Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Origen/Origen Against Celsus/Book I/Chapter XLVIII

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Origen, Origen Against Celsus, Book I by Origen, translated by Frederick Crombie
Chapter XLVIII

Chapter XLVIII.

Although the Jew, then, may offer no defence for himself in the instances of Ezekiel and Isaiah, when we compare the opening of the heavens to Jesus, and the voice that was heard by Him, to the similar cases which we find recorded in Ezekiel and Isaiah, or any other of the prophets, we nevertheless, so far as we can, shall support our position, maintaining that, as it is a matter of belief that in a dream impressions have been brought before the minds of many, some relating to divine things, and others to future events of this life, and this either with clearness or in an enigmatic manner,—a fact which is manifest to all who accept the doctrine of providence; so how is it absurd to say that the mind which could receive impressions in a dream should be impressed also in a waking vision, for the benefit either of him on whom the impressions are made, or of those who are to hear the account of them from him?  And as in a dream we fancy that we hear, and that the organs of hearing are actually impressed, and that we see with our eyes—although neither the bodily organs of sight nor hearing are affected, but it is the mind alone which has these sensations—so there is no absurdity in believing that similar things occurred to the prophets, when it is recorded that they witnessed occurrences of a rather wonderful kind, as when they either heard the words of the Lord or beheld the heavens opened.  For I do not suppose that the visible heaven was actually opened, and its physical structure divided, in order that Ezekiel might be able to record such an occurrence.  Should not, therefore, the same be believed of the Saviour by every intelligent hearer of the Gospels?—although such an occurrence may be a stumbling-block to the simple, who in their simplicity would set the whole world in movement, and split in sunder the compact and mighty body of the whole heavens.  But he who examines such matters more profoundly will say, that there being, as the Scripture calls it, a kind of general divine perception which the blessed man alone knows how to discover, according to the saying of Solomon, “Thou shalt find the knowledge of God;”[1] and as there are various forms of this perceptive power, such as a faculty of vision which can naturally see things that are better than bodies, among which are ranked the cherubim and seraphim; and a faculty of hearing which can perceive voices which have not their being in the air; and a sense of taste which can make use of living bread that has come down from heaven, and that giveth life unto the world; and so also a sense of smelling, which scents such things as leads Paul to say that he is a sweet savour of Christ unto God;[2] and a sense of touch, by which John says that he “handled with his hands of the Word of life;”[3]—the blessed prophets having discovered this divine perception, and seeing and hearing in this divine manner, and tasting likewise, and smelling, so to speak, with no sensible organs of perception, and laying hold on the Logos by faith, so that a healing effluence from it comes upon them, saw in this manner what they record as having seen, and heard what they say they heard, and were affected in a similar manner to what they describe when eating the roll of a book that was given them.[4]  And so also Isaac smelled the savour of his son’s divine garments,[5] and added to the spiritual blessing these words:  “See, the savour of my son is as the savour of a full field which the Lord blessed.”[6]  And similarly to this, and more as a matter to be understood by the mind than to be perceived by the senses, Jesus touched the leper,[7] to cleanse him, as I think, in a twofold sense,—freeing him not only, as the multitude heard, from the visible leprosy by visible contact, but also from that other leprosy, by His truly divine touch.  It is in this way, accordingly, that John testifies when he says, “I beheld the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.  And I knew Him not; but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, Upon whom you will see the Spirit descending, and abiding on Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  And I saw, and bear witness, that this is the Son of God.”[8]  Now it was to Jesus that the heavens were opened; and on that occasion no one except John is recorded to have seen them opened.  But with respect to this opening of the heavens, the Saviour, foretelling to His disciples that it would happen, and that they would see it, says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”[9]  And so Paul was carried away into the third heaven, having previously seen it opened, since he was a disciple of Jesus.  It does not, however, belong to our present object to explain why Paul says, “Whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not:  God knoweth.”[10]  But I shall add to my argument even those very points which Celsus imagines, viz., that Jesus Himself related the account of the opening of the heavens, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him at the Jordan in the form of a dove, although the Scripture does not assert that He said that He saw it.  For this great man did not perceive that it was not in keeping with Him who commanded His disciples on the occasion of the vision on the mount, “Tell what ye have seen to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead,”[11] to have related to His disciples what was seen and heard by John at the Jordan.  For it may be observed as a trait of the character of Jesus, that He on all occasions avoided unnecessary talk about Himself; and on that account said, “If I speak of Myself, My witness is not true.”[12]  And since He avoided unnecessary talk about Himself, and preferred to show by acts rather than words that He was the Christ, the Jews for that reason said to Him, “If Thou art the Christ, tell us plainly.”[13]  And as it is a Jew who, in the work of Celsus, uses the language to Jesus regarding the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, “This is your own testimony, unsupported save by one of those who were sharers of your punishment, whom you adduce,” it is necessary for us to show him that such a statement is not appropriately placed in the mouth of a Jew.  For the Jews do not connect John with Jesus, nor the punishment of John with that of Christ.  And by this instance, this man who boasts of universal knowledge is convicted of not knowing what words he ought to ascribe to a Jew engaged in a disputation with Jesus.

  1. Cf. Prov. ii. 5.
  2. Cf. 2 Cor. ii. 15.
  3. Cf. 1 John i. 1.
  4. Cf. Ezek. iii. 2, 3.
  5. ᾽Ωσφράνθη τῆς ὀσμῆς τῶν τοῦ υἱοῦ θειοτέρων ἱματίων.
  6. Cf. Gen. xxvii. 27.
  7. Cf. Matt. viii. 3.
  8. Cf. John i. 32–34.
  9. Cf. John i. 51.
  10. Cf. 2 Cor. xii. 2.
  11. Cf. Matt. xvii. 9.
  12. John v. 31.
  13. John x. 24.