Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Think Celsus Identifies the Sabellians as Living Early in the Second Century (Origen Con. Cels. 5:62)

As the Jews, then, became a peculiar people, and enacted laws in keeping with the customs of their country, and maintain them up to the present time, and observe a mode of worship which, whatever be its nature, is yet derived from their fathers, they act in these respects like other men, because each nation retains its ancestral customs, whatever they are, if they happen to be established among them. And such an arrangement appears to be advantageous, not only because it has occurred to the mind of other nations to decide some things differently, but also because it is a duty to protect what has been established for the public advantage; and also because, in all probability, the various quarters of the earth were from the beginning allotted to different superintending spirits, and were thus distributed among certain governing powers, and in this manner the administration of the world is carried on. And whatever is done among each nation in this way would be rightly done, wherever it was agreeable to the wishes (of the superintending powers), while it would be an act of impiety to get rid of the institutions established from the beginning in the various places.

We might adduce Herodotus as a witness on this point, for he expresses himself as follows: 'For the people of the cities Mares and Apis, who inhabit those parts of Egypt that are adjacent to Libya, and who look upon themselves as Libyans, and not as Egyptians, finding their sacrificial worship oppressive, and wishing not to be excluded from the use of cows' flesh, sent to the oracle of Jupiter Ammon, saying that there was no relationship between them and the Egyptians, that they dwelt outside the Delta, that there was no community of sentiment between them and the Egyptians, and that they wished to be allowed to partake of all kinds of food. But the god would not allow them to do as they desired, saying that that country was a part of Egypt, which was watered by the inundation of the Nile, and that those were Egyptians who dwell to the south of the city of Elephantine, and drink of the river Nile.' Such is the narrative of Herodotus.

But, Ammon in divine things would not make a worse ambassador than the angels of the Jews, so that there is nothing wrong in each nation observing its established method of worship. Of a truth, we shall find very great differences prevailing among the nations, and yet each seems to deem its own by far the best. Those inhabitants of Ethiopia who dwell in Meroe worship Jupiter and Bacchus alone; the Arabians, Urania and Bacchus only; all the Egyptians, Osiris and Isis; the Saites, Minerva; while the Naucratites have recently classed Serapis among their deities, and the rest according to their respective laws. And some abstain from the flesh of sheep, and others from that of crocodiles; others, again, from that of cows, while they regard swine's flesh with loathing.

The Scythians, indeed, regard it as a noble act to banquet upon human beings. Among the Indians, too, there are some who deem themselves discharging a holy duty in eating their fathers, and this is mentioned in a certain passage by Herodotus. For the sake of credibility, I shall again quote his very words, for he writes as follows: 'For if any one were to make this proposal to all men, viz., to bid him select out of all existing laws the best, each would choose, after examination, those of his own country. Men each consider their own laws much the best, and therefore it is not likely than any other than a madman would make these things a subject of ridicule.

But that such are the conclusions of all men regarding the laws, may be determined by many other evidences, and especially by the following illustration. Darius, during his reign, having summoned before him those Greeks who happened to be present at the time, inquired of them for how much they would be willing to eat their deceased fathers? their answer was, that for no consideration would they do such a thing. After this, Darius summoned those Indians who are called Callatians. who are in the habit of eating their parents, and asked of them in the presence of these Greeks, who learned what passed through an interpreter, for what amount of money they would undertake to burn their deceased fathers with fire? on which they raised a loud shout, and bade the king say no more.' Such is the way, then, in which these matters are regarded. And Pindar appears to me to be right in saying that 'law' is the king of all things.

If, then, in these respects the Jews were carefully to preserve their own law, they are not to be blamed for so doing, but those persons rather who have forsaken their own usages, and adopted those of the Jews. And if they pride themselves on it, as being possessed of superior wisdom, and keep aloof from intercourse with others, as not being equally pure with themselves, they have already heard that their doctrine concerning heaven is not peculiar to them, but, to pass by all others, is one which has long ago been received by the Persians, as Herodotus somewhere mentions. 'For they have a custom,' he says, 'of going up to the tops of the mountains, and of offering sacrifices to Jupiter, giving the name of Jupiter to the whole circle of the heavens.'

And I think, that it makes no difference whether you call the highest being Zeus, or Zen, or Adonai, or Sabaoth, or Ammoun like the Egyptians, or Pappaeus like the Scythians. Nor would they be deemed at all holier than others in this respect, that they observe the rite of circumcision, for this was done by the Egyptians and Colchians before them; nor because they abstain from swine's flesh, for the Egyptians practised abstinence not only from it, but from the flesh of goats, and sheep, and oxen, and fishes as well; while Pythagoras and his disciples do not eat beans, nor anything that contains life. It is not probable, however, that they enjoy God's favour, or are loved by Him differently from others, or that angels were sent from heaven to them alone, as if they had had allotted to them 'some region of the blessed,' for we see both themselves and the country of which they were deemed worthy.

Let this band, then, take its departure, after paying the penalty of its vaunting, not having a knowledge of the great God, but being led away and deceived by the artifices of Moses, having become his pupil to no good end. Let the second party come forward; and I shall ask them whence they come, and whom they regard as the originator of their ancestral customs. They will reply, No one, because they spring from the same source as the Jews themselves, and derive their instruction and superintendence from no other quarter, and notwithstanding they have revolted from the Jews. Let us then pass over the refutations which might be adduced against the claims of their teacher, and let him be regarded as really an angel. But is he the first and only one who came (to men), or were there others before him?

If they should say that he is the only one, they would be convicted of telling lies against themselves. For they assert that on many occasions others came, and sixty or seventy of them together, and that these became wicked, and were cast under the earth and punished with chains, and that from this source originate the warm springs, which are their tears; and, moreover, that there came an angel to the tomb of this said being--according to some, indeed, one, but according to others, two--who answered the women that he had arisen. For the Son of God could not himself, as it seems, open the tomb, but needed the help of another to roll away the stone.

And again, on account of the pregnancy of Mary, there came an angel to the carpenter, and once more another angel, in order that they might take up the young Child and flee away (into Egypt). But what need is there to particularize everything, or to count up the number of angels said to have been sent to Moses, and others amongst them? If, then, others were sent, it is manifest that he also came from the same God. But he may be supposed to have the appearance of announcing something of greater importance (than those who preceded him), as if the Jews had been committing sin, or corrupting their religion, or doing deeds of impiety; for these things are obscurely hinted at.

The Jews accordingly, and these, have the same God. These give the same account as do the Jews, and deduce the same genealogy from him as they do, [the same] conspiracies of brothers against one another, the same descent into Egypt as they, [the same] flight [and the like]. It is certain, indeed, that the members of the great Church admit this, and adopt as true the accounts regarding the creation of the world which are current among the Jews, viz., concerning the six days and the seventh on which God "rested." (Against Celsus 5.25, 34, 41, 33, 52, 59b, 59a)

After the above remarks he (Celsus) proceeds as follows:

Let no one suppose that I am ignorant that some of them will concede that their God is the same as that of the Jews, while others will maintain that he is a different one, to whom the latter is in opposition, and that it was from the former that the Son came (Μή με οἰηθῇ τις ἀγνοεῖν, ὡς οἱ μὲν αὐτῶν συνθήσονται τὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι σφίσιν ὅνπερ Ἰουδαίοις θεόν,  οἱ δ'  ἄλλον,  ᾧ τοῦτον ἐναντίον,  παρ'ἐκείνου τε ἐλθεῖν τὸν υἱόν)

Now, if he imagine that the existence of numerous heresies among the Christians is a ground of accusation against Christianity, why, in a similar way, should it not be a ground of accusation against philosophy, that the various sects of philosophers differ from each other, not on small and indifferent points, but upon those of the highest importance? Nay, medicine also ought to be a subject of attack, on account of its many conflicting schools. Let it be admitted, then, that there are amongst us some who deny that our God is the same as that of the Jews: nevertheless, on that account those are not to be blamed who prove from the same Scriptures that one and the same Deity is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles alike, as Paul, too, distinctly says, who was a convert from Judaism to Christianity, "I thank my God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience." And let it be admitted also, that:

there is a third class who call certain persons "carnal," and others "spiritual," (καὶ τρίτον γένος τῶν ὀνομαζόντων ψυχικούς τινας καὶ πνευματικοὺς ἑτέρους)

I think he here means the followers of Valentinus,--yet what does this avail against us, who belong to the Church, and who make it an accusation against such as

hold that certain natures are saved, and that others perish in consequence of their natural constitution (τῶν εἰσαγόντων φύσεις ἐκ κατασκευῆς σῳζομένας ἢ ἐκ κατασκευῆς ἀπολλυμένας)

And let it be admitted further, that there are some

who give themselves out as Gnostics (καὶ ἐπαγγελλόμενοι εἶναι Γνωστικοί),

in the same way as those Epicureans who call themselves philosophers: yet neither will they who annihilate the doctrine of providence be deemed true philosophers, nor those true Christians who introduce monstrous inventions, which are disapproved of by those who are the disciples of Jesus. Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some:

who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law (καὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀποδεχόμενοι ὡς παρὰ τοῦτο Χριστιανοὶ εἶναι αὐχοῦντες,  ἔτι δὲ καὶ κατὰ τὸν Ἰουδαίων νόμον ὡς τὰ Ἰουδαίων πλήθη βιοῦν ἐθέλοντες)

and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, 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, and whom Celsus has styled "those of the multitude?" He adds, also, that

are Sibullians (εἶναι καὶ Σιβυλλιστάς),

having probably misunderstood some who blamed such as believed in the existence of a prophetic Sibyl, and termed those who held this belief Sibyllists (γεγονέναι τὴν Σίβυλλαν καὶ Σιβυλλιστὰς).

He next 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 ... Celsus knows, moreover, certain Marcellians, so called from Marcellina, and Harpocratians from Salome, and others who derive their name from Mariamme, and others again from Martha. We, however, who from a love of learning examine to the utmost of our ability not only the contents of Scripture, and the differences to which they give rise, but have also, from love to the truth, investigated as far as we could the opinions of philosophers, have never at any time met with these sects. He makes mention also of the Marcionites, whose leader was Marcion. (Against Celsus 5.62)

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