2013 | 136 | 1-2 | 7-25
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Magical Power of Names in Origen’s Polemic against Celsus

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One of the important topics of Origen’s treatise Against Celsus is a defence of Christians from accusations of magical practices, seen primarily in their incantation of Christ’s name. In his appraisal, Celsus draws on the Platonic principles of the “care for the soul”, according to which every contact with the world of divine is carried out on the basis of philosophical knowledge, accomplished by the assimilation of the soul to the image of god. For Celsus, there is no other way of getting in connection with the divine, and thus the Christian faith in Jesus’ miracles is only a product of religious charlatans who implant false notions of divine powers into the human soul. The ignorance of the soul is thereby only reinforced, and it cannot reach any connection with divinity whatsoever. The similarity principle brings the Platonic “incantation of the soul” closer to the model of imitative magic that achieves its effect merely by virtue of an idea. Origen, on the contrary, defends the real impact of uttering of Jesus’ name, which, according to him, has its power regardless of a degree of our theological knowledge. In this regard, Origen draws attention to the Egyptian magicians who include biblical names into their magical formulas even though they do not realise whom they address. In his account, then, it is rather the principles of contact magic that come into play, operating with corporeal parts of things or bodies or with their traces and fragments of events that are somehow connected to certain names.
  • Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts, Palacký University, Univerzitní 22, 771 11 Olomouc, Czech Republic,
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