The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

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Peter Kirby
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Re: The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 31, 2015 6:04 am

Secret Alias wrote:So for the reasons stated above why don't we use Goranson's paper as a launching position to reinvigorate this discussion by asking the ultimate question - what year do we imagine Celsus to have written? I think that the evidence is pretty strong that Celsus somehow lived 'after' Marcellina the Harpocratian (later 'Carpocratian' through some sort of transmission corruption) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcellina_%28gnostic%29. This is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the dating of Celsus IMO. I also agree with those who argue that Epiphanius is consistently citing verbatim passages from Hegesippus's Hypomnemata which seem to deal with Church History especially in Jerusalem (probably a romance or forgery written c. 150 CE) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hegesippus ... onicler%29 I think the Roman episcopal succession list as Brent calls it was tacked on to the Hypomnemata at some point after the main text was completed and is reflected in Irenaeus's succession list in Book 3 of Adv Haer. The presence of this list mentioned Marcellina and led people to believe that Hegesippus settled in Rome later. The reality is then that because Hegesippus knew this added succession list he was probably writing from Rome and c. 177 - 180 CE.

Given that I think that Celsus's reference Marcellina the Harpocratian is not from personal experience but from a book and similarly his contact with Justin Martyr was through books rather than personal contact Goranson's claims about Pergamum stand unaffected. The other piece of evidence (i.e. writing while there were two Emperors) further narrows the time frame to the reign of Marcus Aurelius basically. I tend to support the time when Commodus and he sat on the throne (177 - 180 CE) mostly because I think Christians were persecuted in this period (and thus the theme of Christian persecution reflected throughout the document).

Beyond that I don't see any compelling evidence for ANY specific locale other than Rome (though I don't think it's by any means decisive). I just think Celsus knew Justin and Irenaeus and while such books could have been anywhere, Rome is the most likely place.
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 31, 2015 6:06 am

Secret Alias wrote:Here is it:
And Trypho answered, "The Scripture has not, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,' but, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son,' and so on, as you quoted. But the whole prophecy refers to Hezekiah, and it is proved that it was fulfilled in him, according to the terms of this prophecy. Moreover, in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower. And you ought to feel ashamed when you make assertions similar to theirs, and rather[should] say that this Jesus was born man of men. And if you prove from the Scriptures that He is the Christ, and that on account of having led a life conformed to the law, and perfect, He deserved the honour of being elected to be Christ,[it is well]; but do not venture to tell monstrous phenomena, lest you be convicted of talking foolishly like the Greeks."
Compare with Celsus's Jew:
And since Celsus has introduced the Jew disputing with Jesus, and tearing in pieces, as he imagines, the fiction of His birth from a virgin, comparing the Greek fables about Danaë;, and Melanippe, and Auge, and Antiope, our answer is, that such language becomes a buffoon, and not one who is writing in a serious tone.
Secret Alias wrote: I think we can be virtually certain given all this evidence that Trypho (or whatever his original name was) was Celsus's source and that - yes - Celsus is citing a real Jewish author's work.
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Re: The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 31, 2015 6:09 am

Secret Alias wrote:Origen introduces Celsus introducing the Jew as follows:
And since, in imitation of a rhetorician training a pupil (τρόπον τινὰ μιμησάμενος ἓν ῥήτορος εἰσαγόμενον παιδίον), he introduces a Jew, who enters into a personal discussion with Jesus, and speaks in a very childish manner, altogether unworthy of the grey hairs of a philosopher, let me endeavour, to the best of my ability, to examine his statements, and show that he does not maintain, throughout the discussion, the consistency due to the character of a Jew. For he represents him disputing with Jesus, and confuting Him, as he thinks, on many points; and in the first place, he accuses Him of having invented his birth from a virgin, and upbraids Him with being born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery; that after being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God. [1.28]
The Jew was thus as old as the virgin birth claim. And again a little later:
But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced (Ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἐπανέλθωμεν εἰς τὴν τοῦ Ἰουδαίου προσωποποιΐαν), speaking of the mother of Jesus , and saying that when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed ( ἐν ᾗ ἀναγέγραπται ἡ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ μήτηρ ὡς ἐξωσθεῖσα ἀπὸ τοῦ μνηστευσαμένου αὐτὴν τέκτονος), as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera; and let us see whether those who have blindly concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera, and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to overturn His miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost [1.32]
So the structure of the book seems to have had Celsus say something similar to 'Jesus wasn't born of a virgin but instead was a son of an adulterous woman' or something to that effect. But Against Celsus 1.26 he begins:
But let us see the manner in which this Celsus, who professes to know everything, brings a false accusation against the Jews, when he alleges that they worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor
And then:
And Celsus having promised to make us acquainted, in a subsequent part of his work, with the doctrines of Judaism, proceeds in the first place to speak of our Saviour as having been the leader of our generation, in so far as we are Christians, and says that a few years ago he began to teach this doctrine, being regarded by Christians as the Son of God.
And again a little later still:
And if any one, on a candid consideration of these things, shall admit that no improvement ever takes place among men without divine help, how much more confidently shall he make the same assertion regarding Jesus, when he compares the former lives of many converts to His doctrine with their after conduct, and reflects in what acts of licentiousness and injustice and covetousness they formerly indulged, until, as Celsus, and they who think with him, allege, they were deceived, and accepted a doctrine which, as these individuals assert, is destructive of the life of men; but who, from the time that they adopted it, have become in some way meeker, and more religious, and more consistent, so that certain among them, from a desire of exceeding chastity, and a wish to worship God with greater purity, abstain even from the permitted indulgences of (lawful) love.
The implication to me at least seems to be that Celsus insults Judaism and then introduces his 'Jew.' A strange way to introduce a critical witness for his main argument that Christians are bad. The idea is that Celsus doesn't much like the Jews but he's going to use one of them to point out something things said about Christians from early witness.

Indeed Origen's closing sentence in 1.27 (before introducing Celsus's introduction of the Jew) seems to imply some differences between Celsus and his Jew:
And although, among the multitude of converts to Christianity, the simple and ignorant necessarily outnumbered the more intelligent, as the former class always does the latter, yet Celsus, unwilling to take note of this, thinks that this philanthropic doctrine, which reaches to every soul under the sun, is vulgar, and on account of its vulgarity and its want of reasoning power, obtained a hold only over the ignorant. And yet he himself admits that it was not the simple alone who were led by the doctrine of Jesus to adopt His religion; for he acknowledges that there were among them some persons of moderate intelligence, and gentle disposition, and possessed of understanding, and capable of comprehending allegories. [1.27]
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Re: Did Celsus and His "Jew" Offer Different Arguments?

Post by perseusomega9 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:23 am

Secret Alias wrote:The Jew of Celsus also seems to know the ending of the Gospel of Peter:
Further, after these Greek stories which the Jew adduced respecting those who were guilty of juggling practices, and who pretended to have risen from the dead, he says to those Jews who are converts to Christianity: Do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance of such, while you have discovered a becoming and credible termination to your drama in the voice from the cross, when he breathed his last?
Gospel of Peter:
And, as they declared what things they had seen, again they see three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him that was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, Thou hast preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yea. They therefore considered one with another whether to go away and shew these things to Pilate. And while they yet thought thereon, the heavens again are seen to open, and a certain man to descend and enter into the sepulchre.
I don't know if anyone noticed this before but I think this torpedoes Goodacres suggested interpretation of this passage

https://earliestchristianity.wordpress. ... vs-foster/

I think I am going to put this on my blog ...
since the voice from the cross is followed by "when he breathed his last", doesn't that more readily follow from Jesus' last words before giving up the spirit/power and not to the talking cross at the end of GPeter?
The metric to judge if one is a good exegete: the way he/she deals with Barabbas.

Who disagrees with me on this precise point is by definition an idiot.
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Re: The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

Post by StephenGoranson » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:00 am

In case it's of interest, when I wrote my mentioned article (now online) "Celsus of Pergamum: Locating a Critic of Early Christianity" I assumed (as Origen did too?) that Celsus wrote the portions presented as being from a Jewish point of view. Later (2013) Maren Niehoff published an article that claims that Celsus used a previously written document by a Jew from Alexandria. "A Jewish Critique of Christianity from Second-Century Alexandria: Revisiting the Jew Mentioned in Contra Celsum," J. of Early Christian Studies 21.2 (2013) 151-175 [in JSTOR]. I am not persuaded. Anyone here think so?

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Re: The Identity of Celsus and His "Jew"

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:58 am

Do we have a copy for people at the forum to read (without a JSTOR account for recent articles)? I am very persuaded that Celsus used a document written by a 'real' Jew. Could that Jew have been from Alexandria? Sure why not. Celsus demonstrates he used real sources and Origen consistently questions his sources. On balance we have to give the benefit of the doubt that people are telling the truth especially when there was no threat against his person, no reason for him to lie. It is worth underscoring that Origen's comments don't allow for Celsus to have 'innocently' developed a 'parody' of a conversation between a Jew and a Christian. Celsus clearly puts forward what he claims to be a real document that wasn't produced by his hand and I think we should believe him in part because Origen never raises any substantial proof to impugn his integrity. Much like the Morton Smith situation most of the opposition to 'Celsus's Jew' derives from the desire of some to blunt the implications of the testimony.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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