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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

A reply to those Greek philosophers who profess to know everything, and blame the simple faith of the man of Christians; and complain that they prefer folly to wisdom in life; moreover, that no wise or educated man has become a disciple of Jesus; but boatmen and tax-gatherers of the lowest class, they say, get fools and blockheads, slaves, weak women and children, to submit themselves to the Gospel. Books I. and III. against Celsus

1. He next urges us in forming our opinions to make reason our guide and follow it, because whoever gives his assent in other terms is sure to be misled; and he likens men who have an unreasoning faith to begging priests of Cybele and to soothsayers, Mithræ and Sabadians, or any other sort one comes upon, phantom envoys of Hecate or some other demon, or demons. For as among them detestable men are frequently found trading upon the ignorance of the simple, and leading them any way they choose, so, Celsus says, it is with Christians. He tells us that certain teachers who will neither give nor receive an account of what they believe employ the formula, “Don’t ask why, but believe,” and another, “Thy faith shall save thee”; and these teachers, he adds, maintain that “worldly wisdom is a bad thing, and foolishness a good thing.” This is our answer. If all men could give up the active pursuits of life and apply themselves to philosophy, that would be the only course for any man to take; for in Christianity, not to speak offensively, there will be found no less inquiry than elsewhere; we have our careful investigation of the articles of the Faith, and our explanation of the dark sayings of the Prophets, the parables in the Gospels, and countless other figurative events or enactments. But if this course is impracticable, whether on account of the stress of life, or because of human infirmity, for very few are eager to reason, what better plan for benefiting the many could be devised than that which was delivered by Jesus to the Gentiles? And as regards the greater number of believers, who have escaped from the deep mire of wickedness in which they formerly wallowed, which, we ask, is really best—that with unreasoning faith they should be reformed characters, because they believe that men are punished for sin and rewarded for good works, or that we should not allow their conversion on the strength of mere faith, but wait for their deliberate investigation of the reasons for belief? It is clear that nearly all will be excluded from the benefits which the others have received through simply believing; the many will continue to lead abandoned lives. Whatever else then goes to prove that the love towards man which marked the entry of the Word into human affairs was not undesigned by God, this must be included. A religious man will not suppose that even a physician of the body, who restores many sick to health, comes into cities or nations independently of God; for without God’s help nothing comes to men. But if the physician who cures the bodies of many sufferers, or partially benefits them, does not cure without God’s help, how much rather is this true of Him who heals the souls of many, converts them, does them good, attaches them to the Supreme God, and teaches them in all their doings to make His good pleasure their aim, and to shun whatever is in the least displeasing to Him in word, or deed, or thought?

2. So then, since our opponents are for ever talking about our faith, we have to tell them that we allow it on the ground that it is a good thing for the many, and we confess that we teach those who cannot forsake everything else and investigate the evidence, to believe even without reasoning; and our opponents, though they would not confess so much, do the same. Could any man who has been drawn to Philosophy and has dashed into some philosophic sect, either at random, or because he has had access to some particular teacher, get thus far any other way than by believing that sect to be the best? For it is not by waiting to hear the arguments of all the philosophers and of the different sects, and by learning how some may be upset and others established, that a man chooses to be a Stoic, or a follower of Plato, or a Peripatetic, or an Epicurean, or to belong to any other philosophic school; but it is by an unreasoning impulse, though they will not admit the fact, that they come, for instance, to forsake the others and adopt Stoicism: rejecting Plato’s doctrine as less dignified than that of the others, or the Peripatetic system because it is more human, and more readily than others admits the blessings of mankind. And there are some who in their alarm at the faintest approach to the doctrine of Providence, arguing from what on earth befalls both bad and good, rashly conclude that there is no Providence, and take the view of Epicurus and Celsus.

3. Since, then, as reason teaches, we must believe some one who has founded a sect, Greek or Barbarian, should we not much rather believe the Supreme God, and Him who teaches that we ought to worship God only, and overlook all else, as either non-existent, or as existing and worthy of honour, but not of reverence and adoration? As regards these points, if a man not only believes, but also views them in the light of reason, he will let it be known what proofs he comes upon, and discovers through thorough inquiry. It is surely more reasonable, since all things human depend on faith, to believe God rather than them. Does any man go on a voyage, or marry, or beget children, or sow the land, unless he believes that all will turn out for the best, though the opposite is possible, and sometimes does happen? In spite of possible disappointment, the belief in a prosperous issue and that they will realise their wishes, makes all men venture even where there is uncertainty, and the result may be other than they hope. Now, if in every undertaking where the result is uncertain the hope and belief in a successful result is the stay of life, shall not a man with much better reason than if he sailed the sea, or sowed the land, or married a wife, or engaged in any other human affairs, have this faith, and believe in the God Who made all these things, and in Him Who, with surpassing wisdom and Divine magnanimity, ventured to present this doctrine to all mankind, in the face of great dangers and of what was considered a shameful death, which sufferings He endured for man, teaching His earliest adherents to boldly traverse the whole world in peril at every step and with the constant expectation of death, in order to promote the salvation of men?

4. Let the impugner of the faith of Christians tell us by what demonstrative proofs he was driven to admit the occurrence of numerous conflagrations and deluges, and upon what grounds he maintains that the last deluge was in the time of Deucalion, and the last conflagration in the time of Phaethon. If he adduces the dialogues of Plato on these subjects, we will tell him that we, too, are at liberty to believe that a Divine Spirit abode in the pure and pious soul of Moses, who soared above all things created and clung to the Maker of the universe, and gave clearer views of the things of God than Plato or the Greek and Barbarian philosophers. And if Celsus demands our reasons for such a faith, let him first give us the grounds of his unproved opinions, and we will at once make good our position.

5. Celsus is welcome to the teachers of fabulous conflagrations and deluges. According to him they were the wisest of the Egyptians, and traces of their wisdom may be seen in the worship of irrational creatures, and in the arguments to show that such a worship of God, though partly lost and mysterious, is quite reasonable. If the Egyptians boast of their animal worship and explain the principles of their religion, they are wise; but if a man, assenting to the Judaic law and acknowledging the lawgiver, refers everything to the only God, the Maker of the universe, he is accounted by Celsus and his followers inferior to him who degrades the Godhead to the level not only of rational and mortal creatures, but of irrational creatures, thus going beyond the fabulous transmigration of souls, according to which a soul falls from the vaults of heaven and descends to irrational creatures, not only such as are tamed, but even the most savage. And if Egyptians tell these mythic tales, they are believed to have been philosophers with their riddles and mysteries; but if Moses writes histories for a whole nation, and bequeaths laws to the people, his words are regarded as empty fables, incapable of even an allegorical interpretation. For this is the opinion of Celsus and the Epicureans.

6. Then, in express terms, Celsus says, “If they will be good enough to answer me, not as if I were a novice, for I know all about it,” and so on. In reply to this claim to know “all about it,” which is an astounding piece of swagger, we must observe that if he had read the Scriptures, above all, the prophetical writings, which we admit are full of dark sayings and things obscure to the many, and if he had studied the parables in the Gospels, and the texts of Scripture containing the Law and the history of the Jewish people, and the utterances of the Apostles, and, reading with a fair and open mind, had wished to get at the meaning, he would not have been so bold as to say, “I know all about it.” Not even we who spend ourselves upon these studies would claim to know “all about it,” for truth is dear to us. Not one of us will say “I know all that Epicurus taught,” nor will boast that he knows the whole of Plato; the truth being that there are numerous points as to which even the expounders of the doctrines are not agreed. Who would be so bold as to say, “I know all about the Stoic or Peripatetic philosophy”? though it might happen that hearing some illiterate blockheads, unconscious of their own ignorance, boasting of their universal knowledge, a man might on the authority of such teachers suppose that he himself knew everything. Celsus seems to me to have acted much the same as if a traveller in Egypt (where those who are familiar with the national literature indulge in many speculations on what are regarded as Divine institutions, but the unlearned are greatly elated when they hear certain myths without understanding the principles involved) were to think he was acquainted with all the wisdom of the Egyptians, though, in fact, he was a disciple of the ignorant, and never came into touch with any of the priests, nor was taught the mysterious doctrines of the Egyptians by one of them. And what I have said about the Egyptians, wise and ignorant, holds good, as we may see, of the Persians. They have their mysteries, celebrated by the learned on principles of reason, but taken symbolically by the masses and ordinary people. And the same applies to the Syrians and Indians, and all who have myths and literature.

7. Celsus, moreover, makes many Christians say, “Wordly wisdom is a bad thing, and foolishness a good thing.” We must therefore observe that he slanders the Word, for he does not give Paul’s exact words, which run thus: “If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” [The Apostle does not say without qualification, “Wisdom is foolishness with God,” but “the wisdom of this world.” Again, he does not say, “If any man among you thinketh that he is wise, let him become a fool absolutely,” but “let him become a fool in this world, that he may become wise.” Well, then, by “the wisdom of the world” we mean all false philosophy, which, according to the Scripture, is being brought to nought; and we call foolishness a good thing, not absolutely, but when a man becomes a fool to this world. It is the same as if we were to say that a Platonist who believes in the immortality of the soul and what is said about its transmigration, is foolish in the eyes of the Stoics who give no quarter to these opinions; or in the eyes of the Peripatetics who are always talking about the inanities of Plato; or in the eyes of the Epicureans who charge with superstition those who introduce a Providence and set God over all things. And, further, that even, according to the Word itself, it is much better to assent to our doctrines on grounds of reason and wisdom, than on the strength of the bare faith of which we have spoken; and that, under certain circumstances the Word even intended this, so as not to leave men altogether unprofitable, is shown by Paul, the true disciple of Jesus, when he says, “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.” This clearly shows that God should have been known in the wisdom of God. And since this did not come to pass, God, as by a second expedient, was pleased to save believers, not by foolishness absolutely, but by foolishness so far as related to preaching. For the preaching of Jesus Christ as crucified is “foolishness of preaching.” Paul is conscious of this when he says, “But we preach Jesus Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

And towards the end of the same book, Book I., respecting the statement that no wise or educated man has been a disciple of Jesus, there is the following:—

8. It is clear to those who are capable of investigating the history of the Apostles with intelligence and candour that it was by Divine power they taught Christianity, and succeeded in bringing men into subjection to the Word of God. For it was not their powerful speaking, or that they offered the Gospel, in accordance with the rules of Greek dialectics or rhetoric, which won over their hearers. But it seems to me that if Jesus had chosen certain men in general esteem for their wisdom, who could think and speak so as to please the many, and had employed them as ministers of the doctrine, He might reasonably have been suspected of having been preached by a school like the leaders of some philosophical sect; and in that case the promise that the Word should be Divine would not have been clear, inasmuch as the Word and the preaching was in persuasive words of that wisdom which is shown in style and composition; and Christian faith, like the faith of the Philosophers of the world in their doctrines, would have been in the wisdom of men and not in the power of God. But who, when he sees fishermen and tax-gatherers, men without even the rudiments of learning (the Gospel so describes them, and Celsus credits them with speaking the truth about their own ignorance), not only dealing boldly with the Jews as regards the Faith in Jesus, but also preaching Him in other nations, and with success, would not ask how they came to have this convincing power? for it is no ordinary power. And who would not say that by a certain Divine power in His Apostles Jesus fulfilled the promise, “Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men”? It is such a power as this which Paul, as we have said before, describes when he says, “And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” For as we read in the Prophets who foretell the preaching of the Gospel, “The Lord gave a word to those who bring good tidings with great power, the King of the powers of the Beloved,” in order that the prophecy may be fulfilled which says, “His word shall run very swiftly.” And in fact we see that “The sound of the apostles of Jesus Christ went out into every land, and their words unto the end of the world.” Thus it is that when men hear the Word proclaimed with power they are filled with power, and they manifest it both by their dispositions and their lives, and by contending earnestly for the truth even unto death; but some speakers are mere windbags even though they profess to believe in God through Jesus, for not being Divinely enabled they only seem to be subject to the Word of God. I have already mentioned a saying of our Saviour in the Gospels, but I will none the less make use of it now, for it is appropriate, by way of showing how our Saviour’s foreknowledge of the preaching of the Gospel is most Divinely manifested, and also how the Word without teachers prevails over those who yield to the persuasiveness of Divine power: “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into the harvest.”

9. And whereas Celsus speaks of infamous men, and calls the Apostles of Jesus villainous tax-gatherers and sailors, we will say respecting this, that in order to find fault with the Word he appears to believe the Scriptures wherever he chooses; but to disbelieve the Gospels so that he may not have to accept the manifestations of Deity proclaimed in those same books; for any one who sees how the writers cling to truth in describing minor matters cannot help believing them when they treat of things more Divine. It is indeed written in the Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, from which Celsus probably took his description of the Apostles as “infamous” and “villainous,” that “Jesus Christ chose for His own apostles those who were notoriously lawless men.” And in the Gospel according to Luke, Peter says to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Nay more, Paul (though he afterwards became an Apostle of Jesus) says in his Epistle to Timothy, “Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Is there, then, any absurdity in believing that Jesus, because He wished to show mankind His wondrous skill in healing souls, chose “infamous” and “villainous” men, and brought them to such a pitch of excellence, that they were a pattern of the purest life to those who through them were led to submit to the Gospel of Christ?

10. If we are going to make their past a reproach to men who have changed their lives, it is time for us to attack Phædo even though he is now the Philosopher: for, as history relates, Socrates took him out of a house of ill-fame and interested him in philosophy. We shall also make the profligacy of Polemon, the successor of Xenocrates, a reproach to philosophy; whereas we ought to give philosophy credit thus far, that reason when used by those gifted with persuasive power can rescue from such vices those who had been overcome by them. The Greeks have one Phædo, I do not know of another, and one Polemon, who after a dissolute and utter detestable life changed and became philosophers; while with Jesus there were not only the Twelve at the time we speak of, but always many more, such as having become a joyous band of temperate livers, say concerning their former lives: “For we also were aforetime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward men, appeared through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost which he poured out upon us,” we became what we are. For “God sent forth his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions,” as the prophet taught in the Psalms. And I would further remark, that Chrysippus in his treatise on the Healing of the Passions, his object being to check the passions of men’s souls, though he does not pledge himself to the truth of any particular doctrine, endeavours to apply his remedy according to the principles of the sect to which they belong who have been mastered by their passions; and he says that if pleasure be the (philosophic) end, we must through pleasure cure the passions; and even if, according to some, there are three kinds of blessings, we must none the less, according to this doctrine, similarly rid men from the tyranny of the passions. But the accusers of Christianity do not see how the passions of multitudes are calmed, and the surging waves of wickedness laid to rest, nor do they regard the numbers of those whose savage characters are tamed by means of the Word. And if they find this public benefit to be a fact, they ought to confess their gratitude to the Word for having by a new method delivered men from many vices; and they ought to bear witness to it, that whether it be the truth or not, it has at all events profited mankind.

11. Jesus, teaching His disciples not to be rash, said to them, “When they persecute you in this city, flee into the next; and if they persecute you in the next, flee again into another”; and He not only taught, but was an example of a well-regulated life, in which dangers are never encountered without an object, unseasonably, or unreasonably. This, again, Celsus mischievously perverts, and makes his Jew say to Jesus, “You run away to all sorts of places with your disciples.”

12. “What need was there for you while still an infant to be carried off into Egypt, so that you might not have your throat cut? For it was not likely that a god should be afraid of death?” and so on. But inasmuch as we believe Jesus, when He Himself says concerning His Divinity, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” or anything similar; and as we also believe Him when, referring to His having a human body, He says, “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth,” we maintain that He was something compound. And inasmuch as it was His purpose during His sojourn on earth to live the life of a man, it was right that He should not unseasonably expose Himself to death. So, too, it was necessary that He should be taken away by His parents who were guided by one of God’s angels.

13. Is there any absurdity in supposing that, having once become Man, His human life was so ordered that He shunned dangers? not that it was otherwise impossible to attain His object, but because it was fitting to leave room for ways and means in securing His safety. And it was surely better for the child Jesus to escape from Herod’s plot and sojourn with His parents in Egypt until the death of the conspirator, than for Providence watching over Jesus to hinder the will of Herod when he purposed to kill the child, or to associate with Jesus dark Pluto’s helm, of which the poets speak, or anything of the kind, or to smite those who came to destroy Him, as the men of Sodom were smitten. If it had been perfectly clear that some very extraordinary help was given to Him, this would not have furthered His desire to teach, as a man approved by God, that He had something more Divine within the visible man, which “something” was properly the Son of God, God the Word, the power of God and the wisdom of God, He that is called Christ. But this is not the time to discuss the compound nature, and the parts of which Jesus, who became a man, was composed; that is a separate topic, and, if I may so speak, one suitable for investigation by believers.

14. And the story of Aristotle has points of resemblance to the slanderous charge against Jesus and His disciples. When Aristotle saw that a court was going to be got together to try him for impiety, on account of certain of his philosophical opinions which the Athenians considered impious, he left Athens and stayed in Chalcis, defending himself to his friends by saying, “Let us leave Athens, so that we may not give the Athenians any occasion for incurring the guilt they did over Socrates, and that they may not a second time sin against Philosophy.”

15. And in Book III. of the same treatise against Celsus he says this:—

Then Celsus goes on to quote what is said against the teaching of Jesus by a very small number of persons who are considered Christians, not the most intelligent, as he supposes, but the most ignorant, and tells us “that such rules as these are laid down by them: Let no educated person come, no one wise, no one prudent; for education, wisdom, and prudence are with us regarded as bad things. But if any one is unlearned, if any one is without understanding, or uneducated, or a mere child, let him come boldly. Now the fact that they confess these persons to be worthy of their God, shows that they wish and are able to convince none but fools, low-born people, blockheads, slaves, weak women, and children.” This is our reply. When Jesus was teaching self-control He said, “Every one that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Now, suppose a man saw some few persons, out of so many, who are considered to be Christians, living undisciplined lives, he would with very good reason accuse them of living contrary to the teaching of Jesus; but he would be most unreasonable if he were to charge the Gospel with their offence. Just so, if Christian doctrine as much as any other is found to invite men to wisdom, they must be blamed who rest satisfied with their own ignorance, and who say, not what Celsus relates (for though some are ignorant and unlearned, they do not use such shameless language), but other things which, though far less important, are nevertheless calculated to turn believers from the practice of wisdom.

16. That the Word means us to be wise, we may prove even from the old Jewish Scriptures, which we use as well as the Jews, and no less also from those which were written after Jesus came, and are believed in the churches to be Divine. In the 50th Psalm David in his prayer to God is reported to have said, “Thou hast showed me the secret and hidden things of thy wisdom.” And any reader of the Psalms may find the book full of many wise doctrines. And Solomon, because he asked for wisdom, received it; and the proofs of his wisdom may be seen in his works, which contain much thought in few words, and in which you may discover many praises of wisdom and many admonitions as to the necessity of embracing it. Solomon was in fact so wise that “the Queen of Sheba having heard of his name and the name of the Lord came to prove him with hard questions, and she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything overlooked by the king, which he told her not. And the Queen of Sheba saw all the understanding of Solomon, and all that belonged to him; and there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thee and of thy understanding. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and riches exceed all the report which I heard.” Again, it is written concerning the same Solomon, “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the understanding of all the ancients and all the understanding of Egypt; and he was wiser than all men,” and so on. And so desirous is the Word that there should be wise men among believers, that to exercise the intelligence of the hearers it has expressed some things in enigmas, some in what are called dark sayings, others through parables, and others through difficult questions. And one of the prophets, Hosea, in his concluding words, exclaims, “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them?” Daniel, too, and his companions in captivity made such progress in all the learning cultivated by the wise men about the King of Babylon, that they were proved to be ten times better than them all. And in Ezekiel it is said to the Prince of Tyre, who prided himself upon his wisdom, “Surely thou art not wiser than Daniel? Every secret was not shown thee.”

17. And if you come to the books written after the time of Jesus, you will find the crowds of believers who heard the parables regarded as “without,” and worthy only of the popular arguments, but the disciples learning in private the interpretation of the parables; for Jesus privately expounded everything to His own disciples, thus honouring those who claimed His wisdom more than He did the crowds. And He promises those who believe on Him that He will send wise men and scribes, saying, “Behold, I send unto you wise men and scribes: and some of them shall they kill and crucify.” And Paul in his list of the gifts of God’s grace, placed first the word of wisdom, and second, as inferior to it, the word of knowledge, and third, still lower I suppose, he placed faith. And inasmuch as he honoured the Word above marvellous acts, for this reason he places workings of miracles and gifts of healing below the gifts of the Word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen testifies to the great learning of Moses, taking his proofs altogether from such ancient writings as were not generally known. For he says, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” And this is why Moses was suspected in his miracles; they thought he might work them not because, as he professed, he came from God, but because of the learning of the Egyptians in which he was skilled. The king, because he thus suspected him, summoned the enchanters of the Egyptians, and the wise men, and the sorcerers; and they were proved to be as nothing in comparison with the wisdom in Moses, which surpassed all the wisdom of the Egyptians.

18. But what Paul writes in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he addresses them as Greeks priding themselves on their Grecian wisdom, has probably moved some to think that the Word does not want the wise. If any one so thinks, let me tell him that as the Word reflects on bad men, and says that they are not wise in things spiritual, invisible, and eternal, but because they concern themselves with things of sense only, and make them all in all, they are wise men of the world: so also, inasmuch as there are many doctrines, some of which give support to theories of matter and corporeal substances, and allege that all subsistences to begin with were corporeal, and that there is nothing else beside them, whether it be called “invisible” or “incorporeal,” the Word says that this is wisdom of the world which is being brought to nought and stultified, and that it is wisdom of this present life. On the other hand, there are doctrines which translate the soul from earthly affairs to the blessedness of communion with God and to the kingdom which bears His name, and teaches the soul to despise all things sensible and visible as being temporal, but to press on to the things invisible and to keep in view the things that are not seen—and these doctrines the Word says are the wisdom of God. Paul, with his love of truth, speaking of certain wise men of the Greeks and the truth they hold, says that, “Knowing God, they glorified him, not as God, neither gave thanks”; and he tells us that they had not this knowledge without God’s help. “For,” he says, “God manifested it unto them.” I suppose he is darkly hinting at those who rise from things visible to the things intelligible, when he writes that “The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; so that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks.”

19. Then there is the passage, “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before him.” Some have perhaps been moved through this to suppose that no one educated, or wise, or prudent embraces the Word. We would point out to such an one that the words are not, “No wise man after the flesh,” but “Not many wise men after the flesh.” And it is plain that in the character sketch of those who are called Bishops, when Paul described what manner of man the bishop ought to be, he gave the teacher his proper place: for he says the bishop “must be able also to convict the gainsayers, so that he may stop the mouth of vain talkers and deceivers.” And as the Apostle in choosing a man for the office of a bishop prefers one who is the husband of one wife rather than him who has been twice married, and the blameless man rather than him who has been overtaken in a fault, and the temperate man rather than the opposite, and the soberminded man rather than him who is not soberminded, and the orderly man rather than him who is ever so little disorderly: so he wishes the man specially qualified for the office of a bishop to be apt to teach, and able to stop the mouths of the gainsayers. How, then, can Celsus with any show of reason accuse us of saying, “Let no one educated come, no one wise, no one prudent.” By all means let any educated, wise, or prudent man come if he wishes to: but if a man be ignorant, and unintelligent, and uneducated, and childish, he will be no less welcome. For the Word promises to heal such if they come, making them all worthy of God.

20. And it is another falsehood that “the teachers of the Divine Word wish to persuade only silly, ill-bred people, blockheads, and slaves, and weak women, and children,” though the Word calls even those that it may do them good. But it also calls such as are very different from them, for Christ is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe, whether they be men of understanding, or more simple folk, and “He is the propitiation with the Father for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” After what we have said it is too much to expect us to reply to such questions as these, which Celsus puts: “Why is it a very bad thing for a man to have been educated, and to have studied the best arguments, and both to be and seem wise? How does this hinder a man from knowing God? Can it possibly be anything but a help and a means whereby a man may more readily reach the truth?” A real education is not a bad thing, for education is a path to virtue; but not even the wise men of Greece will tell us that the holders of erroneous opinions are to be reckoned among the “educated.” According to our Word, a knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom; and, if I may use the term, there is a knowledge of wickedness in the holders of false opinions, and in those who have been deceived by fallacious arguments. I should therefore say that they are more ignorant than wise. Further, who would not confess that it is a good thing to have studied the best arguments? Shall we, however, call any arguments the “best,” except those which are true and which urge men to the pursuit of virtue? Again, it is a good thing to be wise, though not, as Celsus says, to seem so; and to have been educated, and to have studied the best arguments, and to be a man of understanding is certainly no hindrance but a help in knowing God. And it is more fitting for us than for Celsus to say this, particularly if he is proved to be an Epicurean.

21. Let us see what he says next. “Why, we surely see even the men in the market-places parading their infamous opinions and collecting a crowd, though they would never come near a gathering of sensible people, and would never dare to show their real sentiments among them; but wherever they catch sight of striplings, or a herd of slaves, or a set of fools, away they go and show off.” Now observe, I pray you, how herein ho slanders us by comparing us to the men in the market-places who parade their infamous opinions and collect a crowd. What infamous opinions, then, do we parade? or how are we like them, when by readings and explanations of what we read we invite men to the worship of the God of the universe, and to the cultivation of the virtues connected with that worship, but dissuade them from the contempt of the Divine Being, and from the practice of all that is contrary to sound doctrine? The Philosophers, I take it, would gladly get together so many hearers of their discourses which invite men to a virtuous life, as has been notably the case with certain of the Cynics, who publicly converse with such hearers as happen to be by. Will it then be said that these Philosophers, because they do not gather an audience of what are considered educated people, but invite the common people to assemble, are like the men in the market-places who parade their infamous opinions and collect a crowd? The truth is that neither Celsus, nor any one who agrees with him, finds fault with teachers who follow the course which humanity dictates, and address their arguments to the ignorant masses as well as to other people.

22. If the Philosophers are not to be blamed for doing this, let us see whether Christians do not more than they, and to better purpose, endeavour to win multitudes to the love of the beautiful and good. The Philosophers who discourse in public make no distinctions in their choice of hearers; any one who likes stands and listens. But Christian teachers, so far as they can, first make trial of the souls of those who wish to hear them, and rejoice over them in private; then, when the hearers appear sufficiently earnest in their desire to lead a good life, they introduce them to the public assembly, having made a private list of those who are novices and catechumens, and have not as yet received the Sacrament of their cleansing, and another list of those who, as far as possible, show their determination to adopt Christianity to the exclusion of all else; and with these are associated certain officers appointed to inquire carefully into the lives and conduct of the candidates, so that they may prevent such as are guilty of infamous practices from coming to the public assembly, but may heartily welcome such as are different from these, and may day by day do them good. And they have a similar method in dealing with those who fall into sin, particularly such as are licentious, whom they, who, according to Celsus, resemble the market-place orators parading their infamous opinions, expel from the public assembly. The venerable school of the Pythagoreans used to set up kenotaphs to those who abandoned that philosophy, reckoning them as dead. But our Christian teachers lament as dead, inasmuch as they are lost and dead to God, those who have been overcome by lasciviousness, or some other disgusting wickedness; and regarding them as risen from the dead if they manifest a considerable change, they afterwards receive them, though a longer interval is required than in the case of catechumens; they choose, however, to no office and administration in the Church of God those who soon lapsed after submitting to the Gospel.

23. Now Celsus says that these men to whom he compares us, the men in the market-places parading their infamous opinions and collecting a crowd, would never think of coming near a company of sensible people, nor venture to show their real sentiments among them: “but wherever they see striplings, or a herd of slaves, and a set of fools, away they go and show off.” When he thus abuses us he is exactly like the low women who delight in slandering one another. For we do all we can to get an audience of sensible men, and we then venture in our public discourses to bring forth what is best and most Divine, when we have a number of intelligent hearers, but we conceal and pass over in silence the deeper truths, when we see that those who assemble are the simpler sort of people, and require such teaching as is metaphorically called “milk.” For Paul, writing to the Corinthians, Greeks whose morals were not yet cleansed, says, “I fed you with milk, not with meat: for ye were not able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able; for ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men?” And the same Paul, knowing that some things are food for the more mature soul, and that others being suitable for beginners are like “milk,” says, “Ye have become such as have need of milk, not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.” Now, let me ask, could men who believe this to be well spoken suppose that the beauties of the Word should never be declared to an assembly of sensible men, but that “wherever they see striplings, and a herd of slaves, and a set of fools,” there “they should produce the Divine and hallowed truths, and before such an audience show off in handling them?” On the contrary, it is clear to any one who examines the whole drift of our Scriptures, that Celsus, like the ignorant masses, is moved by hatred against the family of Christ when he makes such false and unwarranted statements.

24. We own to a desire to instruct all with the Word of God, whatever Celsus may wish, so as to give the striplings such exhortation as is suitable for them, and show slaves how they may be ennobled by the Word if they recover a free mind. And our advocates of Christianity emphatically declare that they are debtors to Greeks and Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish; for they do not deny that they are bound to cure the souls even of the foolish, so that, as far as they can, laying aside their ignorance they may earnestly seek wisdom, and may give heed to Solomon’s words, “Ye fools, be of an understanding heart”; and, “Let him who is most foolish among you turn aside unto me”; and those who are without understanding Wisdom exhorts thus, “Come, eat ye of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake folly that ye may live, and correct understanding in knowledge.” I should also like to ask in reply to what Celsus states, for the point is important, whether the teachers of philosophy do not invite striplings to come and hear them? And do they not urge young men to give up a low life and turn to something better? How does Celsus make out that they do not wish slaves to take up Philosophy? Are we going to blame Philosophers for encouraging slaves to turn and lead a virtuous life, as Pythagoras did Zamolxis, and Zeno did Persæus, or as they did who very recently won Epictetus to the side of Philosophy? May you, ye Greeks, invite striplings, and slaves, and fools, to embrace Philosophy? and if we do so, will ye not allow our motive to be love for man, seeing that we wish with the healing virtue of the Word to cure every rational nature and make it fit for God, the Creator of all things?

25. When Celsus, distracted at the numbers of those who flock to hear the Word, alleges that no sensible person obeys the Word, he acts like a man who alleges that because so many ignorant persons submit to the laws, no sensible person obeys Solon, for instance, or Lycurgus, or Zaleucus, or any other lawgiver, particularly if by “sensible” he means in respect of virtue. For as the lawgivers, providing for the masses according to their views of what was best, have given them proper guidance and laws on all sides; so God when He gives the law in Jesus Christ to all men everywhere, leads those who are not “sensible” as well as others, so far as such men can be led, on to the better life. Paul knew this when he said, “God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and, speaking generally, he calls all those “wise” who seem to be proficient in learning but have fallen into godless polytheism; for “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.”

26. Celsus blames the Christian teacher as if he specially looked for ignoramuses. In reply we would ask, What ignoramuses do you mean? For, strictly speaking, any inferior man is an ignoramus. Well, then, if by ignoramuses you mean inferior people, do you when you try to attract men to Philosophy seek to attract inferior people or the cultured? Certainly not the cultured, for they are already acquainted with Philosophy. Inferior people, then. But inferior people, as we have seen, are ignoramuses; and your aim is to win many such inferior people to Philosophy; it follows that you, too, look for ignoramuses. But I, even if I do seek those who are thus called “ignoramuses,” am like a humane physician who looks for the sick that he may bring them the help they need, and may restore them to health and strength. If, however, by “ignoramuses” you mean those who are not only not clever, but are portentously stupid people, my answer is that I do my best to benefit these also, though I should not like the great body of Christians to consist of them. By way of preference I look for men of some cleverness and acuteness, inasmuch as they are able to trace out the clear interpretation of the hard sayings and obscure passages in the Law and the Prophets, and the Gospels, which you have despised as containing nothing of any account, because you have not closely examined their sense, nor tried to enter into the meaning of the writers.








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