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Chapter XX.

Let us see how he continues after this:  “These events,” he says, “he predicted as being a God, and the prediction must by all means come to pass.  God, therefore, who above all others ought to do good to men, and especially to those of his own household, led on his own disciples and prophets, with whom he was in the habit of eating and drinking, to such a degree of wickedness, that they became impious and unholy men.  Now, of a truth, he who shared a man’s table would not be guilty of conspiring against him; but after banqueting with God, he became a conspirator.  And, what is still more absurd, God himself plotted against the members of his own table, by converting them into traitors and villains!”  Now, since you wish me 440to answer even those charges of Celsus which seem to me frivolous,32723272    εὐτελέσι. the following is our reply to such statements.  Celsus imagines that an event, predicted through foreknowledge, comes to pass because it was predicted; but we do not grant this, maintaining that he who foretold it was not the cause of its happening, because he foretold it would happen; but the future event itself, which would have taken place though not predicted, afforded the occasion to him, who was endowed with foreknowledge, of foretelling its occurrence.  Now, certainly this result is present to the foreknowledge of him who predicts an event, when it is possible that it may or may not happen, viz., that one or other of these things will take place.  For we do not assert that he who foreknows an event, by secretly taking away the possibility of its happening or not, makes any such declaration as this:  “This shall infallibly happen, and it is impossible that it can be otherwise.”  And this remark applies to all the foreknowledge of events dependent upon ourselves, whether contained in the sacred Scriptures or in the histories of the Greeks.  Now, what is called by logicians an “idle argument,”32733273    ἀργὸς λόγος. which is a sophism, will be no sophism as far as Celsus can help, but according to sound reasoning it is a sophism.  And that this may be seen, I shall take from the Scriptures the predictions regarding Judas, or the foreknowledge of our Saviour regarding him as the traitor; and from the Greek histories the oracle that was given to Laius, conceding for the present its truth, since it does not affect the argument.  Now, in Ps. cviii., Judas is spoken of by the mouth of the Saviour, in words beginning thus:  “Hold not Thy peace, O God of my praise; for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me.”  Now, if you carefully observe the contents of the psalm, you will find that, as it was foreknown that he would betray the Saviour, so also was he considered to be himself the cause of the betrayal, and deserving, on account of his wickedness, of the imprecations contained in the prophecy.  For let him suffer these things, “because,” says the psalmist, “he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man.”  Wherefore it was possible for him to show mercy, and not to persecute him whom he did persecute.  But although he might have done these things, he did not do them, but carried out the act of treason, so as to merit the curses pronounced against him in the prophecy.

And in answer to the Greeks we shall quote the following oracular response to Laius, as recorded by the tragic poet, either in the exact words of the oracle or in equivalent terms.  Future events are thus made known to him by the oracle:  “Do not try to beget children against the will of the gods.  For if you beget a son, your son shall murder you; and all your household shall wade in blood.”32743274    Euripid., Phœnissæ, 18–20.  Now from this it is clear that it was within the power of Laius not to try to beget children, for the oracle would not have commanded an impossibility; and it was also in his power to do the opposite, so that neither of these courses was compulsory.  And the consequence of his not guarding against the begetting of children was, that he suffered from so doing the calamities described in the tragedies relating to Œdipus and Jocasta and their sons.  Now that which is called the “idle argument,” being a quibble, is such as might be applied, say in the case of a sick man, with the view of sophistically preventing him from employing a physician to promote his recovery; and it is something like this:  “If it is decreed that you should recover from your disease, you will recover whether you call in a physician or not; but if it is decreed that you should not recover, you will not recover whether you call in a physician or no.  But it is certainly decreed either that you should recover, or that you should not recover; and therefore it is in vain that you call in a physician.”  Now with this argument the following may be wittily compared:  “If it is decreed that you should beget children, you will beget them, whether you have intercourse with a woman or not.  But if it is decreed that you should not beget children, you will not do so, whether you have intercourse with a woman or no.  Now, certainly, it is decreed either that you should beget children or not; therefore it is in vain that you have intercourse with a woman.”  For, as in the latter instance, intercourse with a woman is not employed in vain, seeing it is an utter impossibility for him who does not use it to beget children; so, in the former, if recovery from disease is to be accomplished by means of the healing art, of necessity the physician is summoned, and it is therefore false to say that “in vain do you call in a physician.”  We have brought forward all these illustrations on account of the assertion of this learned Celsus, that “being a God He predicted these things, and the predictions must by all means come to pass.”  Now, if by “by all means” he means “necessarily,” we cannot admit this.  For it was quite possible, also, that they might not come to pass.  But if he uses “by all means” in the sense of “simple futurity,”32753275    ἀντὶ τοῦ ἕσται. which nothing hinders from being true (although it was possible that they might not happen), he does not at all touch my 441argument; nor did it follow, from Jesus having predicted the acts of the traitor or the perjurer, that it was the same thing with His being the cause of such impious and unholy proceedings.  For He who was amongst us, and knew what was in man, seeing his evil disposition, and foreseeing what he would attempt from his spirit of covetousness, and from his want of stable ideas of duty towards his Master, along with many other declarations, gave utterance to this also:  “He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me.”32763276    Matt. xxvi. 23.


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