Having, in the three preceding books, fully stated what occurred to us by way of answer to the treatise of Celsus, we now, reverend Ambrosius, with prayer to God through Christ, offer this fourth book as a reply to what follows. And we pray that words may be given us, as it is written in the book of Jeremiah that the Lord said to the prophet: “Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth as fire. See, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build and to plant.” (cf. Jer_1:9, Jer_1:10) For we need words now which will root out of every wounded soul the reproaches uttered against the truth by this treatise of Celsus, or which proceed from opinions like his. And we need also thoughts which will pull down all edifices based on false opinions, and especially the edifice raised by Celsus in his work which resembles the building of those who said “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top shall reach to heaven.” (cf. Gen_11:4) Yea, we even require a wisdom which will throw down all high things that rise against the knowledge of God, (cf. 2Co_10:5) and especially that height of arrogance which Celsus displays against us. And in the next place, as we must not stop with rooting out and pulling down the hindrances which have just been mentioned, but must, in room of what has been rooted out, plant the plants of “God’s husbandry;” (cf. 1Co_3:9) and in place of what has been pulled down, rear up the building of God, and the temple of His glory, – we must for that reason pray also to the Lord, who bestowed the gifts named in the book of Jeremiah, that He may grant even to us words adapted both for building up the (temple) of Christ, and for planting the spiritual law, and the prophetic words referring to the same.1 And above all is it necessary to show, as against the assertions of Celsus which follow those he has already made, that the prophecies regarding Christ are true predictions. For, arraying himself at the same time against both parties – against the Jews on the one hand, who deny that the advent of Christ has taken place, but who expect it as future, and against Christians on the other, who acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ spoken of in prophecy – he makes the following statement: –
“But that certain Christians and (all) Jews should maintain, the former that there has already descended, the latter that there will descend, upon the earth a certain God, or Son of a God, who will make the inhabitants of the earth righteous,2 is a most shameless assertion, and one the refutation of which does not need many words.” Now here he appears to pronounce correctly regarding not “certain” of the Jews, but all of them, that they imagine that there is a certain (God) who will descend upon the earth; and with regard to Christians, that certain of them say that He has already come down. For he means those who prove from the Jewish Scriptures that the advent of Christ has already taken place, and he seems to know that there are certain heretical sects which deny that Christ Jesus was predicted by the prophets. In the preceding pages, however, we have already discussed, to the best of our ability, the question of Christ having been the subject of prophecy, and therefore, to avoid tautology, we do not repeat much that might be advanced upon this head. Observe, now, that if he had wished with a kind of apparent force3 to subvert faith in the prophetic writings, either with regard to the future or past advent of Christ, he ought to have set forth the prophecies themselves which we Christians and Jews quote in our discussions with each other. For in this way he would have appeared to turn aside those who are carried away by the plausible character4 of the prophetic statements, as he regards it, from assenting to their truth, and from believing, on account of these prophecies, that Jesus is the Christ; whereas now, being unable to answer the prophecies relating to Christ, or else not knowing at all what are the prophecies relating to Him, he brings forward no prophetic declaration, although there are countless numbers which refer to Christ; but he thinks that he prefers an accusation against the prophetic Scriptures, while he does not even state what he himself would call their “plausible character!” He is not, however, aware that it is not at all the Jews who say that Christ will descend as a God, or the Son of a God, as we have shown in the foregoing pages. And when he asserts that “he is said by us to have already come, but by the Jews that his advent as Messiah5 is still future,” he appears by the very charge to censure our statement as one that is most shameless, and which needs no lengthened refutation.
And he continues: “What is the meaning of such a descent upon the part of God?” not observing that, according to our teaching, the meaning of the descent is pre-eminently to convert what are called in the Gospel the lost “sheep of the house of Israel;” and secondly, to take away from them, on account of their disobedience, what is called the “kingdom of God,” and to give to other husbandmen than the ancient Jews, viz. to the Christians, who will render to God the fruits of His kingdom in due season (each action being a “fruit of the kingdom”).6 We shall therefore, out of a greater number, select a few remarks by way of answer to the question of Celsus, when he says, “What is the meaning of such a descent upon the part of God?” And Celsus here returns to himself an answer which would have been given neither by Jews nor by us, when he asks, “Was it in order to learn what goes on amongst men?” For not one of us asserts that it was in order to learn what goes on amongst men that Christ entered into this life. Immediately after, however, as if some would reply that it was “in order to learn what goes on among men,” he makes this objection to his own statement: “Does he not know all things?” Then, as if we were to answer that He does know all things, he raises a new question, saying, “Then he does know, but does not make (men) better, nor is it possible for him by means of his divine power to make (men) better.” Now all this on his part is silly talk;7 for God, by means of His word, which is continually passing from generation to generation into holy souls, and constituting them friends of God and prophets, does improve those who listen to His words; and by the coming of Christ He improves, through the doctrine of Christianity, not those who are unwilling, but those who have chosen the better life, and that which is pleasing to God. I do not know, moreover, what kind of improvement Celsus wished to take place when he raised the objection, asking, “Is it then not possible for him, by means of his divine power, to make (men) better, unless he send some one for that special purpose?”8 Would he then have the improvement to take place by God’s filling the minds of men with new ideas, removing at once the (inherent) wickedness, and implanting virtue (in its stead)?9 Another person now would inquire whether this was not inconsistent or impossible in the very nature of things; we, however, would say, “Grant it to be so, and let it be possible.” Where, then, is our free will?10 and what credit is there in assenting to the truth? or how is the rejection of what is false praiseworthy? But even if it were once granted that such a course was not only possible, but could be accomplished with propriety (by God), why would not one rather inquire (asking a question like that of Celsus) why it was not possible for God, by means of His divine power, to create men who needed no improvement, but who were of themselves virtuous and perfect, evil being altogether non-existent? These questions may perplex ignorant and foolish individuals, but not him who sees into the nature of things; for if you take away the spontaneity of virtue, you destroy its essence. But it would need an entire treatise to discuss these matters; and on this subject the Greeks have expressed themselves at great length in their works on providence. They truly would not say what Celsus has expressed in words, that “God knows (all things) indeed, but does not make (men) better, nor is able to do so by His divine power.” We ourselves have spoken in many parts of our writings on these points to the best of our ability, and the Holy Scriptures have established the same to those who are able to understand them.
The argument which Celsus employs against us and the Jews will be turned against himself thus: My good sir, does the God who is over all things know what takes place among men, or does He not know? Now if you admit the existence of a God and of providence, as your treatise indicates, He must of necessity know. And if He does know, why does He not make (men) better? Is it obligatory, then, on us to defend God’s procedure in not making men better, although He knows their state, but not equally binding on you, who do not distinctly show by your treatise that you are an Epicurean, but pretend to recognise a providence, to explain why God, although knowing all that takes place among men, does not make them better, nor by divine power liberate all men from evil? We are not ashamed, however, to say that God is constantly sending (instructors) in order to make men better; for there are to be found amongst men reasons11 given by God which exhort them to enter on a better life. But there are many diversities amongst those who serve God, and they are few in number who are perfect and pure ambassadors of the truth, and who produce a complete reformation, as did Moses and the prophets. But above all these, great was the reformation effected by Jesus, who desired to heal not only those who lived in one corner of the world, but as far as in Him lay, men in every country, for He came as the Saviour of all men.
The illustrious12 Celsus, taking occasion I know not from what, next raises an additional objection against us, as if we asserted that “God Himself will come down to men.” He imagines also that it follows from this, that “He has left His own abode;” for he does not know the power of God, and that “the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world, and that which upholdeth all things hath knowledge of the voice.”13 Nor is he able to understand the words, “Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” (cf. Jer_23:24) Nor does he see that, according to the doctrine of Christianity, we all “in Him live, and move, and have our being,” (cf. Act_17:28) as Paul also taught in his address to the Athenians; and therefore, although the God of the universe should through His own power descend with Jesus into the life of men, and although the Word which was in the beginning with God, which is also God Himself, should come to us, He does not give His place or vacate His own seat, so that one place should be empty of Him, and another which did not formerly contain Him be filled. But the power and divinity of God comes through him whom God chooses, and resides in him in whom it finds a place, not changing its situation, nor leaving its own place empty and filling another: for, in speaking of His quitting one place and occupying another, we do not mean such expressions to be taken topically; but we say that the soul of the bad man, and of him who is overwhelmed in wickedness, is abandoned by God, while we mean that the soul of him who wishes to live virtuously, or of him who is making progress (in a virtuous life), or who is already living conformably thereto, is filled with or becomes a partaker of the Divine Spirit. It is not necessary, then, for the descent of Christ, or for the coming of God to men, that He should abandon a greater seat, and that things on earth should be changed, as Celsus imagines when he says, “If you were to change a single one, even the least, of things on earth, all things would be overturned and disappear.” And if we must speak of a change in any one by the appearing of the power of God, and by the entrance of the word among men, we shall not be reluctant to speak of changing from a wicked to a virtuous, from a dissolute to a temperate, and from a superstitious to a religious life, the person who has allowed the word of God to find entrance into his soul.
But if you will have us to meet the most ridiculous among the charges of Celsus, listen to him when he says: “Now God, being unknown amongst men, and deeming himself on that account to have less than his due,14 would desire to make himself known, and to make trial both of those who believe upon him and of those who do not, like those of mankind who have recently come into the possession of riches, and who make a display of their wealth; and thus they testify to an excessive but very mortal ambition on the part of God.”15 We answer, then, that God, not being known by wicked men, would desire to make Himself known, not because He thinks that He meets with less than His due, but because the knowledge of Him will free the possessor from unhappiness. Nay, not even with the desire to try those who do or who do not believe upon Him, does He, by His unspeakable and divine power, Himself take up His abode in certain individuals, or send His Christ; but He does this in order to liberate from all their wretchedness those who do believe upon Him, and who accept His divinity, and that those who do not believe may no longer have this as a ground of excuse, viz., that their unbelief is the consequence of their not having heard the word of instruction. What argument, then, proves that it follows from our views that God, according to our representations, is “like those of mankind who have recently come into the possession of riches, and who make a display of their wealth?” For God makes no display towards us, from a desire that we should understand and consider His pre-eminence; but desiring that the blessedness which results from His being known by us should be implanted in our souls, He brings it to pass through Christ, and His ever-indwelling word, that we come to an intimate fellowship16 with Him. No mortal ambition, then, does the Christian doctrine testify as existing on the part of God.
I do not know how it is, that after the foolish remarks which he has made upon the subject which we have just been discussing, he should add the following, that “God does not desire to make himself known for his own sake, but because he wishes to bestow upon us the knowledge of himself for the sake of our salvation, in order that those who accept it may become virtuous and be saved, while those who do not accept may be shown to be wicked and be punished.” And yet, after making such a statement, he raises a new objection, saying: “After so long a period of time,17 then, did God now bethink himself of making men live righteous lives,18 but neglect to do so before?” To which we answer, that there never was a time when God did not wish to make men live righteous lives; but He continually evinced His care for the improvement of the rational animal,19 by affording him occasions for the exercise of virtue. For in every generation the wisdom of God, passing into those souls which it ascertains to be holy, converts them into friends and prophets of God. And there may be found in the sacred book (the names of) those who in each generation were holy, and were recipients of the Divine Spirit, and who strove to convert their contemporaries so far as in their power.
And it is not matter of surprise that in certain generations there have existed prophets who, in the reception of divine influence,20 surpassed, by means of their stronger and more powerful (religious) life, other prophets who were their contemporaries, and others also who lived before and after them. And so it is not at all wonderful that there should also have been a time when something of surpassing excellence21 took up its abode among the human race, and which was distinguished above all that preceded or even that followed. But there is an element of profound mystery in the account of these things, and one which is incapable of being received by the popular understanding. And in order that these difficulties should be made to disappear, and that the objections raised against the advent of Christ should be answered – viz., that, “after so long a period of time, then, did God now bethink himself of making men live righteous lives, but neglect to do so before?” – it is necessary to touch upon the narrative of the divisions (of the nations), and to make it evident why it was, that “when the Most High divided the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God, and the portion of the Lord was His people Jacob, Israel the cord of His inheritance;”22 and it will be necessary to state the reason why the birth of each man took place within each particular boundary, under him who obtained the boundary by lot, and how it rightly happened that “the portion of the Lord was His people Jacob, and Israel the cord of His inheritance,” and why formerly the portion of the Lord was His people Jacob, and Israel the cord of His inheritance. But with respect to those who come after, it is said to the Saviour by the Father, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” (cf. Psa_2:8) For there are certain connected and related reasons, bearing upon the different treatment of human souls, which are difficult to state and to investigate.23
There came, then, although Celsus may not wish to admit it, after the numerous prophets who were the reformers of that well-known Israel, the Christ, the Reformer of the whole world, who did not need to employ against men whips, and chains, and tortures, as was the case under the former economy. For when the sower went forth to sow, the doctrine sufficed to sow the word everywhere. But if there is a time coming which will necessarily circumscribe the duration of the world, by reason of its having had a beginning, and if there is to be an end to the world, and after the end a just judgment of all things, it will be incumbent on him who treats the declarations of the Gospels philosophically, to establish these doctrines by arguments of all kinds, not only derived directly from the sacred Scriptures, but also by inferences deducible from them; while the more numerous and simpler class of believers, and those who are unable to comprehend the many varied aspects of the divine wisdom, must entrust themselves to God, and to the Saviour of our race, and be contented with His “ipse dixit,”24 instead of this or any other demonstration whatever.
In the next place, Celsus, as is his custom having neither proved nor established anything, proceeds to say, as if we talked of God in a manner that was neither holy nor pious, that “it is perfectly manifest that they babble about God in a way that is neither holy nor reverential;” and he imagines that we do these things to excite the astonishment of the ignorant, and that we do not speak the truth regarding the necessity of punishments for those who have sinned. And accordingly he likens us to those who “in the Bacchic mysteries introduce phantoms and objects of terror.” With respect to the mysteries of Bacchus, whether there is any trustworthy25 account of them, or none that is such, let the Greeks tell, and let Celsus and his boon-companions26 listen. But we defend our own procedure, When we say that our object is to reform the human race, either by the threats of punishments which we are persuaded are necessary for the whole world,27 and which perhaps are not without use28 to those who are to endure them; or by the promises made to those who have lived virtuous lives, and in which are contained the statements regarding the blessed termination which is to be found in the kingdom of God, reserved for those who are worthy of becoming His subjects.
After this, being desirous to show that it is nothing either wonderful or new which we state regarding floods or conflagrations, but that, from misunderstanding the accounts of these things which are current among Greeks or barbarous nations, we have accorded our belief to our own Scriptures when treating of them, he writes as follows: “The belief has spread among them, from a misunderstanding of the accounts of these occurrences, that after lengthened cycles of time, and the returns and conjunctions of planets, conflagrations and floods are wont to happen, and because after the last flood, which took place in the time of Deucalion, the lapse of time, agreeably to the vicissitude of all things, requires a conflagration and this made them give utterance to the erroneous opinion that God will descend, bringing fire like a torturer.” Now in answer to this we say, that I do not understand how Celsus, who has read a great deal, and who shows that he has perused many histories, had not his attention arrested29 by the antiquity of Moses, who is related by certain Greek historians to have lived about the time of Inachus the son of Phoroneus, and is acknowledged by the Egyptians to be a man of great antiquity, as well as by those who have studied the history of the Phoenicians. And any one who likes may peruse the two books of Flavius Josephus on the antiquities of the Jews, in order that he may see in what way Moses was more ancient than those who asserted that floods and conflagrations take place in the world after long intervals of time; which statement Celsus alleges the Jews and Christians to have misunderstood, and, not comprehending what was said about a conflagration, to have declared that “God will descend, bringing fire like a torturer.”30
Whether, then, there are cycles of time, and floods, or conflagrations which occur periodically or not, and whether the Scripture is aware of this, not only in many passages, but especially where Solomon31 says, “What is the thing which hath been? Even that which shall be. And what is the thing which hath been done? Even that which shall be done,” (cf. Ecc_1:9) etc., etc., belongs not to the present occasion to discuss. For it is sufficient only to observe, that Moses and certain of the prophets, being men of very great antiquity, did not receive from others the statements relating to the (future) conflagration of the world; but, on the contrary (if we must attend to the matter of time32), others rather misunderstanding them, and not inquiring accurately into their statements, invented the fiction of the same events recurring at certain intervals, and differing neither in their essential nor accidental qualities.33 But we do not refer either the deluge or the conflagration to cycles and planetary periods; but the cause of them we declare to be the extensive prevalence of wickedness,34 and its (consequent) removal by a deluge or a conflagration. And if the voices of the prophets say that God “comes down,” who has said, “Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,” (cf. Jer_23:24) the term is used in a figurative sense. For God “comes down” from His own height and greatness when He arranges the affairs of men, and especially those of the wicked. And as custom leads men to say that teachers “condescend”35 to children, and wise men to those youths who have just betaken themselves to philosophy, not by “descending” in a bodily manner; so, if God is said anywhere in the holy Scriptures to “come down,” it is understood as spoken in conformity with the usage which so employs the word, and, in like manner also with the expression “go up.”36
But as it is in mockery that Celsus says we speak of “God coming down like a torturer bearing fire,” and thus compels us unseasonably to investigate words of deeper meaning, we shall make a few remarks, sufficient to enable our hearers to form an idea37 of the defence which disposes of the ridicule of Celsus against us, and then we shall turn to what follows. The divine word says that our God is “a consuming fire,” (cf. Deu_4:24, Deu_9:3) and that “He draws rivers of fire before Him;” (cf. Dan_7:10) nay, that He even entereth in as “a refiner’s fire, and as a fuller’s herb,” (cf. Mal_3:2) to purify His own people. But when He is said to be a “consuming fire,” we inquire what are the things which are appropriate to be consumed by God. And we assert that they are wickedness, and the works which result from it, and which, being figuratively called “wood, hay, stubble,” (cf. 1Co_3:12) God consumes as a fire. The wicked man, accordingly, is said to build up on the previously-laid foundation of reason, “wood, and hay, and stubble.” If, then, any one can show that these words were differently understood by the writer, and can prove that the wicked man literally38 builds up “wood, or hay, or stubble,” it is evident that the fire must be understood to be material, and an object of sense. But if, on the contrary, the works of the wicked man are spoken of figuratively under the names of “wood, or hay, or stubble,” why does it not at once occur (to inquire) in what sense the word “fire” is to be taken, so that “wood” of such a kind should be consumed? for (the Scripture) says: “The fire will try each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work be burned, he shall suffer loss.” (cf. 1Co_3:13-15) But what work can be spoken of in these words as being “burned,” save all that results from wickedness? Therefore our God is a “consuming fire” in the sense in which we have taken the word; and thus He enters in as a “refiner’s fire,” to refine the rational nature, which has been filled with the lead of wickedness, and to free it from the other impure materials, which adulterate the natural gold or silver, so to speak, of the soul.39 And, in like manner, “rivers of fire” are said to be before God, who will thoroughly cleanse away the evil which is intermingled throughout the whole soul.40 But these remarks are sufficient in answer to the assertion, “that thus they were made to give expression to the erroneous opinion that God will come down bearing fire like a torturer.”
But let us look at what Celsus next with great ostentation announces in the following fashion: “And again,” he says, “let us resume the subject from the beginning, with a larger array of proofs. And I make no new statement, but say what has been long settled. God is good, and beautiful, and blessed, and that in the best and most beautiful degree.41 But if he come down among men, he must undergo a change, and a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, from happiness to misery, and from best to worst. Who, then, would make choice of such a change? It is the nature of a mortal, indeed, to undergo change and remoulding, but of an immortal to remain the same and unaltered. God, then, could not admit of such a change.” Now it appears to me that the fitting answer has been returned to these objections, when I have related what is called in Scripture the “condescension”42 of God to human affairs; for which purpose He did not need to undergo a transformation, as Celsus thinks we assert, nor a change from good to evil, nor from virtue to vice, nor from happiness to misery, nor from best to worst. For, continuing unchangeable in His essence, He condescends to human affairs by the economy of His providence.43 We show, accordingly, that the holy Scriptures represent God as unchangeable, both by such words as “Thou art the same,” (Psa_102:27) and “I change not;” (Mal_3:6) whereas the gods of Epicurus, being composed of atoms, and, so far as their structure is concerned, capable of dissolution, endeavour to throw off the atoms which contain the elements of destruction. Nay, even the god of the Stoics, as being corporeal, at one time has his whole essence composed of the guiding principle44 when the conflagration (of the world) takes place; and at another, when a rearrangement of things occurs, he again becomes partly material.45 For even the Stoics were unable distinctly to comprehend the natural idea of God, as of a being altogether incorruptible and simple, and uncompounded and indivisible.
And with respect to His having descended among men, He was “previously in the form of God;” (cf. Phi_2:6, Phi_2:7) and through benevolence, divested Himself (of His glory), that He might be capable of being received by men. But He did not, I imagine, undergo any change from “good to evil,” for “He did no sin;” (cf. 1Pe_2:22) nor from “virtue to vice,” for “He knew no sin.” (cf. 2Co_5:21) Nor did He pass from “happiness to misery,” but He humbled Himself, and nevertheless was blessed, even when His humiliation was undergone in order to benefit our race. Nor was there any change in Him from “best to worst,” for how can goodness and benevolence be of “the worst?” Is it befitting to say of the physician, who looks on dreadful sights and handles unsightly objects in order to cure the sufferers, that he passes from “good to evil,” or from “virtue to vice,” or from “happiness to misery?” And yet the physician, in looking on dreadful sights and handling unsightly objects, does not wholly escape the possibility of being involved in the same fate. But He who heals the wounds of our souls, through the word of God that is in Him, is Himself incapable of admitting any wickedness. But if the immortal God – the Word46 – by assuming a mortal body and a human soul, appears to Celsus to undergo a change and transformation, let him learn that the Word, still remaining essentially the Word, suffers none of those things which are suffered by the body or the soul; but, condescending occasionally to (the weakness of) him who is unable to look upon the splendours and brilliancy of Deity, He becomes as it were flesh, speaking with a literal voice, until he who has received Him in such a form is able, through being elevated in some slight degree by the teaching of the Word, to gaze upon what is, so to speak, His real and pre-eminent appearance.47
For there are different appearances, as it were, of the Word, according as He shows Himself to each one of those who come to His doctrine; and this in a manner corresponding to the condition of him who is just becoming a disciple, or of him who has made a little progress, or of him who has advanced further, or of him who has already nearly attained to virtue, or who has even already attained it. And hence it is not the case, as Celsus and those like him would have it, that our God was transformed, and ascending the lofty mountain, showed that His real appearance was something different, and far more excellent than what those who remained below, and were unable to follow Him on high, beheld. For those below did not possess eyes capable of seeing the transformation of the Word into His glorious and more divine condition. But with difficulty were they able to receive Him as He was; so that it might be said of Him by those who were unable to behold His more excellent nature: “We saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was mean,48 and inferior to that of the sons of men.”49 And let these remarks be an answer to the suppositions of Celsus, who does not understand the changes or transformations of Jesus, as related in the histories, nor His mortal and immortal nature.50
But will not those narratives, especially when they are understood in their proper sense, appear far more worthy of respect than the story that Dionysus was deceived by the Titans, and expelled from the throne of Jupiter, and torn in pieces by them, and his remains being afterwards put together again, he returned as it were once more to life, and ascended to heaven? Or are the Greeks at liberty to refer such stories to the doctrine of the soul, and to interpret them figuratively, while the door of a consistent explanation, and one everywhere in accord and harmony with the writings of the Divine Spirit, who had His abode in pure souls, is closed against us? Celsus, then, is altogether ignorant of the purpose of our writings, and it is therefore upon his own acceptation of them that he casts discredit, and not upon their real meaning; whereas, if he had reflected on what is appropriate51 to a soul which is to enjoy an everlasting life, and on the opinion which we are to form of its essence and principles, he would not so have ridiculed the entrance of the immortal into a mortal body, which took place not according to the metempsychosis of Plato, but agreeably to another and higher view of things. And he would have observed one “descent,” distinguished by its great benevolence, undertaken to convert (as the Scripture mystically terms them) the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” which had strayed down from the mountains, and to which the Shepherd is said in certain parables to have gone down, leaving on the mountains those “which had not strayed.”
But Celsus, lingering over matters which he does not understand, leads us to be guilty of tautology, as we do not wish even in appearance to leave any one of his objections unexamined. He proceeds, accordingly, as follows: “God either really changes himself, as these assert, into a mortal body, and the impossibility of that has been already declared; Or else he does not undergo a change, but only causes the beholders to imagine so, and thus deceives them, and is guilty of falsehood. Now deceit and falsehood are nothing but evils, and would only be employed as a medicine, either in the case of sick and lunatic friends, with a view to their cure, or in that of enemies when one is taking measures to escape danger. But no sick man or lunatic is a friend of God, nor does God fear any one to such a degree as to shun danger by leading him into error.” Now the answer to these statements might have respect partly to the nature of the Divine Word, who is God, and partly to the soul of Jesus. As respects the nature of the Word, in the same way as the quality of the food changes in the nurse into milk with reference to the nature of the child, or is arranged by the physician with a view to the good of his health in the case of a sick man or (is specially) prepared for a stronger man, because he possesses greater vigour, so does God appropriately change, in the case of each individual, the power of the Word to which belongs the natural property of nourishing the human soul. And to one is given, as the Scripture terms it, “the sincere milk of the word;” and to another, who is weaker, as it were, “herbs;” and to another who is full-grown, “strong meat.” And the Word does not, I imagine, prove false to His own nature, in contributing nourishment to each one, according as he is capable of receiving Him.52 Nor does He mislead or prove false. But if one were to take the change as referring to the soul of Jesus after it had entered the body, we would inquire in what sense the term “change” is used. For if it be meant to apply to its essence, such a supposition is inadmissible, not only in relation to the soul of Jesus, but also to the rational soul of any other being. And if it be alleged that it suffers anything from the body when united with it, or from the place to which it has come, then what inconvenience53 can happen to the Word who, in great benevolence, brought down a Saviour to the human race? – seeing none of those who formerly professed to effect a cure could accomplish so much as that soul showed it could do, by what it performed, even by voluntarily descending to the level of human destinies for the benefit of our race. And the Divine Word, well knowing this, speaks to that effect in many passages of Scripture, although it is sufficient at present to quote one testimony of Paul to the following effect: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name.” (Phi_2:5-9)
Others, then, may concede to Celsus that God does not undergo a change, but leads the spectators to imagine that He does; whereas we who are persuaded that the advent of Jesus among men was no mere appearance, but a real manifestation, are not affected by this charge of Celsus. We nevertheless will attempt a reply, because you assert, Celsus, do you not, that it is sometimes allowable to employ deceit and falsehood by way, as it were, of medicine?54 Where, then, is the absurdity, if such a saving result were to be accomplished, that some such events should have taken place? For certain words, when savouring of falsehood, produce upon such characters a corrective effect (like the similar declarations of physicians to their patients), rather than when spoken in the spirit of truth. This, however, must be our defence against other opponents. For there is no absurdity in Him who healed sick friends, healing the dear human race by means of such remedies as He would not employ preferentially, but only according to circumstances.55 The human race, moreover, when in a state of mental alienation, had to be cured by methods which the Word saw would aid in bringing back those so afflicted to a sound state of mind. But Celsus says also, that “one acts thus towards enemies when taking measures to escape danger. But God does not fear any one, so as to escape danger by leading into error those who conspire against him.” Now it is altogether unnecessary and absurd to answer a charge which is advanced by no one against our Saviour. And we have already replied, when answering other charges, to the statement that “no one who is either in a state of sickness or mental alienation is a friend of God.” For the answer is, that such arrangements have been made, not for the sake of those who, being already friends, afterwards fell sick or became afflicted with mental disease, but in order that those who were still enemies through sickness of the soul, and alienation of the natural reason, might become the friends of God. For it is distinctly stated that Jesus endured all things on behalf of sinners, that He might free them from sin, and convert them to righteousness.
In the next place, as he represents the Jews accounting in a way peculiar to themselves for their belief that the advent of Christ among them is still in the future, and the Christians as maintaining in their way that the coming of the Son of God into the life of men has already taken place, let us, as far as we can, briefly consider these points. According to Celsus, the Jews say that “(human) life, being filled with all wickedness, needed one sent from God, that the wicked might be punished, and all things purified in a manner analogous to the first deluge which happened.” And as the Christians are said to make statements additional to this, it is evident that he alleges that they admit these. Now, where is the absurdity in the coming of one who is, on account of the prevailing flood of wickedness, to purify the world, and to treat every one according to his deserts? For it is not in keeping with the character of God that the diffusion of wickedness should not cease, and all things be renewed. The Greeks, moreover, know of the earth’s being purified at certain times by a deluge or a fire, as Plato, too, says somewhere to this effect: “And when the gods overwhelm the earth, purifying it with water, some of them on the mountains,”56 etc., etc. Must it be said, then, that if the Greeks make such assertions, they are to be deemed worthy of respect and consideration, but that if we too maintain certain of these views, which are quoted with approval by the Greeks, they cease to be honourable? And yet they who care to attend to the connection and truth of all our records, will endeavour to establish not only the antiquity of the writers, but the venerable nature of their writings, and the consistency of their several parts.
But I do not understand how he can imagine the overturning of the tower (of Babel) to have happened with a similar object to that of the deluge, which effected a purification of the earth, according to the accounts both of Jews and Christians. For, in order that the narrative contained in Genesis respecting the tower may be held to convey no secret meaning, but, as Celsus supposes, may be taken as true to the letter,57 the event does not on such a view appear to have taken place for the purpose of purifying the earth; unless, indeed, he imagines that the so-called confusion of tongues is such a purificatory process. But on this point, he who has the opportunity will treat more seasonably when his object is to show not only what is the meaning of the narrative in its historical connection, but what metaphorical meaning may be deduced from it.58 Seeing that he imagines, however, that Moses, who wrote the account of the tower, and the confusion of tongues, has perverted the story of the sons of Aloeus,59 and referred it to the tower, we must remark that I do not think any one prior to the time of Homer60 has mentioned the sons of Aloeus, while I am persuaded that what is related about the tower has been recorded by Moses as being much older not only than Homer, but even than the invention of letters among the Greeks. Who, then, are the perverters of each other’s narratives? Whether do they who relate the story of the Aloadae pervert the history of the time, or he who wrote the account of the tower and the confusion of tongues the story of the Aloadae? Now to impartial hearers Moses appears to be more ancient than Homer. The destruction by fire, moreover, of Sodom and Gomorrah on account of their sins, related by Moses in Genesis, is compared by Celsus to the story of Phaëthon, – all these statements of his resulting from one blunder, viz., his not attending to the (greater) antiquity of Moses.61 For they who relate the story of Phaëthon seem to be younger even than Homer, who, again, is much younger than Moses. We do not deny, then, that the purificatory fire and the destruction of the world took place in order that evil might be swept away, and all things be renewed; for we assert that we have learned these things from the sacred books of the prophets. But since, as we have said in the preceding pages, the prophets, in uttering many predictions regarding future events, show that they have spoken the truth concerning many things that are past, and thus give evidence of the indwelling of the Divine Spirit, it is manifest that, with respect to things still future, we should repose faith in them, or rather in the Divine Spirit that is in them.
But, according to Celsus, “the Christians, making certain additional statements to those of the Jews, assert that the Son of God has been already sent on account of the sins of the Jews; and that the Jews hating chastised Jesus, and given him gall to drink, have brought upon themselves the divine wrath.” And any one who likes may convict this statement of falsehood, if it be not the case that the whole Jewish nation was overthrown within one single generation after Jesus had undergone these sufferings at their hands. For forty and two years, I think, after the date of the crucifixion of Jesus, did the destruction of Jerusalem take place. Now it has never been recorded, since the Jewish nation began to exist, that they have been expelled for so long a period from their venerable temple-worship62 and service, and enslaved by more powerful nations; for if at any time they appeared to be abandoned because of their sins, they were notwithstanding visited (by God),63 and returned to their own country, and recovered their possessions, and performed unhindered the observances of their law. One fact, then, which proves that Jesus was something divine and sacred,64 is this, that Jews should have suffered on His account now for a lengthened time calamities of such severity. And we say with confidence that they will never be restored to their former condition.65 For they committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the Saviour of the human race in that city where they offered up to God a worship containing the symbols of mighty mysteries. It accordingly behoved that city where Jesus underwent these sufferings to perish utterly, and the Jewish nation to be overthrown, and the invitation to happiness offered them by God to pass to others, – the Christians, I mean, to whom has come the doctrine of a pure and holy worship, and who have obtained new laws, in harmony with the established constitution in all countries;66 seeing those which were formerly imposed, as on a single nation which was ruled by princes of its own race and of similar manners,67 could not now be observed in all their entireness.
In the next place, ridiculing after his usual style the race of Jews and Christians, he compares them all “to a flight of bats or to a swarm of ants issuing out of their nest, or to frogs holding council in a marsh, or to worms crawling together in the comer of a dunghill, and quarrelling with one another as to which of them were the greater sinners, and asserting that God shows and announces to us all things beforehand; and that, abandoning the whole world, and the regions of heaven,68 and this great earth, he becomes a citizen69 among us alone, and to us alone makes his intimations, and does not cease sending and inquiring, in what way we may be associated with him for ever.” And in his fictitious representation, he compares us to “ worms which assert that there is a God, and that immediately after him, we who are made by him are altogether like unto God, and that all things have been made subject to us, – earth, and water, and air, and stars, – and that all things exist for our sake, and are ordained to be subject to us.” And, according to his representation, the worms – that is, we ourselves – say that “now, since certain amongst us commit sin, God will come or will send his Son to consume the wicked with fire, that the rest of us may have eternal life with him.” And to all this he subjoins the remark, that “such wranglings would be more endurable amongst worms and frogs than betwixt Jews and Christians.”
In reply to these, we ask of those who accept such aspersions as are scattered against us, Do you regard all men as a collection of bats, or as frogs, or as worms, in consequence of the pre-eminence of God? or do you not include the rest of mankind in this proposed comparison, but on account of their possession of reason, and of the established laws, treat them as men, while you hold cheap70 Christians and Jews, because their opinions are distasteful to you, and compare them to the animals above mentioned? And whatever answer you may return to our question, we shall reply by endeavouring to show that such assertions are most unbecoming, whether spoken of all men in general, or of us in particular. For, let it be supposed that you say justly that all men, as compared with God, are (rightly) likened to these worthless71 animals, since their littleness is not at all to be compared with the superiority of God, what then do you mean by littleness? Answer me, good sirs. If you refer to littleness of body, know that superiority and inferiority, if truth is to be judge, are not determined by a bodily standard.72 For, on such a view, vultures73 and elephants would be superior to us men; for they are larger, and stronger, and longer-lived than we. But no sensible person would maintain that these irrational creatures are superior to rational beings, merely on account of their bodies: for the possession of reason raises a rational being to a vast superiority over all irrational creatures. Even the race of virtuous and blessed beings would admit this, whether they are, as ye say, good demons, or, as we are accustomed to call them, the angels of God, or any other natures whatever superior to that of man, since the rational faculty within them has been made perfect, and endowed with all virtuous qualities.74
But if you depreciate the littleness of man, not on account of his body, but of his soul, regarding it as inferior to that of other rational beings, and especially of those who are virtuous; and inferior, because evil dwells in it, – why should those among Christians who are wicked, and those among the Jews who lead sinful lives, be termed a collection of bats, or ants, or worms, or frogs, rather than those individuals among other nations who are guilty of wickedness? – seeing, in this respect, any individual whatever, especially if carried away by the tide of evil, is, in comparison with the rest of mankind, a bat, and worm, and frog, and ant. And although a man may be an orator like Demosthenes, yet, if stained with wickedness like his,75 and guilty of deeds proceeding, like his, from a wicked nature; or an Antiphon, who was also considered to be indeed an orator, yet who annihilated the doctrine of providence in his writings, which were entitled Concerning Truth, like that discourse of Celsus, – such individuals are notwithstanding worms, rolling in a comer of the dung-heap of stupidity and ignorance. Indeed, whatever be the nature of the rational faculty, it could not reasonably be compared to a worm, because it possesses capabilities of virtue.76 For these adumbrations77 towards virtue do not allow of those who possess the power of acquiring it, and who are incapable of wholly losing its seeds, to be likened to a worm. It appears, therefore, that neither can men in general be deemed worms in comparison with God. For reason, having its beginning in the reason of God, cannot allow of the rational animal being considered wholly alien from Deity. Nor can those among Christians and Jews who are wicked, and who, in truth, are neither Christians nor Jews, be compared, more than other wicked men, to worms rolling in a corner of a dunghill. And if the nature of reason will not permit of such comparisons, it is manifest that we must not calumniate human nature, which has been formed for virtue, even if it should sin through ignorance, nor liken it to animals of the kind described.
But if it is on account of those opinions of the Christians and Jews which displease Celsus (and which he does not at all appear to understand) that they are to be regarded as worms and ants, and the rest of mankind as different, let us examine the acknowledged opinions of Christians and Jews,78 and compare them with those of the rest of mankind, and see whether it will not appear to those who have once admitted that certain men are worms and ants, that they are the worms and ants and frogs who have fallen away from sound views of God, and, under a vain appearance of piety,79 worship either irrational animals, or images, or other objects, the works of men’s hands;80 whereas, from the beauty of such, they ought to admire the Maker of them, and worship Him: while those are indeed men, and more honourable than men (if there be anything that is so), who, in obedience to their reason, are able to ascend from stocks and stones,81 nay, even from what is reckoned the most precious of all matter – silver and gold; and who ascend up also from the beautiful things in the world to the Maker of all, and entrust themselves to Him who alone is able to satisfy82 all existing things, and to overlook the thoughts of all, and to hear the prayers of all; who send up their prayers to Him, and do all things as in the presence of Him who beholds everything, and who are careful, as in the presence of the Hearer of all things, to say nothing which might not with propriety be reported to God. Will not such piety as this – which can be overcome neither by labours, nor by the dangers of death, nor by logical plausibilities83 – be of no avail in preventing those who have obtained it from being any longer compared to worms, even if they had been so represented before their assumption of a piety so remarkable? Will they who subdue that fierce longing for sexual pleasures which has reduced the souls of many to a weak and feeble condition, and who subdue it because they are persuaded that they cannot otherwise have communion with God, unless they ascend to Him through the exercise of temperance, appear to you to be the brothers of worms, and relatives of ants, and to bear a likeness to frogs? What! is the brilliant quality of justice, which keeps inviolate the rights common to our neighbour, and our kindred, and which observes fairness, and benevolence, and goodness, of no avail in saving him who practises it from being termed a bird of the night? And are not they who wallow in dissoluteness, as do the majority of mankind, and they who associate promiscuously with common harlots, and who teach that such practices are not wholly contrary to propriety, worms who roll in mire? – especially when they are compared with those who have been taught not to take the “members of Christ,” and the body inhabited by the Word, and make them the “members of a harlot;” and who have already learned that the body of the rational being, as consecrated to the God of all things, is the temple of the God whom they worship, becoming such from the pure conceptions which they entertain of the Creator, and who also, being careful not to corrupt the temple of God by unlawful pleasure; practise temperance as constituting piety towards God!
And I have not yet spoken of the other evils which prevail amongst men, from which even those who have the appearance of philosophers are not speedily freed, for in philosophy there are many pretenders. Nor do I say anything on the point that many such evils are found to exist among those who are neither Jews nor Christians. Of a truth, such evil practices do not at all prevail among Christians, if you properly examine what constitutes a Christian. Or, if any persons of that kind should be discovered, they are at least not to be found among those who frequent the assemblies, and come to the public prayers, without their being excluded from them, unless it should happen, and that rarely, that some one individual of such a character escapes notice in the crowd. We, then, are not worms who assemble together; who take our stand against the Jews on those Scriptures which they believe to be divine, and who show that He who was spoken of in prophecy has come, and that they have been abandoned on account of the greatness of their sins, and that we who have accepted the Word have the highest hopes in God, both because of our faith in Him, and of His ability to receive us into His communion pure from all evil and wickedness of life. If a man, then, should call himself a Jew or a Christian, he would not say without qualification that God had made the whole world, and the vault of heaven84 for us in particular. But if a man is, as Jesus taught, pure in heart, and meek, and peaceful, and cheerfully submits to dangers for the sake of his religion, such an one might reasonably have confidence in God, and with a full apprehension of the word contained in the prophecies, might say this also: “All these things has God shown beforehand, and announced to us who believe.”
1 τοὺς ἀνάλογον αὐτῷ προφητικοὺς λόγους.
5 Δικαιωτής, not Δικαστής.
6 τοὺς καρποὺς τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ βασιλείας ἀποδώσουσι τῷ Θεῷ, ἐν τοῖς ἑκάστης πράξεως οὔης καρποῦ τῆς βασιλείας καιροῖς.
8 The word φύσει which is found in the text seems out of place, and has been omitted in the translation, agreeably to the emendation of Boherellus.
9 Ἆρα γὰρ ἤθελε φαντασιουμένοις τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ὑπὸ Θεοῦ, ἀπειληφότος μὲν άθρόως τὴν κακίαν, ἐμφύοντος δὲ τὴν ἀρετὴν, τὴν ἐπανόρθωσιν γενέσθαι;
10 ποῦ οὖν τὸ ἐφ ἡμῖν;
11 οἱ γὰρ ἐπὶ τὰ βέλτιστα προκαλούμενοι λόγοι, Θεοῦ αὐτοὺς δεδωκότος, εἰσὶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις.
13 Wisdom of Solomon 1:7, καὶ τὸ συνέχον τὰ πάντα γνῶσιν ἔχει φωνῆς.
14 καὶ παρὰ τοῦτ ἔλαττον ἔχειν δοκῶν.
15 καθάπερ οἱ νεόπλουτοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπιδεικτιῶντες, πολλήν τινα καὶ πάνυ θνητὴν φιλοτομίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ καταμαρτιροῦσι.
17 μετὰ τοσοῦτον αἰῶνα.
19 τὸ λογικὸν ζῶον.
20 ἐν τῇ παραδοχῇ τῆς θειότητος.
21 ἐξαίρετόν τι χρῆμα.
22 Deu_32:8, Deu_32:9 (according to the LXX.).
23 Εἰσὶ γὰρ τινες εἱρμοὶ καὶ ἀκολουθίαι ἄφατοι καὶ ἀνεκδιήγητοι περὶ τῆς κατὰ τὰς ἀνθρωπίνας ψυχὰς διαφόρου οἰκονομίας.
24 αὐτὸς ἔφα.
25 [The word “reliable” is used here. I cannot let it stand, and have supplied an English word instead].
27 τῷ παντί.
28 οὑκ ἀχρήστους. On Origen’s views respecting rewards and punishments, cf. Huet’s Origeniana, book ii. question xi.
29 οὐκ ἐπέστη.
30 δίκην βασανιστοῦ πῦρ φέρων.
31 [Note this testimony to the authorship of Koheleth, and that it is Scripture.]
32 εἰ χρη ἐπιστήσαντα τοῖς χρόνοις εἰπεῖν.
33 ἀνέπλασαν κατὰ περιόδους ταυτότητας, καὶ ἀπαραλλάκτους τοῖς ἰδίοις ποιοῖς καὶ τοῖς συμβεβηκόσιν αὐτοῖς.
34 κακίαν ἐπὶ πλεῖον χεομένην.
36 [On this figure (anthropopathy) see vol. 2. p. 363, this series.]
39 τὴν τοῦ χρυσοῦ (Ἵν οὕτως ὀνομάσω) , φύσιν τῆς ψυχῆς, ἢ τὴν ἀργύρου, δολωσάντων.
40 οὐκ ἀχρήστους. On Origen’s veiws respecting rewards and punishments, cf. Heut’s Origeniana, book ii. question xi.
41 Ὀ Θεὸς ἀγαθός ἐστι, καὶ καλός, καὶ εὐδαίμων, καὶ ἐν τῷ καλλίστῳ καὶ ἀρίστῳ.
43 τῆ προνοίᾳ καὶ τῇ οἰκονομίᾳ.
45 The reading in the text is, ἐπὶ μέρους γίνεται αὐτῆς, which is thus corrected by Guietus: ἐπιμερὴς γίνεται αὐτὸς.
46 [Gieseler cites this chapter (and cap. xix. infra) to show that Origen taught that the Logos did not assume a human body. Could words be stronger to the contrary? “He becomes, as it were, flesh,” is used below to guard against transmutation.]
50 [The transfiguration did not conflict with his mortal nature, nor the incarnation with his immortality.]
51 τί ἀκολουθεῖ.
52 [Such are the accomodations reflected upon by Gieseler. See book iii. cap. lxxix..]
53 τί ἄτοπον.
54 ὅμως δ ἀπολογησόμεθα, ὅτι οὐ φῂς, ὦ Κέλσε, ὡς ἐν φαρμάκου μοίρᾳ τοτὲ δίδοται χρῆσθαι τῷ πλανᾷν καὶ ψεύδεσθαι.
55 προηγουμένως, ἀλλ· ἐκ περιστάσεως.
56 cf. Plato in the Timaeus, and book iii., de Legibus.
58 Ἐπὰν τὸ προκείμενον ᾖ παραστῆσαι καὶ τὰ τῆς κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἱσνορίας τίνα ἔχοι λόγον, καὶ τὰ τῆς περὶ αὐτοῦ ἀναγωγῆς.
59 Otus and Ephialtes. cf. Smith’s Dict. of Myth. and Biog., s.v.
60 cf. Hom., Odyss., xi. 305.
61 [Demonstrated by Justin, vol. 1. pp. 277, 278, this series.]
64 Θεῖόν τι καὶ ἱερὸν χρῆμα γεγονέναι τὸν Ἰησοῦν.
65 οὐδ ἀποκατασταθήσονται. [A very bold and confident assertion this must have seemed sixteen hundred years ago.]
66 καὶ ἁρμόζοντας τῇ πανταχοῦ καθεστώσῃ πολιτείᾳ.
67 ὑπὸ οἰκείων καὶ ὁμοήθων.
68 τὴν οὐράνιον φοράν.
72 οὐκ ἐν σώματι κρίνεται.
73 γύπες; γρύπες?
74 καὶ κατὰ πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν πεποίωται.
75 The allusion may possibly be to his flight from the field of Chaeronea, or to his avarice, or to the alleged impurity of his life, which is referred to by Plutarch in his Lives of the Ten Orators. – Spencer.
76 ἀφορμὰς ἔχον πρὸς ἀρετήν.
78 τὰ αὐτόθεν πᾶσι προφαινόμενα δόγματα Χριστιανῶν καὶ Ἰουδαίων.
79 φαντασίᾳ δ εὐσεβείας.
80 ἢ καὶ τὰ δημιουργήματα.
81 λίθων καὶ ξύλων.
83 ὑπὸ λογικῶν πιθανοτήτων.
84 την οὐράνιον φοράν.