- A suggested correction about Celsus.
On 28 May Steven Carr wrote "You mean the way the Jew Celsus did
not attack the historicity of Hercules, Dionysius, etc?"
Jack Kilmon (28 May) properly recognized that that sentence is
doubly mistaken: (1) Celsus was certainly not a Jew (though he included a
putative Jewish speaker in his book Alethes Logos); (2) Celsus did not
attack the historicity of Jesus, but called him, for instance, a doer of
marvellous deeds (paradoxon ergon poietes) and had disparaging things to
say about his parents.
But I do not think that "Celsus was an Egyptian Platonist, writing
Rather, I think Celsus was a Greek-speaking (non-Egyptian) resident
of Pergamum, Asia Minor.
Some excerpts from a paper on locating Celsus:
A. Lukyn Williams wrote "He was, as it seems, a Roman lawyer" whose
residence in Rome was "almost certain." Walter Bauer wrote that he could
not have learned what he did about Christianity "anywhere but in Rome."
They were misled by Celsus' patriotism. But Celsus was chauvinistically
Hellenic, valuing the Romans as protectors of true Greek culture from
barbarians. Asia Minor was a very patriotic provence (compare Revelation of
John--Jewish commnities were long-established and relatively assimilated
there). He shows no knowledge of the city of Rome or of Latin. Romans
receive third person reference.
Celsus wrote "Would that it were possible to unite under one law
the inhabitants of Asia, Europe, and Libya [Africa], both Greeks [Hellenes]
and barbarians even at the fullest limits." (VIII, 72) Note the priority of
Asia in this imagined spread of civility. Contrast Hippolytus of Rome:
"Such is the true doctrine [alethes logos] in regard to the divine nature,
O ye men, Greeks and Barbarians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, Egyptians and
Libyans, Indians and Ethiopians, Celts, and ye Latins, and all ye that
inhabit Europe and Asia and Libya." (Refutatio Omn, Haer. X.30/X.34.1).
Note the Roman author put Europe first.
Though he is listed as "Kelsos von Alexandreia" [!] in Der kleine
Pauly (by H. Doerrie), no ancient called him that, and there is no evidence
he was ever in Egypt. He mentions an individual as "the Egyptian,"
suggesting he was not a neighbor.
Nor was Celsus a resident of Caesarea in Palestine (as W.H.C. Frend
suggested), because Origen would surely have learned that, and would not
have needed to ask about him--similarly for Alexandria.
Origen wrote against Celsus only after asked to by his patron
Ambrose, after Ambrose had moved to Asia (Nicomedia) and sent Origen the
manuscript from there.
Finally, there are positive pointers to Celsus being from Pergamon:
he was almost certainly the same Celsus as the one known by Lucian and
Galen; Celsus has several favorable mentions of Asclepius and Pergamum
had--in addition to its once-famous library--a great temple to Asclepius
(at which Galen had served); etc.
Surely, Celsus provides one of the most important sources on second
century Christianity (and Judaism). Realizing that he encountered
Christianity in Asia Minor will help clarify that history.
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