Monday, November 12, 2012

Celsus Used Justin's Syntagma

The obvious dating marker for the text is Justin's use of Hegesippus's account of the Carpocratians and in particular Marcellina's visit to Rome during the reign of Anicetus (150 to 167 or 153 to 168).  If Justin's syntagma can be dated to 158 - 168 CE we may be able to argue that Celsus had access to this text.  What stands out is this statement in Book Five where Origen says:

Celsus appears to me to have misunderstood the statement of the apostle, which declares that "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe;" and to have misunderstood also those who employed these declarations of the apostle against such as had corrupted the doctrines of Christianity. And it is owing to this cause that Celsus has said that "certain among the Christians are called 'cauterized in the ears;' " and also that some are termed "enigmas,"--a term which we have never met. The expression "stumbling-block" is, indeed, of frequent occurrence in these writings,--an appellation which we are accustomed to apply to those who turn away simple persons, and those who are easily deceived, from sound doctrine. But neither we, nor, I imagine, any other, whether Christian or heretic, know of any who are styled Sirens, who betray and deceive, and stop their ears, and change into swine those whom they delude. And yet this man, who affects to know everything, uses such language as the following: "You may hear," he says, "all those who differ so widely, and who assail each other in their disputes with the most shameless language, uttering the words, 'The world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.'" [Against Celsus 5:64]

It is important to remember here that Origen has just told us that Celsus "pours down Upon us a heap of names, saying that he knows of the existence of certain Simonians who worship Helene, or Helenus, as their teacher, and are called Helenians ... [and] certain Marcellians, so called from Marcellina, and Harpocratians from Salome, and others who derive their name from Mariamme, and others again from Martha." [ibid 6.62]

I have debated myself for years over whether Celsus uncovered these heretical sects on his own or whether he had a Christian source.  I am strongly in favor of the idea now that he was using the ancestor text to Against Heresies and the Philosophumena which was probably Justin's Syntagma.  What seems especially striking to me is we go back to what is said by Celsus after this list of names - namely the business about 'Sirens' and 'cauterized in the ears' and the like.  Compare what immediately precedes the account of the Saturnilus in the Philosophumena:

The pupils of these men, when they perceive the doctrines of the heretics to be like unto the ocean when tossed into waves by violence of the winds, ought to sail past in quest of the tranquil haven. For a sea of this description is both infested with wild beasts and difficult of navigation, like, as we may say, the Sicilian (Sea), in which the legend reports were Cyclops, and Charybdis, and Scylla, and the rock of the Sirens (τὸ Σειρήνων ὄρος). Now, the poets of the Greeks allege that Odysseus sailed through (this channel), adroitly using (to his own purpose) the terribleness of these strange monsters. For the savage cruelty (in the aspect) of these towards those who were sailing through was remarkable. The Sirens, however, singing sweetly and harmoniously, beguiled the voyagers, luring, by reason of their melodious voice, those who heard it, to steer their vessels towards (the promontory). The (poets) report that Odysseus, on ascertaining this, smeared with wax the ears of his companions (κατακηρῶσαι τὰς ἀκοὰς τῶν ἑταίρων), and, lashing himself to the mast (ἑαυτὸν δὲ τῷ ξύλῳ προσδήσαντα), sailed, free of danger, past the Sirens, hearing their chant distinctly (κατακούσαντα τῆς τούτων ᾠδῆς). And my advice to my readers is to adopt a similar expedient, viz., either on account of their infirmity to smear their ears with wax, and sail (straight on) through the tenets of the heretics, not even listening to (doctrines) that are easily capable of enticing them into pleasure, like the luscious lay of the Sirens, or, by binding one's self to the Cross of Christ, (and) hearkening with fidelity (to His words), not to be distracted, inasmuch as he has reposed his trust in Him to whom ere this he has been firmly knit, and (I admonish that man) to continue stedfastly (in this faith).[Phil. 7.1]

It is now impossible to regard the parallels between Celsus's report about what Christians say about one another in the heretical compendium which mentions Simon, the Helenians, Marcellina and the Carpocratians and what is said in the Philosophumena.

The most likely explanation is that the Philosophumena preserves additional pieces from Justin's lost Syntagma than its parallel source Irenaeus's Against Heresies.  This would also seem to suggest that the Philosophumena is actually closer to the original than Irenaeus's reworked text.  This casts serious doubt that Irenaeus's account of Marcion was actually found in Justin's text.  The information about Marcion undoubtedly came from somewhere else or, more than likely, out of Irenaeus's own imagination.  Indeed the identification of a mast of a ship with the Cross is well established in the writings of Justin (= the First Apology 55: 2-5) adding credence to the idea that what Celsus heard and the Philosophumena preserves originally came from Justin. Notice also that Origen says that Celsus 'misunderstood' 1 Timothy 4 in his reporting here just as the Philosophumena closes its section on the Encratites with a similar appeal to this material:

Now he, predicting the novelties that were to be hereafter introduced ineffectually by certain (heretics), made a statement thus: "The Spirit speaketh expressly, In the latter times certain will depart from sound doctrine, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, uttering falsehoods in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, which God has created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by the faithful, and those who know the truth; because every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected which is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." This voice, then, of the blessed Paul, is sufficient for the refutation of those who live in this manner, and plume themselves on being just; (and) for the purpose of proving that also, this (tenet of the Encratites) constitutes a heresy.

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