It is not, my reverend Ambrosius, because we seek after many words – a thing which is forbidden, and in the indulgence of which it is impossible to avoid sin (cf. Pro_10:19) – that we now begin the fifth book of our reply to the treatise of Celsus, but with the endeavour, so far as may be within our power, to leave none of his statements without examination, and especially those in which it might appear to some that he had skilfully assailed us and the Jews. If it were possible, indeed, for me to enter along with my words into the conscience of every one without exception who peruses this work, and to extract each dart which wounds him who is not completely protected with the “whole armour” of God, and apply a rational medicine to cure the wound inflicted by Celsus, which prevents those who listen to his words from remaining “sound in the faith,” I would do so. But since it is the work of God alone, in conformity with His own Spirit, and along with that of Christ, to take up His abode invisibly in those persons whom He judges worthy of being visited; so, on the other hand, is our object to try, by means of arguments and treatises, to confirm men in their faith, and to earn the name of “workmen needing not to be ashamed, tightly dividing the word of truth.” (cf. 2Ti_2:15) And there is one thing above all which it appears to us we ought to do, if we would discharge faithfully the task enjoined upon us by you, and that is to overturn to the best of our ability the confident assertions of Celsus. Let us then quote such assertions of his as follow those which we have already refuted (the reader must decide whether we have done so successfully or not), and let us reply to them. And may God grant that we approach not our subject with our understanding and reason empty and devoid of divine inspiration, that the faith of those whom we wish to aid may not depend upon human wisdom, but that, receiving the “mind” of Christ from His Father, who alone can bestow it, and being strengthened by participating in the word of God, we may pull down “every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,” (cf. 2Co_10:5) and the imagination of Celsus, who exalts himself against us, and against Jesus, and also against Moses and the prophets, in order that He who “gave the word to those who published it with great power” (cf. Psa_68:11) may supply us also, and bestow upon us “great power,” so that faith in the word and power of God may be implanted in the minds of all who will peruse our work.
We have now, then, to refute that statement of his which runs as follows: “O Jews and Christians, no God or son of a God either came or will come down (to earth). But if you mean that certain angels did so, then what do you call them? Are they gods, or some other race of beings? Some other race of beings (doubtless), and in all probability demons.” Now as Celsus here is guilty of repeating himself (for in the preceding pages such assertions have been frequently advanced by him), it is unnecessary to discuss the matter at greater length, seeing what we have already said upon this point may suffice. We shall mention, however, a few considerations out of a greater number, such as we deem in harmony with our former arguments, but which have not altogether the same bearing as they, and by which we shall show that in asserting generally that no God, or son of God, ever descended (among men), he overturns not only the opinions entertained by the majority of mankind regarding the manifestation of Deity, but also what was formerly admitted by himself. For if the general statement, that “no God or son of God has come down or will come down,” be truly maintained by Celsus, it is manifest that we have here overthrown the belief in the existence of gods upon the earth who had descended from heaven either to predict the future to mankind or to heal them by means of divine responses; and neither the Pythian Apollo, nor Aesculapius, nor any other among those supposed to have done so, would be a god descended from heaven. He might, indeed, either be a god who had obtained as his lot (the obligation) to dwell on earth for ever, and be thus a fugitive, as it were, from the abode of the gods, or he might be one who had no power to share in the society of the gods in heaven;1 or else Apollo, and Aesculapius, and those others who are believed to perform acts on earth, would not be gods, but only certain demons, much inferior to those wise men among mankind, who on account of their virtue ascend to the vault2 of heaven.
But observe how, in his desire to subvert our opinions, he who never acknowledged himself throughout his whole treatise to be an Epicurean, is convicted of being a deserter to that sect. And now is the time for you, (reader), who peruse the works of Celsus, and give your assent to what has been advanced, either to overturn the belief in a God who visits the human race, and exercises a providence over each individual man, or to grant this, and prove the falsity of the assertions of Celsus. If you, then, wholly annihilate providence, you will falsify those assertions of his in which he grants the existence of “God and a providence,” in order that you may maintain the truth of your own position; but if, on the other hand, you still admit the existence of providence, because you do not assent to the dictum of Celsus, that “neither has a God nor the son of a God come down nor is to come down3 to mankind,” why not rather carefully ascertain from the statements made regarding Jesus, and the prophecies uttered concerning Him, who it is that we are to consider as having come down to the human race as God, and the Son of God? – whether that Jesus who said and ministered so much, or those who under pretence of oracles and divinations, do not reform the morals of their worshippers, but who have besides apostatized from the pure and holy worship and honour due to the Maker of all things, and who tear away the souls of those who give heed to them from the one only visible and true God, under a pretence of paying honour to a multitude of deities?
But since he says, in the next place, as if the Jews or Christians had answered regarding those who come down to visit the human race, that they were angels: “But if ye say that they are angels, what do you call them?” he continues, “Are they gods, or some other race of beings?” and then again introduces us as if answering, “Some other race of beings, and probably demons,” – let us proceed to notice these remarks. For we indeed acknowledge that angels are “ministering spirits,” and we say that “they are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation;” (cf. Heb_1:14) and that they ascend, bearing the supplications of men, to the purest of the heavenly places in the universe, or even to supercelestial regions purer still;4 and that they come down from these, conveying to each one, according to his deserts, something enjoined by God to be conferred by them upon those who are to be the recipients of His benefits. Having thus learned to call these beings “angels” from their employments, we find that because they are divine they are sometimes termed “god” in the sacred Scriptures, (cf. Psa_86:8, Psa_96:4, Psa_136:2) but not so that we are commanded to honour and worship in place of God those who minister to us, and bear to us His blessings. For every prayer, and supplication, and intercession, and thanksgiving, is to be sent up to the Supreme God through the High Priest, who is above all the angels, the living Word and God. And to the Word Himself shall we also pray and make intercessions, and offer thanksgivings and supplications to Him, if we have the capacity of distinguishing between the proper use and abuse of prayer.5
For to invoke angels without having obtained a knowledge of their nature greater than is possessed by men, would be contrary to reason. But, conformably to our hypothesis, let this knowledge of them, which is something wonderful and mysterious, be obtained. Then this knowledge, making known to us their nature, and the offices to which they are severally appointed, will not permit us to pray with confidence to any other than to the Supreme God, who is sufficient for all things, and that through our Saviour the Son of God, who is the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and everything else which the writings of God’s prophets and the apostles of Jesus entitle Him. And it is enough to secure that the holy angels of God be propitious to us,6 and that they do all things on our behalf, that our disposition of mind towards God should imitate as far as it is within the power of human nature the example of these holy angels, who again follow the example of their God; and that the conceptions which we entertain of His Son, the Word, so far as attainable by us, should not be opposed to the clearer conceptions of Him which the holy angels possess, but should daily approach these in clearness and distinctness. But because Celsus has not read our holy Scriptures, he gives himself an answer as if it came from us, saying that we “assert that the angels who come down from heaven to confer benefits on mankind are a different race from the gods,” and adds that “in all probability they would be called demons by us:” not observing that the name “demons” is not a term of indifferent meaning like that of “men,” among whom some are good and some bad, nor yet a term of excellence like that of “the gods,” which is applied not to wicked demons, or to statues, or to animals, but (by those who know divine things) to what is truly divine and blessed; whereas the term “demons” is always applied to those wicked powers, freed from the encumbrance of a grosser body, who lead men astray, and fill them with distractions and drag them down from God and supercelestial thoughts to things here below.
He next proceeds to make the following statement about the Jews: – “The first point relating to the Jews which is fitted to excite wonder, is that they should worship the heaven and the angels who dwell therein, and yet pass by and neglect its most venerable and powerful parts, as the sun, the moon, and the other heavenly bodies, both fixed stars and planets, as if it were possible that ‘the whole’ could be God, and yet its parts not divine; or (as if it were reasonable) to treat with the greatest respect those who are said to appear to such as are in darkness somewhere, blinded by some crooked sorcery, or dreaming dreams through the influence of shadowy spectres,7 while those who prophesy so clearly and strikingly to all men, by means of whom rain, and heat, and clouds, and thunder (to which they offer worship), and lightnings, and fruits, and all kinds of productiveness, are brought about, – by means of whom God is revealed to them, – the most prominent heralds among those beings that are above, – those that are truly heavenly angels, – are to be regarded as of no account!” In making these statements, Celsus appears to have fallen into confusion, and to have penned them from false ideas of things which he did not understand; for it is patent to all who investigate the practices of the Jews, and compare them with those of the Christians, that the Jews who follow the law, which, speaking in the person of God, says, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me: thou shalt not make unto thee an image, nor a likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth; thou shall not bow down to them, nor serve them,” (cf. Exo_20:3, Exo_20:4, Exo_20:5) worship nothing else than the Supreme God, who made the heavens, and all things besides. Now it is evident that those who live according to the law, and worship the Maker of heaven, will not worship the heaven at the same time with God. Moreover, no one who obeys the law of Moses will bow down to the angels who are in heaven; and, in like manner, as they do not bow down to sun, moon, and stars, the host of heaven, they refrain from doing obeisance to heaven and its angels, obeying the law which declares: “Lest thou lift up thine eyes to heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldst be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations.” (cf. Deu_4:19)
Having, moreover, assumed that the Jews consider the heaven to be God, he adds that this is absurd; finding fault with those who bow down to the heaven, but not also to the sun, and moon, and stars, saying that the Jews do this, as if it were possible that “the whole” should be God, and its several parts not divine. And he seems to call the heaven “a whole,” and sun, moon, and stars its several parts. Now, certainly neither Jews nor Christians call the “heaven” God. Let it be granted, however, that, as he alleges, the heaven is called God by the Jews, and suppose that sun, moon, and stars are parts of “heaven,” – which is by no means true, for neither are the animals and plants upon the earth any portion of it, – how is it true, even according to the opinions of the Greeks, that if God be a whole, His parts also are divine? Certainly they say that the Cosmos taken as the whole8 is God, the Stoics calling it the First God, the followers of Plato the Second, and some of them the Third. According to these philosophers, then, seeing the whole Cosmos is God, its parts also are divine; so that not only are human beings divine, but the whole of the irrational creation, as being “portions” of the Cosmos; and besides these, the plants also are divine. And if the rivers, and mountains, and seas are portions of the Cosmos, then, since the whole Cosmos is God, are the rivers and seas also gods? But even this the Greeks will not assert. Those, however, who preside over rivers and seas (either demons or gods, as they call them), they would term gods. Now from this it follows that the general statement of Celsus, even according to the Greeks, who hold the doctrine of Providence, is false, that if any “whole” be a god, its parts necessarily are divine. But it follows from the doctrine of Celsus, that if the Cosmos be God, all that is in it is divine, being parts of the Cosmos. Now, according to this view, animals, as flies, and gnats, and worms, and every species of serpent, as well as of birds and fishes, will be divine, – an assertion which would not be made even by those who maintain that the Cosmos is God. But the Jews, who live according to the law of Moses, although they may not know how to receive the secret meaning of the law, which is conveyed in obscure language, will not maintain that either the heaven or the angels are God.
As we allege, however, that he has fallen into confusion in consequence of false notions which he has imbibed, come and let us point them out to the best of our ability, and show that although Celsus considers it to be a Jewish custom to bow down to the heaven and the angels in it, such a practice is not at all Jewish, but is in violation of Judaism, as it also is to do obeisance to sun, moon, and stars, as well as images. You will find at least in the book of Jeremiah the words of God censuring by the mouth of the prophet the Jewish people for doing obeisance to such objects, and for sacrificing to the queen of heaven, and to all the host of heaven. (cf. Jer_7:17, Jer_7:18) The writings of the Christians, moreover, show, in censuring the sins committed among the Jews, that when God abandoned that people on account of certain sins, these sins (of idol-worship) also were committed by them. For it is related in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the Jews, that “God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to Me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which you made to worship them.” (cf. Act_7:42, Act_7:43) And in the writings of Paul, who was carefully trained in Jewish customs, and converted afterwards to Christianity by a miraculous appearance of Jesus, the following words may be read in the Epistle to the Colossians: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind; and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joint and hands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (cf. Col_2:18, Col_2:19) But Celsus, having neither read these verses, nor having learned their contents from any other source, has represented, I know not how, the Jews as not transgressing their law in bowing down to the heavens, and to the angels therein.
And still continuing a little confused, and not taking care to see what was relevant to the matter, he expressed his opinion that the Jews were induced by the incantations employed in jugglery and sorcery (in consequence of which certain phantoms appear, in obedience to the spells employed by the magicians) to bow down to the angels in heaven, not observing that this was contrary to their law, which said to them who practised such observances: “Regard not them which have familiar spirits,9 neither seek after wizards,10 to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” (cf. Lev_19:31) He ought, therefore, either not to have at all attributed this practice to the Jews, seeing he has observed that they keep their law, and has called them “those who live according to their law;” or if he did attribute it, he ought to have shown that the Jews did this in violation of their code. But again, as they transgress their law who offer worship to those who are said to appear to them who are involved in darkness and blinded by sorcery, and who dream dreams, owing to obscure phantoms presenting themselves; so also do they transgress the law who offer sacrifice to sun, moon, and stars.11 And there is thus great inconsistency in the same individual saying that the Jews are careful to keep their law by not bowing down to sun, and moon, and stars, while they are not so careful to keep it in the matter of heaven and the angels.
And if it be necessary for us to offer a defence of our refusal to recognise as gods, equally with angels, and sun, and moon, and stars, those who are called by the Greeks “manifest and visible” divinities, we shall answer that the law of Moses knows that these latter have been apportioned by God among all the nations under the heaven, but not amongst those who were selected by God as His chosen people above all the nations of the earth. For it is written in the book of Deuteronomy: “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldst be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations unto the whole heaven. But the Lord hath taken us, and brought as forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.” (cf. Deu_4:19, Deu_4:20) The Hebrew people, then, being called by God a “chosen generation, and a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, and a purchased people,” (cf. 1Pe_2:9) regarding whom it was foretold to Abraham by the voice of the Lord addressed to him, “Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be;” (cf. Gen_15:5) and having thus a hope that they would become as the stars of heaven, were not likely to bow down to those objects which they were to resemble as a result of their understanding and observing the law of God. For it was said to them: “The Lord our God hath multiplied us; and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.” (cf. Deu_1:10) In the book of Daniel, also, the following prophecies are found relating to those who are to share in the resurrection: “And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that has been written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust12 of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and (those) of the many righteous13 as the stars for ever and ever,” (cf. Dan_12:1, Dan_12:2, Dan_12:3) etc. And hence Paul, too, when speaking of the resurrection, says: “And there are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (cf. 1Co_15:40-42) It was not therefore consonant to reason that those who had been taught sublimely14 to ascend above all created things, and to hope for the enjoyment of the most glorious rewards with God on account of their virtuous lives, and who had heard the words, “Ye are the light of I the world,” (Mat_5:14) and, “Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven,” (cf. Mat_5:16) and who possessed through practice this brilliant and unfading wisdom, or who had secured even the “very reflection of everlasting light,”15 should be so impressed with the (mere) visible light of sun, and moon, and stars, that, on account of that sensible light of theirs, they should deem themselves (although possessed of so great a rational light of knowledge, and of the true light, and the light of the world, and the light of men) to be somehow inferior to them, and to bow down to them; seeing they ought to be worshipped, if they are to receive worship at all, not for the sake of the sensible light which is admired by the multitude, but because of the rational and true light, if indeed the stars in heaven are rational and virtuous beings, and have been illuminated with the light of knowledge by that wisdom which is the “reflection of everlasting light.” For that sensible light of theirs is the work of the Creator of all things, while that rational light is derived perhaps from the principle of free-will within them.16
But even this rational light itself ought not to be worshipped by him who beholds and understands the true light, by sharing in which these also are enlightened; nor by him who beholds God, the Father of the true light, – of whom it has been said, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (cf. 1Jo_1:5) Those, indeed, who worship sun, moon, and stars because their light is visible and celestial, would not bow down to a spark of fire or a lamp upon earth, because they see the incomparable superiority of those objects which are deemed worthy of homage to the light of sparks and lamPsalm So those who understand that God is light, and who have apprehended that the Son of God is “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” and who comprehend also how He says, “I am the light of the world,” would not rationally offer worship to that which is, as it were, a spark in sun, moon, and stars, in comparison with God, who is light of the true light. Nor is it with a view to depreciate these great works of God’s creative power, or to call them, after the fashion of Anaxagoras, “fiery masses,”17 that we thus speak of sun, and moon, and stars; but because we perceive the inexpressible superiority of the divinity of God, and that of His only-begotten Son, which surpasses all other things. And being persuaded that the sun himself, and moon, and stars pray to the Supreme God through His only-begotten Son, we judge it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up prayers (to God), seeing even they themselves would prefer that we should send up our requests to the God to whom they pray, rather than send them downwards to themselves, or apportion our power of prayer18 between God and them.19 And here I may employ this illustration, as beating upon this point: Our Lord and Saviour, hearing Himself on one occasion addressed as “Good Master,” (cf. Mat_19:17; cf. Mar_10:18) referring him who used it to His own Father, said, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God the Father.” (cf. Mat_19:17; cf. Mar_10:18) And since it was in accordance with sound reason that this should be said by the Son of His Father’s love, as being the image of the goodness of God, why should not the sun say with greater reason to those that bow down to him, Why do you worship me? “for thou wilt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve;” (cf. Deu_6:13) for it is He whom I and all who are with me serve and worship. And although one may not be so exalted (as the sun), nevertheless let such an one pray to the Word of God (who is able to heal him), and still more to His Father, who also to the righteous of former times “sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (cf. Psa_107:20)
God accordingly, in His kindness, condescends to mankind, not in any local sense, but through His providence;20 while the Son of God, not only (when on earth), but at all times, is with His own disciples, fulfilling the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Mat_28:20) And if a branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, it is evident that the disciples also of the Word, who are the rational branches of the Word’s true vine, cannot produce the fruits of virtue unless they abide in the true vine, the Christ of God, who is with us locally here below upon the earth, and who is with those who cleave to Him in all parts of the world, and is also in all places with those who do not know Him. Another is made manifest by that John who wrote the Gospel, when, speaking in the person of John the Baptist, he said, “There standeth one among you whom ye know not; He it is who cometh after me.” (cf. Joh_1:26, Joh_1:27) And it is absurd, when He who fills heaven and earth, and who said, “Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,” (cf. Jer_23:24) is with us, and near us (for I believe Him when He says, “I am a God nigh at hand, and not afar off, saith the Lord” (cf. Jer_23:23) to seek to pray to sun or moon, or one of the stars, whose influence does not reach the whole of the world.21 But, to use the very words of Celsus, let it be granted that “the sun, moon, and stars do foretell rain, and heat, and clouds, and thunders,” why, then, if they really do foretell such great things, ought we not rather to do homage to God, whose servant they are in uttering these predictions, and show reverence to Him rather than His prophets? Let them predict, then, the approach of lightnings, and fruits, and all manner of productions, and let all such things be under their administration; yet we shall not on that account worship those who themselves offer worship, as we do not worship even Moses, and those prophets who came from God after him, and who predicted better things than rain, and heat, and clouds, and thunders, and lightnings, and fruits, and all sorts of productions visible to the senses. Nay, even if sun, and moon, and stars were able to prophesy better things than rain, not even then shall we worship them, but the Father of the prophecies which are in them, and the Word of God, their minister. But grant that they are His heralds, and truly messengers of heaven, why, even then ought we not to worship the God whom they only proclaim and announce, rather than those who are the heralds and messengers?
Celsus, moreover, assumes that sun, and moon, and stars are regarded by us as of no account. Now, with regard to these, we acknowledge that they too are “waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God,” being for the present subjected to the “vanity” of their material bodies, “by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope.” (cf. Rom_8:19-21) But if Celsus had read the innumerable other passages where we speak of sun, moon, and stars, and especially these, – “Praise Him, all ye stars, and thou, O light,” and, “Praise Him, ye heaven of heavens,” (cf. Psa_148:3, Psa_148:4) – he would not have said of us that we regard such mighty beings, which “greatly praise” the Lord God, as of no account. Nor did Celsus know the passage: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope; because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (cf. Rom_8:19-21) And with these words let us terminate our defence against the charge of not worshipping sun, moon, and stars. And let us now bring forward those statements of his which follow, that we may, God willing, address to him in reply such arguments as shall be suggested by the light of truth.
The following, then, are his words: “It is folly on their part to suppose that when God, as if He were a cook,22 introduces the fire (which is to consume the world), all the rest of the human race will be burnt up, while they alone will remain, not only such of them as are then alive, but also those who are long since dead, which latter will arise from the earth clothed with the self-same flesh (as during life); for such a hope is simply one which might be cherished by worms. For what sort of human soul is that which would still long for a body that had been subject to corruption? Whence, also, this opinion of yours is not shared by some of the Christians, and they pronounce it to be exceedingly vile, and loathsome, and impossible; for what kind of body is that which, after being completely corrupted, can return to its original nature, and to that self-same first condition out of which it fell into dissolution? Being unable to return any answer, they betake themselves to a most absurd refuge, viz., that all things are possible to God. And yet God cannot do things that are disgraceful, nor does He wish to do things that are contrary to His nature; nor, if (in accordance with the wickedness of your own heart) you desired anything that was evil, would God accomplish it; nor must you believe at once that it will be done. For God does not rule the world in order to satisfy inordinate desires, or to allow disorder and confusion, but to govern a nature that is upright and just.23 For the soul, indeed, He might be able to provide an everlasting life; while dead bodies, on the contrary, are, as Heraclitus observes, more worthless than dung. God, however, neither can nor will declare, contrary to all reason, that the flesh, which is full of those things which it is not even honourable to mention, is to exist for ever. For He is the reason of all things that exist, and therefore can do nothing either contrary to reason or contrary to Himself.”
Observe, now, here at the very beginning, how, in ridiculing the doctrine of a conflagration of the world, held by certain of the Greeks who have treated the subject in a philosophic spirit not to be depreciated, he would make us, “representing God, as it were, as a cook, hold the belief in a general conflagration;” not perceiving that, as certain Greeks were of opinion (perhaps having received their information from the ancient nation of the Hebrews), it is a purificatory fire which is brought upon the world, and probably also on each one of those who stand in need of chastisement by the fire and healing at the same time, seeing it burns indeed, but does not consume, those who are without a material body,24 which needs to be consumed by that fire, and which burns and consumes those who by their actions, words, and thoughts have built up wood, or hay, or stubble, in that which is figuratively termed a “building.” (cf. 1Co_3:12) And the holy Scriptures say that the Lord will, like a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap, (cf. Mal_3:2) visit each one of those who require purification, because of the intermingling in them of a flood of wicked matter proceeding from their evil nature; who need fire, I mean, to refine, as it were, (the dross of) those who are intermingled with copper, and tin, and lead. And he who likes may learn this from the prophet Ezekiel. (cf. Eze_22:18, Eze_22:20) But that we say that God brings fire upon the world, not like a cook, but like a God, who is the benefactor of them who stand in need of the discipline of fire,25 will be testified by the prophet Isaiah, in whose writings it is related that a sinful nation was thus addressed: “Because thou hast coals of fire, sit upon them: they shall be to thee a help.” (cf. Isa_47:14, Isa_47:15) Now the Scripture is appropriately adapted to the multitudes of those who are to peruse it, because it speaks obscurely of things that are sad and gloomy,26 in order to terrify those who cannot by any other means be saved from the flood of their sins, although even then the attentive reader will clearly discover the end that is to be accomplished by these sad and painful punishments upon those who endure them. It is sufficient, however, for the present to quote the words of Isaiah: “For My name’s sake will I show Mine anger, and My glory I will bring upon thee, that I may not destroy thee.” (cf. Isaiah 48:9, LXX) We have thus been under the necessity of referring in obscure terms to questions not fitted to the capacity of simple believers,27 who require a simpler instruction in words, that we might not appear to leave unrefuted the accusation of Celsus, that “God introduces the fire (which is to destroy the world), as if He were a cook.”
From what has been said, it will be manifest to intelligent hearers how we have to answer the following: “All the rest of the race will be completely burnt up, and they alone will remain.” It is not to be wondered at, indeed, if such thoughts have been entertained by those amongst us who are called in Scripture the “foolish things” of the world, and “base things,” and “things which are despised,” and “things which are not,” because “by the foolishness of preaching it pleased God to save them that believe on Him, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God,” (cf. 1Co_1:21) – because such individuals are unable to see distinctly the sense of each particular passage,28 or unwilling to devote the necessary leisure to the investigation of Scripture, notwithstanding the injunction of Jesus, “Search the Scriptures.” (cf. Joh_5:39) The following, moreover, are his ideas regarding the fire which is to be brought upon the world by God, and the punishments which are to befall sinners. And perhaps, as it is appropriate to Children that some things should be addressed to them in a manner befitting their infantile condition, to convert them, as being of very tender age, to a better course of life; so, to those whom the word terms “the foolish things of the world,” and “the base,” and “the despised,” the just and obvious meaning of the passages relating to punishments is suitable, inasmuch as they cannot receive any other mode of conversion than that which is by fear and the presentation of punishment, and thus be saved from the many evils (which would befall them).29 The Scripture accordingly declares that only those who are unscathed by the fire and the punishments are to remain, – those, viz., whose opinions, and morals, and mind have been purified to the highest degree; while, on the other hand, those of a different nature – those, viz., who, according to their deserts, require the administration of punishment by fire – will be involved in these sufferings with a view to an end which it is suitable for God to bring upon those who have been created in His image, but who have lived in opposition to the will of that nature which is according to His image. And this is our answer to the statement, “All the rest of the race will be completely burnt up, but they alone are to remain.”
Then, in the next place, having either himself misunderstood the sacred Scriptures, or those (interpreters) by whom they were not understood, he proceeds to assert that “it is said by us that there will remain at the time of the visitation which is to come upon the world by the fire of purification, not only those who are then alive, but also those who are long ago dead;” not observing that it is with a secret kind of wisdom that it was said by the apostle of Jesus: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (cf. 1Co_15:51, 1Co_15:51) Now he ought to have noticed what was the meaning of him who uttered these words, as being one who was by no means dead, who made a distinction between himself and those like him and the dead, and who said afterwards, “The dead shall be raised incorruptible,” and “we shall be changed.” And as a proof that such was the apostle’s meaning in writing those words which I have quoted from the first Epistle to the Corinthians, I will quote also from the first to the Thessalonians, in which Paul, as one who is alive and awake, and different from those who are asleep, speaks as follows: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who are asleep; for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” (cf. 1Th_4:15, 1Th_4:16) Then, again, after this, knowing that there were others dead in Christ besides himself and such as he, he subjoins the words, “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” (cf. 1Th_4:16, 1Th_4:17)
But since he has ridiculed at great length the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, which has been preached in the Churches, and which is more clearly understood by the more intelligent believer; and as it is unnecessary again to quote his words, which have been already adduced, let us, with regard to the problem30 (as in an apologetic work directed against an alien from the faith, and for the sake of those who are still “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (cf. Eph_4:14)), state and establish to the best of our ability a few points expressly intended for our readers. Neither we, then, nor the holy Scriptures, assert that with the same bodies, without a change to a higher condition, “shall those who were long dead arise from the earth and live again;” for in so speaking, Celsus makes a false charge against us. For we may listen to many passages of Scripture treating of the resurrection in a manner worthy of God, although it may, suffice for the present to quote the language of Paul from the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.” (cf. 1Co_15:35-38) Now, observe how in these words he says that there is sown, “not that body that shall be;” but that of the body which is sown and cast naked into the earth (God giving to each seed its own body), there takes place as it were a resurrection: from the seed that was east into the ground there arising a stalk, e.g., among such plants as the following, viz., the mustard plant, or of a larger tree, as in the olive,31 or one of the fruit-trees.
God, then, gives to each thing its own body as He pleases: as in the case of plants that are sown, so also in the case of those beings who are, as it were, sown in dying, and who in due time receive, out of what has been “sown,” the body assigned by God to each one according to his deserts. And we may hear, moreover, the Scripture teaching us at great length the difference between that which is, as it were, “sown,” and that which is, as it were, “raised” from it in these words: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (cf. 1Co_15:42-44) And let him who has the capacity understand the meaning of the words: “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (cf. 1Co_15:48, 1Co_15:49) And although the apostle wished to conceal the secret meaning of the passage, which was not adapted to the simpler class of believers, and to the understanding of the common people, who are led by their faith to enter on a better course of life, he was nevertheless obliged afterwards to say (in order that we might not misapprehend his meaning), after “Let us bear the image of the heavenly,” these words also: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (cf. 1Co_15:50) Then, knowing that there was a secret and mystical meaning in the passage, as was becoming in one who was leaving, in his Epistles, to those who were to come after him words full of significance, he subjoins the following, “Behold, I show you a mystery;” (cf. 1Co_15:51) which is his usual style in introducing matters of a profounder and more mystical nature, and such as are fittingly concealed from the multitude, as is written in the book of Tobit: “It is good to keep close the secret of a king, but honourable to reveal the works of God,” (cf. Tobit 12:7) – in a way consistent with truth and God’s glory, and so as to be to the advantage of the multitude. Our hope, then, is not “the hope of worms, nor does our soul long for a body that has seen corruption;” for although it may require a body, for the sake of moving from place to place,32 yet it understands – as having meditated on the wisdom (that is from above), agreeably to the declaration, “The mouth of the righteous will speak wisdom” (cf. Psa_37:30) – the difference between the “earthly house,” in which is the tabernacle of the building that is to be dissolved, and that in which the righteous do groan, being burdened, – not wishing to “put off” the tabernacle, but to be “clothed therewith,” that by being clothed upon, mortality might be swallowed up of life. For, in virtue of the whole nature of the body being corruptible, the corruptible tabernacle must put on incorruption; and its other part, being mortal, and becoming liable to the death which follows sin, must put on immortality, in order that, when the corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and the mortal immortality, then shall come to pass what was predicted of old by the prophets, – the annihilation of the “victory” of death (because it had conquered and subjected us to his sway), and of its “sting,” with which it stings the imperfectly defended soul, and inflicts upon it the wounds which result from sin.
But since our views regarding the resurrection have, as far as time would permit, been stated in part on the present occasion (for we have systematically examined the subject in greater detail in other parts of our writings); and as now we must by means of sound reasoning refute the fallacies of Celsus, who neither understands the meaning of our Scripture, nor has the capacity of judging that the meaning of our wise men is not to be determined by those individuals who make no profession of anything more than of a (simple) faith in the Christian system, let us show that men, not to be lightly esteemed on account of their reasoning powers and dialectic subtleties, have given expression to very absurd33 opinions. And if we must sneer34 at them as contemptible old wives’ fables, it is at them rather than at our narrative that we must sneer. The disciples of the Porch assert, that after a period of years there will be a conflagration of the world, and after that an arrangement of things in which everything will be unchanged, as compared with the former arrangement of the world. Those of them, however, who evinced their respect for this doctrine have said that there will be a change, although exceedingly slight, at the end of the cycle, from what prevailed during the preceding.35 And these men maintain, that in the succeeding cycle the same things will occur, and Socrates will be again the son of Sophroniscus, and a native of Athens; and Phaenarete, being married to Sophroniscus, will again become his mother. And although they do not mention the word “resurrection,” they show in reality that Socrates, who derived his origin from seed, will spring from that of Sophroniscus, and will be fashioned in the womb of Phaenarete; and being brought up at Athens, will practise the study of philosophy, as if his former philosophy had arisen again, and were to be in no respect different from what it was before. Anytus and Melitus, too, will arise again as accusers of Socrates, and the Council of Areopagus will condemn him to death! But what is more ridiculous still, is that Socrates will clothe himself with garments not at all different from those which he wore during the former cycle, and will live in the same unchanged state of poverty, and in the same unchanged city of Athens! And Phalaris will again play the tyrant, and his brazen bull will pour forth its bellowings from the voices of victims within, unchanged from those who were condemned in the former cycle! And Alexander of Pherae, too, will again act the tyrant with a cruelty unaltered from the former time, and will condemn to death the same “unchanged” individuals as before. But what need is there to go into detail upon the doctrine held by the Stoic philosophers on such things, and which escapes the ridicule of Celsus, and is perhaps even venerated by him, since he regards Zeno as a wiser man than Jesus?
The disciples of Pythagoras, too, and of Plato, although they appear to hold the incorruptibility of the world, yet fall into similar errors. For as the planets, after certain definite cycles, assume the same positions, and hold the same relations to one another, all things on earth will, they assert, be like what they were at the time when the same state of planetary relations existed in the world. From this view it necessarily follows, that when, after the lapse of a lengthened cycle, the planets come to occupy towards each other the same relations which they occupied in the time of Socrates, Socrates will again be born of the same parents, and suffer the same treatment, being accused by Anytus and Melitus, and condemned by the Council of Areopagus! The learned among the Egyptians, moreover, hold similar views, and yet they are treated with respect, and do not incur the ridicule of Celsus and such as he; while we, who maintain that all things are administered by God in proportion to the relation of the free-will of each individual, and are ever being brought into a better condition, so far as they admit of being so,36 and who know that the nature of our free-will admits of the occurrence of contingent events37 (for it is incapable of receiving the wholly unchangeable character of God), yet do not appear to say anything worthy of a testing examination.
Let no one, however, suspect that, in speaking as we do, we belong to those who are indeed called Christians, but who set aside the doctrine of the resurrection as it is taught in Scripture. For these persons cannot, so far as their principles apply, at all establish that the stalk or tree which springs up comes from the grain of wheat, or anything else (which was cast into the ground); whereas we, who believe that that which is “sown” is not “quickened” unless it die, and that there is sown not that body that shall be (for God gives it a body as it pleases Him, raising it in incorruption after it is sown in corruption; and after it is sown in dishonour, raising it in glory; and after it is sown in weakness, raising it in power; and after it is sown a natural body, raising it a spiritual), – we preserve both the doctrine38 of the Church of Christ and the grandeur of the divine promise, proving also the possibility of its accomplishment not by mere assertion, but by arguments; knowing that although heaven and earth, and the things that are in them, may pass away, yet His words regarding each individual thing, being, as parts of a whole, or species of a genus, the utterances of Him who was God the Word, who was in the beginning with God, shall by no means pass away. For we desire to listen to Him who said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (cf. Mat_24:35; cf. Mar_13:31)
We, therefore, do not maintain that the body which has undergone corruption resumes its original nature, any more than the gain of wheat which has decayed returns to its former condition. But we do maintain, that as above the gain of wheat there arises a stalk, so a certain power39 is implanted in the body, which is not destroyed, and from which the body is raised up in incorruption. The philosophers of the Porch, however, in consequence of the opinions which they hold regarding the unchangeableness of things after a certain cycle, assert that the body, after undergoing complete corruption, will return to its original condition, and will again assume that first nature from which it passed into a state of dissolution, establishing these points, as they think, by irresistible arguments.40 We, however, do not betake ourselves to a most absurd refuge, saying that with God all things are possible; for we know how to understand this word “all” as not referring either to things that are “non-existent” or that are inconceivable. But we maintain, at the same time, that God cannot do what is disgraceful, since then He would be capable of ceasing to be God; for if He do anything that is disgraceful, He is not God. Since, however, he lays it down as a principle, that “God does not desire what is contrary to nature,” we have to make a distinction, and say that if any one asserts that wickedness is contrary to nature, while we maintain that “God does not desire what is contrary to nature,” – either what springs from wickedness or from an irrational principle, – yet, if such things happen according to the word and will of God, we must at once necessarily hold that they are not contrary to nature. Therefore things which are done by God, although they may be, or may appear to some to be incredible, are not contrary to nature. And if we must press the force of words,41 we would say that, in comparison with what is generally understood as “nature,” there are certain things which are beyond its power, which God could at any time do; as, e.g., in raising man above the level of human nature, and causing him to pass into a better and more divine condition, and preserving him in the same, so long as he who is the object of His care shows by his actions that he desires (the continuance of His help).
Moreover, as we have already said that for God to desire anything unbecoming Himself would be destructive of His existence as Deity, we will add that if man, agreeably to the wickedness of his nature, should desire anything that is abominable,42 God cannot grant it. And now it is from no spirit of contention that we answer the assertions of Celsus; but it is in the spirit of truth that we investigate them, as assenting to his view that “He is the God, not of inordinate desires, nor of error and disorder, but of a nature just and upright,” because He is the source of all that is good. And that He is able to provide an eternal life for the soul we acknowledge; and that He possesses not only the “power,” but the “will.” In view, therefore, of these considerations, we are not at all distressed by the assertion of Heraclitus, adopted by Celsus, that “dead bodies are to be cast out as more worthless than dung;” and yet, with reference even to this, one might say that dung, indeed, ought to be cast out, while the dead bodies of men, on account of the soul by which they were inhabited, especially if it had been virtuous, ought not to be cast out. For, in harmony with those laws which are based upon the principles of equity, bodies are deemed worthy of sepulture, with the honours accorded on such occasions, that no insult, so far as can be helped, may be offered to the soul which dwelt within, by casting forth the body (after the soul has departed) like that of the animals. Let it not then be held, contrary to reason, that it is the will of God to declare that the grain of wheat is not immortal, but the stalk which springs from it, while the body which is sown in corruption is not, but that which is raised by Him in incorruption. But according to Celsus, God Himself is the reason of all things, while according to our view it is His Son, of whom we say in philosophic language, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” (cf. Joh_1:1) while in our judgment also, God cannot do anything which is contrary to reason, or contrary to Himself.43
Let us next notice the statements of Celsus, which follow the preceding, and which are as follow: “As the Jews, then, became a peculiar people, and enacted laws in keeping with the customs of their country,44 and maintain them up to the present time, and observe a mode of worship which, whatever be its nature, is yet derived from their fathers, they act in these respects like other men, because each nation retains its ancestral customs, whatever they are, if they happen to be established among them. And such an arrangement appears to be advantageous, not only because it has occurred to the mind of other nations to decide some things differently, but also because it is a duty to protect what has been established for the public advantage; and also because, in all probability, the various quarters of the earth were from the beginning allotted to different superintending spirits,45 and were thus distributed among certain governing powers,46 and in this manner the administration of the world is carried on. And whatever is done among each nation in this way would be rightly done, wherever it was agreeable to the wishes (of the superintending powers), while it would be an act of impiety to get rid of47 the institutions established from the beginning in the various places.” By these words Celsus shows that the Jews, who were formerly Egyptians, subsequently became a “peculiar people,” and enacted laws which they carefully preserve. And not to repeat his statements, which have been already before us, he says that it is advantageous to the Jews to observe their ancestral worship, as other nations carefully attend to theirs. And he further states a deeper reason why it is of advantage to the Jews to cultivate their ancestral customs, in hinting dimly that those to whom was allotted the office of superintending the country which was being legislated for, enacted the laws of each land in co-operation with its legislators. He appears, then, to indicate that both the country of the Jews, and the nation which inhabits it, are superintended by one or more beings, who, whether they were one or more, co-operated with Moses, and enacted the laws of the Jews.
1 τοῖς ἐκεῖ θεοῖς.
4 ἐν τοῖς καθαρωτάτοις τοῦ κόσμου χωρίοις ἐπουρανίοις, ἢ καὶ τοῖς τούτων καθαρωτέροις ὐπερουρανίοις.
5 ἐάν δυνώμεθα κατακούειν τῆς περὶ προσευχῆς κυριολεξίας καὶ καταχρήσεως.
6 [Cf. Col_3:18 and cap. viii.]
7 ἢ τοὺς μὲν ἐν σκότῳ που ἐκ γοητείας οὐκ ὀρθῆς τυφλώττουσιν, ἢ δι ἀμυδρῶν φασμάτων ὀνειρώττουσιν ἐγχρίμπτειν λεγομένους, εὖ μάλα θρησκεύειν
8 τὸ ὅλον ὁ κόσμος.
11 The emendations of Ruaeus have been adopted in the translation, the text being probably corrupt. cf. Ruaeus, in loc.
13 ἀπὸ τῶν δικαίων τῶν πολλῶν.
15 cf. Origen, de Principiis, i. c. vii.
16 ἐκ τοῦ ἐν αὐτοῖς αὐτεξουσίου ἐληλυθός.
17 μύδρον διάπυρον.
18 τὴν εὐκτικὴν δύναμιν.
19 [See note in Migne’s edition of Origen’s Works, vol. i. p. 1195; also see de Princip., bk. i., chap. vi., note 45.]
21 ζητεῖν εὔχεσθαι τῷ μὴ φθάνοντι ἐπὶ τὰ σύμπαντα.
22 ὥσπερ μάγειρος.
23 οὐ γὰρ τῆς πλημμελοῦς ὀρέξεως, οὐδὲ τῆς πεπλανημένης ἀκοσμίας, ἀλλὰ τῆς ὀρθῆς καὶ δικαίας φύσεως Θεός ἐστιν ἀρχηγέτης.
25 πόνου καὶ πυρὸς.
26 τὰ σκυθρωπά.
27 [See Robertson’s History of the Church, vol. i. p. 156, 157. S.]
28 τὰ κατὰ τοὺς τόπους.
29 καὶ τῶν πολλῶν κακῶν ἀποχήν.
30 περὶ τοῦ προβλήματος τούτου.
31 ἐν ἐλαίας πυρῆνι.
32 διὰ τὰς τοπικὰς μεταβάσεις.
33 σφόδρ ἀπεμφαίνοντα.
35 [Cf. book iv. capp. lxv.-lxix.]
36 κατὰ τὸ ἐνδεχόμενον.
37 καὶ τὴν τοῦ ἐφ ἡμῖν φύσιν γιγνώσκοντες ἐνδεχομένου ἃ ἐνδέχεται.
40 διαλεκτικαῖς ἀνάγκαις.
41 εἰ δὲ χρὴ βεβιασμένως ὀνομάσαι.
43 [See bk. vi. cap. xlvii. S.]
44 καὶ κατὰ τὸ ἐπιχώριον νόμους θέμενοι.
45 τὰ μέρη τῆς γῆς ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἄλλα ἄλλοις ἐπόπταις νενεμημένα.
46 καὶ κατά τινας ἐπικρατείας διειλημμένα.