Book IV. (C0nt.)
In the next place, as if he had devoted himself solely to the manifestation of his hatred and dislike of the Jewish and Christian doctrine, he says: “The more modest of Jewish and Christian writers give all these things an allegorical meaning;” and, “Because they are ashamed of these things, they take refuge in allegory.” Now one might say to him, that if we must admit fables and fictions, whether written with a concealed meaning or with any other object, to be shameful narratives when taken in their literal acceptation,169 of what histories can this be said more truly than of the Grecian? In these histories, gods who are sons castrate the gods who are their fathers, and gods who are parents devour their own children, and a goddess-mother gives to the “father of gods and men” a stone to swallow instead of his own son, and a father has intercourse with his daughter, and a wife binds her own husband, having as her allies in the work the brother of the fettered god and his own daughter! But why should I enumerate these absurd stories of the Greeks regarding their gods, which are most shameful in themselves, even though invested with an allegorical meaning? (Take the instance) where Chrysippus of Soli, who is considered to be an ornament of the Stoic sect, on account of his numerous and learned treatises, explains a picture at Samos, in which Juno was represented as committing unspeakable abominations with Jupiter. This reverend philosopher says in his treatises, that matter receives the spermatic words170 of the god, and retains them within herself, in order to ornament the universe. For in the picture at Samos Juno represents matter, and Jupiter god. Now it is on account of these, and of countless other similar fables, that we would not even in word call the God of all things Jupiter, or the sun Apollo, or the moon Diana. But we offer to the Creator a worship which is pure, and speak with religious respect of His noble works of creation, not contaminating even in word the things of God; approving of the language of Plato in the Philebus, who would not admit that pleasure was a goddess, “so great is my reverence, Protarchus,” he says, “for the very names of the gods.” We verily entertain such reverence for the name of God, and for His noble works of creation, that we would not, even under pretext of an allegorical meaning, admit any fable which might do injury to the young.
If Celsus had read the Scriptures in an impartial spirit, he would not have said that “our writings are incapable of admitting an allegorical meaning.” For from the prophetic Scriptures, in which historical events are recorded (not from the historical), it is possible to be convinced that the historical portions also were written with an allegorical purpose, and were most skilfully adapted not only to the multitude of the simpler believers, but also to the few who are able or willing to investigate matters in an intelligent spirit. If, indeed, those writers at the present day who are deemed by Celsus the “more modest of the Jews and Christians” were the (first) allegorical interpreters of our Scriptures, he would have the appearance, perhaps, of making a plausible allegation. But since the very fathers and authors of the doctrines themselves give them an allegorical signification, what other inference can be drawn than that they were composed so as to be allegorically understood in their chief signification?171 And we shall adduce a few instances out of very many to show that Celsus brings an empty charge against the Scriptures, when he says “that they are incapable of admitting an allegorical meaning.” Paul, the apostle of Jesus, says: “It is written in the law, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he that plougheth should plough in hope, and he that thresheth in hope of partaking.” (cf. 1Co_9:9, 1Co_9:10, and Deu_25:4) And in another passage the same Paul says: “For it is written, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (cf. Eph_5:31, Eph_5:32. cf. Gen_2:24.) And again, in another place: “We know that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea.” (cf. 1Co_10:1, 1Co_10:2) Then, explaining the history relating to the manna, and that referring to the miraculous issue of the water from the rock, he continues as follows: “And they did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (cf. 1Co_10:3, 1Co_10:4) Asaph, moreover, who, in showing the histories in Exodus and Numbers to be full of difficulties and parables,172 begins in the following manner, as recorded in the book of Psalms, where he is about to make mention of these things: “Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” (cf. Psa_78:1-3)
Moreover, if the law of Moses had contained nothing which was to be understood as hating a secret meaning, the prophet would not have said in his prayer to God, “Open Thou mine eyes, and I will behold wondrous things out of Thy law;” (cf. Psa_119:18) whereas he knew that there was a veil of ignorance lying upon the heart of those who read but do not understand the figurative meaning, which veil is taken away by the gift of God, when He hears him who has done all that he can,173 and who by reason of habit has his senses exercised to distinguish between good and evil, and who continually utters the prayer, “Open Thou mine eyes, and I will behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” And who is there that, on reading of the dragon that lives in the Egyptian river, (cf. Eze_29:3) and of the fishes which lurk in his scales, or of the excrement of Pharaoh which fills the mountains of Egypt, (cf. Eze_32:5, Eze_32:6) is not led at once to inquire who he is that fills the Egyptian mountains with his stinking excrement, and what the Egyptian mountains are; and what the rivers in Egypt are, of which the aforesaid Pharaoh boastfully says, “The rivers are mine, and I have made them;” (cf. Eze_29:3) and who the dragon is, and the fishes in its scales, – and this so as to harmonize with the interpretation to be given of the rivers? But why establish at greater length what needs no demonstration? For to these things applies the saying: “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? or who is prudent, and he shall know them?” (cf. Hos_14:9) Now I have gone at some length into the subject, because I wished to show the unsoundness of the assertion of Celsus, that “the more modest among the Jews and Christians endeavour somehow to give these stories an allegorical signification, although some of them do not admit of this, but on the contrary are exceedingly silly inventions.” Much rather are the stories of the Greeks not only very silly, but very impious inventions. For our narratives keep expressly in view the multitude of simpler believers, which was not done by those who invented the Grecian fables. And therefore not without propriety does Plato expel from his state all fables and poems of such a nature as those of which we have been speaking.
Celsus appears to me to have heard that there are treatises in existence which contain allegorical explanations of the law of Moses. These however, he could not have read; for if he had he would not have said: “The allegorical explanations, however, which have been devised are much more shameful and absurd than the fables themselves, inasmuch as they endeavour to unite with marvellous and altogether insensate folly things which cannot at all be made to harmonize.” He seems to refer in these words to the works of Philo, or to those of still older writers, such as Aristobulus. But I conjecture that Celsus has not read their books, since it appears to me that in many passages they have so successfully hit the meaning (of the sacred writers), that even Grecian philosophers would have been captivated by their explanations; for in their writings we find not only a polished style, but exquisite thoughts and doctrines, and a rational use of what Celsus imagines to be fables in the sacred writings. I know, moreover, that Numenius the Pythagorean – a surpassingly excellent expounder of Plato, and who held a foremost place as a teacher of the doctrines of Pythagoras – in many of his works quotes from the writings of Moses and the prophets, and applies to the passages in question a not improbable allegorical meaning, as in his work called Epops, and in those which treat of “Numbers” and of “Place.” And in the third book of his dissertation on The Good, he quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus – without, however, mentioning His name – and gives it an allegorical signification, whether successfully or the reverse I may state on another occasion. He relates also the account respecting Moses, and Jannes, and Jambres.174 But we are not elated on account of this instance, though we express our approval of Numenius, rather than of Celsus and other Greeks, because he was willing to investigate our histories from a desire to acquire knowledge, and was (duly) affected by them as narratives which were to be allegorically understood, and which did not belong to the category of foolish compositions.
After this, selecting from all the treatises which contain allegorical explanations and interpretations, expressed in a language and style not to be despised, the least important,175 such as might contribute, indeed, to strengthen the faith of the multitude of simple believers, but were not adapted to impress those of more intelligent mind, he continues: “Of such a nature do I know the work to be, entitled Controversy between one Papiscus and Jason, which is fitted to excite pity and hatred instead of laughter. It is not my purpose, however, to confute the statements contained in such works; for their fallacy is manifest to all, especially if any one will have the patience to read the books themselves. Rather do I wish to show that Nature teaches this, that God made nothing that is mortal, but that His works, whatever they are, are immortal, and theirs mortal. And the soul176 is the work of God, while the nature of the body is different. And in this respect there is no difference between the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, and that of a man; for the matter177 is the same, and their corruptible part is alike.” Nevertheless I could wish that every one who heard Celsus declaiming and asserting that the treatise entitled Controversy between Jason and Papiscus regarding Christ was fitted to excite not laughter, but hatred, could take the work into his hands, and patiently listen to its contents; that, finding in it nothing to excite hatred, he might condemn Celsus out of the book itself. For if it be impartially perused, it will be found that there is nothing to excite even laughter in a work in which a Christian is described as conversing with a Jew on the subject of the Jewish Scriptures, and proving that the predictions regarding Christ fitly apply to Jesus; although the other disputant maintains the discussion in no ignoble style, and in a manner not unbecoming the character of a Jew.
I do not know, indeed, how he could conjoin things that do not admit of union, and which cannot exist together at the same time in human nature, in saying, as he did, that “the above treatise deserved to be treated both with pity and hatred.” For every one will admit that he who is the object of pity is not at the same moment an object of hatred, and that he who is the object of hatred is not at the same time a subject of pity. Celsus, moreover, says that it was not his purpose to refute such statements, because he thinks that their absurdity is evident to all, and that, even before offering any logical refutation, they will appear to be bad, and to merit both pity and hatred. But we invite him who peruses this reply of ours to the charges of Celsus to have patience, and to listen to our sacred writings themselves, and, as far as possible, to form an opinion from their contents of the purpose of the writers, and of their consciences and disposition of mind; for he will discover that they are men who strenuously contend for what they uphold, and that some of them show that the history which they narrate is one which they have both seen and experienced,178 which was miraculous, and worthy of being recorded for the advantage of their future hearers. Will any one indeed venture to say that it is not the source and fountain of all blessing179 (to men) to believe in the God of all things, and to perform all our actions with the view of pleasing Him in everything whatever, and not to entertain even a thought unpleasing to Him, seeing that not only our words and deeds, but our very thoughts, will be the subject of future judgment? And what other arguments would more effectually lead human nature to adopt a virtuous life, than the belief or opinion that the supreme God beholds all things, not only what is said and done, but even what is thought by us? And let any one who likes compare any other system which at the same time converts and ameliorates, not merely one or two individuals, but, as far as in it lies, countless numbers, that by the comparison of both methods he may form a correct idea of the arguments which dispose to a virtuous life.
But as in the words which I quoted from Celsus, which are a paraphrase from the Timaeus, certain expressions occur, such as, “God made nothing mortal, but immortal things alone, while mortal things are the works of others, and the soul is a work of God, but the nature of the body is different, and there is no difference between the body of a man and that of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog; for the matter is the same, and their corruptible part alike,” – let us discuss these points for a little; and let us show that Celsus either does not disclose his Epicurean opinions, or, as might be said by one person, has exchanged them for better, or, as another might say, has nothing in common save the name, with Celsus, the Epicurean. For he ought, in giving expression to such opinions, and in proposing to contradict not only us, but the by no means obscure sect of philosophers who are the adherents of Zeno of Citium, to have proved that the bodies of animals are not the work of God, and that the great skill displayed in their construction did not proceed from the highest intelligence. And he ought also, with regard to the countless diversities of plants, which are regulated by an inherent, incomprehensible nature,180 and which have been created for the by no means despicable181 use of man in general, and of the animals which minister to man, whatever other reasons may be adduced for their existence,182 not only to have stated his opinion, but also to have shown us that it was no perfect intelligence which impressed these qualities upon the matter of plants. And when he had once represented (various) divinities as the creators of all the bodies, the soul alone being the work of God, why did not he, who separated these great acts of creation, and apportioned them among a plurality of creators, next demonstrate by some convincing reason the existence of these diversities among divinities, some of which construct the bodies of men, and others – those, say, of beasts of burden, and others – those of wild animals? And he who saw that some divinities were the creators of dragons, and of asps, and of basilisks, and others of each plant and herb according to its species, ought to have explained the causes of these diversities. For probably, had he given himself carefully to the investigation of each particular point, he would either have observed that it was one God who was the creator of all, and who made each thing with a certain object and for a certain reason; or if he had failed to observe this, he would have discovered the answer which he ought to return to those who assert that corruptibility is a thing indifferent in its nature; and that there was no absurdity in a world which consists of diverse materials, being formed by one architect, who constructed the different kinds of things so as to secure the good of the whole. Or, finally, he ought to have expressed no opinion at all on so important a doctrine, since he did not intend to prove what he professed to demonstrate; unless, indeed, he who censures others for professing a simple faith, would have us to believe his mere assertions, although he gave out that he would not merely assert, but would prove his assertions.
But I maintain that, if he had the patience (to use his own expression) to listen to the writings of Moses and the prophets, he would have had his attention arrested by the circumstance that the expression “God made” is applied to heaven and earth, and to what is called the firmament, and also to the lights and stars; and after these, to the great fishes, and to every living thing among creeping animals which the waters brought forth after their kinds, and to every fowl of heaven after its kind; and after these, to the wild beasts of the earth after their kind, and the beasts after their kind, and to every creeping thing upon the earth after its kind; and last of all to man. The expression “made,” however, is not applied to other things; but it is deemed sufficient to say regarding light, “And it was light;” and regarding the one gathering together of all the waters that are under the whole heaven, “It was so.” And in like manner also, with regard to what grew upon the earth, where it is said, “The earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind and after its likeness, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after its kind, upon the earth.” He would have inquired, moreover, whether the recorded commands of God respecting the coming into existence of each part of the world were addressed to one thing or to several;183 and he would not lightly have charged with being unintelligible, and as having no secret meaning, the accounts related in these books, either by Moses, or, as we would say, by the Divine Spirit speaking in Moses, from whom also he derived the power of prophesying; since he “knew both the present, and the future, and the past,” in a higher degree than those priests who are alleged by the poets to have possessed a knowledge of these things.
Moreover, since Celsus asserts that “the soul is the work of God, but that the nature of body is different; and that in this respect there is no difference between the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, and that of a man, for the matter is the same, and their corruptible part alike,” – we have to say in answer to this argument of his, that if, since the same matter underlies the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, or of a man, these bodies will differ in no respect from one another, it is evident then that these bodies also will differ in no respect from the sun, or the moon, or the stars, or the sky, or any other thing which is called by the Greeks a god, cognisable by the senses.184 For the same matter, underlying all bodies, is, properly speaking, without qualities and without form, and derives its qualities from some (other) source, I know not whence, since Celsus will have it that nothing corruptible can be the work of God. Now the corruptible part of everything whatever, being produced from the same underlying matter, must necessarily be the same, by Celsus’ own showing; unless, indeed, finding himself here hard pressed, he should desert Plato, who makes the soul arise from a certain bowl,185 and take refuge with Aristotle and the Peripatetics, who maintain that the ether is immaterial,186 and consists of a fifth nature, separate from the other four elements,187 against which view both the Platonists and the Stoics have nobly protested. And we too, who are despised by Celsus, will contravene it, seeing we are required to explain and maintain the following statement of the prophet: The heavens shall perish, but Thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture shall Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same.” (cf. Psa_102:26, Psa_102:27) These remarks, however, are sufficient in reply to Celsus, when he asserts that “the soul is the work of God, but that the nature of body is different;” for from his argument it follows that there is no difference between the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, and that of a heavenly188 being.
See, then, whether we ought to yield to one who, holding such opinions, calumniates the Christians, and thus abandon a doctrine which explains the difference existing among bodies as due to the different qualities, internal and external, which are implanted in them. For we, too, know that there are “bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial;” and that “the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial another;” and that even the glory of the celestial bodies is not alike: for “one is the glory of the sun, and another the glory of the stars;” and among the stars themselves, “one star differeth from another star in glory.” (cf. 1Co_15:41, etc.) And therefore, as those who expect the resurrection of the dead, we assert that the qualities which are in bodies undergo change: since some bodies, which are sown in corruption, are raised in incorruption; and others, sown in dishonour, are raised in glory; and others, again, sown in weakness, are raised in power; and those which are sown natural bodies, are raised as spiritual. (cf. 1Co_15:44) That the matter which underlies bodies is capable of receiving those qualities which the Creator pleases to bestow, is a point which all of us who accept the doctrine of providence firmly hold; so that, if God so willed, one quality is at the present time implanted in this portion of matter, and afterwards another of a different and better kind. But since there are, from the beginning of the world, laws189 established for the purpose of regulating the changes of bodies, and which will continue while the world lasts, I do not know whether, when a new and different order of things has succeeded190 after the destruction of the world, and what our Scriptures call the end191 (of the ages), it is not wonderful that at the present time a snake should be formed out of a dead man, growing, as the multitude affirm, out of the marrow of the back,192 and that a bee should spring from an ox, and a wasp from a horse, and a beetle from an ass, and, generally, worms from the most of bodies, Celsus, indeed, thinks that this can be shown to be the consequence of none of these bodies being the work of God, and that qualities (I know not whence it was so arranged that one should spring out of another) are not the work of a divine intelligence, producing the changes which occur in the qualities of matter.
But we have something more to say to Celsus, when he declares that “the soul is the work of God, and that the nature of body is different,” and puts forward such an opinion not only without proof, but even without clearly defining his meaning; for he did not make it evident whether he meant that every soul is the work of God, or only the rational soul. This, then, is what we have to say: If every soul is the work of God, it is manifest that those of the meanest irrational animals are God’s work, so that the nature of all bodies is different from that of the soul. He appears, however, in what follows, where he says that “irrational animals are more beloved by God than we, and have a purer knowledge of divinity,” to maintain that not only is the soul of man, but in a much greater degree that of irrational animals, the work of God; for this follows from their being said to be more beloved by God than we. Now if the rational soul alone be the work of God, then, in the first place, he did not clearly indicate that such was his opinion; and in the second place, this deduction follows from his indefinite language regarding the soul – viz., whether not every one, but only the rational, is the work of God – that neither is the nature of all bodies different (from the soul). But if the nature of all bodies be not different, although the body of each animal correspond to its soul, it is evident that the body of that animal whose soul was the work of God, would differ from the body of that animal in which dwells a soul which was not the work of God. And so the assertion will be false, that there is no difference between the body of a bat, or of a worm, or of a frog, and that of a man.
For it would, indeed, be absurd that certain stones and buildings should be regarded as more sacred or more profane than others, according as they were constructed for the honour of God, or for the reception of dishonourable and accursed persons;193 while bodies should not differ from bodies, according as they are inhabited by rational or irrational beings, and according as these rational beings are the most virtuous or most worthless of mankind. Such a principle of distinction, indeed, has led some to deify the bodies of distinguished men,194 as having received a virtuous soul, and to reject and treat with dishonour those of very wicked individuals. I do not maintain that such a principle has been always soundly exercised, but that it had its origin in a correct idea. Would a wise man, indeed, after the death of Anytus and Socrates, think of burying the bodies of both with like honours? And would he raise the same mound or tomb to the memory of both? These instances we have adduced because of the language of Celsus, that “none of these is the work of God” (where the words “of these” refer to the body of a man or to the snakes which come out of the body and to that of an ox, or of the bees which come from the body of an ox; and to that of a horse or of an ass, and to the wasps which come from a horse, and the beetles which proceed from an ass); for which reason we have been obliged to return to the consideration of his statement, that “the soul is the work of God, but that the nature of body is different.”
He next proceeds to say, that “a common nature pervades all the previously mentioned bodies, and one which goes and returns the same amid recurring changes.”195 In answer to this it is evident from what has been already said that not only does a common nature pervade those bodies which have been previously enumerated, but the heavenly bodies as well. And if this is the case, it is clear also that, according to Celsus (although I do not know whether it is according to truth), it is one nature which goes and returns the same through all bodies amid recurring changes. It is evident also that this is the case in the opinion of those who hold that the world is to perish; while those also who hold the opposite view will endeavour to show, with out the assumption of a fifth substance,196 that in their judgment too it is one nature “which goes and returns the same through all bodies amid recurring changes.” And thus, even that which is perishable remains in order to undergo a change;197 for the matter which underlies (all things), while its properties perish, stir abides according to the opinion of those who hold it to be uncreated. If, however, it can be shown by any arguments not to be uncreated, but to have been created for certain purposes, it is clear that it will not have the same nature of permanency which it would possess on the hypothesis of being uncreated. But it is not our object at present, in answering the charges of Celsus, to discuss these questions of natural philosophy.
He maintains, moreover, that “no product of matter is immortal.” Now, in answer to this it may be said, that if no product of matter is immortal, then either the whole world is immortal, and thus not a product of matter, or it is not immortal. If, accordingly, the world is immortal (which is agreeable to the view of those who say that the soul alone is the work of God, and was produced from a certain bowl), let Celsus show that the world was not produced from a matter devoid of qualities, remembering his own assertion that “no product of matter is immortal.” If, however, the world is not immortal (seeing it is a product of matter), but mortal, does it also perish, or does it not? For if it perish, it will perish as being a work of God; and then, in the event of the world perishing, what will become of the soul, which is also a work of God? Let Celsus answer this! But if, perverting the notion of immortality, he will assert that, although perishable, it is immortal, because it does not really perish; that it is capable of dying, but does not actually die, – it is evident that, according to him, there will exist something which is at the same time mortal and immortal, by being capable of both conditions; and that which does not die will be mortal, and that which is not immortal by nature will be termed in a peculiar sense immortal, because it does not die! According to what distinction, then, in the meaning of words, will he maintain that no product of matter is immortal? And thus you see that the ideas contained in his writings, when closely examined and tested, are proved not to be sound and incontrovertible.198 And after making these assertions he adds: “On this point these remarks are sufficient; and if any one is capable of hearing and examining further, he will come to know (the truth).” Let us, then, who in his opinion are unintelligent individuals, see what will result from our being able to listen to him for a little, and so continue our investigation.
After these matters, then, he thinks that he can make us acquainted in a few words with the questions regarding the nature of evil, which have been variously discussed in many important treatises, and which have received very opposite explanations. His words are: “There neither were formerly, nor are there now, nor will there be again, more or fewer evils in the world (than have always been). For the nature of all things is one and the same, and the generation of evils is always the same.” He seems to have paraphrased these words from the discussions in the Theaetetus, where Plato makes Socrates say: “It is neither possible for evils to disappear from among men, nor for them to become established among the gods,” and so on. But he appears to me not to have understood Plato correctly, although professing to include all truth199 in this one treatise, and giving to his own book against us the title of A True Discourse. For the language in the Timaeus, where it is said, “When the gods purify the earth with water,” shows that the earth, when purified with water, contains less evil than it did before its purification. And this assertion, that there at one time were fewer evils in the world, is one which we make, in harmony with the opinion of Plato, because of the language in the Theaetetus, where he says that “evils cannot disappear from among men.”200
I do not understand how Celsus, while admitting the existence of Providence, at least so far as appears from the language of this book, can say that there never existed (at any time) either more or fewer evils, but, as it were, a fixed number; thus annihilating the beautiful doctrine regarding the indefinite201 nature of evil, and asserting that evil, even in its own nature,202 is infinite. Now it appears to follow from the position, that there never have been, nor are now, nor ever will be, more or fewer evils in the world; that as, according to the view of those who hold the indestructibility of the world, the equipoise of the elements is maintained by a Providence (which does not permit one to gain the preponderance over the others, in order to prevent the destruction of the world), so a kind of Providence presides, as it were, over evils (the number of which is fixed),203 to prevent their being either increased or diminished! In other ways, too, are the arguments of Celsus concerning evil confuted, by those philosophers who have investigated the subjects of good and evil, and who have proved also from history that in former times it was without the city, and with their faces concealed by masks, that loose women hired themselves to those who wanted them; that subsequently, becoming more impudent, they laid aside their masks, though not being permitted by the laws to enter the cities, they (still) remained without them, until, as the dissoluteness of manners daily increased, they dared even to enter the cities. Such accounts are given by Chrysippus in the introduction to his work on Good and Evil. From this also it may be seen that evils both increase and decrease, viz., that those individuals who were called “Ambiguous”204 used formerly to present themselves openly to view, suffering and committing all shameful things, while subserving the passions of those who frequented their society; but recently they have been expelled by the authorities.205 And of countless evils which, owing to the spread of wickedness, have made their appearance in human life, we may say that formerly they did not exist. For the most ancient histories, which bring innumerable other accusations against sinful men, know nothing of the perpetrators of abominable206 crimes.
And now, after these arguments, and others of a similar kind, how can Celsus escape appearing in a ridiculous light, when he imagines that there never has been in the past, nor will be in the future, a greater or less number of evils? For although the nature of all things is one and the same, it does not at all follow that the production of evils is a constant quantity.207 For although the nature of a certain individual is one and the same, yet his mind, and his reason, and his actions, are not always alike:208 there being a time when he had not yet attained to reason; and another, when, with the possession of reason, he had become stained with wickedness, and when this increased to a greater or less degree; and again, a time when he devoted himself to virtue, and made greater or less progress therein, attaining sometimes the very summit of perfection, through longer or shorter periods of contemplation.209 In like manner, we may make the same assertion in a higher degree of the nature of the universe,210 that although it is one and the same in kind, yet neither do exactly the same things, nor yet things that are similar, occur in it; for we neither have invariably productive nor unproductive seasons, nor yet periods of continuous rain or of drought. And so in the same way, with regard to virtuous souls, there are neither appointed periods of fertility nor of barrenness; and the same is the case with the greater or less spread of evil. And those who desire to investigate all things to the best of their ability, must keep in view this estimate of evils, that their amount is not always the same, owing to the working of a Providence which either preserves earthly things, or purges them by means of floods and conflagrations; and effects this, perhaps, not merely with reference to things on earth, but also to the whole universe of things211 I which stands in need of purification, when the wickedness that is in it has become great.
After this Celsus continues: “It is not easy, indeed, for one who is not a philosopher to ascertain the origin of evils, though it is sufficient for the multitude to say that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and have their abode among mortal things; while the course212 of mortal things being the same from beginning to end, the same things must always, agreeably to the appointed cycles,213 recur in the past, present, and future.” Celsus here observes that it is not easy for one who is not a philosopher to ascertain the origin of evils, as if it were an easy matter for a philosopher to gain this knowledge, while for one who is not a philosopher it was difficult, though still possible, for such an one, although with great labour, to attain it. Now, to this we say, that the origin of evils is a subject which is not easy even for a philosopher to master, and that perhaps it is impossible even for such to attain a clear understanding of it, unless it be revealed to them by divine inspiration, both what evils are, and how they originated, and how they shall be made to disappear. But although ignorance of God is an evil, and one of the greatest of these is not to know how God is to be served and worshipped, yet, as even Celsus would admit, there are undoubtedly some philosophers who have been ignorant of this, as is evident from the views of the different philosophical sects; whereas, according to our judgment, no one is capable of ascertaining the origin of evils who does not know that it is wicked to suppose that piety is preserved uninjured amid the laws that are established in different states, in conformity with the generally prevailing ideas of government.214 No one, moreover, who has not heard what is related of him who is called “devil,” and of his “angels,” and what he was before he became a devil, and how he became such, and what was the cause of the simultaneous apostasy of those who are termed his angels, will be able to ascertain the origin of evils. But he who would attain to this knowledge must learn more accurately the nature of demons, and know that they are not the work of God so far as respects their demoniacal nature, but only in so far as they are possessed of reason; and also what their origin was, so that they became beings of such a nature, that while converted into demons, the powers of their mind215 remain. And if there be any topic of human investigation which is difficult for our nature to grasp, certainly the origin of evils may be considered to be such.
Celsus in the next place, as if he were able to tell certain secrets regarding the origin of evils, but chose rather to keep silence, and say only what was suitable to the multitude, continues as follows: “It is sufficient to say to the multitude regarding the origin of evils, that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and dwell among mortal things.” It is true, certainly, that evils do not proceed from God; for according to Jeremiah, one of our prophets, it is certain that “out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good.”216 But to maintain that matter, dwelling among mortal things, is the cause of evils, is in our opinion not true. For it is the mind of each individual which is the cause of the evil which arises in him, and this is evil (in the abstract);217 while the actions which proceed from it are wicked, and there is, to speak with accuracy, nothing else in our view that is evil. I am aware, however, that this topic requires very elaborate treatment, which (by the grace of God enlightening the mind) may be successfully attempted by him who is deemed by God worthy to attain the necessary knowledge on this subject.
I do not understand how Celsus should deem it of advantage, in writing a treatise against us, to adopt an opinion which requires at least much plausible reasoning to make it appear, as far as he can do so, that “the course of mortal things is the same from beginning to end, and that the same things must always, according to the appointed cycles, recur in the past, present, and future.” Now, if this be true, our free-will is annihilated.218 For if, in the revolution of mortal things, the same events must perpetually occur in the past, present, and future, according to the appointed cycles, it is clear that, of necessity, Socrates will always be a philosopher, and be condemned for introducing strange gods and for corrupting the youth. And Anytus and Melitus must always be his accusers, and the council of the Areopagus must ever condemn him to death by hemlock. And in the same way, according to the appointed cycles, Phalaris must always play the tyrant, and Alexander of Pherae commit the same acts of cruelty, and those condemned to the bull of Phalaris continually pour forth their wailings from it. But if these things be granted, I do not see how our free-will can be preserved, or how praise or blame can be administered with propriety. We may say further to Celsus, in answer to such a view, that “if the course of moral things be always the same from beginning to end, and if, according to the appointed cycles, the same events must always occur in the past, present, and future,” then, according to the appointed cycles, Moses must again come forth from Egypt with the Jewish people, and Jesus again come to dwell in human life, and perform the same actions which (according to this view) he has done not once, but countless times, as the periods have revolved. Nay, Christians too will be the same in the appointed cycles; and Celsus will again write this treatise of his, which he has done innumerable times before.
Celsus, however, says that it is only “the course of mortal things which, according to the appointed cycles, must always be the same in the past, present, and future;” whereas the majority of the Stoics maintain that this is the case not only with the course of mortal, but also with that of immortal things, and of those whom they regard as gods. For after the conflagration of the world,219 which has taken place countless times in the past, and will happen countless times in the future, there has been, and will be, the same arrangement of all things from the beginning to the end. The Stoics, indeed, in endeavouring to parry, I don’t know how, the objections raised to their views, allege that as cycle after cycle returns, all men will be altogether unchanged220 from those who lived in former cycles; so that Socrates will not live again, but one altogether like to Socrates, who will marry a wife exactly like Xanthippe, and will be accused by men exactly like Anytus and Melitus. I do not understand, however, how the world is to be always the same, and one individual not different from another, and yet the things in it not the same, though exactly alike. But the main argument in answer to the statements of Celsus and of the Stoics will be more appropriately investigated elsewhere, since on the present occasion it is not consistent with the purpose we have in view to expatiate on these points.
He continues to say that “neither have visible things221 been given to man (by God), but each individual thing comes into existence and perishes for the sake of the safety of the whole passing agreeably to the change, which I have already mentioned, from one thing to another.” It is unnecessary, however, to linger over the refutation of these statements, which have been already refuted to the best of my ability. And the following, too, has been answered, viz., that “there will neither be more nor less good and evil among mortals.” This point also has been referred to, viz., that “God does not need to amend His work afresh.”222 But it is not as a man who has imperfectly designed some piece of workmanship, and executed it unskilfully, that God administers correction to the world, in purifying it by a flood or by a conflagration, but in order to prevent the tide of evil from rising to a greater height; and, moreover, I am of opinion that it is at periods which are precisely determined beforehand that He sweeps wickedness away, so as to contribute to the good of the whole world.223 If, however, he should assert that, after the disappearance of evil, it again comes into existence, such questions will have to be examined in a special treatise.224 It is, then, always in order to repair what has become faulty225 that God desires to amend His work afresh. For although, in the creation of the world, all things had been arranged by Him in the most beautiful and stable manner, He nevertheless needed to exercise some healing power upon those who were labouring under the disease of wickedness, and upon a whole world, which was polluted as it were thereby. But nothing has been neglected by God, or will be neglected by Him; for He does at each particular juncture what it becomes Him to do in a perverted and changed world. And as a husbandman performs different acts of husbandry upon the soil and its productions, according to the varying seasons of the year, so God administers entire ages of time, as if they were, so to speak, so many individual years, performing during each one of them what is requisite with a reasonable regard to the care of the world; and this, as it is truly understood by God alone, so also is it accomplished by Him.
Celsus has made a statement regarding evils of the following nature, viz., that “although a thing may seem to you to be evil, it is by no means certain that it is so; for you do not know what is of advantage to yourself, or to another, or to the whole world.” Now this assertion is made with a certain degree of caution;226 and it hints that the nature of evil is not wholly wicked, because that which may be considered so in individual cases, may contain something which is of advantage to the whole community. However, lest any one should mistake my words, and find a pretence of wrongdoing, as if his wickedness were profitable to the world, or at least might be so, we have to say, that although God, who preserves the free-will of each individual, may make use of the evil of the wicked for the administration of the world, so disposing them as to conduce to the benefit of the whole; yet, notwithstanding, such an individual is deserving of censure, and as such has been appointed for a use, which is a subject of loathing to each separate individual, although of advantage to the whole community.227 It is as if one were to say that in the case of a city, a man who had committed certain crimes, and on account of these had been condemned to serve in public works that were useful to the community, did something that was of advantage to the entire city, while he himself was engaged in an abominable task,228 in which no one possessed of moderate understanding would wish to be engaged. Paul also, the apostle of Jesus, teaches us that even the very wicked will contribute to the good of the whole, while in themselves they will be amongst the vile, but that the most virtuous men, too, will be of the greatest advantage to the world, and will therefore on that account occupy the noblest position. His words are: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.” (cf. 2Ti_2:20, 2Ti_2:21) These remarks I have thought it necessary to make in reply to the assertion, that “although a thing may seem to you to be evil, it is by no means certain that it is so, for you do not know what is of advantage either to yourself or to another,” in order that no one may take occasion from what has been said on the subject to commit sin, on the pretext that he will thus be useful to the world.
But as, in what follows, Celsus, not understanding that the language of Scripture regarding God is adapted to an anthropopathic point of view,229 ridicules those passages which speak of words of anger addressed to the ungodly, and of threatenings directed against sinners, we have to say that, as we ourselves, when talking with very young children, do not aim at exerting our own power of eloquence,230 but, adapting ourselves to the weakness of our charge, both say and do those things which may appear to us useful for the correction and improvement of the children as children, so the word of God appears to have dealt with the history, making the capacity of the hearers, and the benefit which they were to receive, the standard of the appropriateness of its announcements (regarding Him). And, generally, with regard to such a style of speaking about God, we find in the book of Deuteronomy the following: “The Lord thy God bare with your manners, as a man would bear with the manners of his son.”231 It is, as it were, assuming the manners of a man in order to secure the advantage of men that the Scripture makes use of such expressions; for it would not have been suitable to the condition of the multitude, that what God had to say to them should be spoken by Him in a manner more befitting the majesty of His own person. And yet he who is anxious to attain a true understanding of holy Scripture, will discover the spiritual truths which are spoken by it to those who are called “spiritual,” by comparing the meaning of what is addressed to those of weaker mind with what is announced to such as are of acuter understanding, both meanings being frequently found in the same passage by him who is capable of comprehending it.
We speak, indeed, of the “wrath” of God. We do not, however, assert that it indicates any “passion” on His part, but that it is something which is assumed in order to discipline by stern means those sinners who have committed many and grievous sins. For that which is called God’s “wrath,” and “anger,” is a means of discipline; and that such a view is agreeable to Scripture, is evident from what is said in the sixth Psalm, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure;” (cf. Psa_6:1) and also in Jeremiah. “O Lord, correct me, but with judgment: not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.” (cf. Jer_10:24) Any one, moreover, who reads in the second book of Kings of the “wrath” of God, inducing David to number the people, and finds from the first book of Chronicles that it was the devil who suggested this measure, will, on comparing together the two statements, easily see for what purpose the “wrath” is mentioned, of which “wrath,” as the Apostle Paul declares, all men are children: “We were by nature children of wrath, even as others.” (cf. Eph_2:3) Moreover, that “wrath” is no passion on the part of God, but that each one brings it upon himself by his sins, will be clear from the further statement of Paul: “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” How, then, can any one treasure up for himself “wrath” against a “day of wrath,” if “wrath” be understood in the sense of “passion?” or how can the “passion of wrath” be a help to discipline? Besides, the Scripture, which tells us not to be angry at all, and which says in the thirty-seventh Psalm, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath,” (cf. Psa_37:8) and which commands us by the mouth of Paul to “put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication,” (cf. Col_3:8) would not involve God in the same passion from which it would have us to be altogether free. It is manifest, further, that the language used regarding the wrath of God is to be understood figuratively from what is related of His “sleep,” from which, as if awaking Him, the prophet says: “Awake, why sleepest Thou, Lord?” (Psa_44:23) and again: “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.” (cf. Psa_78:65) If, then, “sleep” must mean something else, and not what the first acceptation of the word conveys, why should not “wrath” also be understood in a similar way? The “threatenings,” again, are intimations of the (punishments) which are to befall the wicked: for it is as if one were to call the words of a physician “threats,” when he tells his patients, “I will have to use the knife, and apply cauteries, if you do not obey my prescriptions, and regulate your diet and mode of life in such a way as I direct you.” It is no human passions, then, which we ascribe to God, nor impious opinions which we entertain of Him; nor do we err when we present the various narratives concerning Him, drawn from the Scriptures themselves, after careful comparison one with another. For those who are wise ambassadors of the “word” have no other object in view than to free as far as they can their hearers from weak opinions, and to endue them with intelligence.
And as a sequel to his non-understanding of the statements regarding the “wrath” of God, he continues: “Is it not ridiculous to suppose that, whereas a man, who became angry with the Jews, slew them all from the youth upwards, and burned their city (so powerless were they to resist him), the mighty God, as they say, being angry, and indignant, and uttering threats, should, (instead of punishing them,) send His own Son, who endured the sufferings which He did?” If the Jews, then, after the treatment which they dared to inflict upon Jesus, perished with all their youth, and had their city consumed by fire, they suffered this punishment in consequence of no other wrath than that which they treasured up for themselves; for the judgment of God against them, which was determined by the divine appointment, is termed “wrath” agreeably to a traditional usage of the Hebrews. And what the Son of the mighty God suffered, He suffered voluntarily for the salvation of men, as has been stated to the best of my ability in the preceding pages. He then continues: “But that I may speak not of the Jews alone (for that is not my object), but of the whole of nature, as I promised, I will bring out more clearly what has been already stated.” Now what modest man, on reading these words, and knowing the weakness of humanity, would not be indignant at the offensive nature of the promise to give an account of the “whole of nature,” and at an arrogance like that which prompted him to inscribe upon his book the title which he ventured to give it (of a True Discourse)? But let us see what he has to say regarding the “whole of nature,” and what he is to place “in a clearer light.”
He next, in many words, blames us for asserting that God made all things for the sake of man. Because from the history of animals, and from the sagacity manifested by them, he would show that all things came into existence not more for the sake of man than of the irrational animals. And here he seems to me to speak in a similar manner to those who, through dislike of their enemies, accuse them of the same things for which their own friends are commended. For as, in the instance referred to, hatred blinds these persons from seeing that they are accusing their very dearest friends by the means through which they think they are slandering their enemies; so in the same way, Celsus also, becoming confused in his argument, does not see that he is bringing a charge against the philosophers of the Porch, who, not amiss, place man in the foremost rank, and rational nature in general before irrational animals, and who maintain that Providence created all things mainly on account of rational nature. Rational beings, then, as being the principal ones, occupy the place, as it were, of children in the womb, while irrational and soulless beings hold that of the envelope which is created along with the child.232 I think, too, that as in cities the superintendents of the goods and market discharge their duties for the sake of no other than human beings, while dogs and other irrational animals have the benefit of the superabundance; so Providence provides in a special manner for rational creatures; while this also follows, that irrational creatures likewise enjoy the benefit of what is done for the sake of man. And as he is in error who alleges that the superintendents of the markets233 make provision in no greater degree for men than for dogs, because dogs also get their share of the goods; so in a far greater degree are Celsus and they who think with him guilty of impiety towards the God who makes provision for rational beings, in asserting that His arrangements are made in no greater degree for the sustenance of human beings than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns.
169 κατὰ τὴν πρώτην ἐκδοχήν.
170 τοὺς σπερματικοὺς λόγους.
171 κατὰ τὸν προηγούμενον νοῦν.
172 προβλήματα καὶ παραβολαί.
173 ἐπὰν ἐπακούσῃ τοῦ παρ ἑαυτοῦ πάντα ποιήσαντος.
174 cf. 2Ti_3:8. [Note this testimony concerning Numenius.]
175 τὸ εὐτελέστερον.
178 The reading in the text of Spencer and of the Benedictine ed. is καταλειφθεῖσαν, for which Lommatzsch has adopted the conjecture of Boherellus, καταληφθεῖσαν.
180 ὑπ ἐνυπαρχούσης ἀφαντάστου φύσεως διοικουμένων.
181 πρὸς χρείαν οὐκ εὐκαταφρόνητον.
182 ὅπως ποτὲ ἄλλως ὄντων.
183 τίνι ἢ τίσιν.
184 αἰσθητοῦ θεοῦ.
185 cf. Plato in Timaeo.
187 πέμπτης παρὰ τὰ τέσσαρα στοιχεῖα εἶναι φύσεως.
190 καινῆς διαδεξαμένης ὁδοῦ καὶ ἀλλοίας, etc. For διαδεξαμένης, Boherellus would read διαδεξομένης. cf. Origen, de Princip., iii. c. 5; ii. c. 3. [See also Neander’s Church History, vol. 1. p. 328, and his remarks on “the general ἀποκατάστασις” of Origen. S.]
192 cf. Pliny, x. c. 66: “Anguem ex medullâ hominis spinae gigni accepimus a multis.” cf. also Ovid, Metamorphos., xv. fab. iv.
194 τῶν διαφερόντων.
195 καὶ μία εἰς ἀμοιβὴν παλίντροπον ἰοῦσα καὶ ἐπανιοῦσα.
197 οὕτω δὲ καὶ τὸ ἀπολλύμενον εἰς μεταβολὴν διαμένει.
198 διελέγχεται οὐκ ἐπιδεχόμενα τὸ γενναῖον καὶ ἀναντίῤῥητον.
199 ὁ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐκπεριλαμβάνων.
200 [cf. Plato, Theaetetus, xxv. p. 176. S.]
202 καὶ τῷ ἰδίῳ λόγῳ.
203 τοσοῖσδε τυγχάνουσιν.
206 ἀῤῥητοποιοὺς οὐκ ἴσασι.
207 οὑ πάντως καὶ ἡ τῶν κακῶν γένεσις ἀεὶ ἡ αὐτή.
208 οὐκ ἀεὶ τὰ αὐτά ἐστι περὶ τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὰς πράξεις.
210 τῶν ὅλων.
211 τὰ ἐν ὁλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ.
213 κατὰ τὰς τεταγμένας ἀνακυκλήσεις.
214 μὴ ἐγνωκὼς κακὸν εἶναι τὸ νομίζειν εὐσέβειαν σώζεσθαι ἐν τοῖς καθεστηκόσι κατὰ τὰς κοινότερον νοουμένας πολιτείας νόμοις.
215 τὸ ἡγεμονικόν.
216 cf. Lam_3:38. [In the Authorized Version and in the Vulgate the passage is interrogative. S.]
217 ἤτις ἐστὶ τὸ κακόν.
218 τὸ ἐφ ἡμῖν ἀνῄρηται.
219 τοῦ παντός.
221 τὰ ὁρώμενα.
222 οὔτε τῷ Θεῷ καινοτέρας δεῖ διορθώσεως.
223 ὅτι καὶ πάντη τεταγμένως αὐτὴν ἀφανίζων συμφερόντως τῷ παντί.
224 [See note supra, p. 524. S.]
225 τὰ σφάλματα ἀναλαμβάνειν.
226 ἔχει τὶ εὐλαβές.
227 καὶ ὡς ψεκτὸς κατατέτακται εἰς χρείαν ἀπευκταίαν μὲν ἐκάστῳ, χρήσιμον δὲ τῷ παντί.
228 ἐν ἀπευκταίῳ πράγματι.
229 [See chap. xii., note 36]
230 οὐ τοῦ ἑαυτῶν ἐν τῷ λέγειν στοχαζόμεθα δυνατοῦ.
231 cf. Deu_1:31. Origen appears to have read, not ἐτροφόρησεν, the common reading (Hebrew גָשָׂא), but ἐτροποφόρησεν, the reading of the Codex Alex.
232 καὶ λόγον μὲν ἔχει τὰ λογικὰ, ἅπερ ἐστὶ προηγούμενα, παίδων γεννωμένων· τὰ δ ἄλογα καὶ τὰ ἄψυχα χωρίου συγκτιζομένου τᾷ παιδίῳ.