The Treatise of Eusebius Against the Life of Apollonius by Philostratus, by Eusebius, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
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CHAP. I Most of the Philalethes already answered by OrigenSo then, my dear friend, you find worthy of no little admiration the parallel 1 which, embellished with many marvels, this author has drawn between the man of Tyana and our own Saviour and teacher. For against the rest of the contents of the "Lover of Truth" (Philalethes), for so he has thought fit to entitle his work against us, it would be useless to take my stand at present; because they are not his own, but have been pilfered in the most shameless manner, not only I may say in respect of their ideas, but even of their words and syllables, from other authorities. Not but what these parts also of his treatise call for their refutation in due season; but to all intents and purposes they have, even in advance of any special work that might be written in answer to them, been upset and exposed beforehand in a work which in
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as many as eight books Origen composed against the book which Celsus wrote andeven more boastfully than the "Lover of Truth,"entitled "True Reason." The work of Celsus is there subjected to an examination in an exhaustive manner and on the scale above mentioned by the author in question, who in his comprehensive survey of all that anyone has said or will ever say on the same topic, has forestalled any solution of your difficulties which I could offer. To this work of Origen I must refer those who in good faith and with genuine "love of truth" desire accurately to understand my own position. I will therefore ask you for the present to confine your attention to the comparison of Jesus Christ with Apollonius which is found in this treatise called the "Lover of Truth," without insisting on the necessity of our meeting the rest of his arguments, for these are pilfered from other people. We may reasonably confine our attention for the present to the history of Apollonius, because Hierocles, of all the writers who have ever attacked us, stands alone in selecting Apollonius, as he has recently done, for the purposes of comparison and contrast with our Saviour.
CHAP II Hierocles blames the deifying of JesusI need not say with what admiring approval he attributes his thaumaturgic feats not to the tricks of wizardry, but to a divine and mysterious wisdom; and he believes they were truly what he supposes them to have been, though he advances no proof of this contention. Listen then to his very words: "In their anxiety to exalt Jesus, they run up and down prating of how he made the blind to see and worked
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certain other miracles of the kind." Then after an interval he adds as follows: "Let us note however how much better and more sensible is the view which we take of such matters, and explain the conception which we entertain of men gifted with remarkable powers." And thereupon after passing heedlessly by Aristeas of Proconnesus and Pythagoras as somewhat too old, he continues thus: "But in the time of our own ancestors, during the reign of Nero, there flourished Apollonius of Tyana, who from mere boyhood when he became the priest in Aegae of Cilicia of Asclepius, the lover of mankind, worked any number of miracles, of which I will omit the greater number, and only mention a few." Then he begins at the beginning and enumerates the wonders worked by Apollonius, after which he continues in the following words: "What then is my reason for mentioning these facts? It was in order that you may be able to contrast our own accurate and well-established judgment on each point, with the easy credulity of the Christians. For whereas we reckon him who wrought such feats not a god, but only a man pleasing to the gods, they on the strength of a few miracles proclaim their Jesus a god." To this he adds after a little more the following remark: "And this point is also worth noticing, that whereas the tales of Jesus have been vamped up by Peter and Paul and a few others of the kind,men who were liars and devoid of education and wizards,the history of Apollonius was written by Maximus of Aegae, and by Damis the philosopher who lived constantly with him, and by Philostratus of Athens, men of the highest education, who out of respect for the truth and their love of mankind determined to give the publicity
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they deserved to the actions of a man at once noble and a friend of the gods." These are the very words used by Hierocles in his treatise against us which he has entitled "Lover of Truth."
CHAP. III Sources of Life of ApolloniusNow Damis who spent so much of his time with Apollonius was a native of Assyria, where for the first time, on his own soil, he came into contact with him; and he wrote an account of his intercourse with the person in question from that time onwards. Maximus however wrote quite a short account of a portion only of his career. Philostratus, however, the Athenian, tells us that he collected all the accounts that he found in circulation, using both the book of Maximus and that of Damis himself and of other authors; so he compiled the most complete history of any of this person's life, beginning with his birth and ending with his death.
CHAP. IV Inferior role accomplished by ApolloniusIf then we may be permitted to contrast the reckless and easy credulity which he goes out of his way to accuse us of, with the accurate and well-founded judgment on particular points of the "Lover of Truth," let us ask at once, not which of them was the more divine nor in what capacity one worked more wondrous and numerous miracles than the other; nor let us lay stress on the point that our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ was the only man of
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whom it was prophesied, thanks to their divine inspiration, by Hebrew sages who lived far back thousands of years ago, that he should once come among mankind; nor on the fact that he converted to his own scheme of divine teaching so many people; nor that he formed a group of genuine and really sincere disciples, of whom almost without exaggeration it can be said that they were prepared to lay down their lives for his teaching at a moment's call; nor that he alone established a school of sober and chaste living which has survived him all along; nor that by his peculiar divinity and virtue he saved the whole inhabited world, and still rallies to his divine teaching races from all sides by tens of thousands; nor that he is the only example of a teacher who, after being treated as an enemy for so many years, I might almost say, by all men, subjects and rulers alike, has at last triumphed and shown himself far mightier, thanks to his divine and mysterious power, than the infidels who persecuted him so bitterly, those who for a season rebel against his divine teaching being now easily punished by him, while the divine doctrine which he firmly laid down and handed on has come to prevail for ages without end all over the inhabited world; nor that even now he displays the virtue of his godlike might in the expulsion, by the mere invocation of his mysterious name, of sundry troublesome and evil demons which beset men's bodies and souls, as from our own experience we know to be the case. To look for such results in the case of Apollonius, or even to ask about them, is absurd. So we will merely examine the work of Philostratus, and by close scrutiny of it show that
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[paragraph continues] Apollonius was not fit to be classed, I will not say among philosophers, but even among men of integrity and good sense, much less to be compared with our Saviour Christ, so far as we can depend on the work of a writer who, though according to the "Lover of Truth," he was highly educated, was in any case no respecter of truth. For such is his description of Philostratus the Athenian among others. In this way we shall easily appreciate the value of the rest of the authorities, who though, according to him, they were most highly educated, yet never by actual sifting of the facts, established them with any accuracy in the case of Apollonius. For when we have thoroughly examined these facts, we shall no doubt obtain a clear demonstration of the solidity and, as he imagines to himself, of the accuracy in detail of the condemnation which the "Lover of Truth," who has at the same time taken possession of the supreme courts all over the province, passes on Christians, and at the same time of what they are pleased to call our reckless and facile credulity, for we are accounted by them to be mere foolish and deluded mortals.
CHAP. V The laws of NatureAnother controversialist, by way of beginning the affray, would without demur abuse and malign the man against whom he directed his arguments, on the ground that he was his enemy and adversary; I, however, my friend, used to regard the man of Tyana as having been, humanly speaking, a kind of sage, and I am still freely disposed to adhere to this
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opinion; and I would like to set before you, if you ask it, my own personal opinion of him. If anyone wishes to class him with any philosopher you like, and to forget all the legends about him and not bore me with them, I am quite agreeable. Not so if anyone ventures, whether he be Damis the Assyrian, or Philostratus, or any other compiler or chronicler, to overleap the bounds of humanity and transcend philosophy, and while repelling the charge of wizardry in word, yet to bind it in act rather than in name upon the man, using the mask of Pythagorean discipline to disguise what he really was. For in that case his reputation for us as a philosopher will be gone, and we shall have an ass instead concealed in a lion's skin; and we shall detect in him a sophist in the truest sense, cadging for alms among the cities, and a wizard, if there ever was one, instead of a philosopher.
CHAP VI.Do you ask me what I mean and what are my reasons for speaking thus? I will tell you. There are bounds of nature which prescribe and circumscribe the existence of the universe in respect of its beginnings and of its continuance and of its end, being limits and rules imposed on everything. By these this entire mechanism and edifice of the whole universe is constantly being brought to perfection; and they are arranged by unbreakable laws and indissoluble bonds, and they guard and observe the all-wise will of a Providence which dispenses and disposes all things. Now no one can change or alter the place and order of anything that has been once
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arranged; and if anyone is so venturesome as to wish to transcend his limits, he is restrained from transgressing divine law by the rule and decree of nature. So it is that the fish that lives in the waters is unable in defiance of nature to change on to dry land and live there; and on the other hand the creature bred on dry land will not plunge into the waters, and embrace there any permanent repose or abode; nor by any huge leap can any tenant of earth raise himself aloft into the air, from a desire to soar about with the eagles; and in turn, although of course the latter can alight upon the earth, by depressing and lowering their faculty of flight, and by relaxing the working of their wings, and renouncing the privilege of nature, for this too is determined by the divine laws, namely that beings able to soar aloft are able to descend from on high,yet the converse is not possible, so that the lowly habitant of earth should ever raise himself into the welkin. In this way then the mortal race of men, while provided with soul and body, is yet circumscribed by divine bounds. Consequently he can never traverse the air with his body, however much he scorns to linger upon the paths of earth, without instantly paying the penalty of his folly; nor by spiritual exaltation can he in his thinking attain to the unattainable, without falling back into the disease of melancholy.
It is wisest then for him, on the one hand to transport his body along the ground with the feet given him for the purpose, and on the other hand to sustain his soul with education and philosophy. But he may well pray that some one may come to Possibility of a Saviour descending to earth.help him from aloft from the paths of heaven, and reveal himself to him as a teacher of the salvation that is
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there. For the following is a valid example to use: as it is right for the physician to visit the sick, and for the teacher to accommodate himself to the pupil who is entering upon his studies, and for a superior to quit his heights and condescend to the lowly, yet the converse is not right or possible. It follows then that there is no reason to prevent a divine nature, being beneficent and inclined to save and take providential care of things to come, from associating itself with men, for this is allowed also by the rule of divine providence; for according to Plato God was good, and no good being can ever feel any jealousy of any thing. It follows that the controller of this universe, being good, will not care for our bodies alone, but much more for our souls, upon which he has conferred the privilege of immortality and free-will. On these then, as lord of the entire economy and of gifts of grace his bestowal of which will benefit our nature, he will, they being able to appreciate his bounty, bestow plenteously an illumination as it were of the light which streams from him, and will despatch the most intimate of his own messengers from time to time, for the salvation and succour of men here below. Of these messengers anyone so favoured by fortune, having cleansed his understanding and dissipated the mist of mortality, may well be described as truly divine, and as carrying in his soul the image of some great god. Surely so great a personality will stir up the entire human race, and illuminate the world of mankind more brightly than the sun, and will leave the effects of his eternal divinity for the contemplation of future ages, in no less a degree affording an example of the divine and inspired nature than creations of artists
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made of lifeless matter. To this extent then human nature can participate in the super-human; but otherwise it cannot lawfully transcend its bounds, nor with its wingless body emulate the bird, nor being a man must one meddle with what appertains to demons.
CHAP. VII Was Apollonius a divine being?In what light then, this being so, do you envisage for us Apollonius, my good compiler? If as a divine being and superior to a philosopher, in a word as one superhuman in his nature, I would ask you to keep to this point of view throughout your history, and to point me out effects wrought by his divinity enduring to this day. For surely it is an absurdity that the works of carpenters and builders should last on ever so long after the craftsmen are dead, and raise as it were an immortal monument to the memory of their constructive ability; and yet that a human character claimed to be divine should, after shedding its glory upon mankind, finish in darkness its short-lived career, instead of displaying for ever its power and excellence. Instead of being so niggardly liberal to some one individual like Damis and to a few other short-lived men, it should surely make its coming among us the occasion of blessings, conferred on myriads not only of his contemporaries, but also of his posterity. This I ween is how the sages of old raised up earnest bands of disciples, who continued their tradition of moral excellence, sowing in men's hearts a spirit truly immortal of progress and reform. If on the other hand you attribute to this
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man a mortal nature, take care lest by endowing him with gifts which transcend mortality, you convict yourself of fallacy and miscalculation.
CHAP. VIIIBut enough of this. His hero is introduced to us as a divine man, who assumes from birth the guise and personality of a demon of the sea. For he says that to his mother when she was about to bear her child, there appeared the figure of a demon of the sea, namely Proteus, who in the story of Homer ever changes his form. But she, in no way frightened, asked him what she would bring to birth; and he replied: "Myself." Then she asked: "And who are you?" "Proteus," he replied, "of Egypt." And then he writes about a certain meadow and about swans, that assisted the lady to bear her child, though without telling us whence he derived this particular; for assuredly he does not attribute this story to Damis the Assyrian writer. But a little further on in the same history the represents Apollonius as using, in token of his being of a divine nature these very words to Damis himself: "I myself, my companion, understand all languages though I have learned none." And again he says to him: "Do not be surprised, for I know what men are thinking about, even when they are silent." And again in the temple of Asclepius he was much honoured by the god, and is said to have possessed a certain natural gift of prescience, which he did not acquire by learning, from very childhood. We learn, in a word, that he was born superior to mankind in
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general, and so he is described from the first moment of his birth throughout his history. Anyhow on one occasion after he had loosed himself from his bonds, his historian adds the remark: "Then Damis declares he for the first time clearly understood the nature of Apollonius, that it was divine and superior to humanity. For without offering any sacrifice,for how could he offer one in the prison?and without offering any prayer, without a single word, he just laughed at his fetters." And at the end of the book 1 we learn that his grave was nowhere to be found on earth; but that he went to heaven in his physical body accompanied by hymns and dances. Naturally if he was so great as he is described in the above, he may be said "to have wooed philosophy in a more divine manner than Pythagoras, or Empedocles, or Plato." For these reasons we must surely class the man among the gods.
CHAP. IX If Apollonius was divine why did he need schooling?Well, we will not grudge him his natural and self-taught gift of understanding all languages. But if he possessed it, why was he taken to a school-master, and if he had never learnt any language whatever, why does his historian malign him and declare that, not by nature, but by dint of close study and application, he acquired the Attic dialect? For he tells us outright "that as he advanced in youth he displayed a knowledge of letters and great power of memory, and force of application, and that he spoke the Attic dialect." We also learn that "when he reached his fourteenth year his father took him to Tarsus, to Euthydemus of Phoenicia, who was a good
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rhetor, and gave him his education, while Apollonius clung to his teacher." We further learn that "he had as fellow-students members of the school of Plato and of Chrysippus and members of the Peripatetic set. That he also diligently listened to the doctrines of Epicurus, because he did not despise even them, though he grasped the teachings of Pythagoras with a certain indescribable wisdom." So varied was the education of one who had never learnt any language, and who by his divine power anticipated "the thoughts of men even when they are silent."
CHAP. X He knew the language of animalsAnd after an interval our author again expresses his admiration at the ease with which Apollonius understood the language of animals, and he goes on to tell us the following: "And moreover he acquired an understanding of the language of animals; and he learnt this, too, in the course of his travels through Arabia, where the inhabitants best know this language and practise it. For the Arabians have a way of understanding without difficulty swans and other birds when they presage the future in the same way as oracles. And they get to understand the dumb animals by eating, so they say, some of them the heart and others the liver of dragons." In this instance, then, it seems anyhow to have been the case that the Pythagorean who abstained from animal food and could not even bring himself to sacrifice to the gods, devoured the heart and liver of dragons, in order to participate in a form of wisdom that was in vogue among the Arabs. After learning
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under such masters, how could he attain to their accomplishments otherwise than by imitating their example? We must therefore add to the teachers whom we have already enumerated the sages of Arabia who taught him his knowledge of augury; and this no doubt inspired him subsequently to foretell what the sparrow meant when he called his fellows to a meal, and so to impress the bystanders with the idea that he had worked a mighty miracle. And in the same way when he saw the freshly-slain lioness with her eight whelps by the side of the road which led into Assyria, he immediately conjectured from what he saw the length of their future stay in Persia, and made a prophecy thereof.
485:1 Or perhaps we should render "the parallel this writer has paradoxically drawn," etc.
507:1 Or reader: "And at death we," etc.