tradition' or 'The ancient norm'. In response to the perceived social, religious and political threats posed by Christianity, Celsus undertook the ambitious task of presenting a thoroughgoing refutation of the 'new' religion. In his treatise Celsus did not rely on unsubstantiated and stock charges (though there are plenty of these); rather, he sought to attack the historical foundation of Christianity in unprecedented fashion. Quoting the tag from Pindar, that 'Custom (nomos) is the king of all', Celsus condemned Christianity for not conforming to any of the established or recognised nomoi: Christians could not lay claim to any 'ancestral traditions' (patrioi nomoi) like those of the Egyptians, Persians or even the Jews. In fact, by rebelling against the Jews, the Christians had created a social novelty and in so doing had abandoned time-honoured customs. Christianity therefore had no historical basis for occupying a place within the Roman empire.
In its original form Celsus' treatise must have been an impressive work. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it is no longer extant, except for quotations made from it by Origen of Alexandria in his reply to Celsus some seventy years later. Origen's Contra Celsum contains so many quotations, in fact, that a substantial part of Celsus' original work can be reconstructed, though how much Origen left out - perhaps the most damaging parts - can no longer be determined. Yet even in its attenuated form the contours of Celsus' arguments can be clearly discerned.21
In the Alêthës logos Celsus will have nothing of Justin's claim that Greek philosophy derived from Moses. To be sure, Celsus admits that there are certain superficial similarities between Greek philosophy and Christianity (e.g. that both Plato and Christ taught humility (C. Cels. 6.15), nonresistance to evil (7.58), and that luxury is a hindrance to virtue (6.16)). But the explanation for these 'parallels' is not that Plato had read Moses, as Justin claimed; on the contrary, accordingto Celsus, Jesus read Plato (C. Cels. 6.16) and Paul studied Heraclitus (6.12)!
The possibility that Celsus was responding to Justin, suggested more than a century ago by Elysee Pelagaud,22 was argued at considerable length by Carl Andresen in his magisterial Logos und Nomos of 1955.23 Andresen has convincingly shown that Celsus employedthe same strategy asJustin, although
21 My references to Celsus indicate passages in Or. C. Cels., cited usually in Chadwick's English translation, Origen: Contra Celsum. For the Greek text of Origen I have relied on Borret, Origène contre Celse.
22 Un conservateur au second siècle, 272-3 and 413-19.
23 Logos und Nomos, see esp. 345-72.
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