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Super Mini-Course on Celsus, Early Opponent of the Christian Church



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About Super Mini-Course on Celsus, Early Opponent of the Christian Church

This Super MIni-Course takes a look at the life and activities of Celsus, an early opponent of the Early Christian Church whose teachings very well may have led to the period of Early Heresies in the New Testament Church.  Κέλσος, Kélsos; fl. AD 175–177) was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and opponent of early Christianity. 

His literary work, The True Word (also Account, Doctrine or Discourse; Greek: Hellenistic Greek: Λόγος Ἀληθής), survives exclusively in quotations from it in Contra Celsum, a refutation written in 248 by Origen of Alexandria. The True Word is the earliest known comprehensive criticism of Christianity.

Hanegraaff has argued that it was written shortly after the death of Justin Martyr (who was possibly the first Christian apologist), and was probably a response to his work.[6] Origen stated that Celsus was from the first half of the 2nd century AD, although the majority of modern scholars have come to a general consensus that Celsus probably wrote around AD 170 to 180.

Module Content

Well, friends, if you're watching this, that means that you have successfully enrolled in our free course on Celsus, one of the antecedents of the early heresies that the church wrestled with at the outset of its existence and birth. I have asked my good friend and colleague, Ryan Reeves, from Gordon Cromwell Seminary, to walk you through some of the details that's associated with this character and explain to you some of the context and circumstances that the church faced in terms of these early heresies, false teachers and false teachings. Now, I do have a more involved topic and course on this and it's part of our online theological studies. And I'm hoping that you will enjoy this mini course to the extent that you will join our class and join our cohort. So listen, I know you want to get started. Let me refer you now to my good friend at Gordon Cromwell, Ryan Reeves, who's going to walk you through the remainder of this mini course. And then there are a series of questions that I have composed for your consideration toward the close of this mini course. God bless. We'll see you real soon. We'll see you real soon.

it is around the year 177 and we are in the ancient world and we're now meeting the person of Celsus. And we don't really know a lot about Celsus other than the fact that he was a jerk. Celsus was not necessarily a good opponent for Christians. He liked to scorn and mock Christians and to call them all sorts of names and to come up with all sorts of allegations about the Christian faith. And Celsus' main work is called The True Word or the True Logos. And Celsus was a Greek philosopher. He was a pagan. He thought of himself as an elite, as one of the better minds of his day, and he certainly was a scholar of some report. His work on the true word is actually lost to us today, though we have wide portions of it left to us because Origen, the third century philosopher and Christian, wrote a book, Contra Celsum, or Against Celsus, in which he cites Celsus' work repeatedly in an effort to refute it. But we're still back in the second century and Celsus has just taken notice of this Christian faith and he's decided to attack it. Now this is really something new. For someone of his stature in terms of philosophy, even if he is a second-rate person and not a world-class scholar that would be remembered forever, but still he's a philosopher. And for Celsus to take on the Christian faith and to come up with allegations and comments about it, designed to make it look foolish, is actually a first step in the world around the Christian Church of the Apostolic Age, turning its eye and looking on the Christian Church and beginning to not like what it sees. And Celsus had a number of allegations that endured long after he was gone and his book was lost. In particular he liked to mock not only Christ but Mary. Celsus stresses pretty aggressively that there's no way Mary could have been chosen by God his allegation actually that Mary was of such low birth and that she was neither rich nor of rank means of course you could not have been chosen by a divine figure to bring good to the world Celsius has some things to say about Christ as well he says that the miracles of Christ were not a result or evidence or proof of the divinity of Christ but rather proof that Christ was your sort of average rank-and-file sorcerer. And you have to get the barb in this for Celsus to say that Christ is a sorcerer is not saying well he just did magic tricks but rather to say he's not even a good philosopher or a good religionist. His faith is this kind of lowbrow magic parlor tricks to wow the crowds but not anything of substance religionist. His faith is this kind of lowbrow magic parlor tricks to wow the crowds but not anything of substance with real philosophy in the Greek model.

And Celsus contends that it is impossible to believe that Christ could have been born of a virgin birth. He actually offers the first argument that Christ had a human father in an effort to undermine the Christian claims about Christ's divinity. Celsus argues that Christ was actually born of a human father. He even goes so far as to name him and to give his rank. He says that Christ's father was a Roman soldier by the name of Pantera. Now, Pantera is a name that's well known in the 21st century, but Pantera was actually a pretty common name of Roman soldiers in this day, or at least common enough. That essentially what Celsus is saying is that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother and some low-ranked soldier of no regard. Is it any wonder then that Origen saw the work of Celsus is so important as to take it on directly in his work against it? Well, Celsus' attack on the Christian faith is really emblematic of the changes that are going on in the second century as the Christian faith is moving from essentially being a forgotten sort of small-time religion that is really only problematic if it stirs up the Jews or if it creates isolated local problems in certain regions of the Roman Empire. What Celsus does here though, around 177, he churns his well-trained mind in an effort excoriate and to destroy the very foundations of the Christian claims about Christ as Lord. And no matter how humorous or how silly some of his claims might have been or simply how mean-spirited he might have been, the work of Celsus against the Christian Church is a demarcation of the kinds of things the Christians are now going to have to deal with. They're going to have to deal not just with the day in and day out pressures of the church as the Roman culture in the pagan world around them sort of presses them to conform. Now they have an enemy. Now they have a combatant in the intellectual arena. And it is the move of Celsus as well as a number of others in the claims about Christians, the way the Romans saw them, that brought into existence the age of the apologists. them, that brought into existence the age of the apologists.

Well, friends, that takes up all of my time, and I certainly want to thank you for yours. I'm Andy Saluda, and this has been our super mini course on Celsus I of the Antecedents of the Heresies of the Early Church. I hope you've gotten a great deal out of it. Listen, now that you've gotten a glimpse and a taste of what it is that we do here at the New Life School of Theology, won't you strongly consider being a part of our cohort? You can reach 6028 or email me at bishopacl at gmail.com and I will walk you through the process of joining our cohort. Yes, we've gotten started, but it's not too late for you to catch up. I look forward to seeing you as a part of our online theological studies. God bless. studies. God bless.

About the Teacher


Bishop Andy C. Lewter, D. Min. holds degrees from Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH), Harvard Divinity School (Cambridge, OH) and the United Theological Seminary (Dayton, OH) where he is currently an Adjunct faculty member.  Bishop Lewter also serves as the Historian of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and maintains over 80 online courses on a number of learning platforms.

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