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Porphyry's Against the Christians

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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. 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.


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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. 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.

30 review for Porphyry's Against the Christians

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mina

    Couple of decades before Christianity got popular enough that Constantine made it legal, Porphyry was diligently taking the piss out of the New Testament. Naturally, copies of the books were burned, so what we are left with in the end are quotes, preserved in some of his adversaries’ rebuttals. Let’s savour that irony for a moment. Basically, what we have are the thorniest quotes, selected by a tribunal of his critics, a ‘best of’ compilation - remember there were many other heretics and blasphemer Couple of decades before Christianity got popular enough that Constantine made it legal, Porphyry was diligently taking the piss out of the New Testament. Naturally, copies of the books were burned, so what we are left with in the end are quotes, preserved in some of his adversaries’ rebuttals. Let’s savour that irony for a moment. Basically, what we have are the thorniest quotes, selected by a tribunal of his critics, a ‘best of’ compilation - remember there were many other heretics and blasphemers to address - a judiciously irreverent collection... And a great airplane read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mateusz

    "The only true priests are the wise of the world, not the "fools praying and offering sacrifice"" "It is easier 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" - Porphyry. As it was, so it is. "The only true priests are the wise of the world, not the "fools praying and offering sacrifice"" "It is easier 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" - Porphyry. As it was, so it is.

  3. 4 out of 5

    STEVILon

    Indeterminately Porphyry Based on what is presented there is no definate proof that the arguments presented actually come from Porphyry's work. Nevertheless a picture is painted of the disdain pagan philosophers held for the new religion. The epilogue makes the text a better read than it otherwise would be. Well written. Indeterminately Porphyry Based on what is presented there is no definate proof that the arguments presented actually come from Porphyry's work. Nevertheless a picture is painted of the disdain pagan philosophers held for the new religion. The epilogue makes the text a better read than it otherwise would be. Well written.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Jung jr.

    Early attacks on christianity I chose this rating for I thought the writer raised arguments against christianity which seemed honest.i thought at times he was harsh.i felt.at times he was looking for reasons to disbelieve.i recommend this book to those who want to know what ancient unbelievers thought of the faith.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    After reading Hans Lewy's Text on the Chaldean Oracles, I broke down and read this. The Epilouge was amazing. I really never thought about St. Peter killing that guy before. After reading Hans Lewy's Text on the Chaldean Oracles, I broke down and read this. The Epilouge was amazing. I really never thought about St. Peter killing that guy before.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aden2g

    Based

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tea

    Old argument.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Constantinos Nterziotis

    From the 15 books that Porphyry has written in the 3rd century a.C. in order to examine the teachings of students of Christ under the lens of logic and philosophy, nothing has been survived until some fragments from references of other writers, Professor Adolf von Harnack in 1916 collected all those fragments and reconstructed one book with quotes that most of them are attributed to Porphyry. The main prism of the book is that Porphyry is not accepting any metaphorical explanation of the Holy Bi From the 15 books that Porphyry has written in the 3rd century a.C. in order to examine the teachings of students of Christ under the lens of logic and philosophy, nothing has been survived until some fragments from references of other writers, Professor Adolf von Harnack in 1916 collected all those fragments and reconstructed one book with quotes that most of them are attributed to Porphyry. The main prism of the book is that Porphyry is not accepting any metaphorical explanation of the Holy Bible, he is taking it as a text and he notices some of the illogical parts who contradict each other or contradict with reality or contradict with logic. From the fragments we have he is attacking to Peter and Paulos, to some parts of the evangels, to some prophets and lastly to some parts of the apocalypse. He writes in a clear way, using logic and valid arguments. Other christian writers have wrote books to respond to his objections bu nothing has been survived because king Theodosius and the others ordered the burning of all books who had quotes or teaching of Porphyry. Anyway, the book is very useful for a christian and a non christian because the way he thinks is well structured, he has written some very subtle teachings like the commonality of christian angels and hellenes gods, like the need of creation of statues, how statues and gods are created. Moreover, the Holy Bible remains the same book but the teachings that christianity provides today are more profound that the teaching of the 3rd century, due to all this valid criticism. For example, Porphyri is making fun of how easily a christian can be forgiven from his falses, because christians believed that baptism was enough, though all schools of hellenic philosophy could not accept this teaching... A long practice of virtues will lead to salvation of the soul, so it is up to the person, not up to the deity.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    As the subtitle indicates, this is not a complete ancient text. In the decades after the Roman Empire became officially Christian, Porphyry's text was ordered to be destroyed. Hoffman has translated and assembled quotations which survive in a Christian book rebutting Porphyry's arguments. Most of the text here is actually Hoffman's commentary and background, which are generally quite good. This (and Hoffman's similar work on Celsus) offer modern readers a great chance to see into the ancient wor As the subtitle indicates, this is not a complete ancient text. In the decades after the Roman Empire became officially Christian, Porphyry's text was ordered to be destroyed. Hoffman has translated and assembled quotations which survive in a Christian book rebutting Porphyry's arguments. Most of the text here is actually Hoffman's commentary and background, which are generally quite good. This (and Hoffman's similar work on Celsus) offer modern readers a great chance to see into the ancient world and especially into Christianity at a time when "orthodoxy" was still being debated. It also reveals philosophical objections to Christianity which have nothing to do with the currently much-discussed issue of 'historicity' and even the social assumptions of the time, which are based in a world remarkably unlike ours.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Cranney

    Interesting how so much yet so little changes in anti-Christian literature in 2000 years. Uses a lot of appeal to ridicule like some of its more recent counterparts, but also brought up some interesting issues that I hadn't seen before, whereas the more recent stuff usually dismisses Christian claims without reading the material close enough to be able to make the kind of arguments Porphyry does here. From my 21st century perspective it seems like he just doesn't get the point, but I am reading Interesting how so much yet so little changes in anti-Christian literature in 2000 years. Uses a lot of appeal to ridicule like some of its more recent counterparts, but also brought up some interesting issues that I hadn't seen before, whereas the more recent stuff usually dismisses Christian claims without reading the material close enough to be able to make the kind of arguments Porphyry does here. From my 21st century perspective it seems like he just doesn't get the point, but I am reading this through a certain lens, and when the text is constantly taken at literalistic face value some of his concerns might make sense.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Reinhard Gobrecht

    Das Buch ist religionskritisch und deckt Widersprüche in der Religion und in der Bibel auf. Durch den Gebrauch der Vernunft wird die Bibel, und damit auch die christliche Offenbarung zum Problem.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter J.

    This was an interesting read. It is a shame that all we have of this multi volume work are fragments, since all known copies were ordered to be burned.

  13. 5 out of 5

    TR

    I love these curt, classical dismissals of Christian lunacy. A few pages is all they deserve.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  15. 4 out of 5

    Petros Vouris

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mr O'Sourlin

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ken Zauter

  18. 4 out of 5

    Apostolidis Babis

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Peters

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sean Strnad

  23. 5 out of 5

    B

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom Spiva

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leviathan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marfita

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lee Hall

  28. 4 out of 5

    Demi Koritsi

  29. 4 out of 5

    rati

  30. 5 out of 5

    Orestis Karasmanis

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