Apollonius Christ? Was Christ Born as a Jew or Was Christ a Greek Scientist?

Before he was born, his mother had a visitor from heaven who told her that her son would not be a mere mortal but in fact would be divine. His birth was accompanied by unusual divine signs in heaven. As an adult, he left his home to engage on an itinerant preaching ministry. He gathered a number of followers around him who became convinced that he was no ordinary human….And he did miracles to confirm them in their beliefs: he could heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. At the end of his life, he aroused opposition among the ruling authorities of Rome and was put on trial. But they could not kill his soul. He ascended to heaven.

Bart Denton Ehrman – Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina

Who do you think about when you read the above account? You may think about Jesus of Nazareth. In that case, you are wrong. This is the account of Apollonius of Tyana who was venerated by Roman nobility, particularly Emperor Aurelian (the Savior of the Roman Empire) and Emperor Julian (the Neoplatonic Hellenist). In the Roman Empire, there were Temples dedicated to him. Veneration of Apollonius continued until the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea convened in 325 AD and declared that Christ was Jesus and his father was the God of the Hebrew Bible. Does this mean that before this council, there existed a Christ whose father was not the God of Abraham?

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Christ Giving a Sermon. A Painting by Carl Bloch, 1890. CREDIT: Wikipedia.

A Momentous Period

The first century of the Common Era (CE) was a momentous period with many history-changing events occurring, such as the conquest of Britannia by Emperor Claudius and General Gaius Paulinus in 61 CE, establishment of Londinium (or Roman London – and today’s London) in Roman Britain in 47 CE, the disastrous 14-year reign of Nero Germanicus as a tyrant emperor (54-68 CE), the Great Fire of Rome of 64 CE, the first Roman civil war of 69 CE following the demise of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and end of Second Temple Judaism shortly thereafter, as well as the destruction of Pompeii in 79 CE following the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

However, these events were eclipsed by the most important historical event of the period – the popular expectation of a Christ led to the rise of a Christ who redeems humanity. This Christ became widely accepted in the third century CE as a universal Christ who has undergone apotheosis. The birth of this Christ marked a shift in human thought and trajectory of history. It even changed human understanding of time, with the period before the birth of Christ being declared the Before Christ (BC) period while his birth marked the dawn of the Anno Domini (AD) period, which is now recognized as the Common Era (CE). The focus of this post is this Christ during his lifetime and ministry.

In the third century CE, there were 2 Christs who were venerated by their followers. Both Christs were born in the first century CE, taught using parables, were described as wonder-workers, and died in the same century. Both Christs had disciples, condemned social injustice, criticized reigning authorities, and were condemned to death by the reigning authorities. However, one Christ was a philosopher-scientist who preached that intellect allowed one to commune with God while the other Christ was a Jewish exorcist. There was also a third Christ who came to become the Greater Yahweh of esoteric Christianity and Judaism came to recognize him as the Lesser Yahweh. Third Christ is the focus of DeHebraizing Christ: On the Apotheosis of an Ancient Non-Semitic Hero-King into Greater Yahweh. This post focuses on the two Christs – one who was venerated by Roman nobility and respected by the Neoplatonist philosophers while the other was venerated by the uneducated masses but later came to be declared the only acceptable Christ.

Apollonius of Tyana

In 97 A.D, the Neo-Pythagorean Greek philosopher, Apollonius of Tyana, disappeared and his followers believed that he had ascended to heaven. According to his followers, his life ended just as it started – in a preternatural manner. In Life of Apollonius of Tyana by the Athenian sophist, Lucius Philostratus, it is recorded that the Greek god of prophecy and water, Proteus, visited the mother of Apollonius to announce that she will give birth to a sage (i.e Apollonius). It is also recorded that Apollonius’ mother was surrounded by swans when she was giving birth to Apollonius. This account mirrors the birth of the god Apollo whose birth was witnessed by a bank of swans. It is therefore understandable why Apollonius was named after the god Apollo – who is the god of healing, prophecy, light, and truthful testimony. Philostratus also states that Apollonius’ father was named Apollonius, which could indicate that he was named after his father. To his followers, Apollonius was the god Apollo living among ordinary people on earth.

Apollonius was an intelligent child who at the age of 14 years had moved to Tarsus to study for a year, and then relocated to Ægeæ in Cilicia to study at a temple dedicated to Asclepius. It was here that he was introduced to NeoPythagoreanism and adopted its lifestyle, including walking barefoot and dressing in plain white linen. After completing his induction into this peculiar cult, he started his religious ministry that saw him successfully descend down the dark cave of nightmares to grapple with the Oracle of Trophinus, and thereafter emerged unscathed. Trophinus was a Greek god who was described as the son of the God Apollo, and during his human existence on earth, he was recognized as a talented architect, geometer, and builder who built the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This is notable because followers of Apollonius held geometry, architecture, and temple building in high regard just like the free masons of medieval Europe (later recognized as Operative Freemasons) and the later Speculative Freemasons who established Freemasonry.

Apollonius was not only a philosopher, but was also a wandering sage who preached – and according to his followers – performed miracles, including casting out demons and resurrecting the dead. He criticized social injustice, especially economic inequity, corrupt courts, and profligate extravagance of the rich. Equally, he advocated for asceticism and chastity. He was an astute preacher who was beloved by his followers. He also encouraged his followers to teach his religious ideals to other people. In other words, Apollonius asked his followers and disciples to engage in evangelism.

At this point, a question needs to be asked, what was Apollonius preaching or teaching his followers and the public?

apollonius gnosophia org

Apollonius and Pythagoreanism

As a Neo-Pythagorean, Apollonius, taught that numbers can explain the fundamental principles of reality. Neo-Pythagoreanism was rooted in Pythagoreanism – a Pre-Socratic school of philosophy.

Pythagoreanism was founded as a male-only Cult by the disciples of Pythagoras. I use the word disciple in its original meaning of mathētḗs – a Koine Greek word designating a pupil or apprentice or anyone who learns through instruction from a teacher. As a cult, it had its own teachings and lifestyle which included a vegetarian diet, simple living, and Bohemian-like wandering around teaching people how to live moral ethical lives. Moreover, its members were expected to have long hair and long beards, and they were trained in rhetoric. Another notable feature was echemythia – an oath of silence that could last for 5 years. Pythagoreans regarded Pythagoras as a miracle-working philosopher who discovered the monad and taught his disciples secret wisdom that would allow them to perform miracles and accomplish super-human feats. The ideas taught by Pythagoreans had an undeniable influence on later schools of thought, especially Platonism, Cynicism, and Neo-Platonism. So, what did Pythagoras teach his disciples?

Pythagoras Gnosophia org
Pythagoras. CREDIT.

Pythagoras was born circa 570 BCE (Before the Common Era). He taught that number is the abstract principle of creation and that matter emerges after it has been subjected to mathematical laws that can be expressed as equations or inequalities. He developed the Pythagorean Table of mathematical computations. He also taught that the earth was spherical after he studied the shadow that the earth cast onto the surface of the moon during a lunar eclipse. Pythagoras also taught that matter and spirit were distinct from each other, and that the human soul is immortal. To explain this immortality, Pythagoras stated that the soul is a fallen god (who cannot die) who is trapped in a human body and is doomed to suffer a perpetual cycle of rebirth that allows it to shed aged and/or diseased bodies and acquire new bodies (this is the basis of reincarnation).

In the first Century BCE, a new school emerged that fused ideas derived from Middle Platonism into the core teachings of Pythagoreanism, and this resulted in what is now called neo-Pythaogoreanism. Apollonius of Tyana was an important member of this school. Another notable neopythagoreanism was Numenius Apamensis who added more ideas from Platonism into NeoPythagoreanism thus laying the ground for the establishment of Neo-Platonism.

Apollonius taught that the earth revolved around the sun – a revolutionary idea at his time, but it allowed him to use this heliocentrism to justify his idea that intellect gives life just as sunlight supports the existence of all life on earth. He was a scientist who used parables to express his ideas and, and taught the Platonic concept of metempsychosis (or reincarnation of souls – an idea that was borrowed from Orphism). Early Christians (like their contemporaneous Jews) believed in reincarnation and were taught so by Basilides in the Restoration of All Things, as well as Bishop Valentinus who authored the Gospel of Truth – a Coptic Gospel. Reincarnation was rejected at the Second Council of Constantinople that was convened in 553 AD because it undermined the need for salvation by Christ and obviated the need for the body to resurrect. Moreover, reincarnation makes Christianity appear as popular Platonism (or pop Platonism).

Equally, Apollonius taught that there is only One God who can be reached only by the intellect (and that prayers and sacrifices were unnecessary, but people lacking refined intellect can use them to try to reach God).

On God and Rationality

Karl Marx in The Union of the Faithful with Christ elevates Plato as the Divine Plato. That was before Marx studied philosophy and adopted a more hostile approach to religion as is evident in his work, Differences Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, where he argues that to a person for whom the world is irrational, then God is necessary and thus concluded that irrationality necessitates the existence of God. Interestingly, Democritus and Plato had argued that God was necessary to create order in an irrational world. Apollonius of Tyana had studied the works of Plato and Democritus, and had concluded that religion was necessary for making sense of existence and life.

Apollonius of Tyana had disciples and engaged contemporaneous philosophers and priests. Apollonius was also regarded as a wonder-worker and miracles were attributed to him, including managing a plague epidemic in Ephesus and bringing back to life the daughter of a Roman Senator. However, these biographers describe these miracles as works of science, and I agree with them. Managing a plague requires knowledge of public health and managing to bring a comatose patient back to consciousness cannot be described as resurrection.

How Apollonius of Tyana died is not known with certainty. According to Philostratus – who was commissioned by Empress Julia Domna to write a biography of Apollonius of Tyana – Apollonius was arrested by Septimus Severus on charges of treason and conspiracy against Emperor Domitian, but he disappeared from his cell thus evading execution. What is interesting is that Julia Domna was the wife of Emperor Septimus Severus. In another account, Apollonius ascended to heaven when he was at a temple. This idea that Apollonius ascended to heaven in full view of the public mirrors the ascension of Jesus to heaven before the eyes of his disciples as recorded in Luke 24:51.

Apollonius of Tyana has been been proved to have existed. However, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is a topic of controversy, especially among biblical scholars, and this has led to the development of the Christ Myth Theory which argues that Jesus of Nazareth is a mythical figure. The opponent of the Christ Myth Theory, Bart Ehrman (a notable Biblical scholar), explains that the historical Jesus never existed and that the Gospels should be regarded as allegories and works of fiction.

To be Continued…

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