Against the Christians - Flavius Josephus - ebook
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"I HAVE often wished," says Warburton in a letter to Dr. Forster, October 15, 1749, "for a hand capable of collecting all the fragments remaining of Porphyry, Celsus, Hierocles, and Julian, and giving them to us with a just, critical and theological comment, as a defy to infidelity. It is certain we want something more than what their ancient answerers have given us. This would be a very noble work*." The author of the following Collectanea has partially effected what Dr. Warburton wished to see accomplished; for as he is not a divine , he has not attempted in his Notes to confute Celsus, but has confined himself solely to an illustration of his meaning, by a citation of parallel passages in other ancient authors. As the answer, however, of Origen to the arguments of Celsus is very futile and inefficient, it would be admirable to see some one of the learned divines with which the church at present abounds, leap into the arena, and by vanquishing Celsus, prove that the Christian religion is peculiarly adapted to the present times, and to the interest of the priests by whom it is professed and disseminated.

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Flavius Josephus

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Table of contents

INTRODUCTION.

THE ARGUMENTS OF CELSUS AGAINST THE CHRISTIANS

EXTRACTS FROM, AND INFORMATION RELATIVE TO, THE TREATISE OF PORPHYRY

A FRAGMENT OF THE THIRTY-FOURTH BOOK OF DIODORUS SICULUS.

FROM MANETHO RESPECTING THE ISRAELITES.

EXTRACTS FROM THE FIFTH BOOK OF TACITUS RESPECTING THE JEWS, AS

EXTRACTS FROM THE WORKS OF THE EMPEROR JULIAN RELATIVE TO THE

APPENDIX

EXTRACTS FROM BINGHAM'S ANTIQUITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH*,

"For if indeed Julian had caused all those that were under his dominion to be richer than Midas, and each of the cities greater than Babylon once was, and had also surrounded each of them with a golden wall, but had corrected none of the existing errors respecting divinity, he would have acted in a manner similar to a physician, who receiving a body full of evils in each of its parts, should cure all of them except the eyes."—Liban. Parental, in Julian, p. 285.

INTRODUCTION.

"I HAVE often wished," says Warburton in a letter to Dr. Forster, October 15, 1749, "for a hand capable of collecting all the fragments remaining of Porphyry, Celsus, Hierocles, and Julian, and giving them to us with a just, critical and theological comment, as a defy to infidelity. It is certain we want something more than what their ancient answerers have given us. This would be a very noble work*."The author of the following Collectanea has partially effected what Dr. Warburton wished* See Barker's Parriana, vol. ii. p. 48.to see accomplished; for as he is not a divine, he has not attempted in his Notes to confute Celsus, but has confined himself solely to an illustration of his meaning, by a citation of parallel passages in other ancient authors.As the answer, however, of Origen to the arguments of Celsus is very futile and inefficient, it would be admirable to see some one of the learned divines with which the church at present abounds, leap into the arena, and by vanquishing Celsus, prove that the Christian religion is peculiarly adapted to the present times, and to the interest of the priests by whom it is professed and disseminated.The Marquis D'Argens published a translation in French, accompanied by the Greek text, of the arguments of the Emperor Julian against the Christians; and as an apology for the present work, I subjoin the following translation of a part of his preliminary discourse, in which he defends that publication."It may be that certain half-witted gentlemanmay reproach me for having brought forward a work composed in former times against the Christians, in the vulgar tongue. To such I might at once simply reply, that the work was preserved by a Father of the Church; but I will go further, and tell them with Father Petau, who gave a Greek edition of the works of Julian, that if those who condemn the authors that have published these works, will temper the ardour of their zeal with reason and judgement, they will think differently, and will distinguish between the good use that may be made of the book, and the bad intentions of the writer."Father Petau also judiciously remarks, that if the times were not gone by when dæmons took the advantage of idolatry to seduce mankind, it would be prudent not to afford any aid, or give the benefit of any invective against Jesus, or the Christian religion to the organs of those dæmons; but since by the blessing of God and the help of the cross, which have brought about our salvation, the monstrous dogmas of Paganism are buried in oblivion,we have nothing to fear from that pest; there is no weighty reason for our rising up against the monuments of Pagan aberration that now remain, and totally destroying them. On the contrary, the same Father Petau says, that it is better to treat them as the ancient Christians treated the images and temples of the gods. At first, in the provinces in which they were in power, they razed them to the very foundations, that nothing might be visible to posterity that could perpetuate impiety, or the sight of which could recall mankind to an abominable worship. But when the same Christians had firmly established their religion, it appeared more rational to them, after destroying the altars and statues of the gods, to preserve the temples, and by purifying them, to make them serviceable for the worship of the true God. The same Christians also, not only discontinued to break the statues and images of the gods, but they took the choicest of them, that were the work of the most celebrated artists, and set them up in public places to ornament their cities, as well as to recall to the memory of those who beheld them, how grossthe blindness* of their ancestors had been, and how powerful the grace that had delivered them from it."The Marquis d'Argens further observes: "It were to be wished, that Father Petau, having so judiciously considered the works of Julian, had formed an equally correct idea of the person of that Emperor. I cannot discover through what caprice he takes it amiss, that a certain learned Professor** has praised the civil virtues of Julian, and condemned the evidently false calumnies that almost all the ecclesiastical authors have lavished upon him; and amongst the rest Gregory and Cyril, who to the good arguments they have adduced against the false reasoning of Julian, have added insults which ought never to have been used by any defender of truth. They have cruelly* The Heathens would here reply to Father Petau. Which is the greater blindness of the two,— ours, in worshipping the images of deiform processions from the ineffable principle of things, and who are eternally united to him; or that of the Papists, in worshipping the images of worthless men ** Monsieur de la Bletric.calumniated this Emperor to favour their good cause, and confounded the just, wise, clement, and most courageous prince, with the Pagan philosopher and theologian; when they ought simply to have refuted him with argument, in no case with insult, and still less with calumnies so evidently false, that during fourteen centuries, in which they have been so often repeated, they have never been accredited, nor enabled to assume even an air of truth."A wise Christian philosopher, La Mothe, Le Vayer, in reflecting on the great virtues with which Julian was endowed, on the contempt he manifested for death, on the firmness with which he consoled those who wept around him, and on his last conversation with Maximus and Priscus on the immortality of the soul, says, "that after such testimonies of a virtue, to which nothing appears to be wanting but the faith to give its professor a place amongst the blessed*, we have cause to wonder that* According to this wise Christian philosopher therefore, not only all the confessedly wise and virtuousHeathens that lived posterior, but those also who lived anterior to the promulgation of the Christian religion, will have no place hereafter among the blessed.Cyril should have tried to make us believe, that Julian was a mean and cowardly prince*. Those who judge of men that lived in former ages by those who have lived in more recent times, may feel little surprise at the proceedings of Cyril. It has rarely happened that long animosity and abuse have not been introduced into religious controversies."After what has been above said of Julian, I deem it necessary to observe, that Father Petau is egregiously mistaken in supposing that Cyril has preserved the whole of that Emperor's arguments against the Christians: and the Marquis D'Argêns is also mistaken when he says, that "the passages of Julian's text which are* This is by no means wonderful in Cyril, when we consider that he is, with the strongest reason, suspected of being the cause of the murder of Hypatia, who was one of the brightest ornaments of the Alexandrian school, and who was not only a prodigy of learning, but also a paragon of beauty.abridged or omitted, aire very few." For Hieronymus in Epist. 83. Ad Magnum Oratorem Romanum, testifies that this work consisted of seven books; three of which only Cyril attempted to confute, as is evident from his own words, [—Greek—] "Julian wrote three books against the holy Evangelists." But as Fabricius observes, (in Biblioth. Græc. tom. vii. p. 89.) in the other four books, he appears to have attacked the remaining books of the Scriptures, i. e. the books of the Old Testament.With respect, however, to the three books which Cyril has endeavoured to confute, it appears to me, that he has only selected such parts of these books as he thought he could most easily answer. For that he has not given even the substance of these three books, is evident from the words of Julian himself, as recorded by Cyril. For Julian, after certain invectives both against Christ and John, says, "These things, therefore, we shall shortly discuss, when we come particularly to considerthe monstrous deeds and fraudulent machinations of the Evangelists*." There is no particular discussion however of these in any part of the extracts preserved by Cyril.That the work, indeed, of Julian against the Christians was of considerable extent, is evident from the testimony of his contemporary, Libanius; who, in his admirable funeral oration on this most extraordinary man, has the following remarkable passage: "But when the winter had extended the nights, Julian, besides many other beautiful works, attacked the books which make a man of Palestine to be a God, and the son of God; and in a long contest, and with strenuous arguments, evinced that what is said in these writings is ridiculous and nugatory. And in the execution of this work he appears to have excelled in wisdom the Tyrian old man.*** [—Greek—] ** viz. Porphyry, who was of Tyre, and who, as is well known, wrote a work against the Christians, which was publicly burnt by order of the Emperor Constantine.In asserting this however, may the Tyrian be propitious to me, and benevolently receive what I have said, he having been vanquished by his son*."With respect to Celsus, the author of the following Fragments, he lived in the time of the Emperor Adrian. and was, if Origen may be credited, an Epicurean philosopher. That he might indeed, at some former period of his life, have been an Epicurean maybe admitted; but it would be highly absurd to suppose that he was so when he wrote this invective against the Christians; for the arguments which he mostly employs show that he was well skilled m the philosophy of Plato: and to suppose, as Origen does, that he availed himself of arguments in* [—Greek—]which he did not believe, and consequently conceived to be erroneous, in order to confute doctrines which he was persuaded are false, would be to make him, instead of a philosopher, a fool. As to Origen, though he abandoned philosophy for Christianity, he was considered as heterodox by many of the Christian sect. Hence, with some of the Catholics, his future salvation became a matter of doubt*; and this induced the celebrated Johannes Picus Mirandulanus, in the last of his Theological conclusions according to his own opinion, to say: "Rationabilius est credere Uriginem esse salvum, quam credere ipsum esse damnatum," i. e. It is more reasonable to believe that Origen is saved, than that he is damned.I shall conclude this Introduction with the following extract.* 'In Prato Spiritual!, c. 26, quod citatur, à VIL Synodo, et à Johanne Diacono, lib. ii. c. 45. vitas B. Gregorii narratur fevelatio, qua Origines viras est in Gehenna ignis cum Alio et Netftorio."*—Fobric. BMiotk Grate torn. v. p. 216Directions of Dr. Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, to a young divine."It will be of great use for a divine to be acquainted with the arts, knavery, and fraud of the Roman inquisitor, in purging, correcting, or rather corrupting authors in all arts and faculties. For this purpose we may consult the Index Expurgatorius. By considering this Index, we come to know the best editions of many good books."1st. The best books; that is, those that are condemned."2nd. The best editions; viz. those that are dated before the Index, and consequently not altered."3rd. The Index is a good common place book, to point out who has written well against the Church, p. 70."Ockam is damned in the Index, and therefore we may be sure he was guilty of telling some great truth, p. 41.*"* The Bishop's rule is as good for one church as for another, and every church has its Index.

THE ARGUMENTS OF CELSUS AGAINST THE CHRISTIANS

"THE Christians are accustomed to have private assemblies, which are forbidden by the law. For of assemblies some are public, and these are conformable to the law of the land; but others are secret, and these are such as are hostile to the laws; among which are the Love Feasts of the Christians *.

* Why the Romans punished the Christians: "It is commonly regarded as a very curious and remarkable fact, that, although the Romans were disposed to tolerate every other religious sect, yet they frequently persecuted the Christians with unrelenting cruelty. This exception, so fatal to a peaceable and harmless sect, must have originated in circumstances which materially distin-...

"Men who irrationally assent to anything, resemble those who are delighted with jugglers and enchanters, &c. For as most of these are depraved characters, who deceive the vulgar, and persuade them to assent to whatever they please, this also takes place with the Christians. Some of these are not willing either to give or receive a reason for what they believe; but are accustomed to say, 'Do not investigate, but believe, your faith will save you.

...guished them from the votaries of every other religion. The causes and the pretexts of persecution may have varied at various periods; but there seems to have been one general cause which will readily be apprehended by those who are intimately acquainted with the Roman jurisprudence. From the most remote period of their history, the Romans had conceived extreme horror against all nocturnal meetings of a secret and mysterious nature. A law prohibiting nightly vigils in a temple has even been ascribed, perhaps with little probability, to the founder of their state. The laws of the twelve tables declared it a capital offence to attend nocturnal assemblies in the city. This, then, being the spirit of the law, it is obvious that the nocturnal meetings of the primitive Christians must have rendered them objects of peculiar suspicion, and exposed them to the animadversion of the magistrate. It was during the night that they usually held their most solemn and religious assemblies; for a practice which may be supposed to have arisen from their fears, seems to have been continued from the operation of other causes. Misunderstanding the purport of certain passages of Scripture, they were...

'For the wisdom of the world is bad, but folly is good*,'

"The world, according to Moses, was created at a certain time, and has from its commencement existed for a period far short of ten thousand years,—The world, however, is without a beginning; in consequence of which there have been from all eternity many conflagrations, and many deluges, among the latter of which the most recent is that of Deucalion**.

...led to imagine that the second advent, of which they lived in constant expectation, would take place during the night; and they were accustomed to celebrate nightly vigils at the tombs of the saints and martyrs. In this case, therefore, they incurred no penalties peculiar to the votaries of a new religion, but only such as equally attached to those who, professing the public religion of the state, were yet guilty of this undoubted violation of its laws."—Observations on the Study of the Civil Law, by Dr. Irving, Edin. 1820. p. 11.