Sunday, November 4, 2012

Celsus's References to the 'Multitude'

It is very important to note that Celsus is centrally concerned with this concept of 'the multitudes' - a class among the Christians who are distinct from the leadership.  Celsus seems to allow - at least in theory - 'religious freedom' in private for educated people.  Yet his treatise is centrally concerned with 'the multitude' (πλῆθος) who are understood to have been manipulated for seditious purpose by the contemporary leadership of the Church.  Celsus seems to imply that the leadership filled their heads up with doctrines that they couldn't possibly understand (from Plato).  Indeed he demonstrates their misunderstanding and says further the efforts of the Church to convert members to this doctrine veiled attempts at political control by the leaders of the Church and even revolution.  There is an underlying argument that Christianity, its message and the leadership which promotes this message to the 'multitudes' should be controlled according to the same principles which currently defines Judaism.

But nevertheless, since in the multitude of those who are considered believers (τῷ πλήθει τῶν πιστεύειν) some such persons might be found as would have their faith shaken and overthrown by the writings of Celsus, but who might be preserved by a reply to them of such a nature as to refute his statements and to exhibit the truth, we have deemed it right to yield to your injunction, and to furnish an answer to the treatise which you sent us, but which I do not think that any one, although only a short way advanced in philosophy, will allow to be a True Discourse, as Celsus has entitled it.[Contra Celsus P.4]

In these circumstances, to speak of the Christian doctrine as a secret system, is altogether absurd. But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric. [ibid 1.7]

But since the course alluded to is impossible, partly on account of the necessities of life, partly on account of the weakness of men, as only a very few individuals devote themselves earnestly to study, what better method could be devised with a view of assisting the multitude (τοῖς πολλοῖς), than that which was delivered by Jesus to the heathen? And let us inquire, with respect to the great multitude of believers (τοῦ πλήθους τῶν πιστευόντων), who have washed away the mire of wickedness in which they formerly wallowed, whether it were better for them to believe without a reason, and (so) to have become reformed and improved in their habits, through the belief that men are chastised for sins, and honoured for good works or not to have allowed themselves to be converted on the strength of mere faith, but (to have waited) until they could give themselves to a thorough examination of the (necessary) reasons.[ibid 1.9]

In the next place, since our opponents keep repeating those statements about faith, we must say that, considering it as a useful thing for the multitude (χρήσιμον τοῖς πολλοῖς), we admit that we teach those men to believe without reasons, who are unable to abandon all other employments, and give themselves to an examination of arguments; and our opponents, although they do not acknowledge it, yet practically do the same. [ibid 1.10]

Now, with regard to his statement that he is acquainted with all our doctrines, we have to say that this is a boastful and daring assertion; for if he had read the prophets in particular, which are full of acknowledged difficulties, and of declarations that are obscure to the multitude (τοῖς πολλοῖς), and if he had perused the parables of the Gospels, and the other writings of the law and of the Jewish history, and the utterances of the apostles, and had read them candidly, with a desire to enter into their meaning, he would not have expressed himself with such boldness, nor said that he was acquainted with all their doctrines. [ibid 1.12]

And what I have said regarding the learned and ignorant among the Egyptians, I might have said also of the Persians; among whom there are mysteries, conducted on rational principles by the learned among them, but understood in a symbolic sense by the more superficial of the multitude (τῶν παρ' αὐτοῖς πολλῶν καὶ ἐπιπολαιοτέρων).[ibid]

whereas Moses, like a distinguished orator who meditates some figure of Rhetoric, and who carefully introduces in every part language of twofold meaning, has done this in his five books: neither affording, in the portion which relates to morals, any handle to his Jewish subjects (τῷ πλήθει τῶν νομοθετουμένων Ἰουδαίων) for committing evil; nor yet giving to the few individuals who were endowed with greater wisdom, and who were capable of investigating his meaning, a treatise devoid of material for speculation [ibid 1.18]

Let him show, then, how, after this irrational departure, as he regards it, of the herdsmen and shepherds from the worship of many gods, he himself is able to establish the multiplicity of deities that are found among the Greeks (τὸ πλῆθος τῶν καθ' Ἕλληνας θεῶν), or among those other nations that are called Barbarian. [ibid 1.23]

And although, among the multitude of converts to the word (ἐν πλήθει κρατουμένων ὑπὸ τοῦ λόγου), the simple and ignorant necessarily outnumbered the more intelligent, as the former class always does the latter, yet Celsus, unwilling to take note of this, thinks that this philanthropic doctrine, which reaches to every soul under the sun, is vulgar, and on account of its vulgarity and its want of reasoning power, obtained a hold only over the ignorant. [ibid 1.27]

It is probable, therefore, that since at the birth of Jesus a multitude of the heavenly host, as Luke records, and as I believe, praised God, saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men, the evil spirits on that account became feeble, and lost their strength, the falsity of their sorcery being manifested, and their power being broken; this overthrow being brought about not only by the angels having visited the terrestrial regions on account of the birth of Jesus, but also by the power of Jesus Himself, and His innate divinity. [ibid 1.50]

Nay, I am of opinion that if Jesus had selected some individuals who were wise according to the apprehension of the multitude and who were fitted both to think and speak (πλήθεσι καὶ λέγειν ἐπιλεξάμενος καὶ χρησάμενος) so as to please them, and had used such as the ministers of His doctrine, He would most justly have been suspected of employing artifices, like those philosophers who are the leaders of certain sects, and consequently the promise respecting the divinity of His doctrine would not have manifested itself [ibid 1.62]

For from what other source sprang the envy which was aroused against Him by the Jewish high priests, and elders, and scribes, save from the fact that multitudes obeyed and followed Him (τοῦ πλήθη πειθόμενα ἀκολουθεῖν αὐτῷ), and were led into the deserts not only by the persuasive language of Him whose words were always appropriate to His hearers, but who also by His miracles made an impression on those who were not moved to belief by His words? [ibid 2.39]

But whether he like it or not, we assert that not only while Jesus was in the body did He win over not a few persons merely, but so great a number, that a conspiracy was formed against Him on account of the multitude of His followers (τὸ πλῆθος τῶν πειθομένων ἐπιβουλευθῆναι αὐτόν) [ibid 2.43]

and that He attracted them to such a degree that they followed Him even into the deserts, which alone could contain the assembled multitude of those who believed in God through Jesus (τι πλῆθος τῶν πιστευόντων τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ), and where He not only addressed to them discourses, but also manifested to them His works. And now, through his tautology, he compels us also to be tautological, since we are careful to guard against being supposed to pass over any of the charges advanced by him; and therefore, in reference to the matter before us following the order of his treatise as we have it, he says: Is it not the height of absurdity to maintain, that if, while he himself was alive, he won over not a single person to his views, after his death any who wish are able to gain over such a multitude of individuals?" [ibid 2.46]

And how could the nature of a man possessed of no inherent excellence convert so vast a multitude (πλῆθος)? [ibid 2.79]

Celsus, therefore, not investigating in a spirit of impartiality the facts, which are related by the Egyptians in one way, and by the Hebrews in another, but being bewitched, as it were, in favour of the former, accepted as true the statements of those who had oppressed the strangers, and declared that the Hebrews, who had been unjustly treated, had departed from Egypt after revolting against the Egyptians,— not observing how impossible it was for so great a multitude of rebellious Egyptians (οὐ δύναται τηλικοῦτο στασιῶδες πλῆθος Αἰγυπτίων) to become a nation, which, dating its origin from the said revolt, should change its language at the time of its rebellion, so that those who up to that time made use of the Egyptian tongue, should completely adopt, all at once, the language of the Hebrews! [ibid 3.6]

At the present day, indeed, when, owing to the multitude of Christian believers (τὸ πλῆθος τῶν προσερχομένων τῷ λόγῳ), not only rich men, but persons of rank, and delicate and high-born ladies, receive the teachers of Christianity, some perhaps will dare to say that it is for the sake of a little glory that certain individuals assume the office of Christian instructors. [ibid 3.9]

But observe what he alleges as a proof of his statement: Christians at first were few in number, and held the same opinions; but when they grew to be a great multitude (εἰς πλῆθος δὲ σπαρέντες), they were divided and separated, each wishing to have his own individual party: for this was their object from the beginning. That Christians at first were few in number, in comparison with the multitudes who subsequently became Christian (τοῦ ἑξῆς πλήθους ὀλίγοι ἦσαν ἀρχόμενοι Χριστιανοὶ δῆλον), is undoubted; and yet, all things considered, they were not so very few. For what stirred up the envy of the Jews against Jesus, and aroused them to conspire against Him, was the great number (τὸ πλῆθος) of those who followed Him into the wilderness [ibid 3.10]

In the next place, since he reproaches us with the existence of heresies in Christianity as being a ground of accusation against it, saying that when Christians had greatly increased in numbers (εἰς πλῆθος δὲ σπαρέντες), they were divided and split up into factions (σχίζονται καὶ τέμνονται καὶ στάσεις), each individual desiring to have his own party; and further, that being thus separated through their numbers (πλήθους), they confute one another, still having, so to speak, one name in common, if indeed they still retain it. And this is the only thing which they are yet ashamed to abandon, while other matters are determined in different ways by the various sects. [ibid 3.12]

And it is probable that the secure existence, so far as regards the world, enjoyed by believers at present, will come to an end, since those who calumniate Christianity in every way are again attributing the present frequency of rebellion to the multitude of believers (ἐν πλήθει τῶν πιστευόντων), and to their not being persecuted by the authorities as in old times. [ibid 3.15]

And again, when it is said of Æsculapius that a great multitude both of Greeks and Barbarians (ὅτι πολὺ ἀνθρώπων πλῆθος Ἑλλήνων τε καὶ βαρβάρων) acknowledge that they have frequently seen, and still see, no mere phantom, but Æsculapius himself, healing and doing good, and foretelling the future; Celsus requires us to believe this, and finds no fault with the believers in Jesus, when we express our belief in such stories, but when we give our assent to the disciples, and eye-witnesses of the miracles of Jesus, who clearly manifest the honesty of their convictions (because we see their guilelessness, as far as it is possible to see the conscience revealed in writing), we are called by him a set of silly individuals, although he cannot demonstrate that an incalculable number, as he asserts, of Greeks and Barbarians (πλῆθος ἀνθρώπων Ἑλλήνων καὶ βαρ βάρων) acknowledge the existence of Æsculapius; while we, if we deem this a matter of importance, can clearly show a countless multitude of Greeks and Barbarians (τι πλῆθος Ἑλλήνων τε καὶ βαρβάρων) who acknowledge the existence of Jesus. [ibid 3.24]

and that a great multitude of them acknowledged Christ (καὶ πολὺ μὲν πλῆθος αὐτῶν ὡμολογηκέναι Χριστὸν), and believed Him to be the object of prophecy, while others did not believe in Him, but, despising the meekness of those who, on account of the teaching of Jesus, were unwilling to cause even the most trifling sedition, dared to inflict on Jesus those cruelties which His disciples have so truthfully and candidly recorded, without secretly omitting from their marvellous history of Him what seems to the multitude to bring disgrace upon the doctrine of Christianity. [ibid 3.28]

for such is the character of the multitudes who constitute the citizens in the assemblies of the various cities (τοιαῦτα γὰρ τὰ πανταχοῦ πολι τευόμενα ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν πόλεων πλήθη). [ibid 3.29]

And if they are not to be blamed for so doing, let us see whether Christians do not exhort multitudes (πλήθη) to the practice of virtue in a greater and better degree than they. [ibid 3.51]

But when we consider that those discourses, which Celsus terms vulgar (ἰδιωτικοὺς), are filled with power, as if they were spells, and see that they at once convert multitudes (πλήθη) from a life of licentiousness to one of extreme regularity, and from a life of wickedness to a better, and from a state of cowardice or unmanliness to one of such high-toned courage as to lead men to despise even death through the piety which shows itself within them, why should we not justly admire the power which they contain? [ibid 3.68]

After this he again slanders the ambassador of Christianity, and gives out regarding him that he relates ridiculous things, although he does not show or clearly point out what are the things which he calls ridiculous. And in his slanders he says that no wise man believes the Gospel, being driven away by the multitudes who adhere to it (τοῦ πλήθους τῶν προσερχομένων αὐτῷ). And in this he acts like one who should say that owing to the multitude of those ignorant persons who are brought into subjection to the laws (τὸ πλῆθος τῶν κατὰ τοὺς νόμους ἀγομένων ἰδιωτῶν ὅτι φρόνιμος οὐδείς), no wise man would yield obedience to Solon, for example, or to Lycurgus, or Zaleucus, or any other legislator, and especially if by wise man he means one who is wise (by living) in conformity with virtue. [ibid 3.73]

He relates, further, that Joseph, who had been sold as a slave, was restored to liberty, and went up with a solemn procession to his father's funeral, and thinks that the narrative furnishes matter of accusation against us, as he makes the following remark: By whom (Joseph, namely) the illustrious and divine nation of the Jews, after growing up in Egypt to be a multitude of people (ἐπὶ πλῆθος ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ σπαρέν), was commanded to sojourn somewhere beyond the limits of the kingdom, and to pasture their flocks in districts of no repute. [ibid 4.47]

If Celsus had read the Scriptures in an impartial spirit, he would not have said that our writings are incapable of admitting an allegorical meaning. For from the prophetic Scriptures, in which historical events are recorded (not from the historical), it is possible to be convinced that the historical portions also were written with an allegorical purpose, and were most skilfully adapted not only to the multitude of the simpler believers (τε πλήθους τῶν ἁπλούστερον πιστευόντων), but also to the few who are able or willing to investigate matters in an intelligent spirit. [ibid 4.49]

Much rather are the stories of the Greeks not only very silly, but very impious inventions. For our narratives keep expressly in view the multitude of simpler believers (τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἁπλουστέρων), which was not done by those who invented the Grecian fables. And therefore not without propriety does Plato expel from his state all fables and poems of such a nature as those of which we have been speaking. [ibid 4.50]

After this Celsus continues: It is not easy, indeed, for one who is not a philosopher to ascertain the origin of evils, though it is sufficient for the multitude (πλῆθος) to say that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and have their abode among mortal things; while the course of mortal things being the same from beginning to end, the same things must always, agreeably to the appointed cycles, recur in the past, present, and future. [ibid 4.65]

Celsus in the next place, as if he were able to tell certain secrets regarding the origin of evils, but chose rather to keep silence, and say only what was suitable to the multitude (τὰ πλήθεσιν), continues as follows: It is sufficient to say to the multitude (πλῆθος) regarding the origin of evils, that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and dwell among mortal things. It is true, certainly, that evils do not proceed from God; for according to Jeremiah, one of our prophets, it is certain that out of the mouth of the Most High proceeds not evil and good. [ibid 4.66]

The Hebrew people, then, being called by God a chosen generation, and a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, and a purchased people, regarding whom it was foretold to Abraham by the voice of the Lord addressed to him, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall your seed be; and having thus a hope that they would become as the stars of heaven, were not likely to bow down to those objects which they were to resemble as a result of their understanding and observing the law of God. For it was said to them: The Lord our God has multiplied us (ἐπλήθυνεν ὑμᾶς); and, behold, you are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude (τῷ πλήθει)." [ibid 5.10]

Now the Scripture is appropriately adapted to the multitudes (πλήθεσιν) of those who are to peruse it, because it speaks obscurely of things that are sad and gloomy, in order to terrify those who cannot by any other means be saved from the flood of their sins, although even then the attentive reader will clearly discover the end that is to be accomplished by these sad and painful punishments upon those who endure them. [ibid 5.15]

Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus (τινες καὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀποδεχόμενοι), and who boast on that account of being Christians (ὡς παρὰ τοῦτο Χριστιανοὶ εἶναι αὐχοῦντες), and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude (τὰ Ἰουδαίων πλήθη), in accordance with the Jewish law—and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites (Ἐβιωναῖοι), who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings—what does that avail by way of charge against such as belong to the Church (ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας), and whom Celsus has styled those of the multitude (ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους)? [ibid 5.59]

Seeing, however, that Celsus quotes from an epistle of Plato another statement to the following effect, viz.: If it appeared to me that these matters could be adequately explained to the multitude (τοὺς πολλοὺς) in writing and in oral address, what nobler pursuit in life could have been followed by me, than to commit to writing what was to prove of such advantage to human beings, and to lead the nature of all men onwards to the light?— let us then consider this point briefly, viz., whether or not Plato were acquainted with any doctrines more profound than are contained in his writings, or more divine than those which he has left behind him, leaving it to each one to investigate the subject according to his ability, while we demonstrate that our prophets did know of greater things than any in the Scriptures, but which they did not commit to writing ... And it is related of Jesus, who was greater than all these, that He conversed with His disciples in private, and especially in their sacred retreats, concerning the Gospel of God; but the words which He uttered have not been preserved, because it appeared to the evangelists that they could not be adequately conveyed to the multitude in writing or in speech. And if it were not tiresome to repeat the truth regarding these illustrious individuals, I would say that they saw better than Plato (by means of the intelligence which they received by the grace of God), what things were to be committed to writing, and how this was to be done, and what was by no means to be written to the multitude, and what was to be expressed in words, and what was not to be so conveyed. [ibid 6.6]

In the next place, after other Platonic declarations, which demonstrate that the good (τὸ ἀγαθόν) can be known by few (ὀλίγοις), he adds: Since the multitude (οἱ πολλοὶ), being puffed up with a contempt for others, which is far from right (καταφρονήσεως οὐκ ὀρθῆς), and being filled with vain and lofty hopes (ὑψηλῆς καὶ χαύνης ἐλπίδος), assert that, because they have come to the knowledge of some venerable doctrines (ὡς σεμνὰ ἄττα μεμαθηκότες λέγουσί), certain things are true. Yet although Plato predicted these things, he nevertheless does not talk marvels, nor shut the mouth of those who wish to ask him for information on the subject of his promises; nor does he command them to come at once and believe that a God of a particular kind exists (ὅτι τοιόσδε ἐστὶν ὁ θεὸς), and that he has a son of a particular nature (καὶ υἱὸν ἔχει τοιόνδε), who descended (to earth) and conversed with me. [ibid 6.8]

At the present time, moreover, the Churches have, in proportion to the multitudes (τοῖς πλήθεσιν), a few wise men (ὀλίγους σοφοὺς), who have come over (προσελθόντας) to them from that wisdom which is said by us to be according to the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα σοφίας); and they have also some who have advanced from it to that wisdom which is divine (τὴν θείαν σοφίαν). [ibid 6.14]

Celsus in the next place alleges, that certain Christians (τινας Χριστιανοὺς), having misunderstood the words of Plato, loudly boast of a 'super-celestial' God, thus ascending beyond the heaven of the Jews (τὸν Ἰουδαίων οὐρανόν). By these words, indeed, he does not make it clear whether they also ascend beyond the God of the Jews, or only beyond the heaven by which they swear. [ibid 6.19]

Now if, according to the supposition, the food prepared in the one way promotes the health of those only who are styled the better classes, while none of the others could taste it, whereas when prepared in the other way it promoted the health of great multitudes of men (τὰ πλήθη τῶν ἀνθρώπων), which shall we esteem as most contributing to the public welfare—those who prepare food for persons of mark, or those who prepare it for the multitudes (τοῖς πλήθεσι)?— taking for granted that in both cases the food is equally wholesome and nourishing; [ibid 7.59]

Now, after understanding this illustration, we have to apply it to the qualities of spiritual food with which the rational part of man is nourished. See, then, if Plato and the wise men among the Greeks, in the beautiful things they say, are not like those physicians who confine their attentions to what are called the better classes of society, and despise the multitude (τοῦ πλήθους δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων); whereas the prophets among the Jews, and the disciples of Jesus, who despise mere elegances of style, and what is called in Scripture the wisdom of men, the wisdom according to the flesh, which delights in what is obscure, resemble those who study to provide the most wholesome food for the largest number of persons (τὰ πλήθη τῶν ἀνθρώπων). [ibid 7.60]

Indeed, if the true use of spiritual food, to keep up the figure, is to produce in him who partakes of it the virtues of patience and gentleness, must that discourse not be better prepared when it produces patience and gentleness in multitudes (πλήθη), or makes them grow in these virtues, than that which confines its effects to a select few, supposing that it does really make them gentle and patient? [ibid]

In the same way the divine nature, having the purpose of instructing not only those who are reputed to be learned in the literature of Greece, but also the rest of mankind, accommodated itself to the capacities of the simple multitudes whom it addressed (τῇ ἰδιωτείᾳ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἀκροωμένων). [ibid]

Again Celsus proceeds: If you should tell them that Jesus is not the Son of God, but that God is the Father of all, and that He alone ought to be truly worshipped, they would not consent to discontinue their worship of him who is their leader in the sedition. And they call him Son of God, not out of any extreme reverence for God, but from an extreme desire to extol Jesus Christ. We, however, have learned who the Son of God is, and know that He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; moreover, the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness. We know, therefore, that He is the Son of God, and that God is His father. And there is nothing extravagant or unbecoming the character of God in the doctrine that He should have begotten such an only Son; and no one will persuade us that such a one is not a Son of the unbegotten God and Father. If Celsus has heard something of certain persons holding that the Son of God is not the Son of the Creator of the universe, that is a matter which lies between him and the supporters of such an opinion. Jesus is, then, not the leader of any seditious movement, but the promoter of peace ... Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitudes of believers (ἐν πλήθει πιστευόντων) who are not in entire agreement with us, and who incautiously assert that the Saviour is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them, but rather believe Him when He says, The Father who sent Me is greater than I. We would not therefore make Him whom we call Father inferior— as Celsus accuses us of doing— to the Son of God.[ibid 8.14]

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