That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.


Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:07 am

Edited and translated with an introduction and epilogue by R. Joseph Hoffman, Oxford University
© 1994 by R. Joseph Hoffman




Table of Contents:

• Introduction. Persecution as Context
• A Note on the Text and the Controversy
• List of Abbreviations
o 1. Miscellaneous Objections
o 2. Critique of the Gospels and Their Authors
o 3. The Ruler and End of the World
o 4. The Life and Work of Jesus
o 5. The Sayings of Jesus
o 6. The Attack on Peter the Apostle
o 7. The Attack on Paul the Apostle
o 8. The Attack on Christian Apocalyptic Hopes
o 9. The Kingdom of Heaven and the Obscurity of Christian Teaching
o 10. The Christian Doctrine of God
o 11. Critique of the Resurrection of the Flesh
• Epilogue. From Babylon to Rome: The Contexts of Jewish-Christian-Pagan Interaction through Porphyry
• References and Bibliography

A famous saying of the Teacher is this one: "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no life in yourselves." This saying is not only beastly and absurd; it is more absurd than absurdity itself and more beastly than any beast: that a man should savor human flesh or drink the blood of a member of his own family or people -- and that by doing this he should obtain eternal life!

Tell us: in recommending this sort of practice, do you not reduce human existence to savagery of a most unimaginable sort? Rumor herself has not heard of such a weird twist on the practice of impiety. The shades of the Furies had not made such practices known even to barbarians. Even the Potideans would not have stooped to such a thing had they not been starving. Thyestes' banquet became [a feast of flesh] due to a sister's grief, and Tereus the Thracian ate such food against his will. Again: Harpagus was tricked by Astyages into eating the flesh of his beloved -- also against his will. Yet no one of sound mind has ever made such a dinner!

No one learned this sort of foulness from a chef. True, if you look up Scythian [practices] in the history books, or delve into the habits of the Macrobian Ethiopians, or if you venture out to sea to lands dotted through the world, you will certainly find people who feed on roots or eat reptiles or mice -- but they stop short of eating human flesh.

And so, what does this saying mean? Even if it carries some hidden meaning, that does not excuse its appearance, which seems to suggest that men are less than animals. No tale designed to fool the simple-minded is crueler or more deceptive [than this myth of the Christians].

In another passage Jesus says: "These signs shall witness to those who believe: they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. And if they drink any deadly drug, it will hurt them in no way." Well then: the proper thing to do would be to use this process as a test for those aspiring to be priests, bishops or church officers. A deadly drug should be put in front of them and [only] those who survive drinking it should be elevated in the ranks [of the church].

If there are those who refuse to submit to such a test, they may as well admit that they do not believe in the things that Jesus said. For if it is a doctrine of [Christian] faith that men can survive being poisoned or heal the sick at will, then the believer who does not do such things either does not believe them, or else believes them so feebly that he may as well not believe them.

A saying similar to this runs as follows: "Even if you have faith no bigger than a mustard seed, I tell you in truth that if you say to this mountain, Be moved into the sea -- even that will be possible for you." It seems to follow that anyone who is unable to move a mountain by following these directions is unworthy to be counted among the faithful. So there you are: not only the ordinary Christians, but even bishops and priests, find themselves excluded on the basis of such a saying.


Another of his astonishingly silly comments needs to be examined: I mean that wise saying of his, to the effect that, "We who are alive and persevere shall not precede those who are asleep when the Lord comes; for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel; and the trumpet of God shall sound, and those who have died in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive shall be caught up together with them in a cloud to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall be forever with the Lord."

Indeed -- there is something here that reaches up to heaven: the magnitude of this lie. When told to dumb bears, to silly frogs and geese -- they bellow or croak or quack with delight to hear of the bodies of men flying through the air like birds or being carried about on clouds. This belief is quackery of the first rank: that the weight of our mortal flesh should behave as though it were of the nature of winged birds and could navigate the winds as easily as ships cross the sea, using clouds for a chariot! Even if such a thing could happen, it would be a violation of nature and hence completely unfitting.
For the nature which is begotten in all things from the beginning also assigns to those things a certain station and rank in the order of the universe: [48] the sea for creatures that thrive in water; the land for creatures who thrive on ground; the air for the creatures who have wings; the reaches of the heavens for the celestial bodies. Move one creature from its appointed place to another sphere and it will die away in its strange abode. "You can't take a fish out of water," for it will surely die on the dry land. Just the same, you can't hope to make land animals creatures of the sea: they will drown. A bird will die if it is deprived of its habitat in the air, and you cannot make a heavenly body an earthly one.

The divine and active logos [word] of God has never tampered with the nature of things and no god ever shall, even though the power of God can affect the fortunes of created things. God does not work contrary to nature: he does not flaunt his ability but heeds the suitability of things [to their environment. in order to] preserve the natural order. Even if he could do so, God would not cause ships to sail across the continents or cause farmers to cultivate the sea. By the same token, he does not use his power to make evildoing an act of goodness nor turn an act of charity into an evil deed. He does not turn our arms into wings and he does not place the earth above the stars. Therefore, a reasonable man can only conclude that it is idiotic to say that "Men will be caught up ... in the air."

[Is it not a little curious], this wiping away the stains of a lifetime of immorality -- of sexual license, adultery, drunkenness, thieving, perversions, self-abuse -- and assorted disgusting things -- simply by getting baptized, or calling on the name of Christ to get free of sin, as easily as a snake sloughs off its old skin?

I ask, who wouldn't prefer a life of corruption, based on the strength of these [promises]; who would not choose a life of evildoing and unutterable wickedness if he knew in advance that all would be forgiven him if only he believed and was baptized, confident in his heart that the judge of the living and the dead would pardon any offense he had committed.


Returning to consider again the matter of the resurrection of the dead: For what purpose should God intervene in this way, completely and arbitrarily overturning a course of events that has always been held good -- namely, the plan, ordained by him at the beginning, through which whole races are preserved and do not come to an end.

The natural law established and approved by God, lasting through the ages, is by its very nature unchanging and thus not to be overturned by [the God] who fashioned it. Nor is it to be demolished as though it were a body of laws invented by a mere mortal to serve his own limited purposes. It is preposterous to think that when the whole [race] is destroyed there follows a resurrection; that [God] raises with a wave of his hand a man who died three years before the resurrection [of Jesus] and those like Priam and Nestor who lived a thousand years before, together with those who lived when the human race was new.

Just to think of this silly teaching makes me light-headed. Many have perished at sea; their bodies have been eaten by scavenging fish. Hunters have been eaten by their prey, the wild animals, and birds. How will their bodies rise up?
Or let us take an example to test this little doctrine, so innocently put forward [by the Christians]: A certain man was shipwrecked. The hungry fish had his body for a feast. But the fish were caught and cooked and eaten by some fishermen, who had the misfortune to run afoul of some ravenous dogs, who killed and ate them. When the dogs died, the vultures came and made a feast of them.

How will the body of the shipwrecked man be reassembled, considering it has been absorbed by other bodies of various kinds? Or take a body that has been consumed by fire or a body that has been food for the worms: how can these bodies be restored to the essence of what they were originally?

Ah! You say: "All things are possible with God." But this is not true. Not all things are possible for him. [God] cannot make it happen that Homer should not have been a poet. God cannot bring it about that Troy should not fall. He cannot make 2 x 2 = 100 rather than 4, even though he should prefer it to be so. He cannot become evil, even if he wished to. Being good by nature, he cannot sin. And it is no weakness on his part that he is unable to do these things -- to sin or to become evil.

[Mortals] on the other hand may have an inclination and even an ability for doing a certain thing; if something interferes to keep them from doing it, it's clear that it is their weakness that's to blame. [I repeat]: God to be god is by nature good: he is not prevented from being evil. It is simply not in the divine nature to be bad.

There is a final point: How terrible it would be if God the Creator should stand helplessly by and see the heavens melting away in a storm of fire -- the stars falling, the earth dying. For no one has ever imagined anything more glorious than the beauty of the heavens.

Yet you say. "He will raise up the rotten and stinking corpses of men," some of them, no doubt, belonging to worthy men, but others having no grace or merit prior to death. A very unpleasant sight it will be. And even if God should refashion the dead bodies, making them more tolerable than before, there is still this: it would be impossible for the earth to accommodate all those who have died from the beginning of the world if they should be raised from the dead.


A young baby is covered over with flour, the object being to deceive the unwary. It is then served to the person to be admitted to the rites. The recruit is urged to inflict blows upon it which appear to be harmless because of the covering of flour. Thus the baby is killed with wounds that remain unseen and concealed. It is the blood of the infant -- I shudder to mention it -- it is this blood that they lick with thirsty lips; the limbs they distribute eagerly; this is the victim by which they seal the covenant. (Fronto, para. by Minucius Felix, Octavius 9.5-6)

On a special day they gather in a feast with all their children, sisters, mothers, all sexes and ages. There, flushed with the banquet after such feasting and drinking, they begin to burn with incestuous passions. They provoke a dog tied to a lampstand to leap and bound toward a scrap of food, which they have tossed outside the reach of his chain. By this means the lamp is overturned and extinguished and with it common knowledge of their actions; in the shameless dark and with unspeakable lust they copulate in random unions, all being equally guilty of incest -- some by deed but everyone by complicity. (Octavius 9.5-6)


By Tertullian's day (144-220), however, suspicion of the cult had increased and had become a favorite topic for literary invective....Among the charges that most worry Tertullian are those of cannibalism, murder, treason, sacrilege, and incest, and the general complaint that Christian clannishness prevents them from leading the lives of ordinary citizens: they avoid the clubs, religious associations, the theater and (though there were exceptions) military service....

With the satires of Lucian, the moral critique of the church enters a new phase. Born at Samosata (Syria) around 120, Lucian regarded Christianity as a form of sophistry aimed at an unusually gullible class of people -- a criticism later exploited by Celsus (Contra Celsum 3.44). The members of the new sect worship a "crucified sophist," an epithet that suggests the influence of Jewish views of the church on pagan observers. Like Galen, Lucian imagines the Christians as men and women with little time, patience or ability for philosophy, and who are willing to enthrone new leaders and gurus at the drop of a hat. To make his point, Lucian invents a mock Cynic-turned-Christian priest, Peregrinus Proteus, who dabbles in a thousand different sects and philosophies before becoming an "expert" in "the astonishing religion of Christianity." As a man of atypical abilities in the context of the new faith, Peregrinus rises quickly in the ranks:

In no time at all he had them looking like babies and had become their prophet, leader, head of their synagogue and what-not all by himself. He expounded and commented on their sacred writings and even authored a few himself. They looked up to him as a god, made him their lawgiver, and put his name down as the official patron of the sect, or at least vice patron, second to that man they still worship today, the one who was crucified in Palestine because he brought this new cult into being. (Death of Peregrinus 10-13)....

The climax of late second-century critiques of Christianity comes in the work of the philosopher Celsus....He thinks Christian teachers are no better than the begging priests of Cybele and the shysters of other popular religions.... [He]emphasizes that Christians are sorcerers like their founder, that they lack patriotism, and that every Christian church is an illegal association which exists not because their God arranges it (thus Tertullian), but because the emperor does not choose to stamp them out entirely....

They are forever saying, "Do not inquire, only believe .... " This is their cry: Let no educated men enter in, no one wise, no one prudent, for these things we count as evil. But if any be ignorant, any foolish, any untaught, anyone simple-minded, let him come boldly. These they count worthy (as indeed they are) of their god, and it is therefore obvious that they can and will persuade only fools and the lowborn, the dull-witted, slaves, foolish women, and little children [Contra Celsum 3.44] .... We see in private houses wool carders, cobblers, fullers, the most ignorant and stupid of characters who would never dare open their mouths in the hearing of their teachers and intellectual betters. [But these then] get the children and women into corners and tell them wonderful things. "Do not listen to your father or your teachers," they will say, "Listen to us! Your teachers don't know what we know; they're too full of learning and systems. We alone know how to live; listen to us and you will be healthy, happy and prosperous." (Contra Celsum 3.55)

-- Porphyry's Against the Christians
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:10 am


Persecution as Context

In the year 312 Christianity gained the right to permanent existence as a religion of the Roman empire. By this time it was nearly three centuries old. Christian mythography and the lives of the saints used to insist that the way to legality had been an uphill struggle, guided by providence, perhaps, but strewn with the bodies of the martyrs, the church's "seed," as Tertullian boasted in his Apology. "The more we are mown down by you pagans, the more we grow." Still, there was something ominously correct in Tertullian's boast. At the end of the second century, when both Tertullian and the pagan philosopher Celsus were active in their campaigns for and against the church. the pagan philosopher could say with Grouchoesque humor. "If all men wanted to be Christians, the Christians would not want them."

Only a decade or so later, Tertullian could argue with equal conviction that the church had grown by such bursts that, "If the emperor were to exterminate the Christians he would find himself without an empire to rule."

The use of hyperbole to win converts did not begin with twentieth-century evangelism; it was a feature of the quarrel between pagan culture and Christian teaching from its beginning, and a trademark of the Greek and Latin rhetoric in which the argument was conducted.

Yet things changed quickly for the Christians. Martyrs there were, and fickle emperors ranging from Philip the Arab to Aurelian to Diocletian, men who could not make up their minds, or changed them after they had. In 248, Celsus' literary opponent, Origen, wrote: "Though [we lack] workers to bring in the harvest of souls, there is a harvest nevertheless: men and women brought in upon God's threshing floor, the churches. which are everywhere" (Contra Celsum 3.9). The boast that a plethos (a multitude) of people had entered the church -- a boast for Tertullian, an outrage to Celsus and his intellectual compadres, and later also for Porphyry -- set off an alarm heard throughout the Roman empire.

The third century was not just an age of persecution; it was the only century in which persecution affected Christians generally. The empire itself was in the throes of a power struggle and crisis of confidence, beginning with Decius in February of 250, and extending through the reigns of Valerian I (257-260) and Diocletian (284-305). With periods of remission, the effort to control the growth of the Christian movement lasted from 250 until 284. Then, on 23 February 303, at the height of his power, Diocletian outlawed Christianity. Even after his abdication in 305, persecution continued in the east for seven more years under Galerius and Maximinus Daia.

But persecution is a slippery term in the annals of the early church. An older generation of church historians, using the martyrologies and writings of the church fathers as their sources, believed that the era from Nero to Constantine was one of almost unremitting slaughter of professing Christians. Their opinion was enfeebled somewhat by the certainty that the Romans could have tried a "final solution" to the Christian problem much earlier, if they had wanted, and the fact that along with boasting of their many martyrs, church writers like Origen also bragged that rich folk, high officials, elegant ladies and illuminati were entering the church in great numbers. The pagan writers tried to counter this trend in their insistence that Christianity was really a religion for the lazy, the ignorant and superstitious, and the lowborn -- "women, yokels and children," Celsus had sneered. But the ploy was ineffective. Diocletian's persecutions revealed that Christianity had crept into the emperor's bedroom: his wife, his daughter, their servants, the treasury official Audactus, the eunuch Dorotheus, even the director of the purple dye factory in Tyre, were Christians or Christian sympathizers. Insulting the new converts did not stop the process of conversion. The political solution of the third century, therefore, was an attempt to scare people off -- to make being a Christian an expensive proposition. Persecution was the strong-arm alternative to failed polemical tactics by the likes of Celsus, Porphyry and Hierocles. It was a last-gasp attempt to save the old religious order from the muddled legalism of Christian moral teaching, which had been carelessly satirized as bacchic frenzy. Perhaps even by Celsus' day (since he barely alludes to Christian immorality) nobody believed the gossip. Christian and pagan neighbors in fourth-century Damascus winked at each other and giggled behind their hands when a zealous magistrate rounded up a gaggle of prostitutes from the city market and forced them into signing an admission that they were "Christian whores."

How were Christian persecuted? Almost on the eve of persecution, the Christian writer Origen said with pride that "we [Christians] have enjoyed peace for a long time now." But Origen also saw clouds on the horizon. Political instability and military disaster threatened; economic times were hard. Duty (pietas) required that loyal Romans should stand behind the traditions and honor the cults that had so far ensured their greatness. From the standpoint of staunch pagans and the Roman intellectual class, the past two generations had been characterized by slippage and erosion, a watering down of tradition. The ranks had to be closed.

In 250 Decius decreed simply that Christians would be required to sacrifice to the gods of Rome by offering wine and eating sacrificial meat. Those who refused would be sentenced to death. To avoid this punishment, well-to-do Christians seem to have given up the new religion in substantial numbers, becoming in the eyes of the faithful "apostates," a new designation derived from the Greek work for revolt. The apostates also numbered many bishops, including the bishop of the important region of Smyrna, as well as Jewish Christians who rejoined the synagogue, as Judaism was not encompassed in the Decian order. Subsequently the church was racked with confusion about what to do with those Christians who had lapsed from the faith in time of trouble but who wished to reenter the church once the troubles had passed -- the so-called lapsi. Augustine would find himself still dealing with the problem in fifth-century Africa. The Christian sacraments of baptism and (to a degree) the eucharist were reconceived against the political background of apostate priests and bishops: When was a sacrament not a sacrament? When it had been "performed" by a traitor to the cause, argued some. The effects of persecution thus worked themselves out in specific ways, I even in the doctrine of the church.

In the reign of Valerian (253-260) the focus shifted from the practice of the Christian faith to the church's ownership of property -- a cause of concern to pagan conservatives who had come to associate the rise of Christianity with the death of the old order. There is plenty to suggest that Christians in the middle of the third century had become self-confident and even ostentatious about the practice of their faith. In Nicomedia, the eastern capital of the empire, "the Christian church stood tall, visible from the palace" (Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors 12; Cyprian, Epistle 80.2). With money and property, Roman-style, came acceptability; the Christians were following the pattern of pagan philanthropists, endowing churches where previously they would have endowed shrines to the state gods. They were becoming, in a word, respectable.

In August 257, Valerian targeted the wealth of the clergy and in 258 the riches of prominent Christian lay persons. The tactic was obviously intended to make upper-crust Romans think twice before throwing their wealth in the direction of the "beggar priests" as Porphyry called them, and making themselves wards of the nouveaux riches lords of the church. In a society where well-being and wealth were nothing to be ashamed of, the Christian emphasis on poverty and suffering seemed to be less incomprehensible than merely foolish, a scam run by church officials at the expense of gullible, religion- hungry honestiores. The Valerian edict also included a pro- vision that "members of Caesar's household who have confessed or confess [to being Christians] should be sent in chains as slaves to work on Caesar's farms" (Cyprian, Epistle 80.1), while senators and men of rank should first lose their property and, only if they persisted, their heads.

The proceedings could be summary or drawn out. The record for short hearings seems to belong to the Roman governor of Spain in his interrogation of a bishop:

"Are you a bishop?"

"I am."

"You mean you were." (Acts of Fructuosus 2)

In 258, St. Cyprian, the great bishop of Carthage in North Africa, was executed after a lengthy interrogation by Galerius Maximus. The case is an interesting one from the standpoint of pagan-Christian relations. Cyprian had been pestered by a second-rate philosopher named Demetrian for a number of years. Demetrian argued -- as many had before and many would afterward -- that Christianity was responsible for the calamities of the empire, an assessment which Tertullian ridicules as early as the year 198. In the language of the "moral majority" of his day, Demetrian insisted that if only the Christians would pay due reverence to the state cults and to the person of the emperor, peace and prosperity would return. When he was finally goaded to· respond, Cyprian's answer was an oracle of doom, a longwinded paraphrase of Lucretius (d. De rerum natura 2.1105f.) asserting that the world was in the throes of decay:

The farmer fails and languishes in the fields, the sailor at sea, the soldier at camp. Honesty fails in the marketplace; justice in the courts; love from friendship; skill from the arts; discipline from conduct.... It is a sentence passed upon the world, it is God's law, that as things rose, so they should fall; as they waxed, so should they grow old.... And when they become weak and little, they die. (Cyprian, To Demetrian 3)

This "philosophical apocalypse" was nothing that Roman ears would have liked. For the Christians to quote from their own eccentric scriptures was one thing; to find analogies between their prophets of doom, including Jesus. and Roman philosophy was intolerable. If things were bad all over. Cyprian said confidently, it is the God of heaven and earth, the God and father of Jesus Christ, who makes it so. The empire is weakening as Christianity grows strong. Hauled first before the proconsul Paternus, Cyprian was by turns cagey and stubborn, refusing to be an informer on his fellow priests. For his refusal to denounce Christianity and conform to the Roman rites, he was sentenced to exile, then recalled by Galerius Maximus (Paternus' successor as proconsul) for a second round of questioning. Stubborn as before, the old man ran afoul of Galerius' short temper and was sentenced to death by beheading. According to Prudentius, who preserves his story, Cyprian's followers begged "with one voice" to be killed with him.


On 31 March 297, under the emperor Diocletian, the Manichean religion was outlawed. Like Christianity it was an "import" of dubious vintage. More particularly, it was Persian, and Rome was at war with Persia. Holy books and priests were seized and burned without much ado. Professing members of the cult were put to death without trial. The most prominent Roman Manicheans (the so-called honestiores) were spared, but their property was confiscated and they were sent to work in the mines. The process against the Manicheans boded worse things to come for the Christians.

Diocletian published his first decree against the Christians in February 303. The church historian Lactantius (ca. 240-320) writes that Diocletian was a victim of his advisers, and especially of his Caesar of the East, Galerius, "who would have had anyone who refused the sacrifices burnt alive." In fact, Diocletian seems to have been something of a ditherer. Lactantius says it was his tragic flaw to take the credit for his successes by claiming he acted on his own, and to blame all failures on his advisers. The persecution of 303 was such a decision. Diocletian's original position was pragmatic and straightforward: There are simply too many· Christians throughout the empire. Blood will flow; uprisings will follow. Besides, most of them will go to their deaths eagerly. Why not simply make it illegal for court officials and soldiers to practice the pernicious superstition? Sensing opposition to this commonsense approach, advisers were called in: magistrates, military commanders, and finally -- in desperation -- a soothsayer who had been sent to inquire of the oracle of Apollo at Miletus what the will of the gods might be in this awkward matter. The answer was predictable: Apollo and Galerius were of one mind. The Christians must be stopped. Lactantius notes bemusedly that on the 23rd of February, the feast of Terminus, god of boundaries, the edict to stamp out ("terminate") the Christian religion was issued. It was the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian and just around Easter when word was sent out that Christian buildings were to be destroyed, the sacred books burned, heads of households arrested, and the presbyters compelled to sacrifice to the state gods.

In a famous incident at Cirta in May 303, only two months after the edict was issued, the mayor of the city, accompanied by a posse, arrived at the door of the house which the Christians used as a meeting place. Although interested in getting a record of all "readers" (clergy) in the church, the mayor was also instructed to inventory the church plate and holdings, and to confiscate all copies of scripture. The task proved slippery. The cooperation of the bishop's staff varied: some readers produced books without demur; others vacillated; still others refused. If the description of the inquest at Cirta is typical of the search-and -seize procedures required by the edict, the detective work was thorough and unrelenting. The posse moved from house to house, relying on the weaker clergy to name names. They found books hidden away in private houses, where the readers had squirreled them for safekeeping, the house-church itself being thought an unsafe repository for the full collection of gospels and epistles.

Diocletian had hoped to cripple the movement. Termination would have meant extermination. But the survival tactics of the movement made police work difficult. Christians had become sly. The enthusiasm for martyrdom was now paralleled by accomplished doubletalk:

Mayor: "Point out the readers or send for them"

Bishop: "You already know who they are."

Mayor: "Bring out your books."

Subdeacons: "We have thrown out everything that was here [in the church]."

Executions increased, especially after rumors reached Galerius that plots against the throne were being fomented in Christian circles. New edicts were issued with regularity, each a little more severe than the one before. The fourth edict (304) required that all the people of a city must sacrifice and offer libations to the gods "as a body," Christians included. Diocletian abdicated, in declining health, in 305; Galerius, now emperor, and the new Caesar of the East, Maximinus Daia, pressed on energetically until April 311, when Galerius -- one week before his death -- issued an edict of toleration. In the west, the enforcers (Maximian and Constantius) had lost heart and faith in the policy, taking an occasional swipe at a church but not much else. In the provinces, especially North Africa, persecution tended to be more severe. How severe is open to question. The church historian Eusebius (ca. 260-ca. 339) depicts the faithful of Thebes rushing to martyrdom as the net grew tighter; but in Oxyrhynchus, just down the Nile, Christians brought before a magistrate and ordered to sacrifice could authorize a third party, often a pagan relative, to perform the ritual in their behalf, thereby avoiding the contamination, involved in doing it themselves. As late as 311-312, the populations of a number of cities (Tyre, Antioch, Nicomedia, and Lycia Pamphylia) addressed petitions against the Christians to Maximinus Daia, who had an active retraining program in place, designed to reeducate lapsed Christians in their pagan heritage.

But the life was going out of the movement to repress Christianity. The pagan critics had not succeeded in stemming the popularity of the movement, and the "persecuting" emperors (except perhaps Diocletian himself) had miscalculated both the numbers and the determination of the faithful. The movement was Rome's Vietnam, a slow war of attrition which had been fought to stop a multiform enemy. Even at their worst under Diocletian, the persecutions had been selective and, in their intense form, short-lived. And (as has been known since the seventeenth century) the number of martyrs was not great.

One of the successes of Christian apologetics was to convince the persecutors in Brer Rabbit fashion that they enjoyed persecution -- that death is what they liked best of all. In dying for Christ Jesus, the crown of heavenly glory was theirs. With rare exceptions, the people in the cities and towns of the empire were not inclined to collaborate in the persecutions; Rome had a longstanding reputation for "live and let live," and the rulers' need to get political mileage from an enemy within was quickly detected. The goal of the fourth edict against the Christians in 304, in fact, had been to compel loyalty to unpopular rulers, and in 308 the greatly detested Maximinus tried the same tactic (Eusebius, Martyrs of Palestine 9.1-3): "Idol temples were forced to be rebuilt quickly; and people in groups, men and their wives and babies at the breast [were forced] 1:0 offer sacrifices and wine-offerings." The tactic was ineffectual, Eusebius says, because even the enforcers had lost the heart to impose the penalties and to support the machinery required for the "sacrifice factories" Maximinus tried to set up.

Unhappy at this failure, he sponsored a literary attack, circulating forged gospels and memoirs containing the stock slanders against Jesus. These were posted in public gathering-places and schoolteachers were required to assign portions of them to children as lessons (Eusebius, Martyrs of Palestine 9.4.2-5.2). To substantiate charges against the moral habits of the Christians, Maximinus then hired agents (duces) to round up prostitutes from the marketplace in Damascus. Tortured until they confessed to being Christians, they then signed statements to the effect that the churches routinely practiced ritual prostitution and required members to participate in sexually depraved acts. These statements were also distributed to the towns and cities for public display. Desperate times, desperate men, desperate measures.

By the time Galerius issued his edict of toleration in favor of the Christians on 30 April 311 three waves of attack had failed: the erratic policies of emperors from Nero to Marcus Aurelius; the literary and philosophical attacks, carried on in collusion with imperial sponsors; and the more sustained persecutions of the third century, ending in 311. Paganism was dying. Maximinus' plan for "reeducating" Christians in the religion of their ancestors had failed.

After Constantine's conversion -- whatever it may have been -- only Julian (332-363), his nephew, remained to pick up the baton for the pagan cause. Julian did his best to reestablish the old order. He reorganized the shrines and temples; outlawed the teaching of Christian doctrine in the schools; retracted the legal and financial privileges which the Christians had been accumulating since the early fourth century; wrote polemical treatises against the Christians himself; and -- in a clever political maneuver -- permitted exiled bishops to return to their sees to encourage power-struggles and dissension within the church. Naturally, the Christians despised him. The distinguished theologian Gregory of Nazianzus had been Julian's schoolmate in Athens, where both learned a love for the classical writers (but where Julian had been converted to Greek humanism). Cyril of Alexandria wrote a long refutation of Julian's Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians), parts of which hark back to Porphyry and Hierocles. All in all, this pagan interlude -- never really a renaissance -- lasted only three years, until Julian's death in June 363. While the dying words attributed to him as a paean to Christianity, "You have conquered, Galilean!" are not Julian's, they might as well have been.


In the middle of the period we have just described stands Porphyry of Tyre, so named (his original name was Malchus) because of his native city's prominence as a manufacturing center for the royal purple dye (porphyreum). Born in 232, Porphyry was eighteen when the persecution broke out under the emperor Decius. Twelve years later, his dislike for Christianity was firmly established. Porphyry had heard Origen preach, studied the Hebrew scripture, especially the prophets, and the Christian gospels, and found them lacking in literary quality and philosophical sophistication. He had joined a "school" in Rome (ca. 262) run by the famous neoplatonic teacher, Plotinus, where he remained until about 270. In Sicily, following Plotinus' death, and back again in Rome, Porphyry developed an intense dislike for popular religion -- or superstition, as the Roman intellectuals of his circle preferred to call it, regarding Christianity as the most pernicious form of a disease infecting the empire. In a work titled Pros Anebo he pointed out the defects in the cults. Then he tackled Christian teaching in a work in fifteen books known later as Kata Christianon (Against the Christians). Popular until the rescript of Galerius in 311, the work was immediately targeted for destruction by the imperial church, which in 448 condemned all existing copies to be burned. What we know of the book comes from fragments preserved in the context of refutation by Christian teachers such as Eusebius and Apollinarius. Nevertheless Augustine admired Porphyry; Jerome wrote his great commentary on the Book of Daniel to neutralize the philosopher's scathing insights into the nature of biblical prophecy.

It is a convention to say that Porphyry was the most "learned" of the critics of Christianity. Having said this, we should note that the critics of Christianity were not at their intellectual best when writing polemic. It has sometimes been suggested, for example, that the fragments of Porphyry's work preserved by the teacher Macarius Magnes (4th-5th century) cannot belong to Porphyry because they represent '(he work of a lesser mind. A first-class mind Porphyry certainly was, but the debate was not a strenuous one. From the standpoint of the neoplatonic school, Christianity was contemptible because it was simple. Hence, simple devices and stereotyped arguments were used against it. The gospels were the work of charlatans, while Jesus himself was a criminal and a failure, even from the Jewish perspective. His followers had betrayed him; their chief, the greatest coward of all, was made prince of his church. As a miracle worker, Jesus was a second-rater. The teaching of the Christians is self-contradictory: they look for the end of the world, but what they really want is control of the empire. To worship Jesus as a god is an insult to any god deserving of the name. The sentiments expressed were devastating because they came from someone who knew the sacred books of the Christians and their doctrine intimately. Moreover, in his attack Porphyry denied the Christian teachers their favorite refuge: allegory. Porphyry dealt with the plain sense of words. Having mastered allegorical interpretation as a student of Longinus, he knew the tricks of the trade. Whether speaking of the prophecies of the Book of Daniel or the apocalyptic teaching of the church, he refused to excuse contradiction as "mystery" or misstatement of fact as paradox. The gospel writers were not Homer. Their Greek was, by and large, that of the marketplace. They lacked skill, not honesty, for if they had been dishonest men they would have tried to disguise Jesus' failures or the deficiencies of his apostles. But, as they stood, they were hardly worthy of the reverence with which Romans in increasing numbers treated them.


In the following pages, I have reproduced the pagan critic's words as recorded in the Apocriticus of Macarius Magnes, amounting to well over half of those attributed by Adolf von Harnack to Porphyry. Since the appearance of Harnack's collection, Gegen die Christen, in 1916, a number of studies have appeared defending and attacking the German historian's conclusions. The result is that opinion is divided over whether the pagan of Macarius' dialogue is Porphyry, a transcriber of Porphyry (as Porphyry was of Plotinus) or someone else. That debate is likely to go on for some time, as occasionally new sentences and phrases are added to the corpus of Porphyry's lost work. My own position, as will become clear from what follows in the critical notes and Epilogue, is that Harnack was by and large right. Macarius was responding to Porphyry, either secreting the identity of his opponent for strategic reasons or, less likely, having only the fragments at his disposal without knowledge of their source. The style, themes, approaches, and conclusions belong ultimately -- which is not to say directly -- to the great pagan teacher. That his words have been paraphrased, manipulated and occasionally mangled by his ineloquent opponent is also fairly clear. It is regrettable, from the standpoints of the history of theology and philosophy, that Porphyry did not find an Origen or a Cyril of Alexandria to answer him.

Having said this, however, one senses that some of Porphyry's most damaging language has been preserved, as well as the sense of urgency and the deep-seated hostility and suspicion with which he regarded Christian doctrine. The work was written to reproach the Christians for their lack of patriot- ism -- a theme that surfaces as soon as Macarius begins to cite his opponent. It moves on to afford a "rationalistic" appraisal of key figures. beliefs. biblical episodes, and doctrines. If. as I said. the philosopher appears carping rather than profound. it is because the debate between philosophy and the church had become stereotyped by the late third century. The best arguments belonged to the pagans, but popular religion -- which Porphyry disliked intensely- -- as never guided or corrected by good argument. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the debate between Macarius and the pagan is that the philosopher keeps his feet planted firmly in the mud throughout the match. Macarius tries flights of philosophical fancy, and usually ends up back on the ground.

The reader is invited to follow the critical notes and to consult the bibliography at the end for further reading. I have chosen to make my lengthy remarks in a comprehensive Epilogue rather than at the beginning of this work. There are two reasons for this procedure. First. as a student, I often resisted the introductions in anthologies of philosophical works, Greek plays or Shakespeare. I say this shamefacedly, knowing now how much work goes into the making of an introduction. But the worst of them said too much -- about the life and times and friends and sources of the writer or author -- and the hest too little. To this day I remember more about Milton than about Paradise Lost. When I moved from philosophy and literature to biblical studies. I soon discovered the wisdom of the fundamentalist dictum. that a good Bible can shed a lot of light on the commentaries. That sentiment may be usefully invoked in this case. Anyone interested in pursuing the Hellenistic context of Porphyry's lost work in a comprehensive fashion may begin by reading the Epilogue.

Second, I think we owe it to Porphyry and his "interpreter(s)" to permit them to speak to us directly. Having been buried -- more or less successfully -- since 448, the words should be permitted at last to breathe their own air. The current mood in classical and patristic studies is favorable to such an exercise. The critical notes provide a running commentary. and the final section of the Epilogue a discussion of text and translation followed by a bibliography of ancient and modern authors relevant to this study.

If the Epilogue (somewhat permissively titled "From Babylon to Rome") seems ambitious, it is because I think a comprehensive discussion of the "buildup" to the pagan critique of Christianity is an essential part of viewing the struggle itself. Pagan-Christian controversy was a continuation of the interface between Judaism and its enemies and of the synagogue and the church. Such an approach is more useful, I recognize, for the "average" reader than for the specialist. Nonetheless, the debate between Jerusalem and Athens (the church and pagan culture) does not begin in the first or the third century but in the recesses of biblical history. Its archetype is the relationship between Jerusalem and Babylon, or between the Maccabees and Greek culture. just as its later crudescence would be the debate between church and state in an era of secular values. The Epilogue has thus been designed for those who wish to explore the debate more fully.


Credit but in no wise the blame for this project must be shared with those who have invested time and encouragement in its making. My wife, Carolyn, has been judiciously aggravating about seeing it completed; my daughter, Marthe, would like to have seen it completed a hundred times over. They have been patient and consistently hopeful.

I owe to my former colleagues in the Department of Humanities at California State University, Sacramento, and to the University Research scheme of that institution a note of thanks for providing the time to do most of the research and translation for this study during the autumn and spring terms of 1990-91. To Professors Robert Platzner and Stephen Harris goes a special word of thanks. The work was pursued in a less systematic way during my time as head of the History Department in the University of Papua New Guinea, and has been put happily and belatedly to bed at Westminster College, Oxford, where it has been encouraged by the members of the School of Theology.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:10 am

A Note on the Text and the Controversy

The following translation and partial reconstruction of the "objections" in the Apocriticus of Macarius Magnes is based on the edition of C. Blondel, Macarii Magnetis quae supersunt, ex inedito codice edidit (Klincksieck: Paris. 1876). Extensive use has been made of Harnack's apparatus criticus, selection, and annotations (Porphyrius "Gegen die Christen": 15 Bilcher. Zeugnisse und Referate, Abhandlung der kon. preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaft. phil.-hist. Klasse I [Berlin, 1916]). Occasional reference has been made to T. W. Crafer, The Apocriticus of Macarius Magnes: Greek Texts. Series I (London and New York: Macmillan, 1919), running corrections of which can be found in the critical notes accompanying the translation.

The confidence of Harnack, that the Apocriticus undoubtedly reflects the philosophy of Porphyry, has been challenged repeatedly, before and since 1916, but most significa.ntly by T. D. Barnes, "Porphyry Against the Christians: Date and the Attribution of Fragments," JTS, n.s. 24 (1973): 424-42. In turn, there has been a growing skepticism about Barnes' dating of the material and his pessimism about the work's being Porphyry's, notably the work of Robert Waelkens, "L'Economie, theme, apologetique et principe hermeneutique dans l'apocritique de Macarios Magnes," Recueil de Travaux d'Histoire et de Philologie (Louvain, 1974). Anyone interested in pursuing the history of guesswork concerning the attribution of fragments may begin with these.

It is my belief that Harnack's painstaking work has not been superseded and that his informed guesswork was substantially correct: that the pagan voice to be heard in the criticisms of Macarius' pagan is none other than Porphyry. Because this translation is not meant to be a contribution to the ascription debate, however, I have outlined my reasons within the text in the critical notes to the translation.

Neither Harnack nor Crafer was unaware of the checkered history of the text of the Apocriticus between the ninth and the sixteenth century, nor of the difficulty of identifying the author of the work, Macarius Magnes. In quoting passages from the book against the Protestants, the Jesuit Turianus claimed in the sixteenth century that the book was written by a certain "Magnetes" around 150 -- which would place the pagan source well out of range of Porphyry. By the time Blondel and Duchesne in the nineteenth century began their editing labors, the preferred "average" date was somewhere in the fourth century -- between 300 and 350 -- with the place of composition being Magnesia or Edessa. As the Germans could not accept the primacy of French Catholic scholarship on the point, they offered that the work dated from the fifth century, and that its author was the bishop of Magnesia who, in 403, accused Heraclides of Ephesus of following the errors of Origen at the synod of the Oak.

The theory that the "pagan" philosopher cited in the work is Porphyry has been argued since the sixteenth century, with occasional suggestions that Porphyry's pupil Hierocles or one of three pagan critics remembered by the Christians as the "authors of persecution" was the source. The epithet derived from the belief that their literary attacks had incited Aurelian's successors to renew the battle against the spread of Christian teaching. Uncertainties about the date of the work, the authorship of the Apocriticus and the identity of the pagan opponent were compounded by the fact that the manuscript tradition itself was spotty: the Apocriticus had disappeared from view in the sixteenth century in the vicinity of Venice and was only "discovered" in Athens in 1867.

In 1911, Adolf von Harnack, the great Berlin church historian, entered the debate. Although his conclusions are now challenged by some modern scholars, he argued convincingly that the pagan opponent in the Apocriticus is Porphyry and that the work contained material for an edition of his lost treatise Against the Christians (Texte und Untersuchungen 37, Leipzig, 1911). Harnack was mistaken, I believe, for reasons stated above, in thinking that Macarius did not know the excerpts to have been Porphyry's; in his view, Macarius knew the extracts from a later (anonymous) writer, since at one point the pagan is actually referred to Porphyry's treatise On Abstinence.

Crafer (1919) attempted a number of modifications of Harnack's thesis, arguing that the work reflects the "master mind of Porphyry" but is really the work of the philosopher Hierocles. A great deal was made to hang by Crafer on Hierocles' unfavorable comparison between Apollonius of Tyana (whose miracles and feats were said to be greater) and Jesus; the theme is recorded by the pagan in the Apocriticus. But as the comparison is a natural one -- Celsus had used it in the second century -- there is no reason to suppose that Porphyry would not have referred to the Apollonius story.

A comparison of the sayings of the pagan philosopher with the "circumstantial" evidence of patristic quotations and characterizations of the book make it highly probable that Porphyry is at least the inspiration and, in some cases, the actual critical voice of the pagan philosopher in the Apocriticus. From it we can draw an adequate, if approximate, view of the nature and scope of pagan objections to the increasingly successful church of the late third century. In theme, philosophical orientation, style, and literary approach the evidence points to Porphyry more directly than to any lesser light.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:11 am

List of Abbreviations

ANCL: Ante-Nicene Christian Library (Edinburgh, 1892; rpt. American Edition: Grand Rapids, Minn., 1977).

CGS: Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller (Leipzig 1877)

CSEL: Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna 1866-1902)

JRS: Journal of Roman Studies

JTS: Journal of Theological Studies

NHL: Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. James Robinson, Leiden, 1977.

OECT: Oxford Early Christian Texts

PG: Patrologia cursus completus series graeca (Paris, 1857-66)

PL: Patrologia cursus completus series latina (Paris, 1844-55)

ZNTW: Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft

Translations of patristic, biblical and classical works unless otherwise noted are my own. Titles of patristic sources are given in English unless they are better known by their Latin or Greek names: thus. Augustine, City of God; but Origen. Contra Celsum.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:12 am

1: Miscellaneous Objections

Apocrit. II.7-II.12

[Matt. 10.34] * [1]

The words of Christ, "I came not to bring peace but a sword. I came to separate a son from his father," belie the true intentions of the Christians. They seek riches and glory. Far from being friends of the empire, they are renegades waiting for their chance to seize control. [2]

[Matt. 12.48-49]*

That Christ is a mere man is proved from the fact that he claimed kinship with his disciples while rejecting ties to his natural family. It is clear that Christ preferred the company of his followers to that of his mother and brothers. [3]

[Mark 10.18]*

That Christ is merely human is proved further from his own mouth, when he rebukes a man in the following terms: "Why do you call me good [when] no one is good except God?" [4]

[Matt. 17.15]*

Christ on occasion shows no more insight than the Jews, for he agrees to cure a boy thought by his father to be a lunatic when in fact it was a demon that was troubling the boy. [5]

[John 5.31)*

Christ contradicts himself and proves himself a liar when he says. "If I bear witness to myself, then my witness is not true." But in saying [John 8.12-13], "I am the light of the world" (and other, similar things) he does bear witness to himself -- just as he is accused of doing. [6]



1. 11.7-11.12, marked with asterisks, are based on Macarius' replies to objections that have not survived in the manuscript. (Ed.)

2. This objection is clear from the thrust of Macarius' insistence that Christ is speaking of spiritual warfare against the power of sin. Christians take up their cross rather than a sword. The sword is interpreted as that which cuts relationships between the old (sinful) way of life and the new life of faith. The image is given an allegorical twist by the Christian teacher: "The man divided from his father is the apostle of Christ separated from the law .... The sword is the grace of the Gospel." The philosopher's view that Christians are bad citizens is typical of anti-Christian polemic: cf. Tertullian, Apology 11; To the Nations 7. The opinion that the Christians were politically ambitious was well-established by the fourth century. Justin writes in his First Apology (ca. 168): "If we looked for a human kingdom we should also deny our Christ that we might not be slain; and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off, since death also is a debt which must at all events be paid" (I Apology 40).

3. It is plausible that Porphyry throughout this section of his attack was challenging the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus (see objection following). The criticism is reminiscent of Celsus' carping treatment of Jesus' ties to his disciples and their final betrayal of his confidence. See my reconstruction in Celsus On the True Doctrine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 59, 62-66. Macarius' response to this treatment of Matt. 12.48-49 is a compilation of paraphrased sayings, with this puzzling formulation given to Jesus: "He that believes that I am the only begotten son of God in some sense begets me, not in subsistence but in faith" (ouk en hypostasei ousias genomenos).

4. The philosopher misses the irony of Jesus' reply to the rich young man in Mark's gospel. Macarius takes the opportunity to instruct him by paraphrasing Jesus' rebuke as follows: "Why call me good if you think of me only as a man? You are mistaken in addressing me as good if you think of me as a mortal young man, because only in God -- not among mortals -- does good reside." The remainder of Macarius' response is a tedious discourse on the standard neo-Platonic distinction between relative good (agathos) and inherent or absolute good (arete).

5. Both the pagan criticism and the Christian account are based on the mistaken idea that Matthew's text is discrete from Mark's account of the episode. In Mark's gospel the father diagnoses the cause of the disease as a dumb spirit of such strength that the disciples cannot cast it out. Matthew's much briefer rendition omits any initial reference to a demon; thus Macarius' reply: "The serpent was crafty enough to wage its campaign against the little boy during the changes in the moon, such that everyone would think that his affliction was caused by its influence."

6. Macarius takes Jesus to mean that if he were a man then bearing witness to himself would be untrue. Instead, he seeks attestation from God, as God; thus there is divine attestation for Jesus' claim to be the light of the world.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:13 am

2: Critique of the Gospels and Their Authors

Apocrit. II.12-II.15

The evangelists were fiction writers -- not observers or eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. Each of the four contradicts the other in writing his account of the events of his suffering and crucifixion.

One [writer] records that on the cross someone filled a sponge with vinegar and thrust it at him [Mark 15.36]. Another [Matt. 27.33] denies this, saying, "When they had come to the place called The Skull, they gave him wine and gall mixed to drink, but when he had tasted it he would not drink."

Further he says, "About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eloi, Eloi- -- lama sabacthani, which is, 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me?'"

Another [John 19.29] writes, "There was a pot filled with vinegar [which they] strapped [to a rod?] with reeds and held it to his mouth. And after he had taken the vinegar [Jesus] cried out with a loud voice and said, 'It is over,' and bowing his head he gave up his spirit."

But [Luke] says "He cried out with a loud voice and said 'Father into your hands I will deliver [parathesomai] my spirit'" (Luke 23.46).

Based on these contradictory and secondhand reports, one might think this describes not the suffering of a single individual but of several! Where one says "Into your hands I will deliver my spirit," another says "It is finished" and another "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," and another "My God, my God why do you punish me?"

It is clear that these addled legends are lifted from accounts of several crucifixions or based on the words of someone who died twice [dis thanatounta for dusthanatounta, i.e., dying a difficult death: Crafer] and did not leave a strong impression of his suffering and death to those present. [It follows that] if these men were unable to be consistent with respect to the way he died, basing [their account] simply on hearsay, then they did not fare any better with the rest of their story. [7]

[John 19.33-35]

From other sources it can be shown that the story of [the death of Jesus] was a matter of guesswork.

"And when they came to Jesus, seeing that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came blood and water."

Only John says this -- none of the others. No wonder John is so anxious to swear to the truthfulness of his account, saying, "He that saw it testifies to it -- and we know his testimony is true."

This looks to me like the statement of a simpleton. How can a statement be true when it refers to nothing? A man can [only] witness to something that really happened, not to something fashioned from thin air. [8]

There is another way to refute the false opinion concerning the resurrection of [Jesus], which is spoken of everywhere these days. Why did this Jesus (after his crucifixion and rising -- as your story goes) not appear to Pilate, who had punished him saying he had done nothing worthy of execution, or to the king of the Jews, Herod, or to the high priest of the Jewish people, or to many men at the same time, as for example to people of renown among the Romans, both senators and others, whose testimony was reliable. [9]

Instead he appeared to Mary Magdalene, a prostitute who came from some horrible little village and had been possessed by seven demons, and another Mary, equally unknown, probably a peasant woman, and others who were of no account.

Still, he promised, "You will see the son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on clouds." [Matt. 24.30] Had he shown himself to people who could be believed, then others would have believed through them -- and [Christians] would not today be punished for fabricating these ridiculous tales.

It cannot be pleasing to God that so many should suffer horrible punishment on his account. [10]

[John 12.31]

Anyone will recognize that the [gospels] are really fairy tales if he takes time to read further into this nonsense of a story, where Christ says, "Now has come the judgment of the world; now shall the world ruler he cast out."

Tell me, for heaven's sake, what sort of judgment is this supposed to be -- and just who is the "ruler" who is being cast outside? If you answer, "The emperor [is the ruler]," I say that there is no single world ruler -- as many have power in the world -- and none have been "cast down." If, on the other hand, you mean someone who is not flesh and blood but an immortal, then where would he be thrown? Where is this invisible world ruler to go outside the world he rules?

Show us from your record. If there isn't another world for this ruler to go to -- and it is impossible for there to be two such worlds -- then where other than to the world he's to be expelled from can he go?

One cannot be cast out of what he is already in. Unless of course you are thinking in terms of a clay pot which, when broken, spills its contents not into oblivion but into the air or the earth, or the like.

Perhaps you mean that when the world is broken (but this is impossible!) the one inside it will then be outside of it like a nut out of its shell. But what exactly is this outside like? What are its length, breadth, depth, features?

Of course, if it has these things then it, too, is a world. And for what reason would a ruler of the world be expelled from a world to which he is no stranger. For if he were a stranger to the world, he could not have ruled it: and who [would be equipped] to force the ruler out of this world against his will?

Or do you mean he goes willingly? Clearly you imagine he will be cast out against his will: that is plain from the record. To be "cast out" is to be expelled against one's own choice. But normally the wrong attaches to the man who uses force, not to the one who resists it.

This silliness in the gospels ought to be taught to old women and not to reasonable people. Anyone who should take the trouble to examine these facts more closely would find thousands of similar tales, none with an ounce of sense to them. [11]

America," says [Mr. Burke] (in his speech on the Canada Constitution bill), "never dreamed of such absurd doctrine as the Rights of Man."

Mr. Burke is such a bold presumer, and advances his assertions and his premises with such a deficiency of judgment, that, without troubling ourselves about principles of philosophy or politics, the mere logical conclusions they produce, are ridiculous. For instance,

If governments, as Mr. Burke asserts, are not founded on the Rights of MAN, and are founded on any rights at all, they consequently must be founded on the right of something that is not man. What then is that something?

Generally speaking, we know of no other creatures that inhabit the earth than man and beast; and in all cases, where only two things offer themselves, and one must be admitted, a negation proved on any one, amounts to an affirmative on the other; and therefore, Mr. Burke, by proving against the Rights of Man, proves in behalf of the beast; and consequently, proves that government is a beast; and as difficult things sometimes explain each other, we now see the origin of keeping wild beasts in the Tower; for they certainly can be of no other use than to show the origin of the government. They are in the place of a constitution. O John Bull, what honours thou hast lost by not being a wild beast. Thou mightest, on Mr. Burke's system, have been in the Tower for life.

-- Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine[/url]



7. Rather puzzlingly Macarius designates the philosopher's view "Hellenic" and then employs allegory to override the literatim contradictions in the texts cited; thus, what appear to be inconsistencies are taken to be peculiarities of style: "the truth is not to be sought by looking for facts in syllables and letters." Macarius soon tires of this defense, however, and takes up the claim that the eyewitnesses were drunk with fear, owing to "the earthquake and the crash of rocks around them" (d. Matt. 27.51-53). Their eagerness to preserve a record of the things happening around them resulted in a fractured and haphazard style, which Macarius excuses as proof of their zeal to preserve the truth. Interesting as well is Macarius' comparison of the evangelists' accounts to the writing of Herodotus: the gospels are more to be trusted because their authors lacked education and did not "adorn their writings with clever rhetorical devices." Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Macarius' defense is his praise for the subtlety of Greek education and his castigation of the Romans as barbaros ethnos, "barbarians like the Jews."

8. Macarius does not deal with the substance of the philosopher's argument, viz., that uncorroborated statements have less force than multiple testimony. Porphyry takes the silence of the three synoptic writers as evidence that the events described in John 19.33f. did not happen and finds the writer's introduction of self-referring testimony simplistic. It is possible that the philosopher had also referred to the absence of the apostles from the other accounts of the crucifixion (d. Mark 14.50; 15.40). If so, Macarius does not take up the point. His stratagem is to treat John's account allegorically; thus, "Blood and water flowed like a stream so that those [Jews] who dwelled in a land of bondage might be delivered by the blood and those [gentiles] who had the stripes of their sins could be washed in water."

9. Celsus makes the same point in the Alethes logos: "Who really saw [his rising from the dead]? A hysterical woman, as you admit, and perhaps one other person -- both deluded by his sorcery, or perhaps so wrenched with grief at his failure that they hallucinated him risen from the dead by a sort of wishful thinking .... If this Jesus were trying to convince anyone of his powers then surely he ought to have appeared first to the Jews who treated him so badly, and to his accusers -- indeed, to everyone, everywhere" (Hoffmann, Celsus, pp. 65, 67).

10. The logic of the philosopher's argument is that an event like the resurrection of Jesus, while not in itself impossible, demands credible witnesses -- "men of high renown" -- whereas the Christian record in the gospels introduces witnesses whose reports are dubious, coming as they do from the lowest strata of society.

Macarius replies by saying that the resurrection was not made known to Pilate or to the Jews in order to prevent the fact from being covered up. Instead, "he appeared in the flesh to women who were unable to persuade anyone of his rising."

11. A number of points raised by Porphyry resemble the criticisms of Celsus and Marcion's critique of orthodox doctrine. Both regarded the world ruler as the lawful proprietor of the world (Hoffmann, Celsus, pp. 90-92; Tertullian, Against Mareion 3.3.4).

His castigation by an alien god -- the agnostos theos of Marcionite speculation -- is seen as an act of usurpation. Any world into which he might be cast would amount to exile -- punishment usually reserved for pretenders rather than for rightful rulers. Crafer (p. 46) observes that Porphyry's reference to the multitude of rulers who have not been deposed by the new world ruler (Christ?) comes from a time following Diocletian's subdivision of the Empire in C.E. 292. The political ambitions of the Christians seem to have been a favorite target for philosophical ridicule of this kind: d. II.vii. The theme of proprietorship can also be observed in gnostic sources; cf. the Nag Hammadi treatise, "On the Origin of the World," NHL 11.97, in Robinson, pp. 162-63.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:14 am

3: The Ruler and End of the World

Apocrit. 11.16

[John 7.43-4]

Let us review that dark saying which Jesus directed at the Jews when he said, "You do not receive my word because your father is that devil the Slanderer, and you do the whims of your father."

Tell us, who exactly is this Slanderer who is the father of the Jews? For in the normal course of things anyone who does what his father tells him is acting correctly in obeying a parent, out of respect for the parent. If a father is wicked, then the sins of the father must not be attributed to his children. So who is this father who prevented [the Jews] from listening to Christ?

When the Jews said, "We have [but] one father and that is God," Jesus retorted, "[No], you are of your father the Slanderer." So I ask, Who and where is this Slanderer? From what act of slander does he get his name? "Slanderer" cannot be his birth-name, but a name that comes from something he did. Among what race of people did he appear and commit his act of slander? [Normally] it is those who accept the slander who appear guilty of an offense; those who are slandered are merely the victims. And it could be argued that it is not the Slanderer who did wrong but the one who gave him an excuse for slander.

If a man puts an obstacle in the road [with the intention of blocking someone's way], and someone comes along and trips over it in the dark, it is the man who put it there who is responsible for the fall -- not the man who stumbles. So, too, the man who causes slander is guilty of a greater wrong than those who use it or those who are hurt by it.

Is this Slanderer a man of passion? If he is not he would never have slandered -- but if he is subject to human weaknesses, then he ought to be forgiven what he has done, just as we forgive those who are sick and frail and do not hold them responsible for their ailments. [12]



12. Porphyry's suggestion is that an evil father capable of enforcing obedience is the source of evil. His agents or children have no choice but to obey and in so doing at least uphold the virtue of filial respect and loyalty. The equivalent point is made in a different context by the heretic Marcion, who maintained that the "just" God of the Old Testament is the ultimate source of human failings, as his laws and demands are incoherent and contradictory (Tertullian, Against Marcion 1.16.5). The philosopher may have had some such critique in mind. The disjunctive proposition that follows dictates Macarius' response: either the slanderer is moved by human affections or he is not. If he is not, then he would not have slandered. If he is, then he must be forgiven for his failings as the Christian God forgives others. To win his point, Macarius makes the best of ambiguities in the translation of the verse, arguing that humeis ek tou patros tou diabolou este (John 8.44) means "You are of the father of the Slanderer," rather than "You are of your father, the slanderer." But the point is oblique.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:15 am

4: The Life and Work of Jesus

Apocrit. 111.1-111.6

When brought before the high priest and Roman governor, why didn't Jesus say anything to suggest he was wise or divine? [13] He could have taught his judge and his accusers how to become better men! But, no: he only manages to be whipped and spit on and crowned with briars -- unlike Apollonius who talked back to the emperor Domitian, vanished from the palace and soon was to be seen by many in the city of Dicearchia, now called Puteoli. [14]

And even if Christ's suffering was carried out according to God's plan, even if he was meant to suffer punishment -- at least he might have faced his suffering nobly and spoken words of power and wisdom to Pilate, his judge, instead of being made fun of like a peasant boy in the big city. [15]

[Matt. 26.36ff.]

There is, in addition, a saying [of Jesus] which is both stupid and unclear, that which he spoke to his disciples when he said, "Do not fear those who can kill the body."

When [Jesus] himself agonizes in expectation of his death, he prays that his suffering might be eliminated; and he says to his friends, "Wait, pray, so that temptation may not overcome you." Surely such sayings are not worthy of a son of God, nor even of a wise man who hates death. [16]

[John 5.46-7]

"If you believed Moses, then you would believe me. For he wrote about me." The saying is filled with stupidity! Even if [Moses] said it, nothing of what he wrote has been preserved; his writings are reported to have been destroyed along with the Temple. All the things attributed to Moses were really written eleven hundred years later by Ezra and his contemporaries.

And even if [the Law] could be considered as the work of Moses, it does not prove that Christ was a god, or the word of God, or of the creator. Further: who [among the Jews] has ever spoken of a crucified Christ? [17]

[Matt. 8.31; Mark 5.1]

If we turn our attention to [the Christian] account, it can be shown to be pure deceit and trickery. Matthew writes that Christ met up with two demon[iacs] who lived among the tombs and that, being afraid, they entered into swine, many of which were killed.

Mark exaggerates when he says there was a great number of swine; "Jesus said to him, Go out of him you unclean spirit, from this man. And he asked him, What is your name, and he answered, Many. And he begged him [Jesus] that he should not be expelled from the country. And a herd of swine was feeding. And the demons begged that they might be permitted to enter into the swine. And when they had entered into the swine, they rushed down the steep into the sea -- about two thousand -- and were choked; and they that fed them fled" [Mark 5.8ff.]

What a story! What nonsense! What an offense to reason! Two thousand swine splashing into the sea, choking and dying! [18]

It is rumored as well that the demons begged Jesus not to throw them over the cliffs edge and that he agreed to their request, sending them instead into the swine: and does not one react to this fable by saying, "What complete foolishness -- what deceit -- that Jesus should conspire to grant the wishes of evil spirits who were stalking the world to carry out their murderous designs!"

What the demons were asking was to dance through the land of the living and to make the world their toy. They would have stirred the sea till it overflowed its boundaries and filled the world with sorrow. They would have awakened the powers of the earth and unleashed their anger on the world until chaos was restored. Tell me: was it fair that Jesus softened his heart for these monsters who wished to do only evil -- that he should have sent them where they wanted to go instead of into the abyss -- where they deserved to go?

If the story is true and not a fable (as we hold it to be), what does it say about Christ, that he permitted the demons to continue to do harm by driving them out of one man and into some poor pigs? [Not only this], but he causes the swineherds to run for their lives and sends a whole city into a panic.

Odd that someone who alleges to have come into the world to patch up the harm [done by the evil one] to all mankind should limit himself to helping out just one. To free only one man from the spiritual bondage [of sin] and not two, or three, or thirteen, or everyone -- or to free certain people of their fears while making others afraid -- this seems to me the opposite of morality. It looks to me like treachery!

Furthermore. in permitting enemies to do what they like by moving to another abode, [Jesus] acts like a king who ruins his own kingdom. After all, if a king is unable to drive the barbarians out of every country he will usually drive them from one place to another, pushing back the evil from one place to the next.

Does Christ in the same way -- being unable to drive the demons from his territory -- send them as far as he can send them, namely into the unclean beasts? If so, he does indeed do something marvelous and worth talking about. But it is also the sort of action that raises questions about his [divine] powers.

A reasonable person, upon hearing such a tale, instinctively makes up his mind as to the truthfulness of the story: he says something like, "If Christ does not do his good for the benefit of everything under the sun, but only relocates the evil by driving it from place to place, and if he takes care of some and neglects others -- well, then, what good is he as a savior?"

By this sort of action, he who is saved only makes life impossible for someone else who is not, so that the unsaved stand to accuse those who are saved. [19] In my judgment, it is best to regard such a story as fiction. If you regard the story as anything other than fiction then there is plenty even for a fool to laugh at. [20]

Can anyone tell me what business a large herd of swine had roaming about the hills of Judah, given that the Jews had always regarded them as the vilest and most detested form of animal life? And how is it that those swine choked as they are supposed to have done, when they were cast -- not into the ocean -- into a mere lake? I leave it to infants to decide the truthfulness of such a tale! [21]

[Matt. 19.24]

I turn now to test another saying, one even more confusing than the last, as when Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle [sic] than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

If it is true that a rich man who has kept himself free from the sins of the flesh -- murder, thievery, adultery, cheating and lying, fornication, blasphemy -- is prohibited from getting any sort of heavenly reward, what use is it for rich men to be good? [And if the poor are the only ones destined for heaven] what's the harm in their committing any offense they like? For it seems it is not virtue that gets a man into heaven but poverty.

Just as wealth appears to keep a rich man out of heaven, being poor gets a pauper in! And so it's the rule that a poor man can ignore virtue; and what is more, he can trust that his poverty alone will save him no matter what kind of evil things he does. Meantime the rich are closed out of the heavenly sanctuary, since

"Poverty saves."

It seems unlikely to me that these words belong to Christ. They ring untrue to the ear. They seem to be rather the words of poor people who wish to deprive the rich of their property. Why, only yesterday [Christian teachers] succeeded -- through quoting the words, "Sell what you have and give it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven" -- in depriving noble women of their savings. [22]

They were persuaded to squander what they had on the beggars, giving away what was rightly theirs and making themselves beggars in return. They were turned from having to wanting, from rich to poor, from freedom to slavery and from being wealthy to being pitiful! In the end, [these same women] were reduced to going from door to door to the houses of the well-off to beg -- which is the nethermost point of disgrace and humiliation.

They lost what belonged to them in the name of "godliness" and they learned, as a result, what it is to crave the goods of other people. The words [here ascribed to Jesus] look rather to be the words of some woman in distress! [23]

[Matt. 14.25; Mark 6.48]

Another section in the gospel deserves comment, for it is likewise devoid of sense and full of implausibility; I mean that absurd story about Jesus sending his apostles across the sea ahead of him after a banquet, then walking across to them "at the fourth watch of the night." It is related that they had been working all night to keep the boat adrift and were frightened by the size of the storm [surging against the boat]. (The fourth watch would be the tenth hour of the night, with three hours being left.)

Those who know the region well tell us that, in fact, there is no "sea" in the locality but only a tiny lake which springs from a river that flows through the hills of Galilee near Tiberias. Small boats can get across it within two hours. [And the lake is too small] to have seen whitecaps caused by storm. Mark seems to be stretching a point to its extremities when he writes that Jesus -- after nine hours had passed -- decided in the tenth to walk across to his disciples who had been floating about on the pond for the duration!

As if this isn't enough, he calls it a "sea" -- indeed, a stormy sea -- a very angry sea which tosses them about in its waves causing them to fear for their lives. He does this, apparently, so that he can next show Christ miraculously causing the storm to cease and the sea to calm down, hence saving the disciples from the dangers of the swell. It is from fables like this one that we judge the gospel to be a cleverly woven curtain, each thread of which requires careful scrutiny. [24]


13. Crafer notes that the questions posed by Porphyry am simpler and more direct than Macarius' turgid and diffuse responses would indicate (p. 51, n. 2). While Macarius says that the philosopher sought to win the debate through the loftiness of his Attic oratory, it seems clear from the diction in III.1 that Macarius often undertakes to summarize his opponent's most salient objections with his own response in view. Some turns in the response are dictated by nuances that have not been preserved in Macarius' representation of the objections.

14. Apollonius of Tyana, a neo-Pythagorean philosopher who died ca. 98. was a favorite subject for anti-Christian writers from the second century. The biography of Apollonius written by Philostratus around 220 was composed deliberately to emphasize its similarities with the gospels. Hierocles, a pupil of Porphyry, used it in 303 (the year of Porphyry's death) to write his own life of Apollonius, designed to deny the uniqueness of Christian doctrine.

15. Porphyry voices what had become a stock objection to the divinity of Jesus, namely that divinity is susceptive of proof and that at the point where such proof might have been expected Jesus produces none. This in turn is contrasted with the legend of Apollonius of Tyana. Both Nero and Domitian condemned his teaching as seditious, but he escaped punishment by miraculous means in each case. Porphyry regards such escapes as heroic, as did Celsus (Hoffmann, Celsus, pp. 70-72). Jesus' failure to duplicate such feats is cited as evidence against Christian belief in his divinity. Celsus had made the additional point that if apotheosis is the hallmark of divinity, then only figures such as Asklepios, Herakles, and Dionysus are worthy of reverence, owing to the greater antiquity of their stories. Macarius argues that Jesus' conduct during his trial and passion was in strict conformity with prophecy.

16. The reply to this objection seems especially muddled. Macarius argues that Jesus only pretends to be afraid of death, as a ruse to bring about the passion more quickly -- in short, as a means of teasing Satan into thinking that he is vulnerable to temptation "as a man might stir up a wild beast by making a noise." Macarius continues: "So, he really wants the cup to come quickly, not to pass away. And observe that he calls it a cup, not suffering, for a cup represents good cheer." The logic here envisaged can be explored more fully in the the arguments of the church fathers who supposed that Christ bared his humanity as "bait" in order to catch Satan on the hook of his divinity. See, e.g, Justin Martyr, Dialogue with the Jew Trypho 72; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.33. However ingenious Macarius' defense, however, it seems to have little to do with Porphyry's objection.

The bifurcation of the humanity and divinity of Jesus was rejected at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Porphyry's more general point seems to be that Jesus did not accept death as a true philosopher would have done.

17. The philosopher shows a surprising awareness of the history of the biblical text in denying the traditional attribution of the the books of the law to Moses. Macarius acknowledges the implications of the biblical account (Neh. 13.1-3), but suggests that the Holy Spirit had dictated the law to Moses and to Ezra alike. A feature of the philosopher's argument, not here represented by Macarius but evident in his reply, is the notion that Ezra copied portions of the law incorrectly. In Porphyry's Philosophy from Oracles it is stated that the followers of Jesus misunderstood and misrepresented his teaching in the gospels.

18. At least the initial part of the critique is an interesting example of pagan synoptic criticism. It is Matthew who is probably guilty of the greater exaggeration, turning Mark's single demoniac into two possessed men. Matthew specifies a "large number" of swine, where Mark gives "about two thousand" -- a little less than half the number required to accommodate a legion of demons.

19. Porphyry's point seems somewhat blunted by Macarius' response. The thrust of the objection to Matthew's account of the demoniac is that it contradicts Christian belief in Jesus as savior of the whole world: the limits and purpose of his actions are revealed in his inability or unwillingness to defeat the powers of evil in an unambiguous way. Instead, he "relocates" evil (thus the swine, the Jews, or the ones who reject the gospel) and creates a class of victims who do not participate in the salvation he is supposed to offer. That great numbers do not participate in these blessings proves to the philosopher that Jesus did not intend to save everyone -- in which case his goodness is questionable, or else he was unable to do so, which argues against his divinity.

20. Note Eusebius' description of the style of Porphyry's work against the Christians: "Porphyry, who settled in our day in Sicily, issued treatises against us, attempting in them to slander the sacred scriptures" (Ecclesiastical History 6.19.2f.).

21. Macarius replies mistakenly that Matthew mentions two demons "but does not say that two men were possessed by them" (cf. Matt. 8.28), thus duplicating Porphyry's misreading. Macarius here and elsewhere shows a tendency to view the story as support for incipient Christological views of the fourth century. Thus he imagines that the demons were scorched by the searching rays of Christ's divine nature and craved the soothing waters for relief of their torture, using the swine "as a kind of ladder, since they themselves were of an incorporeal nature." As to the criticism that the Jews would have had no business keeping animals forbidden to them under Mosaic law, Macarius responds correctly that the scene is not laid in a Jewish but a Roman sedeo or gentile settlement. Although Mark does not make the location clear, the Greek peran would normally mean the east side of the lake. Some versions read Gerasa (modern Jerash), a Syro-Greek city of the Decapolis league. Other versions have Gadara, which is evidently what Matthew accepted (Matt. 8.28). The Sinaitic Syriac, Bohairic, Armenian and Ethiopic versions of Mark 5.1 read "Gergesenes," Gergesa being hypothetically located on the immediate eastern boundary of the lake at el-Kursi. In any event. it was a part of the pre-Marcan tradition to see Jesus' crossing of the lake as a celebration of the taking of the gospel to non-Jews, and the demoniac himself was understood to be a gentile.

22. A useful point of reference for this accusation is Tertullian's Apology 39, where the common life of the Christian church as a charitable organization is described. The view that women are duped by Christian "beggars" is conventional in anti-Christian polemic. Celsus (Origen, Contra Celsum 1.9) had compared Christian teachers to the begging priests of Cybele.

23. Porphyry's criticism of the poverty ethic of the gospel is far-reaching and anticipates some of the form-critical evaluations of the sayings of Jesus advanced much later in the history of the synoptic gospels. With Celsus (cf. Contra Celsum 3.44), Porphyry regards certain sayings of Jesus to reflect attitudes arising out of the small and generally impoverished Christian communities of the empire. He finds it ludicrous that such attitudes should serve as criteria for heavenly rewards, or that Jesus should have made wealth an obstacle to salvation. However, the criticism is socially rather than philosophically framed. The Platonism of many Christian writers of the fourth century tended to support such an interpretation of the gospels, especially such passages as Matt. 19.24, Mark 10.17ff. and Luke 12.13ff., which emphasized the implicit anti-materialism of Jesus' condemnation of wealth. Macarius' response should be viewed against the tendency to interpret the socially conditioned poverty ethic of the gospels in an idealistic or Platonic fashion: "The burden of wealth shows itself as a disease in mankind ... and it is by far better to shed the burden and ascend unencumbered to the heavenly ranks above," Cf. Plotinus, 4 Ennead 8.1-8; Augustine, City of God 13.16.

24. Apart from quibbles over nomenclature (Macarius argues that any gathering of water can go by the generic name "sea," as Mark had located the boat en meso tes thalasses), the rebuttal centers on the spiritual meaning of the episode. Against Porphyry's commonsense approach to the text, Macarius argues that the story illustrates the two natures of Christ, who first terrifies his disciples through his godhead in creating the storm, then pities them in his manhood, and finally shows his dominion over nature by causing the storm to abate: "The sea denotes the brine and gall of human existence; the night is life; the boat is the world; those who sail at night are human beings; the hostile wind is the power of the devil; and the fourth watch is the coming of the savior."
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:16 am

5: The Sayings of Jesus

Apocrit. III.7-III.18

[Matt. 26.11; Matt. 28.20]

In a short saying attributed to him, Christ says to his disciples, "You will always have the poor among you, but me you will not always have." The occasion for the sermon is this: A certain woman takes an alabaster container filled with ointment and pours it over Jesus' head. When [his disciples] complain about the inappropriateness of the action Jesus replies, "Why trouble the woman when she has done something good for me."

The disciples caused quite a stir, wondering why the ointment, expensive as it was, had not been sold at a profit and distributed to the poor to ease their hunger. Thus Jesus' nonsensical response: Poor people there will always be; but he will not always be with them. [Odd, therefore], that elsewhere he can say with such confidence, "I shall be with you until the end of the world." [25]

[John 6.54] [26]

A famous saying of the Teacher is this one: "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no life in yourselves." This saying is not only beastly and absurd; it is more absurd than absurdity itself and more beastly than any beast: that a man should savor human flesh or drink the blood of a member of his own family or people -- and that by doing this he should obtain eternal life!

Tell us: in recommending this sort of practice, do you not reduce human existence to savagery of a most unimaginable sort? Rumor herself has not heard of such a weird twist on the practice of impiety. The shades of the Furies had not made such practices known even to barbarians. Even the Potideans [27] would not have stooped to such a thing had they not been starving. Thyestes' banquet became [a feast of flesh] due to a sister's grief, and Tereus the Thracian ate such food against his will. Again: Harpagus was tricked by Astyages into eating the flesh of his beloved -- also against his will. Yet no one of sound mind has ever made such a dinner!

No one learned this sort of foulness from a chef. True, if you look up Scythian [practices] in the history books, or delve into the habits of the Macrobian Ethiopians, or if you venture out to sea to lands dotted through the world, you will certainly find people who feed on roots or eat reptiles or mice -- but they stop short of eating human flesh.

And so, what does this saying mean? Even if it carries some hidden meaning, that does not excuse its appearance, which seems to suggest that men are less than animals. No tale designed to fool the simple-minded is crueler or more deceptive [than this myth of the Christians]. [28]

[Mark 16.18]

In another passage Jesus says: "These signs shall witness to those who believe: they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. And if they drink any deadly drug, it will hurt them in no way." Well then: the proper thing to do would be to use this process as a test for those aspiring to be priests, bishops or church officers. A deadly drug should be put in front of them and [only] those who survive drinking it should be elevated in the ranks [of the church].

If there are those who refuse to submit to such a test, they may as well admit that they do not believe in the things that Jesus said. For if it is a doctrine of [Christian] faith that men can survive being poisoned or heal the sick at will, then the believer who does not do such things either does not believe them, or else believes them so feebly that he may as well not believe them. [29]

[Matt. 17.20]

A saying similar to this runs as follows: "Even if you have faith no bigger than a mustard seed, I tell you in truth that if you say to this mountain, Be moved into the sea -- even that will be possible for you." It seems to follow that anyone who is unable to move a mountain by following these directions is unworthy to be counted among the faithful. So there you are: not only the ordinary Christians, but even bishops and priests, find themselves excluded on the basis of such a saying. [30]

[Matt. 4.6-7]

Yet another saying bears mentioning: It is where the tempter tells Jesus "Cast yourself down from the temple." But he does not do it, saying [to him] instead, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." It looks as though he said this for fear of falling. If, as you say, Jesus worked other signs and even raised the dead by the power of his command, he certainly might have been willing to demonstrate that he could deliver others by first throwing himself down from the heights without hurting himself.

And this is the more true in view of another passage in the book, which says. "Their hands shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone" [which the tempter himself cites]. The honest thing for Jesus to have done would be to demonstrate to those in the temple that he was God's son and was able to deliver them as well as himself from danger. [31]



25. Macarius is concerned in his reply to distinguish between the two "modes" of Christ's discourse, each corresponding to one of the natures: thus his words to the disciples on the occasion of the woman's extravagance [Matt. 26.11] underscore the reality of the human nature and point toward the passion, "but after the passion, having overcome death [Matt. 28.20], man had become God ... whose power is not limited by time or space, but is present always and everywhere."

26. In keeping with the dialogue format, Macarius introduces a paragraph contrived to suggest a fresh attack of the Greek upon the Christian. The incipient words in this section are doubtless those of Macarius himself.

27. The Potideans were citizens of a Corinthian colony founded ca. 600 B.C.E. for trade with Macedonia. The colonists defended their port against a number of sieges, notably one by Artabazus (480-479 B.C.E.), resorting to eating their dead as a means of survival. Porphyry's point is that cannibalism has been practiced only in time of necessity or through deceit. The Christians, however, seem to boast about their love feasts. The charge is a recapitulation of the familiar accusation against Christians; cr. the Octavius of Minucius Felix. trans. G. H. Rendell (Cambridge. Mass: Harvard University Press. 1931).

28. Scathing as is this criticism of Jesus' saying and Christian eucharistic practice, the pagan polemic had become stereotyped by Macarius' day and seems to be introduced here out of convenience rather than for its timeliness. Macarius has little trouble demolishing the literalism of his opponent's critique. in the process of advancing his own theory of the mystical presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread. For parallels to the philosopher's critique of early Christian eucharistic teaching, see especially the description offered by Marcus Cornelius Fronto (ca. 150), quoted by Minucius Felix, Octavius 9.5.6. Porphyry is evidently aware that the Christians interpret the eucharistic words of Jesus allegorically. His real complaint seems to be that the uneducated would not understand the words in their spiritual or mystical sense.

29. As elsewhere, the philosopher bases his objection on the literal meaning of the text. In doing so he is almost certainly working at some historical distance from his Christian opponent, whose response shows no sympathy for the faith-healing practices of the early church. Isolated sects such as the Ophites or Naasenes mentioned by Hippolytus (Refutation 5.7.1; cf. Irenaeus. Against Heresies 1.30). continued to attribute special significance to the serpent as a symbol of gnosis. And in gnostic exegesis (cf. Apocryphon of John 2.1.22, in Robinson. p. 111), the serpent tempts Adam to be disobedient to the world ruler. In the cult of Asklepios the snake symbolized the healing power of the god (cf. Aristophanes, Plut. 653-747), though there is no evidence that the Asclepiadae (the ancient cult of priest-physicians) used snake-handling as such in their ritual healings. The medicinal or healing value of the eucharist was a feature of some marginal Christian communities, notably the Marcosians mentioned by Irenaeus late in the second century, who used potions and philters, as well as sleight of hand, in their eucharistic rituals (Against Heresies 1.13). In the early second century, Ignatius of Antioch referred to the eucharist as the pharmakon tes zoes -- the "medicine of immortality" -- perhaps voicing a popular perception of the time as to the sacrament's healing properties (To the Ephesians 20.2).

The philosopher seems to be in touch with a transitional phase in the teaching of the church, when faith-healing and magical arts, as accoutrements of the eucharistic celebration, were being eliminated. Hence, Macarius warns that Mark 16.18 should not be taken literally, since sometimes even unbelievers recover from deadly drugs. More problematical is Macarius' suggestion that one cannot take the saying concerning laying hands on the sick literally.

30. Macarius' response to this criticism is sensitive to the context of Matt. 17.19-20, which seems to locate Jesus immediately following the Transfiguration at the foot of a mountain. Following the failure of the disciples to cure an epileptic child, Jesus is said to compare the resilience of the demon to an immovable object. Satisfied that the philosopher had misread the hyperbole, Macarius remarks sarcastically that Jesus himself is not known to have moved mountains, and that a believer would in any case be prevented from doing so by the words of Ps. 92.1 ("He made the world which shall not be shaken"). In fact, Porphyry's point is precisely the one contained in Macarius' reply: that the natural order cannot be overruled by the power that created it.

31. Macarius argues against the probative value of the temptation sequence: Jesus was not concerned to demonstrate his power but to avoid acting in concert with the tempter. To have acceded to anyone of his requests, even when they seemed to accord with prophecy, would have been to obey the power of evil.
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:16 am

6: The Attack on Peter the Apostle

Apocrit. 111.19-111. 22

[Matt 16.23]

Nor is this the end of the inconsistencies that could be spelled out in relation to the gospels. The very words are at war with each other. One wonders, for example, how the man on the street would understand Jesus' rebuke of Peter, when he says, "Get behind me [you] Satan: you are an offense to me, for you care nothing for the things of God but only for the things of men."

But he says in a different mood, "You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven."

If [Jesus] thought so little of Peter as to call him a satan, worthy only to see his backside -- an offense to him, and one who had no idea of the divinity [in his master]; and if he utterly rejected [Peter] as a sinner in the flesh -- so much so that he did not want to look at his face any more -- but cast him aside like a man condemned to banishment, how, I beg you tell me, is this curse on the so-called leader of the disciples to be interpreted?

Anyone with common sense who examines this passage and then hears Christ saying, "You are Peter and upon this rock will I build my church," and "I give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven" -- as though Jesus had forgotten his condemnation of Peter -- anyone, I say, would laugh out loud until he could laugh no more. [Such a tale] would cause him to open his mouth as wide as he might in a theater and hiss and boo the players on stage, encouraging the audience to do the same.

Either [Jesus] was drunk with wine and not thinking clearly when he called Peter "Satan," or else when he promised [Peter] the keys to heaven he was deranged.

Tell us, how would Peter -- a man of feeble judgment on innumerable occasions -- be able to serve as the foundation of a church? What sort of sober reasoning do we see in him? Where does he show himself to be a man of discrimination and firm resolve? Perhaps when he is scared out of his wits by a young servant girl [who identifies him as a follower], and swears three times that he is not a disciple -- just as [his master] said he would do? [Mark 14.69]

If Jesus was right in demeaning Peter by calling him "Satan," meaning one who is lacking every evidence of virtue, then [Jesus] proves himself inconsistent and lacking in foresight when he offers to Peter the leadership of the church. [32]

[Acts 5.1-11]

Peter is a traitor on other occasions: In the case of a man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, Peter put them to death for failing to surrender the profit from the sale of their land and retaining a little for their own use -- even though they had done no [other wrong]. How can it have been wrong for them to retain a little of what belonged to them instead of giving it all away?

And even if [Peter] did think their actions wrong, he might have recalled Jesus' precepts, where he commands [believers] to endure 490 sins against them. Surely he could have pardoned the one sin, if a sin it was.

In his dealings with others, Peter should have remembered that he himself swore that he did not know Jesus and hence told a lie that demonstrated his complete contempt for the judgment and resurrection. [33]

[Acts 12.5-11; Gal. 2.12; 2 Cor. 11.13]

Among the company of disciples this man [Peter] ranked first. He had been taught by God to hate death, and escaping after being captured by Herod, he became the source of punishment for his captors. Once he had made his nighttime escape, there was a commotion at daybreak over how he had got out. When he failed to get any information from the guards upon questioning them, Herod ordered them to be taken away -- that is, put to death.

And as I say, it is amazing that Jesus should have given the keys of the kingdom to a man like Peter. Why would he have commissioned a man so easily overwhelmed by fear, so confounded by difficulty such as [this one] to "Feed my lambs." [34] The sheep, I calculate, are those faithful perfected to the highest degree of the mystery, while the lambs are those still to be admitted and being fed the milk of [Christian] teaching.

Yet Peter is said to have been crucified after feeding the lambs only for a few months, even though Jesus had promised that the gates of hell would not devour him. [35]

Furthermore, Paul condemned Peter when he said, "Before certain men came from James, [Peter] ate with the gentiles, but when they came he separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision; and many of the Jews joined him in this hypocrisy." [Gal. 2.12] So here again we detect manifold error and contradiction: that a man entrusted with the interpretation of the divine words would behave so hypocritically with the intention of looking good to others.

The same can be said of [Peter's] hauling a wife about with him, as Paul reveals when he writes, "May we not take with us a sister, a wife -- as do other apostles, and Peter" [1 Cor. 9.5]: or, as he adds, "Such are false apostles, deceitful workers" [2 Cor. 11.13]. That this same Peter holds the keys to heaven, looses and binds [sin] while being bound by sin himself and immersed in hypocrisy, simply strikes terror in the heart. [38]



32. This is the beginning of a series of four attacks on the role of Peter in the gospels. Macarius deals with Porphyry's objections at the end of chapter xxvii, where the philosopher is accused of quoting verses out of context and in reverse order: the blessing on Peter occurs in Matt. 16.17-19 and is separate from the rebuke (16.22-23). Macarius suggests that Jesus does not identify Peter as the foundation or rock of the church ("Su ei Petros") but distinguishes him from the rock (petra) of divine teaching, upon which the church is built. With respect to the rebuke itself, Macarius offers that Jesus recognizes Satan speaking through Peter rather than Peter speaking of his own accord: "Knowing that the passion of Christ would be a liberation from the bonds of wickedness [Satan] was aiming to prevent the crucifixion." Macarius, however, does not deal with the more general criticism offered by Porphyry -- namely that the gospel portrait of Peter is uncomplimentary and hence not befitting someone who is singled out for leadership.

33. Macarius claims in his response to the objection that Peter could not have forgiven Ananias and Sapphira their wrongdoing since their offense was against the whole body of believers, not just against an individual: "The outrage was committed against the deity, against the faith." He does not deal with the obvious parallel case, namely Peter's denial of Jesus, or with the absolution of that offense in John 21.15-18.

34. That Porphyry alludes to the passage in John 21.15ff. (see note 29 above) shows that he regards Jesus as mistaken in entrusting Peter with any administrative role. In political terms, Peter has shown only disloyalty and Jesus only poor judgment in forgiving and rewarding betrayal. The same view of the relationship between Jesus and his followers is held by Celsus (Hoffmann, Celsus, p. 66).

35. Although the tradition here cited is problematical, Crafer is probably correct in saying (p. 97, nn. 2, 3) that the boldness of the opponent's assertion suggests that it comes from Christian tradition. In fact, the Petrine tradition of Macarius' day was fluid. Eusebius quotes a certain Gaius of Rome and Dionysius of Corinth (Ecclesiastical History 3.1.2f.; 2.25.5-8) linking Peter with Rome and cites Origen to the effect that Peter was crucified head downward during the reign of Nero (54-68). St. Jerome attributed to Peter an episcopate of twenty-five years preceding his martyrdomm but the tradition is not well supported. Moreover Luke knows nothing of Peter's career extending beyond the early days of Paul's missionary work, and in fact the passage here singled out for scrutiny by the philosopher (Acts 12) is the last significant appearance of Peter in the Book of Acts. In Acts 21.18. James "the Just," also known as the brother of Jesus, appears as the sole authority in the Jerusalem church; no reference to Peter is made. The legend of Peter's further career and venture to Rome is a feature of a number of apocryphal books. notably the Acts of Peter composed in Syria ca. 200.

36. The passages from 1 Cor. 9.5. and 2 Cor. 11.13 are conflated by Porphyry to underscore the charge of hypocrisy contained in Gal. 2.12. The logic seems to be that Peter behaved hypocritically, both with respect to his relations with gentile believers and with respect to his marriage rights, which (contrary to the instruction contained in Mark 6.8-11) he seems to have insisted upon. The sense of this objection will have depended on the philosopher's endorsement of Paul's treatment of celibacy and self-mortification (e.g., 1 Cor. 9.27; 7.9, 32; Rom. 6.12, etc.), which Christian and gnostic teachers increasingly glossed in Platonic rather than in apocalyptic terms. On Peter's wife, cf. Mark 1.30. Paul's question explicitly reads: "me ouk echomen exousian adelphen gynaika periagein, hos kai hoi loipoi apostoloi kai hoi adelphoi tou Kyriou kai Kephas?," a liberal translation of which would be, "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a sister-wife, as do the rest of the apostles and brothers of the Lord and Cephas [Peter]?"
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