An Other Providence. The Controversy Concerning the Identity of Origenes Opponent in the Contra Celsus

Miroslav Šedina
One of the lasting problems in reading Origen’s Contra Celsus, where the author deals with the pagan criticism of Christian devotion, is the unclarity regarding Celsus’ philosophical identity. Origen identifies him with an Epicurean philosopher of the same name who lived and was active at the time of writing Celsus‘ True Word, thus labeling him an atheist who denies the existence of divine providence. While Celsus’ own criticism of Christianity has not survived, it is legitimate to assume on the basis of Origen’s quotations from it that Celsus was more of an eclectic endorsing the Platonic idea of God taking care of this world. However, due to his exceptional philosophical rigor Origen tends to contradict Celsus by employing some of the traditional Platonic arguments against the religious skepticism of the Greek physicists. Leaving aside the question of how clear Origen really was about the actual opponent of his dispute, his defense of Christianity thus unveils the much more serious issue of his own Christian identity.