Celsus And The Old Testament -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 06:2 (May 1944)
Article: Celsus And The Old Testament
Author: Edward J. Young


Celsus And The Old Testamenta

Edward J. Young

I. Introduction

IT IS due to the faithful labors of Origen that one of the strongest of the early assaults upon the Scriptures and the Christian religion has been preserved.1 In the apologetic writing Contra Celsum an attempt was made to meet and to refute the criticism of the Scriptures and of Christianity which had been advanced by an antagonist of the name of Celsus.2 To the accomplishment of this task Origen devoted eight books, and the resultant work constitutes a milestone in the history of Christian apologetics.3

Origen was induced to enter upon his labors by the efforts of one Ambrose, who, according to Eusebius, was one of his converts.4 It was Ambrose who sent Celsus’ treatise to Origen and who urged him to undertake a reply.5 At first, however, he did not wish to engage in such an enterprise. The best refutation of the false charges of Celsus, he thought, was to be found in silence.6 Such a policy would be in accord with the example which Christ had set. At the same time, he did not wish to appear reluctant to attempt the task and so acceded to the requests of his friend.

In seeking to answer Celsus, Origen proposed to reply to each argument which his opponent had advanced.7 At first, it seemed the course of wisdom merely to indicate the principal objections and then to work up the discussion into a systematic treatment (σωματοποιῆσαι). However, circumstances dictated a change of procedure, and the extant work constitutes the apologetic as it was actually carried out.

An examination of the method which was finally adopted will naturally lead to the question whether Origen has faithfully preserved the words and arguments of his opponent. To this question various answers have been given, yet on

the whole the opinion seems to be fairly widely held that Celsus has indeed been faithfully and accurately represented. In fact, not a few have considered it possible to reconstruct this ancient polemic upon the basis of the fragments which appear in Origen’s book.8

It is a strange...

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