Book VII. (C0nt.)
If, then, the whole earth has been cursed in the deeds of Adam and of those who died in him, it is plain that all parts of the earth share in the curse, and among others the land of Judea; so that the words, “a good land and a large, a land flowing with milk and honey, cannot apply to it, although we may say of it, that both Judea and Jerusalem were the shadow and figure of that pure land, goodly and large, in the pure region of heaven, in which is the heavenly Jerusalem. And it is in reference to this Jerusalem that the apostle spoke, as one who, “being risen with Christ, and seeking those things which are above,” had found a truth which formed no part of the Jewish mythology. “Ye are come,” says he, “unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” (Heb_12:22) And in order to be assured that our explanation of “the good and large land” of Moses is not contrary to the intention of the Divine Spirit, we have only to read in all the prophets what they say of those who, after having left Jerusalem, and wandered astray from it, should afterwards return and be settled in the place which is called the habitation and city of God, as in the words, “His dwelling is in the holy place;”12 and, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness, beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” (Psa_48:1, Psa_48:2) It is enough at present to quote the words of the thirty-seventh Psalm, which speaks thus of the land of the righteous, “Those that wait upon the Lord they shall inherit the earth;” and a little after, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace;” and again, “Those who bless Him shall inherit the earth;” and, “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.” (Psa_37:9, Psa_37:11, Psa_37:22, Psa_37:29, Psa_37:34) And consider whether it is not evident to intelligent readers that the following words from this same Psalm refer to the pure land in the pure heaven: “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way; and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land.”
It seems to me also that the fancy of Plato, that those stones which we call precious stones derive their lustre from a reflection, as it were, of the stones in that better land, is taken from the words of Isaiah in describing the city of God, “I will make thy battlements of jasper, thy stones shall be crystal, and thy borders of precious stones;” (Isa_54:12, Isa_54:11) and, “I will lay thy foundations with sapphires.” Those who hold in greatest reverence the teaching of Plato, explain this myth of his as an allegory. And the prophecies from which, as we conjecture, Plato has borrowed, will be explained by those who, leading a godly life like that of the prophets, devote all their time to the study of the sacred Scriptures, to those who are qualified to learn by purity of life, and their desire to advance in divine knowledge. For our part, our purpose has been simply to say that what we affirm of that sacred land has not been taken from Plato or any of the Greeks, but that they rather – living as they did not only after Moses, who was the oldest, but even after most of the prophets – borrowed from them, and in so doing either misunderstood their obscure intimations on such subjects, or else endeavoured, in their allusions to the better land, to imitate those portions of Scripture which had fallen into their hands. Haggai expressly makes a distinction between the earth and the dry land, meaning by the latter the land in which we live. He says: “Yet once, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the dry land, and the sea.” (Hag_2:6)
Referring to the passage in the Phaedon of Plato, Celsus says: “It is not easy for every one to understand the meaning of Plato’s words, when he says that on account of our weakness and slowness we are unable to reach the highest region of the air; but that if our nature were capable of so sublime a contemplation, we would then be able to understand that that is the true heaven, and that the true light.” As Celsus has deferred to another opportunity the explanation of Plato’s idea, we also think that it does not fall within our purpose at present to enter into any full description of that holy and good land, and of the city of God which is in it; but reserve the consideration of it for our Commentary on the Prophets, having already in part, according to our power, treated of the city of God in our remarks on the forty-sixth and forty-eighth Psalms. The writings of Moses and the prophets – the most ancient of all books – teach us that all things here on earth which are in common use among men, have other things corresponding to them in name which are alone real. Thus, for instance, there is the true light, and another heaven beyond the firmament, and a Sun of righteousness other than the sun we see. In a word, to distinguish those things from the objects of sense, which have no true reality, they say of God that “His works are truth;” (Dan_4:37) thus making a distinction between the works of God and the works of God’s hands, which latter are of an inferior sort. Accordingly, God in Isaiah complains of men, that “they regard not the works of the Lord, nor consider the operation of His hands.” (Isa_5:12) But enough on this point.
Celsus next assails the doctrine of the resurrection, which is a high and difficult doctrine, and one which more than others requires a high and advanced degree of wisdom to set forth how worthy it is of God; and how sublime a truth it is which teaches us that there is a seminal principle lodged in that which Scripture speaks of as the “tabernacle” of the soul, in which the righteous “do groan, being burdened, not for that they would be unclothed, but clothed upon.” (2Co_5:1, 2Co_5:4) Celsus ridicules this doctrine because he does not understand it, and because he has learnt it from ignorant persons, who were unable to support it on any reasonable grounds. It will be profitable, therefore, that in addition to what we have said above, we should make this one remark. Our teaching on the subject of the resurrection is not, as Celsus imagines, derived from anything that we have heard on the doctrine of metempsychosis; but we know that the soul, which is immaterial and invisible in its nature, exists in no material place, without having a body suited to the nature of that place. Accordingly, it at one time puts off one body which was necessary before, but which is no longer adequate in its changed state, and it exchanges it for a second; and at another time it assumes another in addition to the former, which is needed as a better covering, suited to the purer ethereal regions of heaven. When it comes into the world at birth, it casts off the integuments which it needed in the womb; and before doing this, it puts on another body suited for its life upon earth. Then, again, as there is “a tabernacle” and “an earthly house” which is in some sort necessary for this tabernacle, Scripture teaches us that “the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved,” but that the tabernacle shall “be clothed upon with a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2Co_5:1) The men of God say also that “the corruptible shall put on incorruption,” (1Co_15:53) which is a different thing from “the incorruptible;” and “the mortal shall put on immortality,” which is different from “the immortal.” Indeed, what “wisdom” is to “the wise,” and “justice” to “the just,” and “peace” to “the peaceable,” the same relation does “incorruption” hold to “the incorruptible,” and “immortality” to “the immortal.” Behold, then, to what a prospect Scripture encourages us to look, when it speaks to us of being clothed with incorruption and immortality, which are, as it were, vestments which will not suffer those who are covered with them to come to corruption or death. Thus far I have taken the liberty of referring to this subject, in answer to one who assails the doctrine of the resurrection without understanding it, and who, simply because he knew nothing about it, made it the object of contempt and ridicule.
As Celsus supposes that we uphold the doctrine of the resurrection in order that we may see and know God, he thus follows out his notions on the subject: “After they have been utterly refuted and vanquished, they still, as if regardless of all objections, come back again to the same question, ‘How then shall we see and know God? how shall we go to Him?’” Let any, however, who are disposed to hear us observe, that if we have need of a body for other purposes, as for occupying a material locality to which this body must be adapted, and if on that account the “tabernacle” is clothed in the way we have shown, we have no need of a body in order to know God. For that which sees God is not the eye of the body; it is the mind which is made in the image of the Creator,13 and which God has in His providence rendered capable of that knowledge. To see God belongs to the pure heart, out of which no longer proceed “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, the evil eye,” (Mat_15:19, Mat_6:23) or any other evil thing. Wherefore it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mat_5:8) But as the strength of our will is not sufficient to procure the perfectly pure heart, and as we need that God should create it, he therefore who prays as he ought, offers this petition to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Psa_51:10)
And we do not ask the question, “How shall we go to God?” as though we thought that God existed in some place. God is of too excellent a nature for any place: He holds all things in His power, and is Himself not confined by anything whatever. The precept, therefore, “Thou shall walk after the Lord thy God,” (Deu_13:4) does not command a bodily approach to God; neither does the prophet refer to physical nearness to God, when he says in his prayer, “My soul followeth hard after Thee.” (Psa_63:8) Celsus therefore misrepresents us, when he says that we expect to see God with our bodily eyes, to hear Him with our ears, and to touch Him sensibly with our hands. We know that the holy Scriptures make mention of eyes, of ears, and of hands, which have nothing but the name in common with the bodily organs; and what is more wonderful, they speak of a diviner sense, which is very different from the senses as commonly spoken of. For when the prophet says, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law,” (Psa_119:18) or, “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes,” (Psa_19:8) or, “Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,” (Psa_13:3) no one is so foolish as to suppose that the eyes of the body behold the wonders of the divine law, or that the law of the Lord gives light to the bodily eyes, or that the sleep of death falls on the eyes of the body. When our Saviour says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” (Mat_13:9) any one will understand that the ears spoken of are of a diviner kind. When it is said that the word of the Lord was “in the hand” of Jeremiah or of some other prophet; or when the expression is used, “the law by the hand of Moses,” or, “I sought the Lord with my hands, and was not deceived, (Psalm 77:2, LXX) – no one is so foolish as not to see that the word “hands” is taken figuratively, as when John says, “Our hands have handled the Word of life.” (1Jo_1:1) And if you wish further to learn from the sacred writings that there is a diviner sense than the senses of the body, you have only to hear what Solomon says, “Thou shalt find a divine sense.”14
Seeking God, then, in this way, we have no need to visit the oracles of Trophonius, of Amphiaraus, and of Mopsus, to which Celsus would send us, assuring us that we would there “see the gods in human form, appearing to us with all distinctness, and without illusion.” For we know that these are demons, feeding on the blood, and smoke, and odour of victims, and shut up by their base desires in prisons, which the Greeks call temples of the gods, but which we know are only the dwellings of deceitful demons. To this Celsus maliciously adds, in regard to these gods which, according to him, are in human form, “they do not show themselves for once, or at intervals, like him who has deceived men, but they are ever open to intercourse with those who desire it.” From this remark, it would seem that Celsus supposes that the appearance of Christ to His disciples after His resurrection was like that of a spectre flitting before their eyes; whereas these gods, as he calls them, in human shape always present themselves to those who desire it. But how is it possible that a phantom which, as he describes it, flew past to deceive the beholders, could produce such effects after it had passed away, and could so turn the hearts of men as to lead them to regulate their actions according to the will of God, as in view of being hereafter judged by Him? And how could a phantom drive away demons, and show other indisputable evidences of power, and that not in any one place, like these so-called gods in human form, but making its divine power felt through the whole world, in drawing and congregating together all who are found disposed to lead a good and noble life?
After these remarks of Celsus, which we have endeavoured to answer as we could, he goes on to say, speaking of us: “Again they will ask, ‘How can we know God, unless by the perception of the senses? for how otherwise than through the senses are we able to gain any knowledge?’” To this he replies: “This is not the language of a man; it comes not from the soul, but from the flesh. Let them hearken to us, if such a spiritless and carnal race are able to do so: if, instead of exercising the senses, you look upwards with the soul; if, turning away the eye of the body, you open the eye of the mind thus and thus only will you be able to see God. And if you seek one to be your guide along this way, you must shun all deceivers and jugglers, who will introduce you to phantoms. Otherwise you will be acting the most ridiculous part, if, whilst you pronounce imprecations upon those others that are recognised as gods, treating them as idols, you yet do homage to a more wretched idol than any of these, which indeed is not even an idol or a phantom, but a dead man, and you seek a father like to him.” The first remark which we have to make on this passage is in regard to his use of personification, by which he makes us in defend in this way the doctrine of the resurrection. This figure of speech is properly employed when the character and sentiments of the person introduced are faithfully preserved; but it is an abuse of the figure when these do not agree with the character and opinions of the speaker. Thus we should justly condemn a man who put into the mouths of barbarians, slaves, or uneducated people the language of philosophy; because we know that the philosophy belonged to the author, and not to such persons, who could not know anything of philosophy. And in like manner we should condemn a man for introducing persons who are represented as wise and well versed in divine knowledge, and should make them give expression to language which could only come out of the mouths of those who are ignorant or under the influence of vulgar passions. Hence Homer is admired, among other things, for preserving a consistency of character in his heroes, as in Nestor, Ulysses, Diomede, Agamemnon, Telemachus, Penelope, and the rest. Euripides, on the contrary, was assailed in the comedies of Aristophanes as a frivolous talker, often putting into the mouth of a barbarian woman, a wretched slave, the wise maxims which he had learned from Anaxagoras or some other philosophers.
Now if this is a true account of what constitutes the right and the wrong use of personification, have we not grounds for holding Celsus up to ridicule for thus ascribing to Christians words which they never uttered? For if those whom he represents as speaking are the unlearned, how is it possible that such persons could distinguish between “sense” and “reason,” between “objects of sense” and “objects of the reason?” To argue in this way, they would require to have studied under the Stoics, who deny all intellectual existences, and maintain that all that we apprehend is apprehended through the senses, and that all knowledge comes through the senses. But if, on the other hand, he puts these words into the mouth of philosophers who search carefully into the meaning of Christian doctrines, the statements in question do not agree with their character and principles. For no one who has learnt that God is invisible, and that certain of His works are invisible, that is to say, apprehended by the reason,15 can say, as if to justify his faith in a resurrection, “How can they know God, except by the perception of the senses?” or, “How otherwise than through the senses can they gain any knowledge?” For it is not in any secret writings, perused only by a few wise men, but in such as are most widely diffused and most commonly known among the people, that these words are written: “The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” (Rom_1:20) From whence it is to be inferred, that though men who live upon the earth have to begin with the use of the senses upon sensible objects, in order to go on from them to a knowledge of the nature of things intellectual, yet their knowledge must not stop short with the objects of sense. And thus, while Christians would not say that it is impossible to have a knowledge of intellectual objects without the senses, but rather that the senses supply the first means of obtaining knowledge, they might well ask the question, “Who can gain any knowledge without the senses?” without deserving the abuse of Celsus, when he adds, “This is not the language of a man; it comes not from the soul, but from the flesh.”
Since we hold that the great God is in essence simple, invisible, and incorporeal, Himself pure intelligence, or something transcending intelligence and existence, we can never say that God is apprehended by any other means than through the intelligence which is formed in His image, though now, in the words of Paul, “we see in a glass obscurely, but then face to face.” (1Co_13:12) And if we use the expression “face to face,” let no one pervert its meaning; but let it be explained by this passage, “Beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory,” which shows that we do not use the word in this connection to mean the visible face, but take it figuratively, in the same way as we have shown that the eyes, the ears, and the other parts of the body are employed. And it is certain that a man – I mean a soul using a body, otherwise called “the inner man,” or simply “the soul” – would answer, not as Celsus makes us answer, but as the man of God himself teaches. It is certain also that a Christian will not make use of “the language of the flesh,” having learnt as he has “to mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom_8:13) by the spirit, and “to bear about in his body the dying of Jesus;” (2Co_4:10) and “mortify your members which are on the earth,” (Col_3:5) and with a true knowledge of these words, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh,” (Gen_6:3) and again, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God,” (Rom_8:8) he strives in every way to live no longer according to the flesh, but only according to the Spirit.
Now let us hear what it is that he invites us to learn, that we may ascertain from him how we are to know God, although he thinks that his words are beyond the capacity of all Christians. “Let them hear,” says he, “if they are able to do so.” We have then to consider what the philosopher wishes us to hear from him. But instead of instructing us as he ought, he abuses us; and while he should have shown his goodwill to those whom he addresses at the outset of his discourse, he stigmatizes as “a cowardly race” men who would rather die than abjure Christianity even by a word, and who are ready to suffer every form of torture, or any kind of death. He also applies to us that epithet “carnal” or “flesh-indulging,” “although,” as we are wont to say, “we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth we know Him no more,” (2Co_5:16) and although we are so ready to lay down our lives for the cause of religion, that no philosopher could lay aside his robes more readily. He then addresses to us these words: “If, instead of exercising your senses, you look upwards with the soul; if, turning away the eye of the body, you open the eye of the mind, thus and thus only you will be able to see God.” He is not aware that this reference to the two eyes, the eye of the body and the eye of the mind, which he has borrowed from the Greeks, was in use among our own writers; for Moses, in his account of the creation of the world, introduces man before his transgression as both seeing and not seeing: seeing, when it is said of the woman, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise;” (Gen_3:6) and again not seeing, as when he introduces the serpent saying to the woman, as if she and her husband had been blind, “God knows that on the day that ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened;” (Gen_3:5) and also when it is said, “They did eat, and the eyes of both of them were opened.” (Gen_3:7) The eyes of sense were then opened, which they had done well to keep shut, that they might not be distracted, and hindered from seeing with the eyes of the mind; and it was those eyes of the mind which in consequence of sin, as I imagine, were then closed, with which they had up to that time enjoyed the delight of beholding God and His paradise. This twofold kind of vision in us was familiar to our Saviour, who says,” For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not, might see, and that they which see might be made blind,” (Joh_9:39) – meaning, by the eyes that see not; the eyes of the mind, which are enlightened by His teaching; and the eyes which see are the eyes of sense, which His words do render blind, in order that the soul may look without distraction upon proper objects. All true Christians therefore have the eye of the mind sharpened, and the eye of sense closed; so that each one, according to the degree in which his better eye is quickened, and the eye of sense darkened, sees and knows the Supreme God, and His Son, who is the Word, Wisdom, and so forth.
Next to the remarks of Celsus on which we have already commented, come others which he addresses to all Christians, but which, if applicable to any, ought to be addressed to persons whose doctrines differ entirely from those taught by Jesus. For it is the Ophians who, as we have before shown,16 have utterly renounced Jesus, and perhaps some others of similar opinions who are “the impostors and jugglers, leading men away to idols and phantoms;” and it is they who with miserable pains learn off the names of the heavenly doorkeepers. These words are therefore quite inappropriate as addressed to Christians: “If you seek one to be your guide along this way, you must shun all deceivers and jugglers, who will introduce you to phantoms.” And, as though quite unaware that these impostors entirely agree with him, and are not behind him in speaking ill of Jesus and His religion, he thus continues, confounding us with them: “otherwise you will be acting the most ridiculous part, if, whilst you pronounce imprecations upon those other recognised gods, treating them as idols, you yet do homage to a more wretched idol than any of these, which indeed is not even an idol or a phantom, but a dead man, and you seek a father like to himself.” That he is ignorant of the wide difference between our opinions and those of the inventors of these fables, and that he imagines the charges which he makes against them applicable to us, is evident from the following passage: “For the sake of such a monstrous delusion, and in support of those wonderful advisers, and those wonderful words which you address to the lion, to the amphibious creature, to the creature in the form of an ass, and to others, for the sake of those divine doorkeepers whose names you commit to memory with such pains, in such a cause as this you suffer cruel tortures, and perish at the stake.” Surely, then, he is unaware that none of those who regard beings in the form of an ass a lion, or an amphibious animal, as the doorkeepers or guides on the way to heaven, ever expose themselves to death in defence of that which they think the truth. That excess of zeal, if it may be so called, which leads us for the sake of religion to submit to every kind of death, and to perish at the stake, is ascribed by Celsus to those who endure no such sufferings; and he reproaches us who suffer crucifixion for our faith, with believing in fabulous creatures – in the lion, the amphibious animal, and other such monsters. If we reject all these fables, it is not out of deference to Celsus, for we have never at any time held any such fancies; but it is in accordance with the teaching of Jesus that we oppose all such notions, and will not allow to Michael, or to any others that have been referred to, a form and figure of that sort.
But let us consider who those persons are whose guidance Celsus would have us to follow, so that we may not be in want of guides who are recommended both by their antiquity and sanctity. He refers us to divinely inspired poets, as he calls them, to wise men and philosophers, without mentioning their names; so that, after promising to point out those who should guide us, he simply hands us over in a general way to divinely inspired poets, wise men, and philosophers. If he had specified their names in particular, we should have felt ourselves bound to show him that he wished to give us as guides men who were blinded to the truth, and who must therefore lead us into error; or that if not wholly blinded, yet they are in error in many matters of belief. But whether Orpheus, Parmenides, Empedocles, or even Homer himself, and Hesiod, are the persons whom he means by “inspired poets,” let any one show how those who follow their guidance walk in a better way, or lead a more excellent life, than those who, being taught in the school of Jesus Christ, have rejected all images and statues, and even all Jewish superstition, that they may look upward through the Word of God to the one God, who is the Father of the Word. Who, then, are those wise men and philosophers from whom Celsus would have us to learn so many divine truths, and for whom we are to give up Moses the servant of God, the prophets of the Creator of the world, who have spoken so many things by a truly divine inspiration, and even Him who has given light and taught the way of piety to the whole human race, so that no one can reproach Him if he remains without a share in the knowledge of His mysteries? Such, indeed, was the abounding love which He had for men, that He gave to the more learned a theology capable of raising the soul far above all earthly things; while with no less consideration He comes down to the weaker capacities of ignorant men, of simple women, of slaves, and, in short, of all those who from Jesus alone could have received that help for the better regulation of their lives which is supplied by his instructions in regard to the Divine Being, adapted to their wants and capacities.
Celsus next refers us to Plato as to a more effective teacher of theological truth, and quotes the following passage from the Timaeus: “It is a hard matter to find out the Maker and Father of this universe; and after having found Him, it is impossible to make Him known to all.” To which he himself adds this remark: “You perceive, then, how divine men seek after the way of truth, and how well Plato knew that it was impossible for all men to walk in it. But as wise men have found it for the express purpose of being able to convey to us some notion of Him who is the first, the unspeakable Being, – a notion, namely; which may represent Him to us through the medium of other objects, – they endeavour either by synthesis, which is the combining of various qualities, or by analysis, which is the separation and setting aside of some qualities, or finally by analogy; – in these ways, I say, they endeavour to set before us that which it is impossible to express in words. I should therefore be surprised if you could follow in that course, since you are so completely wedded to the flesh as to be incapable of seeing ought but what is impure.” These words of Plato are noble and admirable; but see if Scripture does not give us an example of a regard for mankind still greater in God the Word, who was “in the beginning with God,” and “who was made flesh,” in order that He might reveal to all men truths which, according to Plato, it would be impossible to make known to all men, even after he had found them himself. Plato may say that “it is a hard thing to find out the Creator and Father of this universe;” by which language he implies that it is not wholly beyond the power of human nature to attain to such a knowledge as is either worthy of God, or if not, is far beyond that which is commonly attained (although if it were true that Plato or any other of the Greeks had found God, they would never have given homage and worship, or ascribed the name of God, to any other than to Him: they would have abandoned all others, and would not have associated with this great God objects which can have nothing in common with Him).17 For ourselves, we maintain that human nature is in no way able to seek after God, or to attain a clear knowledge of Him without the help of Him whom it seeks. He makes Himself known to those who, after doing all that their powers will allow, confess that they need help from Him, who discovers Himself to those whom He approves, in so far as it is possible for man and the soul still dwelling in the body to know God.
Observe that when Plato says, that “after having found out the Creator and Father of the universe, it is impossible to make Him known to all men,” he does not speak of Him as unspeakable, and as incapable of being expressed in words. On the contrary, he implies that He may be spoken of, and that there are a few to whom He may be made known. But Celsus, as if forgetting the language which he had just quoted from Plato, immediately gives God the name of “the unspeakable.” He says: “since the wise men have found out this way, in order to be able to give us some idea of the First of Beings, who is unspeakable.” For ourselves, we hold that not God alone is unspeakable, but other things also which are inferior to Him. Such are the things which Paul labours to express when he says, “I heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter,” (2Co_12:4) where the word “heard” is used in the sense of “understood;” as in the passage, “He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” We also hold that it is a hard matter to see the Creator and Father of the universe; but it is possible to see Him in the way thus referred to, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;” (Mat_5:8) and not only so, but also in the sense of the words of Him “who is the image of the invisible God; “He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father who sent Me.” (Joh_14:9) No sensible person could suppose that these last words were spoken in reference to His bodily presence, which was open to the view of all; otherwise all those who said, “Crucify him, crucify him,” and Pilate, who had power over the humanity of Jesus, were among those who saw God the Father, which is absurd. Moreover, that these words, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father who sent Me,” are not to be taken in their grosser sense, is plain from the answer which He gave to Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet dost thou not know Me, Philip?” after Philip had asked, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” He, then, who perceives how these words, “The Word was made flesh,” are to be understood of the only-begotten Son of God, the first-born of all creation, will also understand how, in seeing the image of the invisible God, we see “the Creator and Father of the universe.”
Celsus supposes that we may arrive at a knowledge of God either by combining or separating certain things after the methods which mathematicians call synthesis and analysis, or again by analogy, which is employed by them also, and that in this way we may as it were gain admission to the chief good. But when the Word of God says, “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him,” (Mat_11:27) He declares that no one can know God but by the help of divine grace coming from above, with a certain divine inspiration. Indeed, it is reasonable to suppose that the knowledge of God is beyond the reach of human nature, and hence the many errors into which men have fallen in their views of God. It is, then, through the goodness and love of God to mankind, and by a marvellous exercise of divine grace to those whom He saw in His foreknowledge, and knew that they would walk worthy of Him who had made Himself known to them, and that they would never swerve from a faithful attachment to His service, although they were condemned to death or held up to ridicule by those who, in ignorance of what true religion is, give that name to what deserves to be called anything rather than religion. God doubtless saw the pride and arrogance of those who, with contempt for all others, boast of their knowledge of God, and of their profound acquaintance with divine things obtained from philosophy, but who still, not less even than the most ignorant, run after their images, and temples, and famous mysteries; and seeing this, He “has chosen the foolish things of this world” (1Co_1:27) – the simplest of Christians, who lead, however, a life of greater moderation and purity than many philosophers – “to confound the wise,” who are not ashamed to address inanimate things as gods or images of the gods. For what reasonable man can refrain from smiling when he sees that one who has learned from philosophy such profound and noble sentiments about God or the gods, turns straightway to images and offers to them his prayers, or imagines that by gazing upon these material things he can ascend from the visible symbol to that which is spiritual and immaterial.18 But a Christian, even of the common people, is assured that every place forms part of the universe, and that the whole universe is God’s temple. In whatever part of the world he is, he prays; but he rises above the universe, “shutting the eyes of sense, and raising upwards the eyes of the soul.” And he stops not at the vault of heaven; but passing in thought beyond the heavens, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and having thus as it were gone beyond the visible universe, he offers prayers to God. But he prays for no trivial blessings, for he has learnt from Jesus to seek for nothing small or mean, that is, sensible objects, but to ask only for what is great and truly divine; and these things God grants to us, to lead us to that blessedness which is found only with Him through His Son, the Word, who is God.
But let us see further what the things are which he proposes to teach us, if indeed we can comprehend them, since he speaks of us as being “utterly wedded to the flesh;” although if we live well, and in accordance with the teaching of Jesus, we hear this said of us: “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” (Rom_8:9) He says also that we look upon nothing that is pure, although our endeavour is to keep even our thoughts free from all defilement of sin, and although in prayer we say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psa_51:10) so that we may behold Him with that “pure heart” to which alone is granted the privilege of seeing Him. This, then, is what he proposes for our instruction: “Things are either intelligible, which we call substance – being; or visible, which we call becoming:19 with the former is truth; from the latter arises error. Truth is the object of knowledge; truth and error form opinion. Intelligible objects are known by the reason, visible objects by the eyes; the action of the reason is called intelligent perception, that of the eyes vision. As, then, among visible things the sun is neither the eye nor vision, but that which enables the eye to see, and renders vision possible, and in consequence of it visible things are seen, all sensible things exist and itself is rendered visible; so among things intelligible, that which is neither reason, nor intelligent perception, nor knowledge, is yet the cause which enables the reason to know, which renders intelligent perception possible; and in consequence of it knowledge arises, all things intelligible, truth itself and substance have their existence; and itself, which is above all these things, becomes in some ineffable way intelligible. These things are offered to the consideration of the intelligent; and if even you can understand any of them, it is well. And if you think that a Divine Spirit has descended from God to announce divine things to men, it is doubtless this same Spirit that reveals these truths, and it was under the same influence that men of old made known many important truths. But if you cannot comprehend these things, then keep silence; do not expose your own ignorance, and do not accuse of blindness those who see, or of lameness those who run, while you yourselves are utterly lamed and mutilated in mind, and lead a merely animal life – the life of the body, which is the dead part of our nature.”
We are careful not to oppose fair arguments even if they proceed from those who are not of our faith; we strive not to be captious, or to seek to overthrow any sound reasonings. But here we have to reply to those who slander the character of persons wishing to do their best in the service of God, who accepts the faith which the meanest place in Him, as well as the more refined and intelligent piety of the learned; seeing that both alike address to the Creator of the world their prayers and thanksgivings through the High Priest who has set before men the nature of pure religion. We say, then, that those who are stigmatized as “lamed and mutilated in spirit,” as “living only for the sake of the body which is dead,” are persons whose endeavour it is to say with sincerity: “For though we live20 in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God.” It is for those who throw out such vile accusations against men who desire to be God’s servants, to beware lest, by the calumnies which they cast upon others who strive to live well, they “lame” their own souls, and “mutilate” the inner man, by severing from it that justice and moderation of mind which the Creator has planted in the nature of all His rational creatures. As for those, however, who, along with other lessons given by the Divine Word, have learned and practised this, “when reviled to bless, when persecuted to endure, when defamed to entreat,” (1Co_4:12, 1Co_4:13) they may be said to be walking in spirit in the ways of uprightness, to be purifying and setting in order the whole soul. They distinguish – and to them the distinction is not one of words merely – between “substance,” or that which is, and that which is “becoming;” between things apprehended by reason, and things apprehended by sense; and they connect truth with the one, and avoid the errors arising out of the other; looking, as they have been taught, not at the things “becoming” or phenomenal, which are seen, and therefore temporary, but at better things than these, whether we call them “substance,” or “spiritual” things, as being apprehended by reason, or “invisible,” because they lie out of the reach of the senses. The disciples of Jesus regard these phenomenal things only that they may use them as steps to ascend to the knowledge of the things of reason. For “the invisible things of God,” that is, the objects of the reason, “from the creation of the world are clearly seen” by the reason, “being understood by the things that are made.” And when they have risen from the created things of this world to the invisible things of God, they do not stay there; but after they have sufficiently exercised their minds upon these, and have understood their nature, they ascend to “the eternal power of God,” in a word, to His divinity. For they know that God, in His love to men, has “manifested” His truth, and “that which is known of Him,” not only to those who devote themselves to His service, but also to some who are far removed from the purity of worship and service which He requires; and that some of those who by the providence of God had attained a knowledge of them truths, were yet doing things unworthy of, that knowledge, and “holding the truth in unrighteousness,” and who are unable to find any excuse before God after the knowledge of such great truths which He has given them.
For Scripture testifies, in regard to those who have a knowledge of those things of which Celsus speaks, and who profess a philosophy founded on these principles, that they, “when they knew God, glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations;” and notwithstanding the bright light of knowledge with which God had enlightened them, “their foolish heart” was carried away, and became “darkened.” (Rom_1:21) Thus we may see how those who accounted themselves wise gave proofs of great folly, when, alter such grand arguments delivered in the schools on God and on things apprehended by the reason, they “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” (Rom_1:23) As, then, they lived in a way unworthy of the knowledge which they had received from God, His providence leaving them to themselves, they were given “up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonour their own bodies,” (Rom_1:24, Rom_1:25) in shamelessness and licentiousness, because they “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.”
But those who are despised for their ignorance, and set down as fools and abject slaves, no sooner commit themselves to God’s guidance by accepting the teaching of Jesus, than, so far from defiling themselves by licentious indulgence or the gratification of shameless passion, they in many cases, like perfect priests, for whom such pleasures have no charm, keep themselves in act and in thought in a state of virgin purity. The Athenians have one hierophant, who, not having confidence in his power to restrain his passions within the limits he, prescribed for himself, determined to check them at their seat by the application of hemlock; and thus he was accounted pure, and fit for the celebration of religious worship among the Athenians. But among Christians may be found men who have no need of hemlock to fit them for the pure service of God, and for whom the Word in place of hemlock is able to drive all evil desires from their thoughts, so that they may present their prayers to the Divine Being. And attached to the other so-called gods are a select number of virgins, who are guarded by men, or it may be not guarded (for that is not the point in question at present), and who are supposed to live in purity for the honour of the god they serve. But among Christians, those who maintain a perpetual virginity do so for no human honours, for no fee or reward, from no motive of vainglory;21 but “as they choose to retain God in their knowledge,” (Rom_1:28) they are preserved by God in a spirit well-pleasing to Him, and in the discharge of every duty, being filled with all righteousness and goodness.
What I have now said, then, is offered not for the purpose of cavilling with any right opinions or sound doctrines held even by Greeks, but with the desire of showing that the same things, and indeed much better and diviner things than these, have been said by those divine men, the prophets of God and the apostles of Jesus. These truths are fully investigated by all who wish to attain a perfect knowledge of Christianity, and who know that “the mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment; the law of his God is in his heart.” (Psa_37:30, Psa_37:31) But even in regard to those who, either from deficiency or knowledge or want of inclination, or from not having Jesus to lead them to a rational view of religion, have not gone into these deep questions, we find that they believe in the Most High God, and in His Only-begotten Son, the Word and God, and that they often exhibit in their character a high degree of gravity, of purity, and integrity; while those who call themselves wise have despised these virtues, and have wallowed in the filth of sodomy, in lawless lust, “men with men working that which is unseemly.” (Rom_1:27)
Celsus has not explained how error accompanies the “becoming,” or product of generation; nor has he expressed himself with sufficient clearness to enable us to compare his ideas with ours, and to pass judgment on them. But the prophets, who have given some wise suggestions on the subject of things produced by generation, tell us that a sacrifice for sin was offered even for new-born infants, as not being free from sin.22 They say, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” (Psa_51:5) also, “They are estranged from the womb;” which is followed by the singular expression, “They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” (Psa_58:3) Besides, our wise men have such a contempt for all sensible objects, that sometimes they speak of all material things as vanity: thus, “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope;” (Rom_8:20) at other times as vanity of vanities, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.” (Ecc_1:2) Who has given so severe an estimate of the life of the human soul here on earth, as he who says: “Verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity?” (Psa_39:5) He does not hesitate at all as to the difference between the present life of the soul and that which it is to lead hereafter. He does not say, “Who knows if to die is not to live, and if to live is not death”23 But he boldly proclaims the truth, and says, “Our soul is bowed down to the dust;” (Psa_44:25) and, “Thou hast brought me into the dust of death;” (Psa_22:15) and similarly, “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom_7:24) also, “Who will change the body of our humiliation.” (Phi_3:21) It is a prophet also who says, “Thou hast brought us down in a place of affliction;” (Psalm 43:20, LXX) meaning by the “place of affliction” this earthly region, to which Adam, that is to say, man, came after he was driven out of paradise for sin. Observe also how well the different life of the soul here and hereafter has been recognised by him who says, “Now we see in a glass, obscurely, but then face to face;” (1Co_13:12) and, “Whilst we are in our home in the body, we are away from our home in the Lord;” wherefore “we are well content to go from our home in the body, and to come to our home with the Lord.” (2Co_5:6, 2Co_5:8)
But what need is there to quote any more passages against Celsus, in order to prove that his words contain nothing which was not said long before among themselves, since that has been sufficiently established by what we have said? It seems that what follows has some reference to this: “If you think that a Divine Spirit has descended from God to announce divine things to men, it is doubtless this same Spirit that reveals these truths; and it was under the same influence that men of old made known many important truths.” But he does not know how great is the difference between those things and the clear and certain teaching of those who say to us, “Thine incorruptible spirit is in all things, wherefore God chasteneth them by little and little that offend;” (Wisdom of Solomon 12:1, 2) and of those who, among their other instructions, teach us that words, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” (Joh_20:22) refer to a degree of spiritual influence higher than that in the passage, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Act_1:5) But it is a difficult matter, even after much careful consideration, to perceive the difference between those who have received a knowledge of the truth and a notion of God at different intervals and for short periods of time, and those who are more fully inspired by God, who have constant communion with Him, and are always led by His Spirit. Had Celsus set himself to understand this, he would not have reproached as with ignorance, or forbidden us to characterize as “blind” those who believe that religion shows itself in such products of man’s mechanical art as images. For every one who sees with eyes of his soul serves the Divine Being in no other way than in that which leads him ever to have regard to the Creator of all, to address his prayers to Him alone, and to do all things as in the sight of God, who sees us altogether, even to our thoughts. Our earnest desire then is both to see for ourselves, and to be leaders of the blind, to bring them to the Word of God, that He may take away from their minds the blindness of ignorance. And if our actions are worthy of Him who taught His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world,” (Mat_5:14) and of the Word, who says, “The light shineth in darkness,” (Joh_1:5) then we shall be light to those who are in darkness we shall give wisdom to those who are without it, and we shall instruct the ignorant.
And let not Celsus be angry if we describe as Fame and mutilated in soul those who run to the temples as to places having a real sacredness and who cannot see that no mere mechanical work of man can be truly sacred. Those whose piety is grounded on the teaching of Jesus also run until they come to the end of their course, when they can say in all truth and confidence: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” (2Ti_4:7) And each of us runs “not as uncertain,” and he so fights with evil “not as one beating the air,” (1Co_9:26) but as against those who are subject to “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Eph_2:2) Celsus may indeed say of us that we “live with the body which is a dead thing;” but we have learnt, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live;” (Rom_8:13) and, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal_5:25) Would that we might convince him by our actions that he did us wrong, when he said that we “live with the body which is dead!”
After these remarks of Celsus, which we have done our best to refute, he goes on to address us thus: “Seeing you are so eager for some novelty, how much better it would have been if you had chosen as the object of your zealous homage some one of those who died a glorious death, and whose divinity might have received the support of some myth to perpetuate his memory! Why, if you were not satisfied with Hercules or Aesculapius, and other heroes of antiquity, you had Orpheus, who was confessedly a divinely inspired man, who died a violent death. But perhaps some others have taken him up before you. You may then take Anaxarchus, who, when cast into a mortar, and beaten most barbarously, showed a noble contempt for his suffering, and said, ‘Beat, beat the shell of Anaxarchus, for himself you do not beat,’ – a speech surely of a spirit truly divine. But others were before you in following his interpretation of the laws of nature. Might you not, then, take Epictetus, who, when his master was twisting his leg, said, smiling and unmoved, ‘You will break my leg;’ and when it was broken, he added, Did I not tell you that you would break it?’ What saying equal to these did your god’ utter under suffering? If you had said even of the Sibyl, whose authority some of you acknowledge, that she was a child of God, you would have said something more reasonable. But you have had the presumption to include in her writings many impious things,24 and set up as a god one who ended a most infamous life by a most miserable death. How much more suitable than he would have been Jonah in the whale’s belly, or Daniel delivered from the wild beasts, or any of a still more portentous kind!”
12 Psa_76:2; English version, “In Salem is His tabernacle.”
13 Bouhéreau follows the reading, “the mind which sees what is made in the image of the Creator.”
14 Pro_2:5. Eng. Vers. and LXX., “Thou shalt find the knowledge of God.”
15 νοητά, falling under the province of νοῦς, the reason. For convenience, we translate it elsewhere “intellectual.”
16 See book vi. cap. xxx., etc.
17 [See Dr. Burton’s Bampton Lectures On the Heresies of the Apostolic Age, pp. 198, 529. S.]
18 [Vol. 2. p. 186, this series.]
19 γένεσις. For the distinction between οὐσία and γένεσις, see Plato’s Sophista, p. 246.
20 2Co_10:3, 2Co_10:4. The received text has “walk” instead of “live.”
21 [See Robertson’s History of the Church, vol. i. p. 145. S.]
22 [The noteworthy testimony of the Alexandrian school to the doctrine of birth-sin.]
23 Euripides. [See De la Rue’s note ad loc. in his edition of Origen’s Works. S.]
24 [See vol. 1. p. 169, note 26, and cap. lvi.]