Porphyry's Against the Christians

Overview

Throughout its first three centuries, the growing Christian religion was subjected not only to official persecution but to the attacks of pagan intellectuals, who looked upon the new sect as a band of fanatics bent on worldwide domination even as they professed to despise the things of this world. Prominent among these pagan critics was Porphyry of Tyre (ca. 232-ca. 305 C.E.), scholar, philosopher, and student of religions. His book Against the Christians (Kata Christianon), was condemned to be burned by the ...

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Overview

Throughout its first three centuries, the growing Christian religion was subjected not only to official persecution but to the attacks of pagan intellectuals, who looked upon the new sect as a band of fanatics bent on worldwide domination even as they professed to despise the things of this world. Prominent among these pagan critics was Porphyry of Tyre (ca. 232-ca. 305 C.E.), scholar, philosopher, and student of religions. His book Against the Christians (Kata Christianon), was condemned to be burned by the imperial Church in 448. It survives only in fragments preserved by the cleric and teacher Macarius Magnes.

This new translation of the remains of Against the Christians, by renowned biblical scholar R. Joseph Hoffmann, reveals a work of deft historical and literary criticism. Porphyry's trenchant comments extend to key figures, beliefs, and doctrines of Christianity as he roundly attacks the divinity of Jesus, the integrity of the apostles, the Christian concept of God, and the Resurrection. Porphyry dismisses the gospels as the work of charlatans and Jesus himself as a criminal and failure. In short, the gospels, as a collective account of the life and deeds of Jesus, are hardly worth the reverence with which an increasing number of Christian converts of Porphyry's own day have begun treating them.

Critical notes by the translator provide a running commentary to the text. A lively introduction and comprehensive epilogue describe the "buildup" to the pagan critique of Christianity, and help put Porphyry's work in historical perspective.

Accessible to the general reader, and a valuable scholarly tool as well, this new translation of Against the Christians proves a worthy addition to both classical and patristic studies.

Prominent among the pagan critics of the early Christians was Porphyry of Trre ca. 232-305, scholar, philosopher, and student of religions. His Against the Christians, condemned to be burned in 448, was a work of admirable historical criticism. The surviving fragments of this work, newly translated by Biblical scholar Hoffmann, present Porphyry's most trenchant comments on key figures, beliefs, and doctrines of Christianity.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Not much has survived its condemnation by the imperial Church in 448, but here is a new edition of the fragments of Porphyry of Tyre's ca. 232 - ca. 305 attack on the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity, the divinity of Christ, the integrity of the apostles, and the reality of the resurrection. The translation is accompanied by critical notes and an introduction placing the work in historical and philosophical perspective. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879758899
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/1994
  • Pages: 181
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

R. Joseph Hoffmann is the author of many books on early Christianity including Porphyry’s Against the Christians. He is Campbell Professor of Religion at Wells College, New York, and chair of the Council for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and the American University of Beirut.

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Table of Contents

Introduction. Persecution as Context 7
A Note on the Text and the Controversy 21
List of Abbreviations 25
Against the Christians: The Extracts of Macarius Magnes
1 Miscellaneous Objections 29
2 Critique of the Gospels and Their Authors 32
3 The Ruler and End of the World 37
4 The Life and Work of Jesus 39
5 The Sayings of Jesus 48
6 The Attack on Peter the Apostle 53
7 The Attack on Paul the Apostle 58
8 The Attack on Christian Apocalyptic Hopes 66
9 The Kingdom of Heaven and the Obscurity of Christian Teaching 77
10 The Christian Doctrine of God 83
11 Critique of the Resurrection of the Flesh 90
Epilogue. From Babylon to Rome: The Contexts of Jewish-Christian-Pagan Interaction through Porphyry 95
References and Bibliography 175
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