Porphyry Malchus of Tyre of Phoenicia Maritima
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Porphyry Malchus of Tyre, Phoenicia, (223 - 309 AD), philosopher & mathematician

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Porphyry Malchus of Tyre (223 - 309 AD) was born in Tyre and studied in Athens, before joining the Neoplatonic group of Plotinus in Rome were he studied philosophy. Porphyry was a man of great learning and was interested in and had great talent for historical and philological criticism. He had a passion to uproot false teachings in order to ennoble people and turn them to the Good.  He declared the salvation of the soul as the ultimate purpose of philosophy.

Porphyry's father was called Malkhos or Malchus, which means 'king'. Both Porphyry's parents were Phoenician and he would only get the nickname Porphyry later in his life as we shall explain below. Porphyry was named after his father so for many years he was known as Malchus.

According to Gillian Clark's book Porphyry. On Abstinence from Killing Animals.1 He wrote in Greek and did not write in any other language. Before going to Rome, he was a student of Longinus, in Athens.

As a young man Porphyry tried to gain as broad a knowledge as he possibly could by studying many languages and religions. At that time Athens was the main centre for learning, so it was natural that someone with a thirst for knowledge as Porphyry had should travel there to continue his studies. In Athens Porphyry became a student of Longinus who:8

... was a 'living library and walking museum' and the academic's critical attention to detail, clarity of style and erudition left their permanent mark on the keen student.

It was Longinus who gave Porphyry that nickname. In fact it was a clever pun since 'Porphyry' means 'purple' in Greek and he was given this name since he came from Tyre which was famous for the production of the royal purple dye and his name 'Malchus' meant 'king' = 'royal' = 'purple'.

In about 263 Porphyry left Athens and went to Rome where he worked with Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism. Plotinus taught that there is an ultimate reality which is beyond the reach of thought or language. The object of life was to aim at this ultimate reality which could never be precisely described. Plotinus stressed that people did not have the mental capacity to fully understand both the ultimate reality itself or the consequences of its existence.

He joined a group of philosophers who studied with Plotinus in Rome. Plotinus came from somewhere in Egypt and lived a frugal life. He was celibate and vegetarian and took little in the way of food, drink and sleep. Nevertheless Plotinus took seriously his responsibilities as a citizen, acting as an arbitrator in legal disputes and ensuring that the children who had come under his guardianship were well supported both financially and educationally. It is likely that there were others who also followed a vegetarian lifestyle and indeed Porphyry's On Abstinence from Killing Animals, was a treatise written in the form of an open letter to his friend Castricius in an attempt to persuade him to return to a vegetarian diet which he had abandoned.

Porphyry had mixed feelings when he heard the teachings of Plotinus. On the one hand he came to appreciate the point of view that Plotinus was putting forward, although it was somewhat different from the views of Longinus. However Porphyry was very disappointed in the way that Plotinus expressed himself and he found Plotinus's lectures poorly structured and his arguments rather woolly.

Porphyry spent five years in Rome with Plotinus and during this time he:2

... tried to rouse in the master the ambition to organise his doctrines.

It is not entirely clear why Porphyry left Rome but there does seem to have been disputes over doctrine between the philosophers who formed Plotinus's circle. Porphyry went to Sicily where he wrote a text bringing the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato together. Porphyry had a strong respect for the views of Aristotle and further work by Porphyry at this time led to a revival in studies of the works of Aristotle. In particular his commentary on Aristotle's Categories led to the later developments of logic. It would appear that Porphyry's views on Aristotle had something to do with the disputes in Plotinus's school which had led to the break-up.

Also while Porphyry was in Sicily, he wrote a work on vegetarianism and a critical work against Christian doctrines. Porphyry did not break his links with Plotinus, however, and he continued to correspond with him on presenting his views in the most coherent fashion.

According to Heath5 Porphyry was:-

The disciple of Plotinus and the reviser and editor of his works.

Despite the fact that Porphyry's views were not completely at one with those of Plotinus, this description by Heath is a fair one. Porphyry certainly did go on to edit the works of Plotinus, for he returned to Rome in about 282 (which was about 12 years after Plotinus died). There he continued to write commentaries on Plato and other philosophers but mainly he continued the major work of his life which was to edit and publish Enneads on the teachings of Plotinus which he had completed about 301.

Also while in Rome Porphyry taught Iamblichus who was another important developer of Neoplatonism. However, Iamblichus developed his views away from those of Plotinus and soon found himself disagreeing with Porphyry.

We should make some comments as to the importance of Porphyry in the history of mathematics. He wrote a commentary on Euclid's Elements which was used by Pappus when he wrote his own commentary. Proclus appears to have Porphyry's original comments to hand when he wrote his own commentary. This is a point on which it is impossible to be certain for there is a slight possibility that all Proclus knew about Porphyry's commentary was what Pappus had written.

Another important contribution made by Porphyry was in writing his Life of Pythagoras. Certain important fragments of other mathematician's writings have also been preserved in the works of Porphyry including Nicomachus and Eudemus.

Porphyry believed that animals (unlike plants) although having somewhat less rational souls than humans, nevertheless still had souls. He believed that they were capable of recognising and assessing their situation, making future plans and in a sense communicating and responding to one another and to humans. 'Now it is to be demonstrated that there is also a rational [soul] in animals and that they are not deprived of wisdom (3.9.1). First of all, each animal knows where it is weak and where it is strong, and it protects the former and makes use of the latter, as the leopard uses its teeth, the horse its hoof and the bull its horns, the cock its spur and the scorpion its sting....(3.9.2). Again, the animals that are strong keep away from humans, whereas the less noble animals keep away from stronger beasts but stay with humans, either at some distance, like sparrows and swallows in roof-eaves, or sharing human life as dogs do (3.9.3). Animals have memory, which is of prime importance in the acquisition of reasoning and wisdom (3.10.3). Who does not know how animals that live in groups observe justice towards each other? (3.11.1).

It follows from this that animals should not be killed unless in 'self-defence'. 'Perhaps, then, it is also right to exterminate those of the irrational animals that are unjust by nature and evil-doers and impelled by their nature to harm those who come near them; but it must be unjust to exterminate and to kill those of the other animals that do nothing unjust and are not impelled by their nature to do harm, as it is unjust to kill people like that (2.22.2).

Porphyry believed that it was not only wrong to kill animals for their sake, it also interfered with the philosopher's ability to become like that of God, to be holy and just.

'Moreover, we ought to make only those sacrifices by which we hurt no-one, for sacrifice more than anything else, must be harmless to everyone. If someone says that God gave us animals, no less than crops, for our use, the answer is that when animals are sacrificed some harm is done to them, in that they are deprived of soul' (2.12.3).

God, on the other hand, does no harm to anything. 'The Greater in the universe is altogether harmless, and itself by its power safeguards all, does good to all, and lacks nothing; whereas we are harmless to all by being just, but by being mortal we lack necessities' (3.26.11).

According to Porphyry meat was also unhealthy for the body and the soul. 'Find me someone who is eager to live, as far as possible, in accordance with intellect and to be undistracted by the passions which affect the body, and let him demonstrate that meat-eating is easier to provide than dishes of fruits and vegetables; that meat is cheaper to prepare than inanimate food for which chefs are not needed at all; that compared with inanimate food, it is intrinsically pleasure-free and lighter on the digestion, and more quickly assimilated by the body than vegetables; that it is less provocative of desires and less conducive to obesity and robustness than a diet of inanimate food' (1.46.2).

It is important to note here that Porphyry was not against eating honey and drinking milk for the following reasons: 'As for taking what bees produce, it comes from our efforts, so it is proper that the profit should also be shared: the bees collect honey from the plants, but we look after the bees. So we must share it out in such a way that they suffer no harm, and what they cannot use, but we can, is in a way their payment to us' (2.13.2). Porphyry had this to say about milk. 'But taking necessities does not harm...sheep, when we shall rather benefit them by shearing them and shall share their milk when providing them with our care' (3.27.12).

Clearly, Porphyry was not vegan in the sense that we would speak of someone as being vegan today. However what is extraordinary about him (and indeed other philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plutarch), is that he abstained from the unnecessary killing and eating of animals because he believed in the worth of other beings other than the human and endeavoured to try to live a life that did the least harm.

"Pierre Courcelle concluded that, although On Abstinence probably survived only in the Greek East, Porphyry's works on the soul and on Aristotelian logic made him the most important representative of Greek philosophy in the west: 'the master of western thought' " (Clark 2000:5).

His works include Against the Christians, a work of 15 volumes directed not against Christ or his teachings, but against the Christians of his own day and their sacred books. He argued they were the work of ignorant people and deceivers. He attacked Christian doctrines on both philosophical and exegetical grounds.  As to be expected, his books were banned in 448 and ordered destroyed by the Christians. Copious extracts of them remain in the writings of Saint Augustine and others. Other books such as Aids to the Study of the Intelligibles, is a basic summary of Neoplatonism. He wrote against Moses and attacked Eusebius of Caesarea.

Sources and Bibliography:

  1. Porphyry. On Abstinence from Killing Animals. Trans. Gillian Clark. London, Duckworth, 2000.
  2. Biography in Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  3. A H Armstrong (trs.), Porphyry, Life of Plotinus (Cambridge, MA, 1966).
  4. C Evangeliou, Aristotle's categories anf Porphyry (Leiden, 1988).
  5. P Hadot, Porphyre et Victorinus (Paris, 1968).
  6. T L Heath, A history of Greek mathematics I, II (Oxford, 1931).
  7. A Smith, Porphyry's place in the Neoplatonic tradition (The Hague, 1974).
  8. P V Spade (ed.), Porphyry the Phoenician, Boethius, Abelard, Peter, Duns Scotus, John, William of Ockham : Five texts on the mediaeval problem of universals : Porphyry, Boethius, Abelard, Duns Scotus, Ockham (Indianapolis, IN, 1994).
  9. E Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy 7 (London-New York, 1998), 545-550.
  10. M J Edwards, Porphyry and the intelligible triad, J. Hellenic Studies 110 (1990), 14-25.
  11. J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Porphyry's "Against the Christians"
The Literary Remains, Book Review by R. Joseph Hoffman, Oxford University Press 1994
Quoted as is from the site "Sunshine for Women"

Fifteen volumes long, Against the Christians was written by the [Phoenician] Roman pagan Porphyry [from Tyre] circa 280 and was an educated man's studied attack on Christian theology. An exceedingly powerful and successful work, it and commentaries on it were condemned by the imperial church in 448 and burned. Only remnants which were contained in books that were primarily about other matters have survived until the present. As you will see, Porphyry used a literal interpretation of the Bible, a scathing wit, and an attack on Christian's intelligence, integrity, and morals (piety, loyalty to the state, and character) to undermine the new, up-start religion, Christianity.

This book is divided into 2 parts: part one contains translations of Porphyry's writings while part two contains Hoffman's analysis of Porphyry's writings.

1) Referring to Mark 16:18, Porphyry writes: "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." page 50

2) Referring to Matthew 17:20, Porphyry writes: "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." page 51

3) Porphyry writes: "The God concept with which Israel began was basically polytheistic (Exodus 20:3). God was limited in power (Exodus 4:24) and local in character (Exodus 18:5; 33:3; 14-16). The most that could be claimed for yahweh was that as a national god he protected his people from neighboring peoples and their gods. His throne was on the high mountain; storm and volcanic phenomena were taken as manifestations of his presence (Exodus 19:16-19; 33.9f; 40:34-38).

The transition from desert to settled life on the land (believed to be his gift to a "chosen" people) produces a change in the character of this God paralleling the change in people's fortunes. Yahweh became the god of the armies of Israel, a was God - the God of hosts - who aided Israel in the subjugation of neighboring peoples or the defense of territory already taken. His other face, if not benevolent, was less severe: as giver of land, he was also the ball (fertilizer) of the soil and took responsibility for its fertility and for the rain, as well as for the famines that were occasionally used to winnow the population and the floods that might be sent to winnow the population and the floods that might be sent to wash away the unrighteous, "as in the time of Noah" (Gen. 6:1f).

As revealed in his political dealings with his chosen people, Yahweh was fickle. Peace and security are less thematic in the history of Israel than political instability, warfare and religious apostasy." page 96

4) Porphyry writes: "Apparently Jesus declared the Pharisees beyond the scope of salvation for their interpretations of the law (Matthew 5:20). which tended to focus on technical requirements rather than personal conversion." page 117

5) "Jewish tradition and later pagan critics knew Jesus as the son of a woman named Miriam or Miriamne, who had been violated and become pregnant by a Roman soldier whose name often appears a Panthera in talmudic and midrashic sources. The "single parent" tradition, if not the story of Jesus' illegitimacy, is still apparent in Mark, the earliest gospel (Mark 6:3), as is an early attempt to show Jesus' freedom from the blemish of his background (Mark 3:33-4)." page 122

"To counter the reports of Jesus' illegitimacy more than to secure his divine stature, his mother was declared the recipient of a singular divine honor: Jesus was the son of Mary - a virgin - "through the holy spirit" (Matthew 1:20). As is typical of his writing, Matthew comes closest to revealing the argumentative purpose of his birth story and its links to Jewish polemic against Christian belief in his reference to Joseph's suspicion of Mary's pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). He is also careful in the birth story and elsewhere to provide evidence and proofs from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible - as a running narrative. " page 122

6) Regarding the Biblical prophecies concerning Jesus: "Porphyry notes that what is said in Hebrew prophecy could as well apply to a dozen other figures, dead or yet to come, as to Jesus." page 131

7) "As the mission progressed with its apocalyptic teaching persistently an issue in debates with itinerant Jewish teachers, the churches developed a variety of strategies for dealing with the delay:

the gentiles would be converted before the last days (Mark 13:10)

the power of pagan Rome and of the emperor would decline before God's son could be revealed in glory (Romans 16:20, Thess 2:2-10)

Jesus himself had professed ignorance about the time of this coming (Mark13:32), or had refused to speculate about the signs of the last days (Mark 8:11-12)

the kingdom of God was already working "secretly"and was being progressively realized through the success of the Christian mission (Luke 12:49-56; 17:22-37; Matthew 38-42).

It is best to regard these rationales as defensive and experimental. Jewish apocalyptic tradition itself had been mystically vague, studiously mysterious with respect both to the "timing" of the apocalyptic events and to the identity of the son of man." pages 135-136

8) "According to the early critics Tacitus, Pliny, and Aristides, Christianity was to be judged according to the unwillingness of its adherents to compromise. They were superstitious fanatics given to outpourings of enthusiasm, or they occasionally indulged in sexual orgies in association with their eucharistic banquets.

With the satires of Lucan, 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. 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. . . .

Lucian's "hero" is a shyster -the first example in literature of an anything-for-profit evangelist who bilks his congregation. . . .

For all its looseness of detail, Lucian's portrait of Peregrinus can be said to reflect a popular view of the Christians at the close of the second century." page 145 - 146

9) "In his comments, Celsus attempts impartiality: He is no admirer of Judaism ['runaway Egyptian slaves who have never done anything worth mentioning'] but acknowledges the antiquity of Jewish teaching and juxtaposes it with the newness of Christian doctrine. He thinks Christian teachers are no better than the begging priests of Cybele and the shysters of popular religions. Importantly, Celsus does not dwell on the impurity of Christian ritual (though he alludes to it), but 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.

The True Word or True Doctrine of Celsus was divided into two sections. In the first, Celsus presents a Jew as the antagonist to Christianity; in the second, he argues his own case. The strategy seems intended to show that Christianity is opposed not only by the philosophers of the "pagan" empire, but also by those with whom the Christians claims to have the closest affinity. In this way, the church could be seen to have neither the wisdom of the philosophical schools nor the antiquity of custom and law to its credit. Its teaching was merely eccentric -sectarian in the mean sense of the word. In his hierarchy of civilization, the Egyptian were beast-worshipers, the Jews infinitely worse in their religious practices, and the Christians renegade Jews "whom their miserable countrymen despised and hated." What would have aroused official distaste for Christianity, however, was Celsus' suggestion that the Christians were "breaking the religious peace of the world." With an outlaw as their head, they were rebels by nature and tradition.

Celsus' "Jew" is strident in his dialogue with the Christian teacher on the failure of the life of Jesus, a theme to which Porphyry will return over a century later. That Celsus would emphasize this theme is unsurprising: we have already noted that it was at the heart of the earliest Jewish-Christian "dialogue" and their fictional reenactments by teachers like Justin. Celsus' "Jew" is, however, a more worthy opponent that Justin's. In the pagan dialogue, the Jew lectures the Christian; in Justin's the Christian lectures - and defeats - the Jew.

Familiar slanders resurface in the True Doctrine : Jesus was the son of a woman named Mary by a Roman soldier named Panthera. . . .The resurrection is rejected on the grounds that the only witnesses were "women half crazy from fear and grief, and possibly one other from the same band of charlatans, who dreamed it all up or saw what he wanted to see - or more likely, simply wanted to astonish his friends with a good tale." pages 148-149

10) "Church fathers from Eusebius to Augustine were intimidated by Porphyry's challenges and arguments - so much so that his worthiest opponent (Macarius Magnes) is not an especially articulate one, wholly unable to play the role of Origen to his Celsus. [Origen wrote Contra Celsum, the best classical refutation of Celsus' True Doctrine.] Constantine in the fourth century and Theodosius in the fifth decided that the only way to overcome Porphyry's objections was to put his books to the torch. Thus, the extent of his writings against Christianity is unknown." page 155

11) "The process of disputation (propositions followed by refutation) was the Socratic means of arriving at truth. Christian teachers such as Justin, Origen, and Minucius Felix had long since affected this style of literary opposition, though their opponents were either dead (Celsus) or fictionalized (Justin's Trypho), thus rendering them more amenable to persuasion." pages 156-157

12) "The "end" of knowledge is truth, though one could also call it a "god." This "god" is not the Christian god, nor even the Christian idea of God. Theologians from the second century onward had misread Plato (and would later misread Plotinus and Porphyry) on this fundamental point." page 159

13) "Porphyry's "God," therefore, has no need to save because he is not affected by sin. This is not to say that the philosopher fails to recognize a category of actions which are displeasing to God. But these actions are expressions of active failure and not of a passive genetic deficiency in a God-created race of men, as Augustine theorized. God strengthens those who practice virtue and "noble deeds" (Marcella 16), but he does not (cannot) punish those who fail to practice virtue or who do things contrary to virtue (Marcella 17), since the divine nature can only work for the good. Accordingly, the classical Christian theodicy does not arise in Porphyry's thought; he thinks it foolish to speculate, on Christian premises, about an all-good God, creator of an originally good world, over which, through lack of foresight (omniscience) or power (omnipotence) evil reigns and in which he is obliged to intervene time and time again. The puzzles of Christian theology are non-puzzles for Porphyry: The pieces comprise not a picture but a muddle, and can only be slotted together by trimming edges and omitting embarrassingly contorted segment. This, however, does not prevent Christian priests and teachers from selling their wares as a kind of philosophy. While religious observances -pagan or Christian - are not actually harmful, they encourage the simple-minded in a belief that God has need of them. The only true priests are the wise of the world, not the "fools praying and offering sacrifice". The only truly sinful man is "he who holds the opinions of the multitudes concerning God" (Marcella 17), and those who think that tears, prayers, and sacrifices can alter the divine purpose. The Christian god fails, in Porphyry's view, because he epitomizes false opinion, baseless hopes. He is changeable, fickle, unpredictable. His priests preach "mere unreasoning faith [in a God] who is gratified and won over by libations and sacrifices," without perceiving that men making exactly the same request receive different answers to their prayers (Marcella 23). Worse, human beings seem to believe that their basest actions can be erased by prayer, or, caught in the web of their illogic, they become haters of the world and the flesh and mistakenly accuse the flesh of being the source of all evil (Marcella 29). "Salvation" for Porphyry cannot begin with self-hatred or the abnegation of the flesh. In its demythologized form, it is simply the "soul's" quest for wisdom as expressed in the pursuit of virtue - an acknowledgment of redemption being natural to the soul because of the soul's affinity to God. Porphyry does not think of the body as vile; he thinks of it as the discardable "outer man," whose satisfaction cannot be a final end or goal because it is corruptible, limited, and earthbound. The body defines creaturely existence and not the soul's quest." pages 162-164

14) "In a devastating critique which has not survived, but which has evoked plenty of reaction from his critics, Porphyry began Against the Christians with an attack on the Christian view of prophecy. Although Platonism had actually inspired the allegorical interpretation of prophecy by teachers such as Origen, the philosopher's nemesis, Porphyry condemned the use of allegory as a means of explaining away difficulties and contradictions in the biblical text. It has even been suggested that Porphyry drew some of his polemic directly from Origin's book on the difficulties of interpreting scripture, the Stromatesis. All he had to do was to "accept Origen's negative statements . . . and reject the deeper spiritual meanings" that Origen found for them...Despite his contempt for allegory - a feature which shines through rather clearly in Macarius' fragments - the philosopher was more concerned with chronology than interpretation. He denied the extreme antiquity of the Moses story, the traditional dating of the law, and the ascription of the Book of Daniel to the period before the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C.E." page 166

15) "Furthermore, we know from Augustine (City of God) that Porphyry complained of the influx of educated women into the church; in his Philosophy from Oracles, written around 263, he laments (en masque as Apollo, the god of enlightenment) that it is almost impossible to win back anyone who has converted to Christianity: it is easier, he says, to write words on water than try to use argument on a Christian. They simply cannot understand the folly of worshipping as a god a man who had died as a criminal." page 168

16) "The truth seems to be that Porphyry regarded Jesus as a criminal, justly punished for his crimes by the power of the Roman state, and hence undeserving of the status of hero or of the divinity conferred upon him by his misguided followers.

Whatever Porphyry may have thought of Jesus, the bulk of his criticism was reserved for the evangelists, the apostles of Jesus - especially Peter - and the Christian mission epitomized by Paul. . . Macarius' "pagan" deals with most of the same subjects we know, from Augustine's Harmony, to have attracted Porphyry's criticism: that the apostles fabricated genealogies, that there are discrepancies concerning the time of Jesus' death, that Jesus had not claimed to be divine, and that the teaching of Jesus was obscure and self-contradictory. " page 171

17) "A general view of Porphyry's work yields the following picture: Beginning with an introduction in which the ambitions of the Christians were repudiated ("they want riches and glory. . . they are renegades seeking to take control" . . . , Porphyry went on to show their unworthiness. They accepted but misunderstood the "myths" and oracles of the Jews, then turned around and altered these to make them even more contemptible...Their religion had neither a national anchor nor a rational basis; they required initiates to accept everything on blind faith. Moreover, the initiates themselves were the worst sort of people, moral invalids who (cf. Celsus) found security in their common weakness...The Christians had proved that they cared nothing for those who had lived in the era before the coming of Jesus: these could not be saved.

The Christians taught absurd doctrines about the suffering of God or the suffering of a some of the supermen god. They also prayed for the destruction of the world, which they hated because they were hated by it - and believed that at its end they alone would be raised bodily from the dead...The sky would be destroyed and the ruler of the world would be cast into an outer darkness, as a tyrant might be driven out by a good king. By such thinking the Christians showed contempt for God. How could god be angry? How, if all powerful, as even some of their teachers said, could his property have been stolen in the first place?

After attacking the chronology of the Old Testament . . . and arguing against Christian allegorical interpretation, Porphyry took up the subject of the writers of the gospels and epistles, whom he regarded as ignorant, clumsy, and deceptive. The fact that he wages his assault chiefly against the "pillar" apostles, Peter and Paul, suggests that he regarded the destruction of their reputations essential to wiping out the claims of an emergent Catholic Christianity...Thus Paul himself had called Christian believers "wretches" (1 Cor. 6:9f) and promised his followers the resuscitation of the "rotten, stinking corpses of men" (cf. Augustine, City of God 22.27). As for Peter, he had been called "satan" even by Jesus, yet was entrusted with the keys to the kingdom of heaven...The apostles proved themselves traitors, cowards, weaklings, and hypocrites - even in the accounts written by them.

The Jesus allegedly praised for piety and wisdom by Hecate in Porphyry's Philosophy from Oracles, finds no grace in Against the Christians. His parables are trivial and incomprehensible. They are "hidden from the wise but revealed to the babes" (Matthew 11:25), a state of affairs which encourages ignorance and unreasonableness. Jesus and his followers represent a lethargic ethic of the status quo, the very opposite of the Greek quest for moral excellence; indeed, his blessing on the poor and downtrodden and his repudiation of the rich make moral effort impossible. Had he not taught that selling everything and giving it to the poor (Matthew 19:21), thereby becoming a lout and a beggar and a burden on others, was the height of Christian perfection?...

Furthermore, Jesus did not follow his own advice. His show of weakness in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest was disgraceful: having preached fearlessness in time of persecution to his disciples, he exhibited only fear and trembling at the moment of his capture. When Jesus stood before his accusers, he spoke like a guilty man, not like a hero on the order of Apollonius of Tyana who had been hauled before Domitian...Had he been a god on the order of the ancient heroes, he would have flung himself from a parapet of the temple, he would have appeared after his death to haunt Herod and Pilate - or, indeed, to the Senate and People of Rome, to prove he had risen from the dead. That would have convinced everyone of the truth of Christian belief, and it would have spared his followers the punishment they now suffered for their beliefs. In short, had Jesus cared for his followers he could have taken care to spare them their martyrdom." pages 172-173

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Site Author's Note: The book review of Porphyry's "Against the Christians" is published here not for anti-Christian propaganda but as a preservation of the writing of a major Phoenician philosopher.

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Additional references, sources and bibliography (Please don't write and ask me for references. You can find them at the end of article or in Bibliography)

Phoenicia, A Bequest Unearthed -- Phoenician Encyclopedia

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"A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia" — Encyclopedia Phoeniciana

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