Saturday, 11 April 2015

Antti Laato: A Cold Case Reopened: A Jewish Source on Christianity Used by Celsos and Referred to in Origen’s Contra Celsum

Origen’s work Contra Celsum contains references to Celsos’ use of the writing of an unknown (Alexandrian) Jew. In a recent article M.R. Niehoff (“A Jewish Critique of Christianity from Second-Century Alexandria: Revisiting the Jew Mentioned in Contra Celsum,” JECS 21 [2013] 151-175) suggests that Celsos in fact had used a Jewish writings directed against Christians. However, Niehoff’s article does not contain any reference to Toledot Yeshu tradition, the Jewish counter-story (or rather counter-stories) to Christian gospels, where the “real case” of Jesus was revealed for Jewish readers. I assume that Niehoff has evaluated the situation so that all references to Toledot Yeshu literature would be anachronistic because it is well known fact that this tradition was formed only in the Byzantine period.  Nevertheless, there is an option to regard this unknown Jewish source from Alexandria as an early written document containing basic ideas later developed in Toledot Yeshu tradition. Because Toledot Yeshu texts have been recently edited and published by Meerson and Schäfer (Toledot Yeshu: The Life Story of Jesus, Two Volumes, TSAJ 159, Tübingen: Mohr 2014) it is now time to re-examine the case of Celsos’ Jewish source.

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