Origen, Contra Celsum, Book II



He imagines also that both the earthquake and the darkness were an invention; but regarding these, we have in the preceding pages, made our defence, according to our ability, adducing the testimony of Phlegon, who relates that these events took place at the time when our Saviour suffered. And he goes on to say, that "Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails." We ask him what he means by the expression, "was of no assistance to himself?" For if he means it to refer to want of virtue, we reply that He was of very great assistance. For He neither uttered nor committed anything that was improper, but was truly "led as a sheep to the slaughter, and was dumb as a lamb before the shearer;" and the Gospel testifies that He opened not His mouth. But if Celsus applies the expression to things indifferent and corporeal, (meaning that in such Jesus could render no help to Himself,) we say that we have proved from the Gospels that He went voluntarily to encounter His sufferings. Speaking next of the statements in the Gospels, that after His resurrection He showed the marks of His punishment, and how His hands had been pierced, he asks, "Who beheld this?" And discrediting the narrative of Mary Magdalene, who is related to have seen Him, he replies, "A half-frantic woman, as ye state." And because she is not the only one who is recorded to have seen the Saviour after His resurrection, but others also are mentioned, this Jew of Celsus calumniates these statements also in adding, "And some one else of those engaged in the same system of deception!"


In the next place, as if this were possible, viz., that the image of a man who was dead could appear to another as if he were still living, he adopts this opinion as an Epicurean, and says, "That some one having so dreamed owing to a peculiar state of mind, or having, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed such an appearance as he himself desired, reported that such had been seen; and this," he continues, "has been the case with numberless individuals." But even if this statement of his seems to have a considerable degree of force, it is nevertheless only fitted to confirm a necessary doctrine, that the soul of the dead exists in a separate state (from the body); and he who adopts such an opinion does not believe without good reason in the immortality, or at least continued existence, of the soul, as even Plato says in his treatise on the Soul that shadowy phantoms of persons already dead have appeared to some around their sepulchres. Now the phantoms which exist about the soul of the dead are produced by some substance, and this substance is in the soul, which exists apart in a body said to be of splendid appearance. But Celsus, unwilling to admit any such view, will have it that some dreamed a waking dream, and, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed to themselves such an image as they desired. Now it is not irrational to believe that a dream may take place while one is asleep; but to suppose a waking vision in the case of those who are not altogether out of their senses, and under the influence of delirium or hypochondria, is incredible. And Celsus, seeing this, called the woman "half-mad,"- a statement which is not made by the history recording the fact, but from which he took occasion to charge the occurrences with being untrue. . . .


But how is it that this Jew of Celsus could say that Jesus concealed Himself? For his words regarding Him are these: "And who that is sent as a messenger ever conceals himself when he ought to make known his message?" Now, He did not conceal Himself, who said to those who sought to apprehend Him, "I was daily teaching openly in the temple, and ye laid no hold upon Me." Bat having once already answered this charge of Celsus, now again repeated, we shall content ourselves with what we have formerly said. We have answered, also, in the preceding pages, this objection, that "while he was in the body, and no one believed upon him, he preached to ail without intermission; but when he might have produced a powerful belief in himself after rising from the dead, he showed himself secretly only to one woman, and to his own boon companions." Now it is not true that He showed Himself only to one woman; for it is stated in the Gospel according to Matthew, that "in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there had been a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, and come and rolled back the stone." And, shortly after, Matthew adds: "And, behold, Jesus met them" - clearly meaning the afore-mentioned Marys -"saying, All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him." And we answered, too, the charge, that "while undergoing his punishment he was seen by all, but after his resurrection only by one," when we offered our defence of the fact that "He was not seen by all." And now we might say that His merely human attributes were visible to all men but those which were divine in their nature -- I speak of the attributes not as related, but as distinct-- were not capable of being received by all But observe here the manifest contradiction into which Celsus falls. For having said, a little before, that Jesus had appeared secretly to one woman and His own boon companions, he immediately subjoins: "While undergoing his punishment he was seen by all men, but after his resurrection by one, whereas the opposite ought to have happened." And let us hear what he means by "ought to have happened." The being seen by all men while undergoing His punishment, but after His resurrection only by one individual, are opposites. Now, so far as his language conveys a meaning, he would have that to take place which is both impossible and absurd, viz., that while undergoing His punishment He should be seen only by one individual, but after His resurrection by all men! or else how will you explain his words, "The opposite ought to have happened?"


Jesus taught us who it was that sent Him, in the words, "None knoweth the Father but the Son;'' and in these, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." He, treating of Deity, stated to His true disciples the doctrine regarding God; and we, discovering traces of such teaching in the Scripture narratives, take occasion from such to aid our theological conceptions, hearing it declared in one passage, that "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all;" and in another, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." But the purposes for which the Father sent Him are innumerable; and these any one may ascertain who chooses, partly from the prophets who prophesied of Him, and partly from the narratives of the evangelists. And not a few things also will he learn from the apostles, and especially from Paul. Moreover, those who are pious He leadeth to the light, and those who sin He will punish, -- a circumstance which Celsus not observing, has represented Him "as one who will lead the pious to the light, and who will have mercy on others, whether they sin or repent."

Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4
Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson
American Edition, 1885, Online Edition Copyright 2005 by K. Knight