Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 3. Literary Contest of Christianity with Judaism and Heathenism.” Loc. 13304-13791. (part 1)
Schaff lists numerous sources, including primary material from hostile witnesses.
§29. Literary Opposition to Christianity.
Schaff acknowledges both external conflict and intellectual conflict in early Christianity. He sees Christianity as the clear victor in the intellectual struggle (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13324). Modern arguments against Christianity were routinely answered in the early years. The earliest arguments were “little more than ignorant, careless and hostile allusions to Christianity as a new form of superstition” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13331).
§30. Jewish Opposition. Josephus and the Talmud.
Josephus’ mentions of Christianity are more favorable than Schaff would have expected. Other Jewish attacks on Christianity bear more resemblance to those found in the Gospels (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13345). Schaff sees the development of the Talmud as a move which isolated Judaism from the larger culture.
§31. Pagan Opposition. Tacitus and Pliny.
Few Greek and Roman authors take notice of Christianity. Pliny and Tacitus consider it a part of Judaism (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13359). The Roman authors, however, do incidentally confirm some of the events found in the New Testament (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13365).
§32. Direct Assaults. Celsus.
The mid-second century author Celsus wrote forcefully against Christianity. Schaff notes that Origen “preserved considerable fragments” in a refutation of his ideas (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13378). Schaff considers Celsus’ critiques to be mostly self-refuting and based on only a smattering of ideas allegedly drawn from Christian doctrine. Celsus viewed Christians as deceived, thus being led by deceivers. “Celsus declared the first disciples of Jesus be deceivers of the worst kind; a band of sorcerers, who fabricated and circulated the miraculous stories of the Gospels, particularly that of the resurrection of Jesus; but betrayed themselves by contradictions. The originator of the imposture, however, is Jesus himself, who learned that magical art in Egypt, and afterwards made a great noise with it in his native country” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13404). Schaff also notes that Celsus attests to the authenticity of the New Testament. As a hostile witness he still quotes and alludes to many New Testament documents, thus demonstrating their antiquity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13417).
Lucian, who lived about 120-200, was known to ridicule Christianity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13431). Using satire, he portrays Christians as foolish and gullible. Schaff notes that as an Epicurean, Lucian considered all religions foolish (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13451).
Schaff sees Neo-Platonism as a more serious challenge to Christianity. “It was a pantheistic eclecticism and a philosoophico-religious syncretism, which sought to reconcile Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy with Oriental religion and theosophy, polytheism with monotheism, superstition with culture, and to hold, as with convulsive grasp, the old popular religion in a refined and idealized form” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13476). Because of its eclectic nature, various Christian elements were drawn in as well. Schaff notes that philosophies including elements of divinity were popular for some centuries. He traces this specific philosophy to Ammonius Saccas, who died in 243. His follower, Plotinus, gave the movement more systematization and gained popularity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13495). The movement lasted until the late 5th century. Schaff views this movement as an attempt “to found a universal religion, a pagan counterpart to the Christian” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13508). The neo-Platonist attempts to set up pagan examples with similarities to Christ and the apostles may have argued for, rather than against, Christianity.
§35. Porphyry and Hierocles.
Porphyry, near the end of the 3rd century, attacked Christians in a lengthy work. His treatise provoked refutations. Though Porphyry’s works were ordered destroyed in 448, fragments in the refutations do survive. His basic argument was that the Old and New Testaments contradicted each other and that the dates assumed of the writings were inaccurate (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13529). While Porphyry did not criticize Jesus, he said his followers were guilty of misrepresentation (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13535). However, many of his statements seem remarkably similar to Christian ideas (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13542).
§36. Summary of the Objections to Christianity.
Schaff summarizes the objections to Christianity as follows. Christ was of illegitimate birth and associated with the wrong people. Christianity did not have a history in the life of a nation. It depended n the idea of resurrection. Christians rejected the traditional gods, placed their trust in someone else, and fell short of their ideals (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13562).