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Kirchengeschichte: Alte Kirche, Christliche Archäologie
DerWahre Logos des Kelsos. Eine Strukturanalyse.
Münster: Aschendorff Verlag 2016. IX, 627 S. = Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum – Ergänzungsbände, 39. Geb. EUR 85,00. ISBN 978-3-402-10807-9.
Johannes Arnold presents a very comprehensive and impressing analysis of the structure of Celsus’ The True Doctrine. A.’s project is ambitious. He rejects all previous analyses of the structure in The True Doctrine with the claim that scholars have been too ready to accept the organization of the fragments of The True Doctrine that we find in Origen’s Contra Celsum. A.’s claim is that Origen restructured the material, which he quoted from The True Doctrine, much more radically than anybody has suggested until now. A. supports this thesis with very, very detailed analyses. His book is almost 600 ›oversize‹ pages. This makes the reading demanding.
The book has three main parts: In the first part, A. presents and discusses the previous research and points out where the results of earlier research are mistaken or not radical enough. In the second part of the book, he underpins his preliminary conclusions in the first part by applying rhetorical analyses of the fragments from The True Doctrine. In the third part, he shows what the original struc-ture of The True Doctrine looked like.
In the first part of the volume, which covers approximately 200 pages, A. discusses Origen’s own remarks about how he uses and refers to The True Doctrine. Origen’s basic claim is that his comments on Celsus’ text follow the structure and order of Celsus’ text. However, Origen indicates from time to time that he breaks the original order of The True Doctrine for this or that reason – most often to avoid repetitions. These indications have led many scholars to comment on the original order of The True Doctrine. The result of this is a certain, but far from full, agreement in scholarship about a number of changes in the order of Celsus’ text. According to A., it is possible to proceed further in identifying changes in the original order of the text using Origen’s own indications or indications in Celsus’ text, which point to another original order than the order in which the Celsus fragments are now found in Contra Celsum. In the last part of part one of his book, A. shows how far this way of analysis can bring us. His conclusion is that Origen has made far more – and more radical – changes in the structure of The True Doctrine than scholars have hitherto recognized.
In the second part of his book, covering another 200 pages, A. strengthens his preliminary conclusions by undertaking deep analyses of the rhetoric used by Celsus in The True Doctrine. One of the most frequent accusations made by Origen against Celsus is that Celsus often repeats himself. Celsus discusses the same topics twice or more, which according to Origen is a consequence of Celsus being confused. Therefore, when commenting on a certain theme Origen often draws together fragments from The True Doctrine, which did not belong together. Thus, he claims to avoid repetitions and toclarify Celsus’ confused arguments. However, what Origen describes as repetitions are, according to A., results of Celsus’ rhetorical strat-egy. Celsus has organized his treatise according to a classical rhetor-ical scheme consisting of a »proemium«, a »narratio«, a dual »argumentatio« with each their »partitio«, and an »epilog«. If this is true, Celsus did not repeat himself but followed a rather advanced rhetorical strategy known to him from the contemporary rhetorical and philosophical tradition. A. argues convincingly for this. Consequently, it is necessary and possible to rethink the whole structure of The True Doctrine. That is what A. does in the third part of his book.
According to A., this dual »argumentatio« follows a contempo-rary, traditional way of philosophical education, such as the one Plato received. In such philosophical education, there were certain phases: a general introduction to logic followed by ethics, physics and epoptics (knowledge only available for specific people, or »mystic« knowledge). Further, the epoptic elements of the instruction found in Celsus’ treatise are inspired by instructions for initiates in the mystery cults. According to A., Celsus is thus far from repeating himself in an unintelligent way as Origen indicates. This has huge implications for understanding Origen’s arguments against Celsus as well as for understanding Celsus’ The True Doctrine in its own right. A.’s thesis leads to the conclusion that Celsus was a very able and sophisticated philosophical writer who used his philosophical and rhetorical abilities to argue against Jews and Christians who, according to him, were led astray by improper teachings and arguments. The treatise that Celsus produced was of a high standard and not unorganized and repetitive as Origen claims. Origen on his side either misunderstood or misrepresented Celsus’ treatise. As far as I understand it, A. believes that Origen misrepresented Celsus’ trea-tise for polemical reasons. It is, however, not A.’s purpose to discuss the reasons why Origen misrepresented Celsus. His purpose is to show what the original structure of The True Doctrine was. Having shown that The True Doctrine was organized according to specific rhetorical principles, it is possible for A. to try to relocate a rather huge number of fragments according to this rhetorical structure. The result is that A. is able to present a totally new ›table of content‹ for The True Doctrine in which many fragments are relocated. The result of this is convincing.
It is a demanding task to read A.’s book. I wish that his arguments could have been shorter. This would have made the book accessible for more readers. However, as the book stands now, it is a true milestone in the discussion of the structure of The True Doctrine. This does not mean that the last word has been said in this regard, but it surely means that nobody can discuss the theme in the future with-out referring to A.’s book either approving his analyses and conclu-sions or discussing them. If anyone wants to reprove A.’s conclu-sions, he first needs to get up very early in the morning and read Contra Celsum and The True Doctrine in Greek.