That’s really chivalrous of you, Seeker – mounting an attack on me after I’d said I was leaving the thread. So now I feel forced to reply, to iron out this false picture that you’ve painted of what my views are and how I reached them.
Ish - While I respect your position I think you are guilty of projecting onto me the flaw you are making in this thread. All along your argument is based on an evaluation of Origen as Gnostic, which he wasn't, and Celsus as ignorant when his arguments are only known through Origen.
I respect your position too – and I thought that went without saying. But I think you are guilty of the following, and not just in this thread: I can put up ten strong planks to an argument, with one slightly weaker than the rest. You pull out the slightly weaker one and hold it up as proof that my whole argument falls flat.
There’s probably a Latin phrase for that kind of debating tactic, but I don’t know what it is. This is not a projection - it is what you are doing.
The slightly weaker plank is Origen, because we know so little about him, that we can be sure of. But we can be sure of the following:
Fact: Origen taught in a way that we now call Gnostic. Fact: Celsus was writing in Alexandria c 175-180 CE. Fact, as I have shown in copious posts, there is no doubt that, at the time, Christianity in Alexandria was mainly what we call Gnostic. Fact: I have to rely on Origen’s account of The True Word
, as it is the only evidence remaining of it. Conclusion: Celsus should have known that there was more to Christianity than Literalism.
How could he have missed it? Hadrian didn’t. When he went to Alexandria in the second century, he found Christians along with an Egyptian bishop worshipping Serapis and studying Pythagorus.
Gibbon tells us that Gnosticism arose in Asia and Egypt during the second century and boomed during the third. We know that Ignatus rails against them at the beginning of the second century, as does Hippolytus.
Origen read the scriptures as allegories, which makes him a Gnostic in our eyes. No-one called themselves Gnostic then. This is a term we’ve given them, a sort of collective noun for all those who read the Jesus stories as allegoric, rather than literal, and who used the scriptures as part of a wider wisdom teaching, and not to teach history.
Even the Christians at Wiki would group Origen with the Gnostics. They compare his teachings to the great Pagan Gnostic, Plotinus, and in fact Origen and Plotinus were pupils of the same school philosophic school, the Platonist Ammonius in Alexandria. Far from being a Literalist, Origen taught the doctrine of karma and the reincarnation of souls, and that Christ was the Logos. In fact, his teachings were not dissimilar, in that respect, to those of Philo's.
...[In his book] Peri Archon (First Principles), he articulated the first philosophical exposition of Christian doctrine. He interpreted scripture allegorically and showed himself to be a Neo-Pythagorean, and Neo-Platonist. Like Plotinus, he wrote that the soul passes through successive stages of incarnation before eventually reaching God. He imagined even demons being reunited with God. For Origen, God was the First Principle, and Christ, the Logos, was subordinate to him. His views of a hierarchical structure in the Trinity, the temporality of matter, "the fabulous preexistence of souls," and "the monstrous restoration which follows from it" were declared anathema in the 6th century.
I hope that makes Origen clearer for you.
This false equivalence you tried to draw between atheism and Christianity is indicative of an assumption that the process of evaluation is the same for believers and non-believers.
I don’t actually know what you mean by that, or what you’re referring to.
I have made the point that just by debunking Literalist Christianity, one hasn’t debunked God, who (if he exists) had to have existed billions of years before Literal Christianity. And that’s not even to mention all other Gods/Allahs/Brahmans etc of other religions who are perceived in a form that is a million miles away from God being at the head of a hierarchy in which man is on lowest rung, which is the Judaeo-Christian vision of God.
And then even further – there is the God of the Gnostics and the Mystery Schools. That variety of God isn’t separate to man at all. He isn’t an overseer who has to be obeyed. These initiates came to understand, through a process that included these stories, but was not dependent on them, that they are God, that they are co-creators of their own reality, that they are all that is, that all that exists is I AM.
And then there’s the Serpent God ... and the sun... the list of how man perceived God over millennia is endless. So if anyone claims that they are an atheist solely on the strength of the debunking of Literal Christianity, and on nothing else, it is a non-sequiteur.
Or you could just start off from the base that there is no God because you choose to ... but that's just a matter of opinion, then, and thus has exactly the same value as those whose opinion is that there is a God.
I think that your assumption of Celsus as an agnostic and then as not knowing what he was talking about, especially when the perception of him is from as biased a source as Origen is the result of that particular bias. The fact is that Origen is unlikely to have written anything positive about Celsus.
If you read your first sentence in that quote, you'll agree with me that it doesn’t make sense. So I cannot reply to it. But what bias, Seeker? I respect true atheism, which is arrived at after considering a myriad of possibilities. I am biased against the ignorance that bases its atheism solely on the fact that Jesus never lived as a human being, yes. That’s all. But everyone is biased from their own point of view, including you.
Origen’s purpose was not to write anything positive or negative about Celsus. His purpose to write an Apology to a letter from Celsus called The True Word, and the only evidence we have of it is in his and others’ writings.
The True Word had very little influence either on the mutual relations of Church and State, or on classical literature. Echoes of it are found in Tertullian and in Minucius Felix, and then it lay forgotten until Origen gave it new life. A good deal of the neo Platonic polemic naturally went back to Celsus, and both the ideas and phrases of The True Word are found in Porphyry and Julian, though the closing of the New Testament canon in the meantime somewhat changed the method of attack for these writers.
In other words, they were all philosophers arguing at a time before the canon was closed, and thus the dogma was not yet set in concrete. That is why a Gnostic like Origen could survive for as long as he did, although towards the end of his life, he was harried out.
Neither of us are arguing that Gnosticism wasn't strong in Asia but you don't find Gnosticism in the writings preserved by the Church. They specifically avoided copying anything positive about Gnosticism.
You’re kidding! Really?
See, now I now you don’t read my posts, Seeker. You have just fed back to me the very point that I’ve been making over and over again on every thread on this subject.
The point is, the Literalist Christians today like to hold on to the idea of Origen as “one of the distinguished fathers of the Early Church”, because he was the only decent philosopher they had. So, in retrospect, they claimed him. But what was happening on the ground at the time was not so straightforward.
There was a lot of clerical and doctrinal infighting during the life of Origen, which tells us that this is probably when the Literalists were really beginning to make their presence felt. Origen was ordained by two bishops and refused ordination by another. This shows us the confusion at the time and that early Christianity was a hotpotch of different beliefs that hadn’t yet settled down into the two camps of Literalist and Gnostic. Plotinus, the pagan philosopher who teaching in Rome in the middle of the third century (when Origen was writing) treats Christianity as just another rival school that had developed from the teachings of Plato, just like his own.
Christian attacks on Origen started around 230 CE, and he wrote Contra Celsus 18 years later.
So at that time, Christianity was different shades of grey rather than black and white, and Celsus fails to perceive this, when others of the time do. I would suggest that that grey didn't separate out fully into the black and white of Gnostic and Literal Christianity until Constantine.
The whole point is, I’m not disagreeing with Celsus’s views on Literalist Christianity. What I am saying is, though, that he didn’t have the full picture and he actually didn’t have an excuse for not having the full picture. And if you agree with me, as you say you do, that Gnosticism was strong in Asia and Alexandria at the time, what are we arguing about?