Here's a Present, Ish

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:44 pm

seeker wrote:
Minimalist wrote:It does seem that Celsus made some effort to iron out the various doctrines which were all parading about at the time under the Christian Banner. He's not simply mouthing off.


I agree, Celsus was pretty careful in his criticism to separate Christianity from other mystery religions. BTW, here is something you might like.


I don't see that ... anywhere .. or in this excerpt, in which Celsus seems to be attacking the literal story, but not putting anything else in its place, not explaining that it is a Gnostic allegory. I read about ten pages, and it just seems to be a demolition job of the gospel story of Jesus.



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Postby seeker » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:01 pm

oooop[s, my fault. I copied the wrong paragraph.:

Like all quacks they gather a crowd of slaves, children, women and idlers. I speak bitterly about this", says Celsus, "because I feel bitterly. When we are invited to the Mysteries the masters use another tone. They say, Come to us you who are of clean hands and pure speech, you who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience towards God, who have done justly and lived uprightly. The Christians say, Come to us you who are sinners, you who are fools or children, you who are miserable, and you shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: the rogue, the thief, the burglar, the poisoner, the despoiler of temples and tombs, these are their proselytes."
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:07 pm

I'd really like it if you could answer some of my points on this, like why was Christianity illegal and why did Celsus think that that gave him a legitimate ground to attack it? What harm were the Christians doing at that time? Why does Celsus crtiticise them for being secret when every wisdom teaching at that time was secret - and especially if it was illegal?



Wow...too many posts to keep track of but, let's take this most important issue first.

Who tells us that xtianity was illegal? Answer: Later xtians. Pliny in his discussion made it clear that xtians were under suspicion not because of what they believed but because of what they did, i.e., hold secret meetings.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations.


Ken has another page which deals with actual documented persecution of xtians and it does not start until Origen's time, in the middle of the 3d century....and was even then sporadic and depended on which revolving-door emperor was in power.

In Pliny's time, the issue seems to have been that xtians put themselves under suspicion by refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods as presumably the other mystery cults were willing to do. Hence the later caution from Trajan that if accused xtians paid homage to the gods they were to be freed. The issue, at least as far as Trajan and Pliny seem to be concerned is sedition...not religion. Those who did so-sacrifice were free to go about their business. The hotheads, presumably like Ignatius of Antioch, were killed.

Now it is fair to suggest that in the 70 years which separated Pliny's writings from Celsus' that xtianity conitnued to grow and, less obviously perhaps, diversify into more and more sects which Celsus finds so difficult to sort out. Nonetheless, from his writings I still get the picture that the primary xtian "crime" still relates to their refusal to acknowledge the emperor and the Romans would, especially in the provinces, have been right to consider that seditious behavior.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:22 pm

seeker wrote:oooop[s, my fault. I copied the wrong paragraph.:

Like all quacks they gather a crowd of slaves, children, women and idlers. I speak bitterly about this", says Celsus, "because I feel bitterly. When we are invited to the Mysteries the masters use another tone. They say, Come to us you who are of clean hands and pure speech, you who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience towards God, who have done justly and lived uprightly. The Christians say, Come to us you who are sinners, you who are fools or children, you who are miserable, and you shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: the rogue, the thief, the burglar, the poisoner, the despoiler of temples and tombs, these are their proselytes."


Is this the right one, Seeker? If so, I still feel that it doesn't answer my point.

Celsus, as a Greek or Roman philosopher (no-one's sure) is surely talking here about the Mysteries of Greece. He is not talking about Gnostic Christianity or even comparing the Mysteries to Gnostic Christianity. In fact, this would have been an ideal time for him to mention it. He wouldn't have to use the word Gnostic even, as the sects had names like the Nazerenes, the Valentinians and so on.

Min, I'll answer your long one tomorrow, as it's way past my bedtime now.

Goodnight, gentlemen. Thanks for the conversation.



Image


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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:26 pm

But Origen is answering as a Gnostic (whoever Celsus is criticising) and so reading him from that point of view, he makes sense to me.



He's "answering" 70-75 years later. Celsus wasn't around to reply.
Again, though, Origen is living at a time when Emperors Decius and Valerian were actively persecuting xtians...(although in Decius' case he allowed xtians to buy an exemption from making public sacrifice, which does sort of hint that this was a more of a fund-raising activity than any religious paranoia.)

Once again, you insist on looking at it through the eyes of the gnostics. If the Romans did regard xtians with suspicion gnostic or literalist is a nuance that they most likely would not have been interested in. As Celsus says, one of the few things these various groups had in common was the use of the word "CHRISTIAN." Might things have deteriorated from Trajan's more enlightened times? Damn right. By the mid-3d century the Romans were in deep shit on virtually every border and their tolerance for instability on the home front might have significantly lessened.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby seeker » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:34 pm

Ishtar wrote:
seeker wrote:oooop[s, my fault. I copied the wrong paragraph.:

Like all quacks they gather a crowd of slaves, children, women and idlers. I speak bitterly about this", says Celsus, "because I feel bitterly. When we are invited to the Mysteries the masters use another tone. They say, Come to us you who are of clean hands and pure speech, you who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience towards God, who have done justly and lived uprightly. The Christians say, Come to us you who are sinners, you who are fools or children, you who are miserable, and you shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: the rogue, the thief, the burglar, the poisoner, the despoiler of temples and tombs, these are their proselytes."


Is this the right one, Seeker? If so, I still feel that it doesn't answer my point.

Celsus, as a Greek or Roman philosopher (no-one's sure) is surely talking here about the Mysteries of Greece. He is not talking about Gnostic Christianity or even comparing the Mysteries to Gnostic Christianity. In fact, this would have been an ideal time for him to mention it. He wouldn't have to use the word Gnostic even, as the sects had names like the Nazerenes, the Valentinians and so on.

Min, I'll answer your long one tomorrow, as it's way past my bedtime now.

Goodnight, gentlemen. Thanks for the conversation.



Image


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The mysteries were basically Gnostic, the whole point of the mysteries was the activation of the 'divine spark'.

This quote though is the comparison that is central to your questiuon because in it he is noting that the mysteries offer to save the people that are deserving while Christianity only offer salvation to the undeserving.
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:35 pm

OK. Literalist Atheist - I think what I mean by a Literalist Atheist is an atheist that is constantly pointing out that the Jesus story cannot be literally true - when it was never intended to be in the first place - and therefore, the teachings are worthless. Celsus sounds to me like this, as does Humphreys.


Except Celsus is not an atheist at all: He says: So long as God is the subject of our thoughts, the little devotions we perform on behalf of the power of this word--not the demons only but the rulers and princes who hold power at the gods' design--are surely nothing horrible. Indeed, it is only insanity for the Christians to refuse their religious duties, rushing headlong to offend the emperor and the governors and to invite their wrath.
Odd words for an atheist. Ken, I suspect, is an atheist. As I am.

Soooo.... what would a Gnostic Atheist be?


An oxymoron? Speaking as one atheist I find any kind of superstition to be silly. But Celsus is not one of us.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:53 pm

Celsus, as a Greek or Roman philosopher (no-one's sure) is surely talking here about the Mysteries of Greece.



By 180 AD the difference would have been minimal. But I agree, he is speaking of the Platonist theories of god.


Minimalist wrote:

Celsus notes in one of his more famous quotes that a truly perfect 'god' would not have to destroy the earth like an inept workman because he would have gotten it right the first time.


This is pure ipse dixitism.

It’s like saying “If there was a God, ice creams would be free. But as ice creams are not free, this means logically that there can be no God.”



Maybe so, but Celsus CLEARLY thought that his Greco-Roman vision of god was far superior to the bumbling Yahweh who couldn't get things right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonism

The highest form is the Form of the Good, which is the ultimate basis of the rest, and the first cause of being and knowledge. Conceptions derived from the impressions of sense can never give us the knowledge of true being; i.e. of the forms. It can only be obtained by the soul's activity within itself, apart from the troubles and disturbances of sense; that is to say, by the exercise of reason. Dialectic, as the instrument in this process, leading us to knowledge of the forms, and finally to the highest form of the Good, is the first of sciences.



Frankly, that sounds like gibberish to me....but it's no sillier than worshipping a dead carpenter's son.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Ishtar » Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:46 am

Minimalist wrote:
Now it is fair to suggest that in the 70 years which separated Pliny's writings from Celsus' that xtianity conitnued to grow and, less obviously perhaps, diversify into more and more sects which Celsus finds so difficult to sort out. Nonetheless, from his writings I still get the picture that the primary xtian "crime" still relates to their refusal to acknowledge the emperor and the Romans would, especially in the provinces, have been right to consider that seditious behavior.


So you are saying, I think, that Christianity was a crime because Christians wouldn't bow down to the Roman emperor.

And elsewhere, you show that Celsus seems to believe in a form of God ... just not the Christian one.

I would contend, then, that if he had any undertstanding of any God, he would not use the fact that a sect was illegal (particularly for the reasons given above) as part of his argument that their teachings were useless. It's a non sequitur.

That it was illegal is inconvenient ... but it in no way detracts from the value of the teachings of an eternal truth which bears no relation to the politics of the day which come and go with the seasons.

On the one hand, Celsus complains about the secrecy of the Christians, which if he would have completely understood the value of if he was an initiate of the Mysteries. Yet on the other, he complains that Christianity's teachings are open to anyone who wants them - which wouldn't be the case if they were secret. So it's really not clear what his complaint is.

I think Celsus is getting confused here, because he doesn't understand that the Christians, just like the Mystery schools, had one teaching for the masses and another secret one for the initiates. The Mysteries were divided into the Greater Mysteries, which anyone could attend, and the Lesser Mysteries which consisted of those who were creamed off from those who attended the Greater Mysteries because they were considered to be ready.

Thus, in this respect, Christianity at the time of Celsus, was no different to the very Mystery religions which he keeps insisting are so superior.


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Postby Ishtar » Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:53 am

seeker wrote:The mysteries were basically Gnostic, the whole point of the mysteries was the activation of the 'divine spark'.


The Mysteries were practised in Greece, and many Gnostic sects were based on a similar inner philosophy, and they copied the same format of initiations. But my point is, there is no evidence that Celsus understands that.

seeker wrote:This quote though is the comparison that is central to your questiuon because in it he is noting that the mysteries offer to save the people that are deserving while Christianity only offer salvation to the undeserving.


Exactly, which is proof that Celsus misunderstood the Christianity of the time that he was alive, when Christianity still included Gnosticism. This is proved by the fact that Origen, a Gnostic, was asked to supply the Apology by Ambrose of Alexandria.
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Postby Ishtar » Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:58 am

Minimalist wrote:
Except Celsus is not an atheist at all: He says: So long as God is the subject of our thoughts, the little devotions we perform on behalf of the power of this word--not the demons only but the rulers and princes who hold power at the gods' design--are surely nothing horrible. Indeed, it is only insanity for the Christians to refuse their religious duties, rushing headlong to offend the emperor and the governors and to invite their wrath.
Odd words for an atheist. Ken, I suspect, is an atheist. As I am.


Yes, I agree, he does appear not to be an atheist and really just a critic of Literal Christianity. But he also appears to be confused and inconsistent. There is no evidence that understood the Gnostic point of view (which he has little excuse for, writing from Alexandria, a hot bed of Christian Gnosticsm at the time) and thus he mistakes all Christianity for Literal Christianity. Yet, at the time he was writing, he would have only needed to do a little more research to discover that Christianity was not so far from his own Greek Mysteries which he thought were so superior.

So ... I'll give him only five out of ten, I'm afraid! 8)

One small point, though .. the Christians of the time seem to have disobeying Jesus's injunction to render under Caesar what is Caesar's, which would include obeying his laws as well as paying his taxes.




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Postby Ishtar » Sun Sep 07, 2008 3:00 am

Minimalist wrote:Once again, you insist on looking at it through the eyes of the gnostics.


No Min .. this is your continual misunderstandng on my posiition.

I am trying to show that the Gnostics, at that time, have to be part of the argument as they were a huge presence at that time, particularly in Asia Minor and Alexandria where Christianity was born, where most of the Jews of that time lived and where Celsus is thought to have been writing from. But Celsus consistently ignored this, and thus misunderstand the Christianity of that time.

Minimalist wrote: If the Romans did regard xtians with suspicion gnostic or literalist is a nuance that they most likely would not have been interested in. .


I don't expect the Romans to pick up that nuance, which is why I haven't criticised them over it. I'm criticising the Greek/Roman philosopher Celsus for failing to take the Gnostics into account in his assessment of Christianity at that period of time, when Literalist Christianity had yet to be taken up as the state religion by Constantine, and thus given the power to eradicate the Gnostics. Christianity at that time was a mixture of Literalist and Gnostic, and the Gnostics had a huge voice.
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Postby Ishtar » Sun Sep 07, 2008 3:48 am

I wouldn't usually, these days, take a pen portrait of someone from Wikipedia as an authoriative confirmation of who they were. So I only post this one from Wiki now, on Celsus, because it almost entirely agrees with my impression of the man that I had gleaned previously from reading Origen:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsus

Celsus and Porphyry are the two early literary opponents of Christianity who have the most claim to consideration, and it is worth noticing that, while they agree alike in high aims, skillful address and devoted toil, their religious standpoints are widely dissimilar. Porphyry is mainly a pure philosopher, but also a man of deep religious feeling, whose quest and goal are the knowledge of God; Celsus, the friend of Lucian, though sometimes called Epicurean and sometimes Platonist, is not a professed philosopher at all, but a man of the world. He was really an agnostic at heart, like Caecilius in Minucius Felix, whose religion is nothing more or less than the Empire. He is keen, positive, logical; combining with curious dashes of scepticism many genuine moral convictions and a good knowledge of the various national religions and mythologies whose relative value he is able to appreciate. His manner of thought is under the overpowering influence of the eclectic Platonism of the time, and not of the doctrine of the Epicurean school. He is a man of the world, of philosophical culture, who accepts much of the influential Platonism of the time, but has absorbed little of its religious sentiment.


The last sentence, about him absorbing little of the religous sentiment of Platonism, agrees with my earlier comments. I said that he did not apper to have received, and thus understood the esoteric nature of the orally tranmsitted secrets of Plato, who had been dead for more than 500 years. Thus, he may have understood the outer form of the Mysteries, and its attendant rituals. But I doubt he was ever initiated into the teachings. If he had been, he would have recognised, in the Christianity of that time, the self same Mystery teachings that he claimed were so superior.

Here is Origen again:

Some of the hearers of Pythagoras were content with his ipse dixit; while others were taught in secret those doctrines which were not deemed fit to be communicated to profane and insufficiently prepared ears. Moreover, all the mysteries that are celebrated everywhere throughout Greece and barbarous countries, although held in secret, have no discredit thrown upon them, so that it is in vain that he endeavours to calumniate the secret doctrines of Christianity, seeing he does not correctly understand its nature.


All the evidence that we have on this supports Origen.

Thus, I go back to my original contention - Celsus did not know his enemy.



.
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Postby seeker » Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:35 am

Ishtar wrote:The Mysteries were practised in Greece, and many Gnostic sects were based on a similar inner philosophy, and they copied the same format of initiations. But my point is, there is no evidence that Celsus understands that.

You are forgetting that all we know of Celsus arguments is thew representation of them we have from Origen. As it is though Celsus does make a clear distinction between mystery religions and the version of Christianity he is refuting, a version which was becoming the dominant faction of Christianity.

Ishtar wrote:Exactly, which is proof that Celsus misunderstood the Christianity of the time that he was alive, when Christianity still included Gnosticism. This is proved by the fact that Origen, a Gnostic, was asked to supply the Apology by Ambrose of Alexandria.


The problem with your argument is twofold. First of all Origen was not Gnostic, he was a Neo-Platonist as was Augustine. While some Neo-platonists were Gnostic not all of them were. Neo-Platonism doesn't require dualism in the Gnostic sense and is more concerned with idealistic monism, an idea that everything s really as aspect of God.

The second problem is that you are assuming, from Origen's quotes, that Celsus never said anything else about the matter.
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Postby seeker » Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:41 am

Ishtar wrote:I wouldn't usually, these days, take a pen portrait of someone from Wikipedia as an authoriative confirmation of who they were. So I only post this one from Wiki now, on Celsus, because it almost entirely agrees with my impression of the man that I had gleaned previously from reading Origen:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsus

Celsus and Porphyry are the two early literary opponents of Christianity who have the most claim to consideration, and it is worth noticing that, while they agree alike in high aims, skillful address and devoted toil, their religious standpoints are widely dissimilar. Porphyry is mainly a pure philosopher, but also a man of deep religious feeling, whose quest and goal are the knowledge of God; Celsus, the friend of Lucian, though sometimes called Epicurean and sometimes Platonist, is not a professed philosopher at all, but a man of the world. He was really an agnostic at heart, like Caecilius in Minucius Felix, whose religion is nothing more or less than the Empire. He is keen, positive, logical; combining with curious dashes of scepticism many genuine moral convictions and a good knowledge of the various national religions and mythologies whose relative value he is able to appreciate. His manner of thought is under the overpowering influence of the eclectic Platonism of the time, and not of the doctrine of the Epicurean school. He is a man of the world, of philosophical culture, who accepts much of the influential Platonism of the time, but has absorbed little of its religious sentiment.


The last sentence, about him absorbing little of the religous sentiment of Platonism, agrees with my earlier comments. I said that he did not apper to have received, and thus understood the esoteric nature of the orally tranmsitted secrets of Plato, who had been dead for more than 500 years. Thus, he may have understood the outer form of the Mysteries, and its attendant rituals. But I doubt he was ever initiated into the teachings. If he had been, he would have recognised, in the Christianity of that time, the self same Mystery teachings that he claimed were so superior.

Here is Origen again:

Some of the hearers of Pythagoras were content with his ipse dixit; while others were taught in secret those doctrines which were not deemed fit to be communicated to profane and insufficiently prepared ears. Moreover, all the mysteries that are celebrated everywhere throughout Greece and barbarous countries, although held in secret, have no discredit thrown upon them, so that it is in vain that he endeavours to calumniate the secret doctrines of Christianity, seeing he does not correctly understand its nature.


All the evidence that we have on this supports Origen.

Thus, I go back to my original contention - Celsus did not know his enemy.



.


Only if you accept Origen's word on the matter. That's a bit like taking Adolf Hitler's word on how evil Churchill was.
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