Celsus was a second century Roman author and avid opponent of Christianity. He went to great lengths to disprove the divinity of Jesus yet never denied His actual existence.
There are two very important facts regarding Celsus which make him a great witnesses for Jesus:
- He Was Against Jesus – Though most secular passages are accused of being Christian, yet…Celsus, mocked Jesus. The sheer volume of his writings were written to discredit Christianity. In addition, the hostile accusations presented in his work, also aid to the fact, he wasn’t in favor of Yeshua Jesus.
- He Didn’t Get His Info From Christian Sources– Though he was obviously aware of his Jesus’s statements, many believe that he used non-Christian sources to make his claims.
Author Celus On Jesus’ Miracles:
“Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired
certain [magical] powers… He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god… It was by means of sorcery that He was able to accomplish the wonders which He performed… Let us believe that these cures, or the resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves… These are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers… It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of [miraculous] power…”
- Not only does Celsus confirm Jesus’ existence, he also confirms that he was able to do great miracles. He even mentioned the loaves miracle we know mentioned in Luke 9:10-17 –Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand. He confirmed that he was able to cure people, and confirms the resurrection. While Celsus draws his own conclusions JUST HOW Yeshua Jesus was able to do this, it is simply speculation on his part.
- Like the pharisees of Jesus’ day, Celsus tries to dismiss these miracles as both demonic possession or magic tricks. The fact is, he simply doesn’t know how Jesus was able to do these things. He then speculates, and accuses Jesus of performing magic learned in Egypt, then later states he is possessed, then later states the miracles were not really miracles, but rather illusionary tricks, finally he states the miracles never occurred! Celsus, does admit Jesus was able to do great miracles….. How he did them?, Celus, could only guess.
Author Celus On Jesus’ Divinity:
“One who was a God could neither flee nor be led away a prisoner… What great deeds did Jesus perform as God? Did he put his enemies to shame or bring to an end what was designed against him? No calamity happened even to him who condemned him… Why does he not give some manifestation of his divinity, and free himself from this reproach, and take vengeance upon those who insult both him and his Father?”
- Celsus mocks Jesus, such as many do today. It is clear that Celsus simply didn’t even read the Old Testament, where over 300 prophecies talked about Jesus’s life, ministry and death. Celsus assumes that Jesus’s death was the end of his life’s work, and asks why judgment didn’t came upon the Jews. History shows shortly after His death Jerusalem was invaded by the Romans, the Jewish temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were dispersed for almost 2,000 years.
Author Celus On the Virgin Birth:
“Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her hands. His mother had been turned out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a Roman soldier named Panthera]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard.”
- Celsus acknowledges Jesus’ birth, but does not accept the concept of a virgin conception. He tries to dismiss Mary’s virgin birth, by accusing her of an affair with a Roman soldier. The Jewish Talmud makes the same accusation, giving reason to believe Celsus might have referenced Jewish sources for some of his arguments. This further shows that the virgin birth we read about, also was a fact widely known at that time.
Author Celus On the Apostles:
“Jesus gathered around him ten or eleven persons of notorious character… tax-collectors,
sailors, and fishermen… [He was] deserted and delivered up by those who had been his associates, who had him for their teacher, and who believed he was the savior and son of the greatest God… Those who were his associates while alive, who listened to his voice, and enjoyed his instructions as their teacher, on seeing him subjected to punishment and death, neither died with nor for him… but denied that they were even his disciples, lest they die along with Him.”
- Celsus’ writes that if the disciples were loyal, and truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God, they would not have forsaken Him at His arrest. In fact, Celus, confirms the biblical account, that when Jesus was arrested, the apostles denied being His followers. It was only upon Jesus’ resurrection they understood the reasons why Jesus died, and after understanding, boldly preached the Gospel.
- Celsus is also wrong with his statement, [they] neither died with nor for him. We are told by early historians all but one of the remaining apostles were killed for their faith.
History reveals that not one of these men, who knew Jesus personally, ever denied their testimony about Him despite the threat and reality of imminent death. This proves to any fair-minded observer that these men possessed an absolute unshakable personal knowledge about the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Each of the apostles were called upon to pay the ultimate price to prove their faith in Jesus, affirming with their life’s blood that Jesus was the true Messiah, the Son of God, and the only hope of salvation for a sinful humanity. Jeffrey, Grant R., “The Signature of God“, Frontier Research Publications, Inc. (1996), p.254-257
Matthew was killed by a sword wound. Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead. Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching. John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully. Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. James the Just, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club.
Author Celus On the Crucifixion:
“Jesus accordingly exhibited after His death only the appearance of wounds received on the
cross, and was not in reality so wounded as He is described to have been.”
- Celsus confirms Jesus’ death by crucifixion, although he denies any previous torture had taken place. Perhaps Celsus was not aware of the standard form of torture given to victims prior to crucifixion. Celsus contradicts himself, when he later states Jesus was probably never even crucified but instead had an impostor die in His place. Here again, we see him grasping at anything, because he simply cannot provide a good answer.
What we see is a historical account that is 1. NOT Christian, but yet confirms so many of the events we are told about in the bible. Celus, is one of many persons who testify about Jesus, and adds to the extra biblical evidence which document the discussions of his life and ministry.