Celsus

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Christianity did contribute to the fall of the Roman empire with its introduction of private welfare just as the introduction of public religion had contributed to the death of the republic. Edward Gibbon centuries later would speak of the “useless multitudes” of monks and nuns and their “indolent, or even criminal, disregard for the public welfare' drained society. But Gibbon wrote of those privilege classes born in the Church of Constantine, not the Church established by Christ. No "pusillanimous" christian or minister of His Church would last long in those early days where persecution was just around the corner and dearths and pestilence, famine and war swept across the world of Rome.

Celsus wrote his work True Discourse (or, True Reason, The True Word) as a polemic against the Christians in approximately 178 CE. Celsus divided the work into two sections, the one in which objections are put in the mouth of a Jewish interlocutor and the other in which Celsus speaks as the pagan philosopher that he is.

Celsus ridiculed Christians because they advocated blind faith instead of reason which not really true.

Celsus, a Platonist, writing during the term of Marcus Aurelius, “opposed the ‘sectarian’ tendencies at work in the Christian movement because he saw in Christianity a ‘privatizing’ of religion, the transferal of religious values from the public sphere to a private association.” [1]

Celsus lived during the 2nd century, CE. while Origen is refuting him in the 3rd century.

About sixty years after it was first published, the book written by Celsus was refuted by Origen in his Contra Celsum, which is the basic source of knowledge that we have of Celsus today. There is an irony in that since we only know Celsus thanks to the Christians he held in such contempt. There were other critics such as Phoenician Philosopher Porphyry of Tyre who wrote the Philosophy from Oracles and Against the Christians which was banned by Constantine. More than two dozen apologists, such as Methodius and Eusebius, to Jerome and Augustine reacted to his complaint which was more about the source than the content of Christian teachings. responded to his challenge. Over a hundred years later Theodosius II ordered every copy burned which Christ would not have done.



The main argument against Christianity was the loss of revenue at the temples and the usual suspects, envy and jealousy.



Origen's patron was Ambrose who was a part of the new Church of Constantine. Ambrose brought the matter to his attention. Before that the church had ignored Celsus's attacks for the same reason there is freedom of speech in the kingdom of God and it is seldom productive to engage the trolls.. Origen's systematic rebuttal to each of Celsus' arguments point-by-point gave them more weight than they deserved no matter how off and irrelavent his complaints were.

Celsus' writings no longer survive in tact, but we have access to some of his work when Origen quotes passages for the purpose of refuting what he claimed. The following is one of those quoted passages.

"Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god." Origen, Contra Celsum 1.28 Translation

Celsus preferred the welfare by the state that kept the mob and bay and consolidated the power of the regimes that blessed his life by buying his books. On The True Doctrine survives exclusively in quotations from it in Contra Celsum, a refutation written in 248 by Origen of Alexandria.

On The True Doctrine is one of the earliest known criticism of Christianity written around 176 shortly after the death of Justin the Martyr a Christian apologist. Celsus promoted the covetous practices of the people and accepted the genius of the rulers who called themselves benefactors but exercised authority one over the other. Neither Celsus and therefore Origen address this conflict with the Imperial Cult of Rome.

Christianity likely did contribute to the fall of the Roman empire with its introduction of private welfare in the form of Pure Religion just as the introduction of public religion had contributed to the demise of the republic and liberty.

Edward Gibbon centuries later would speak of the “useless multitudes” of the monks and nuns whose “indolent, or even criminal, disregard for the public welfare' drained society but that religious group was of a privilege class born in the Church of Constantine, not the Church established by Christ.

The Church established by Christ had a very robust daily ministration spoken of by Justin the Martyr:

  • “And the wealthy among us help the needy ... and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” "Justin the Martyr's Apology" to the Emperor Antonius Pius in 150 AD, (Ch. 65-67)[2]

Celsus was a pagan world order advocate that trolled Christianity.

No "pusillanimous" christian would last long in those days of early Church of official and bigoted persecution. With hard times always lurking just around the corner and dearths and pestilence, famine and war sweeping across the world of Rome without diligent exercise of faith, hope, and charity Christians would soon find themselves at the mercy of State controlled systems that would quickly bring them back into the bondage of Egypt.

Celsus had been interested in Ancient Egyptian religion that gave rise to Pharaohs, great monuments, golden cities and property, at least for the wealthy. They always required a working class that bore the brunt of the labor and more than their fair share of the trials. In such systems your labor is not entirely your own and often fail to strengthen the poor.

It has been said that "Under Capitalism man exploits man; under Socialism the process is reversed.” It is true that the exploitation of man is a choice in Capitalism, but exploitation is built into the system of Socialism and Communism, which centralizes power and encourages the Saul Syndrome of its rulers. The ultimate encouragement and licensing of covetous practices degrades the man and eats out his soul. It is the One purse that runs toward death.

In a free society Rights are endowed by God but it will take a miracle to keep them.

  • "Freedom is the Right to Choose, the Right to create for oneself the alternatives of Choice. Without the possibility of Choice, and the exercise of Choice, a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.” Archibald MacLeish


Redistribution of that which is produced by the sweat, blood, and life of the individual through force rather than the choice of charity diminishes freedom and degenerates the souls of men.

While Celsus did not understand this basic fact of human nature the Greek historian Polybius and the philosopher Plutarch did understand and warned of its conswequences.

Christ, John the Baptist, the prophets and the apostles gave explicit warnings of the effect of following the ideas of Celsus.

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Early non Bible authors
Athenagoras of Athens | Methodius of Olympus | The Gospel of Thomas |
Hippolytus of Rome | Justin the Martyr | Jerome | Augustine of Hippo |
Epistle of Mathetes |
Philo Judaeus‎ or Philo of Alexandria and The Allegories of the Sacred Laws
People in the Bible
Paul the Apostle | Melchizedek | Moses | Cain | Caesar | Herod | Jesus |
John the Baptist | Nimrod | Abraham | Essenes |
Historical People
Buddha | Celsus | Constantine | Eusebius | Marcus Tullius Cicero | Augustine of Canterbury |
Ambrose | Lady Godiva | Plutarch | Polybius | Seneca | Tacitus | Vespian | Manichaeism | John Wycliffe‎ |

Footnotes

  1. Christians as the Romans Saw Them, by Robert Wilken page 125.
  2. alternate translation:
    “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” Chapter LXVII