CELSUS
  c. 178
 

 

CELSUS, (2nd cent.), pagan philosopher. His ‘True Discourse’ (Ἀληθὴς Λόγος) is the oldest literary attack on Christianity of which the details have survived (c.178). We know of it from Origen’s reply, ‘Contra Celsum’, in eight books, which dates from the middle of the 3rd cent. and preserves about nine-tenths of the ‘Discourse’. Celsus’ attitude is that of a detached pagan observer, interested in, but with no strong feelings about, religion. He praised the Logos doctrine and the high Christian code of morals, but he objected to the exclusive claims of the Church. Making his own some of the Jewish objections to Christianity, he criticized much in biblical history for its miracles and absurdities, and expressed his repugnance to the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and Crucifixion. Objecting that Christians, by refusing to conform to the State, undermined its strength and powers of resistance, he made an impassioned appeal to them to abandon their religious and political intolerance. All extant MSS of the ‘Contra Celsum’ go back to a 13th cent. archetype in the Vatican Library (no. 386), apart from sections of the first two books preserved in a papyrus found at Toura, near Cairo, in 1941; they derive from the same line of textual tradition.

Reconstruction of Ἀληθὴς Λόγος by O. Glöckner (Kleine Texte, 151; 1924); also by R. Bader (Tübinger Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, 33; 1940). Editio princeps of the ‘Contra Celsum’ by D. Hoeschel, Augsburg, 1605. Crit. edns. by P. Koetschau in Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Leipzig, 1897–1941; Berlin and Leipzig, 1953; Berlin, 1954 ff.) Origenes Werke, 1 (Leipzig, 1899), pp. 49–374, and 2 (ibid., 1899), with Fr. tr. by M. Borret, SJ (Sources Chrétiennes (Paris, 1942 ff.).132, 136, 147, and 150; 1967–9), and by M. Marcovich (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae .54; 2001). Papyrus text found at Toura ed. J. Scherer (Institut français d’Archéologie orientale, Bibliothèque d’études, 28; 1956). Eng. tr. of Contra Celsum, with valuable introd., by H. Chadwick (Cambridge, 1953 repr. with corrections, 1965), with bibl. to date. C. Andresen, Logos und Nomos: Die Polemik des Kelsos wider das Christentum (Arbeiten zur Kitchengeschichte, 30; 1955); F. Mosetto, I miracoli evangelici nel dibattito tra Celso e Origene (Biblioteca di Scienze Religiose, 76 [1986]). J. Quasten, Patrology, 2 (Utrecht, 1953), pp. 52–7, with further bibl. P. Merlan in Reallexikon fur Antike and Christentum, ed. T. Klauser, E. Dassmann, and others (Stuttgart, 1950 ff.).2 (1954) cols. 954–65, s.v.


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