On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians

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ISBN-13: 978-0195041514
ISBN-10: 0195041518
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Editorial Reviews


"[An] important contribution to the wealth of patristic texts scholars are making available to English readers....Published and arranged in such a way that readers can get a fairly clear and coherent picture of Celsus' argument."--Review and Expositor

"An excellent synopsis of the intellectual attack on Christianity by Roman paganism....Should spark lively discussion."--Edward M. Anson, University of Arkansas, Little Rock

"A fresh attempt to solve an old scholarly problem: to present the 'True Celsus,' in this case in a contemporary English version with up-to-date introduction and notes....The resultant text is readable."--Anglican Theological Review

"A lucid translation of one of the most fascinating pieces of literature left to us from the second century."--Frank Thielman, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

"The first complete translation of Christianity's most ardent second-century critic....Highly readable."--Free Inquiry

"A great contribution to scholarship in the study of early Christianity. The general introduction is worth the price of the book, and to have this new translation of the ancient work of Celsus is most useful and valuable."--J. William Angell, Wake Forest University

"Every serious student of early Christianity should give attention to Celsus....A first-rate publication with excellent, comprehensive introduction and notes."--Sterling M. McMurrin, University of Utah

"I am very pleased with the convenience of this edition and [with] Professor Hoffmann's valuable general introduction, which so effectively summarizes and reviews key historical issues."--Harry Rosenberg, Colorado State University

"Not only a very useful and readable text but also a clear and informative introduction. This book is a first priority for theological libraries and for all working in this area of patristic studies."--Southwestern Journal of Theology

"Fills the gap of a long-needed and -desired English translation.... Establish[es] a solid base for the understanding of Celsus' polemic....Even the most experienced will find ample food for thought in this work."--Favonius

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 19, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195041518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195041514
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.5 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on May 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in 175 (or so) CE, Celsus reads a lot like modern day critics of Christianity such as Dennett, Harris, Dawkins, or Hitchens. Anti-Christianity arguments haven't changed significantly - just refined over the centuries. Celsus is the most accessible early Christian critic because of one of his opponents. Origen of Alexandria, a Christian apologist from the 3rd century has provided us with maybe 70% of the text of Celsus's "On the True Doctrine."

Some of the criticisms offered by Celsus:

*Jesus was born, not of a virgin, but as a result of Mary's tryst with a Roman soldier named Panthera.
*Since a religion had to be old to have any credence, Christians stole their legacy from the Jews.
*All the stories of the Jewish writings either originated from earlier mythology or were made up to prove a theological point or otherwise enhance the religious heirarchy.
*The same goes for early Christian writings, but with heavy reliance on any Jewish writings that could possibly be interpreted as a prophesy about Jesus.
*Rome had inherited its savior myths from far and wide, including resurrections from death - its re-enactment by the Christians in their gospels was transparent.
*All of the numerous early sects of Christianity fought over dogma and accused each other of heresy, frequently altering scripture to suit their local beliefs.
*The development of complicated theologies in Christianity happened because of the persistent embarrassing problem that Jesus never came again.

Celsus ridicules 2nd century Christians for being credulous enough to buy the story - rather than being a critic of Christian creeds. At times, he does it with quite a flair.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Angela B. Wade on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
While I had read numerous books with references to Celsus in them, I have just gotten around to reading a translation of his book "On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians."
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read (due largely in part to the translator, R. Joseph Hoffmann). The text flows well from section to section, though it seems to be in no particular order.
Thankfully, the translator has included both a detailed introduction and 'notes' section. Both were extremely helpful in understanding certain passages contained within the main text, and the introduction (specifically) would be of interest to anyone who wants a better understanding of Celsus and/or the anti-Christian sentiment that existed during his time.
All in all, a good read, but not recommended for anyone who is staunchly Christian (i.e. cannot "willingly suspend disbelief) or does not have at least a general understanding of Christianity (obviously, there are numerous references both to Judaism and Christianity).
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By scrivener on April 6, 2006
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After reading much about Julian the Apostate, the Roman Emperor who after Constantine's adoption of the faith, tried to revitalize syncretic pagan Hellenism as the state religion of Rome, I stumbled on this book.

The writing is lively and humorous. It challenges Christian dogma in many ways which moderns will recognize and find familiar and in some ways the reader will find most intriguing.

Atheists will find confirmation of their beliefs in this work, and Christians who can meet and answer the critique will be enriched as well.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on October 26, 2010
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Celsus's tract `On the True Doctrine - A Discourse Against the Christians' could be partly recovered from the treatise by Origin of Alexandria `Contra Celsum'.
The excellent reconstruction and translation, together with a perfect introduction, by R. Joseph Hoffmann, reads like a modern text. All the issues involved are still highly relevant.

Introduction by the translator R. Joseph Hoffmann
Christianity began as a non-doctrinal apocalyptic movement with participants who believed in a message of eschatological judgment, a widespread view in Hellenistic Judaism in the first century (John the Baptist). This eschatological thinking bred both an ascetic form of piety (`the right belief') and an antinomian enthusiasm with sexual self-indulgence, `as if the participants were going to die on the morrow'. This latter tendency (the libertine sects) was completely eradicated from Christianity.

On the one hand, one can catalogue Celsus as a rationalist in the tradition of Lucretius, when he points at the inconsistencies and absurdities in the Christian message as well as at their anti-reason stance.
On the other hand, one can also see him as a defender of the status-quo and the ruling class: `to love the emperor and to serve God are complementary duties.'

Jesus and the Christian Doctrine
Jesus' life as told by its followers is for Celsus `monstrous fiction'. Jesus fabricated the story of his birth from a virgin. When his mother's deceit was discovered that she was pregnant by a Roman soldier, she was driven away by her husband and convinced of adultery.
For Celsus, `anyone who believes without testing a doctrine is certain to be deceived'.
For him, the Christian doctrine is completely inconsistent and absurd.
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