Celsus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

A Platonic, or perhaps Epicurean, philosopher who lived about A.D. 180. His name is famous as that of one of the bitterest enemies of Christianity. From a motive of curiosity, or, perhaps, in order to be better able to combat the new religion, Celsus caused himself to be initiated into the mysteries of Christianity, and to be received into that secret society which St. Clement of Rome is supposed to have founded. It appears, however, that the sincerity of the neophyte was distrusted, and that he was refused admittance into the higher ceremonies. The discontent to which this gave rise in the breast of Celsus inflamed his resentment against the Christians, and he wrote a work against them, entitled Ἀληθὴς Λόγος, "A true discourse," in which he employed all the resources of his intellect and eloquence to paint Christianity as a ridiculous and contemptible system, and its followers as a sect dangerous to the well-being of the State. There is no falsehood to which he has not recourse in order to represent in an untrue light the Christian scheme of morals, to parody and falsify the text of the Old and New Testaments, and to calumniate the character of Jesus Christ and his disciples. He styles Christianity a doctrine tending to pervert and corrupt the human race, and exhorts the government to extirpate the sect if it wishes to save the Empire. The discourse itself is lost; but Origen, who refuted it, in a work divided into eight books, has given us so complete an extract from it that by the aid of this we can follow all the principal reasoning of the author. Celsus wrote also a work against magicians and sorcerers (Κατὰ Μάγων), which is cited by Origen and Lucian. The latter, who was his friend, addressed to him his memoir on Alexander, the false prophet, in which he extols the wisdom of Celsus, his love for truth, and his amiable manners. See Keim, Celsus' wahres Wort (1873); Aubé, La Polémique Païenne (1878); and Pélagaud, Étude sur Celse (1878).

Read More about Celsus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)