And even more than that, Origen can, it seems, imagine that there will be, one day, a Christian imperium Romanum! The pagan philosopher Celsus, entertaining for argument's sake the outlandish possibility that Romans could be persuaded to neglect the honours paid to their traditional gods and the old customs and, proving themselves 'losers', worship the 'most high' god of Jews and Christians, regarded the sure consequences of such a religious reorientation to be political catastrophe.61 Origen, on the other hand, boldly replies:
if, according to Celsus' hypothesis, all the Romans were convinced (by the Christian preaching) and prayed (to the true God), they would overcome their enemies or would not even have any reason for fighting, because God's power would protect them, he, who promised to preserve five entire cities for the sake of fifty righteous men (Gen 18:24-6) ... If it is, however, his will that we should again wrestle (suffer) and fight for our religion, let our antagonists (competitors) come forward. We shall say to them: 'I have strength for anything by our Lord Jesus Christ who gives me power' (Phil 4:13).62
Meanwhile, Origen maintains, Christians will continue to be loyal to the pagan authorities, 'help the emperor' with all their power, 'and co-operate with him in what is right', just as Celsus demanded, but exclusively with their own means and weapons - by rendering divine help to the emperors or, if one may say so, 'by taking up even the whole armour of God' (cf. Eph 6:11). In doing it this way, they merely claim one of the privileges that the Roman authorities were prepared to concede to their pagan 'priests', namely, immunity from military service.63 Why this reserve about Christian military service? Is it the impossibility of shedding blood, even in the service of those authorities whom God had empowered to bear the sword (Rom 13)? Origen does not tell us. But we may surmise that it is once again the indissoluble association with idolatry that in Origen's eyes excludes military office for Christians, rather than pacifism as a matter of principle.64
61 C. Cels. 8.69. Celsus points out that, 'instead of being masters of the whole world, the former [i.e. the Jews] have been left not even a clod, not even a fireplace', afterJerusalem was captured and destroyed (70 ce) and the emperor Hadrian proscribed the Jews from living there (as a consequence of Bar Kochba's rebellion, 132-5/6 ce). Further, in the case of the Christians, 'if anyone does still wander about in secret [undetected], he will be [sometime] sought out and condemned to death.'
63 C. Cels. 8.73; for the general immunity of pagan priests from military service, cf. Plut. Cam. 41; Wissowa, Religion undKultus, 499.
64 The same is true for Tertullian's treatise 'The military crown' (De corona militis), written just before his breach with his fellow Christians over the New Prophecy (Montanism).
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