Was Celsus One of the First Mythicists?
In Christ Con, I quoted scholars contending that the pagan philosopher Celsus, immortalized by Origen for his assault on the Christian absurdity, had questioned the very existence of Jesus. If so, this questioning would constitute one of the earliest recorded accounts of such doubt, a point of contention for apologists who claim no one in antiquity doubted Jesus's existence.
In this regard, here's a great quote from a book called Mysteriously Meant
by Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Don Cameron Allen (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1970; p. 11). I've briefly tried to find the original quotes in Origen, by checking the attached Migne edition of Contra Celsum
- unfortunately, the search feature does not seem to be working on this document, and it is difficult and time-consuming to slog through it.
In his Book of Truth Celsus
had asserted that almost all Christian doctrines were warped versions of Platonic idealism, but in addition Christians had certain other dogmas and rites eclectically put together of borrowings from the philosophy of the Stoics, the Jewish tradition, the mysteries of Mithra, the myths of Typhon, Osiris and the Cabiri. The story of Christ is no more than a concatenation of various old myths plus the remembrances of various wandering Greek and barbarian wonder-workers who had plagued antiquity.
This last sentence, of course, sounds much like my "Jesus Mythicist Creed": The "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament is a fictional composite of characters, real and mythical. (Being a Greek, Celsus apparently thought of the Jewish "wonder-workers" or messiahs as "barbarians.") Allen cites the first sentence as "Origen, Contra Celsum
, PG XI, 1287-1503." He then cites the last sentence as "Ibid
., cols. 951-54."
On p. 12 of the same book, Allen remarks:
...Biblical tales, which Celsus assumed were all imitations of Greek myths.
...the biography of Christ, which, in the opinion of Celsus, was conflated out of the myths of Hercules, Bacchus and Orpheus. History knew, Celsus said, a considerable number of females who were pregnant by supernatural penetration; for example, the mother of Plato had born a child to Apollo.
For the first claim regarding Celsus here, Allen cites Contra Celsum
, PG XI, cols. 1098-1106. For the last part of this quote, he cites cols. 1047, 1498.
Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt
? Try it - you'll like it: