World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


According to the Christian father Origen, Celsus (; Greek: Κέλσος) was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and opponent of Early Christianity. He is known for his literary work, The True Word (also Account, Doctrine or Discourse; Greek: Λόγος Ἀληθής), which survives exclusively in Origen's quotations from it in Contra Celsum. This work, c. 177[1] is the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity.


  • Work 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


According to Origen, Celsus was the author of an anti-Christian work titled The True Word (Alēthēs logos). This work was lost, but we have Origen's account of it in his writings.[2] It was during the reign of Philip the Arab that Origen received this work for rebuttal.[3] Origen's refutation of The True Word contained its text, interwoven with Origen's replies. Origen's work has survived and thereby preserved Celsus' work with it.[4]

Celsus seems to have been interested in Ancient Egyptian religion,[5] and he seemed to know of Jewish logos-theology, both of which suggest The True Word was composed in Alexandria.[6] Celsus wrote at a time when Christianity was being persecuted[7] and when there seems to have been more than one emperor.[8][9][10][11][12]

As an anti-Christian Greek philosopher, Celsus mounted an attack on Christianity. Celsus wrote that some Jews said Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. The views of Celsus drew responses from Origen who considered it a fabricated story.[13][14] Raymond E. Brown states that the story of Pantera is a fanciful explanation of the birth of Jesus which includes very little historical evidence—Brown's analysis does not presuppose the doctrine of the "virgin birth", but cites the lack of historical evidence for Celsus' assertion.[15] In addition, Celsus addressed the miracles of Jesus, holding that "Jesus performed His miracles by sorcery (γοητεία)":[16][17][18]

Origen wrote his refutation in 248. Sometimes quoting, sometimes paraphrasing, sometimes merely referring, Origen reproduces and replies to Celsus' arguments. Since accuracy was essential to his refutation of The True Word,[21] most scholars agree that Origen is a reliable source for what Celsus said.[22][23]

Celsus shows himself familiar with the story of Jewish origins.[24] Conceding that Christians are not without success in business (infructuosi in negotiis), he wants them to be good citizens, to retain their own belief but conform to the state religion. It is an earnest and striking appeal on behalf of the Empire, and shows the terms offered to the Christian sects, as well as the importance of the various sects at the time. It is not known how many were Christians at the time of Celsus but as a comparison the estimation of Wilken of the Jewish population of the empire to have been about 10% may be quoted.[25] The Christians were certainly fewer. It is unlikely their influence was greater than what the physical evidence reveals throughout AD 100–400.[26]

See also


  1. ^ H.Chadwick, Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP 1965. p xxviii
  2. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxviii
  3. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen: Contra Celsum. Cambridge University Press (1965), p. xiv. The work can be dated to this period by a statement of Eusebius, HE VI, 36, 2
  4. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, preface 4.
  5. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum 3, 17, 19; 8, 58. He quotes an Egyptian musician named Dionysius in CC 6, 41.
  6. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxviii-xxix
  7. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 8, 69
  8. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 8, 71
  9. ^ Chadwick, H., Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP (1965), p. xxvi
  10. ^ Origen, Contra Celsum, 1, 68
  11. ^ Gottheil, Richard; Krauss, Samuel. "Celsus".  
  12. ^ Chadwick, H. Origen: Contra Celsum, introduction.
  13. ^ Contra Celsum by Origen, Henry Chadwick, 1980, ISBN 0-521-29576-9, page 32
  14. ^ Patrick, John, The Apology of Origen in Reply to Celsus, 2009, ISBN 1-110-13388-X, pages 22–24,
  15. ^ Mary in the New Testament by Raymond Edward Brown, et al., 1978, ISBN 0-8091-2168-9, page 262
  16. ^ Hendrik van der Loos (1965). The Miracles of Jesus.  
  17. ^ Margaret Y. MacDonald (3 October 1996). Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion.  
  18. ^ Philip Francis Esler (2000). The Early Christian World, Volume 2.  
  19. ^ Ernest Cushing Richardson, Bernhard Pick (1905). The Ante-Nicene fathers: translations of the writings of the fathers down to A.D. 325, Volume 4.  
  20. ^  
  21. ^ James D. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 2006. p 64
  22. ^ Sir DavidBrewster, Sir David Brewster & Richard R. Yeo, The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, Volume 8, Routledge, 1999. p 362
  23. ^ Bernhard Lang, International Review of Biblical Studies, Volume 54, Publisher BRILL, 2009. p 401
  24. ^ Martin, Dale B. (2004). Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocratics to the Christians. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 141, 143.  
  25. ^ Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, (Yale: University Press, 2nd edition, 2003)
  26. ^ Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire: AD 100–400, (Yale: University Press, 1989)

Further reading

  • Theodor Keim, Gegen die Christen. (1873) [Celsus' wahres Wort], Reprint Matthes & Seitz, München 1991 (ISBN 3-88221-350-7)
  • Pélagaud, Etude sur Celse (1878)
  • K. J. Neumann's edition in Scriptores Graeci qui Christianam impugnaverunt religionem
  • article in Hauck-Herzog's Realencyk. für prot. Theol. where a very full bibliography is given
  • W. Moeller, History of the Christian Church, i.169 ff.
  • Adolf Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, ii. 129 if.
  • J. A. Froude, Short Studies, iv.
  • Bernhard Pick, "The Attack of Celsus on Christianity," The Monist, Vol. XXI, 1911.
  • Des Origenes: Acht Bücher gegen Celsus. Übersetzt von Paul Koetschau. Josef Kösel Verlag. München. 1927.
  • Celsus: Gegen die Christen. Übersetzt von Th. Keim (1873) [Celsus' wahres Wort], Reprint Matthes & Seitz, München 1991 (ISBN 3-88221-350-7)
  • Die »Wahre Lehre« des Kelsos. Übersetzt und erklärt von Horacio E. Lona. Reihe: Kommentar zu frühchristlichen Apologeten (KfA, Suppl.-Vol. 1), hrsg. v. N. Brox, K. Niederwimmer, H. E. Lona, F. R. Prostmeier, J. Ulrich. Verlag Herder, Freiburg u.a. 2005 (ISBN 3-451-28599-1)
  • "Celsus the Platonist", Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Dr. B.A. Zuiddam, "Old Critics and Modern Theology", Dutch Reformed Theological Journal (South Africa), part xxxvi, number 2, June 1995.
  • [1] Stephen Goranson, "Celsus of Pergamum: Locating a Critic of Early Christianity", in D. R. Edwards and C. T. McCollough (eds), The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the "Other" in Antiquity: Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers (Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2007) (Information Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 60/61).

External links

  • Origen's Text on Celsus
  • in Google BooksThe Arguments of Celsus Against the Christiansfull text of
  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Celsus
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.