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Origen (185-254) was an early Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. His belief in pre-existence and universal reconciliation were condemned by a council in the 6th century, but he is considered one of the most important church fathers. Celsus was a 2nd century Greek philosopher, best known for his book, 'On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians, which is the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity, and was critiqued by Origen in this book.

Professor Chadwick notes in his very helpful Introduction, "There are perhaps few works of the early Christian Church which compare in interest or in importance with that which is here translated. The 'Contra Celsum' stands out as the culmination of the whole apologetic movement of the second and third centuries."

Origen (who normally adopted an allegorical method of interpreting the Bible) wrote, "in Christianity... there will be found to be no less profound study of the writings that are believed; we explain the obscure utterances of the prophets, and the parables in the gospels, and innumerable other events or laws which have a symbolical meaning." (Pg. 12) He argues, "What man who is urged to study philosophy and throws himself into some school of philosophers... comes to do this for any reason except that he has faith that this school is better?... it is by unreasoning impulse that people come to the practice of, say, Stoicism and abandon the rest..." (Pg. 13)

He later admits, "Do not suppose that it is not consistent with Christian doctrine when in my reply to Celsus I accepted the opinions of those philosophers who have affirmed the immortality or the survival of the soul. We have some ideas in common with them." (Pg. 182) He also grants that "if there is any subject among those that need study among men which is baffling to our comprehension, the origin of evil may be reckoned as such." (Pg. 237)

He states, "We are careful not to raise objections to any good teachings, even if their authors are outside the faith, nor to seek an occasion for a dispute with them, nor to find a way of overthrowing statements which are sound." (Pg. 434)

Origen's book is fascinating reading---on many levels (even for those critics of Christianity who are reading it to discern the opinions of Celsus!).
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on May 25, 2013
This is an excellent translation, and window into the thoughts of one of the earliest Christian thinkers. Origin was a philosopher, theologian, and early apologist.

Be warned: this book is the size of a Bible! However, it gives an early Christian response to pagan jabs at Christianity. This allows a glimpse into what pagans were thinking.

I bought this book to test Morton Smith's "Jesus the Magician." It was a compelling book. However, it lost it's appeal once I read the source. Smith cherry-picked and stretched (that is an understatement)a handful of verses. After reading Contra-Celsum, I could see why his hypothesis lost steam.
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VINE VOICEon April 7, 2007
"Celsus, with all his boasts of universal knowledge, has here fallen into the most vulgar of errors, in supposing that in the law and the prophets there is not a meaning deeper than that afforded by a literal rendering of the words ..., "Thou shalt have dominion over many nations, and no one shall rule over thee," Origen, Contra Celsum 7.18

Alexandrine Gnostic Debates:
The Gnostic devaluation of the created order was a depreciation of the Old Testament, greatly accentuated by a thorough exploitation of the Pauline antithesis of Law and Gospel. The Gnostics used to contrast the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Implications of the designation 'Old Testament' frequently, by early Christians, was common enough to be suggestive. Titus Flavius Clemens, known better today as Clement of Alexandria. Although born to pagan parents, Clement realized that there must be a deeper meaning to life than the mundane pursuit. "To Know God Is To Love Others," was the Alexandrine motto of salvation which he developed with his disciple Origen, both defending against the dangerous Gnostic structure of beliefs that became a very fierce movement at Alexandria.

Biblical Catechist:
Origeneus Adamantius (AD 185-254), was a student of Amon Saccha and cofounder of neo-Platonic philosophy. A staunch Christian believer, the greatest by far among ante-Nicene writers, Origen was a prolific Biblical scholar, and the first great theologian. According to the Coptic Church Synexarium, Origen was born of Christian parents in Alexandria, studied and started his life there, at an early age, as a Grammarian and Catechist. Appointed by bishop Demetrius, to succeed Clement as head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, Origen fervently carried on his mission for a dozen of years, and with surging numbers of students, was helped by Dionysius and Heraclas, future bishops of Alexandria. Origen was invited to Antioch, Athens, Arabia, Ephesus, and Rome, to arbitrate and settle early Church doctrinal differences. In 215, as a result of Emperor Caracalla's furious attack upon the Alexandrians, Origen's work at the school was interrupted and he left to Caesaria, Palestine.

Celsus Origenal Treatise:
Celsus' words--which seventy years earlier, added up to a full treatise are conveyed to us only through, 'Contra Celsum,' written by the genius Alexandrine thinker Origen. Hoffmann, cannot be sure whether the Christian teacher played 'fast and free' with the pagan thinker, so in reconstructing Celsus' diatribe we are dependent on seeing Origen as a man of virtue, temperance, and irrefragable rightness. Origen quotes Celsus freely, lengthily, and smugly. 'Freely,' in this case, means unsystematically--which accounts for the need, at times, to 'conjoin' snippets of Celsus that Origen has separated and to separate bits that Origen has joined. ... And like all priggish Oxford Movement-philes, Mr. Pearse quotes me quoting Origen quoting Celsus with equal zeal, if less impressive purpose, taking special exception to the following: "Christians, it is needless to say, utterly detest each other. They slander each other constantly with the vilest forms of abuse and cannot come to any sort of agreement in their teachings... Like so many sirens they chatter away endlessly and beat their breasts. The world (they say to their shame) is crucified to me and I to the world." (Hoffmann pp. 91 re: Origen, Contra Celsum, 5.64)

Defending Celsus:
Hoffmann defends Celsus with great enthusiasm, advocating that his 'intellectual duty here was to Celsus, not to Origen, and Celsus's valuable point is about Christian heterodoxy and sectarian rivalry--Gnostics, ascetics, 'orthodox' and others. He sarcastically debates that, "The ancient philosopher's anti-Christianism: Celsus was a pagan nettle in the emerging garden of sweetly planted Orthodoxy. Origen, the gardener, knew a thing or two about weeds, the proof of which is that it took nearly 2000 years for the nettles to reappear in the form of rationalist critiques of Christian dogma and Celsus-like harangues against the absurdity of Christian belief and believers."
Celsus was no atheist, claims Dr. Hoffmann who in spite confirms that, "The resonance between Celsus and modern secularism and atheism is significant, even startling. And despite Origen's efforts to minimize the damage Celsus's treatise had caused to the Church when it appeared -some 70 years or so before Origen penned his response - the main value of the Christian apologist's defense was an inadvertent one, noticed first by philosophers in the Enlightenment: Origen had preserved a large portion of the very critique of the Christian faith he had sought to eradicate."

Chadwick's Classic:
Professor Henry Chadwick whose work is not only trusted, but greatly admired by scholars, was recently criticized by one of Celsus defenders, quoting a French saying that, ''translations, like women, are either beautiful or faithful but never both." Chadwick's literal translation, he protests, largely fails to convey the point that, "Celsus knew that Christian Orthodoxy was a result of episcopal intolerance, not an act of providence reported by the bishops. Here what is wanting in fidelity accurately displays the fact that Celsus knew that Christianity in the year 180 was not a garden but a barnyard full of squawking hens. And Origen (as Porphyry knew) was one of them."

* This review is presented to Dr. Rodolph Yanney, my great friend and Origen's defender against the Neo-Taliban of petrified Orthodoxy

On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians
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on January 31, 2015
This is by Henry Chadwick; nothing more needs be said.
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