Julian, in a Syriac fragment of his Contra Galilaeos, attacked the resurrection narratives in Matthew and Mark, because they were inconsistent with each other concerning the time of the arrival of the women to the tomb, the nature of the being they met in the tomb, and the women’s subsequent actions. Other texts in Syriac and Latin indicate the probability that Julian took over the substance of his argument from Porphyry.
* I am indebted to Professors Tjitze Baarda, Hubert Kaufhold, Sébastien Morlet, and Doctor Richard Goulet for comments about the paper. Professors Marie-Odile Boulnois and Wolfram Kinzig graciously answered several queries. Any mistakes are my own. This paper is a continuation of another paper on the same text of Julian, which examined his critique and Cyril’s response from the perspective of New Testament textual criticism. Abbreviations are from S. Schwertner (1993), pgl, and A. Blaise (1954).
Julian and Porphyry both attacked the Christian concept of resurrection of the dead and in particular the resurrection of Jesus from various perspectives.1 Several texts preserved in Syriac show that Julian may have been indebted to Porphyry for his acute critique of the Gospels’ accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Julian’s objections were from his Contra Galilaeos, which attracted the ire of Cyril, the powerful bishop of Alexandria.
According to Cyril, Julian’s Contra Galilaeos shook the faith of the weaker sort of Christian:
What is more, he [Julian] wrote three books against the holy Gospels and the revered religion of the Christians and by means of them shook up many people, and he did no little damage. Light-minded and credulous people fell easily into his way of thinking and became a sweet prey for demons.
καὶ δὴ καὶ τρία συγγέγραφε βιβλία κατὰ τῶν ἁγίων εὐαγγελίων καὶ κατὰ τῆς εὐαγοῦς τῶν Χριστιανῶν θρησκείας, κατασείει δὲ δι’ αὐτῶν πολλούς, καὶ ἠδίκηκεν οὐ µετρίως. Οἱ µὲν ἐλαφροί τε καὶ εὐπάροιστοι πίπτουσι ῥᾳδίως εἰς τὰ αὐτοῦ καὶ γλυκὺ τοῖς δαιµονίοις γίνονται θήραµα.2
Although Cyril’s rhetoric might seem strong to modern readers, earlier defenders of the Christian faith such as Origen3 and Severian of Gabala4 showed a similar concern about the attacks on Christianity (and especially the Gospels) of Celsus and Porphyry.
During the winter nights of 362/363 in Antioch, Julian wrote his treatise against the Galileans. Libanius thought Julian did a better job than Porphyry:
When the winter lengthened the nights, besides many other fine discourses, he was shown to be wiser than the Tyrian old man—with reference to the same subjects—by attacking the books which make the person from Palestine a god and a child of god, both refuting them in a long fight and with force and demonstrating that what is revered [by the Christians] is an occasion for laughter and is nonsense.
τοῦ χειµῶνος δὲ τὰς νύκτας ἐκτείνοντος ἄνευ πολλῶν καὶ καλῶν ἑτέρων λόγων ἐπιθέµενος ταῖς βίβλοις αἳ τὸν ἐκ Παλαιστίνης ἄνθρωπον θεόν τε καὶ θεοῦ παῖδα ποιοῦσι, µάχῃ τε µακρᾷ καὶ ἐλέγχων ἰσχύι γέλωτα ἀποφήνας καὶ φλήναφον τὰ τιµώµενα σοφώτερος ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς δέδεικτο τοῦ Τυρίου γέροντος.5
Libanius does not say that Julian had Porphyry’s Contra Christianos in hand, and Julian may have only known certain texts from Porphyry’s work.
An excerpt of the lost book xiv of Cyril’s Contra Iulianum, which includes a text from Julian’s Contra Galilaeos, exists in a manuscript in the British Museum.6 In Julian’s eyes, the Gospel narratives of the resurrection of Jesus were riddled with contradictions:7
He wrote against the holy Evangelists that they contradict each other in these (cases): For—said they—Mary Magdalene and the other Mary—(so) in Matthew—came to the tomb, in the evening on the Sabbath, when the first of the week began to dawn. However, in Mark,8 they <came> after it dawned and the sun had risen. And—in Matthew9—they saw an angel, but in Mark10 a young man. And in Matthew they went away and reported to the disciples about the resurrection of the Messiah;11 in Mark, however, they kept silence and did not tell anything to anyone.12 By means of these <differences> he brings charges against the Scriptures of the Saints, and says that they oppose each other.
ܡܟܬܒ ܠܗܘܢ ܠܐܘܢܓܠܝܣ̈ܛܐ ܩܕܝܫ̈ܐ܆ ܕܠܘܩܒܠ ܚܕܕ̈ܐ ܒܗܠܝܢ ܐܡܪܘ ܡܪܝܡ ܠܡ ܓܝܪ13 ܡܓܕܠܝܬܐ ܘܡܪܝܡ ܐܚܪܬܐ ܒܡܬܝ. ܒܪܡܫܐ ܒܫܒܬܐ ܟܕ ܢܓܗ ܚܕ ܒܫܒܐ ܐܬܝ ܠܩܒܪܐ. ܗܠܝܢ ܕܝܢ ܕܠܘܬ ܡܪܩܘܤ܆ ܡܢ ܕܢܓܗܬ ܘܣܠܼܩ ܫܡܫܐ. ܘܗܠܝܢ ܕܠܘܬ ܡܬܝܼ ܡܠܐܟܐ ܚܙܝ. ܗܠܝܢ ܕܝܢ ܕܠܘܬ ܡܪܩܘܤ ܥܠܝܡܐ. ܘܗܠܝܢ ܕܠܘܬ ܡܬܝ܆ ܐܙܠܝܢ ܘܣܒܪܝܢ ܠܬܠܡ̈ܝܕܐ ܥܠ ܩܝܡܬܗ ܕܡܫܝܚܐ. ܗܠܝܢ ܕܝܢ ܕܠܘܬ ܡܪܩܘܤ܆ ܫܬܩܝܢ ܕܠܐܢܫ ܡܕܡ ܠܐ ܐܡܪܝܢ. ܒܗܠܝܢ ܡܝܬܐ ܥܕܠܝܐ ܥܠ ܟܬܒ̈ܝܗܘܢ ܕܩܕܝܫ̈ܐ ܘܐܡܿܪ܆ ܕܠܘܩܒܠ ܚܕܕܐ ܩܝܡܝܢ.
Julian clearly did not know the Longer Ending (16:9-20) of Mark, in which Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (16:9-11).14
François Combefis in 1648 published a homily of John of Thessalonica (archbishop 610-649),15 which was a harmony of the evangelists with regard to the women’s visit to the tomb and the resurrection of the Lord. The homily includes a fragmentary text of Julian, that may belong to the text printed above or one close to it in the lost sections of the Contra Galilaeos. John was driven to the desperate measure of asserting that there were four arrivals of the women to the tomb. After quoting Mark 16:6-8, John continues:
And not, as the atheists and polytheists who were despots and apostates said, that there was one arrival of the women to the tomb, and that the evangelists disagreed about the history.
καὶ οὐχ ὥς φασιν ἄθεοι καὶ πολύθεοι γενόµενοι τύραννοι καὶ παραβάται µία γέγονεν ἄφιξις τῶν γυναικῶν ἐπὶ τὸ µνηµεῖον, καὶ περί τὴν ἱστορίαν οἱ εὐαγγελισταὶ διεφώνησαν.16
Already Combefis realized that John was referring to Julian.17 Cyril’s and John’s texts indicate that Julian was attacking the apparent inconsistency of the resurrection narratives.
Julian, however, did not believe that the resurrection of the dead was even possible. Cyril refers to Julian’s thoughts:
For the grace of adoption is set before them as a promise, but they also look forward to obtaining the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Of course, the enemy of truth especially ridicules this [belief] in addition to all the rest, as if it is not possible for the God, who is able to do all things, to even make one [a human] greater than death, who according to his/her own nature is subjected to the principle of corruption . . .
πρόκειται γὰρ αὐτοῖς εἰς ὑπόσχεσιν τῆς υἱοθεσίας ἡ χάρις, τεύξεσθαι δὲ προσδοκῶσι καὶ τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστάσεως ἐν Χριστῷ. ὃ δὴ µάλιστα διαγελᾷ πρὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις ἅπασιν ὁ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐχθρός, ὥσπερ οὐκ ἐνὸν τῷ πάντα ἰσχύοντι θεῷ καὶ θανάτου κρείττονα ἀποφῆναι τὸν λόγῳ φθορᾶς ὑποκείµενον κατὰ ἰδίαν φύσιν . . .18
Consequently, it is apparent that even if the Gospels’ narratives of the women’s arrival to the tomb and the resurrection appearances of Jesus were absolutely consistent, Julian would have rejected the concept of resurrection on philosophical grounds.
Although Julian’s criticisms of the resurrection narratives resemble problems noted in Eusebius’s Quaestiones euangelicae, it seems unlikely that he was aware of that somewhat obscure text of Eusebius.19 It is more probable that Julian’s objection ultimately derives from one of Porphyry. Ishoʿdad of Merw (ix ce) claims that Porphyry and Julian shared the same objection:20
Julianus and Porphyrius, the impious, here accuse the Evangelists of disagreement, that is to say, about the times as well as the hours in regard to the Resurrection of our Lord. Matthew says, In the evening of the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, came Mary and Mary [Matt 28:1]. But Mark [16:2], In the morning of the first day of the week, at the rising of the sun, they came; but Luke [24:1], On the first day of the week, while it was yet dark, they came; and John [20:1], On the first day of the week, came the Magdalene while it was yet dark.
ܝܘܠܝܢܘܣ ܘܦܘܪܦܘܪܝܘܣ ܪ̈ܫܝܥܐ ܡܩܛܪܓܥܢ ܗܪܟܐ ܠܐܘܢܓܠܣܬ̈ܐ ܒܠܐ ܫܠܡܘܬܐ ܟܐܡܬ ܕܥܕ̈ܢܐ ܟܝܬ ܘܕܫܥ̈ܐ܆ ܕܥܠ ܩܝܡܬܗ ܕܡܪܢ܀ ܡܬܝ ܠܡ ܐܡ̇ܪ܆ ܕܒܪܡܫܐ ܠܡ ܕܫܒܬܐ ܕܢܓܗ ܚܕܒܫܒܐ܆ ܐܬܬ ܡܪܝܡ ܘܡܪܝܡ܆ ܡܪܩܘܣ ܕܝܢ ܕܒܫܦܪܐ ܠܡ ܕܚܕܒܫܒܐ ܘܟܕ ܕܢܚ ܫܡܫܐ ܐܬܝ̈܆ ܠܘܩܐ ܕܝܢ ܕܒܚܕܒܫܒܐ ܥܕ ܚܫܘܟ ܐܬܝ̈܆ ܘܝܘܚܢܢ ܕܒܚܕܒܫܒܐ ܠܡ ܐܬܬ ܡܓܕܠܝܬܐ ܥܕ ܚܫܘܟ.
Both Julian and Porphyry noticed the seeming inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives, according to Ishoʿdad. Theodore bar Koni (viii ce) has a very similar tradition, although he attributes the attack on the time of the resurrection to Julian (and not to both Julian and Porphyry). The text is part of a Mimrā (discourse) of bar Koni that comprises a question concerning places where the Evangelists appear to disagree with one another. One of them is about the times of the resurrection.
For Julian the impious, as in everything so also in these, accuses the evangelists and says that their words do not agree with each other concerning times and hours.21
ܝܘܠܝܢܘܣ ܓܝܪ ܪܫܝܥܐ. ܐܝܟ ܕܒܟܠܗܝܢ. ܐܦ ܒܗܠܝܢ ܡܩܛܪܓ ܠܐܘܢܓ̈ܠܣܛܐ ܘܐܡ̇ܪ. ܕܠܐ ܫܠܡ̈ܢ ܡܠܝ̈ܗܘܢ ܠܚ̈ܕܕܐ ܒܥ̈ܕܢܐ ܘܒܫ̈ܥܐ.
bar Koni then quotes Matt 28:1, Luke 24:1-2, John 20:1 and Mark 16:2, which presumably were the focus of Julian’s critique and which were probably part of his original text (as in the excerpt from Cyril above). Theodore of Mopsuestia, in his Commentary on John, refers to “dissenters” or “those not persuaded” (ܕܠܐ ܡܦܣ̇ܝܢ), who argue that the Evangelists do not agree with each other (ܠܐ ܫ̈ܠܡܢ ܡܠܝ̈ܗܘܢ ܕܐܘܢܓܠܣ̈ܛܐ ܠܚ̈ܕܕܐ). He then proceeds to quote John 20:1, Matt 28:1, Luke 24:1-2 and Mark 16:2-4.22
Sébastien Morlet23 has identified a medieval author, Petrus Comestor (Peter the Eater), who in his Historia scholastica (ca 1173) has a quaestio that begins: De hora quidem resurrectionis quaeri solet, de qua varie loquuntur auctores (Admittedly it is customary to ask about the hour of resurrection, concerning which the authors speak in sundry different ways). Petrus then quotes part of Jerome’s response to a Gallic woman named Hedybia in Ep. 120.3, who had posed a question about the apparent inconsistency between Matt 28:1 and Mark 16:2.24 He also includes an objection that he attributes to Porphyry:
With regard to the difference concerning the arrival of the women to the tomb, which apparently exists in the Gospels—in consequence of which, also (or even) Porphyry ridicules them—and with regard to the appearances and to the number of angels, the gloss of Augustine on Matthew has completely explained [everything].
De diuersitate aduentus mulierum ad monumentum, quae uidetur in euangelistis esse, unde et Porphyrius irridet eos, et de apparitionibus, et de numero angelorum, Glossa Augustini super Matthaeum plene diffinit.25
As Morlet argues, the transmission of this text is obscure, if it is a genuine objection of Porphyry.26 But the existence of an objection about the resurrection narratives attributed to Porphyry by both Ishoʿdad and Petrus implies that both Christian authors may have been correct. It is also important that Petrus was aware, with regard to the same narratives, of a Christian’s question and a pagan philosopher’s critique. Probably Porphyry was the inspiration behind Julian’s attack on the resurrection narratives.27
The attribution of Julian’s text to Porphyry, however, is not unproblematic. A text in Macarius’s Monogenes includes the anonymous Hellenic philosopher’s attack, which is itself probably from Porphyry, on Mark 16:16-17 . The philosopher argues, using those verses from Mark’s Longer (and spurious) Ending, that it was necessary to set fatal poison before those chosen for the priesthood or bishopric to test their faith.28 If the identification is correct, then Porphyry knew the Longer Ending of Mark (16:9-20), but did not use it in the text that was the source for Julian’s attack. Julian, however, did not know the Longer Ending—assuming that the Syriac excerpt above is accurate. The Greek and Syriac parallel texts above confirm the accuracy of the excerpt.
Both Julian and Porphyry29 zealously looked for contradictions in Chris tian texts. One of Cyril’s answers to Julian’s objections30 about the contradictory geneaologies in Matthew and Luke is that Mary is from the tribe of Joseph—a response he based on Numbers 36:6-9. Eusebius referred to the same text of Numbers in his Quaestiones.31 Julian asserted that there was a contradiction between Mark 6:40 and Luke 9:14-15 (τοῦ γὰρ Παραβατοῦ διαφωνίαν ἐγκαλέσαντος).32 The problems in the resurrection narratives were the focus of philosophical critique and Christian questioning.33
The objection (in the case of the critics) or question (in the case of the Christians) appears so many times in the literature of antiquity, however, that it is thoroughly unclear where the origin lies—the ultimate source could be Christians or Hellenes, or both, and it is also possible that Hellenes such as Julian took objections from Christian texts such as Origen’s Contra Celsum.34 Celsus, according to the existent evidence, however, is not responsible for this particular attack of Julian (i.e., the one concerning the resurrection narratives). Cyril apparently does not know where Julian got his objection against the resurrection from.
Cyril knew of the existence of Porphyry’s Contra Christianos, but gives no indication of having read it: Πορφύριος µὲν οὖν, ὁ πικροὺς ἡµῶν καταχέας λόγους, καὶ τῆς Χριστιανῶν θρησκείας µονονουχὶ κατορχούµενος (Porphyry, therefore, who poured down bitter words against as, and all but danced in triumph over the Christian religion . . .).35 He calls Porphyry “Julian’s companion and the father of the impudent loquacity against us” (Πορφύριος τοίνυν ὁ αὐτοῦ κοινωνὸς, καὶ τῆς καθ᾽ ἡµῶν ἀθυροστοµίας πατὴρ . . .), in one of his references to Porphyry’s Vita Pythagorae.36 He gives no indication, however, of having seen the Contra Christianos. His silence, consequently, about the source of Julian’s objection is unremarkable, if Porphyry was Julian’s source. Cyril used Eusebius’s Praeparatio and Chronicon in his response to Julian.37
The objections and questions about the resurrection, however, probably existed long before Porphyry’s Contra Christianos and Eusebius’s Quaestiones.38
Dionysius of Alexandria (death in 264-265), for example, wrote a letter to Basilides, who was presumably identical with the homonymic bishop of the Pentapolis, that mentions the discrepancies in the Gospels about the times of the resurrection.39 Dionysius’s conclusions are: “. . . according to St Matthew and St John the women who visited the tomb arrived at a late hour in the night and found Him risen, while according to St Luke and St Mark those who came with spices arrived somewhat later and also found Him risen . . .”40 His fundamental exegetical principle is: “Let us not assume that the evangelists disagree with or contradict each other” (καὶ µηδὲ διαφωνεῖν µηδὲ ἐναντιοῦσθαι τοὺς εὐαγγελιστὰς πρὸς ἀλλήλλους ὑπολάβωµεν).41 This principle is explicitly rejected by Julian, and almost certainly by Porphyry, with regard to the resurrection narratives.
Julian’s objection to the differences in the resurrection narratives is probably inspired by one of Porphyry’s arguments. Pagans such as Julian and Porphyry attacked the resurrection narratives, and ancient Christians posed similar questions. It is intriguing that the issue of the resurrection of Jesus and the concept of resurrection are still subjects of discussion by philosophers. Even logical empiricists such as A. J. Ayer ([1988a] 40; [1988b] 13) could not resist the siren call.
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Severian of Gabala (fl. ca 400)Creat. 6.3 (pg 56:487) made a similar claim (τοῦ θείου δόγµατος πολλοὺς ἀποστήσαντι [causing many to apostatize from the divine religion]) about Porphyry’s Contra Christianos which was burned by imperial decree on 17 Feb. 448 (the two variant sources are: Codex Iustinianus 22.214.171.124; and [the more accurate and complete version] Collectio Vaticana § 138 [aco 1.1.4:66 Schwartz]).
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)| false , Severian of Gabala (fl. ca 400) 6. 3 ( pg56:487) made a similar claim (τοῦ θείου δόγµατος πολλοὺς ἀποστήσαντι [causing many to apostatize from the divine religion]) about Porphyry’s Contra Christianos, which was burned by imperial decree on 17 Feb. 448 (the two variant sources are: Codex Iustinianus126.96.36.199; and [the more accurate and complete version] Collectio Vaticana§ 138 [ aco1.1.4:66 Schwartz]).
M. Jugie (1922) 293.
S. Morlet (2011b) 48-49.
Morlet (2011b) 48-49.
CyrilC. Iul. 8.261 (pg 76:900A-B) and cp. Eusebius E.Steph. [Eklogē ad Stephanum] 1.10 (94-96 Zamagni). I thank Professor Boulnois for this point (personal communication of 19 Dec. 2014). Cyril quotes the entire text (with several variations from the modern editions of the lxx) but Eusebius summarizes the verses. Julian asserts that Matthew and Luke are demonstrably in disagreement concerning the genealogies (ἐλέγχονται γὰρ Ματθαῖος καὶ Λουκᾶς περὶ τῆς γενεαλογίας αὐτοῦ διαφωνοῦντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους). Cf. C. Gal. F. 62 (158 Mas.) and Cook New Testament 289-290 (Christians also asked a similar question). Cp. F. 90 where Julian finds a discrepancy between Matt 1:16 and Luke 3:23 (Hier. Matt. 1.3 on 1:16 = 184 Mas.): Jerome calls it an accusation of dissonantia (discord difference). F. 90 corresponds closely with an objection in Ishoʿdad which he attributes to Julian and Porphyry (Comm. in Matt. 1:15-16 [Gibson Commentaries 1:12 (trans.) 2:20 (the Syriac)]) who “contradict” (ܡܬܕܠܩܒܝܢ) the evangelists. bar Koni notes that Julian wanted to show that the evangelists disagreed with each other (with regard to Jesus’s genealogy) and that Luke does not speak of the “legal” (i.e. Levirate) ancestry of Joseph since Boaz is mentioned as the father of Obed and not Mahlon (who would be the Levirate father since as Ruth’s dead husband he should be named as Obed’s father [according to the law of Levirate marriage; cf. Deut 25:5-6]) thus establishing a contradiction between Luke 3:24 and Matt 1:16. See Liber schol. Mimrā 7.12 (csco.s 69/26:66-67 Scher [Syriac] csco.s 432/188:47 Hesperl/Draguet [trans.]) and Guida (1994) 199-200. Cf. also Cook (2000) 289-290.
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)| false , Cyril 8. 261 ( pg76:900A-B) and cp. Eusebius, E.Steph. [Eklogē ad Stephanum]1.10 (94-96 Zamagni). I thank Professor Boulnois for this point (personal communication of 19 Dec. 2014). Cyril quotes the entire text (with several variations from the modern editions of the lxx), but Eusebius summarizes the verses. Julian asserts that Matthew and Luke are demonstrably in disagreement concerning the genealogies (ἐλέγχονται γὰρ Ματθαῖος καὶ Λουκᾶς περὶ τῆς γενεαλογίας αὐτοῦ διαφωνοῦντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους). Cf. C. Gal.F. 62 (158 Mas.) and Cook, New Testament, 289-290 (Christians also asked a similar question). Cp. F. 90 where Julian finds a discrepancy between Matt 1:16 and Luke 3:23 (Hier., Matt.1.3 on 1:16 = 184 Mas.): Jerome calls it an accusation of dissonantia(discord, difference). F. 90 corresponds closely with an objection in Ishoʿdad, which he attributes to Julian and Porphyry ( Comm. in Matt.1:15-16 [Gibson, Commentaries, 1:12 (trans.), 2:20 (the Syriac)]), who “contradict” (ܡܬܕܠܩܒܝܢ) the evangelists. bar Koni notes that Julian wanted to show that the evangelists disagreed with each other (with regard to Jesus’s genealogy) and that Luke does not speak of the “legal” (i.e., Levirate) ancestry of Joseph, since Boaz is mentioned as the father of Obed and not Mahlon (who would be the Levirate father, since as Ruth’s dead husband, he should be named as Obed’s father [according to the law of Levirate marriage; cf. Deut 25:5-6]), thus establishing a contradiction between Luke 3:24 and Matt 1:16. See Liber schol.Mimrā 7.12 ( csco.s69/26:66-67 Scher [Syriac], csco.s432/188:47 Hesperl/Draguet [trans.]) and Guida (1994) 199-200. Cf. also Cook (2000) 289-290.
On this last point cf. M.-O. Boulnois (2014) 128.
Grant (1964) 269-270 counts eleven quotations from the p.e. and one from the Chronicon (gcs Eusebius Werke v 10 Karst). Others from Eusebius include Cyril’s quotations of Plato and Plotinus. Both Eusebius’s p.e. and Chronicon contain excerpts from (or allusions to) Porphyr’s C. Christ. but neither includes an objection to the resurrection by Porphyry. See the convenient edition of Ramos Jurado et al. (2006).
The summary by Feltoe (1904) 93 and Dionsyius Ep. ad Basilidem 1 (96 Feltoe) with ref. to Matt 28:1 John 20:1 Luke 24:1 and Mark 16:2. Dionysius proceeds to harmonize Matt 28:1-6 John 20:1 Luke 23:56-24:2 and Mark 16:1-2 (ibid. 96-99 Feltoe).