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Chapter LXXVI.

Celsus, in adopting the character of a Jew, could not discover any objections to be urged against the Gospel which might not be retorted on him as liable to be brought also against the law and the prophets.  For he censures Jesus in such words as the following:  “He makes use of threats, and reviles men on light grounds, when he says, ‘Woe unto you,’ and ‘I tell you beforehand.’  For by such expressions he manifestly acknowledges his inability to persuade; and this would not be the case with a God, or even a prudent man.”  Observe, now, whether these charges do not manifestly recoil upon the Jew.  For in the writings of the law and the prophets God makes use of threats and revilings, when He employs language of not less severity than that found in the Gospel, such as the following expressions of Isaiah:  “Woe unto them that join house to house, and lay field to field;”34133413    Isa. v. 8. and, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning that they may follow strong drink;”34143414    Isa. v. 11. and, “Woe unto them that draw their sins after them as with a long rope;”34153415    Isa. v. 18. and, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;”34163416    Isa. v. 20. and, “Woe unto those of you who are mighty to drink wine;”34173417    Isa. v. 22. and innumerable other passages of the same kind.  And does not the following resemble the threats of which he speaks:  “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters?”34183418    Cf. Isa. i. 4. and so on, to which he subjoins such threats as are equal in severity to those which, he says, Jesus made use of.  For is it not a threatening, and a great one, which declares, “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire:  your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers?”34193419    Isa. i. 7.  And are there not revilings in Ezekiel directed against the people, when the Lord says to the prophet, “Thou dwellest in the midst of scorpions?”34203420    Ezek. ii. 6.  Were you serious, then, Celsus, in representing the Jew as saying of Jesus, that “he makes use of threats and revilings on slight grounds, when he employs the expressions, ‘Woe unto you,’ and ‘I tell you beforehand?’”  Do you not see that the charges which this Jew of yours brings against Jesus might be brought by him against God?  For the God who speaks in the prophetic writings is manifestly liable to the same accusations, as Celsus regards them, of inability to persuade.  I might, moreover, say to this Jew, who thinks that he makes a good charge against Jesus by such statements, that if he undertakes, in support of the scriptural account, to defend the numerous curses recorded in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we should make as good, or better, a defence of the revilings and threatenings which are regarded as having been spoken by Jesus.  And as respects the law of Moses itself, we are in a position to make a better defence of it than the Jew is, because we have been taught by Jesus to have a more intelligent apprehension of the writings of the law.  Nay, if the Jew perceive the meaning of the prophetic Scriptures, he will be able to show that it is for no light reason that God employs threatenings and revilings, when He says, “Woe unto you,” and “I tell you beforehand.”  And how should God employ such expressions for the conversion of men, which Celsus thinks that even 463a prudent man would not have recourse to?  But Christians, who know only one God—the same who spoke in the prophets and in the Lord (Jesus)—can prove the reasonableness of those threatenings and revilings, as Celsus considers and entitles them.  And here a few remarks shall be addressed to this Celsus, who professes both to be a philosopher, and to be acquainted with all our system.  How is it, friend, when Hermes, in Homer, says to Odysseus,

“Why, now, wretched man, do you come wandering alone over the mountain-tops?”34213421    Cf. Odyss., x. 281.

that you are satisfied with the answer, which explains that the Homeric Hermes addresses such language to Odysseus to remind him of his duty,34223422    ὑπὲρ ἐπιστροφῆς. because it is characteristic of the Sirens to flatter and to say pleasing things, around whom

“Is a huge heap of bones,”34233423    Cf. Odyss., xii. 45.

and who say,

“Come hither, much lauded Odysseus, great glory of the Greeks;”34243424    Ibid., xii. 184.

whereas, if our prophets and Jesus Himself, in order to turn their hearers from evil, make use of such expressions as “Woe unto you,” and what you regard as revilings, there is no condescension in such language to the circumstances of the hearers, nor any application of such words to them as healing34253425    παιώνιον φάρμακον. medicine?  Unless, indeed, you would have God, or one who partakes of the divine nature, when conversing with men, to have regard to His own nature alone, and to what is worthy of Himself, but to have no regard to what is fitting to be brought before men who are under the dispensation and leading of His word, and with each one of whom He is to converse agreeably to his individual character.  And is it not a ridiculous assertion regarding Jesus, to say that He was unable to persuade men, when you compare the state of matters not only among the Jews, who have many such instances recorded in the prophecies, but also among the Greeks, among whom all of those who have attained great reputation for their wisdom have been unable to persuade those who conspired against them, or to induce their judges or accusers to cease from evil, and to endeavour to attain to virtue by the way of philosophy?


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