Book VI. (C0nt.)
In the next place, Celsus, after heaping together, simply as mere assertions, the varying opinions of some of the ancients regarding the world, and the origin of man, alleges that “Moses and the prophets, who have left to us our books, not knowing at all what the nature of the world is, and of man, have woven together a web of sheer nonsense.”177 If he had shown, now, how it appeared to him that the holy Scriptures contained “sheer nonsense,” we should have tried to demolish the arguments which appeared to him to establish their nonsensical character; but on the present occasion, following his own example, we also sportively give it as our opinion that Celsus, knowing nothing at all about the nature of the meaning and language of the prophets,178 composed a work which contained “sheer nonsense,” and boastfully gave it the title of a “true discourse.” And since he makes the statements about the “days of creation” ground of accusation, – as if he understood them clearly and correctly, some of which elapsed before the creation of light and heaven, and sun, and moon, and stars, and some of them after the creation of these, – we shall only make this observation, that Moses must then have forgotten that he had said a little before, “that in six days the creation of the world had been finished,” and that in consequence of this act of forgetfulness he subjoins to these words the following: “This is the book of the creation of man, in the day when God made the heaven and the earth!” But it is not in the least credible, that after what he had said respecting, the six days, Moses should immediately add, without a special meaning, the words, “in the day that God made the heavens and the earth;” and if any one thinks that these words may be referred to the statement, “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth,” let him observe that before the words, “Let there be light, and there was light,” and these, “God called the light day,” it has been stated that “in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.”
On the present occasion, however, it is not our object to enter into an explanation of the subject of intelligent and sensible beings,179 nor of the manner in which the different kinds180 of days were allotted to both sorts, nor to investigate the details which belong to the subject, for we should need whole treatises for the exposition of the Mosaic cosmogony; and that work we had already performed, to the best of our ability, a considerable time before the commencement of this answer to Celsus, when we discussed with such measure of capacity as we then possessed the question of the Mosaic cosmogony of the six days. We must keep in mind, however, that the Word promises to the righteous through the mouth of Isaiah, that days will come181 when not the sun, but the Lord Himself, will be to them an everlasting light, and God will be their glory. (cf. Isa_60:19) And it is from misunderstanding, I think, some pestilent heresy which gave an erroneous interpretation to the words, “Let there be light,” as if they were the expression of a wish182 merely on the part of the Creator, that Celsus made the remark: “The Creator did not borrow light from above, like those persons who kindle their lamps at those of their neighbours.” Misunderstanding, moreover, another impious heresy, he has said: “If, indeed, there did exist an accursed god opposed to the great God, who did this contrary to his approval, why did he lend him the light?” So far are we from offering a defence of such puerilities, that we desire, on the contrary, distinctly to arraign the statements of these heretics as erroneous, and to undertake to refute, not those of their opinions with which we are unacquainted, as Celsus does, but those of which we have attained an accurate knowledge, derived in part from the statements of their own adherents, and partly from a careful perusal of their writings.
Celsus proceeds as follows: “With regard to the origin of the world and its destruction, whether it is to be regarded as uncreated and indestructible, or as created indeed, but not destructible, or the reverse, I at present say nothing.” For this reason we too say nothing on these points, as the work in hand does not require it. Nor do we allege that the Spirit of the universal God mingled itself in things here below as in things alien to itself,183 as might appear from the expression, “The Spirit of God moved upon the water;” nor do we assert that certain wicked devices directed against His Spirit as if by a different creator from the great God, and which were tolerated by the Supreme Divinity, needed to be completely frustrated. And, accordingly, I have nothing further to say to those184 who utter such absurdities; nor to Celsus, who does not refute them with ability. For he ought either not to have mentioned such matters at all, or else, in keeping with that character for philanthropy which he assumes, have carefully set them forth, and then endeavoured to rebut these impious assertions. Nor have we ever heard that the great God, after giving his spirit to the creator, demands it back again. Proceeding next foolishly to assail these impious assertions, he asks: “What god gives anything with the intention of demanding it back? For it is the mark of a needy person to demand back (what he has given), whereas God stands in need of nothing.” To this he adds, as if saying something clever against certain parties: “Why, when he lent (his spirit), was he ignorant that he was lending it to an evil being?” He asks, further: “Why does he pass without notice185 a wicked creator who was counter-working his purposes?”
In the next place, mixing up together various heresies, and not observing that some statements are the utterances of one heretical sect, and others of a different one, he brings forward the objections which we raised against Marcion.186 And, probably, having heard them from some paltry and ignorant individuals,187 he assails the very arguments which combat them, but not in a way that Shows much intelligence. Quoting then our arguments against Marcion, and not observing that it is against Marcion that he is speaking, he asks: “Why does he send secretly, and destroy the works which he has created? Why does he secretly employ force, and persuasion, and deceit? Why does he allure those who, as ye assert, have been condemned or accused by him, and carry them away like a slave-dealer? Why does he teach them to steal away from their Lord? Why to flee from their father? Why does he claim them for himself against the father’s will? Why does he profess to be the father of strange children?” To these questions he subjoins the following remark, as if by way of expressing his surprise:188 “Venerable, indeed, is the god who desires to be the father of those sinners who are condemned by another (god), and of the needy,189 and, as themselves say, of the very offscourings190 (of men), and who is unable to capture and punish his messenger, who escaped from him!” After this, as if addressing us who acknowledge that this world is not the work of a different and strange god, he continues in the following strain: “If these are his works, how is it that God created evil? And how is it that he cannot persuade and admonish (men)? And how is it that he repents on account of the ingratitude and wickedness of men? He finds fault, moreover, with his own handwork,191 and hates, and threatens, and destroys his own offspring? Whither can he transport them out of this world, which he himself has made?” Now it does not appear to me that by these remarks he makes clear what “evil” is; and although there have been among the Greeks many sects who differ as to the nature of good and evil, he hastily concludes, as if it were a consequence of our maintaining that this world also is a work of the universal God, that in our judgment God is the author of evil. Let it be, however, regarding evil as it may – whether created by God or not – it nevertheless follows only as a result when you compare the principal design.192 And I am greatly surprised if the inference regarding God’s authorship of evil, which he thinks follows from our maintaining that this world also is the work of the universal God, does not follow too from his own statements. For one might say to Celsus: “If these are His works, how is it that God created evil? and how is it that He cannot persuade and admonish men?” It is indeed the greatest error in reasoning to accuse those who are of different opinions of holding unsound doctrines, when the accuser himself is much more liable to the same charge with regard to his own.
Let us see, then, briefly what holy Scripture has to say regarding good and evil, and what answer we are to return to the questions, “How is it that God created evil?” and, “How is He incapable of persuading and admonishing men?” Now, according to holy Scripture, properly speaking, virtues and virtuous actions are good, as, properly speaking, the reverse of these are evil. We shall be satisfied with quoting on the present occasion some verses from the 34th Psalm, to the following effect: “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good.” (cf. Psa_34:10-14.) Now, the injunctions to “depart from evil, and to do good,” do not refer either to corporeal evils or corporeal blessings, as they are termed by some, nor to external things at all, but to blessings and evils of a spiritual kind; since he who departs from such evils, and performs such virtuous actions, will, as one who desires the true life, come to the enjoyment of it; and as one loving to see “good days,” in which the word of righteousness will be the Sun, he will see them, God taking him away from this “present evil world,” (cf. Gal_1:4) and from those evil days concerning which Paul said: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (cf. Eph_5:16)
Passages, indeed, might be found where corporeal and external (benefits) are improperly193 called “good,” – those things, viz., which contribute to the natural life, while those which do the reverse are termed “evil.” It is in this sense that Job says to his wife: “If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not also receive evil!” (cf. Job_2:10) Since, then, there is found in the sacred Scriptures, in a certain passage, this statement put into the mouth of God, “I make peace, and create evil;” (cf. Isa_45:7) and again another, where it is said of Him that “evil came down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem, the noise of chariots and horsemen,”194 – passages which have disturbed many readers of Scripture, who are unable to see what Scripture means by “good” and “evil,” – it is probable that Celsus, being perplexed thereby, gave utterance to the question, “How is it that God created evil?” or, perhaps, having heard some one discussing the matters relating to it in an ignorant manner, he made this statement which we have noticed. We, on the other hand, maintain that “evil,” or “wickedness,” and the actions which proceed from it, were not created by God. For if God created that which is really evil, how was it possible that the proclamation regarding (the last) judgment should be confidently announced,195 which informs us that the wicked are to be punished for their evil deeds in proportion to the amount of their wickedness, while those who have lived a virtuous life, or performed virtuous actions, will be in the enjoyment of blessedness, and will receive rewards from God? I am well aware that those who would daringly assert that these evils were created by God will quote certain expressions of Scripture (in their support), because we are not able to show one consistent series196 of passages; for although Scripture (generally) blames the wicked and approves of the righteous, it nevertheless contains some statements which, although comparatively197 few in number, seem to disturb the minds of ignorant readers of holy Scripture. I have not, however, deemed it appropriate to my present treatise to quote on the present occasion those discordant statements, which are many in number,198 and their explanations, which would require a long array of proofs. Evils, then, if those be meant which are properly so called, were not created by God; but some, although few in comparison with the order of the whole world, have resulted from His principal works, as there follow from the chief works of the carpenter such things as spiral shavings and sawdust,199 or as architects might appear to be the cause of the rubbish200 which lies around their buildings in the form of the filth which drops from the stones and the plaster.
If we speak, however, of what are called “corporeal” and “external” evils, – which are improperly so termed, – then it may be granted that there are occasions when some of these have been called into existence by God, in order that by their means the conversion of certain individuals might be effected. And what absurdity would follow from such a course? For as, if we should hear those sufferings201 improperly termed “evils” which are inflicted by fathers, and instructors, and pedagogues upon those who are under their care, or upon patients who are operated upon or cauterized by the surgeons in order to effect a cure, we were to say that a father was ill-treating his son, or pedagogues and instructors their pupils, or physicians their patients, no blame would be laid upon the operators or chastisers; so, in the same way, if God is said to bring upon men such evils for the conversion and cure of those who need this discipline, there would be no absurdity in the view, nor would “evils come down from the Lord upon the gates of Jerusalem,” (cf. Mic_1:12) – which evils consist of the punishments inflicted upon the Israelites by their enemies with a view to their conversion; nor would one visit “with a rod the transgressions of those who forsake the law of the Lord, and their iniquities with stripes;” (cf. Psa_89:32) nor could it be said, “Thou hast coals of fire to set upon them; they shall be to thee a help.” (cf. Isaiah 47:14, 15, LXX) In the same way also we explain the expressions, “I, who make peace, and create evil;” (cf. Isa_45:7) for He calls into existence “corporeal” or “external” evils, while purifying and training those who would not be disciplined by the word and sound doctrine. This, then, is our answer to the question, “How is it that God created evil?”
With respect to the question, “How is he incapable of persuading and admonishing men?” it has been already stated that, if such an objection were really a ground of charge, then the objection of Celsus might be brought against those who accept the doctrine of providence. Any one might answer the charge that God is incapable of admonishing men; for He conveys His admonitions throughout the whole of Scripture, and by means of those persons who, through God’s gracious appointment, are the instructors of His hearers. Unless, indeed, some peculiar meaning be understood to attach to the word “admonish,” as if it signified both to penetrate into the mind of the person admonished, and to make him hear the words of his202 instructor, which is contrary to the usual meaning of the word. To the objection, “How is he incapable of persuading?” – which also might be brought against all who believe in providence, – we have to make the following remarks. Since the expression “to be persuaded” belongs to those words which are termed, so to speak, “reciprocal”203 (compare the phrase “to shave a man,” when he makes an effort to submit himself to the barber204, there is for this reason needed not merely the effort of him who persuades, but also the submission, so to speak, which is to be yielded to the persuader, or the acceptance of what is said by him. And therefore it must not be said that it is because God is incapable of persuading men that they are not persuaded, but because they will not accept the faithful words of God. And if one were to apply this expression to men who are the “artificers of persuasion,”205 he would not be wrong; for it is possible for a man who has thoroughly learned the principles of rhetoric, and who employs them properly, to do his utmost to persuade, and yet appear to fail, because he cannot overcome the will of him who ought to yield to his persuasive arts. Moreover, that persuasion does not come from God, although persuasive words may be uttered by him, is distinctly taught by Paul, when he says: “This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.” (cf. Gal_5:8) Such also is the view indicated by these words: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, a sword shall devour you.” (cf. Isa_1:19, Isa_1:20) For that one may (really) desire what is addressed to him by one who admonishes, and may become deserving of those promises of God which he hears, it is necessary to secure the will of the hearer, and his inclination to what is addressed to him. And therefore it appears to me, that in the book of Deuteronomy the following words are uttered with peculiar emphasis: “And now, O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to keep His commandments?” (cf. Deu_10:12, Deu_10:13)
There is next to be answered the following query: “And how is it that he repents when men become ungrateful and wicked; and finds fault with his own handwork, and hates, and threatens, and destroys his own offspring?” Now Celsus here calumniates and falsities what is written in the book of Genesis to the following effect: “And the Lord God, seeing that the wickedness of men upon the earth was increasing, and that every one in his heart carefully meditated to do evil continually, was grieved206 He had made man upon the earth. And God meditated in His heart, and said, I will destroy man, whom I have made, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air, because I am grieved207 that I made them;” (cf. Gen_6:5-7) quoting words which are not written in Scripture, as if they conveyed the meaning of what was actually written. For there is no mention in these words of the repentance of God, nor of His blaming and hating His own handwork. And if there is the appearance of God threatening the catastrophe of the deluge, and thus destroying His own children in it, we have to answer that, as the soul of man is immortal, the supposed threatening has for its object the conversion of the hearers, while the destruction of men by the flood is a purification of the earth, as certain among the Greek philosophers of no mean repute have indicated by the expression: “When the gods purify the earth.”208 And with respect to the transference to God of those anthropopathic phrases, some remarks have been already made by us in the preceding pages.
Celsus, in the next place, suspecting, or perhaps seeing clearly enough, the answer which might be returned by those who defend the destruction of men by the deluge, continues: “But if he does not destroy his own offspring, whither does he convey them out of this world209 which he himself created?” To this we reply, that God by no means removes out of the whole world, consisting of heaven and earth, those who suffered death by the deluge, but removes them from a life in the flesh, and, having set them free from their bodies, liberates them at the same time from an existence upon earth, which in many parts of Scripture it is usual to call the “world.” In the Gospel according to John especially, we may frequently find the regions of earth210 termed “world,” as in the passage, “He was the true Light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the ‘world;’” (cf. Joh_1:9) as also in this, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (cf. Joh_16:33) If, then, we understand by “removing out of the world” a transference from “regions on earth,” there is nothing absurd in the expression. If, on the contrary, the system of things which consists of heaven and earth be termed “world,” then those who perished in the deluge are by no means removed out of the so-called “world.” And yet, indeed, if we have regard to the words, “Looking not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;” (cf. 2Co_4:18) and also to these, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” (cf. Rom_1:20) – we might say that he who dwells amid the “invisible” things, and what are called generally “things not seen,” is gone out of the world, the Word having removed him hence, and transported him to the heavenly regions, in order to behold all beautiful things.
But after this investigation of his assertions, as if his object were to swell his book by many words, he repeats, in different language, the same charges which we have examined a little ago, saying: “By far the most silly thing is the distribution of the creation of the world over certain days, before days existed: for, as the heaven was not yet created, nor the foundation of the earth yet laid,211 nor the sun yet revolving,212 how could there be days?” Now, what difference is there between these words and the following: “Moreover, taking and looking at these things from the beginning, would it not be absurd in the first and greatest God to issue the command, Let this (first thing) come into existence, and this second thing, and this (third); and after accomplishing so much on the first day, to do so much more again on the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth?” We answered to the best of our ability this objection to God’s “commanding this first, second, and third thing to be created,” when we quoted the words, “He said, and it was done; He commanded, and all things stood fast;” (cf. Psa_33:9) remarking that the immediate213 Creator, and, as it were, very Maker214 of the world was the Word, the Son of God; while the Father of the Word, by commanding His own Son – the Word – to create the world, is primarily Creator. And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs215 on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone216, and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic217 animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world, and quoted the words: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (cf. Gen_2:4)
Again, not understanding the meaning of the words, “And God ended218 on the sixth day His works which He had made, and ceased219 on the seventh day from all His works which He had made: and God blessed the seventh day, and hollowed it, because on it He had ceased220 from all His works which He had begun to make;” (cf. Gen_2:2, Gen_2:3) and imagining the expression, “He ceased on the seventh day,” to be the same as this, “He rested221 on the seventh day,” he makes the remark: “After this, indeed, he is weary, like a very bad workman, who stands in need of rest to refresh himself!” For he knows nothing of the day of the Sabbath and rest of God, which follows the completion of the world’s creation, and which lasts during the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep festival with God who have done all their works in their six days, and who, because they have omitted none of their duties,222 will ascend to the contemplation (of celestial things), and to the assembly of righteous and blessed beings. In the next place, as if either the Scriptures made such a statement, or as if we ourselves so spoke of God as having rested from fatigue, he continues: “It is not in keeping with the fitness of things223 that the first God should feel fatigue, or work with His hands,224 or give forth commands.” Celsus says, that” it is not in keeping with the fitness of things that the first God should feel fatigue. Now we would say that neither does God the Word feel fatigue, nor any of those beings who belong to a better and diviner order of things, because the sensation of fatigue is peculiar to those who are in the body. You can examine whether this is true of those who possess a body of any kind, or of those who have an earthly body, or one a little better than this. But “neither is it consistent with the fitness of things that the first God should work with His own hands.” If you understand the words “work with His own hands” literally, then neither are they applicable to the second God, nor to any other being partaking of divinity. But suppose that they are spoken in an improper and figurative sense, so that we may translate the following expressions, “And the firmament showeth forth His handywork,” (cf. Psa_19:1) and “the heavens are the work of Thy hands,” (cf. Psa_102:25) and any other similar phrases, in a figurative manner, so far as respects the “hands” and “limbs” of Deity, where is the absurdity in the words, “God thus working with His own hands?” And as there is no absurdity in God thus working, so neither is there in His issuing “commands;” so that what is done at His bidding should be beautiful and praiseworthy, because it was God who commanded it to be performed.
Celsus, again, having perhaps misunderstood the words, “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it,” (cf. Isa_1:20) or perhaps because some ignorant individuals had rashly ventured upon the explanation of such things, and not understanding, moreover, on what principles parts called after the names of the bodily members are assigned to the attributes225 of God, asserts: “He has neither mouth nor voice.” Truly, indeed, God can have no voice, if the voice is a concussion of the air, or a stroke on the air, or a species of air, or any other definition which may be given to the voice by those who are skilled in such matters; but what is called the “voice of God” is said to be seen as “God’s voice” by the people in the passage; “And all the people saw the voice of God;”226 the word “saw” being taken, agreeably to the custom of Scripture, in a spiritual sense. Moreover, he alleges that “God possesses nothing else of which we have any knowledge;” but of what things we have knowledge he gives no indication. If he means “limbs,” we agree with him, understanding the things “of which we have knowledge” to be those called corporeal, and pretty generally so termed. But if we are to understand the words “of which we have knowledge” in a universal sense, then there are many things of which we have knowledge, (and which may be attributed to God); for He possesses virtue, and blessedness, and divinity. If we, however, put a higher meaning upon the words, “of which we have knowledge,” since all that we know is less than God, there is no absurdity in our also admitting that God possesses none of those things “of which we have knowledge.” For the attributes which belong to God are far superior to all things with which not merely the nature of man is acquainted, but even that of those who have risen far above it. And if he had read the writings of the prophets, David on the one hand saying, “But Thou art the same,” (cf. Psa_102:27) and Malachi on the other, “I am (the Lord), and change not,” (cf. Mal_3:6) he would have observed that none of us assert that there is any change in God, either in act or thought. For abiding the same, He administers mutable things according to their nature, and His word elects to undertake their administration.
Celsus, not observing the difference between “after the image of God” and “God’s image,” next asserts that the “first-born of every creature” is the image of God, – the very word and truth, and also the very wisdom, being the image of His goodness, while man has been created after the image of God; moreover, that every man whose head is Christ is the image and glory of God; – and further, not observing to which of the characteristics of humanity the expression “after the image of God” belongs, and that it consists in a nature which never had nor longer has “the old man with his deeds,” being called “after the image of Him who created it,” from its not possessing these qualities, – he maintains: “Neither did He make man His image; for God is not such an one, nor like any other species of (visible) being.” Is it possible to suppose that the element which is “after the image of God” should exist in the inferior part – I mean the body – of a compound being like man, because Celsus has explained that to be made after the image of God? For if that which is “after the image of God” be in the body only, the better part, the soul, has been deprived of that which is “after His image,” and this (distinction) exists in the corruptible body, – an assertion which is made by none of us. But if that which is “after the image of God” be in both together, then God must necessarily be a compound being, and consist, as it were, of soul and body, in order that the element which is “after God’s image,” the better part, may be in the soul; while the inferior part, and that which “is according to the body,” may be in the body, – an assertion, again, which is made by none of us. It remains, therefore, that that which is “after the image of God” must be understood to be in our “inner man,” which is also renewed, and whose nature it is to be “after the image of Him who created it,” when a man becomes “perfect,” as “our Father in heaven is perfect,” and hears the command, “Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” (Lev_11:44) and learning the precept, “Be ye followers of God,”227 receives into his virtuous soul the traits of God’s image. The body, moreover, of him who possesses such a soul is a temple of God; and in the soul God dwells, because it has been made after His image.228
Celsus, again, brings together a number of statements, which he gives as admissions on our part, but which no intelligent Christian would allow. For not one of us asserts that “God partakes of form or colour.” Nor does He even partake of “motion,” because He stands firm, and His nature is permanent, and He invites the righteous man also to do the same, saying: “But as for thee, stand thou here by Me.” (Deu_5:31) And if certain expressions indicate a kind of motion, as it were, on His part, such as this, “They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” (cf. Gen_3:8) we must understand them in this way, that it is by sinners that God is understood as moving, or as we understand the “sleep” of God, which is taken in a figurative sense, or His “anger,” or any other similar attribute. But “God does not partake even of substance.”229 For He is partaken of (by others) rather than that Himself partakes of them, and He is partaken of by those who have the Spirit of God. Our Saviour, also, does not partake of righteousness; but being Himself “righteousness,” He is partaken of by the righteous. A discussion about “substance” would be protracted and difficult, and especially if it were a question whether that which is permanent and immaterial be “substance” properly so called, so that it would be found that God is beyond “substance,” communicating of His “substance,” by means of office and power,230 to those to whom He communicates Himself by His Word, as He does to the Word Himself; or even if He is “substance,” yet He is said be in His nature “invisible,” in these words respecting our Saviour, who is said to be “the image of the invisible God,” (cf. Col_1:15) while from the term “invisible” it is indicated that He is “immaterial.” It is also a question for investigation, whether the “only-begotten” and “first-born of every creature” is to be called “substance of substances,” and “idea of ideas,” and the “principle of all things,” while above all there is His Father and God.231
Celsus proceeds to say of God that “of Him are all things,” abandoning (in so speaking), I know not how, all his principles;232 while our Paul declares, that “of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things,” (Rom_11:36) showing that He is the beginning of the substance of all things by the words “of Him,” and the bond of their subsistence by the expression “through Him,” and their final end by the terms “to Him.” Of a truth, God is of nothing. But when Celsus adds, that “He is not to be reached by word,”233 I make a distinction, and say that if he means the word that is in us – whether the word conceived in the mind, or the word that is uttered234 – I, too, admit that God is not to be reached by word. If, however, we attend to the passage, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (Joh_1:1) we are of opinion that God is to be reached by this Word, and is comprehended not by Him only, but by any one whatever to whom He may reveal the Father; and thus we shall prove the falsity of the assertion of Celsus, when he says, “Neither is God to be reached by word.” The statement, moreover, that “He cannot be expressed by name,” requires to be taken with a distinction. If he means, indeed, that there is no word or sign235 that can represent the attributes of God, the statement is true, since there are many qualities which cannot be indicated by words. Who, for example, could describe in words the difference betwixt the quality of sweetness in a palm and that in a fig? And who could distinguish and set forth in words the peculiar qualities of each individual thing? It is no wonder, then, if in this way God cannot be described by name. But if you take the phrase to mean that it is possible to represent by words something of God’s attributes, in order to lead the hearer by the hand,236 as it were, and so enable him to comprehend something of God, so far as attainable by human nature, then there is no absurdity in saying that “He can be described by name.” And we make a similar distinction with regard to the expression, “for He has undergone no suffering that can be conveyed by words.” It is true that the Deity is beyond all suffering. And so much on this point.
Let us look also at his next statement, in which he introduces, as it were, a certain person, who, after hearing what has been said expresses himself in the following manner, “How, then, shall I know God? and how shall I learn the way that leads to Him? And how will you show Him to me? Because now, indeed, you throw darkness before my eyes, and I see nothing distinctly.” He then answers, as it were, the individual who is thus perplexed, and thinks that he assigns the reason why darkness has been poured upon the eyes of him who uttered the foregoing words, when he asserts that “those whom one would lead forth out of darkness into the brightness of light, being unable to withstand its splendours, have their power of vision affected237 and injured, and so imagine that they are smitten with blindness.” In answer to this, we would say that all those indeed sit in darkness, and are rooted in it, who fix their gaze upon the evil handiwork of painters, and moulders and sculptors, and who will not look upwards, and ascend in thought from all visible and sensible things, to the Creator of all things, who is light; while, on the other hand, every one is in light who has followed the radiance of the Word, who has shown in consequence of what ignorance, and impiety, and want of knowledge of divine things these objects were worshipped instead of God, and who has conducted the soul of him who desires to be saved towards the uncreated God, who is over all. For “the people that sat in darkness – the Gentiles – saw a great light, and to them who sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up,” (cf. Mat_4:16 and Isa_9:2) – the God Jesus. No Christian, then, would give Celsus, or any accuser of the divine Word, the answer, “How shall I know God?” for each one of them knows God according to his capacity. And no one asks, “How shall I learn the way which leads to Him?” because he has heard Him who says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” (Joh_14:6) and has tasted, in the course of the journey, the happiness which results from it. And not a single Christian would say to Celsus, “How will you show me God?”
The remark, indeed, was true which Celsus made, that any one, on hearing his words, would answer, seeing that his words are words of darkness, “You pour darkness before my eyes.” Celsus verily, and those like him, do desire to pour darkness before our eyes: we, however, by means of the light of the Word, disperse the darkness of their impious opinions. The Christian, indeed, could retort on Celsus, who says nothing that is distinct or true, “I see nothing that is distinct among all your statements.” It is not, therefore, “out of darkness” into “the brightness of light” that Celsus leads us forth: he wishes, on the contrary, to transport us from light into darkness, making the darkness light and the light darkness, and exposing himself to the woe well described by the prophet Isaiah in the following manner: “Woe unto them that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” (cf. Isa_5:20) But we, the eyes of whose soul have been opened by the Word, and who see the difference between light and darkness, prefer by all means to take our stand “in the light,” and will have nothing to do with darkness at all. The true light, moreover, being endued with life, knows to whom his full splendours are to be manifested, and to whom his light; for he does not display his brilliancy on account of the still existing weakness in the eyes of the recipient. And if we must speak at all of “sight being affected and injured,” what other eyes shall we say are in this condition, than his who is involved in ignorance of God, and who is prevented by his passions from seeing the truth? Christians, however, by no means consider that they are blinded by the words of Celsus, or any other who is opposed to the worship of God. But let those who perceive that they are blinded by following multitudes who are in error, and tribes of those who keep festivals to demons, draw near to the Word, who can bestow the gift of sight,238 in order that, like those poor and blind who had thrown themselves down by the wayside, and who were healed by Jesus because they said to Him, “Son of David, have mercy upon me,” they too may receive mercy and recover their eyesight,239 fresh and beautiful, as the Word of God can create it.
Accordingly, if Celsus were to ask us how we think we know God, and how we shall be saved by Him, we would answer that the Word of God, which entered into those who seek Him, or who accept Him when He appears, is able to make known and to reveal the Father, who was not seen (by any one) before the appearance of the Word. And who else is able to save and conduct the soul of man to the God of all things, save God the Word, who, “being in the beginning with God,” became flesh for the sake of those who had cleaved to the flesh, and had become as flesh, that He might be received by those who could not behold Him, inasmuch as He was the Word, and was with God, and was God? And discoursing in human form,240 and announcing Himself as flesh, He calls to Himself those who are flesh, that He may in the first place cause them to be transformed according to the Word that was made flesh, and afterwards may lead them upwards to behold Him as He was before He became flesh; so that they, receiving the benefit, and ascending from their great introduction to Him, which was according to the flesh, say, “Even if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more.” (2Co_5:16) Therefore He became flesh, and having become flesh, “He tabernacled among us,” (cf. Joh_1:14) not dwelling without us; and after tabernacling and dwelling within us, He did not continue in the form in which He first presented Himself, but caused us to ascend to the lofty mountain of His word, and showed us His own glorious form, and the splendour of His garments; and not His own form alone, but that also of the spiritual law, which is Moses, seen in glory along with Jesus. He showed to us, moreover, all prophecy, which did not perish even after His incarnation, but was received up into heaven, and whose symbol was Elijah. And he who beheld these things could say, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (cf. Joh_1:14) Celsus, then, has exhibited considerable ignorance in the imaginary answer to his question which he puts into our mouth, “How we think we can know God? and how we know we shall be saved by Him?” for our answer is what we have just stated.
Celsus, however, asserts that the answer which we give is based upon a probable conjecture,241 admitting that he describes our answer in the following terms: “Since God is great and difficult to see,242 He put His own Spirit into a body that resembled ours, and sent it down to us, that we might be enabled to hear Him and become acquainted with Him.” But the God and Father of all things is not the only being that is great in our judgment; for He has imparted (a share) of Himself and His greatness to His Only-begotten and First-born of every creature, in order that He, being the image of the invisible God, might preserve, even in His greatness, the image of the Father. For it was not possible that there could exist a well-proportioned,243 so to speak, and beautiful image of the invisible God, which did not at the same time preserve the image of His greatness. God, moreover, is in our judgment invisible, because He is not a body, while He can be seen by those who see with the heart that is, the understanding; not indeed with any kind of heart, but with one which is pure. For it is inconsistent with the fitness of things that a polluted heart should look upon God; for that must be itself pure which would worthily behold that which is pure. Let it be granted, indeed, that God is “difficult to see,” yet He is not the only being who is so; for His Only-begotten also is “difficult to see.” For God the Word is “difficult to see,” and so also is His244 wisdom, by which God created all things. For who is capable of seeing the wisdom which is displayed in each individual part of the whole system of things, and by which God created every individual thing? It was not, then, because God was “difficult to see” that He sent God His Son to be an object “easy to be seen.”245 And because Celsus does not understand this, he has represented us as saying, “Because God was ‘difficult to see,’ He put His own Spirit in a body resembling ours, and sent it down to us, that we might be enabled to hear Him and become acquainted with Him.” Now, as we have stated, the Son also is “difficult to see,” because He is God the Word, through whom all things were made, and who “tabernacled amongst us.”
If Celsus, indeed, had understood our teaching regarding the Spirit of God, and had known that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God,” (Rom_8:14) he would not have returned to himself the answer which he represents as coming from us, that “God put His own Spirit into a body, and sent it down to us;” for God is perpetually bestowing of His own Spirit to those who are capable of receiving it, although it is not by way of division and separation that He dwells in (the hearts of) the deserving. Nor is the Spirit, in our opinion, a “body,” any more than fire is a “body,” which God is said to be in the passage, “Our God is a consuming fire.” (cf. Heb_12:29) For all these are figurative expressions, employed to denote the nature of “intelligent beings” by means of familiar and corporeal terms. In the same way, too, if sins are called “wood, and straw, and stubble,” we shall not maintain that sins are corporeal; and if blessings are termed “gold, and silver, and precious stones,” (cf. 1Co_3:12) we shall not maintain that blessings are “corporeal;” so also, if God be said to be a fire that consumes wood, and straw, and stubble, and all substance246 of sin, we shall not understand Him to be a “body,” so neither do we understand Him to be a body if He should be called “fire.” In this way, if God be called “spirit,”247 we do not mean that He is a “body.” For it is the custom of Scripture to give to “intelligent beings” the names of “spirits” and “spiritual things,” by way of distinction from those which are the objects of “sense;” as when Paul says, “But our sufficiency is of God; who hath also made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” (2Co_3:5, 2Co_3:6) where by the “letter” he means that “exposition of Scripture which is apparent to the senses,”248 while by the “spirit” that which is the object of the “understanding.” It is the same, too, with the expression, “God is a Spirit.” And because the prescriptions of the law were obeyed both by Samaritans and Jews in a corporeal and literal249 manner, our Saviour said to the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming, when neither in Jerusalem, nor in this mountain, shall ye worship the Father. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (cf. Joh_4:21, Joh_4:24) And by these words He taught men that God must be worshipped not in the flesh, and with fleshly sacrifices, but in the spirit. And He will be understood to be a Spirit in proportion as the worship rendered to Him is rendered in spirit, and with understanding. It is not, however, with images250 that we are to worship the Father, but “in truth,” which “came by Jesus Christ,” after the giving of the law by Moses. For when we turn to the Lord (and the Lord is a Spirit (cf. 2Co_3:17)), He takes away the veil which lies upon the heart when Moses is read.
Celsus accordingly, as not understanding the doctrine relating to the Spirit of God (“for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (cf. 1Co_2:14)), weaves together (such a web) as pleases himself,251 imagining that we, in calling God a Spirit, differ in no respect in this particular from the Stoics among the Greeks, who maintain that “God is a Spirit, diffused through all things, and containing all things within Himself.” Now the superintendence and providence of God does extend through all things, but not in the way that spirit does, according to the Stoics. Providence indeed contains all things that are its objects, and comprehends them all, but not as a containing body includes its contents, because they also are “body,”252 but as a divine power does it comprehend what it contains. According to the philosophers of the Porch, indeed, who assert that principles are “corporeal,” and who on that account make all things perishable, and who venture even to make the God of all things capable of perishing, the very Word of God, who descends even to the lowest of mankind, would be – did it not appear to them to be too gross an incongruity253 – nothing else than a “corporeal” spirit; whereas, in our opinion, – who endeavour to demonstrate that the rational soul is superior to all “corporeal” nature, and that it is an invisible substance, and incorporeal, – God the Word, by whom all things were made, who came, in order that all things might be made by the Word, not to men only, but to what are deemed the very lowest of things, under the dominion of nature alone, would be no body. The Stoics, then, may consign all things to destruction by fire; we, however, know of no incorporeal substance that is destructible by fire, nor (do we believe) that the soul of man, or the substance of “angels,” or of “thrones,” or dominions,” or “principalities,” or “powers,” can be dissolved by fire.
It is therefore in vain that Celsus asserts, as one who knows not the nature of the Spirit of God, that “as the Son of God, who existed in a human body, is a Spirit, this very Son of God would not be immortal.” He next becomes confused in his statements, as if there were some of us who did not admit that God is a Spirit, but maintain that only with regard to His Son, and he thinks that he can answer us by saying that there “is no kind of spirit which lasts for ever.” This is much the same as if, when we term God a “consuming fire,” he were to say that there “is no kind of fire which lasts for ever;” not observing the sense in which we say that our God is a fire, and what the things are which He consumes, viz., sins, and wickedness. For it becomes a God of goodness, after each individual has shown, by his efforts, what kind of combatant he has been, to consume vice by the fire of His chastisements. He proceeds, in the next place, to assume what we do not maintain, that “God must necessarily have given up the ghost;” from which also it follows that Jesus could not have risen again with His body. For God would not have received back the spirit which He had surrendered after it had been stained by contact with the body. It is foolish, however, for us to answer statements as ours which were never made by us.
He proceeds to repeat himself, and after saying a great deal which he had said before, and ridiculing the birth of God from a virgin, – to which we have already replied as we best could, – he adds the following: “If God had wished to send down His Spirit from Himself, what need was there to breathe it into the womb of a woman? For as one who knew already how to form men, He could also have fashioned a body for this person, without casting His own Spirit into so much pollution;254 and in this way He would not have been received with incredulity, if He had derived His existence immediately from above.” He had made these remarks, because he knows not the pure and virgin birth, unaccompanied by any corruption, of that body which was to minister to the salvation of men. For, quoting the sayings of the Stoics,255 and affecting not to know the doctrine about “things indifferent,” he thinks that the divine nature was cast amid pollution, and was stained either by being in the body of a woman, until a body was formed around it, or by assuming a body. And in this he acts like those who imagine that the sun’s rays are polluted by dung and by foul-smelling bodies, and do not remain pure amid such things. If, however, according to the view of Celsus, the body of Jesus had been fashioned without generation, those who beheld the body would at once have believed that it had not been formed by generation; and yet an object, when seen, does not at the same time indicate the nature of that from which it has derived its origin. For example, suppose that there were some honey (placed before one) which had not been manufactured by bees, no one could tell from the taste or sight that it was not their workmanship, because the honey which comes from bees does not make known its origin by the senses,256 but experience alone can tell that it does not proceed from them. In the same way, too, experience teaches that wine comes from the vine, for taste does not enable us to distinguish (the wine) which comes from the vine. In the same manner, therefore, the visible257 body does not make known the manner of its existence. And you will be induced to accept this view,258 by (regarding) the heavenly bodies, whose existence and splendour we perceive as we gaze at them; and yet, I presume, their appearance does not suggest to us whether they are created or uncreated; and accordingly different opinions have existed on these points. And yet those who say that they are created are not agreed as to the manner of their creation, for their appearance does not suggest it, although the force of reason259 may have discovered that they are created, and how their creation was effected.
After this he returns to the subject of Marcion’s opinions (having already spoken frequently of them), and states some of them correctly, while others he has misunderstood; these, however, it is not necessary for us to answer or refute. Again, after this he brings forward the various arguments that may be urged on Marcion’s behalf, and also against him, enumerating what the opinions are which exonerate him from the charges, and what expose him to them; and when he desires to support the statement which declares that Jesus has been the subject of prophecy, – in order to found a charge against Marcion and his followers, – he distinctly asks, “How could he, who was punished in such a manner, be shown to be God’s Son, unless these things had been predicted of him?” He next proceeds to jest, and, as his custom is, to pour ridicule upon the subject, introducing “two sons of God, one the son of the Creator,260 and the other the son of Marcion’s God; and he portrays their single combats, saying that the Theomachies of the Fathers are like the battles between quails;261 or that the Fathers, becoming useless through age, and falling into their dotage262 do not meddle at all with one another, but leave their sons to fight it out.” The remark which he made formerly we will turn against himself: “What old woman would not be ashamed to lull a child to sleep with such stories as he has inserted in the work which he entitles A True Discourse? For when he ought seriously263 to apply himself to argument, he leaves serious argument aside, and betakes himself to jesting and buffoonery, imagining that he is writing mimes or scoffing verses; not observing that such a method of procedure defeats his purpose, which is to make us abandon Christianity and give in our adherence to his opinions, which, perhaps, had they been stated with some degree of gravity,264 would have appeared more likely to convince, whereas since he continues to ridicule, and scoff, and play the buffoon, we answer that it is because he has no argument of weight265 (for such he neither had, nor could understand) that he has betaken himself to such drivelling.”266
To the preceding remarks he adds the following: “Since a divine Spirit inhabited the body (of Jesus), it must certainly have been different from that of other beings, in respect of grandeur, or beauty, or strength, or voice, or impressiveness,267 or persuasiveness. For it is impossible that He, to whom was imparted some divine quality beyond other beings, should not differ from others; whereas this person did not differ in any respect from another, but was, as they report, little, and ill-favoured, and ignoble.”268 Now it is evident by these words, that when Celsus wishes to bring a charge against Jesus, he adduces the sacred writings, as one who believed them to be writings apparently fitted to afford a handle for a charge against Him; but wherever, in the same writings, statements would appear to be made opposed to those charges which are adduced, he pretends not even to know them! There are, indeed, admitted to be recorded some statements respecting the body of Jesus having been “ill-favoured;” not, however, “ignoble,” as has been stated, nor is there any certain evidence that he was “little.” The language of Isaiah runs as follows, who prophesied regarding Him that He would come and visit the multitude, not in comeliness of form, nor in any surpassing beauty: “Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? He made announcement before Him, as a child, as a root in a thirsty ground. He has no form nor glory, and we beheld Him, and He had no form nor beauty; but His form was without honour, and inferior to that of the sons of men.”269 These passages, then, Celsus listened to, because he thought they were of use to him in bringing a charge against Jesus; but he paid no attention to the words of the 45th Psalm, and why it is then said, “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy comeliness and beauty; and continue, and prosper, and reign.” (Cf.Psalm 45:3, 4, LXX)
177 συνθεῖναι λῆρον βαθύν.
178 ὅτι τίς ποτέ ἐστιν ἡ φύσις τοῦ νοῦ, καὶ τοῦ ἐν τοῖς προφήταις λόγου.
179 περὶ νοητῶν καὶ αἰσθητῶν.
180 αἱ φύσεις τῶν ἡμερῶν.
181 ἐν καταστάσει ἔσεσθαι ἡμέρας.
183 ὡς ἐν ἀλλοτρίοις τοῖς τῇδε.
184 μακρὰν χαιρέτωσαν.
186 cf. bk. v. cap. liv.
187 The textual reading is, ἀπό τινων εὐτελῶς καὶ ἰδιωτικῶς, for which Ruaeus reads, ἀπό τινων εὐτελῶν καὶ ἰδιωτικῶν, which emendation has been adopted in the translation.
188 οἱονεὶ θαυμαστικῶς.
192 ἐκ παρακολουθήσεως γεγένηται τῆς πρὸς τὰ προηγούμενα.
194 cf. Mic_1:12, Mic_1:13. The rendering of the Hebrews in the first clause of the thirteenth verse is different from that of the LXX.
195 παῤῥηίσαν ἔχειν.
197 ὀλίγα must be taken comparatively, on account of the πολλάς that follows afterwards.
198 πολλάς. See note 197.
199 τὰ ἑλικοειδῆ ξέσματα καὶ πρίσματα.
200 τὰ παρακείμενα.
202 τὸ καὶ ἐπιτυγχάνειν ἐν τῷ νουθετουμένῳ καὶ ἀκούειν τὸν τοῦ διδάσκοντος λόγον.
203 ὡσπερεὶ τῶν καλουμένων ἀντιπεπονθότων ἐστίν.
204 ἀνάλογον τῷ κείρεσθαι ἄνθρωπον, ἐνεργοῦντα τὸ παρέχειν ἑαυτὸν τῷ κείροντι.
205 πειθοῦς δημιουργῶν.
206 ἐνεθυμήθη, in all probability a corruption for ἐθυμώθη, which Hoeschel places in the text, and Spencer in the margin of his ed.: Heb. וַיִּנָחֶם.
207 ἐνεθυμήθην. cf. remark in note 206.
208 cf. Plato in Timaeo.
210 τὸν περίγειον τόπον.
212 τῇδε φερομένου.
213 τον προσεχῶς δημιουργόν.
216 τὰ ὑπὸ μόνης φύσεως διοικούμενα.
217 τὰ νηκτά.
218 [συνετέλεσεν, complevit. S.]
222 τῶν ἐπιβαλλόντων.
223 οὐ θέμις.
225 ἐπὶ τῶν δυνάμεων.
226 Cf.Exodus 20:18, LXX. The Masoretic text is different.
227 cf. Eph_5:1 ( μιμηταί).
228 The words as they stand in the text are probably corrupt: we have adopted in the translation the emendation of Guietus: ἔτι και ναός ἐστι τοῦ Θεοῦ το σῶμα τοῦ τοιαύτην ἔχοντος ψυχὴν, καὶ ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ διὰ τὸ κατ ̓ εἰκόνα, τὸν Θεόν.
230 πρεσβεία καὶ δυνάμει.
231 [“It is a remarkable fact, that it was Origen who discerned the heresy outside the Church on its first rise, and actually gave the alarm, sixty years before Arius’s day. See Athanasius, De Decret. Nic., § 27; also the περὶ ἀρχῶν (if Rufinus may be trusted), for Origen’s denoucement of the still more characteristic Arianism of the ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν and the ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων.” – Newman’s The Arians of the Fourth Century, p. 97. See also Hagenbach’s History of Doctrines, vol. i. pp. 130-133. S.]
232 For αὐτοῦ Boherellus conjectures αὑτοῦ, and translates, “Propria ipse principia, quae sunt Epicuri, subruens.”
233 οὐδὲ λογῷ ἐφικτός.
234 εἴτε ἐνδιαθέτῳ εἴτε καὶ προφοπικῷ.
235 οὐδὲν τῶν ἐν λέξεσι καὶ σημαινομένοις.
241 εἰκότι στοχασμῷ.
244 For οὑτωσί we have adopted the conjecture of Guietus, τούτου.
245 ὡς εὐθεώπητον.
246 πᾶσαν οὐσίαν.
247 πνεῦμα. There is an allusion to the two meanings of πνεῦμα, “wind” and “spirit.”
248 τὴν αἰσθητην ἐκδοχήν.
249 τυπικῶς here evidently must have the above meaning.
250 ἐν τύποις.
251 ἑαυτῷ συνάπτει.
252 οὐχ ὡς σῶμα δὲ περιέχον περιέχει, ὅτι καὶ σῶμά ἐστι τὸ περιεχόμενον.
253 πάνυ ἀπεμφαῖνον.
254 εἰς τοσοῦτον μίασμα.
255 cf. book iv. capp. xiv. and lxviii.
256 τῇ αἰσθήσει τὴν ἀρχὴν.
257 τὸ αἰσθητὸν σῶμα.
258 προσαχθήσῃ δὲ τῷ λεγομένῳ.
259 κἃν βιασάμενος ὁ λόγος εὕρῃ.
260 τοῦ δημιουργοῦ.
265 σεμνῶν λόγων.
266 τοσαύτην φλυαρίαν.
269 Cf.Isaiah 53:1-3, LXX. [See Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Creed, Art. II., note. S.]