assertion that
these things are stated much better among the Greeks (than in the Scriptures), and in a manner which is free from all exaggerations and promises on the part of God, or the Son of God. Now we maintain, that if it is the object of the ambassadors of the truth to confer benefits upon the greatest possible number, and, so far as they can, to win over to its side, through their love to men, every one without exception — intelligent as well as simple — not Greeks only, but also Barbarians (and great, indeed, is the humanity which should succeed in converting the rustic and the ignorant ), it is manifest that they must adopt a style of address fitted to do good to all, and to gain over to them men of every sort. Those, on the other hand, who turn away from the ignorant as being mere slaves, and unable to understand the flowing periods of a polished and logical discourse, and so devote their attention solely to such as have been brought up among literary pursuits, confine their views of the public good within very strait and narrow limits.
I have made these remarks in reply to the charges which Celsus and others bring against the simplicity of the language of Scripture, which appears to be thrown into the shade by the splendour of polished discourse. For our prophets, and Jesus Himself, and His apostles, were careful to adopt a style of address which should not merely convey the truth, but which should be fitted to gain over the multitude, until each one, attracted and led onwards, should ascend as far as he could towards the comprehension of those mysteries which are contained in these apparently simple words. For, if I may venture to say so, few have been benefited (if they have indeed been benefited at all) by the beautiful and polished style of Plato, and those who have written like him; while, on the contrary, many have received advantage from those who wrote and taught in a simple and practical manner, and with a view to the wants of the multitude. It is easy, indeed, to observe that Plato is found only in the hands of those who profess to be literary men; while Epictetus is admired by persons of ordinary capacity, who have a desire to be benefited, and who perceive the improvement which may be derived from his writings. Now we make these remarks, not to disparage Plato (for the great world of men has found even him useful), but to point out the aim of those who said:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. For the word of God declares that the preaching (although in itself true and most worthy of belief) is not sufficient to reach the human heart, unless a certain power be imparted to the speaker from God, and a grace appear upon his words; and it is only by the divine agency that this takes place in those who speak effectually. The prophet says in the sixty-seventh Psalm, that
the Lord will give a word with great power to them who preach. If, then, it should be granted with respect to certain points, that the same doctrines are found among the Greeks as in our own Scriptures, yet they do not possess the same power of attracting and disposing the souls of men to follow them. And therefore the disciples of Jesus, men ignorant so far as regards Grecian philosophy, yet traversed many countries of the world, impressing, agreeably to the desire of the Logos, each one of their hearers according to his deserts, so that they received a moral amelioration in proportion to the inclination of their will to accept of that which is good.
Let the ancient sages, then, make known their sayings to those who are capable of understanding them. Suppose that Plato, for example, the son of Ariston, in one of his Epistles, is discoursing about the
chief good, and that he says,
The chief good can by no means be described in words, but is produced by long habit, and bursts forth suddenly as a light in the soul, as from a fire which had leapt forth. We, then, on hearing these words, admit that they are well said, for it is God who revealed to men these as well as all other noble expressions. And for this reason it is that we maintain that those who have entertained correct ideas regarding God, but who have not offered to Him a worship in harmony with the truth, are liable to the punishments which fall on sinners. For respecting such Paul says in express words:
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him 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; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 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. The truth, then, is verily held (in unrighteousness), as our Scriptures testify, by those who are of opinion that
the chief good cannot be described in words, but who assert that,
after long custom and familiar usage, a light becomes suddenly kindled in the soul, as if by a fire springing forth, and that it now supports itself alone.
Notwithstanding, those who have written in this manner regarding the
chief good will go down to the Piræus and offer prayer to Artemis, as if she were God, and will look (with approval) upon the solemn assembly held by ignorant men; and after giving utterance to philosophical remarks of such profundity regarding the soul, and describing its passage (to a happier world) after a virtuous life, they pass from those great topics which God has revealed to them, and adopt mean and trifling thoughts, and offer a cock to Æsculapius! And although they had been enabled to form representations both of the
invisible things of God and of the
archetypal forms of things from the creation of the world, and from (the contemplation of) sensible things, from which they ascend to those objects which are comprehended by the understanding alone — and although they had no mean glimpses of His
eternal power and Godhead, they nevertheless became
foolish in their imaginations, and their
foolish heart was involved in darkness and ignorance as to the (true) worship of God. Moreover, we may see those who greatly pride themselves upon their wisdom and theology worshipping the image of a corruptible man, in honour, they say, of Him, and sometimes even descending, with the Egyptians, to the worship of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things! And although some may appear to have risen above such practices, nevertheless they will be found to have changed the truth of God into a lie, and to worship and serve the
creature more than the Creator. As the wise and learned among the Greeks, then, commit errors in the service which they render to God, God
chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and base things of the world, and things that are weak, and things which are despised, and things which are nought, to bring to nought things that are; and this, truly, Moses, the most ancient of them all, and the prophets who followed him —knowing that the chief good could by no means be described in words, were the first who wrote that, as God manifests Himself to the deserving, and to those who are qualified to behold Him, He appeared to Abraham, or to Isaac, or to Jacob. But who He was that appeared, and of what form, and in what manner, and like to which of mortal beings, they have left to be investigated by those who are able to show that they resemble those persons to whom God showed Himself: for He was seen not by their bodily eyes, but by the pure heart. For, according to the declaration of our Jesus,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
But that a light is suddenly kindled in the soul, as by a fire leaping forth, is a fact known long ago to our Scriptures; as when the prophet said,
Light for yourselves the light of knowledge. John also, who lived after him, said,
That which was in the Logos was life, and the life was the light of men; which
true light lightens every man that comes into the world (i.e., the true world, which is perceived by the understanding ), and makes him a light of the world: For this light shone in our hearts, to give the light of the glorious Gospel of God in the face of Christ Jesus. And therefore that very ancient prophet, who prophesied many generations before the reign of Cyrus (for he was older than he by more than fourteen generations), expressed himself in these words:
Your law is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; and again,
The light of Your countenance, O Lord, was manifested towards us; and,
In Your light we shall see light. And the Logos, exhorting us to come to this light, says, in the prophecies of Isaiah:
Enlighten yourself, enlighten yourself, O Jerusalem; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. The same prophet also, when predicting the advent of Jesus, who was to turn away men from the worship of idols, and of images, and of demons, says,
To those that sat in the land and shadow of death, upon them has the light arisen; and again,
The people that sat in darkness saw a great light. Observe now the difference between the fine phrases of Plato respecting the
chief good, and the declarations of our prophets regarding the
light of the blessed; and notice that the truth as it is contained in Plato concerning this subject did not at all help his readers to attain to a pure worship of God, nor even himself, who could philosophize so grandly about the
chief good, whereas the simple language of the holy Scriptures has led to their honest readers being filled with a divine spirit; and this light is nourished within them by the oil, which in a certain parable is said to have preserved the light of the torches of the five wise virgins.
Seeing, however, that Celsus quotes from an epistle of Plato another statement to the following effect, viz.:
If it appeared to me that these matters could be adequately explained to the multitude in writing and in oral address, what nobler pursuit in life could have been followed by me, than to commit to writing what was to prove of such advantage to human beings, and to lead the nature of all men onwards to the light?— let us then consider this point briefly, viz., whether or not Plato were acquainted with any doctrines more profound than are contained in his writings, or more divine than those which he has left behind him, leaving it to each one to investigate the subject according to his ability, while we demonstrate that our prophets did know of greater things than any in the Scriptures, but which they did not commit to writing. Ezekiel, e.g., received a roll, written within and without, in which were contained
denunciations; but at the command of the Logos he swallowed the book, in order that its contents might not be written, and so made known to unworthy persons. John also is recorded to have seen and done a similar thing. Nay, Paul even heard
unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. And it is related of Jesus, who was greater than all these, that He conversed with His disciples in private, and especially in their sacred retreats, concerning the Gospel of God; but the words which He uttered have not been preserved, because it appeared to the evangelists that they could not be adequately conveyed to the multitude in writing or in speech. And if it were not tiresome to repeat the truth regarding these illustrious individuals, I would say that they saw better than Plato (by means of the intelligence which they received by the grace of God), what things were to be committed to writing, and how this was to be done, and what was by no means to be written to the multitude, and what was to be expressed in words, and what was not to be so conveyed. And once more, John, in teaching us the difference between what ought to be committed to writing and what not, declares that he heard seven thunders instructing him on certain matters, and forbidding him to commit their words to writing.
There might also be found in the writings of Moses and of the prophets, who are older not only than Plato, but even than Homer and the invention of letters among the Greeks, passages worthy of the grace of God bestowed upon them, and filled with great thoughts, to which they gave utterance, but not because they understood Plato imperfectly, as Celsus imagines. For how was it possible that they should have heard one who was not yet born? And if any one should apply the words of Celsus to the apostles of Jesus, who were younger than Plato, say whether it is not on the very face of it an incredible assertion, that Paul the tentmaker, and Peter the fisherman, and John who left his father's nets, should, through misunderstanding the language of Plato in his Epistles, have expressed themselves as they have done regarding God? But as Celsus now, after having often required of us immediate assent (to his views), as if he were babbling forth something new in addition to what he has already advanced, only repeats himself, what we have said in reply may suffice. Seeing, however, he produces another quotation from Plato, in which he asserts that the employment of the method of question and answer sheds light on the thoughts of those who philosophize like him, let us show from the holy Scriptures that the word of God also encourages us to the practice of dialectics: Solomon, e.g., declaring in one passage, that
instruction unquestioned goes astray; and Jesus the son of Sirach, who has left us the treatise called
Wisdom, declaring in another, that
the knowledge of the unwise is as words that will not stand investigation. Our methods of discussion, however, are rather of a gentle kind; for we have learned that he who presides over the preaching of the word ought to be able to confute gainsayers. But if some continue indolent, and do not train themselves so as to attend to the reading of the word, and
to search the Scriptures, and, agreeably to the command of Jesus, to investigate the meaning of the sacred writings, and to ask of God concerning them, and to keep
knocking at what may be closed within them, the Scripture is not on that account to be regarded as devoid of wisdom.
In the next place, after other Platonic declarations, which demonstrate that
the good can be known by few, he adds:
Since the multitude, being puffed up with a contempt for others, which is far from right, and being filled with vain and lofty hopes, assert that, because they have come to the knowledge of some venerable doctrines, certain things are true.
Yet although Plato predicted these things, he nevertheless does not talk marvels, nor shut the mouth of those who wish to ask him for information on the subject of his promises; nor does he command them to come at once and believe that a God of a particular kind exists, and that he has a son of a particular nature, who descended (to earth) and conversed with me. Now, in answer to this we have to say, that with regard to Plato, it is Aristander, I think, who has related that he was not the son of Ariston, but of a phantom, which approached Amphictione in the guise of Apollo. And there are several other of the followers of Plato who, in their lives of their master, have made the same statement. What are we to say, moreover, about Pythagoras, who relates the greatest possible amount of wonders, and who, in a general assembly of the Greeks, showed his ivory thigh, and asserted that he recognised the shield which he wore when he was Euphorbus, and who is said to have appeared on one day in two different cities! He, moreover, who will declare that what is related of Plato and Socrates belongs to the marvellous, will quote the story of the swan which was recommended to Socrates while he was asleep, and of the master saying when he met the young man,
This, then, was the swan! Nay, the third eye which Plato saw that he himself possessed, he will refer to the category of prodigies. But occasion for slanderous accusations will never be wanting to those who are ill-disposed, and who wish to speak evil of what has happened to such as are raised above the multitude. Such persons will deride as a fiction even the demon of Socrates. We do not, then, relate marvels when we narrate the history of Jesus, nor have His genuine disciples recorded any such stories of Him; whereas this Celsus, who professes universal knowledge, and who quotes many of the sayings of Plato, is, I think, intentionally silent on the discourse concerning the Son of God which is related in Plato's Epistle to Hermeas and Coriscus. Plato's words are as follows:
Celsus quotes another saying of Plato to the following effect:
It has occurred to me to speak once more upon these subjects at greater length, as perhaps I might express myself about them more clearly than I have already done for there is a certain 'real' cause, which proves a hindrance in the way of him who has ventured, even to a slight extent, to write on such topics; and as this has been frequently mentioned by me on former occasions, it appears to me that it ought to be stated now. In each of existing things, which are necessarily employed in the acquisition of knowledge, there are three elements; knowledge itself is the fourth; and that ought to be laid down as the fifth which is both capable of being known and is true. Of these, one is 'name;' the second is 'word;' the third, 'image;' the fourth, 'knowledge.' Now, according to this division, John is introduced before Jesus as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, so as to correspond with the
name of Plato; and the second after John, who is pointed out by him, is Jesus, with whom agrees the statement,
The Word became flesh; and that corresponds to the
word of Plato. Plato terms the third
image; but we, who apply the expression
image to something different, would say with greater precision, that the mark of the wounds which is made in the soul by the word is the Christ which is in each one of us and this mark is impressed by Christ the Word. And whether Christ, the wisdom which is in those of us who are perfect, correspond to the
fourth element — knowledge— will become known to him who has the capacity to ascertain it.
He next continues:
You see how Plato, although maintaining that (the chief good) cannot be described in words, yet, to avoid the appearance of retreating to an irrefutable position, subjoins a reason in explanation of this difficulty, as even 'nothing' might perhaps be explained in words. But as Celsus adduces this to prove that we ought not to yield a simple assent, but to furnish a reason for our belief, we shall quote also the words of Paul, where he says, in censuring the hasty believer,
unless you have believed inconsiderately. Now, through his practice of repeating himself, Celsus, so far as he can, forces us to be guilty of tautology, reiterating, after the boastful language which has been quoted, that
Plato is not guilty of boasting and falsehood, giving out that he has made some new discovery, or that he has come down from heaven to announce it, but acknowledges whence these statements are derived. Now, if one wished to reply to Celsus, one might say in answer to such assertions, that even Plato is guilty of boasting, when in the Timæus he puts the following language in the month of Zeus:
Gods of gods, whose creator and father I am, and so on. And if any one will defend such language on account of the meaning which is conveyed under the name of Zeus, thus speaking in the dialogue of Plato, why should not he who investigates the meaning of the words of the Son of God, or those of the Creator in the prophets, express a profounder meaning than any conveyed by the words of Zeus in the Timæus? For the characteristic of divinity is the announcement of future events, predicted not by human power, but shown by the result to be due to a divine spirit in him who made the announcement. Accordingly, we do not say to each of our hearers,
Believe, first of all, that He whom I introduce to you is the Son of God; but we put the Gospel before each one, as his character and disposition may fit him to receive it, inasmuch as we have learned to know
how we ought to answer every man. And there are some who are capable of receiving nothing more than an exhortation to believe, and to these we address that alone; while we approach others, again, as far as possible, in the way of demonstration, by means of question and answer. Nor do we at all say, as Celsus scoffingly alleges,
Believe that he whom I introduce to you is the Son of God, although he was shamefully bound, and disgracefully punished, and very recently was most contumeliously treated before the eyes of all men; neither do we add,
Believe it even the more (on that account). For it is our endeavour to state, on each individual point, arguments more numerous even than we have brought forward in the preceding pages.
After this Celsus continues:
If these (meaning the Christians) bring forward this person, and others, again, a different individual (as the Christ), while the common and ready cry of all parties is, 'Believe, if you will be saved, or else begone,' what shall those do who are in earnest about their salvation? Shall they cast the dice, in order to divine whither they may betake themselves, and whom they shall join? Now we shall answer this objection in the following manner, as the clearness of the case impels us to do. If it had been recorded that several individuals had appeared in human life as sons of God in the manner in which Jesus did, and if each of them had drawn a party of adherents to his side, so that, on account of the similarity of the profession (in the case of each individual) that he was the Son of God, he to whom his followers bore testimony to that effect was an object of dispute, there would have been ground for his saying,
If these bring forward this person, and others a different individual, while the common and ready cry of all parties is, 'Believe, if you will be saved, or else begone,' and so on; whereas it has been proclaimed to the entire world that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who visited the human race: for those who, like Celsus, have supposed that (the acts of Jesus) were a series of prodigies, and who for that reason wished to perform acts of the same kind, that they, too, might gain a similar mastery over the minds of men, were convicted of being utter nonentities. Such were Simon, the Magus of Samaria, and Dositheus, who was a native of the same place; since the former gave out that he was the power of God that is called great, and the latter that he was the Son of God. Now Simonians are found nowhere throughout the world; and yet, in order to gain over to himself many followers, Simon freed his disciples from the danger of death, which the Christians were taught to prefer, by teaching them to regard idolatry as a matter of indifference. But even at the beginning of their existence the followers of Simon were not exposed to persecution. For that wicked demon who was conspiring against the doctrine of Jesus, was well aware that none of his own maxims would be weakened by the teaching of Simon. The Dositheans, again, even in former times, did not rise to any eminence, and now they are completely extinguished, so that it is said their whole number does not amount to thirty. Judas of Galilee also, as Luke relates in the Acts of the Apostles, wished to call himself some great personage, as did Theudas before him; but as their doctrine was not of God, they were destroyed, and all who obeyed them were immediately dispersed. We do not, then,
cast the dice in order to divine whither we shall betake ourselves, and whom we shall join, as if there were many claimants able to draw us after them by the profession of their having come down from God to visit the human race. On these points, however, we have said enough.
Accordingly, let us pass on to another charge made by Celsus, who is not even acquainted with the words (of our sacred books), but who, from misunderstanding them, has said that Paul having said that
the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. Celsus says that
the reason of this has been stated long ago. And the reason he imagines to be,
our desire to win over by means of this saying the ignorant and foolish alone. But, as he himself has intimated, he has said the same thing before; and we, to the best of our ability, replied to it. Notwithstanding this, however, he wished to show that this statement was an invention of ours, and borrowed from the Grecian sages, who declare that human wisdom is of one kind, and divine of another. And he quotes the words of Heraclitus, where he says in one passage, that
man's method of action is not regulated by fixed principles, but that of God is; and in another, that Plato was the author:
For I, O men of Athens, have obtained this name by no other means than by my wisdom. And of what sort is this wisdom? Such, probably, as is human; for in that respect I venture to think that I am in reality wise. Such are the passages adduced by Celsus. But I shall subjoin also the following from Plato's letter to Hermeas, and Erastus, and Coriscus:
To Erastus and Coriscus I say, although I am an old man, that, in addition to this noble knowledge of 'forms' (which they possess), they need a wisdom, with regard to the class of wicked and unjust persons, which may serve as a protective and repelling force against them. For they are inexperienced, in consequence of having passed a large portion of their lives with us, who are moderate individuals, and not wicked. I have accordingly said that they need these things, in order that they may not be compelled to neglect the true wisdom, and to apply themselves in a greater degree than is proper to that which is necessary and human.
According to the foregoing, then, the one kind of wisdom is human, and the other divine. Now the
world, which is
foolishness with God; whereas the
divine— being different from the
divine— comes, through the grace of God who bestows it, to those who have evinced their capacity for receiving it, and especially to those who, from knowing the difference between either kind of wisdom, say, in their prayers to God,
Even if one among the sons of men be perfect, while the wisdom is wanting that comes from You, he shall be accounted as nothing. Wisdom 9:6 We maintain, indeed, that soul, but that
divine wisdom is the
end, being also termed the
strong meat of the soul by him who has said that
strong meat belongs to them that are perfect, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. This opinion, moreover, is truly an ancient one, its antiquity not being referred back, as Celsus thinks, merely to Heraclitus and Plato. For before these individuals lived, the prophets distinguished between the two kinds of wisdom. It is sufficient for the present to quote from the words of David what he says regarding the man who is wise, according to divine wisdom, that
he will not see corruption when he beholds wise men dying. Divine wisdom, accordingly, being different from faith, is the
first of the so-called
charismata of God; and the
second after it — in the estimation of those who know how to distinguish such things accurately — is what is called
third— seeing that even the more simple class of men who adhere to the service of God, so far as they can, must be saved — is faith. And therefore Paul says:
To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit. And therefore it is no ordinary individuals whom you will find to have participated in the
divine wisdom, but the more excellent and distinguished among those who have given in their adherence to Christianity; for it is not
In designating others by the epithets of
uninstructed, and servile, and ignorant, Celsus, I suppose, means those who are not acquainted with his laws, nor trained in the branches of Greek learning; while we, on the other hand, deem those to be
uninstructed who are not ashamed to address (supplications) to inanimate objects, and to call upon those for health that have no strength, and to ask the dead for life, and to entreat the helpless for assistance. And although some may say that these objects are not gods, but only imitations and symbols of real divinities, nevertheless these very individuals, in imagining that the hands of low mechanics can frame imitations of divinity, are
uninstructed, and servile, and ignorant; for we assert that the lowest among us have been set free from this ignorance and want of knowledge, while the most intelligent can understand and grasp the divine hope. We do not maintain, however, that it is impossible for one who has not been trained in earthly wisdom to receive the
divine, but we do acknowledge that all human wisdom is
folly in comparison with the
divine. In the next place, instead of endeavouring to adduce reasons, as he ought, for his assertions, he terms us
sorcerers, and asserts that
we flee away with headlong speed from the more polished class of persons, because they are not suitable subjects for our impositions, while we seek to decoy those who are more rustic. Now he did not observe that from the very beginning our wise men were trained in the external branches of learning: Moses, e.g., in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; Daniel, and Ananias, and Azariah, and Mishael, in all Assyrian learning, so that they were found to surpass in tenfold degree all the wise men of that country. At the present time, moreover, the Churches have, in proportion to the multitudes (of ordinary believers), a few
wise men, who have come over to them from that wisdom which is said by us to be
according to the flesh; and they have also some who have advanced from it to that wisdom which is
Celsus, in the next place, as one who has heard the subject of humility greatly talked about, but who has not been at the pains to understand it, would wish to speak evil of that humility which is practised among us, and imagines that it is borrowed from some words of Plato imperfectly understood, where he expresses himself in the Laws as follows:
Now God, according to the ancient account, having in Himself both the beginning and end and middle of all existing things, proceeds according to nature, and marches straight on. He is constantly followed by justice, which is the avenger of all breaches of the divine law: he who is about to become happy follows her closely in humility, and becomingly adorned. He did not observe, however, that in writers much older than Plato the following words occur in a prayer:
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty, neither do I walk in great matters, nor in things too wonderful for me; if I had not been humble, etc. Now these words show that he who is of humble mind does not by any means humble himself in an unseemly or inauspicious manner, falling down upon his knees, or casting himself headlong on the ground, putting on the dress of the miserable, or sprinkling himself with dust. But he who is of humble mind in the sense of the prophet, while
walking in great and wonderful things, which are above his capacity — viz., those doctrines that are truly great, and those thoughts that are wonderful —
humbles himself under the mighty hand of God. If there are some, however, who through their stupidity have not clearly understood the doctrine of humiliation, and act as they do, it is not our doctrine which is to be blamed; but we must extend our forgiveness to the stupidity of those who aim at higher things, and owing to their fatuity of mind fail to attain them. He who is
humble and becomingly adorned, is so in a greater degree than Plato's
humble and becomingly adorned individual: for he is becomingly adorned, on the one hand, because
he walks in things great and wonderful, which are beyond his capacity; and humble, on the other hand, because, while being in the midst of such, he yet voluntarily humbles himself, not under any one at random, but under
the mighty hand of God, through Jesus Christ, the teacher of such instruction,
who did not deem equality with God a thing to be eagerly clung to, but made Himself of no reputation, and took on Him the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And so great is this doctrine of humiliation, that it has no ordinary individual as its teacher; but our great Saviour Himself says:
Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.
In the next place, with regard to the declaration of Jesus against rich men, when He said,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, Celsus alleges that this saying manifestly proceeded from Plato, and that Jesus perverted the words of the philosopher, which were, that
it was impossible to be distinguished for goodness, and at the same time for riches. Now who is there that is capable of giving even moderate attention to affairs — not merely among the believers on Jesus, but among the rest of mankind— that would not laugh at Celsus, on hearing that Jesus, who was born and brought up among the Jews, and was supposed to be the son of Joseph the carpenter, and who had not studied literature — not merely that of the Greeks, but not even that of the Hebrews — as the truth-loving Scriptures testify regarding Him, had read Plato, and being pleased with the opinion he expressed regarding rich men, to the effect that
it was impossible to be distinguished for goodness and riches at the same time, had perverted this, and changed it into,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God! Now, if Celsus had not perused the Gospels in a spirit of hatred and dislike, but had been imbued with a love of truth, he would have turned his attention to the point why a camel — that one of animals which, as regards its physical structure, is crooked — was chosen as an object of comparison with a rich man, and what signification the
narrow eye of a needle had for him who saw that
strait and narrow was the way that leads unto life; and to this point also, that this animal. according to the law, is described as
unclean, having one element of acceptability, viz. that it ruminates, but one of condemnation, viz., that it does not divide the hoof. He would have inquired, moreover, how often the camel was adduced as an object of comparison in the sacred Scriptures, and in reference to what objects, that he might thus ascertain the meaning of the Logos concerning the rich men. Nor would he have left without examination the fact that
the poor are termed
blessed by Jesus, while
the rich are designated as
miserable; and whether these words refer to the rich and poor who are visible to the senses, or whether there is any kind of poverty known to the Logos which is to be deemed
altogether blessed, and any rich man who is to be wholly condemned. For even a common individual would not thus indiscriminately have praised the poor, many of whom lead most wicked lives. But on this point we have said enough.
Since Celsus, moreover, from a desire to depreciate the accounts which our Scriptures give of the kingdom of God, has quoted none of them, as if they were unworthy of being recorded by him (or perhaps because he was unacquainted with them), while, on the other hand, he quotes the sayings of Plato, both from his Epistles and the Phædrus, as if these were divinely inspired, but our Scriptures were not, let us set forth a few points, for the sake of comparison with these plausible declarations of Plato, which did not however, dispose the philosopher to worship in a manner worthy of him the Maker of all things. For he ought not to have adulterated or polluted this worship with what we call God in the eighteenth Psalm, that
He made darkness His secret place, to signify that those notions which should be worthily entertained of God are invisible and unknowable, because God conceals Himself in darkness, as it were, from those who cannot endure the splendours of His knowledge, or are incapable of looking at them, partly owing to the pollution of their understanding, which is clothed with the body of mortal lowliness, and partly owing to its feebler power of comprehending God. And in order that it may appear that the knowledge of God has rarely been vouchsafed to men, and has been found in very few individuals, Moses is related to have entered into the darkness where God was. And again, with regard to Moses it is said:
Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but the rest shall not come near. And again, that the prophet may show the depth of the doctrines which relate to God, and which is unattainable by those who do not possess the
Spirit which searches all things, even the deep things of God, he added:
The abyss like a garment is His covering. Nay, our Lord and Saviour, the Logos of God, manifesting that the greatness of the knowledge of the Father is appropriately comprehended and known pre-eminently by Him alone, and in the second place by those whose minds are enlightened by the Logos Himself and God, declares:
No man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. For no one can worthily know the
uncreated and first-born of all created nature like the Father who begot Him, nor any one the Father like the living Logos, and His Wisdom and Truth. By sharing in Him who takes away from the Father what is called
darkness, which He
made His secret place, and
the abyss, which is called His
covering, and in this way unveiling the Father, every one knows the Father who is capable of knowing Him.
I thought it right to quote these few instances from a much larger number of passages, in which our sacred writers express their ideas regarding God, in order to show that, to those who have eyes to behold the venerable character of Scripture, the sacred writings of the prophets contain things more worthy of reverence than those sayings of Plato which Celsus admires. Now the declaration of Plato, quoted by Celsus, runs as follows:
All things are around the King of all, and all things exist for his sake, and he is the cause of all good things. With things of the second rank he is second, and with those of the third rank he is third. The human soul, accordingly, is eager to learn what these things are, looking to such things as are kindred to itself, none of which is perfect. But as regards the King and those things which I mentioned, there is nothing which resembles them. I might have mentioned, moreover, what is said of those beings which are called seraphim by the Hebrews, and described in Isaiah, who cover the face and feet of God, and of those called cherubim, whom Ezekiel has described, and the postures of these, and of the manner in which God is said to be borne upon the cherubim. But since they are mentioned in a very mysterious manner, on account of the unworthy and the indecent, who are unable to enter into the great thoughts and venerable nature of theology, I have not deemed it becoming to discourse of them in this treatise.
Celsus in the next place alleges, that
certain Christians, having misunderstood the words of Plato, loudly boast of a 'super-celestial' God, thus ascending beyond the heaven of the Jews. By these words, indeed, he does not make it clear whether they also ascend beyond the God of the Jews, or only beyond the heaven by which they swear. It is not our purpose at present, however, to speak of those who acknowledge another god than the one worshipped by the Jews, but to defend ourselves, and to show that it was impossible for the prophets of the Jews, whose writings are reckoned among ours, to have borrowed anything from Plato, because they were older than he. They did not then borrow from him the declaration, that
all things are around the King of all, and that all exist on account of him; for we have learned that nobler thoughts than these have been uttered by the prophets, by Jesus Himself and His disciples, who have clearly indicated the meaning of the spirit that was in them, which was none other than the spirit of Christ. Nor was the philosopher the first to present to view the
super-celestial place; for David long ago brought to view the profundity and multitude of the thoughts concerning God entertained by those who have ascended above visible things, when he said in the book of Psalms:
Praise God, you heaven of heavens and you waters that be above the heavens, let them praise the name of the Lord . I do not, indeed, deny that Plato learned from certain Hebrews the words quoted from the Phædrus, or even, as some have recorded, that he quoted them from a perusal of our prophetic writings, when he said:
No poet here below has ever sung of the super-celestial place, or ever will sing in a becoming manner, and so on. And in the same passage is the following:
For the essence, which is both colorless and formless, and which cannot be touched, which really exists, is the pilot of the soul, and is beheld by the understanding alone; and around it the genus of true knowledge holds this place. Our Paul, moreover, educated by these words, and longing after things
super-celestial, and doing his utmost for their sake to attain them, says in the second Epistle to the Corinthians:
Now, to those who are capable of understanding him, the apostle manifestly presents to view
things which are the objects of perception, calling them
things seen; while he terms
unseen, things which are the object of the understanding, and cognisable by it alone. He knows, also, that things
seen and visible are
temporal, but that things cognisable by the mind, and
not seen, are contemplation of these, and being assisted by his earnest longing for them, he deemed all affliction as
light and as
nothing, and during the season of afflictions and troubles was not at all bowed down by them, but by his contemplation of (divine) things deemed every calamity a light thing, seeing we also have
a great High Priest, who by the greatness of His power and understanding
has passed through the heavens, even Jesus the Son of God, who has promised to all that have truly learned divine things, and have lived lives in harmony with them, to go before them to the things that are supra-mundane; for His words are:
That where I go, you may be also. And therefore we hope, after the troubles and struggles which we suffer here, to reach the highest heavens, and receiving, agreeably to the teaching of Jesus, the fountains of water that spring up unto eternal life, and being filled with the rivers of knowledge, shall be united with those waters that are said to be above the heavens, and which praise His name. And as many of us as praise Him shall not be carried about by the revolution of the heaven, but shall be ever engaged in the contemplation of the invisible things of God, which are no longer understood by us through the things which He has made from the creation of the world, but seeing, as it was expressed by the true disciple of Jesus in these words,
then face to face; and in these,
When that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
The Scriptures which are current in the Churches of God do not speak of
seven heavens, or of any definite number at all, but they do appear to teach the existence of
heavens, whether that means the
spheres of those bodies which the Greeks call
planets, or something more mysterious. Celsus, too, agreeably to the opinion of Plato, asserts that souls can make their way to and from the earth through the planets; while Moses, our most ancient prophet, says that a divine vision was presented to the view of our prophet Jacob, — a ladder stretching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, and the Lord supported upon its top — obscurely pointing, by this matter of the ladder, either to the same truths which Plato had in view, or to something greater than these. On this subject Philo has composed a treatise which deserves the thoughtful and intelligent investigation of all lovers of truth.
After this, Celsus, desiring to exhibit his learning in his treatise against us, quotes also certain Persian mysteries, where he says:
These things are obscurely hinted at in the accounts of the Persians, and especially in the mysteries of Mithras, which are celebrated among them. For in the latter there is a representation of the two heavenly revolutions — of the movement, viz., of the fixed stars, and of that which take place among the planets, and of the passage of the soul through these. The representation is of the following nature: There is a ladder with lofty gates, and on the top of it an eighth gate. The first gate consists of lead, the second of tin, the third of copper, the fourth of iron, the fifth of a mixture of metals, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The first gate they assign to Saturn, indicating by the 'lead' the slowness of this star; the second to Venus, comparing her to the splendour and softness of tin; the third to Jupiter, being firm and solid; the fourth to Mercury, for both Mercury and iron are fit to endure all things, and are money-making and laborious; the fifth to Mars, because, being composed of a mixture of metals, it is varied and unequal; the sixth, of silver, to the Moon; the seventh, of gold, to the Sun — thus imitating the different colors of the two latter. He next proceeds to examine the reason of the stars being arranged in this order, which is symbolized by the names of the rest of matter. Musical reasons, moreover, are added or quoted by the Persian theology; and to these, again, he strives to add a second explanation, connected also with musical considerations. But it seems to me, that to quote the language of Celsus upon these matters would be absurd, and similar to what he himself has done, when, in his accusations against Christians and Jews, he quoted, most inappropriately, not only the words of Plato; but, dissatisfied even with these, he adduced in addition the mysteries of the Persian Mithras, and the explanation of them. Now, whatever be the case with regard to these — whether the Persians and those who conduct the mysteries of Mithras give false or true accounts regarding them — why did he select these for quotation, rather than some of the other mysteries, with the explanation of them? For the mysteries of Mithras do not appear to be more famous among the Greeks than those of Eleusis, or than those in Ægina, where individuals are initiated in the rites of Hecate. But if he must introduce barbarian mysteries with their explanation, why not rather those of the Egyptians, which are highly regarded by many, or those of the Cappadocians regarding the Comanian Diana, or those of the Thracians, or even those of the Romans themselves, who initiate the noblest members of their senate? But if he deemed it inappropriate to institute a comparison with any of these, because they furnished no aid in the way of accusing Jews or Christians, why did it not also appear to him inappropriate to adduce the instance of the mysteries of Mithras?
If one wished to obtain means for a profounder contemplation of the entrance of souls into divine things, not from the statements of that very insignificant sect from which he quoted, but from books — partly those of the Jews, which are read in their synagogues, and adopted by Christians, and partly from those of Christians alone — let him peruse, at the end of Ezekiel's prophecies, the visions beheld by the prophet, in which gates of different kinds are enumerated, which obscurely refer to the different modes in which divine souls enter into a better world; and let him peruse also, from the Apocalypse of John, what is related of the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and of its foundations and gates. And if he is capable of finding out also the road, which is indicated by symbols, of those who will march on to divine things, let him read the book of Moses entitled Numbers, and let him seek the help of one who is capable of initiating him into the meaning of the narratives concerning the encampments of the children of Israel; viz., of what sort those were which were arranged towards the east, as was the case with the first; and what those towards the south-west and south; and what towards the sea; and what the last were, which were stationed towards the north. For he will see that there is in the respective places a meaning not to be lightly treated, nor, as Celsus imagines, such as calls only for silly and servile listeners: but he will distinguish in the encampments certain things relating to the numbers that are enumerated, and which are specially adapted to each tribe, of which the present does not appear to us to be the proper time to speak. Let Celsus know, moreover, as well as those who read his book, that in no part of the genuine and divinely accredited Scriptures are
seven heavens mentioned; neither do our prophets, nor the apostles of Jesus, nor the Son of God Himself, repeat anything which they borrowed from the Persians or the Cabiri.
After the instance borrowed from the Mithraic mysteries, Celsus declares that he who would investigate the Christian mysteries, along with the aforesaid Persian, will, on comparing the two together, and on unveiling the rites of the Christians, see in this way the difference between them. Now, wherever he was able to give the names of the various sects, he was nothing loth to quote those with which he thought himself acquainted; but when he ought most of all to have done this, if they were really known to him, and to have informed us which was the sect that makes use of the diagram he has drawn, he has not done so. It seems to me, however, that it is from some statements of a very insignificant sect called Ophites, which he has misunderstood, that, in my opinion, he has partly borrowed what he says about the diagram. Now, as we have always been animated by a love of learning, we have fallen in with this diagram, and we have found in it the representations of men who, as Paul says,
creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with various lusts; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. The diagram was, however, so destitute of all credibility, that neither these easily deceived women, nor the most rustic class of men, nor those who were ready to be led away by any plausible pretender whatever, ever gave their assent to the diagram. Nor, indeed, have we ever met any individual, although we have visited many parts of the earth, and have sought out all those who anywhere made profession of knowledge, that placed any faith in this diagram.
In this diagram were described ten circles, distinct from each other, but united by one circle, which was said to be the soul of all things, and was called
Leviathan. This Leviathan, the Jewish Scriptures say, whatever they mean by the expression, was created by God for a plaything; for we find in the Psalms:
In wisdom have You made all things: the earth is full of Your creatures; so is this great and wide sea. There go the ships; small animals with great; there is this dragon, which You have formed to play therein. Instead of the word
dragon, the term
leviathan is in the Hebrew. This impious diagram, then, said of this leviathan, which is so clearly depreciated by the Psalmist, that it was the soul which had travelled through all things! We observed, also, in the diagram, the being named
Behemoth, placed as it were under the lowest circle. The inventor of this accursed diagram had inscribed this leviathan at its circumference and centre, thus placing its name in two separate places. Moreover, Celsus says that the diagram was
divided by a thick black line, and this line he asserted was called Gehenna, which is Tartarus. Now as we found that Gehenna was mentioned in the Gospel as a place of punishment, we searched to see whether it is mentioned anywhere in the ancient Scriptures, and especially because the Jews too use the word. And we ascertained that where the valley of the son of Ennom was named in Scripture in the Hebrew, instead of
valley, with fundamentally the same meaning, it was termed both the valley of Ennom and also Geenna. And continuing our researches, we find that what was termed
the valley of Ennom, was included in the lot of the tribe of Benjamin, in which Jerusalem also was situated. And seeking to ascertain what might be the inference from the heavenly Jerusalem belonging to the lot of Benjamin and the valley of Ennom, we find a certain confirmation of what is said regarding the place of punishment, intended for the purification of such souls as are to be purified by torments, agreeably to the saying:
The Lord comes like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and of gold.
It is in the precincts of Jerusalem, then, that punishments will be inflicted upon those who undergo the process of purification, who have received into the substance of their soul the elements of wickedness, which in a certain place is figuratively termed
lead, and on that account iniquity is represented in Zechariah as sitting upon a
talent of lead. But the remarks which might be made on this topic are neither to be made to all, nor to be uttered on the present occasion; for it is not unattended with danger to commit to writing the explanation of such subjects, seeing the multitude need no further instruction than that which relates to the punishment of sinners; while to ascend beyond this is not expedient, for the sake of those who are with difficulty restrained, even by fear of eternal punishment, from plunging into any degree of wickedness, and into the flood of evils which result from sin. The doctrine of Geenna, then, is unknown both to the diagram and to Celsus: for had it been otherwise, the framers of the former would not have boasted of their pictures of animals and diagrams, as if the truth were represented by these; nor would Celsus, in his treatise against the Christians, have introduced among the charges directed against them statements which they never uttered instead of what was spoken by some who perhaps are no longer in existence, but have altogether disappeared, or been reduced to a very few individuals, and these easily counted. And as it does not beseem those who profess the doctrines of Plato to offer a defense of Epicurus and his impious opinions, so neither is it for us to defend the diagram, or to refute the accusations brought against it by Celsus. We may therefore allow his charges on these points to pass as superfluous and useless, for we would censure more severely than Celsus any who should be carried away by such opinions.
After the matter of the diagram, he brings forward certain monstrous statements, in the form of question and answer, regarding what is called by ecclesiastical writers the
seal, statements which did not arise from imperfect information; such as that
he who impresses the seal is called father, and he who is sealed is called young man and son; and who answers,
I have been anointed with white ointment from the tree of life,— things which we never heard to have occurred even among the heretics. In the next place, he determines even the number mentioned by those who deliver over the seal, as that
of seven angels, who attach themselves to both sides of the soul of the dying body; the one party being named angels of light, the others 'archontics;' and he asserts that the
ruler of those named 'archontics' is termed the 'accursed' god. Then, laying hold of the expression, he assails, not without reason, those who venture to use such language; and on that account we entertain a similar feeling of indignation with those who censure such individuals, if indeed there exist any who call the God of the Jews— who sends rain and thunder, and who is the Creator of this world, and the God of Moses, and of the cosmogony which he records — an
accursed divinity. Celsus, however, appears to have had in view in employing these expressions, not a rational object, but one of a most irrational kind, arising out of his hatred towards us, which is so unlike a philosopher. For his aim was, that those who are unacquainted with our customs should, on perusing his treatise, at once assail us as if we called the noble Creator of this world an
accursed divinity. He appears to me, indeed, to have acted like those Jews who, when Christianity began to be first preached, scattered abroad false reports of the Gospel, such as that
Christians offered up an infant in sacrifice, and partook of its flesh; and again,
that the professors of Christianity, wishing to do the 'works of darkness,' used to extinguish the lights (in their meetings), and each one to have sexual intercourse with any woman whom he chanced to meet. These calumnies have long exercised, although unreasonably, an influence over the minds of very many, leading those who are aliens to the Gospel to believe that Christians are men of such a character; and even at the present day they mislead some, and prevent them from entering even into the simple intercourse of conversation with those who are Christians.
With some such object as this in view does Celsus seem to have been actuated, when he alleged that Christians term the Creator an
accursed divinity; in order that he who believes these charges of his against us, should, if possible, arise and exterminate the Christians as the most impious of mankind. Confusing, moreover, things that are distinct, he states also the reason why the God of the Mosaic cosmogony is termed
accursed, asserting that
such is his character, and worthy of execration in the opinion of those who so regard him, inasmuch as he pronounced a curse upon the serpent, who introduced the first human beings to the knowledge of good and evil. Now he ought to have known that those who have espoused the cause of the serpent, because he gave good advice to the first human beings, and who go far beyond the Titans and Giants of fable, and are on this account called Ophites, are so far from being Christians, that they bring accusations against Jesus to as great a degree as Celsus himself; and they do not admit any one into their assembly until he has uttered maledictions against Jesus. See, then, how irrational is the procedure of Celsus, who, in his discourse against the Christians, represents as such those who will not even listen to the name of Jesus, or omit even that He was a wise man, or a person of virtuous character! What, then, could evince greater folly or madness, not only on the part of those who wish to derive their name from the serpent as the author of good, but also on the part of Celsus, who thinks that the accusations with which the Ophites are charged, are chargeable also against the Christians! Long ago, indeed, that Greek philosopher who preferred a state of poverty, and who exhibited the pattern of a happy life, showing that he was not excluded from happiness although he was possessed of nothing, termed himself a Cynic; while these impious wretches, as not being human beings, whose enemy the serpent is, but as being serpents, pride themselves upon being called Ophites from the serpent, which is an animal most hostile to and greatly dreaded by man, and boast of one Euphrates as the introducer of these unhallowed opinions.
In the next place, as if it were the Christians whom he was calumniating, he continues his accusations against those who termed the God of Moses and of his law an
accursed divinity; and imagining that it is the Christians who so speak, he expresses himself thus:
What could be more foolish or insane than such senseless wisdom? For what blunder has the Jewish lawgiver committed? And why do you accept, by means, as you say, of a certain allegorical and typical method of interpretation, the cosmogony which he gives, and the law of the Jews, while it is with unwillingness, O most impious man, that you give praise to the Creator of the world, who promised to give them all things; who promised to multiply their race to the ends of the earth, and to raise them up from the dead with the same flesh and blood, and who gave inspiration to their prophets; and, again, you slander Him! When you feel the force of such considerations, indeed, you acknowledge that you worship the same God; but when your teacher Jesus and the Jewish Moses give contradictory decisions, you seek another God, instead of Him, and the Father! Now, by such statements, this illustrious philosopher Celsus distinctly slanders the Christians, asserting that, when the Jews press them hard, they acknowledge the same God as they do; but that when Jesus legislates differently from Moses, they seek another god instead of Him. Now, whether we are conversing with the Jews, or are alone with ourselves, we know of only one and the same God, whom the Jews also worshipped of old time, and still profess to worship as God, and we are guilty of no impiety towards Him. We do not assert, however, that God will raise men from the dead with the same flesh and blood, as has been shown in the preceding pages; for we do not maintain that the natural body, which is sown in corruption, and in dishonour, and in weakness, will rise again such as it was sown. On such subjects, however, we have spoken at adequate length in the foregoing pages.
He next returns to the subject of the Seven ruling Demons, whose names are not found among Christians, but who, I think, are accepted by the Ophites. We found, indeed, that in the diagram, which on their account we procured a sight of, the same order was laid down as that which Celsus has given. Celsus says that
the goat was shaped like a lion, not mentioning the name given him by those who are truly the most impious of individuals; whereas we discovered that He who is honoured in holy Scripture as the angel of the Creator is called by this accursed diagram Michael the Lion-like. Again, Celsus says that the
second in order is a bull; whereas the diagram which we possessed made him to be Suriel, the bull-like. Further, Celsus termed the third
an amphibious sort of animal, and one that hissed frightfully; while the diagram described the third as Raphael, the serpent-like. Moreover, Celsus asserted that the
fourth had the form of an eagle; the diagram representing him as Gabriel, the eagle-like. Again, the
fifth, according to Celsus,
had the countenance of a bear; and this, according to the diagram, was Thauthabaoth, the bear-like. Celsus continues his account, that the
sixth was described as having the face of a dog; and him the diagram called Erataoth. The
seventh, he adds,
had the countenance of an ass, and was named Thaphabaoth or Onoel; whereas we discovered that in the diagram he is called Onoel, or Thartharaoth, being somewhat asinine in appearance. We have thought it proper to be exact in stating these matters, that we might not appear to be ignorant of those things which Celsus professed to know, but that we Christians, knowing them better than he, may demonstrate that these are not the words of Christians, but of those who are altogether alienated from salvation, and who neither acknowledge Jesus as Saviour, nor God, nor Teacher, nor Son of God.
Moreover, if any one would wish to become acquainted with the artifices of those sorcerers, through which they desire to lead men away by their teaching (as if they possessed the knowledge of certain secret rites), but are not at all successful in so doing, let him listen to the instruction which they receive after passing through what is termed the
fence of wickedness, — gates which are subjected to the world of ruling spirits. (The following, then, is the manner in which they proceed):
I salute the one-formed king, the bond of blindness, complete oblivion, the first power, preserved by the spirit of providence and by wisdom, from whom I am sent forth pure, being already part of the light of the son and of the father: grace be with me; yea, O father, let it be with me. They say also that the beginnings of the Ogdoad are derived from this. In the next place, they are taught to say as follows, while passing through what they call Ialdabaoth:
You, O first and seventh, who art born to command with confidence, you, O Ialdabaoth, who art the rational ruler of a pure mind, and a perfect work to son and father, bearing the symbol of life in the character of a type, and opening to the world the gate which you closed against your kingdom, I pass again in freedom through your realm. Let grace be with me; yea, O father, let it be with me. They say, moreover, that the star Phænon is in sympathy with the lion-like ruler. They next imagine that he who has passed through Ialdabaoth and arrived at Iao ought thus to speak:
You, O second Iao, who shines by night, who art the ruler of the secret mysteries of son and father, first prince of death, and portion of the innocent, bearing now my own beard as symbol, I am ready to pass through your realm, having strengthened him who is born of you by the living word. Grace be with me; father, let it be with me. They next come to Sabaoth, to whom they think the following should be addressed:
O governor of the fifth realm, powerful Sabaoth, defender of the law of your creatures, who are liberated by your grace through the help of a more powerful Pentad, admit me, seeing the faultless symbol of their art, preserved by the stamp of an image, a body liberated by a Pentad. Let grace be with me, O father, let grace be with me. And after Sabaoth they come to Astaphæus, to whom they believe the following prayer should be offered:
O Astaphæus, ruler of the third gate, overseer of the first principle of water, look upon me as one of your initiated, admit me who am purified with the spirit of a virgin, you who sees the essence of the world. Let grace be with me, O father, let grace be with me. After him comes Aloæus, who is to be thus addressed:
O Aloæus, governor of the second gate, let me pass, seeing I bring to you the symbol of your mother, a grace which is hidden by the powers of the realms. Let grace be with me, O father, let it be with me. And last of all they name Horæus, and think that the following prayer ought to be offered to him:
You who fearlessly leaped over the rampart of fire, O Horæus, who obtained the government of the first gate, let me pass, seeing you behold the symbol of your own power, sculptured on the figure of the tree of life, and formed after this image, in the likeness of innocence. Let grace be with me, O father, let grace be with me.
The supposed great learning of Celsus, which is composed, however, rather of curious trifles and silly talk than anything else, has made us touch upon these topics, from a wish to show to every one who peruses his treatise and our reply, that we have no lack of information on those subjects, from which he takes occasion to calumniate the Christians, who neither are acquainted with, nor concern themselves about, such matters. For we, too, desired both to learn and set forth these things, in order that sorcerers might not, under pretext of knowing more than we, delude those who are easily carried away by the glitter of names. And I could have given many more illustrations to show that we are acquainted with the opinions of these deluders, and that we disown them, as being alien to ours, and impious, and not in harmony with the doctrines of true Christians, of which we are ready to make confession even to the death. It must be noticed, too, that those who have drawn up this array of fictions, have, from neither understanding magic, nor discriminating the meaning of holy Scripture, thrown everything into confusion; seeing that they have borrowed from magic the names of Ialdabaoth, and Astaphæus, and Horæus, and from the Hebrew Scriptures him who is termed in Hebrew Iao or Jah, and Sabaoth, and Adonæus, and Eloæus. Now the names taken from the Scriptures are names of one and the same God; which, not being understood by the enemies of God, as even themselves acknowledge, led to their imagining that Iao was a different God, and Sabaoth another, and Adonæus, whom the Scriptures term Adonai, a third besides, and that Eloæus, whom the prophets name in Hebrew Eloi, was also different
Celsus next relates other fables, to the effect that
certain persons return to the shapes of the archontics, so that some are called lions, others bulls, others dragons, or eagles, or bears, or dogs. We found also in the diagram which we possessed, and which Celsus called the
square pattern, the statements made by these unhappy beings concerning the gates of Paradise. The flaming sword was depicted as the diameter of a flaming circle, and as if mounting guard over the tree of knowledge and of life. Celsus, however, either would not or could not repeat the harangues which, according to the fables of these impious individuals, are represented as spoken at each of the gates by those who pass through them; but this we have done in order to show to Celsus and those who read his treatise, that we know the depth of these unhallowed mysteries, and that they are far removed from the worship which Christians offer up to God.
After finishing the foregoing, and those analogous matters which we ourselves have added, Celsus continues as follows:
They continue to heap together one thing after another — discourses of prophets, and circles upon circles, and effluents from an earthly church, and from circumcision; and a power flowing from one Prunicos, a virgin and a living soul; and a heaven slain in order to live, and an earth slaughtered by the sword, and many put to death that they may live, and death ceasing in the world, when the sin of the world is dead; and, again, a narrow way, and gates that open spontaneously. And in all their writings (is mention made) of the tree of life, and a resurrection of the flesh by means of the 'tree,' because, I imagine, their teacher was nailed to a cross, and was a carpenter by craft; so that if he had chanced to have been cast from a precipice, or thrust into a pit, or suffocated by hanging, or had been a leather-cutter, or stone-cutter, or worker in iron, there would have been (invented) a precipice of life beyond the heavens, or a pit of resurrection, or a cord of immortality, or a blessed stone, or an iron of love, or a sacred leather! Now what old woman would not be ashamed to utter such things in a whisper, even when making stories to lull an infant to sleep? In using such language as this, Celsus appears to me to confuse together matters which he has imperfectly heard. For it seems likely that, even supposing that he had heard a few words traceable to some existing heresy, he did not clearly understand the meaning intended to be conveyed; but heaping the words together, he wished to show before those who knew nothing either of our opinions or of those of the heretics, that he was acquainted with all the doctrines of the Christians. And this is evident also from the foregoing words.
It is our practice, indeed, to make use of the words of the prophets, who demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ predicted by them, and who show from the prophetic writings the events in the Gospels regarding Jesus have been fulfilled. But when Celsus speaks of
circles upon circles, (he perhaps borrowed the expression) from the aforementioned heresy, which includes in one circle (which they call the soul of all things, and Leviathan) the seven circles of archontic demons, or perhaps it arises from misunderstanding the preacher, when he says:
The wind goes in a circle of circles, and returns again upon its circles. The expression, too,
effluents of an earthly church and of circumcision, was probably taken from the fact that the church on earth was called by some an effluent from a heavenly church and a better world; and that the circumcision described in the law was a symbol of the circumcision performed there, in a certain place set apart for purification. The adherents of Valentinus, moreover, in keeping with their system of error, give the name of Prunicos to a certain kind of wisdom, of which they would have the woman afflicted with the twelve years' issue of blood to be the symbol; so that Celsus, who confuses together all sorts of opinions — Greek, Barbarian, and Heretical — having heard of her, asserted that it was a power flowing forth from one Prunicos, a virgin. The
living soul, again, is perhaps mysteriously referred by some of the followers of Valentinus to the being whom they term the psychic creator of the world; or perhaps, in contradistinction to a
dead soul, the
living soul is termed by some, not inelegantly, the soul of
him who is saved. I know nothing, however, of a
heaven which is said to be slain, or of an
earth slaughtered by the sword, or of many persons slain in order that they might live; for it is not unlikely that these were coined by Celsus out of his own brain.
We would say, moreover, that death ceases in the world when the sin of the world dies, referring the saying to the mystical words of the apostle, which run as follows:
When He shall have put all enemies under His feet, then the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And also:
When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. The
strait descent, again, may perhaps be referred by those who hold the doctrine of transmigration of souls to that view of things. And it is not incredible that the gates which are said to open spontaneously are referred obscurely by some to the words,
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may go into them, and praise the Lord; this gate of the Lord, into it the righteous shall enter; and again, to what is said in the ninth psalm,
You that lifts me up from the gates of death, that I may show forth all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. The Scripture further gives the name of
gates of death to those sins which lead to destruction, as it terms, on the contrary, good actions the
gates of Zion. So also
the gates of righteousness, which is an equivalent expression to
the gates of virtue, and these are ready to be opened to him who follows after virtuous pursuits. The subject of the
tree of life will be more appropriately explained when we interpret the statements in the book of Genesis regarding the paradise planted by God. Celsus, moreover, has often mocked at the subject of a resurrection, — a doctrine which he did not comprehend; and on the present occasion, not satisfied with what he has formerly said, he adds,
And there is said to be a resurrection of the flesh by means of the tree; not understanding, I think, the symbolic expression, that
through the tree came death, and through the tree comes life, because death was in Adam, and life in Christ. He next scoffs at the
tree, assailing it on two grounds, and saying,
For this reason is the tree introduced, either because our teacher was nailed to a cross, or because he was a carpenter by trade; not observing that the tree of life is mentioned in the Mosaic writings, and being blind also to this, that in none of the Gospels current in the Churches is Jesus Himself ever described as being a carpenter.
Celsus, moreover, thinks that we have invented this
tree of life to give an allegorical meaning to the cross; and in consequence of his error upon this point, he adds:
If he had happened to be cast down a precipice, or shoved into a pit, or suffocated by hanging, there would have been invented a precipice of life far beyond the heavens, or a pit of resurrection, or a cord of immortality. And again:
If the 'tree of life' were an invention, because he — Jesus — (is reported) to have been a carpenter, it would follow that if he had been a leather-cutter, something would have been said about holy leather; or had he been a stone-cutter, about a blessed stone; or if a worker in iron, about an iron of love. Now, who does not see at once the paltry nature of his charge, in thus calumniating men whom he professed to convert on the ground of their being deceived? And after these remarks, he goes on to speak in a way quite in harmony with the tone of those who have invented the fictions of lion-like, and ass-headed, and serpent-like ruling angels, and other similar absurdities, but which does not affect those who belong to the Church. Of a truth, even a drunken old woman would be ashamed to chaunt or whisper to an infant, in order to lull him to sleep, any such fables as those have done who invented the beings with asses' heads, and the harangues, so to speak, which are delivered at each of the gates. But Celsus is not acquainted with the doctrines of the members of the Church, which very few have been able to comprehend, even of those who have devoted all their lives, in conformity with the command of Jesus, to the searching of the Scriptures, and have laboured to investigate the meaning of the sacred books, to a greater degree than Greek philosophers in their efforts to attain a so-called wisdom.
Our noble (friend), moreover, not satisfied with the objections which he has drawn from the diagram, desires, in order to strengthen his accusations against us, who have nothing in common with it, to introduce certain other charges, which he adduces from the same (heretics), but yet as if they were from a different source. His words are:
And that is not the least of their marvels, for there are between the upper circles — those that are above the heavens — certain inscriptions of which they give the interpretation, and among others two words especially, 'a greater and a less,' which they refer to Father and Son. Now, in the diagram referred to, we found the greater and the lesser circle, upon the diameter of which was inscribed
Father and Son; and between the greater circle (in which the lesser was contained) and another composed of two circles — the outer one of which was yellow, and the inner blue — a barrier inscribed in the shape of a hatchet. And above it, a short circle, close to the greater of the two former, having the inscription
Love; and lower down, one touching the same circle, with the word
Life. And on the second circle, which was intertwined with and included two other circles, another figure, like a rhomboid, (entitled)
The foresight of wisdom. And within their point of common section was
The nature of wisdom. And above their point of common section was a circle, on which was inscribed
Knowledge; and lower down another, on which was the inscription,
Understanding. We have introduced these matters into our reply to Celsus, to show to our readers that we know better than he, and not by mere report, those things, even although we also disapprove of them. Moreover, if those who pride themselves upon such matters profess also a kind of magic and sorcery — which, in their opinion, is the summit of wisdom — we, on the other hand, make no affirmation about it, seeing we never have discovered anything of the kind. Let Celsus, however, who has been already often convicted of false witness and irrational accusations, see whether he is not guilty of falsehood in these also, or whether he has not extracted and introduced into his treatise, statements taken from the writings of those who are foreigners and strangers to our Christian faith.
In the next place, speaking of those who employ the arts of magic and sorcery, and who invoke the barbarous names of demons, he remarks that such persons act like those who, in reference to the same things, perform marvels before those who are ignorant that the names of demons among the Greeks are different from what they are among the Scythians. He then quotes a passage from Herodotus, stating that
Apollo is called Gongosyrus by the Scythians; Poseidon, Thagimasada; Aphrodite, Argimpasan; Hestia, Tabiti. Now, he who has the capacity can inquire whether in these matters Celsus and Herodotus are not both wrong; for the Scythians do not understand the same thing as the Greeks, in what relates to those beings which are deemed to be gods. For how is it credible that Apollo should be called Gongosyrus by the Scythians? I do not suppose that Gongosyrus, when transferred into the Greek language, yields the same etymology as Apollo; or that Apollo, in the dialect of the Scythians, has the signification of Gongosyrus. Nor has any such assertion hitherto been made regarding the other names, for the Greeks took occasion from different circumstances and etymologies to give to those who are by them deemed gods the names which they bear; and the Scythians, again, from another set of circumstances; and the same also was the case with the Persians, or Indians, or Ethiopians, or Libyans, or with those who delight to bestow names (from fancy), and who do not abide by the just and pure idea of the Creator of all things. Enough, however, has been said by us in the preceding pages, where we wished to demonstrate that Sabaoth and Zeus were not the same deity, and where also we made some remarks, derived from the holy Scriptures, regarding the different dialects. We willingly, then, pass by these points, on which Celsus would make us repeat ourselves. In the next place, again, mixing up together matters which belong to magic and sorcery, and referring them perhaps to no one — because of the non-existence of any who practise magic under pretence of a worship of this character, — and yet, perhaps, having in view some who do employ such practices in the presence of the simple (that they may have the appearance of acting by divine power), he adds:
What need to number up all those who have taught methods of purification, or expiatory hymns, or spells for averting evil, or (the making of) images, or resemblances of demons, or the various sorts of antidotes against poison (to be found) in clothes, or in numbers, or stones, or plants, or roots, or generally in all kinds of things? In respect to these matters, reason does not require us to offer any defense, since we are not liable in the slightest degree to suspicions of such a nature.
After these things, Celsus appears to me to act like those who, in their intense hatred of the Christians, maintain, in the presence of those who are utterly ignorant of the Christian faith, that they have actually ascertained that Christians devour the flesh of infants, and give themselves without restraint to sexual intercourse with their women. Now, as these statements have been condemned as falsehoods invented against the Christians, and this admission made by the multitude and those altogether aliens to our faith; so would the following statements of Celsus be found to be calumnies invented against the Christians, where he says that
he has seen in the hands of certain presbyters belonging to our faith barbarous books, containing the names and marvellous doings of demons; asserting further, that
these presbyters of our faith professed to do no good, but all that was calculated to injure human beings. Would, indeed, that all that is said by Celsus against the Christians was of such a nature as to be refuted by the multitude, who have ascertained by experience that such things are untrue, seeing that most of them have lived as neighbours with the Christians, and have not even heard of the existence of any such alleged practices!
In the next place, as if he had forgotten that it was his object to write against the Christians, he says that,
having become acquainted with one Dionysius, an Egyptian musician, the latter told him, with respect to magic arts, that it was only over the uneducated and men of corrupt morals that they had any power, while on philosophers they were unable to produce any effect, because they were careful to observe a healthy manner of life. If, now, it had been our purpose to treat of magic, we could have added a few remarks in addition to what we have already said on this topic; but since it is only the more important matters which we have to notice in answer to Celsus, we shall say of magic, that any one who chooses to inquire whether philosophers were ever led captive by it or not, can read what has been written by Moiragenes regarding the memoirs of the magician and philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, in which this individual, who is not a Christian, but a philosopher, asserts that some philosophers of no mean note were won over by the magic power possessed by Apollonius, and resorted to him as a sorcerer; and among these, I think, he especially mentioned Euphrates and a certain Epicurean. Now we, on the other hand, affirm, and have learned by experience, that they who worship the God of all things in conformity with the Christianity which comes by Jesus, and who live according to His Gospel, using night and day, continuously and becomingly, the prescribed prayers, are not carried away either by magic or demons. For verily evil; and the angels of the little ones in the Church, who are appointed to watch over them, are said always to behold the face of their Father who is in heaven, whatever be the meaning of
face or of
After these matters, Celsus brings the following charges against us from another quarter:
Certain most impious errors, he says,
are committed by them, due to their extreme ignorance, in which they have wandered away from the meaning of the divine enigmas, creating an adversary to God, the devil, and naming him in the Hebrew tongue, Satan. Now, of a truth, such statements are altogether of mortal invention, and not even proper to be repeated, viz., that the mighty God, in His desire to confer good upon men, has yet one counterworking Him, and is helpless. The Son of God, it follows, is vanquished by the devil; and being punished by him, teaches us also to despise the punishments which he inflicts, telling us beforehand that Satan, after appearing to men as He Himself had done, will exhibit great and marvellous works, claiming for himself the glory of God, but that those who wish to keep him at a distance ought to pay no attention to these works of Satan, but to place their faith in Him alone. Such statements are manifestly the words of a deluder, planning and manœuvring against those who are opposed to his views, and who rank themselves against them. In the next place, desiring to point out the
enigmas, our mistakes regarding which lead to the introduction of our views concerning Satan, he continues:
The ancients allude obscurely to a certain war among the gods, Heraclitus speaking thus of it: 'If one must say that there is a general war and discord, and that all things are done and administered in strife.' Pherecydes, again, who is much older than Heraclitus, relates a myth of one army drawn up in hostile array against another, and names Kronos as the leader of the one, and Ophioneus of the other, and recounts their challenges and struggles, and mentions that agreements were entered into between them, to the end that whichever party should fall into the ocean should be held as vanquished, while those who had expelled and conquered them should have possession of heaven. The mysteries relating to the Titans and Giants also had some such (symbolic) meaning, as well as the Egyptian mysteries of Typhon, and Horus, and Osiris. After having made such statements, and not having got over the difficulty as to the way in which these accounts contain a higher view of things, while our accounts are erroneous copies of them, he continues his abuse of us, remarking that
these are not like the stories which are related of a devil, or demon, or, as he remarks with more truth, of a man who is an impostor, who wishes to establish an opposite doctrine. And in the same way he understands Homer, as if he referred obscurely to matters similar to those mentioned by Heraclitus, and Pherecydes, and the originators of the mysteries about the Titans and Giants, in those words which Hephæstus addresses to Hera as follows:—
Once in your cause I felt his matchless might,
Hurled headlong downward from the ethereal height.
And in those of Zeus to Hera:—
Have you forgot, when, bound and fix'd on high,
From the vast concave of the spangled sky,
I hung you trembling in a golden chain,
And all the raging gods opposed in vain?
Headlong I hurled them from the Olympian hall,
Stunn'd in the whirl, and breathless with the fall.
Interpreting, moreover, the words of Homer, he adds:
The words of Zeus addressed to Hera are the words of God addressed to matter; and the words addressed to matter obscurely signify that the matter which at the beginning was in a state of discord (with God), was taken by Him, and bound together and arranged under laws, which may be analogically compared to chains; and that by way of chastising the demons who create disorder in it, he hurls them down headlong to this lower world. These words of Homer, he alleges, were so understood by Pherecydes, when he said that beneath that region is the region of Tartarus, which is guarded by the Harpies and Tempest, daughters of Boreas, and to which Zeus banishes any one of the gods who becomes disorderly. With the same ideas also are closely connected the peplos of Athena, which is beheld by all in the procession of the Panathenæa. For it is manifest from this, he continues, that a motherless and unsullied demon has the mastery over the daring of the Giants. While accepting, moreover, the fictions of the Greeks, he continues to heap against us such accusations as the following, viz., that
the Son of God is punished by the devil, and teaches us that we also, when punished by him, ought to endure it. Now these statements are altogether ridiculous. For it is the devil, I think, who ought rather to be punished, and those human beings who are calumniated by him ought not to be threatened with chastisement.
Mark now, whether he who charges us with having committed errors of the most impious kind, and with having wandered away from the (true meaning) of the divine enigmas, is not himself clearly in error, from not observing that in the writings of Moses, which are much older not merely than Heraclitus and Pherecydes, but even than Homer, mention is made of this wicked one, and of his having fallen from heaven. For the serpent — from whom the Ophioneus spoken of by Pherecydes is derived — having become the cause of man's expulsion from the divine Paradise, obscurely shadows forth something similar, having deceived the woman by a promise of divinity and of greater blessings; and her example is said to have been followed also by the man. And, further, who else could the destroying angel mentioned in the Exodus of Moses be, than he who was the author of destruction to them that obeyed him, and did not withstand his wicked deeds, nor struggle against them? Moreover (the goat), which in the book of Leviticus is sent away (into the wilderness), and which in the Hebrew language is named Azazel, was none other than this; and it was necessary to send it away into the desert, and to treat it as an expiatory sacrifice, because on it the lot fell. For all who belong to the
worse part, on account of their wickedness, being opposed to those who are God's heritage, are deserted by God. Nay, with respect to the sons of Belial in the book of Judges, whose sons are they said to be, save his, on account of their wickedness? And besides all these instances, in the book of Job, which is older even than Moses himself, the devil is distinctly described as presenting himself before God, and asking for power against Job, that he might involve him in trials of the most painful kind; the first of which consisted in the loss of all his goods and of his children, and the second in afflicting the whole body of Job with the so-called disease of elephantiasis. I pass by what might be quoted from the Gospels regarding the devil who tempted the Saviour, that I may not appear to quote in reply to Celsus from more recent writings on this question. In the last (chapter) also of Job, in which the Lord utters to Job amid tempest and clouds what is recorded in the book which bears his name, there are not a few things referring to the serpent. I have not yet mentioned the passages in Ezekiel, where he speaks, as it were, of Pharaoh, or Nebuchadnezzar, or the prince of Tyre; or those in Isaiah, where lament is made for the king of Babylon, from which not a little might be learned concerning evil, as to the nature of its origin and generation, and as to how it derived its existence from some who had lost their wings, and who had followed him who was the first to lose his own.
For it is impossible that the good which is the result of accident, or of communication, should be like that good which comes by nature; and yet the former will never be lost by him who, so to speak, partakes of the
living bread with a view to his own preservation. But if it should fail any one, it must be through his own fault, in being slothful to partake of this
living bread and
genuine drink, by means of which the wings, nourished and watered, are fitted for their purpose, even according to the saying of Solomon, the wisest of men, concerning the truly rich man, that
he made to himself wings like an eagle, and returns to the house of his patron. For it became God, who knows how to turn to proper account even those who in their wickedness have apostatized from Him, to place wickedness of this sort in some part of the universe, and to appoint a training-school of virtue, wherein those must exercise themselves who would desire to recover in a
lawful manner the possession (which they had lost); in order that being tested, like gold in the fire, by the wickedness of these, and having exerted themselves to the utmost to prevent anything base injuring their rational nature, they may appear deserving of an ascent to divine things, and may be elevated by the Word to the blessedness which is above all things, and so to speak, to the very summit of goodness. Now he who in the Hebrew language is named Satan, and by some Satanas — as being more in conformity with the genius of the Greek language — signifies, when translated into Greek,
adversary. But every one who prefers vice and a vicious life, is (because acting in a manner contrary to virtue) Satanas, that is, an
adversary to the Son of God, who is righteousness, and truth, and wisdom. With more propriety, however, is he called
adversary, who was the first among those that were living a peaceful and happy life to lose his wings, and to fall from blessedness; he who, according to Ezekiel, walked faultlessly in all his ways,
until iniquity was found in him, and who being the
seal of resemblance and the
crown of beauty in the paradise of God, being filled as it were with good things, fell into destruction, in accordance with the word which said to him in a mystic sense:
You have fallen into destruction, and shall not abide forever. We have ventured somewhat rashly to make these few remarks, although in so doing we have added nothing of importance to this treatise. If any one, however, who has leisure for the examination of the sacred writings, should collect together from all sources and form into one body of doctrine what is recorded concerning the origin of evil, and the manner of its dissolution, he would see that the views of Moses and the prophets regarding Satan had not been even dreamed of either by Celsus or any one of those whose soul had been dragged down, and torn away from God, and from right views of Him, and from His word, by this wicked demon.
But since Celsus rejects the statements concerning Antichrist, as it is termed, having neither read what is said of him in the book of Daniel nor in the writings of Paul, nor what the Saviour in the Gospels has predicted about his coming, we must make a few remarks upon this subject also; because,
as faces do not resemble faces, so also neither do men's
hearts resemble one another. It is certain, then, that there will be diversities among the hearts of men — those which are inclined to virtue not being all modelled and shaped towards it in the same or like degree; while others, through neglect of virtue, rush to the opposite extreme. And among the latter are some in whom evil is deeply engrained, and others in whom it is less deeply rooted. Where is the absurdity, then, in holding that there exist among men, so to speak, two extremes, — the one of virtue, and the other of its opposite; so that the perfection of virtue dwells in the man who realizes the ideal given in Jesus, from whom there flowed to the human race so great a conversion, and healing, and amelioration, while the opposite extreme is in the man who embodies the notion of him that is named Antichrist? For God, comprehending all things by means of His foreknowledge, and foreseeing what consequences would result from both of these, wished to make these known to mankind by His prophets, that those who understand their words might be familiarized with the good, and be on their guard against its opposite. It was proper, moreover, that the one of these extremes, and the best of the two, should be styled the Son of God, on account of His pre-eminence; and the other, who is diametrically opposite, be termed the son of the wicked demon, and of Satan, and of the devil. And, in the next place, since evil is specially characterized by its diffusion, and attains its greatest height when it simulates the appearance of the good, for that reason are signs, and marvels, and lying miracles found to accompany evil, through the co-operation of its father the devil. For, far surpassing the help which these demons give to jugglers (who deceive men for the basest of purposes), is the aid which the devil himself affords in order to deceive the human race. Paul, indeed, speaks of him who is called Antichrist, describing, though with a certain reserve, both the manner, and time, and cause of his coming to the human race. And notice whether his language on this subject is not most becoming, and undeserving of being treated with even the slightest degree of ridicule.
It is thus that the apostle expresses himself:
We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by word, nor by spirit, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholds, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. To explain each particular here referred to does not belong to our present purpose. The prophecy also regarding Antichrist is stated in the book of Daniel, and is fitted to make an intelligent and candid reader admire the words as truly divine and prophetic; for in them are mentioned the things relating to the coming kingdom, beginning with the times of Daniel, and continuing to the destruction of the world. And any one who chooses may read it. Observe, however, whether the prophecy regarding Antichrist be not as follows:
And at the latter time of their kingdom, when their sins are coming to the full, there shall arise a king, bold in countenance, and understanding riddles. And his power shall be great, and he shall destroy wonderfully, and prosper, and practise; and shall destroy mighty men, and the holy people. And the yoke of his chain shall prosper: there is craft in his hand, and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by craft shall destroy many; and he shall stand up for the destruction of many, and shall crush them as eggs in his hand. What is stated by Paul in the words quoted from him, where he says,
And on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations, and at the end of the time an end shall be put to the desolation. So many, out of a greater number of passages, have I thought it right to adduce, that the hearer may understand in some slight degree the meaning of holy Scripture, when it gives us information concerning the devil and Antichrist; and being satisfied with what we have quoted for this purpose, let us look at another of the charges of Celsus, and reply to it as we best may.
Celsus, after what has been said, goes on as follows:
I can tell how the very thing occurred, viz., that they should call him 'Son of God.' Men of ancient times termed this world, as being born of God, both his child and his son. Both the one and other 'Son of God,' then, greatly resembled each other. He is therefore of opinion that we employed the expression God, and being His
a God. For he was unable so to consider the times of Moses and the prophets, as to see that the Jewish prophets predicted generally that there was a Plato, to which we referred in the preceding pages, concerning Him who so beautifully arranged this world, as being the Son of God; lest he too should be compelled by Plato, whom he often mentions with respect, to admit that the architect of this world is the Son of God, and that His Father is the first God and Sovereign Ruler over all things. Nor is it at all wonderful if we maintain that the soul of Jesus is made one with so great a Son of God through the highest union with Him, being no longer in a state of separation from Him. For the sacred language of holy Scripture knows of other things also, which, although
dual in their own nature, are considered to be, and really are,
one in respect to one another. It is said of husband and wife,
They are no longer two, but one flesh; and of the perfect man, and of him who is joined to the true Lord, Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, that
he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. And if he who
is joined to the Lord is one spirit, who has been joined to the Lord, the Very Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, in a more intimate union, or even in a manner at all approaching to it than the soul of Jesus? And if this be so, then the soul of Jesus and God the Word— the first-born of every creature — are no longer two, (but one).
In the next place, when the philosophers of the Porch, who assert that the virtue of God and man is the same, maintain that the God who is over all things is not happier than their wise man, but that the happiness of both is equal, Celsus neither ridicules nor scoffs at their opinion. If, however, holy Scripture says that the perfect man is joined to and made one with the Very Word by means of virtue, so that we infer that the soul of Jesus is not separated from the first-born of all creation, he laughs at Jesus being called holy Scriptures. But that we may win over to the reception of our views those who are willing to accept the inferences which flow from our doctrines, and to be benefited thereby, we say that the holy Scriptures declare the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of this body — considered as a whole — to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word. Since all this, then, follows by a train of reasoning not to be depreciated, where is the difficulty in maintaining that, as the soul of Jesus is joined in a perfect and inconceivable manner with the very Word, so the person of Jesus, generally speaking, is not separated from the only-begotten and first-born of all creation, and is not a different being from Him? But enough here on this subject.
Let us notice now what follows, where, expressing in a single word his opinion regarding the Mosaic cosmogony, without offering, however, a single argument in its support, he finds fault with it, saying:
Moreover, their cosmogony is extremely silly. Now, if he had produced some credible proofs of its silly character, we should have endeavoured to answer them; but it does not appear to me reasonable that I should be called upon to demonstrate, in answer to his mere assertion, that it is not
silly. If any one, however, wishes to see the reasons which led us to accept the Mosaic account, and the arguments by which it may be defended, he may read what we have written upon Genesis, from the beginning of the book up to the passage,
And this is the book of the generation of men, where we have tried to show from the holy Scriptures themselves what the
heaven was which was created in the beginning; and what the
earth, and the
invisible part of the earth, and that which was
without form; and what the
deep was, and the
darkness that was upon it; and what the
water was, and the
borne over it; and what the
light which was created, and what the
firmament, as distinct from the
heaven which was created in the beginning; and so on with the other subjects that follow. Celsus has also expressed his opinion that the narrative of the creation of man is
exceedingly silly, without stating any proofs, or endeavouring to answer our arguments; for he had no evidence, in my judgment, which was fitted to overthrow the statement that
man has been made in the image of God. He does not even understand the meaning of the
Paradise that was planted by God, and of the life which man first led in it; and of that which resulted from accident, when man was cast forth on account of his sin, and was settled opposite the Paradise of delight. Now, as he asserts that these are silly statements, let him turn his attention not merely to each one of them (in general), but to this in particular,
He placed the cherubim, and the flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life, and say whether Moses wrote these words with no serious object in view, but in the spirit of the writers of the old Comedy, who have sportively related that
Prœtus slew Bellerophon, and that
Pegasus came from Arcadia. Now their object was to create laughter in composing such stories; whereas it is incredible that he who left behind him laws for a whole nation, regarding which he wished to persuade his subjects that they were given by God, should have written words so little to the purpose, and have said without any meaning,
He placed the cherubim, and the flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life, or made any other statement regarding the creation of man, which is the subject of philosophic investigation by the Hebrew sages.
In the next place, Celsus, after heaping together, simply as mere assertions, the varying opinions of some of the ancients regarding the world, and the origin of man, alleges that
Moses and the prophets, who have left to us our books, not knowing at all what the nature of the world is, and of man, have woven together a web of sheer nonsense. If he had shown, now, how it appeared to him that the holy Scriptures contained
sheer nonsense, we should have tried to demolish the arguments which appeared to him to establish their nonsensical character; but on the present occasion, following his own example, we also sportively give it as our opinion that Celsus, knowing nothing at all about the nature of the meaning and language of the prophets, composed a work which contained
sheer nonsense, and boastfully gave it the title of a
true discourse. And since he makes the statements about the
days of creation ground of accusation — as if he understood them clearly and correctly, some of which elapsed before the creation of light and heaven, and sun, and moon, and stars, and some of them after the creation of these — we shall only make this observation, that Moses must then have forgotten that he had said a little before,
that in six days the creation of the world had been finished, and that in consequence of this act of forgetfulness he subjoins to these words the following: Moses should immediately add, without a special meaning, the words,
in the day that God made the heavens and the earth; and if any one thinks that these words may be referred to the statement,
In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth, let him observe that before the words,
Let there be light, and there was light, and these,
God called the light day, it has been stated that
in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.
On the present occasion, however, it is not our object to enter into an explanation of the subject of intelligent and sensible beings, nor of the manner in which the different kinds of days were allotted to both sorts, nor to investigate the details which belong to the subject, for we should need whole treatises for the exposition of the Mosaic cosmogony; and that work we had already performed, to the best of our ability, a considerable time before the commencement of this answer to Celsus, when we discussed with such measure of capacity as we then possessed the question of the Mosaic cosmogony of the six days. We must keep in mind, however, that the Word promises to the righteous through the mouth of Isaiah, that days will come when not the sun, but the Lord Himself, will be to them an everlasting light, and God will be their glory. And it is from misunderstanding, I think, some pestilent heresy which gave an erroneous interpretation to the words,
Let there be light, as if they were the expression of a wish merely on the part of the Creator, that Celsus made the remark:
The Creator did not borrow light from above, like those persons who kindle their lamps at those of their neighbours. Misunderstanding, moreover, another impious heresy, he has said:
If, indeed, there did exist an accursed god opposed to the great God, who did this contrary to his approval, why did he lend him the light? So far are we from offering a defense of such puerilities, that we desire, on the contrary, distinctly to arraign the statements of these heretics as erroneous, and to undertake to refute, not those of their opinions with which we are unacquainted, as Celsus does, but those of which we have attained an accurate knowledge, derived in part from the statements of their own adherents, and partly from a careful perusal of their writings.
Celsus proceeds as follows:
With regard to the origin of the world and its destruction, whether it is to be regarded as uncreated and indestructible, or as created indeed, but not destructible, or the reverse, I at present say nothing. For this reason we too say nothing on these points, as the work in hand does not require it. Nor do we allege that the Spirit of the universal God mingled itself in things here below as in things alien to itself, as might appear from the expression,
The Spirit of God moved upon the water; nor do we assert that certain wicked devices directed against His Spirit, as if by a different creator from the great God, and which were tolerated by the Supreme Divinity, needed to be completely frustrated. And, accordingly, I have nothing further to say to those who utter such absurdities; nor to Celsus, who does not refute them with ability. For he ought either not to have mentioned such matters at all, or else, in keeping with that character for philanthropy which he assumes, have carefully set them forth, and then endeavoured to rebut these impious assertions. Nor have we ever heard that the great God, after giving his spirit to the creator, demands it back again. Proceeding next foolishly to assail these impious assertions, he asks:
What god gives anything with the intention of demanding it back? For it is the mark of a needy person to demand back (what he has given), whereas God stands in need of nothing. To this he adds, as if saying something clever against certain parties:
Why does he pass without notice a wicked creator who was counter-working his purposes?
In the next place, mixing up together various heresies, and not observing that some statements are the utterances of one heretical sect, and others of a different one, he brings forward the objections which we raised against Marcion. And, probably, having heard them from some paltry and ignorant individuals, he assails the very arguments which combat them, but not in a way that shows much intelligence. Quoting then our arguments against Marcion, and not observing that it is against Marcion that he is speaking, he asks:
Why does he send secretly, and destroy the works which he has created? Why does he secretly employ force, and persuasion, and deceit? Why does he allure those who, as you assert, have been condemned or accused by him, and carry them away like a slave-dealer? Why does he teach them to steal away from their Lord? Why to flee from their father? Why does he claim them for himself against the father's will? Why does he profess to be the father of strange children? To these questions he subjoins the following remark, as if by way of expressing his surprise:
Venerable, indeed, is the god who desires to be the father of those sinners who are condemned by another (god), and of the needy, and, as themselves say, of the very offscourings (of men), and who is unable to capture and punish his messenger, who escaped from him! After this, as if addressing us who acknowledge that this world is not the work of a different and strange god, he continues in the following strain:
If these are his works, how is it that God created evil? And how is it that he cannot persuade and admonish (men)? And how is it that he repents on account of the ingratitude and wickedness of men? He finds fault, moreover, with his own handwork, and hates, and threatens, and destroys his own offspring? Whither can he transport them out of this world, which he himself has made? Now it does not appear to me that by these remarks he makes clear what sects who differ as to the nature of good and evil, he hastily concludes, as if it were a consequence of our maintaining that this world also is a work of the universal God, that in our judgment God is the author of evil. Let it be, however, regarding evil as it may — whether created by God or not — it nevertheless follows only as a result when you compare the principal design. And I am greatly surprised if the inference regarding God's authorship of evil, which he thinks follows from our maintaining that this world also is the work of the universal God, does not follow too from his own statements. For one might say to Celsus:
If these are His works, how is it that God created evil? And how is it that He cannot persuade and admonish men? It is indeed the greatest error in reasoning to accuse those who are of different opinions of holding unsound doctrines, when the accuser himself is much more liable to the same charge with regard to his own.
Let us see, then, briefly what holy Scripture has to say regarding good and evil, and what answer we are to return to the questions,
How is it that God created evil? and,
How is He incapable of persuading and admonishing men? Now, according to holy Scripture, properly speaking, virtues and virtuous actions are good, as, properly speaking, the reverse of these are evil. We shall be satisfied with quoting on the present occasion some verses from the thirty-fourth Psalm, to the following effect:
They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. Come, you children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord . What man is he that desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good. Now, the injunctions to
depart from evil, and to do good, do not refer either to corporeal evils or corporeal blessings, as they are termed by some, nor to external things at all, but to blessings and evils of a spiritual kind; since he who departs from such evils, and performs such virtuous actions, will, as one who desires the true life, come to the enjoyment of it; and as one loving to see
good days, in which the word of righteousness will be the Sun, he will see them, God taking him away from this
present evil world, and from those evil days concerning which Paul said:
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Passages, indeed, might be found where corporeal and external (benefits) are improperly called
good,— those things, viz., which contribute to the natural life, while those which do the reverse are termed
evil. It is in this sense that Job says to his wife:
If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not also receive evil! Since, then, there is found in the sacred Scriptures, in a certain passage, this statement put into the mouth of God,
I make peace, and create evil; and again another, where it is said of Him that
evil came down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem, the noise of chariots and horsemen, — passages which have disturbed many readers of Scripture, who are unable to see what Scripture means by
evil,— it is probable that Celsus, being perplexed thereby, gave utterance to the question,
How is it that God created evil? or, perhaps, having heard some one discussing the matters relating to it in an ignorant manner, he made this statement which we have noticed. We, on the other hand, maintain that
evil, or God. For if God created that which is really evil, how was it possible that the proclamation regarding (the last) judgment should be confidently announced, which informs us that the wicked are to be punished for their evil deeds in proportion to the amount of their wickedness, while those who have lived a virtuous life, or performed virtuous actions, will be in the enjoyment of blessedness, and will receive rewards from God? I am well aware that those who would daringly assert that these evils were created by God will quote certain expressions of Scripture (in their support), because we are not able to show one consistent series of passages; for although Scripture (generally) blames the wicked and approves of the righteous, it nevertheless contains some statements which, although comparatively few in number, seem to disturb the minds of ignorant readers of holy Scripture. I have not, however, deemed it appropriate to my present treatise to quote on the present occasion those discordant statements, which are many in number, and their explanations, which would require a long array of proofs. Evils, then, if those be meant which are properly so called, were not created by God; but some, although few in comparison with the order of the whole world, have resulted from His principal works, as there follow from the chief works of the carpenter such things as spiral shavings and sawdust, or as architects might appear to be the cause of the rubbish which lies around their buildings in the form of the filth which drops from the stones and the plaster.
If we speak, however, of what are called
external evils — which are improperly so termed — then it may be granted that there are occasions when some of these have been called into existence by God, in order that by their means the conversion of certain individuals might be effected. And what absurdity would follow from such a course? For as, if we should hear those sufferings improperly termed evils for the conversion and cure of those who need this discipline, there would be no absurdity in the view, nor would
evils come down from the Lord upon the gates of Jerusalem, — which evils consist of the punishments inflicted upon the Israelites by their enemies with a view to their conversion; nor would one visit
with a rod the transgressions of those who forsake the law of the Lord, and their iniquities with stripes; nor could it be said,
You have coals of fire to set upon them; they shall be to you a help. In the same way also we explain the expressions,
I, who make peace, and create evil; for He calls into existence
external evils, while purifying and training those who would not be disciplined by the word and sound doctrine. This, then, is our answer to the question,
How is it that God created evil?
With respect to the question,
How is he incapable of persuading and admonishing men? it has been already stated that, if such an objection were really a ground of charge, then the objection of Celsus might be brought against those who accept the doctrine of providence. Any one might answer the charge that God is incapable of admonishing men; for He conveys His admonitions throughout the whole of Scripture, and by means of those persons who, through God's gracious appointment, are the instructors of His hearers. Unless, indeed, some peculiar meaning be understood to attach to the word
admonish, as if it signified both to penetrate into the mind of the person admonished, and to make him hear the words of his instructor, which is contrary to the usual meaning of the word. To the objection,
How is he incapable of persuading?— which also might be brought against all who believe in providence — we have to make the following remarks. Since the expression
to be persuaded belongs to those words which are termed, so to speak,
reciprocal (compare the phrase
to shave a man, when he makes an effort to submit himself to the barber ), there is for this reason needed not merely the effort of him who persuades, but also the submission, so to speak, which is to be yielded to the persuader, or the acceptance of what is said by him. And therefore it must not be said that it is because God is incapable of persuading men that they are not persuaded, but because they will not accept the faithful words of God. And if one were to apply this expression to men who are the
artificers of persuasion, he would not be wrong; for it is possible for a man who has thoroughly learned the principles of rhetoric, and who employs them properly, to do his utmost to persuade, and yet appear to fail, because he cannot overcome the will of him who ought to yield to his persuasive arts. Moreover, that persuasion does not come from God, although persuasive words may be uttered by him, is distinctly taught by Paul, when he says:
This persuasion comes not of him that calls you. Such also is the view indicated by these words:
If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, a sword shall devour you. For that one may (really) desire what is addressed to him by one who admonishes, and may become deserving of those promises of God which he hears, it is necessary to secure the will of the hearer, and his inclination to what is addressed to him. And therefore it appears to me, that in the book of Deuteronomy the following words are uttered with peculiar emphasis:
There is next to be answered the following query:
And how is it that he repents when men become ungrateful and wicked; and finds fault with his own handwork, and hates, and threatens, and destroys his own offspring? Now Celsus here calumniates and falsities what is written in the book of Genesis to the following effect:
And the Lord God, seeing that the wickedness of men upon the earth was increasing, and that every one in his heart carefully meditated to do evil continually, was grieved He had made man upon the earth. And God meditated in His heart, and said, I will destroy man, whom I have made, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air, because I am grieved that I made them; quoting words which are not written in Scripture, as if they conveyed the meaning of what was actually written. For there is no mention in these words of the repentance of God, nor of His blaming and hating His own handwork. And if there is the appearance of God threatening the catastrophe of the deluge, and thus destroying His own children in it, we have to answer that, as the soul of man is immortal, the supposed threatening has for its object the conversion of the hearers, while the destruction of men by the flood is a purification of the earth, as certain among the Greek philosophers of no mean repute have indicated by the expression:
When the gods purify the earth. And with respect to the transference to God of those anthropopathic phrases, some remarks have been already made by us in the preceding pages.
Celsus, in the next place, suspecting, or perhaps seeing clearly enough, the answer which might be returned by those who defend the destruction of men by the deluge, continues:
But if he does not destroy his own offspring, whither does he convey them out of this world which he himself created? To this we reply, that God by no means removes out of the whole world, consisting of heaven and earth, those who suffered death by the deluge, but removes them from a life in the flesh, and, having set them free from their bodies, liberates them at the same time from an existence upon earth, which in many parts of Scripture it is usual to call the
world. In the Gospel according to John especially, we may frequently find the regions of earth termed
world, as in the passage,
He was the true Light, which lightens every man that comes into the 'world;' as also in this,
In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. If, then, we understand by
removing out of the world a transference from
regions on earth, there is nothing absurd in the expression. If, on the contrary, the system of things which consists of heaven and earth be termed
world, then those who perished in the deluge are by no means removed out of the so-called
world. And yet, indeed, if we have regard to the words,
Looking not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; and also to these,
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, — we might say that he who dwells amid the
invisible things, and what are called generally
things not seen, is gone out of the world, the Word having removed him hence, and transported him to the heavenly regions, in order to behold all beautiful things.
But after this investigation of his assertions, as if his object were to swell his book by many words, he repeats, in different language, the same charges which we have examined a little ago, saying:
By far the most silly thing is the distribution of the creation of the world over certain days, before days existed: for, as the heaven was not yet created, nor the foundation of the earth yet laid, nor the sun yet revolving, how could there be days? Now, what difference is there between these words and the following:
Moreover, taking and looking at these things from the beginning, would it not be absurd in the first and greatest God to issue the command, Let this (first thing) come into existence, and this second thing, and this (third); and after accomplishing so much on the first day, to do so much more again on the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth? We answered to the best of our ability this objection to God's
commanding this first, second, and third thing to be created, when we quoted the words,
He said, and it was done; He commanded, and all things stood fast; remarking that the immediate Creator, and, as it were, very Maker of the world was the Word, the Son of God; while the Father of the Word, by commanding His own Son — the Word — to create the world, is primarily Creator. And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone ), and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world, and quoted the words:
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Again, not understanding the meaning of the words,
And God ended on the sixth day His works which He had made, and ceased on the seventh day from all His works which He had made: and God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because on it He had ceased from all His works which He had begun to make; and imagining the expression,
He ceased on the seventh day, to be the same as this,
He rested on the seventh day, he makes the remark:
After this, indeed, he is weary, like a very bad workman, who stands in need of rest to refresh himself! For he knows nothing of the day of the Sabbath and rest of God, which follows the completion of the world's creation, and which lasts during the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep festival with God who have done all their works in their six days, and who, because they have omitted none of their duties, will ascend to the contemplation (of celestial things), and to the assembly of righteous and blessed beings. In the next place, as if either the Scriptures made such a statement, or as if we ourselves so spoke of God as having rested from fatigue, he continues:
It is not in keeping with the fitness of things that the first God should feel fatigue, or work with His hands, or give forth commands. Celsus says, that it is not in keeping with the fitness of things that the first God should feel fatigue. Now we would say that neither does God the Word feel fatigue, nor any of those beings who belong to a better and diviner order of things, because the sensation of fatigue is peculiar to those who are in the body. You can examine whether this is true of those who possess a body of any kind, or of those who have an earthly body, or one a little better than this. But
neither is it consistent with the fitness of things that the first God should work with His own hands. If you understand the words
work with His own hands literally, then neither are they applicable to the second God, nor to any other being partaking of divinity. But suppose that they are spoken in an improper and figurative sense, so that we may translate the following expressions,
And the firmament shows forth His handywork, and
the heavens are the work of Your hands, and any other similar phrases, in a figurative manner, so far as respects the
limbs of Deity, where is the absurdity in the words,
God thus working with His own hands? And as there is no absurdity in God thus working, so neither is there in His issuing
commands; so that what is done at His bidding should be beautiful and praiseworthy, because it was God who commanded it to be performed.
Celsus, again, having perhaps misunderstood the words,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, or perhaps because some ignorant individuals had rashly ventured upon the explanation of such things, and not understanding, moreover, on what principles parts called after the names of the bodily members are assigned to the attributes of God, asserts:
He has neither mouth nor voice. Truly, indeed, God can have no voice, if the voice is a concussion of the air, or a stroke on the air, or a species of air, or any other definition which may be given to the voice by those who are skilled in such matters; but what is called the
voice of God is said to be seen as
God's voice by the people in the passage,
And all the people saw the voice of God; the word
saw being taken, agreeably to the custom of Scripture, in a spiritual sense. Moreover, he alleges that knowledge he gives no indication. If he means
limbs, we agree with him, understanding the things
of which we have knowledge to be those called corporeal, and pretty generally so termed. But if we are to understand the words
of which we have knowledge in a universal sense, then there are many things of which we have knowledge, (and which may be attributed to God); for He possesses virtue, and blessedness, and divinity. If we, however, put a higher meaning upon the words,
of which we have knowledge, since all that we know is less than God, there is no absurdity in our also admitting that God possesses none of those things
of which we have knowledge. For the attributes which belong to God are far superior to all things with which not merely the nature of man is acquainted, but even that of those who have risen far above it. And if he had read the writings of the prophets, David on the one hand saying,
But You are the same, and Malachi on the other,
I am (the Lord), and change not, he would have observed that none of us assert that there is any change in God, either in act or thought. For abiding the same, He administers mutable things according to their nature, and His word elects to undertake their administration.
Celsus, not observing the difference between
after the image of God and
God's image, next asserts that the
first-born of every creature is the image of God — the very word and truth, and also the very wisdom, being the image of His goodness, while man has been created after the image of God; moreover, that every man whose head is Christ is the image and glory of God — and further, not observing to which of the characteristics of humanity the expression
after the image of God belongs, and that it consists in a nature which never had nor longer has
the old man with his deeds, being called
after the image of Him who created it, from its not possessing these qualities, — he maintains:
Neither did He make man His image; for God is not such an one, nor like any other species of (visible) being. Is it possible to suppose that the element which is
after the image of God should exist in the inferior part — I mean the body — of a compound being like man, because Celsus has explained that to be made after the image of God? For if that which is
after the image of God be in the body only, the better part, the soul, has been deprived of that which is
after His image, and this (distinction) exists in the corruptible body — an assertion which is made by none of us. But if that which is
after the image of God be in both together, then God must necessarily be a compound being, and consist, as it were, of soul and body, in order that the element which is
after God's image, the better part, may be in the soul; while the inferior part, and that which
is according to the body, may be in the body — an assertion, again, which is made by none of us. It remains, therefore, that that which is
after the image of God must be understood to be in our
inner man, which is also renewed, and whose nature it is to be
after the image of Him who created it, when a man becomes
our Father in heaven is perfect, and hears the command,
Be followers of God, receives into his virtuous soul the traits of God's image. The body, moreover, of him who possesses such a soul is a temple of God; and in the soul God dwells, because it has been made after His image.
Celsus, again, brings together a number of statements, which he gives as admissions on our part, but which no intelligent Christian would allow. For not one of us asserts that
God partakes of form or color. Nor does He even partake of
motion, because He stands firm, and His nature is permanent, and He invites the righteous man also to do the same, saying:
But as for you, stand here by Me. And if certain expressions indicate a kind of motion, as it were, on His part, such as this,
They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, we must understand them in this way, that it is by sinners that God is understood as moving, or as we understand the
sleep of God, which is taken in a figurative sense, or His
God does not partake even of substance. For He is partaken of (by others) rather than that Himself partakes of them, and He is partaken of by those who have the Spirit of God. Our Saviour, also, does not partake of righteousness; but being Himself
righteousness, He is partaken of by the righteous. A discussion about
substance would be protracted and difficult, and especially if it were a question whether that which is permanent and immaterial be
substance properly so called, so that it would be found that God is beyond
substance, communicating of His
substance, by means of office and power, to those to whom He communicates Himself by His Word, as He does to the Word Himself; or even if He is
substance, yet He is said be in His nature
invisible, in these words respecting our Saviour, who is said to be
the image of the invisible God, while from the term
invisible it is indicated that He is
immaterial. It is also a question for investigation, whether the
first-born of every creature is to be called
substance of substances, and
idea of ideas, and the
principle of all things, while above all there is His Father and God.
Celsus proceeds to say of God that
of Him are all things, abandoning (in so speaking), I know not how, all his principles; while our Paul declares, that
of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, showing that He is the beginning of the substance of all things by the words
of Him, and the bond of their subsistence by the expression
through Him, and their final end by the terms
to Him. Of a truth, God is of nothing. But when Celsus adds, that
He is not to be reached by word, I make a distinction, and say that if he means the word that is in us— whether the word conceived in the mind, or the word that is uttered — I, too, admit that God is not to be reached by word. If, however, we attend to the passage,
Neither is God to be reached by word. The statement, moreover, that
He cannot be expressed by name, requires to be taken with a distinction. If he means, indeed, that there is no word or sign that can represent the attributes of God, the statement is true, since there are many qualities which cannot be indicated by words. Who, for example, could describe in words the difference between the quality of sweetness in a palm and that in a fig? And who could distinguish and set forth in words the peculiar qualities of each individual thing? It is no wonder, then, if in this way God cannot be described by name. But if you take the phrase to mean that it is possible to represent by words something of God's attributes, in order to lead the hearer by the hand, as it were, and so enable him to comprehend something of God, so far as attainable by human nature, then there is no absurdity in saying that
He can be described by name. And we make a similar distinction with regard to the expression,
for He has undergone no suffering that can be conveyed by words. It is true that the Deity is beyond all suffering. And so much on this point.
Let us look also at his next statement, in which he introduces, as it were, a certain person, who, after hearing what has been said, expresses himself in the following manner,
How, then, shall I know God? And how shall I learn the way that leads to Him? And how will you show Him to me? Because now, indeed, you throw darkness before my eyes, and I see nothing distinctly. He then answers, as it were, the individual who is thus perplexed, and thinks that he assigns the reason why darkness has been poured upon the eyes of him who uttered the foregoing words, when he asserts that
those whom one would lead forth out of darkness into the brightness of light, being unable to withstand its splendours, have their power of vision affected and injured, and so imagine that they are smitten with blindness. In answer to this, we would say that all those indeed sit in darkness, and are rooted in it, who fix their gaze upon the evil handiwork of painters, and moulders and sculptors, and who will not look upwards, and ascend in thought from all visible and sensible things, to the Creator of all things, who is light; while, on the other hand, every one is in light who has followed the radiance of the Word, who has shown in consequence of what ignorance, and impiety, and want of knowledge of divine things these objects were worshipped instead of God, and who has conducted the soul of him who desires to be saved towards the uncreated God, who is over all. For
the people that sat in darkness — the Gentiles— saw a great light, and to them who sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up, — the God Jesus. No Christian, then, would give Celsus, or any accuser of the divine Word, the answer,
How shall I know God? for each one of them knows God according to his capacity. And no one asks,
How shall I learn the way which leads to Him? because he has heard Him who says,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and has tasted, in the course of the journey, the happiness which results from it. And not a single Christian would say to Celsus,
How will you show me God?
The remark, indeed, was true which Celsus made, that any one, on hearing his words, would answer, seeing that his words are words of darkness,
You pour darkness before my eyes. Celsus verily, and those like him, do desire to pour darkness before our eyes: we, however, by means of the light of the Word, disperse the darkness of their impious opinions. The Christian, indeed, could retort on Celsus, who says nothing that is distinct or true,
I see nothing that is distinct among all your statements. It is not, therefore,
out of darkness into
the brightness of light that Celsus leads us forth: he wishes, on the contrary, to transport us from light into darkness, making the darkness light and the light darkness, and exposing himself to the woe well described by the prophet Isaiah in the following manner:
Woe unto them that put darkness for light, and light for darkness. But we, the eyes of whose soul have been opened by the Word, and who see the difference between light and darkness, prefer by all means to take our stand
in the light, and will have nothing to do with darkness at all. The true light, moreover, being endued with life, knows to whom his full splendours are to be manifested, and to whom his light; for he does not display his brilliancy on account of the still existing weakness in the eyes of the recipient. And if we must speak at all of
sight being affected and injured, what other eyes shall we say are in this condition, than his who is involved in ignorance of God, and who is prevented by his passions from seeing the truth? Christians, however, by no means consider that they are blinded by the words of Celsus, or any other who is opposed to the worship of God. But let those who perceive that they are blinded by following multitudes who are in error, and tribes of those who keep festivals to demons, draw near to the Word, who can bestow the gift of sight, in order that, like those poor and blind who had thrown themselves down by the wayside, and who were healed by Jesus because they said to Him,
Son of David, have mercy upon me, they too may receive mercy and recover their eyesight, fresh and beautiful, as the Word of God can create it.
Accordingly, if Celsus were to ask us how we think we know God, and how we shall be saved by Him, we would answer that the Word of God, which entered into those who seek Him, or who accept Him when He appears, is able to make known and to reveal the Father, who was not seen (by any one) before the appearance of the Word. And who else is able to save and conduct the soul of man to the God of all things, save God the Word, who,
being in the beginning with God, became flesh for the sake of those who had cleaved to the flesh, and had become as flesh, that He might be received by those who could not behold Him, inasmuch as He was the Word, and was with God, and was God? And discoursing in human form, and announcing Himself as flesh, He calls to Himself those who are flesh, that He may in the first place cause them to be transformed according to the Word that was made flesh, and afterwards may lead them upwards to behold Him as He was before He became flesh; so that they, receiving the benefit, and ascending from their great introduction to Him, which was according to the flesh, say,
He tabernacled among us, not dwelling without us; and after tabernacling and dwelling within us, He did not continue in the form in which He first presented Himself, but caused us to ascend to the lofty mountain of His word, and showed us His own glorious form, and the splendour of His garments; and not His own form alone, but that also of the spiritual law, which is Moses, seen in glory along with Jesus. He showed to us, moreover, all prophecy, which did not perish even after His incarnation, but was received up into heaven, and whose symbol was Elijah. And he who beheld these things could say, ignorance in the imaginary answer to his question which he puts into our mouth,
Celsus, however, asserts that the answer which we give is based upon a probable conjecture, admitting that he describes our answer in the following terms:
Since God is great and difficult to see, He put His own Spirit into a body that resembled ours, and sent it down to us, that we might be enabled to hear Him and become acquainted with Him. But the God and Father of all things is not the only being that is great in our judgment; for He has imparted (a share) of Himself and His greatness to His Only-begotten and First-born of every creature, in order that He, being the image of the invisible God, might preserve, even in His greatness, the image of the Father. For it was not possible that there could exist a well-proportioned, so to speak, and beautiful image of the invisible God, which did not at the same time preserve the image of His greatness. God, moreover, is in our judgment invisible, because He is not a body, while He can be seen by those who see with the heart, that is, the understanding; not indeed with any kind of heart, but with one which is pure. For it is inconsistent with the fitness of things that a polluted heart should look upon God; for that must be itself pure which would worthily behold that which is pure. Let it be granted, indeed, that God is
difficult to see, yet He is not the only being who is so; for His Only-begotten also is
difficult to see. For God the Word is
difficult to see, and so also is His wisdom, by which God created all things. For who is capable of seeing the wisdom which is displayed in each individual part of the whole system of things, and by which God created every individual thing? It was not, then, because God was
difficult to see that He sent God His Son to be an object
easy to be seen. And because Celsus does not understand this, he has represented us as saying,
Because God was 'difficult to see,' He put His own Spirit in a body resembling ours, and sent it down to us, that we might be enabled to hear Him and become acquainted with Him. Now, as we have stated, the Son also is
difficult to see, because He is God the Word, through whom all things were made, and who
tabernacled among us.
If Celsus, indeed, had understood our teaching regarding the Spirit of God, and had known that
as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God, he would not have returned to himself the answer which he represents as coming from us, that
God put His own Spirit into a body, and sent it down to us; for God is perpetually bestowing of His own Spirit to those who are capable of receiving it, although it is not by way of division and separation that He dwells in (the hearts of) the deserving. Nor is the Spirit, in our opinion, a
body, any more than fire is a
body, which God is said to be in the passage,
Our God is a consuming fire. For all these are figurative expressions, employed to denote the nature of
intelligent beings by means of familiar and corporeal terms. In the same way, too, if sins are called
wood, and straw, and stubble, we shall not maintain that sins are corporeal; and if blessings are termed
gold, and silver, and precious stones, we shall not maintain that blessings are
corporeal; so also, if God be said to be a fire that consumes wood, and straw, and stubble, and all substance of sin, we shall not understand Him to be a
body, so neither do we understand Him to be a body if He should be called
fire. In this way, if God be called
spirit, we do not mean that He is a
body. For it is the custom of Scripture to give to
intelligent beings the names of
spiritual things, by way of distinction from those which are the objects of
sense; as when Paul says,
But our sufficiency is of God; who has also made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life, where by the
letter he means that
exposition of Scripture which is apparent to the senses, while by the
spirit that which is the object of the
understanding. It is the same, too, with the expression,
God is a Spirit. And because the prescriptions of the law were obeyed both by Samaritans and Jews in a corporeal and literal manner, our Saviour said to the Samaritan woman,
The hour is coming, when neither in Jerusalem, nor in this mountain, shall you worship the Father. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. And by these words He taught men that God must be worshipped not in the flesh, and with fleshly sacrifices, but in the spirit. And He will be understood to be a Spirit in proportion as the worship rendered to Him is rendered in spirit, and with understanding. It is not, however, with images that we are to worship the Father, but
in truth, which
came by Jesus Christ, after the giving of the law by Moses. For when we turn to the Lord (and the Lord is a Spirit ), He takes away the veil which lies upon the heart when Moses is read.
Celsus accordingly, as not understanding the doctrine relating to the Spirit of God (
for the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned ), weaves together (such a web) as pleases himself, imagining that we, in calling God a Spirit, differ in no respect in this particular from the Stoics among the Greeks, who maintain that
God is a Spirit, diffused through all things, and containing all things within Himself. Now the superintendence and providence of God does extend through all things, but not in the way that spirit does, according to the Stoics. Providence indeed contains all things that are its objects, and comprehends them all, but not as a containing body includes its contents, because they also are
body, but as a divine power does it comprehend what it contains. According to the philosophers of the Porch, indeed, who assert that principles are
corporeal, and who on that account make all things perishable, and who venture even to make the God of all things capable of perishing, the very Word of God, who descends even to the lowest of mankind, would be — did it not appear to them to be too gross an incongruity — nothing else than a
corporeal spirit; whereas, in our opinion — who endeavour to demonstrate that the rational soul is superior to all
corporeal nature, and that it is an invisible substance, and incorporeal — God the Word, by whom all things were made, who came, in order that all things might be made by the Word, not to men only, but to what are deemed the very lowest of things, under the dominion of nature alone, would be no body. The Stoics, then, may consign all things to destruction by fire; we, however, know of no incorporeal substance that is destructible by fire, nor (do we believe) that the soul of man, or the substance of
thrones, or dominions, or
powers, can be dissolved by fire.
It is therefore in vain that Celsus asserts, as one who knows not the nature of the Spirit of God, that
as the Son of God, who existed in a human body, is a Spirit, this very Son of God would not be immortal. He next becomes confused in his statements, as if there were some of us who did not admit that God is a Spirit, but maintain that only with regard to His Son, and he thinks that he can answer us by saying that there
is no kind of spirit which lasts forever. This is much the same as if, when we term God a
consuming fire, he were to say that there
is no kind of fire which lasts for ever; not observing the sense in which we say that our God is a fire, and what the things are which He consumes, viz., sins, and wickedness. For it becomes a God of goodness, after each individual has shown, by his efforts, what kind of combatant he has been, to consume vice by the fire of His chastisements. He proceeds, in the next place, to assume what we do not maintain, that
God must necessarily have given up the ghost; from which also it follows that Jesus could not have risen again with His body. For God would not have received back the spirit which He had surrendered after it had been stained by contact with the body. It is foolish, however, for us to answer statements as ours which were never made by us.
He proceeds to repeat himself, and after saying a great deal which he had said before, and ridiculing the birth of God from a virgin — to which we have already replied as we best could — he adds the following:
If God had wished to send down His Spirit from Himself, what need was there to breathe it into the womb of a woman? For as one who knew already how to form men, He could also have fashioned a body for this person, without casting His own Spirit into so much pollution; and in this way He would not have been received with incredulity, if He had derived His existence immediately from above. He had made these remarks, because he knows not the pure and virgin birth, unaccompanied by any corruption, of that body which was to minister to the salvation of men. For, quoting the sayings of the Stoics, and affecting not to know the doctrine about
things indifferent, he thinks that the divine nature was cast amid pollution, and was stained either by being in the body of a woman, until a body was formed around it, or by assuming a body. And in this he acts like those who imagine that the sun's rays are polluted by dung and by foul-smelling bodies, and do not remain pure amid such things. If, however, according to the view of Celsus, the body of Jesus had been fashioned without generation, those who beheld the body would at once have believed that it had not been formed by generation; and yet an object, when seen, does not at the same time indicate the nature of that from which it has derived its origin. For example, suppose that there were some honey (placed before one) which had not been manufactured by bees, no one could tell from the taste or sight that it was not their workmanship, because the honey which comes from bees does not make known its origin by the senses, but experience alone can tell that it does not proceed from them. In the same way, too, experience teaches that wine comes from the vine, for taste does not enable us to distinguish (the wine) which comes from the vine. In the same manner, therefore, the visible body does not make known the manner of its existence. And you will be induced to accept this view, by (regarding) the heavenly bodies, whose existence and splendour we perceive as we gaze at them; and yet, I presume, their appearance does not suggest to us whether they are created or uncreated; and accordingly different opinions have existed on these points. And yet those who say that they are created are not agreed as to the manner of their creation, for their appearance does not suggest it, although the force of reason may have discovered that they are created, and how their creation was effected.
After this he returns to the subject of Marcion's opinions (having already spoken frequently of them), and states some of them correctly, while others he has misunderstood; these, however, it is not necessary for us to answer or refute. Again, after this he brings forward the various arguments that may be urged on Marcion's behalf, and also against him, enumerating what the opinions are which exonerate him from the charges, and what expose him to them; and when he desires to support the statement which declares that Jesus has been the subject of prophecy — in order to found a charge against Marcion and his followers — he distinctly asks,
How could he, who was punished in such a manner, be shown to be God's Son, unless these things had been predicted of him? He next proceeds to jest, and, as his custom is, to pour ridicule upon the subject, introducing
two sons of God, one the son of the Creator, and the other the son of Marcion's God; and he portrays their single combats, saying that the Theomachies of the Fathers are like the battles between quails; or that the Fathers, becoming useless through age, and falling into their dotage do not meddle at all with one another, but leave their sons to fight it out. The remark which he made formerly we will turn against himself:
What old woman would not be ashamed to lull a child to sleep with such stories as he has inserted in the work which he entitles A True Discourse? For when he ought seriously to apply himself to argument, he leaves serious argument aside, and betakes himself to jesting and buffoonery, imagining that he is writing mimes or scoffing verses; not observing that such a method of procedure defeats his purpose, which is to make us abandon Christianity and give in our adherence to his opinions, which, perhaps, had they been stated with some degree of gravity, would have appeared more likely to convince, whereas since he continues to ridicule, and scoff, and play the buffoon, we answer that it is because he has no argument of weight (for such he neither had, nor could understand) that he has betaken himself to such drivelling.
To the preceding remarks he adds the following:
Since a divine Spirit inhabited the body (of Jesus), it must certainly have been different from that of other beings, in respect of grandeur, or beauty, or strength, or voice, or impressiveness, or persuasiveness. For it is impossible that He, to whom was imparted some divine quality beyond other beings, should not differ from others; whereas this person did not differ in any respect from another, but was, as they report, little, and ill-favoured, and ignoble. Now it is evident by these words, that when Celsus wishes to bring a charge against Jesus, he adduces the sacred writings, as one who believed them to be writings apparently fitted to afford a handle for a charge against Him; but wherever, in the same writings, statements would appear to be made opposed to those charges which are adduced, he pretends not even to know them! There are, indeed, admitted to be recorded some statements respecting the body of Jesus having been
ill-favoured; not, however,
ignoble, as has been stated, nor is there any certain evidence that he was
little. The language of Isaiah runs as follows, who prophesied regarding Him that He would come and visit the multitude, not in comeliness of form, nor in any surpassing beauty:
Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? He made announcement before Him, as a child, as a root in a thirsty ground. He has no form nor glory, and we beheld Him, and He had no form nor beauty; but His form was without honour, and inferior to that of the sons of men. These passages, then, Celsus listened to, because he thought they were of use to him in bringing a charge against Jesus; but he paid no attention to the words of the forty-fifth Psalm, and why it is then said,
Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O most mighty, with Your comeliness and beauty; and continue, and prosper, and reign.
Let it be supposed, however, that he had not read the prophecy, or that he had read it, but had been drawn away by those who misinterpreted it as not being spoken of Jesus Christ. What has he to say of the Gospel, in the narratives of which Jesus ascended up into a high mountain, and was transfigured before the disciples, and was seen in glory, when both Moses and Elias,
being seen in glory, spoke of the decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem? or when the prophet says,
We beheld Him, and He had no form nor beauty, etc.? And Celsus accepts this prophecy as referring to Jesus, being blinded in so accepting it, and not seeing that it is a great proof that the Jesus who appeared to be
without form was the Son of God, that His very appearance should have been made the subject of prophecy many years before His birth. But if another prophet speak of His comeliness and beauty, he will no longer accept the prophecy as referring to Christ! And if it were to be clearly ascertained from the Gospels that
He had no form nor beauty, but that His appearance was without honour, and inferior to that of the sons of men, it might be said that it was not with reference to the prophetic writings, but to the Gospels, that Celsus made his remarks. But now, as neither the Gospels nor the apostolic writings indicate that
He had no form nor beauty, it is evident that we must accept the declaration of the prophets as true of Christ, and this will prevent the charge against Jesus from being advanced.
But again, how did he who said,
Since a divine Spirit inhabited the body (of Jesus), it must certainly have been different from that of other beings in respect of grandeur, or voice, or strength, or impressiveness, or persuasiveness, not observe the changing relation of His body according to the capacity of the spectators (and therefore its corresponding utility), inasmuch as it appeared to each one of such a nature as it was requisite for him to behold it? Moreover it is not a subject of wonder that the matter, which is by nature susceptible of being altered and changed, and of being transformed into anything which the Creator chooses, and is capable of receiving all the qualities which the Artificer desires, should at one time possess a quality, agreeably to which it is said,
He had no form nor beauty, and at another, one so glorious, and majestic, and marvellous, that the spectators of such surpassing loveliness — three disciples who had ascended (the mount) with Jesus — should fall upon their faces. He will say, however, that these are inventions, and in no respect different from myths, as are also the other marvels related of Jesus; which objection we have answered at greater length in what has gone before. But there is also something mystical in this doctrine, which announces that the varying appearances of Jesus are to be referred to the nature of the divine Word, who does not show Himself in the same manner to the multitude as He does to those who are capable of following Him to the high mountain which we have mentioned; for to those who still remain below, and are not yet prepared to ascend, the Word
has neither form nor beauty, because to such persons His form is
without honour, and inferior to the words given forth by men, which are figuratively termed
sons of men. For we might say that the words of philosophers— who are
sons of men — appear far more beautiful than the Word of God, who is proclaimed to the multitude, and who also exhibits (what is called) the
foolishness of preaching, and on account of this apparent
foolishness of preaching those who look at this alone say,
We saw Him; but He had no form nor beauty. To those, indeed, who have received power to follow Him, in order that they may attend Him even when He ascends to the
lofty mount, He has a diviner appearance, which they behold, if there happens to be (among them) a Peter, who has received within himself the edifice of the Church based upon the Word, and who has gained such a habit (of goodness) that none of the gates of Hades will prevail against him, having been exalted by the Word from the gates of death, that he may
publish the praises of God in the gates of the daughter of Sion, and any others who have derived their birth from impressive preaching, and who are not at all inferior to
sons of thunder. But how can Celsus and the enemies of the divine Word, and those who have not examined the doctrines of Christianity in the spirit of truth, know the meaning of the different appearances of Jesus? And I refer also to the different stages of His life, and to any actions performed by Him before His sufferings, and after His resurrection from the dead.
Celsus next makes certain observations of the following nature:
Again, if God, like Jupiter in the comedy, should, on awaking from a lengthened slumber, desire to rescue the human race from evil, why did He send this Spirit of which you speak into one corner (of the earth)? He ought to have breathed it alike into many bodies, and have sent them out into all the world. Now the comic poet, to cause laughter in the theatre, wrote that Jupiter, after awakening, dispatched Mercury to the Athenians and Lacedæmonians; but do not you think that you have made the Son of God more ridiculous in sending Him to the Jews? Observe in such language as this the irreverent character of Celsus, who, unlike a philosopher, takes the writer of a comedy, whose business is to cause laughter, and compares our God, the Creator of all things, to the being who, as represented in the play, on awaking, dispatches Mercury (on an errand)! We stated, indeed, in what precedes, that it was not as if awakening from a lengthened slumber that God sent Jesus to the human race, who has now, for good reasons, fulfilled the economy of His incarnation, but who has always conferred benefits upon the human race. For no noble deed has ever been performed among men, where the divine Word did not visit the souls of those who were capable, although for a little time, of admitting such operations of the divine Word. Moreover, the advent of Jesus apparently to one corner (of the earth) was founded on good reasons, since it was necessary that He who was the subject of prophecy should make His appearance among those who had become acquainted with the doctrine of one God, and who perused the writings of His prophets, and who had come to know the announcement of Christ, and that He should come to them at a time when the Word was about to be diffused from one corner over the whole world.
And therefore there was no need that there should everywhere exist many bodies, and many spirits like Jesus, in order that the whole world of men might be enlightened by the Word of God. For the one Word was enough, having arisen as the
Sun of righteousness, to send forth from Judea His coming rays into the soul of all who were willing to receive Him. But if any one desires to see many bodies filled with a divine Spirit, similar to the one Christ, ministering to the salvation of men everywhere, let him take note of those who teach the Gospel of Jesus in all lands in soundness of doctrine and uprightness of life, and who are themselves termed
christs by the holy Scriptures, in the passage,
Touch not Mine anointed, and do not My prophets any harm. For as we have heard that Antichrist comes, and yet have learned that there are many antichrists in the world, in the same way, knowing that Christ has come, we see that, owing to Him, there are many christs in the world, who, like Him, have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore God, the God of Christ, anointed them also with the
oil of gladness. But inasmuch as He loved righteousness and hated iniquity above those who were His partners, He also obtained the first-fruits of His anointing, and, if we must so term it, the entire unction of the oil of gladness; while they who were His partners shared also in His unction, in proportion to their individual capacity. Therefore, since Christ is the Head of the Church, so that Christ and the Church form one body, the ointment descended from the head to the beard of Aaron — the symbols of the perfect man — and this ointment in its descent reached to the very skirt of his garment. This is my answer to the irreverent language of Celsus when he says,
He ought to have breathed (His Spirit) alike into many bodies, and have sent it forth into all the world. The comic poet, indeed, to cause laughter, has represented Jupiter asleep and awaking from slumber, and dispatching Mercury to the Greeks; but the Word, knowing that the nature of God is unaffected by sleep, may teach us that God administers in due season, and as right reason demands, the affairs of the world. It is not, however, a matter of surprise that, owing to the greatness and incomprehensibility of the divine judgments, ignorant persons should make mistakes, and Celsus among them. There is therefore nothing ridiculous in the Son of God having been sent to the Jews, among whom the prophets had appeared, in order that, making a commencement among them in a bodily shape, He might arise with might and power upon a world of souls, which no longer desired to remain deserted by God.
After this, it seemed proper to Celsus to term the Chaldeans a most divinely-inspired nation from the very earliest times, from whom the delusive system of astrology has spread abroad among men. Nay, he ranks the Magi also in the same category, from whom the art of magic derived its name and has been transmitted to other nations, to the corruption and destruction of those who employ it. In the preceding part of this work, (we mentioned) that, in the opinion even of Celsus, the Egyptians also were guilty of error, because they had indeed solemn enclosures around what they considered their temples, while within them there was nothing save apes, or crocodiles, or goats, or asps, or some other animal; but on the present occasion it pleases him to speak of the Egyptian people too as most divinely inspired, and that, too, from the earliest times — perhaps because they made war upon the Jews from an early date. The Persians, moreover, who marry their own mothers, and have intercourse with their own daughters, are, in the opinion of Celsus, an inspired race; nay, even the Indians are so, some of whom, in the preceding, he mentioned as eaters of human flesh. To the Jews, however, especially those of ancient times, who employ none of these practices, he did not merely refuse the name of inspired, but declared that they would immediately perish. And this prediction he uttered respecting them, as being doubtless endued with prophetic power, not observing that the whole history of the Jews, and their ancient and venerable polity, were administered by God; and that it is by their fall that salvation has come to the Gentiles, and that
their fall is the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, until the fullness of the Gentiles come, that after that the whole of Israel, whom Celsus does not know, may be saved.
I do not understand, however, how he should say of God, that although
knowing all things, He was not aware of this, that He was sending His Son among wicked men, who were both to be guilty of sin, and to inflict punishment upon Him. Certainly he appears, in the present instance, to have forgotten that all the sufferings which Jesus was to undergo were foreseen by the Spirit of God, and foretold by His prophets; from which it does not follow that
God did not know that He was sending His Son among wicked and sinful men, who were also to inflict punishment upon Him. He immediately adds, however, that
our defense on this point is that all these things were predicted. But as our sixth book has now attained sufficient dimensions, we shall stop here, and begin, God willing, the argument of the seventh, in which we shall consider the reasons which he thinks furnish an answer to our statement, that everything regarding Jesus was foretold by the prophets; and as these are numerous, and require to be answered at length, we wished neither to cut the subject short, in consequence of the size of the present book, nor, in order to avoid doing so, to swell this sixth book beyond its proper proportions.
Source. Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04166.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.