"The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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StephenGoranson
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"The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

Post by StephenGoranson »

A recent book,
The sources of Celsus's criticism of Jesus: Theological developments in the second century AD,
Tijsseling, Egge, author
Leuven ; Bristol, CT: Peeters, 2022.
argues that "...the Jew [as represented by Celsus] is the writer of the first edition of _Toledot Yeshu_...." (p. 249, conclusion section).

That isn't proven. That Celsus was a Platonist rather than an Epicurean is persuasive.
Tijsseling proposes that Celsus used a lost text critical of Christianity, perhaps from Alexandria, more likely than that Celsus personally knew the Jewish person he represented. Maybe Celsus used a text.

The book's Bibliography lacks some relevant items (as a reviewer noted), including my
"Celsus of Pergamum: Locating a Critic of Early Christianity," Ch. 30 in The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the "Other" in Antiquity: Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers (AASOR 60/61, 2007)
in which I argue that Celsus, himself, was not from Alexandria, as some propose, but from Pergamum, Asia Minor.
https://people.duke.edu/~goranson/Celsu ... rgamum.pdf

That claim, if valid, by itself, would not settle the question of the origin of the text used by Celsus--if, in fact, he used such a text, given that a person in Pergamum could read a text produced in Alexandria.
But Origen, formerly of Alexandria, was no longer there when his patron--then in Asia Minor--got him to respond to Celsus.
The well-read Origen had evidently not encountered writings of Celsus nor the putative Jewish text before, which may weaken the claim of a link with Alexandria. And Celsus was bothered by Christian spread where he lived, so his location is relevant.
Last edited by StephenGoranson on Thu Feb 22, 2024 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Secret Alias
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Some observations. From memory.

1. Eusebius also takes an interest in Celsus.
2. Eusebius likely took an interest to address pagan criticisms of Christianity.
3. Clement seems to be aware of some of Celsus's lines of reasoning. This may be owing to a common source but I think it is because Clement read Celsus.
4. Celsus likely had a copy of Adversus Haereses or a heretical tome which preceded it (Justin?). This is where he gets most of his information about or from Hegesippus.
5. Celsus's "error" regarding the Harpocratians may not be an error.
6. Celsus's "Jew" is probably a real source and it likely embarrassed Origen so the name of the "Jew" is conveniently left out.
7. Celsus's interest in Marcionism likely had no first hand sources. In other words, Celsus had at his disposal anti-Marcionite treatises of the orthodox and developed his "point/counterpoint" in later books according to orthodox arguments against Marcionism.

All of which leads to my assumption that one of the critical advantages that the orthodox had over their rivals is that their books were likely available in public libraries whereas heretical volumes circulated "in the underground" (like pot comics or pot magazines in the 1960s and early 1970s). The fact that the orthodox copies of the gospel(?) and the letters of Paul and various New Testament and early Christian writings were in the library(libraries?) added to their authority. It is sort of like the Morton Smith argument only done 1800 years earlier. Irenaeus "the grammarian" as Cyril calls him simply put his new works in the public libraries and because of their presence there "proved" their authenticity. The argument regarding the appeal to "genealogies" of the Jews likely worked in a similar way with Irenaeus or some like minded early orthodox "depositing" a fake genealogy in the temple of Peace (where documents from the Jewish War were stored until the fire) or more likely an appeal to their "having been there" before the great fire which destroyed all the document (more likely). The same thing with regards to the Acts of Pilate. In other words, I think people underestimate the "Morton Smith" precedent in the late second century. That Celsus "investigating" Christianity simply "checked into" a public library and found copies of Justin, the New Testament, perhaps even Irenaeus and this was his main source of information for the True Word/Account. All of which put Origen in a difficult position and explains why the book was rewritten. Who wrote the original edition of Against Celsus? Clement? Hard to know. But I have always wondered whether Origens' Peri Archon was a reworking of the text Clement mentions in Quis Dives Salvetur, whether Origen's Stromateis was an expansion of Clement's text of the same name and now whether Clement wrote a response to Celsus which was deemed "heretical" or problematic for later standards of orthodoxy and whether Origen (or possibly Eusebius) reworked the text. A strong possibility is that the reason there are so many "Origen texts" is because Eusebius was correcting the entire library of Alexandrian Christianity and putting it in his name.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Whenever Justin or Irenaeus or Tertullian say "look at the genealogies of the Jews" or "look at the Acts of Pilate" (that are in the publicly accessible libraries) what does that tell you?

1. these documents are fake
and
2. Christians had infiltrated the libraries.

The same logic for Morton Smith "planting" the letter to Theodore (he's fag who wanted to make Christianity gay) apply for Irenaeus (he's a fascist who wanted to make Christianity fascist).
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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There are a few places where Celsus privileges non "orthodox" (to Origen) accounts.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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But are the Marcionites actually witnessed firsthand or through the lens of an orthodox writer? This is the million dollar question. I see parallels between Ephrem's First Book of Against Marcion and Celsus. A lot of the concerns (whether the body is resurrected) seem to be Marcionites through the lens of the orthodox. The same with whether or not the Marcionites "have the same God as the Jews." Epiphanius compiled a list of heresies mostly from previous sources. Why should Celsus have been any different? Were there really "Marcionites" crawling all over the Empire and Celsus went out and met them and interviewed their leaders and read their books? Don't think so.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Secret Alias wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 11:24 am But are the Marcionites actually witnessed firsthand or through the lens of an orthodox writer?
I will speak in the generic of the "non orthodox" here, as that allows for more of the habits of Celsus to be observed than to remark specifically on "Marcionites," which by its specificity limits what we can draw upon as relevant evidence.

And I will say that it seems to me that Celsus does not encounter the "non orthodox" through the lens of an orthodox writer. Instead, it seems to me that Celsus encountered the so-called "non orthodox" as though they were equally legitimate and valid interpretations of who Christians are, which is a point of view that would not be well represented in writers representing themselves as "orthodox."

Of course, like anyone else, I need to qualify this as saying that I say this based only on the remarks in Origen's Against Celsus, so what I am reading is at one remove and, in general, we need to be aware of the possibility of misrepresentation by Origen. But to the extent that I can answer the question at all, the answer that I see is not: it is gathered second hand by Celsus from "orthodox" writers. Not only do I not see that, as far as I can see, it looks more like the opposite.
Secret Alias wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 11:24 amWhy should Celsus have been any different? Were there really "Marcionites" crawling all over the Empire and Celsus went out and met them and interviewed their leaders and read their books? Don't think so.
To bring it back into the specifics, I don't know whether Celsus met any Marcionites or read any Marcionite books first hand. On the other hand, I can't be sure of the opposite either.

What I do know is that Celsus read "Christian"/"Chrestian" books (at least the gospels). While it is possible that Celsus never had any conversation with a Christian/Chrestian and only knew of them through books, that is an assumption, and I don't assume that. What I don't know is to what extent Celsus gets information at first hand or at second hand, or by word or text or otherwise, in particular instances.

What I do know is that Marcionites were considered / called "Christians"/"Chrestians" in the second century. What I do know is that Origen says Celsus considered "non orthodox" (to Origen) people/opinion to be Christian. What I don't know is to what extent Celsus had interaction with (what we would call) Marcionites, versus other Christians.

What I am not saying is that Celsus should be described as "investigating" anything.

What I certainly don't know is:
That Celsus "investigating" Christianity simply "checked into" a public library and found copies of Justin, the New Testament, perhaps even Irenaeus and this was his main source of information for the True Word/Account.
While there's a lot that I don't know, this is not only not known, but it seems positively unlikely to me, that Celsus got his information exclusively from "orthodox" sources, hearing about the "non orthodox" only through mention in anti-heretical accounts.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Secret Alias wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 11:24 am Were there really "Marcionites" crawling all over the Empire
Why wouldn't there be?
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Where are they? The next time we encounter Marcionites they are concentrated in Osroene.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Secret Alias wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 1:22 pm Where are they? The next time we encounter Marcionites they are concentrated in Osroene.
That's a fair question. I would guess that they were fairly successful and that an association with Asia Minor wasn't fictional (here I am thinking of "Pontus," of the John - Marcion or Polycarp - Marcion associations, and of the idea that they had something to do with the opposition in 1 John / Gospel of John that may itself have been in Asia Minor). Someone else could guess that they weren't widespread and/or that they weren't in Asia Minor, I suppose.

This is in reference to SG's idea about where in general Celsus was (Asia Minor, specifically Pergamum), which seems well argued to me.

So, yes, while I don't assume that Celsus interacted with Marcionites or Marcionite texts specifically, I haven't ruled it out. It seems plausible to me that they were in close enough proximity, geographically.
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Re: "The Sources of Celsus's Criticism..."

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Celsus encountered works that Origen considered non-orthodox (and which Origen wasn't even familiar with), quoting from them:

CHAP. XV.

Celsus goes on to say: "That I may give a true representation of their faith, I will use their own words, as given in what is called A Heavenly Dialogue: 'If the Son is mightier than God, and the Son of man is Lord over Him, who else than the Son can be Lord over that God who is the ruler over all things? How comes it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? Why art thou afraid when thou hast gone so far on the way? Answer: Thou art mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons.' Is it not evident, then, that their views are precisely such as I have described them to be? They suppose that another God, who is above the heavens, is the Father of him whom with one accord they honour, that they may honour this Son of man alone, whom they exalt under the form and name of the great God, and whom they assert to be stronger than God, who rules the world, and that he rules over Him. And hence that maxim of theirs, 'It is impossible to serve two masters,' is maintained for the purpose of keeping up the party who are on the side of this Lord." Here, again, Celsus quotes opinions from some most obscure sect of heretics, and ascribes them to all Christians. I call it "a most obscure sect;" for although we have often contended with heretics, yet we are unable to discover from what set of opinions he has taken this passage, if indeed he has quoted it from any author, and has not rather concocted it himself, or added it as an inference of his own. For we who say that the visible world is under the government to Him who created all things, do thereby declare that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him. And this belief we ground on the saying of Jesus Himself, "The Father who sent Me is greater than I." And none of us is so insane as to affirm that the Son of man is Lord over God. But when we regard the Saviour as God the Word, and Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Truth, we certainly do say that He has dominion over all things which have been subjected to Him in this capacity, but not that His dominion extends over the God and Father who is Ruler over all. Besides, as the Word rules over none against their will, there are still wicked beings--not only men, but also angels, and all demons--over whom we say that in a sense He does not rule, since they do not yield Him a willing obedience; but, in another sense of the word, He rules even over them, in the same way as we say that man rules over the irrational animals,--not by persuasion, but as one who tames and subdues lions and beasts of burden. Nevertheless, he leaves no means untried to persuade even those who are still disobedient to submit to His authority. So far as we are concerned, therefore, we deny the truth of that which Celsus quotes as one of our sayings, "Who else than He can be Lord over Him who is God over all?"

CHAP. XVI

The remaining part of the extract given by Celsus seems to have been taken from some other form of heresy, and the whole jumbled together in strange confusion: "How is it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? Why dost thou shrink with fear when thou hast gone so far on the way? Answer: Thou art mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons." We who belong to the Church which takes its name from Christ, assert that none of these statements are true. For he seems to have made them simply that they might harmonize 'with what he had said before; but they have no reference to us. For it is a principle with us, not to worship any god whom we merely "suppose" to exist, but Him alone who is the Creator of this universe, and of all things besides which are unseen by the eye of sense. These remarks of Celsus may apply to those who go on another road and tread other paths from us,--men who deny the Creator, and make to themselves another god under a new form, having nothing but the name of God, whom they esteem higher than the Creator; and with these may be joined any that there may be who say that the Son is greater than the God who rules all things. In reference to the precept that we ought not to serve two masters, we have already shown what appears to us the principle contained in it, when we proved that no sedition or disloyalty could be charged against the followers of Jesus their Lord, who confess that they reject every other lord, and serve Him alone who is the Son and Word of God.

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