Origen’s ‘Celsus’: Questions of Identity (2024)

1. Introduction

The amount of interaction between the Christian exegete and apologist Origen and pagan philosophers has become a matter of serious dispute. I broadly side with Ramelli (2009) in postulating a considerable amount of interaction, especially in Alexandria in the first half of the third century. Hence, I agree too in resisting the theory that there was a separate pagan philosopher with the name of Origenes as often claimed. One problem arising from this position is that Porphyry and his early mentor Longinus, traditional philosophers of a broadly Platonist persuasion, seem not to have been aware of Origen’s exoteric work contra Celsum (Against Celsus) even though it directly engages with their sort of philosophy. This is hard to explain if our Origen is also the philosopher of that name whose lectures Longinus had once attended. How is it that such a work could have remained invisible to them? Did even the relevance of Celsus escape them, or had Origen chosen to engage in answering a polemical philosophic writer of no great relevance? One does not expect anybody engaged in contemporary interaction to be knowingly answering some long dead ‘Celsus’ in great detail. This is especially so if ‘Celsus’ was indeed an Epicurean, and yet the answers being offered in Origen’s well-known apology would better serve as a response to a devotee of Plato.

This paper explores a similarity between Origen’s attitude to this unknown ‘Celsus’ and Origenes’ answers to Porphyry’s teacher Longinus in Proclus, asking whether the one-Origen thesis can actually assist us in explaining how contra Celsum can be understood as contemporary engagement: contemporary engagement that did not escape those it engages with.

2. Materials and Methods

This article considers two questions of identity that may be related. It does so in the light of research that demonstrates the regular use of an alter ego or nom de plume in the relevant period, and the notorious fluidity of ancient titles. This demands that one proceeds with a scepticism with regard to second and third century names and with regard to the titles of books.

2.1. ‘Celsus’ and His Alleged Epicureanism

One should ask first who was the ‘Celsus’ against whom Origen’s Contra Celsum (henceforth Cels) was written? And second, who was the Origen who took exception to many of the things said about the early pages of Plato’s Timaeus by Porphyry’s teacher Cassius Longinus? The material is found in Book I of Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus (henceforth In Tim., using edn. by Diehl and van Riel, and trans. by Tarrant (2007)). The problem in Cels is a longstanding one. ‘Celsus’ is tackled throughout as if he were some kind of Platonist philosopher with a lively interest in theology, whereas Origen says in his introduction that elsewhere in his writings his opponent had adopted the stance of an Epicurean:

Celsus should be exposed as one who contradicts himself, saying the opposite. For from other writings he is revealed to be an Epicurean, yet here, because it seems more reasonable to attack the account without acknowledging the doctrines of Epicurus he pretends [to believe] that ‘there is something better in human nature than the earthly, and akin to the divine’, and he says that ‘those for whom this’, i.e., the soul, ‘is in good condition have an overriding desire for what is akin to them’, meaning god, ‘and ever yearn both to hear and to remember something about him’.

(Cels 1.8.9–16, my translation)1

For he knew that by acknowledging that he was an Epicurean he would fail to have credibility in his accusation against those who in whatever way introduce providence and place god at the head of reality. For we gather that there were two Epicureans called Celsus, the previous one under Nero, and this other one under Hadrian and/or more recent.

(Cels 1.8.21–26)2

What did Origen actually know about the author of the work to which he replies? The verb παρειλήφαμεν (‘we gather’) implies that this is information handed down to Origen and others, not something that he is intimately familiar with. And while ‘this other one’ (on which see our footnote) might suggest to some that Origen knew that the writer was to be identified as the second of the Epicureans, there are significant doubts about both the text and whether it was intended to make this identification even if it were correct. Why should one even mention the first if one knew that the author was the second of these Epicureans? Perhaps Origen was excluding the first of them as he seemed rather early to be devoting such effort to attacking Christianity in its infancy. But again, κατὰ Ἀδριανὸν καὶ κατωτέρω (‘under Hadrian and/or more recent’) seems rather vague if Origen had been able to make a positive identification.

In fact, Origen could make no positive identification, for consider a passage at 4.36:

But Plato obviously did not consider men who bequeathed such poems as ‘divinely inspired’, whereas he who is better able to judge than Plato, the Epicurean Celsus, if at least [ei ge]3 he is the one who also composed the other two books against Christians,4 when quarrelling with us, presumably called ‘divinely inspired’ those whom he did not think divinely inspired’.5

Why introduce a conditional clause concerning Celsus’ identity, if it had been a simple matter of agreement? It is tempting to deduce (a) from Origen’s words and (b) from the general agreement that this ‘Celsus’ had Platonist affiliations that he either does not know much at all about this ‘Celsus’, or that he was himself beginning to have understandable suspicions that he wasn’t who he first thought he was.

2.2. ‘Celsus’ and the Authority of Plato

Whatever Origen knew about the author of the attack on Christians, his reply seems firmly based on the assumption that he would accept the authority of Plato above all other philosophers. Consequently Plato, Platonists or Platonic doctrine are mentioned far more often in Cels than language associated with other schools (see Table 1).

Authoritative texts include the doctrinal passages in three of the Epistles, the second, sixth and seventh;6 purple passages from the Phaedo,7 Symposium (Penia and Poros at 4.39), Theaetetus (4.62), and Phaedrus (4.40, 6.17, 6.19); material directed against Homer and poetic myths in the Republic (4.36, 4.50); and material from both the Atlantis episode (4.20–21, 4.62) and the exposition of the creation (4.54, 4.56, 4.62, 6.10, 7.42) in the Timaeus. Other late dialogues used are the Philebus (1.25 and 4.48 on Tim. 12C) and Laws (6.15 on 715E–716A). Many of these passages appear to be used at his opponent’s instigation, and, with the exception of the Epistles,8 the list could easily have come from a work of Plutarch. So, while Origen feels able to attack ‘Celsus’ as an inconsistent Epicurean, he nevertheless gives the impression that ‘Celsus’ regarded Plato as a key authority, and defends the Christians with reference principally to the authority of Plato too. What is going on here?

2.3. Names and Shadow-Boxing: Polemics against Whom?

There is another important question that is related to this: why would Origen choose to answer an attack on the Christians that he believes to have been written two or more generations before this? Have the issues not changed? Has something suddenly happened to bring a previously obscure text, for which Origen has no great respect, into the limelight? In general, polemics between belief systems involve fairly rapid reactions between critics and defenders, but Origen seems to suggest that he is writing an eight-book work to rebut criticism that (a) was generations old, and (b) had never accorded with the author’s own beliefs anyway. It is one thing to mention such an obscure text at appropriate points in the course of a general defence of Christianity against its critics, and quite another to engage in an almost personal prolonged exchange with a figure whom he believed to be long dead. An explanation is required.

The name ‘Celsus’ has been placed in inverted commas because I now doubt whether it was ever the real name of the author, and suspect that Origen himself had legitimate doubts about it too. It serves his polemical purpose well to accept the attribution to ‘Celsus’, to note that this has hitherto been the name for Epicurean authors, and to deduce that the author has been utterly inconsistent in what he writes. While Origen would have been conscious that false attributions can occur, as for example was known to Diogenes Laertius (Vitae philosophorum 2.124, 3.62), he would also have known that certain proponents of some kind of Platonism had been known by different names at different times or in different situations. One of the most important sources for the way such alternative names had arisen is Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus, which details his own transition from Malc[h]us to Basileus (Vita Plotini 17) before “Porphyrius” finally sticks.9 Porphyry also mentions other names that had been used for individuals within the schools of Numenius (Vita 17) and Plotinus (Vita 7). Another significant source for alternative names is Lucian, whose Death of Peregrinus suggests that besides the real name mentioned in the title, the butt of Lucian’s humour had also been known as ‘Proteus’, ‘Second Socrates’, and finally ‘Phoenix’ (Tarrant 2009, pp. 18–20). This author also detailed several other cases where a name by which we know a philosopher or philosophic author may well have been an adopted name (Tarrant 2009). Lucian, of course, is himself able to adopt a kind of nom de plume or alter ego (such as ‘Lycinus’ or ‘Menippus’) on occasions. He may even have been responsible for turning ‘Albinus’ into ‘Nigrinus’ in the Nigrinus, though he does address Cronius, the friend of Numenius, by his actual name in the death of Peregrinus. So, when we meet with the Celsus who was the addressee of Lucian’s The Lover of Lies, which could easily be a real name, it is not surprising that this should seem to offer a possible identification for the author of the True Logos.10 But what confidence should one have that Lucian’s ‘Celsus’ was a real person?

Later, one meets one of the most celebrated cases of a false authorial name, when the author we know as pseudo-Dionysius pretends to be Dionysius the Areopagite, a figure mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (17:34). A well-known case of a nom de plume closer to Origen’s time involves Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis, which is actually presented as a reply by the Egyptian teacher and priest ‘Abamon’ to Porphyry regarding matters raised by Porphyry in his Letter to Anebo, and it is noted in this regard that “pseudonymous and anonymous authorship was reasonably common in antiquity” (Clarke et al. 2003, p. xxxi). While it is not known whether ‘Anebo’ too was a fictitious name (Clarke et al. 2003, p. xxix and n. 54), Iamblichus treats the Letter as a disguised challenge to himself (De Mysteriis I.1.2.5–7). Nor is there any reason why it could not have been.

2.4. Origenes and His Criticism of Longinus’ Hedonism

At this point I should like to introduce the other principal materials, shifting my focus to an author whose fragments are collected by Karl-Otto Weber (1962), one who will be here called ‘Origenes’, in order to preserve a certain distance from the theologian and biblical interpreter. Whereas the latter is mentioned by Porphyry in a fragment (Frg. 39) of Against the Christians that is preserved by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 6.19),11 Origenes is known to us more widely from Porphyry and from other sources probably dependent on him. While difficulties in chronology are often held to count against identifying the two, this is counterbalanced by the fact that Porphyry does not distinguish them for us, even though both were said to be devoted pupils of Ammonius—or of an Ammonius, at least. It is often held that Origenes was a pagan, but this is not stated anywhere, and not at all proven from the evidence. Porphyry (Vit. Plot. 3) implies that his major work was the treatise (syngramma) On Daimones, but this may mean no more than ‘the treatise about daimones’—i.e., it could be a description of content rather than a real title, as also at Vita 20 in a citation of Longinus. Certainly, most non-Christian Platonists postulated the existence of such beings, but if a Christian had written a systematic work on this topic then it could simply have been referring to all supernatural beings postulated by non-Jewish peoples in conformity with LXX Psalm 95:5 (οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν δαιμόνια), often quoted in Cels (3.2, 4.29, 7.69, 8.3). It is not hard to imagine Cels having gone by such a title, for the vocabulary of daimones12 (all cases of the noun and the adjective daimonios, plus the adverb daimoniôs), constitute more than 0.3% of the vocabulary of Cels,13 but less than 0.04% of that of other works of Origen in Greek.

Porphyry (Vita 3) mentions another title from the same author, That the King is the only Demiurge,14 without calling it a syngramma, so possibly implying that it was an occasional work, yet presumably a second work heavily indebted to Ammonius.15 It is probable that we have an indication of its contents in the second Book of Proclus’ Platonic Theology (Theologia Platonica II 4.31.4–22 [=Origenes Frg. 7 [ed. Weber]]; cf. Tarrant 2017). Origenes seems to be taking the reference to the ‘King’, otherwise known as the ‘first’, in the Second Epistle once credited to Plato (312D-E: cf. Ramelli 2009, p. 236), as a reference to a creator-god. This in turn implies that that creator was not seen as a secondary god, inferior to the Good (like Numenius’ creator for instance, especially Frgs. 11–13) and to the ‘One’ in the first account of the Parmenides (137C4–142A8). His doctrine would thus be diametrically opposed to that of Plotinus in Ennead 5.1.8, and to virtually the entire Neoplatonic tradition down to Damascius, where the Platonic Demiurge was usually associated somehow with intellect and hence with a level lower than the supreme principle. Hence, Proclus is surprised that another pupil of Ammonius could have held such a belief as he thought he had found in Origenes. Even so, it is predictable that any Christian who was not a Gnostic should hold that there can be no god higher than the Creator-god of the Jews. Origen, in fact, assumes the equivalence of the ‘King’ found in the Second Epistle to that Creator-god in Cels 6.18–19.16 So this title is one that could be plausibly credited to a Platonist who is also a Christian as well as to any conservative Platonists who still thought the Demiurge of the Timaeus to be the supreme Platonic principle—a dying breed in the third century.

The reason for involving Origenes here is that he comes close to calling Cassius Longinus,17 Porphyry’s early teacher who had himself attended Origenes’ lectures, an Epicurean. There are three passages where this tactic is employed, and they result from the fact that Longinus highlighted the charms of Platonic diction, at least when tackling Plato’s prefatory material (prooimia) if not in the exposition of the arguments. The first passage comments on Timaeus 19B4-C1, where Socrates explains his feelings about the theoretical city that he has just outlined.

Origenes agreed that Plato is taking care over the grace of his writing, not however because he is aiming at pleasure, but in the course of using this comparison for the presentation of what he [Socrates] felt.

(Proclus In Tim. 60.1–4 [=Origenes Frg. 9])

Τhis should make it clear that Origenes objected to Longinus’ implication that Plato was aiming at generating pleasure in the mind of the reader, rather than at capturing most precisely the nuances of Socrates’ thoughts. Longinus had in fact claimed that Plato used the beautification of speech as a means to win the listener over (within Proclus, In Tim. I.59.28–29D = I.90.20–91.1vR = Porphyry, In Platonis Timaeum (ed. Sodano [hereafter Plat. Tim.]), Frg. 28), a claim that would have been in danger of classing this type of Platonic writing as a knack ‘of achieving grace and pleasure’ rather than as an art according to the theory of the Gorgias.18 It would class Plato’s diction as rhetoric rather than philosophy. Longinus’ explanation of his own view was directed against other Platonic interpreters who regarded the subtleties of Platonic language here as coming spontaneously from his authorial gifts rather than from the application of technical rules.19 The language strongly suggests that these Platonic interpreters had included Origenes himself.20 In the course of resisting such a view, Longinus had made the provocative claim that it is easier to believe Epicurus’ atoms could come together to create a universe than that a random collection of words could make a Platonic speech. The reference to Epicurus is highly unusual,21 and may already have been designed to provoke Origenes, who accordingly presents Longinus as taking a hedonistic view of Plato.

Origenes next chastises Longinus’ ‘hedonism’ at I.83.19–28 (In Tim. I.127.5–14vR = Porphyry, Plat. Tim. Frg. 13), after Longinus (Frg. 32 on Timaeus 20E–21A) had explained that the introduction of the Atlantis-story had answered the need to delight and seduce the listeners prior to the rather dry presentation of natural philosophy which would follow.

Longinus points out here too that Plato worries about the freshness and variety of his diction (ὀνομάτων), pronouncing the same things in a variety of ways. The deed he called “ancient”, the tale he called “old”, and the gentleman “not young”, yet he is making the same point throughout even when able to call everything by the same term. But he (Longinus) was ‘a lover of diction’ (φιλόλογος), as Plotinus says of him, and ‘not a lover of wisdom’ (φιλόσοφος [Porphyry, Vita 21]).22 Origenes did not agree that he [Plato] was aiming at artificial pleasure (ἡδονῆς … μεμηχανημένης) and various cosmetic embellishments, but [said] that he was concerned for a spontaneous and unembellished plausibility and accuracy in his character-portrayal, and moreover that this kind of communication comes spontaneously,23 as becomes an educated man. He thinks Aristoxenus the musical writer was right in saying that the dispositions of the philosophers extended to their voices, exhibiting an orderly quality in everything they say.

With the other passages, this builds up a picture of a sustained debate between Longinus and Origenes over various matters raised in the earlier parts of the Timaeus, and above all about the diction employed by the author there. As Longinus did not regard Origenes as somebody who wrote more than the very occasional work, it is clear that these debates occurred in person, and, assuming that Porphyry was not himself present, then we must suppose that he heard about them from his early teacher Longinus. At any rate, Porphyry informs us, through Proclus,24 of one encounter involving Longinus and Origenes, when the latter “spent three whole days shouting and going red in the face, and getting into quite a sweat”. Such personal observations confirm the part played by oral communication here, but in this case there are no such amusing details about Longinus’ part in this inquiry, which cannot be safely reconstructed. My suspicion is that Longinus had been attending Origenes’ lectures on the early part of the Timaeus, and had been raising issues that the lecturer was finding difficult to answer.

3. Results

Straight comparison between Origen’s Cels and the fragments of Origenes in Proclus’ In Tim. show the same tendency to try to expose what might be called the Epicurean features of an opponent who otherwise appears to be of a broadly Platonist persuasion. In the latter case, the opponent is actually addressing an important text of Plato, and in the former he repeatedly calls on Plato’s authority. While such a tendency may be more common than one thinks, it constitutes a warning against insisting that Origenes was a figure altogether separate from Origen in the absence of any compelling reasons. The fragments in Proclus tend to show an attitude towards Plato that accords broadly with what we know of Origen. However, the attitude towards Homer and the relative merits of these two authorities requires further discussion.

Furthermore, I would not expect any sensitive author to adopt the same approach to answering any opponent of Platonist persuasion. The tactic would only be credible for the right Platonist adversary, not for Plotinus, for example. If, as we have argued, Origen knew little about ‘Celsus’, while having suspicions about his identity, there might also be an argument for identifying ‘Celsus’ with a rather youthful Longinus, about eighteen years Origen’s junior. It was not from Plotinus that Porphyry inherited his polemical attitude to Christianity, and it is tempting to think that it may be due to his studies with Longinus, for whom he always retained considerable respect.

However, there are obvious objections to the idea that ‘Celsus’ was a nom de plume or nickname for Longinus. All such names among philosophers of Greek heritage would have had a meaning, and significance for the person concerned—agreeing either with their self-image or with others’ image of them. ‘Celsus’ was not a random name taken by Longinus, and would need explanation. Furthermore, if Origen knew Longinus as well as Proclan material suggests, and he therefore suspected that he might be behind this work ascribed to ‘Celsus’, then would there not be clues that he did so in his response? Finally, if Origen had been replying to Longinus in his eight-book work, there seems little chance that Longinus would have remained ignorant of it, yet Longinus admits no knowledge of Cels. How might he have referred to such a work?

4. Discussion

4.1. Plato and Homer

The lemma of the Timaeus in the last case we examined was 19D2–E2, where Socrates has acknowledged his own inability to laud the inhabitants of his ideal community adequately, and goes on to say that he had come to the same conclusion about both ancient and modern poets, not out of disrespect for that “race”, but because the whole mimetic “tribe” can best imitate those among whom they are raised, whereas it is hard to imitate in deeds what lies beyond their formative experiences and even harder to do so in words. This claim was problematic (ἀπορεῖται) for Longinus and Origenes, if Homer was being included when Socrates claimed not only that modern poets were inadequate for the task, but also the ancient ones. It is rather obvious, I think, that Origenes was deeply embarrassed by this issue. In his view, Socrates’ claim and the resulting difficulty were very considerable, and Origenes was “very keen to demonstrate that the imitation in [the works of] Homer adequately depicts actions of excellence”. This suggests that his admiration for Homer at least matched and possibly exceeded his admiration for Plato (or for Plato’s ‘Socrates’). If the writings of both Plato and Homer were to be salvaged, as not only Longinus and he but also most imperial Platonists thought they should be, then Origenes had to seek some way in which either Homer could be exempt from the Platonic criticism, or the Platonic text could be taken to imply less than its literal meaning implied.25

There would be little difficulty in seeing anybody brought up in the Greek tradition, even a Christian with an appetite for Greek culture, as sufficiently keen on Homer to want to regard him as having the ability to capture with accuracy the deeds and words of persons who lived in an ideal society that functioned according to the proposals of ‘Socrates’. There are in fact some 27 references to Homer or things Homeric in Cels, though ‘Celsus’ himself was responsible for some of these. Iliad 308–321 and 12.200–209 are cited at 4.91, 5.340 at 1.66 (cf. 2.36), Odyssey 4.563–5 at 7.28, an amalgam of 4.685 at 4.94, 10.28126 and 11.93 at 2.76, 12.45 and 12.184 also at 2.76, and 18.117 or 20.120 at 4.94. At 6.42 Origen argues with ‘Celsus’ over the interpretation of Iliad 1.591–2 and 15.18–23. At 7.46 he calls Homer the very best of poets (ὁ τῶν ποιητῶν ἄριστος),27 but the antiquity of an author is so important for him, and Moses is of course regarded as much earlier than Homer, so that a high regard for Homer is compatible with his greater devotion to Jewish scriptures. Yet Homer remains the best that Greek culture had to offer, and the challenge for ‘Celsus’ is to explain how his candidates for inspired poets, particularly Orpheus and Homer (who had better represented the traditional gods, 7.54), could promote a better life (7.41).

Origen of course knew that Plato had excluded the poets from his theoretical best city (4.36, 4.50, 7.54), and that Homer was among these. Nor did he think this irrational given Homer’s ability to lead the youth astray with his depictions of the traditional gods (4.36), and he was reluctant to assume that any such poets were divinely inspired (entheos).28 But the passage in Proclus (in Tim. I.64.2–3D [=I.97.8–10vR]) does not make Origenes insist that Homer was inspired or a source of theological truth, but that Homeric mimesis was adequate for presenting the deeds of virtuous men. In the immediate aftermath of this statement comes a passage that may still seem to originate from Origenes, but its language surely owes much to an intermediate source, presumably Longinus or Porphyry, or both. It is rather important to examine it in the present context.

Who, after all, is more grandiloquent than Homer? Even when he brings gods into strife and battle, he does not fall short of capturing their likeness, but matches the nature of their deeds ‘in his lofty language’ (hypsêlologoumenos). This is the argument that confronts us.

(In Tim. I.64.4–7 [=I.97.9–12vR])

I suspect that if Origenes were a Christian he would have been less likely to have spoken of Homer ‘capturing the likeness of the gods’. For instance, Origen was willing to talk about the gods of [Greek] convention with phrases such as οἱ νομιζόμενοι θεοί, but he would not recognize the divine status of such ‘gods’. One may note that Plato himself had doubts about strife that involved the gods, most obviously at Euthyphro 6B–C, and that a wide range of Plato-interpreters would have been expected to share them. If one did not accept that gods ever fought each other, then how could one capture an accurate likeness of gods involved in warfare? However, it should be obvious that the point of contention here is style rather than instruction. Homer is assumed to be able to capture in words the excellence and grandeur of the gods. Certainly, the lofty language, expressed in terms of hypsêlologia, is suggestive of a particular kind of discourse credited to the Muses in the eighth book of Plato’s Republic (545E3: hypsêlologoumenas). The terminology then disappears until Pollux in the second century CE; it does not occur in Origen, but it is found elsewhere in Porphyry (Zetemata 314.27–28; Questiones Homericae I.89.17). Its occurrence here is unlikely to be due to Proclus, for of only four other cases in Proclus, three refer or allude to the address of the Muses in the Republic. It is fairly obvious, therefore, that this word came either from Porphyry or from his teacher Longinus. Porphyry himself uses both megethos and hypsos in his contribution immediately below (I.64.8D [=I.97.14vR]), and he also used the language of grandiloquence (megalophônia) in a Homeric context, effectively praising Homer,29 though other authors also did so by this time.30 But hypsos is a concern of Longinus from the very first lemma of the Timaeus, mentioned twice in a very few lines, and one would suppose that some known concern with this quality has resulted in the treatise On the Sublime (peri Hypsous) being attributed to Longinus.31 It should be no surprise if the stylistic terminology here should be found to be characteristic of both Longinus and Porphyry, given that Longinus has clearly shaped Porphyry’s thoughts on stylistic and linguistic matters.

4.2. Origen on Platonic Style

When it comes to the assessment of the desirability of Homer, it may appear that the views expressed by Origenes in Proclus are in fact compatible with those expressed by Origen in Cels. There was an understandable admiration for Homer’s poetic abilities, allowing him to be called ‘the best of poets’, but his poetic ability did not make him above criticism in other respects. This evaluation came close to Porphyry’s solution of the difficulties posed by Timaeus 19D-e in Proclus’ In Tim. I.64.9–11D [=I.97.13–17vR], where he suggested that Homer, though capable of capturing the intensity of the emotion and of building up an impression of towering deeds, was nevertheless incapable of presenting intellective freedom from passion and the philosophic life in action. Both could agree that Homer’s virtues were poetic rather than philosophic. But how far does Origen’s view of Plato conform with what Proclus attributes to Origenes? One assumes that Origenes has been giving lectures on the Timaeus, but not written lectures that ever circulated. Though the lectures included some prefatory material, Proclus fails to include him along with Longinus, Severus, Porphyry and Iamblichus when giving examples of different approaches that commentators had adopted to the preface (In Tim. I.204.16–27D [=I.302.17–303.3vR]), so that he probably did not adopt a systematic approach. It is clear that exegesis of the physiology of the Timaeus was expected of almost anybody who taught philosophy through Plato, but Origenes is not remembered for his natural philosophy because Longinus too made no lasting impression in this regard.32 As for Origen, we have shown above how widely he employs and interprets Platonic material in Cels.

We are fortunate to have in Cels an indication of how Origen saw Plato’s stylistic abilities, which should be of assistance in helping one to decide whether to distinguish him from Origenes:

And if one should dare to say it, the beautiful and practised diction of Plato and those who spoke similarly has only been of benefit to a few, if at all, whereas that of the majority who have taught and written more economically in a practical and inexact manner [have benefitted] more. Indeed, one can only see Plato in the hands of those thought to be language-lovers (philologoi),33 whereas Epictetus is admired also by ordinary people and those inclined to receive benefit, since they are conscious of the self-improvement that comes from his words. And we are not saying this out of criticism of Plato …

(Cels 6.2).34

‘The beautiful and practised diction’ suggests that Origen too regards Plato’s style as exemplary, but achieved by virtue of long-practised habits (such as would give it that spontaneous plausibility that contributed to accurate character-portrayal) rather than by inspiration or technical expertise. The surprise is that Origen talks of Plato being read by philologists (or ‘language-lovers’) rather than by philosophers (or ‘wisdom-lovers’). It seems that he feels that it is principally the connoisseurs of style that have been especially captivated by Plato, while those with ordinary philosophical motivation are just as happy to be seeking it in the works of Epictetus, the unpretentious Stoic author.

4.3. Celsus as Longinus

When Origen claims that “one can only see Plato in the hands of those thought to be language-lovers (or ‘literature-fanatics’: philologoi)” there is little doubt that some possible readers, including but not confined to Plotinus and Porphyry, would immediately have thought of Longinus. Plotinus never uses the term ‘language-lover’ in the Enneads, making it all the more memorable when, according to Porphyry (Vit. 14), he was prompted to dismiss Longinus as such—rather than counting him as a ‘wisdom-lover’, or ‘philosopher’. He did so in response to the reading of two of Longinus’ works within the school. The title of one of these, Philarkhaios (‘antiquity-lover’, ‘antiquity-fanatic’), actually suggests that Longinus was already responding to questions about what his own professional passion really amounted to. Indeed, there is little doubt that his principal legacy had been in the areas of ancient learning and stylistics, not philosophy. Origen too, I suggest, is here (Cels 6.2) challenging the philosophical commitment of a prominent reader of Plato. Could this be a clue that he suspects this ‘Celsus’ to be Longinus?

Besides being reminiscent of Plotinus’ famous evaluation of Longinus, the adjective philologos, along with its adverb and its associated degrees of comparison, are found four times in Cels (2.34, 3.12 × 2, 6.2), and elsewhere in Origen only in the Homilies on Psalms (3.1, 5.6); in Porphyry, a second case in the Vita Plotini is actually from the quotation of Longinus’ own letter (20); it is also used by Porphyry in De Abstinentia 1.3 of the less philosophical opponents of vegetarianism, while at Plat. Tim. Frg. 2 [=Proclus, In Tim. I.18.31–19.9D = I.28.3–12vR] it is used of the preferred life of the missing fourth person. Porphyry is also known from Eusebius (Praeparatio evangelica 10.3.1) to have written a work entitled Philologos Akroasis in which he described his time studying with Longinus. Even Proclus associates the term philologos primarily with Longinus.35 But might there also be clues concerning ‘language-lovers’ in other passages in Cels? A passage on the crucifixion (2.33) may be revealing. Here ‘Celsus’ has presented a Jewish speaker36 jokingly suggesting that Jesus knew a line from Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae (498): “The god himself will release me whenever I want”. Origen retorts that the Jews were not obsessed with Greek literature (ta Hellênôn philologein), and then grants that someone of the Jews may have become a language-lover (philologos) of that kind, going on to question different aspects of Celsus’ attack. Clearly, there had been the implication that one had to be a philologos in the Greek tradition to be finding Euripidean quotes for such unlikely occasions. And ultimately it had been ‘Celsus’ himself who had done so, confirming his status as a philologos.37 This was not a professional term, for nowhere in ancient Greek do I find references to teachers of philologia, or to the teaching of philologia, as one would expect in such a case. Referring to philologoi was more like referring to ‘literati’ in modern English.

So, Origen’s implication is that ‘Celsus’ was a philologos. Furthermore, the implication throughout this work is that he was not worthy of the name philosophos. Of the twenty occasions in Cels where that term is used in the singular, it qualifies ‘Celsus’ only once, in the mocking expression “that noblest of philosophers Celsus (6.29: ὁ γενναιότατος φιλόσοφος Κέλσος)”.38 The Jew whom he introduces says “nothing worthy of a grey-haired philosopher” (1.28). ‘Celsus’ was a philologos, not a philosophos. That in turn would suggest that Origen’s real opponent, the ‘Epicurean’ adopting the guise of Platonist, was in fact Longinus, whom Origenes had accused of attributing Epicurean motives to Plato’s selection of language in the Timaeus. If Longinus had referred to himself as an ‘antiquity-lover’ in response to the criticisms by another, then he could also adopt the transparent disguise of an earlier Epicurean in response to the criticism that he made Plato too ‘Epicurean’.

Yet Celsus was not merely an Epicurean name. It was also a name with a meaning, ‘lofty’, very much like the Greek hypsêlos, and perhaps even comparable with the Latin longus when that term was applied to tall people. Longinus would have known well that Homer referred to lofty towers, palaces or mountains,39 while Virgil used celsus for buildings, cities, mountains, and also ships. But it was, as we have seen, lofty language that Longinus had been most interested in, not simply because of its relevance to the debates he entered into concerning the early pages of the Timaeus, but also because somehow somebody had seen fit to attribute the extant treatise on lofty language (Peri Hypsous) to him.

5. Conclusions

A summary of the thesis that I here tentatively propose would run as follows:

  • Origen’s identification of ‘Celsus’ as an Epicurean cannot have been based on secure knowledge;

  • ‘Celsus’ was in fact a nom de plume of a kind quite familiar in those times;

  • There is a significant parallel between Origen’s treatment of ‘Celsus’ as an Epicurean and Origenes’ complaints that Longinus’ explanation of the early pages of the Timaeus made Plato a hedonist;

  • The distinction between Origen and Origenes should therefore be abandoned if chronology permits;

  • Origen treats ‘Celsus’ as a poor philosopher and a philologus;

  • Origen therefore suspected, at least as his detailed reading continued, that the real author of the True Logos was his former auditor Longinus, whose works Origen had indeed closely read,40 associated as he was with ‘loftiness’ both in literary theory and by name.

However, if Origen had been replying to Longinus in Cels, how could Longinus not have known this work? It had to be a public work if it were to achieve its purpose, but Porphyry, Longinus’ own pupil, seems to know only two such works by ‘Origenes’.41 In my view, Longinus did know Cels, but knew it as a treatise On Daimones: i.e., by a moderately accurate description of its subject matter rather than by the name of its ‘opponent’. So many ancient works were known by alternative titles, including several by Plato,42 fifteen by Antisthenes, nine by Democritus, etc.,43 that inconsistencies should cause no surprise. Most importantly, the treatises of Plotinus received no titles from their author, and some appear under significantly different titles in Porphyry’s own two lists (Vit. 4–5 and 24–26).44 Porphyry (Vit. 4) also gives the opening words of each in an attempt to overcome this problem, which thus persists throughout the third century. But, above all, how was Longinus to refer to this treatise, if he knew that Celsus had never existed and especially if he knew that he was himself the real target? To refer to the work by its dominant subject matter was clearly the most acceptable alternative. The daimones concerned did not have to conform with his own definition of a daimôn, but with a Christian definition: the work had to have a major concern with the gods of the so-called ‘gentiles’.

While confusion of titles and uncertainty over authors’ names makes intellectual prosopography a difficult task, we should face up to those difficulties. Names that are unsubstantiated cannot be taken for granted; titles that are not clearly and unequivocally titles cannot be taken for granted either. It may not have been proven that ‘Celsus’ was Longinus and that the Contra Celsum was the treatise of Origenes ‘On Daimones’. That, however, is a thesis I recommend for serious consideration.


This research received no external funding.

Data Availability Statement

No new data were created or analysed in this study. Data sharing is not applicable to this article.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.



Ἐλεγκτέον δὴ ὡς τὰ ἐναντία ἑαυτῷ λέγοντα τὸν Κέλσον. Εὑρίσκεται μὲν γὰρ ἐξ ἄλλων συγγραμμάτων ἐπικούρειος ὤν· ἐνταῦθα δὲ διὰ τὸ δοκεῖν εὐλογώτερον κατηγορεῖν τοῦ λόγου μὴ ὁμολογῶν τὰ Ἐπικούρου προσποιεῖται κρεῖττόν τι τοῦ γηΐνου εἶναι ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ συγγενὲς θεοῦ, καί φησιν ὅτι οἷς τοῦτο εὖ ἔχει, τουτέστιν ἡ ψυχή, πάντῃ ἐφίενται τοῦ συγγενοῦς, λέγει δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἀκούειν ἀεί τι καὶ ἀναμιμνήσκεσθαι περὶ ἐκείνου ποθοῦσιν.


ᾜδει γὰρ ὅτι ὁμολογῶν ἐπικούρειος εἶναι οὐκ ἂν ἔχοι τὸ ἀξιόπιστον ἐν τῷ κατηγορεῖν τῶν ὅπως ποτὲ πρόνοιαν εἰσαγόντων καὶ θεὸν ἐφιστάντων τοῖς οὖσι. Δύο δὲ παρειλήφαμεν Κέλσους γεγονέναι ἐπικουρείους, τὸν μὲν πρότερον κατὰ Νέρωνα τοῦτον δὲ κατὰ Ἀδριανὸν καὶ κατωτέρω. I read τὸν δὲ rather than τοῦτον δὲ, as there is no other instance in the eight books of Cels of a μὲν … δὲ construction where μὲν is preceded by the article and δὲ by a form of the demonstrative οὕτος, or any demonstrative. If obliged to read τοῦτον δὲ I would interpret it as ‘the more recent one’.


Ei ge occurs eleven times in Cels, of which four belong to what Celsus says (2.17, 2.31, 3.12, 3.62), and four more occur within fifteen words of Celsus’ name (4.36, 7.55, 8.15, and 8.67). We infer that it is closely associated with polemics, challenging the opponent to accept or reject the condition. It will generally cast real doubt on the assumption being introduced, dependent on context. Celsus uses it in this way, Origen less consistently (at 6.2, 6.64, 7.26). Comparable use of eiper features as a way of conditionally (and temporarily) accepting the assumptions of opponents in the words of Celsus himself (Cels 2.18, 2.63, 6.78), and Origen often uses it similarly at 1.10, 4.35, 4.67, 4.91, 4.94, 6.57, 7.32, 7.63; it introduces other conditions not believed by Origen, e.g., at 7.18 and 8.12.


This might be a title by which the work was known, i.e., a two-book work Against the Christians. But, in that case, how can one understand ‘other’, for that is supposedly not the title of the present work?


Ἀλλὰ Πλάτων μὲν δῆλός ἐστι μὴ φρονήσας ἐνθέους γεγονέναι ἄνδρας τοὺς τοιαῦτα ποιήματα καταλελοιπότας· ὁ δὲ κρίνειν μᾶλλον Πλάτωνος δυνάμενος, ὁ ἐπικούρειος Κέλσος, εἴ γε οὗτός ἐστι καὶ ὁ κατὰ Χριστιανῶν ἄλλα δύο βιβλία συντάξας, τάχα ἡμῖν φιλονεικῶν οὓς μὴ ἐφρόνει ἐνθέους ἐνθέους ὠνόμασεν.


Epistle 2 at 6.17–19 (312E–313A); Epistle 6 at 6.8 (323D) and 6.12 (322D–E); and Epistle 7 at 6.3 and 6.6–8 (341C5–342A1); cf. generally 6.17.


See 2.60 and 7.5 on 81C–D; 7.28 and 7.21 on the true earth and the myth; 6.4 on the co*ck to Asclepius (118A).


These were not a source of Platonic doctrine in extant Plutarch, though by the mid-second century they are much used by Platonizing thinkers, including Apuleius, Numenius and Clement Alexandrinus.


On Longinus having used this name, see Eunapius, Vitae sophistarum 4.1.4 = Longinus Frg. 5 = Porphyry T1 (Porphyrii philosophi fragmenta, ed. Smith).


Note the attention given to Lucian’s ‘Celsus’ in Keim (1873, pp. 143–51, 275–93).


Particularly the direct quotation from book 3 at Historia ecclesiatica 6.19.5–8; after Eusebius has readily identified this person with the theologian he followed: Τῆς δὴ μοχθηρίας τῶν Ἰουδαϊκῶν γραφῶν οὐκ ἀπόστασιν, λύσιν δέ τινες εὑρεῖν προθυμηθέντες, ἐπ’ ἐξηγήσεις ἐτράποντο ἀσυγκλώστους καὶ ἀναρμόστους τοῖς γεγραμμένοις, οὐκ ἀπολογίαν μᾶλλον ὑπὲρ τῶν ὀθνείων, παραδοχὴν δὲ καὶ ἔπαινον τοῖς οἰκείοις φερούσας. αἰνίγματα γὰρ τὰ φανερῶς παρὰ Μωυσεῖ λεγόμενα εἶναι κομπάσαντες καὶ ἐπιθειάσαντες ὡς θεσπίσματα πλήρη κρυφίων μυστηρίων διά τε τοῦ τύφου τὸ κριτικὸν τῆς ψυχῆς καταγοητεύσαντες, ἐπάγουσιν ἐξηγήσεις. Ὁ δὲ τρόπος τῆς ἀτοπίας ἐξ ἀνδρός, ᾧ κἀγὼ κομιδῇ νέος ὢν ἔτι ἐντετύχηκα, σφόδρα εὐδοκιμήσαντος καὶ ἔτι δι’ ὧν καταλέλοιπεν συγγραμμάτων εὐδοκιμοῦντος παρειλήφθω, Ὠριγένους, οὗ κλέος παρὰ τοῖς διδασκάλοις τούτων τῶν λόγων μέγα διαδέδοται. [6] ἀκροατὴς γὰρ οὗτος Ἀμμωνίου τοῦ πλείστην ἐν τοῖς καθ’ ἡμᾶς χρόνοις ἐπίδοσιν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐσχηκότος γεγονώς, εἰς μὲν τὴν τῶν λόγων ἐμπειρίαν πολλὴν παρὰ τοῦ διδασκάλου τὴν ὠφέλειαν ἐκτήσατο, εἰς δὲ τὴν ὀρθὴν τοῦ βίου προαίρεσιν τὴν ἐναντίαν ἐκείνῳ πορείαν ἐποιήσατο. [7] Ἀμμώνιος μὲν γὰρ Χριστιανὸς ἐν Χριστιανοῖς ἀνατραφεὶς τοῖς γονεῦσιν, ὅτε τοῦ φρονεῖν καὶ τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἥψατο, εὐθὺς πρὸς τὴν κατὰ νόμους πολιτείαν μετεβάλετο, Ὠριγένης δὲ Ἕλλην ἐν Ἕλλησιν παιδευθεὶς λόγοις, πρὸς τὸ βάρβαρον ἐξώκειλεν τόλμημα· ᾧ δὴ φέρων αὐτόν τε καὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς λόγοις ἕξιν ἐκαπήλευσεν, κατὰ μὲν τὸν βίον Χριστιανῶς ζῶν καὶ παρανόμως, κατὰ δὲ τὰς περὶ τῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τοῦ θείου δόξας Ἑλληνίζων τε καὶ τὰ Ἑλλήνων τοῖς ὀθνείοις ὑποβαλλόμενος μύθοις. [8] συνῆν τε γὰρ ἀεὶ τῷ Πλάτωνι, τοῖς τε Νουμηνίου καὶ Κρονίου Ἀπολλοφάνους τε καὶ Λογγίνου καὶ Μοδεράτου Νικομάχου τε καὶ τῶν ἐν Πυθαγορείοις ἐλλογίμων ἀνδρῶν ὡμίλει συγγράμμασιν, ἐχρῆτο δὲ καὶ Χαιρήμονος τοῦ Στωϊκοῦ Κορνούτου τε ταῖς βίβλοις, παρ’ ὧν τὸν μεταληπτικὸν τῶν παρ’ Ἕλλησιν μυστηρίων γνοὺς τρόπον ταῖς Ἰουδαϊκαῖς προσῆψεν γραφαῖς.


Including singular and plural of the noun, the adjective daimonios and the adverb daimoniôs.


The distribution across the 8 books is not even, for the plural of daimôn (all cases) occurs 20 times in book 1, 11, in 2, 21 in 3, 28 in 4, 16 in 5, 8 in 6, 48 in 7, and an incredible 135 times in book 8.


It is important for chronology that this work is said to have been written ‘under Galienus’ in Vit. Plot. 3, for only thus might we need to postulate two thinkers called Origenes. It is stated that Origenes ‘wrote nothing except the syngramma On Daimones, and, under Galienus, That the King is the only Creator’. But was this really a date at which Origen (d. 254) was writing? This is almost a parenthetic addition, at some distance from the verb ‘wrote’, and in these pages Porphyry routinely dates events relevant to his own life by the years of Galienus’ reign (cf. Vit. 4 [x4], and 6), and it is likely that this is the date when the work became known to him. Perhaps it was actually published posthumously, having been found in his papers. It is entirely possible that Porphyry did not know precisely when it was written, but that, unlike Longinus, he thought it was worth mentioning, since Porphyry too had a lively interest in the King of the Second Epistle. It should be noticed that Longinus (Vita 20), while regarding On Daimones as the obvious exception to Origenes’ having written nothing, never affirms that it was the only exception.


The mention of these two works occurred in the context of explaining how the pact protecting Ammonius’ doctrines from publication was broken; see (Ramelli 2009, p. 237).


Compare also Eusebius, Praeparatio Evanglica 13.13.28–29, for whom the ‘King’ is identical with the Timaean Demiurge and consequently with God the Father in Trinitarian thought.


Fragments edited by Patillon and Brisson used here, given its wider distribution (cf. also the different numbering in Männlein-Robert edn.). Many basic facts about Longinus are included in Ramelli (2009, pp. 234–35). Longinus’ methods in fragments relating to the Timaeus are discussed in (Männlein-Robert 2006), who discusses Origenes only briefly (p. 87).


E.g., 462C7: χάριτός τινος καὶ ἡδονῆς ἀπεργασίας.


This is how Plato himself had seen the abilities of inspired poets at Phaedrus 245A5–8, but to see Plato in the same light would be to see him as a crazed plaything of a divine source of inspiration, rather than as somebody who thought out what he composed in a systematically rationalist manner.


Note I.59.12–14D = I.90.6–7vR, where Longinus writes “against certain Platonists who claim that the style of this passage is spontaneous (αὐτοφυῆ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν ταύτην) and not something provided to the philosopher from a craft”. At I.86.27–30D = I.132.1–6vR we find Origenes (Frg. 14) claiming that Plato aimed at a spontaneous persuasion (πιθανότητος … αὐτοφυοῦς), and that this kind of language occurred spontaneously (τὸ εἶδος τοῦτο τῆς ἑρμηνείας αὐτοφυῶς ἔχειν). On the vexed question of identifying Cassius Longinus with ‘Longinus’, author of On the Sublime, see Section 4.1.


There is no other reference to Epicurus or to Epicureans in Book I of In Tim., and only four later, all in Book II.


As Porphyry had noted at Vit. 14.19-20.


As at I.59.12–14D = I.91.4–7vR (Frg. 9) Origenes’ emphasis on spontaneity will remind one of Plato’s affirmations about poetic ability coming by a crazy gift of inspiration rather than by any formulaic craft at Phdr. 245A5–8.


In Tim. I.63.24–64.7D = I.96.15–97.12vR = Porph. Plat. Tim. Frg. 8 = Longinus Frg. 29 = Origenes Frg. 10.


We know from Proclus In Tim. I.76.30–77.3D (=116.14–17vR = Frg. 12) that Origenes did not take the Atlantis-story at face value, seeing it not as depicting a war between human Athenians under an ancient regime and human Atlantines, but as a war between two armies of daimones, the one presumably loyal to Athena and the other to Poseidon; yet it would require a master allegorist to take what Plato said about the mimetic tribe in general at anything other than face value.


It is this passage that is intended, but the principal line is misremembered in the light of the other.


See Ramelli (2009, p. 243), for the view that Origen held Homer in high regard; Heine, however, in a dedicated study, observes at the outset that ‘Origen’s attitude to Homer is rather mysterious’, but goes on to claim that ‘One must conclude that Origen did not, overall at least, have a negative view of Homer’ (Heine 2022, pp. 336–37). Heine does not consider ‘Origenes’ as evidence for Origen.


“But Plato obviously did not consider that the gentlemen who bequeathed us such poems had been divinely inspired; yet the one who was better able to judge than Plato, our ‘Epicurean’ Celsus, … perhaps called those he didn’t think to be inspired “inspired” (οὓς μὴ ἐφρόνει ἐνθέους ἐνθέους ὠνόμασεν) to pick a quarrel with us”.


See Porphyry, Quaestionem Homericarum ad Odysseam 9.491; megalophonônia had earlier been used in a disparaging sense, as well as a neutral one indicating simply the strength of a voice or a sound.


See Galen, De Methodo Medendi 10.12.13K; and esp. Lucian, Muscae Encomium 5: τὴν μὲν γὰρ ἀνδρίαν καὶ τὴν ἀλκὴν αὐτῆς οὐχ ἡμᾶς χρὴ λέγειν, ἀλλ’ ὃς μεγαλοφωνότατος τῶν ποιητῶν Ὅμηρος.


See In Tim. 14.12 (=21.9: ὕψος) and 20 (=21.17: ὕψωσε). I defer to the view of (Halliwell 2022, pp. x–xix), that the author of On the Sublime is unknown.


Porphyry does, however, report relevant views of Longinus alongside those of Plotinus in the newly found On Principles and on Matter (94), on which see (Arzhanov 2021).


I discuss this term below, but see also (Männlein-Robert 2001, pp. 142–46).


Καὶ εἰ χρή γε τολμήσαντα εἰπεῖν, ὀλίγους μὲν ὤνησεν, εἴ γε ὤνησεν, ἡ περικαλλὴς καὶ ἐπιτετηδευμένη Πλάτωνος καὶ τῶν παραπλησίως φρασάντων λέξις· πλείονας δὲ ἡ τῶν εὐτελέστερον ἅμα καὶ πραγματικῶς καὶ ἐστοχασμένως τῶν πολλῶν διδαξάντων καὶ γραψάντων. Ἔστι γοῦν ἰδεῖν τὸν μὲν Πλάτωνα ἐν χερσὶ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναι φιλολόγων μόνον, τὸν δὲ Ἐπίκτητον καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν τυχόντων καὶ ῥοπὴν πρὸς τὸ ὠφελεῖσθαι ἐχόντων θαυμαζόμενον, αἰσθομένων τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων αὐτοῦ βελτιώσεως. Καὶ ταῦτά γε οὐκ ἐγκαλοῦντες Πλάτωνί φαμεν ….


Proclus also employs the term at In Tim. I.14.7 and I.86.24D (=I.21.4 and I.131.18vR) of Longinus, and in his In Platonis Cratylum 32 of Plato’s ‘Hermogenes’, prompted by Plato’s Cratylus 384E1. Unlike ‘philosopher’, ‘grammarian’ or ‘sophist’, the term seems not to be used for the practitioner of a particular profession.


On the Jewish speeches within Celsus’ work, see now (Arnold 2016, pp. 341–71).


Observations at 3.12 also make it clear that many Greek philologoi admire Christianity and seek to discover more about it; this also suggests that the ‘Celsus’ himself may be a philologos.


Cf. ὁ σεμνὸς φιλόσοφος at 4.30, following Arnold 2016.


Towers five times in the Iliad according to my count, once in the Odyssey; palaces three and one respectively; mountains or peaks twice in either poem.


This emerges in the Eusebian fragment of Porphyry (Hist. eccles. 6.19.8) quoted above, n. 23; though many years Origen’s junior, Longinus had once belonged to the same intellectual circle, and was certainly old enough to have influenced what was “certainly the last of” Origen’s extant works (Heine 2022, p. 335).


Longinus mentions On Daimones (Porphyry, Vit. 20), but not in an exhaustive list; and he here only concerns himself with public works, not in letters or commentary-style works for classroom use.


See especially Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum 3.58–60. Phaedo, Menexenus and Critias were often known as On Soul, Epitaphios and Atlantikos respectively.


Diogenes, Vit. phil. 6.15–18; also in Diogenes’ catalogues 3 in Crito (2.121), 1 each in Simon (2.123), Speusippus (4.4) and Xenocrates (4.13), 3 in Aristotle (5.22–23), two in Theophrastus (5.44, 5.50), 1 each in Zeno of Citium. Chrysippus, and Epicurus.


Enn. 3.3 [29] has two alternative titles at Plot. 5 and slightly different ones at 25; 2.9 [33] Against the Gnostics is a well-known example.


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Origen’s ‘Celsus’: Questions of Identity (1)

Table 1.Frequency of school-terms in Cels.

Table 1.Frequency of school-terms in Cels.

c. CelsumEpicur–Platon–Aristotel–Stoic–Pythagor–
Book 11315479
Book 238405
Book 385114
Book 4825145
Book 555117
Book 6356031
Book 7622111
Book 810102

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Origen’s ‘Celsus’: Questions of Identity (2024)


How does Origen respond to Celsus? ›

Origen turns Celsus's sneers at Jesus's lowly birth against him by saying, "Yet he has been able to shake the whole human world, not only more than Themistocles the Athenian, but even more than Pythagoras and Plato and any other wise men or emperors or generals in any part of the world." Likewise, Origen responds to ...

What is the conversation between Origen and Celsus focused on? ›

Question 6 2.6 / 2.6 pts The conversation between Origen and Celsus is focused on: whether or not the divinity is transcendent.

What were the main ideas of Origen? ›

In this work Origen establishes his main doctrines, including that of the Holy Trinity (based upon standard Middle Platonic triadic emanation schemas); the pre-existence and fall of souls; multiple ages and transmigration of souls; and the eventual restoration of all souls to a state of dynamic perfection in proximity ...

What did Origen believe about God? ›

Origen taught that, before the creation of the material universe, God had created the souls of all the intelligent beings. These souls, at first fully devoted to God, fell away from him and were given physical bodies.

What did Celsus say about Christians? ›

Finally, Celsus and other Roman writers believed that "Christians are dangerous precisely because they put the advancement of their beliefs above the common good and the welfare of the state".

What did Origen argue? ›

Origen considered this conclusion unavoidable if the biblical texts were accepted as literal; hence, he asserted that they must be understood allegorically. In fact, he argued that they are in many cases intentionally obscure and incoherent in order to coax and compel the reader to seek their true, spiritual meaning.

What did Origen believe about the Trinity? ›

1.2. 2). He is the first theologian to state unequivocally that the “three hypostases” which constitute the Trinity are eternal not only in nature, but in their hypostatic character; there was never a time when wisdom was the latent thought of the Father and had not yet come forth as speech.

What was the Origen council of Nicea? ›

The Council of Nicaea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers. It was convened by the emperor Constantine to resolve the controversy of Arianism, a doctrine that held that Christ was not divine but was a created being.

Did Origen reject the Apocrypha? ›

(2) No general church council in the first four centuries of Christian history endorsed apocryphal books. While some early Christians thought highly of these books, others, such as Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen and Jerome opposed them.

What does Origen think about the Holy Spirit? ›

Though Origen recognizes the personhood of the Holy Spirit, he believes that the Spirit is less than the other divine persons, both in person and in work. The Spirit's origin and attributes, for which Origen has no real scriptural or traditional precedent, he struggles to articulate and often leaves unresolved.

What did Origen say about the Trinity? ›

1.2. 2). He is the first theologian to state unequivocally that the “three hypostases” which constitute the Trinity are eternal not only in nature, but in their hypostatic character; there was never a time when wisdom was the latent thought of the Father and had not yet come forth as speech.

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