Liberating Mark from the Surviving Copies of Irenaeus [Part One]

When Jeffrey recently challenged those who accept the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore to put the text in a late second century context, I think he felt quite confident that he and his fellow 'hoaxers' know what the true context of the period was.  There really are only two Church Fathers whose writings have survived in any great number - Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria.  As I have noted many times at this site, Clement is a complete mystery to us.  Even someone as close as Origen never references his name or his writings.  

My guess is that Clement's reputation was already associated with controversy and heresy in this early period.  So his name became 'unspeakable' in the third century.  

I am not even sure that 'Titus Flavius Clemens' was even his real name.  This appellation seems to get recycled in every period of 'Christian history' and going back to a real historical Roman senator who seems to have converted to Judaism in the late first century.  

Looking at the surviving manuscripts of Clement of Alexandria, I can't help but notice that the first pages of most of the material - the one where the name of the author would normally appear - have a tendency to go missing or omit the name of the author.  I have always struggled with the collection called Excerpta Ex Theodoto that just get thrown into the middle of a collection of writings attributed to 'Clement.'

I wonder whether Theodotus was Clement's real name and the Excerpta Ex Theodoto unmask his true 'heretical' beliefs.  But that's another story ...

The point is that you can't just accept what 'tradition' tells us about the historical individuals that make up the 'Ante Nicene Church Fathers,' their beliefs or their writings.  I love Roger Pearse's site, I really do because he provides people like me with useful English translations of texts I wouldn't otherwise know.  I always find it disappointing when he displays a rather uncritical (and ultimately disinterested) attitude toward the contradictions and blind spots of our knowledge of Patristic texts.  

I don't know Peter Jeffrey or Craig Evans or Larry Hurtado personally in the way that I wake up each day to the thoughts and musings of Roger Pearse.  Nevertheless I imagine - perhaps naively - that they share a basic sameness in their attitude towards these 'blind spots.'  I imagine that they ultimately believe that it doesn't matter how little we know about Clement or Irenaeus.  What matters is that we believe that they were 'connected at the hip' as it were to the same holy Catholic tradition.

The problem with this view in my mind is that it is totally stupid.  I don't have a problem with stupidity of course.  I find stupidity quite liberating and indulge in its glory whenever I have the opportunity.  Yet for me, thinking about the Church Fathers and the origins of Christianity is my one chance to take something serious so I do it with real intensity.  

The bottom line for me is that I can't possibly see how these conservative scholars can argue that we know ANYTHING about Irenaeus or Clement with any degree of certainty.  Sure, THEY HAVE CERTAINTY.  But their certainty about the late second century comes from an inherited assumption about fairy tales involving a 'holy Catholic Church,' the Holy Spirit acting as a conduit for God and his Church and other ludicrous things. 

If you want to believe in this stuff, you are all entitled to do so.  There just isn't any evidence to support these beliefs.  

Take Irenaeus for example.  There is a whole inherited tradition about him being a bishop of Lyons who suffers martyrdom in a certain period and the like but it's all unsupported from Irenaeus's writings.  

At the same time there are other reports - including statements from Irenaeus' own hand (AH iv.30.1) which place Irenaeus in Rome very close to the Emperor Commodus.  I think that the pattern of the age in which Irenaeus lived and the period which follows suggests Imperial involvement in the development of Roman Catholic tradition.  There are those who are going to disagree with me of course and put forward the official position of the Church.  The point is that there are arguments to be made from Irenaeus' own writings which challenge the basic assumptions of people like Jeffrey, Evans and Hurtado which rarely get heard because no one is really that interest in Irenaeus quite frankly.

I would argue with my readership that THEY SHOULD get interested in Irenaeus in a hurry.  The future battle lines over the Mar Saba document will be fought in the trenches of the Patristic writings. The underlying motivation of all the conservative scholars who argue against the authenticity of To Theodore is anger that it dares to challenge the idea of the supremacy of the Episcopal See of Rome.  

These men believe in the Holy Spirit.  They hope that they are connected to it and the tradition of their ancestors dating back to Irenaeus and they - unconsciously or otherwise - wage war against a text which says that the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of all gospel traditions, derived from Alexandria rather than Rome.  Yes they bring up homosexuality and all sorts of other nonsense that are used to 'inflame the troops' but the real issue at the heart of this debate is that some text has dared to challenge to their inherited weltanschauung.  For this reason Morton Smith is a devil and the text his 'counter gospel.' 

I don't even think they know why they hate this text so much.  It is the 'Holy Spirit' which connects them to Irenaeus which 'causes them' to want to refute and destroy this knowledge falsely so called.  

I would argue that this arena offers people like us a chance to 'even the score' with the Patristic tradition which demonized the alternative forms of Christianity.  Let's take the time to study the writings of the Church Fathers and do what Irenaeus claims to have done against the representatives of the Alexandrian tradition namely that we:

shall also endeavour, according to our moderate abilities, furnish the means of overthrowing these inherited assumptions, by showing how absurd and inconsistent with the truth are their statements. Not that we are practised either in composition or eloquence; but our feelings of affection for truth will prompt us to make known to everyone those doctrines which have been kept in concealment until now, but which are at last, through the goodness of God, brought to light. "For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be made known." [AH i.Preface 4 adapted]

I don't think most of my readers realize how paper thin our knowledge of the period actually is.  It's like when Jeffrey and Carlson argue that homosexuality in the late second century was 'totally different' than the form that was current at the time of Morton Smith.  Leaving aside the emptiness of the claims that either Morton Smith or the Mar Saba document are 'gay,' has anyone even taken these men to task for their expertise on homosexuality in the Alexandria in the late second century, let alone the period when Morton Smith was writing.  

The point is that they like to intimidate people with their expertise in various subjects related to the period but the reality is that what they excel in is the promotion of a few cherished 'assumptions' about 'the truth of Christianity' which can be refuted and destroyed by someone with the intellectual capacity of a five year old IF THEY BOTHERED TO CRITICALLY EXAMINE THE WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT.

That is why I spend so much time going back to the idea that our fundamental assumption about Irenaeus are flawed.  There is no reason to accept all the claims about him being from Lyons.  These are a development I think from two points which emerge in Book One of his Against All Heresies.  

The first is when he writes in the preface that:

Thou wilt not expect from me, who am resident among the Keltae, and am accustomed for the most part to use a barbarous dialect, any display of rhetoric, which I have never learned, or any excellence of composition, which I have never practised, or any beauty and persuasiveness of style, to which I make no pretensions

This is drawn from the corrected Greek and Latin texts but it should be noted that our oldest witness, Epiphanius, has something else here:

Thou wilt not expect from me, who am resident among the Delphois, and am accustomed for the most part to use a barbarous dialect, any display of rhetoric, which I have never learned, or any excellence of composition, which I have never practised, or any beauty and persuasiveness of style, to which I make no pretensions.

Why would Irenaeus modestly describe himself as being among the 'Delphois'?  The question comes down to who it is that we think Irenaeus is addressing.  The issue is never made clear anywhere in the surviving writings.

If, as I think, Irenaeus was originally writing to encourage the persecution of the heresies (cf. AH i.31.2) the identification of his hearers in the Imperial court as delphois would make perfect sense.  He is actually acknowledging himself as living in Rome in the Imperial court, a modern Lykourgos going to 'Delphi' - i.e. Rome the sacred navel of the universe - to get the new  law of the Christians approved.  The coin of the left is one of many which depict Commodus as the 'Apollo of the Palatine' - M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT PP; obv APOL PAL PM TRP XVI COS VI.   Apollo of course was the god to whom the cult at Delphi was devoted. 

The other supposedly 'explicit' reference to Irenaeus' connection with Lyons is that which appears in the section which deals with Marcus.  We read:

Such are the words and deeds by which, in our own district of the Rhone, they have deluded many women, who have their consciences seared as with a hot iron. [AH i.13.5]

Of course scholars take this statement at face value not recognizing (a) the corrupt state of the manuscripts and far more importantly (b) the fact that other readings of Irenaeus' original report identify the local as Spain rather than France. 

How could a reference to a region called Ῥοδανουσίασ in the surviving Greek copies of Irenaeus' work explain the confusion?  Well let's admit that this is the ONE geographic reference in the whole report from which Jerome, Sulpicius Severus and Hieronymus all derive their understanding that report about Marcus being in Spain.

What scholars have failed to notice is that there is a common confusion over the length of a river alternatively called Rhodanus or Eridanos which runs through ALL of the places identified as 'going over to Mark' - viz. the Rhone valley, Spain and northern Italy.  I think that Irenaeus originally referenced ONE OF THESE PLACES with an original reference to Rhodanus or Eridanos which caused all the subsequent confusion.  

Let's start with the error of Jerome and other sources who place Mark in Spain.  There can be no doubt that it is the identification of the river as 'Eridanos' which caused the confusion.  

The myth of Phaeton has it that Helios's sun tried to ride the solar chariot for a day. Phaeton was unable to control the fierce horses that drew the chariot as they sensed a weaker hand. First it veered too high, so that the earth grew chill. Then it dipped too close, and the vegetation dried and burned. He accidentally turned most of Africa into desert; burning the skin of the Ethiopians black. Rivers and lakes began to dry up, Poseidon rose out of the sea and waved his trident in anger at the sun, but soon the heat became even too great for him and he dove to the bottom of the sea.

Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot with a lightning bolt to stop it, and Phaëthon plunged into the river Eridanos. Helios, stricken with grief, refused to drive his chariot for days. Finally the gods persuaded him to not leave the world in darkness. Helios blamed Zeus for killing his son, but Zeus told him there was no other way.

The point here is that Pliny and others long noted the confusion over this river which was thought to flow from Italy into France and finally into Spain.  As one source notes:

The Greeks erroneously spoke of the river Rhodanus, or Eridanos, in connection with the tale about the Heliades.  They placed it in Iberia - that is Spain; sometimes wrongly asserting even, according to Pliny, that both this Iberian Rhodanos or Eridanos, and the river called by the Romans the Padus or the Po, discharged themselves by one common mouth on the shores of the Adriatic.  Pliny adds: "They (the Greeks) may be all the more easily forgiven for knowing nothing about amber, as they are so very ignorant of geography."

Ἠριδανός was the name for the Po river and the ambiguity inherent in surviving copies of Irenaeus work makes it quite possible that Irenaeus was writing at Rome and speaking about the heretics associated with Mark congregating in 'our region of Eridanos' - i.e. in northern Italy.  

This hypothesis is confirmed by another source which notes in its article on the Rhone:

Cluverius in his ancient geography may be consulted respecting the confusion of names incident to the Greek writers.  The gross mistake, of saying the Rhone meets the Po and flows, with one of its branches or arms to the Adriatic sea, while the other disembogues itself in the Sardinian Sea ... It is remarkable that the Greek scholiast of Apollonius, who is very sensible, and in general a well-informed writer, conspires with his author in this gross error and says "the Rhone a river belonging to the country of the Celtes, mixing his water with the Eridanus, and then dividing, proceeds in two channels to the sea: with one he flows into the Ionian gulf, with the other, into the Sardinian sea.  A strange description this of the Rhone ... It is evident that the poet confounds with the Rhone other rivers of Italy, as the Ticinus and the Addua which irrigate Piedmont and Lombardy and fall into the Po; and some of them, as the Atiso, which fall into the lake of Garda pretty near approach the Rhone.  It is probable that he confounds the Arno which flows by Florence and meets the Tuscan sea with that branch of the Rhone which (according to him) passes into the Sardinian sea [p. 118]

What is especially interesting about this possibility is the connection back to St. Mark.  For there are always persistent traditions 'remembered' by the Venetians regarding the presence of St. Mark in the Po Valley.  The most prominent ancient city in the region was Aquileia (2 Tim iv.10), which was Venice's precursor in the region (120 km distance).  

The story of course is that Peter sent Mark to convert the population and he established Hermagoras as the first bishop.  Hermagoras duly took up his office, and ruled the church at Aquileia with great distinction until he was captured by infidels and crowned with martyrdom. Rufinus the great translator of Origen was also from Aquileia.  

The question then that stands before is whether Irenaeus was writing from Rome referencing activity of 'followers of Mark' in the Po Valley or the Rhone valley in France or - as Jerome and others note - Spain.  I tend to think the Italian locale is the correct one.  Birger Pearson for one notes that Hippolytus' report demonstrates that there were Marcosians in Rome.  The tenth century historian Agapius confirms Rome as the locale of Marcus from an independent ancient source.  There are scholars such as Foerster who accept the idea that Rome and Italy might well have been the place of Marcus' activity.

The bottom line is that readers have one of two choices.  They can continue to believe that some heretical boogeyman named 'Marcus' came and went in the late second century, not leaving a trace anywhere in souther France, or that the reports have something to do with a tradition associated with St. Mark EXACTLY WHERE modern Italians identify it to have lasted today - viz. the modern 'republic of St. Mark' Venice.  

It is worth noting that not all legendary tales are without foundation ...

A Question From a Reader

Question: I have been re-reading The Real Messiah for the third time, and following your blog. I have a question, which I am certain not to be the first person to ask it. Please consider that I ask my question as a layman, not as an academic, so I am open to a straight answer.
Your book and various sources have Marcus Agrippa living into the 90's CE. I have been re-reading The Real Messiah for the third time, and following your blog. I have a question, which I am certain not to be the first person to ask it. Please consider that I ask my question as a layman, not as an academic, so I am open to a straight answer. The history of the Coptic Church gy Pope Shenouda III states clearly that St. Mark died on April 25, 62 CE after having been dragged through the streets of Alexandria.
I have not done much sourcing yet, but the "official" Coptic version as it is known today seems to derive from Eusebius, who of course was the official [Roman] "catholic" historian. I have read how the Roman Church effectively 'took over' the church in Alexandria by or about 300 CE. Do you think that the early records from Alexandria were thus 'doctored' to make it appear that Marcus Agrippa and St. Mark could not possibly have been the same person? Or that the records of Alexandria were simply replaced with the official story as dictated by Rome?
We have a list of the patriarchs of Alexandria, with years of accession, with St. Mark as patriarch until 68 CE, succeeded by Anianus, etc. Do you think that this list has been falsified? If St. Mark/Marcus Agrippa actually lived into the early 90's, could the first two or three patriarchs following St. Mark been fabricated? Perhaps the personages are correct, but the dates of their accession have been "adjusted" to fit an earlier chronology? Is the story about St. Mark's death real history, or religious history? A factual event, but also placed at an earlier date?
I don't mean to take up your time, but I am curious to know how you have resolved this apparent contradiction for yourself.

Answer: I don't think that anyone outside the most pious Copt who believes that any of the dates for the Patriarchs of Alexandria are anything other than a general guess.  But let me answer the points in order:

1. "The history of the Coptic Church gy Pope Shenouda III states clearly that St. Mark died on April 25, 62 CE after having been dragged through the streets of Alexandria."  

Yes, all of that's true but as I demonstrate in my article for the Journal of Coptic Studies the story of the martyrdom of St. Mark in the Boucolia can't be dated much earlier than the end of the fourth century.  This is important because it suggests - as I note in my article - that the events surrounding the martyrdom of the 'last' Patriarch of Alexandria - Peter I (c. 300 CE) became confounded with St. Mark himself.  

If you read the Passio Petri Sancti tradition there is a clear attempt by the editors to blur the distinction between Mark and Peter I.  Both martyrdom traditions developed in the same period (c. 390 CE).  The Passio continually references the martyrdom of St. Mark, both men die in similar ways, in the same place and most importantly there are no witnesses for the details of St. Mark's death in the Boucolia before the Passio.

It is worth noting that (a) Michael the Syrian identifies Mark's body as being buried in Paneas and (b) the Letter to Theodore does not reference the death or the burial of St. Mark in Alexandria.  

The bottom line is that I have demonstrated that the body which is now taken to be St. Mark's in Venice (and which presumably was the same one stolen from his church in Alexandria in 828 CE) is that of a fourth century Alexandrian Patriarch.  We actually have a description of an Italian noble who saw the body and the evidence seems to suggest that he is Peter I rather than St. Mark.  

2. "Do you think that the early records from Alexandria were thus 'doctored' to make it appear that Marcus Agrippa and St. Mark could not possibly have been the same person? Or that the records of Alexandria were simply replaced with the official story as dictated by Rome?"

I see things in a very different way. The first two Patriarchs can be viewed as just the splitting up of the Greek and Jewish names of Marcus Agrippa.

Mark (43–68)
Anianus = John (68–82)

The Patriarchs which follow seem to be little more than a confused assembly of prominent Alexandrian figures:

Avilius = Sabellius noted heretical boogieman
Cerdo = heretic associated with Marcion
Primus = 'first' i.e. Mark
Justus = the secretary of Marcus Agrippa. I note the similarities between the two figures in my book.

Eumenes is probably an actual person. Might even have been the unnamed Patriarch referenced in Hadrian's Letter to Servianus - "And after a lapse of a year and some months, Eumenes (q.v.) succeeded in the sixth place to the presidency of the community of the Alexandrians" [H.E.IV.5.5].

Markianos or Mark (the tradition is unclear). Could be the historical figure associated with the 'Marcion' who visited Rome in the middle of the second century.
Celadion = 
Agrippinus =

As you might know I think that Demetrius election was imposed on the Alexandrian community and Clement and Origen likely represented crypto-Patriarchs or Patriarchs in exile.  The only reason that the 'Origenist' Patriarchs that followed were likely only allowed to flourish because of the fact that Rome was losing control of Alexandria.

The situation in Alexandria regarding their 'remembrance' of who Mark was is no different than what we find among the Samaritans.  If you hit someone over the head long enough they will lose consciousness and even forget their own identity.

Celsus Likens Alexandrian Christianity to the Enthronement Mysteries of Ancient Crete

Among the first things that I ever attempted in the study of Christianity was trying to piece together the original 'True Account' of Celsus of Rome. It is also one of my first disappointments. It is simply impossible to know what that original text looked like.  Origen often cites two or three versions of the same line; the original material often getting mixed in with his own commentary to the point that it is impossible to figure out which is which.

Yet, even though I never managed to figure out what Celsus' original treatise actually looked like, I walked away from the attempt with a fair amount of knowledge about the original material.

One thing I have never managed to reconcile is why scholars date Celsus to the reign of Marcus Aurelius.  Origen explicitly says that he was active "in [the time] of Hadrian, and later." [Against Celsus i.8]  Almost every important writer in the reign of Hadrian (117 - 138) does not live on into the age of Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180).  There are fifty years that separate the middle of the eras of both Emperors. The most likely period for the authorship of 'True Word' is the Antonine period.

Of course there are a lot of troubling things about allowing Celsus to be placed this early - the fact that Celsus never once references the Catholic tradition as being in existence yet being top of the list.

In any event, it is worth noting that we get a very good idea what the mystery religion of Alexandria looked like in this early period. The argument I am about to cite from a long section in Book Three concludes with Celsus claiming that the Christians of Alexandria stole their mysteries from the enthronement rituals of the cult of Zeus in Crete.

I don't want to overwhelm the reader with information but having visited Crete on a number of occasions, I immediately realized when reading this passage again what Celsus is getting at.  The original culture of Crete was of course Minoan and centered around the figure of King Minos.  Later Greeks renamed the cult after Zeus, but the Minoan rituals referenced by Celsus seems to reinforce the suggestion of Evans that 'Minos' wasn't just the name of a particular Minoan king but the name given to all their rulers.

The myth of Minos then involves the first Lord of the Minoans dying and going to the underworld while perpetuating a series of Minoan kings in the world above. These rituals were witnessed by Pythagoras who "made a pilgrimage to Crete, he entered the cave near the top of Mount Ide wearing black wool, stayed there according to custom thrice nine days and, among other ritual acts, inspected the throne which was strewn for Zeus once a year." It also worth noting that the Christian mysteries must have bore such a resemblance to the Cretan cult that not only do the Pastorals invoke Callimachus' Hymn to Zeus but Pergamon's altar to Zeus is described in The Revelation of S. John the divine as the place ' where Satan's throne is.'

In any event here are ALL the citations of Celsus' original work leading up to that point in the narrative. Origen begins by attacking his claim that Christianity developed as a mystery religion to obscure the seditious character of its original beliefs and writing:

we clearly manifest the illustrious nature of our origin, and do not (as Celsus imagines) conceal it, when we impress upon the minds of our first converts a contempt for idols, and images of all kinds, and, besides this, raise their thoughts from the worship of created things instead of God, and elevate them to the universal Creator; dearly showing Him to be the subject of prophecy, both from the predictions regarding Him--of which there are many--and from those traditions which have been carefully investigated by such as are able intelligently to understand the Gospels, and the declarations of the apostles.

"But what the legends are of every kind which we gather together, or the terrors which we invent," as Celsus without proof asserts, he who likes may show. I know not, indeed, what he means by "inventing terrors," unless it be our doctrine of God as Judge, and of the condemnation of men for their deeds, with the various proofs derived partly from Scripture, partly from probable reason. And yet--for truth is precious--Celsus says, at the close, "Forbid that either I, or these, or any other individual should ever reject the doctrine respecting the future punishment of the wicked and the reward of the good!" What terrors, then, if you except the doctrine of punishment, do we invent and impose upon mankind?

And if he should reply that "we weave together erroneous opinions drawn from ancient sources, and trumpet them aloud, and sound them before men, as the priests of Cybele clash their cymbals in the ears of those who are being initiated in their mysteries" we shall ask him in reply, "Erroneous opinions from what ancient sources?" For, whether he refers to Grecian accounts, which taught the existence of courts of justice under the earth, or Jewish, which, among other things, predicted the life that follows the present one; he will be unable to show that we who, striving to believe on grounds of reason, regulate our lives in conformity with such doctrines, have failed correctly to ascertain the truth.

He wishes, indeed, to compare the articles of our faith to those of the Egyptians; "among whom, as you approach their sacred edifices, are to be seen splendid enclosures, and groves, and large and beautiful gateways, and wonderful temples, and magnificent tents around them, and ceremonies of worship full of superstition and mystery; but when you have entered, and passed within, the object of worship is seen to be a cat, or an ape, or a crocodile, or a goat, or a dog!" Now, what is the resemblance between us and the splendours of Egyptian worship which are seen by those who draw near their temples? And where is the resemblance to those irrational animals which are worshipped within, after you pass through the splendid gateways? Are our prophecies, and the God of all things, and the injunctions against images, objects of reverence in the view of Celsus also, and Jesus Christ crucified, the analogue to the worship of the irrational animal? 

But if he should assert this--and I do not think that he will maintain anything else--we shall reply that we have spoken in the preceding pages at greater length in defence of those charges affecting Jesus, showing that what appeared to have happened to Him in the capacity of His human nature, was fraught with benefit to all men, and with salvation to the whole world.

In the next place, referring to the statements of the Egyptians, who talk loftily about irrational animals, and who assert that they are a sort of symbols of God, or anything else which their prophets, so termed, are accustomed to call them, Celsus says that "an impression is produced in the minds of those who have learned these things; that they have not been initiated in vain" while with regard to the truths which are taught in our writings to those who have made progress in the study of Christianity (through that which is called by Paul the gift consisting in the "word of wisdom" through the Spirit, and in the "word of knowledge" according to the Spirit), Celsus does not seem even to have formed an idea, judging not only from what he has already said, but from what he subsequently adds in his attack upon the Christian system, when he asserts that Christians "repel every wise man from the doctrine of their faith, and invite only the ignorant and the vulgar;" on which assertions we shall remark in due time, when we come to the proper place.

He says, indeed, that "we ridicule the Egyptians, although they present many by no means contemptible mysteries for our consideration, when they teach us that such rites are acts of worship offered to eternal ideas, and not, as the multitude think, to ephemeral animals; and that we are silly, because we introduce nothing nobler than the goats and dogs of the Egyptian worship in our narratives about Jesus." Now to this we reply, "Good sir, (suppose that) you are right in eulogizing the fact that the Egyptians present to view many by no means contemptible mysteries, and obscure explanations about the animals (worshipped) among them, you nevertheless do not act consistently in accusing us as if you believed that we had nothing to state which was worthy of consideration, but that all our doctrines were contemptible and of no account, seeing we unfold s the narratives concerning Jesus according to the ' wisdom of the word' to those who are 'perfect' in Christianity. 

... But it is not the appropriate time to describe at present the truly venerable and divine contents of the Gospels, or the mind of Christ--that is, the wisdom and the word--contained in the writings of Paul. But what we have said is sufficient by way of answer to the unphilosophic sneers of Celsus, in comparing the inner mysteries of the Church of God to the cats, and apes, and crocodiles, and goats, and dogs of Egypt.

But this low jester Celsus, omitting no species of mockery and ridicule which can be employed against us, mentions in his treatise the Dioscuri, and Hercules, and AEsculapius, and Dionysus, who are believed by the Greeks to have become gods after being men, and says that "we cannot bear to call such beings gods, because they were at first men, and yet they manifested many noble qualifies, which were displayed for the benefit of mankind, while we assert that Jesus was seen after His death by His own followers;" and he brings against us an additional charge, as if we said that "He was seen indeed, but was only a shadow!" 

...  Let us see what Celsus says next, when he adduces from history marvellous occurrences, which in themselves seem to be incredible, but which are not discredited by him, so far at least as appears from his words. And, in the first place, regarding Aristeas of Proconnesus, of whom he speaks as follows:

Then, with respect to Aristeas of Proconnesus, who disappeared from among men in a manner so indicative of divine intervention, and who showed himself again in so unmistakeable a fashion, and on many subsequent occasions visited many parts of the world, and announced marvellous events, and whom Apollo enjoined the inhabitants of Metapontium to regard as a god, no one considers him to be a god.

... According to Celsus, then, Apollo wished the Metapontines to treat Aristeas as a god. But as the Metapontines considered the evidence in favour of Aristeas being a man--and probably not a virtuous one--to be stronger than the declaration of the oracle to the effect that he was a god or worthy of divine honours, they for that reason would not obey Apollo, and consequently no one regarded Aristeas as a god. But with respect to Jesus we would say that, as it was of advantage to the human race to accept him as the Son of God ... the God who sent Jesus dissipated all the conspiracies of the demons, and made the Gospel of Jesus to prevail throughout the whole world for the conversion and reformation of men, and caused Churches to be everywhere established in opposition to those of superstitious and licentious and wicked men; for such is the character of the multitudes who constitute the citizens in the assemblies of the various cities. 

Whereas the Churches of God which are instructed by Christ, when carefully contrasted with the assemblies of the districts in which they are situated, are as beacons in the world; for who would not admit that even the inferior members of the Church, and those who in comparison with the better are less worthy, are nevertheless more excellent than many of those who belong to the assemblies in the different districts?

... [Indeed] in comparing the council of the Church of God with the council in any city, you would find that certain councillors of the Church are worthy to rule in the city of God, if there be any such city in the whole world; whereas the councillors in all other places exhibit in their characters no quality worthy of the conventional superiority which they appear to enjoy over their fellow-citizens. And so, too, you must compare the ruler of the Church in each city with the ruler of the people of the city, in order to observe that even amongst those councillors and rulers of the Church of God who come very far short of their duty, and who lead more indolent lives than others who are more energetic, it is nevertheless possible to discover a general superiority in what relates to the progress of virtue over the characters of the councillors and rulers in the various cities.

Now if these things be so, why should it not be consistent with reason to hold with regard to Jesus, who was able to effect results so great, that there dwelt in Him no ordinary divinity? while this was not the case either with the Proconnesian Aristeas (although Apollo would have him regarded as a god), or with the other individuals enumerated by Celsus when he says, 

no one regards Abaris the Hyperborean as a god, who was possessed of such power as to be borne along like an arrow from a bow ... Do they not report that his soul frequently quitted his body, and flitted about in an incorporeal form? and yet men did not regard him as a god ...  [or] Cleomedes of Astypalaea who entered into an ark, and although shut up within it, was not found therein, but through some arrangement of the divinity, flew out, when certain persons had cut open the ark in order to apprehend him and one might name many others of the same kind ... [Let it be said that] in worshipping him who was taken prisoner and put to death, we are acting like the Getae who worship Zamolxis, and the Cilicians who worship Mopsus, and the Acarnanians who pay divine honours to Amphilochus, and like the Thebans who do the same to Amphiaraus, and the Lebadians to Trophonius.

Celsus also introduces Antinous, the favorite of Hadrian and ... he imagines that the honour paid to him falls little short of that which we render to Jesus ... [for] "they will not endure his being compared with Apollo or Zeus." 

... We must notice the remarks which Celsus next makes, when he says to us, that "faith, having taken possession of our minds, makes us yield the assent which we give to the doctrine of Jesus ... regarding he, who was but a mortal body, as a God, and with supposing that we act piously in so doing."  It is superfluous to say any more in answer to this, as a great deal has been said in the preceding pages. And yet let those who make this charge understand that He whom we regard and believe to have been from the beginning God, and the Son of God, is the very Logos, and the very Wisdom, and the very Truth; and with respect to His mortal body, and the human soul which it contained, we assert that not by their communion merely with Him, but by their unity and intermixture, they received the highest powers, and after participating in His divinity, were changed into God. And if any one should feel a difficulty at our saying this regarding His body, let him attend to what is said by the Greeks regarding matter, which, properly speaking, being without qualities, receives such as the Creator desires to invest it with, and which frequently divests itself of those which it formerly possessed, and assumes others of a different and higher kind. And if these opinions be correct, what is there wonderful in this, that the mortal quality of the body of Jesus, if the providence of God has so willed it, should have been changed into one that was ethereal and divine?

Celsus, then, does not speak as a good reasoner, when he compares the mortal flesh of Jesus to gold, and silver, and stone, asserting that the former is more liable to corruption than the latter ... But, admitting that there are degrees of corruptibility, we can say in answer, that if it is possible for the matter which underlies all qualities to exchange some of them, how should it be impossible for the flesh of Jesus also to exchange qualities, and to become such as it was proper for a body to be which had its abode in the ether and the regions above it, and possessing no longer the infirmities belonging to the flesh, and those properties which Celsus terms "impurities," and in so terming them, speaks unlike a philosopher? For that which is properly impure, is so because of its wickedness. Now the nature of body is not impure; for in so far as it is bodily nature, it does not possess vice, which is the generative principle of impurity. But, as he had a suspicion of the answer which we would return, he says with respect to the change of the body of Jesus, "Well, after he has laid aside these qualities, he will be a God and if so why not rather Aesculapius, and Dionysus, and Hercules?" 

He next says of us, that "we ridicule those who worship Jupiter, because his tomb is pointed out in the island of Crete; and yet we worship him who rose from the tomb, although ignorant of the grounds on which the Cretans observe such a custom." Observe now that he thus undertakes the defence of the Cretans, and of Jupiter, and of his tomb, alluding obscurely to the allegorical notions, in conformity with which the myth regarding Jupiter is said to have been invented; while he assails us who acknowledge that our Jesus has been buried, indeed, but who maintain that He has also been raised from the tomb,--a statement which the Cretans have not yet made regarding Jupiter. But since he appears to admit that the tomb of Jupiter is in Crete, when he says that we are ignorant of the grounds on which the Cretans observe such a custom, we reply that Callimachus the Cyrenian, who had read innumerable poetic compositions, and nearly the whole of Greek history, was not acquainted with any allegorical meaning which was contained in the stories about Jupiter and his tomb; and accordingly he accuses the Cretans in his hymn addressed to Jupiter, in the words:- "The Cretans are always liars: for thy tomb, O king, The Cretans have reared; and yet thou didst not die, For thou ever livest." [Against Celsus iii.15 - 43]