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Indeed he treated the Christian religion as a heresy of Judaism and devoted a whole chapter of his book to the objections of the Jews. He also had free access to the books of the Old Testament. He had, however, so many astonishing misconceptions about Christian beliefs that his ‘Christian’ informants, if any, seem to have come from the many odd Gnostic sects which were flourishing in his day. 5

Underlying his approach to the Christian phenomenon was his conviction, as he is quoted by Origen, that ‘No God nor Son of God ever came down from Heaven, nor ever will.’ Celsus did very much believe in the existence and power not only of witches but also of demons. Otherwise items in his litany of complaints are often remarkable for their ring of ‘modernity’. Celsus was the first to describe the Christiani as “ignorant…low class…fear-stricken…unpatriotic…narrowminded…obsessed with sin…They are like frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, debating which of them is the most sinful.” He is indeed the father of anti-Christian polemic. The ancient claim that the Church would substitute credulity for a reasoned intelligence is indeed ancient. It first appears in Celsus: “We must follow reason and a reasonable leader. The Christians say: ‘Do not enquire, only believe. Thy faith shall save thee. The wisdom of this world is evil, and folly is good ’.” (Contra Celsum, II, i, 8,9) Celsus again and again claimed that the Christians seek their converts among the ignorant and do all they can to depreciate education. “The Christian religion is one of terror; its adherents are overcome with dread, but there is nothing behind it all. It is much the same as in Egypt: magnificent temples with nothing in them to worship but a dog.” (Contra Celsum, II, iii. The reference by Celsus to ‘magnificent temples’, incidentally, is one of a number of references to be found in second century authors which indicate that the Church’s worship, even under the circumstances of persecution and secrecy, was already fully liturgical.) “Christianity is a rite of foreign and barbarous origin. The Apostles were worthless individuals, tax-farmers and low-class sailors.” (II, i, 65). “Christianity is unpatriotic. We must help the Emperor with all our might, labour for him, fight for and under him. We should take office in the government of the country; yet Christians selfishly disqualify themselves from all such responsibilities.” (II, viii, 73 – 5) Although the response of Tertullian and Origen to this last objection was frankly pacifist, the Church in fact always allowed members to take up normal military service. Indeed it is a remarkable fact of the first three centuries of the history of the Church that never once in this era did the Christiani take up arms against their persecutors. “The Christian Church is so narrow-minded. God is the God of all men. It is absurd to think that He would insist on being worshipped in the Christian way alone. Christians ought, at any rate, to join with us in our public feasts.” (II, viii, 21) Celsus nevertheless finds scandal in the Christians’ sectarian divisions. The Gnostic sects were still flourishing at this time: “After all, there are so many kinds of Christians disagreeing with each other that the sensible man will take no notice of any of them.” (II, iii)

How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament  

This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...

How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament  

This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...

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