Apollonius of Tyana
by Dr. R. W. Bernard (1964)
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
Part 1: The Historical Apollonius Versus the Mythical Jesus
In order to make the previously despised cult of the Essenes, or early Christians, acceptable to Constantine, emperor of Rome - the Church Fathers had to remove from its teachings certain doctrines which they knew were objectionable to him. Chief among these was the prohibition against the use of meats and wines, which was a cardinal doctrine of early Essene Christianity. It was for this reason that the churchmen at Nicea found it necessary to remove from the Gospels these objectionable doctrines, for they knew that Constantine loved the red meats and flowing wines of his midnight revels too much to be willing to accept a religion which required from its adherents complete abstinence from these indulgences, as early Essene Christianity did. To accomplish this, certain "correctors" were appointed, whose task it was to rewrite the Gospels, omitting all that pertained to vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol. The Church Fathers had an additional reason to do this - for they themselves had no desire to make such a radical change in their own living habits.
That the original Gospels were rewritten and altered at the Council of Nicea is indicated by the following statement by Archdeacon Wilberforce, who writes:
"Some are not aware that, after the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325,
the manuscripts of the New Testament were considerably tampered
with. Prof. Nestle, in his `Introduction to the Textual
Criticism of the Greek Testament,' tells us that certain
scholars, called `correctores,' were appointed by the
ecclesiastical authorities, and actually commissioned to correct
the text of the Scripture in the interest of what was considered
The first act of the Church Fathers, after they created their new religion and its messiah, neither of which existed previously, was to burn all books they could lay their hands on, especially those written during the first few centuries, which made no mention of Jesus and which referred to Apollonius as the spiritual leader of the first century, realizing as they did that such books, if they were not destroyed, constituted a dangerous menace to the survival of their deception. It was for this reason that the churchmen took such great pains to burn the ancient libraries, including the famous Alexandrian Library with its 400,000 volumes, which was burnt to the ground by edict of Theodosius, when a Christian mob destroyed the Serapeum where the scrolls and manuscripts were kept.
However, the churchmen failed to their purpose, for prior to its burning which they foresaw, the librarians of the Alexandrian Library had secretly removed from it some of the most precious volumes, which they carried eastward for safety.
Among the works which were thus saved from the flames of the Alexandrian Library, the one which has created the most widespread and long-continued discussion was the "Life of Apollonius of Tyana," written by Flavius Philostratus at the beginning of the third century A.D. As if by irony fate, this book - which of all books burnt in the Alexandrian Library, was one of the most dangerous - was preserved down through the centuries, resisting all attempts to destroy it. The reason why this book was so much dreaded by the churchmen was because, while it made no mention whatsoever of the existence of Jesus or of Christianity, it presented Apollonius of Tyana as the universally acclaimed world teacher of the first century, reverenced from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, by everyone, from the lowest slave to the Emperor himself.
No book ever written has aroused by heated argument over a longer period of time than this biography by Philostratus. From the early centuries of our era, when Hercules and Eusebius first started it, until the days of Blount, Voltaire and the Deists, the controversy raged unabated. For Philostratus, in his book described a character, born in the very year of the birth of Christ, who, in every respect, was the equal, if not the superior, of the Christian messiah.
W. B. Wallace, writing on "The Apollonius of Philostratus," calls Philostratus's biography a "pagan counterblast to the gospel of Galilee, representing a Greek saviour as an alternative to the Semitic one." (Westminster Review, July-Dec. 1902). Furthermore, the main events of the lives of both men were so closely parallel that the reader cannot help but conclude that if Jesus is not a fictitious imitation of Apollonius, then Apollonius must be an imitation of him, since it would be highly improbable for two such similar men to have been born the same year and to have such similar biographies.
F. A. Campbell, in his `Apollonius of Tyana,' writes:
"Thankful Tyana, like ungrateful Nazareth, had nursed a prophet
of blameless life, of miraculous power, of super-abundant
loving-kindness, and of heroic virtue. Both Apollonius of Tyana
and Jesus of Nazareth were born in the same lustrum, if not the
same year. Both Tyana's babe and Bethlehem's were said to have
sprung from a divine Father and a human mother, and both of
these holy ones drew their first breath amid gracious portents
and supernatural singings. Nor were these the only parallels in
the memoirs of the Tyanean and the Nazarene.
"Orthodox Christians had been accustomed to affirm boldly the
finality of Mary's son; but, like a bolt from the blue, here was
Philostratus opposing himself to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
and offering an alternative Messiah."
"The birth of Apollonius is assigned to the year 4 B.C. But as
everybody knows, the current computation of the beginning of the
Christian era is incorrect, and the first year of our Lord ought
to be dated four or five years earlier. If the Apollonian and
Christian nativities both belong to the same year, the
coincidence is entitled the more attention than it has
Also it is strange that, though they were both supposed to be the greatest
men of their age, they did not know of each other's existence. And since
there is absolutely authentic historical evidence of the existence of
Apollonius, but not a shred of genuine proof of the existence of Jesus, we
must conclude that if one of these figures is fictitious and an imitation
of the other, it is Jesus who is the fiction and Apollonius the historical
personage. Concerning the existence, or rather, the non-existence, of
Jesus, Tschendorf writes:
"Thankful Tyana, like ungrateful Nazareth, had nursed a prophet of blameless life, of miraculous power, of super-abundant loving-kindness, and of heroic virtue. Both Apollonius of Tyana and Jesus of Nazareth were born in the same lustrum, if not the same year. Both Tyana's babe and Bethlehem's were said to have sprung from a divine Father and a human mother, and both of these holy ones drew their first breath amid gracious portents and supernatural singings. Nor were these the only parallels in the memoirs of the Tyanean and the Nazarene.
"Orthodox Christians had been accustomed to affirm boldly the finality of Mary's son; but, like a bolt from the blue, here was Philostratus opposing himself to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and offering an alternative Messiah."
"Author after author, volume after volume, of the life of Christ
may appear until the archives of the universe are filled, and
yet all we have of the life of Jesus is to be found in Matthew's
gospel. Not a single person specially associated with Jesus
In Taylor's "Diegesis," [1829, Oaknam, England] we read:
"We have investigated the claims of every document possessing a
plausible claim to be investigated which history has preserved
of the transactions of the First century and not so much as a
single passage, purporting to have been written at any time
within the first hundred years, can be produced to show the
existence of such a man as Jesus Christ or of such a set of men
as could be accounted to be his disciples."
Commenting on this statement by Taylor, J. M. Roberts, in his "Antiquity
Unveiled," [1892; Oriental Publishing Co., Philadelphia] writes:
"In the first chapter of Matthew the geneology of Jesus is given
as the twenty-eighth generation from David down through Joseph
to Christ. In the third chapter of Luke the same geneology is
given as being the forty-third generation from Christ through
Joseph to David. This is a very remarkable oversight on the part
of the translators, for if there was anything they could agree
on, it is in regard to the descent of Christ.
"All the Christians that ever lived or ever will live will find
their ideal Jesus but a phantom -- a myth. They can chase it as
a child would a butterfly through a meadow on a summer's
afternoon, and it will elude their grasp. The Christian Jesus is
nothing more than the Chrishna of the Hindus."
"On the other hand we have abundant proof that Jesus Christ is
founded on the known life of Apollonius of Tyana, the earthly
existence of whom has never been questioned, to which is added
passages from the lives of various personage, and teachings
concerning the mythical gods of other lands. The Prometheus of
the Greeks was the character which suggested the crucifixion
(also the crucifixion of Chrishna in Christosite traditions.)
The Eleusinian mysteries suggested the "Last Supper" and these
together with doctrines of ancient sun worship were gathered and
represented to be a history of the events connected with the
life of the Christian Jesus. (Prometheus on the crag, suffering
for the good of mankind, suggests Jesus on the cross, changing
Prometheus for Jesus and the Sythian crag for the cross.)
No contemporary writers who lived at the time when Jesus is supposed to
have lived make mention of him; though forged allusions to Jesus occur in
the books of Livy and Josephus. In his "History of the Jews," written in
the First century, at a time when Jesus would have enjoyed his greatest
popularity among the Jews if he had existed, though pages and pages are
devoted to persons of no importance whatever and who would have been
forgotten forever had not Josephus mentioned them, there is not a single
mention of Jesus in the original edition. On this point, Dr. Edmond B.
Szekely, in his "Origin of Christianity, writes:
"In the first chapter of Matthew the geneology of Jesus is given as the twenty-eighth generation from David down through Joseph to Christ. In the third chapter of Luke the same geneology is given as being the forty-third generation from Christ through Joseph to David. This is a very remarkable oversight on the part of the translators, for if there was anything they could agree on, it is in regard to the descent of Christ.
"All the Christians that ever lived or ever will live will find their ideal Jesus but a phantom -- a myth. They can chase it as a child would a butterfly through a meadow on a summer's afternoon, and it will elude their grasp. The Christian Jesus is nothing more than the Chrishna of the Hindus."
"There is not a word, or better, there is no longer a word in
the works of Flavius Josephus about the Messiah, the Christ
crucified by Pontius Pilate, except for a crude interpolation,
quite obviously false...The silence of Josephus is not due to
disdain or studied neutrality."
In an eighth century Slavonic edition of Josephus's book, such an
interpolation occurs, referring to a certain Jesus, son of Joseph, and
which covers only a passing paragraph, the brevity of which clearly
reveals its fraudulent origin, for, if Jesus were mentioned at all, much
more space would have been devoted to him. And coincident with such
interpolations of early authors, occurred the censorship of all books
making reference to Apollonius, whose name was omitted or abbreviated.
(Thus, in the original Pauline Epistles, which, we have reason to believe,
originally had Apollonius as their central figure and were written by him,
his name is abbreviated to "Apollos" and "Pol" (Paul.)
That Apollos (conceded by no less an authority than the Encyclopedia Britannica to be an abbreviation of Apollonius) was the real author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, falsely attributed to Paul, was the opinion of Martin Luther and other eminent scholars.
And if Apollonius wrote some of the so-called Pauline Epistles, there is a possibility that he may have written others, AND, IN FACT, ALL).
Plutarch, the eminent biographer, who lived between 46 and 120 A. D. would certainly have made mention of Jesus if he had existed, since he wrote when Jesus's fame would have been at its height. Yet in the voluminous works of Plutarch, not a single reference to any such man as Jesus can be found. Although Plutarch's miscellaneous writings make mention of or allude with unerring certainty to nearly every religious and ethical opinion of his time, he is absolutely silent on the subject of Christianity and concerning the existence of Jesus. Though he knew the utmost detail of the lives of great men who lived centuries ago, we could hardly believe that Plutarch could have been entirely unaware of the existence of such a great man as Jesus who lived only a few years previously. This is all the more surprising because the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus, where Plutarch lived, were only a few day's journey from Boetia, where, if we may believe Christian writers, the proselytes of Christianity were swarming at the time.
But while Plutarch belonged to a different race and was born after his alleged crucifixion, Philo, a Jew, who lived at exactly the same time in the first part of the first century, and who visited the Essenes and wrote about them, should, and above all others, have made mention of Jesus, who, if he had lived, would undoubtedly have been the leader of this sect. Yet not one word is found in Philo's writings concerning the existence of Jesus, any more than is there one word in the original edition of the "History of the Jews" of Josephus. Nor did any other writer in the first century mention Jesus. They did not because he did not yet exist. He was first born three centuries later, created by the churchmen at Nicea, in their effort to find an alternative messiah, more pleasing to Constantine and the Romans, to be put in the place of Apollonius.
That the early Christians themselves, and not only the Pagans, were ignorant of the existence of any such man as Jesus, has been clearly proven by the catacomb researches of Eisler, a student of early Christian archaeology. In his work, "Orpheus the Fisher," Eisler shows that no representations can be found among the catacomb inscriptions that depict Jesus, the cross or the crucifixion. Instead, a Greek figure is represented as the leader of the sect, a vegetarian and friend of animals, depicted either under the fig - of Orpheus playing his lyre and surrounded by friendly animals, or as the Good Shepherd (Hermes) carrying a lamb around his neck. These representations obviously refer to Apollonius whose cardinal teachings consisted of vegetarianism and the abolition of animal sacrifices. Eisler's findings were further verified by Lundy, who, in his "Monumental Christianity," a work on early Christian archaeology, likewise reports the entire absence of any reference in the catacomb inscriptions to Jesus or a crucified saviour, in whose place is found the familiar Greek figures of Orpheus and the Good Shepherd, who are represented as friends of animals.
The closest original that can be found of the Jesus of the New Testament is a rabbi named Jehoshua Ben Pandira, who lived about a century B. C. In his "Life of Jehoshua," Dr. Franz Hartman states that this illegitimate child of a Jewish maiden, Stada, and a Roman soldier, Pandira, who is mentioned in the Talmud, was the original Jesus. He was referred to as a rabbi of not very great importance, who studied the mysteries in Egypt, and who was put to death by stoning after an attempted crucifixion.
Seeking a substitute for Apollonius, the Church fathers seized upon Jehoshua, and changing his name to that of the Druid sun god, HESUS, and shifting the date of his birth forward a century, he was transformed into Jesus. On this subject, Manly Hall writes: "It is very possible that the early Church Fathers, seeking desperately for a concrete human being on which to hang the fabric of their faith, picked Jehoshua Ben Pandira as the nearest parallel to be found among the Jewish rabbins. Armed with this small fragment of history, they proceeded to correlate the two; building in a little here; and removing same contradictory fragment there, until, lo, and behold, the 'King of Kings' is a Nazarene, in spite of the popular opinion that nothing good can come out of Nazareth.
"The most perplexing and comparatively unsolved mystery with
which the Christian theologian is faced is the almost complete
lack of historical evidence concerning the life of Christ. If we
accept a few palpable forgeries, our knowledge of the life of
Christ is based principally upon the accounts given in the
Gospels... The gravest doubts exist as to the authorship of the
gospels of the New Testament. The Encyclopedia Brittannica
acknowledges not only these doubts, but admits that there is no
proof of any kind that the Gospels were written by the men whose
names have been affixed to them in more recent time."
"This Further explains why Helena, the mother of Constantine,
within three hundred years after the death of Jesus, was unable
to find in all of Jewry any man who had even heard of him.
According to the story, she finally came upon one aged man who
claimed to have heard that Jesus had lived. He took her to an
old Roman execution field where the excavation revealed a number
of crosses. When the whole matter had been settled to every
one's satisfaction, Constantine, to show his extreme veneration,
had one of the passion nails pounded into a bit for his horse.
In 1894, there appeared a remarkable book written by J. M. Roberts
entitled "Antiquity Unveiled," in which evidence was presented to prove
that no such man as Jesus of Nazareth ever lived, but the name was adopted
by the framers of Christianity to cover the identity of Apollonius of
Tyana whose teachings and mode of life they purloined and made use of as a
model upon which to construct their system." He adds: "The world has the
uncontrovertible testimony that Christianity is of spurious origin and the
most consummate piece of plagiarism in human history."
"The most perplexing and comparatively unsolved mystery with which the Christian theologian is faced is the almost complete lack of historical evidence concerning the life of Christ. If we accept a few palpable forgeries, our knowledge of the life of Christ is based principally upon the accounts given in the Gospels... The gravest doubts exist as to the authorship of the gospels of the New Testament. The Encyclopedia Brittannica acknowledges not only these doubts, but admits that there is no proof of any kind that the Gospels were written by the men whose names have been affixed to them in more recent time."
In sharp contrast with the scarcity, or rather the absence of information regarding Jesus, is the abundance of reliable historical data available concerning Apollonius of Tyana, who, during the first century, enjoyed universal fame from one end of the Roman empire to the other, being honored by all. More than seventeen temples were dedicated to him in various parts of the empire. Nearly a dozen Roman Emperors held him in awe and reverence. (The Roman emperors; Vespasian, Titus and Nerva, were all, prior to their elevation to the throne, friends and admirers of Apollonius, while Nero and Domitian regarded the philosopher with dismay.) The Emperor Septimus Severus (A.D. 193-211 erected a statue to him in his gallery of deities in the Pantheon, while his son, Emperor Caracella, honored his memory with a chapel or monument.
Lampridus, who lived in the third century, further informs us that the Emperor Alexander Severus (A. D. 222-235) placed a statue of Apollonius in his labarium side by side with one of Orpheus.
It was the wife of Septimus Severus, the empress Julia Domna who commissioned the philosopher, Philostratus, a member of a circle of writers who collected around her, to write the life of Apollonius of Tyana, based on manuscripts in her possession, chiefly the memoirs of Apollonius's disciple and traveling companion, Damis, in addition to records preserved in different cities where Apollonius was held in esteem -- from temples whose long-disused rite he restored, from traditions, from epistles of Apollonius addressed to kings and sophists and from his letters -- of which the Emperor Hadrian had made a collection which he deposited in his palace at Antium. (Julia Domna, known as the philosopher-empress because she was surrounded by men of letters and philosophers and dispensed enlightened patronage to thought and learning, was the daughter of Bassiamus, priest of the sun at Emesa in Syria. Philostratus was a member of a group of famous writers and thinkers who gathered around her. She was a woman of high intelligence and remarkable purity of character, living in seclusion and devoting her time to literature and philosophy in her extensive library. As in the case of Sappho, a woman of egually exemplary morality, she was falsely defamed by the scribes of the same churchmen who were later responsible for the brutal murder of Hypatia. These three greatest women of antiquity, together with Joan of Arc, the greatest woman of modern times, were all victims of a criminally jealous male clerical fraternity.
Another biography of Apollonius was written by Soterichur of Oasis during the reign of Diocletian, but is non-existent, having been destroyed by the Christians together with other ancient writings referring to him. Still another biography was written by Moeragenes, which was likewise lost.
Though written in the early part of the third century A.D., Philostratus's biography of Apollonius of Tyana was not permitted to be publish.ed in Europe until the year 1501, when Aldus printed the first Latin edition to appear in Europe. This was followed by an Italian and French translation, but it was not until 1680 that the first English translation was made by Blount, an English Deist.
Blount's notes on the book raised such an outcry that, in 1693, the book was condemned by the church and its further publication forbidden. (Concerning the effects of Blount's translation; Campbell, in his "Apollonius of Tyana," writes: "Fierce passions were let loose. Sermons, pamphlets and volumes descended upon the presumptious Blount like fireballs and hailstones and his adversaries did not rest until the authorities had forbidden him to print the remaining six books of his translation.")
In his notes, Blount pointed out that, "we must either admit the truth of the miracles of Apollonius as well as those of Jesus, or, if the former were untrue, there would be no better ground to believe in the latter." A century later Blount's notes were translated into French by the Encyclopedists. However, a century before Blount - Voltaire, Le Grand d'Aussy, Castillon and other French Deists wrote to the same effect, considering Apollonius as a far more authentic historical figure than Jesus, and fully his equal in every respect and as worthy of performing miracles if such were possible. (Francis Bacon also spoke of Apollonius in the highest terms. In Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" - which some have attributed to Bacon's authorship - appeared a quotation from Philostratus's biography of Apollonius to which Keats later referred in a footnote in his "Lamia.")
Blount, however, had translated only the first two books of Philostratus's work (there were eight in all, the remaining six remaining unpublished); and it was not until 1809 that the first complete English version was made by Edward Herwick. (In his preface of his work entitled "The First Two Books of Philostratus Concerning the Life of Apollonius to which Tyaneus, written originally in Greek, and now published in English," Blount, in self-protection, and obviously expressing opinions the opposite of what he really believed, humbly described his book as "no more than a bare narrative of the life of a philosopher, not of a new Messiah, or any ways in opposition to the old; no, Philostratus does not anywhere so much as mention the name of Christ. And if one Heathen Writer (Heirocles) did make an ill sue of this history, by comparing Apollonius with Christ, what is that to Philostratus, who never meant nor designed it so, as I can anywhere find? However Eusebius hath already confuted Hierocles, which confutation I had intended to have annexed to Philostratus as an antidote."
"Wherefore, if the Clergy would have Apollonius esteemed a Rogue
and a Juggler, that being risen from the dead, he is one of the
principal fomenters of this Popish Plot; or that there never was
any such man as Apollonius, with all my heart, what they please.
For I had much rather have him decried in his reputation than
that some grave Cardinal, with his long beard, and his
excommunicative 'Ha', should have me burnt for a heretic.")
"The whole translation I have already finished, and had
proceeded thus far as you see in my illustration, when I found
the alarm was given in all parts what a Dangerous Hook was
coming out; such a book as would unmask all practical atheists,
which (they being the greater number of men, might therefore
prove of pernicious consequence to the public. Above all, the
Popish Clergy thought themselves chiefly concerned herein, who
are so zealously revengeful and malicious, that I feared it is
might fare with me as it did with poor Esop, (who
notwithstanding he had broken jests upon several great kings and
potentates without being punished for the same, yet only
speaking against the priests of Delphos cost him his life.)
Herwick's volume became so rare that in 1907, two London book dealers of
world-wide reputation searched and even advertised in vain for a copy.
This indicates how well the ecclesiastical suppression of this dreaded
book had succeeded. And while today scarcely a person can be found, even
among the most educated, who even heard the name of Apollonius of Tyana,
much less knew anything about him, according to Campbell, "There was a day
when the name of Philostratus and Apollonius of Tyana was on every
educated Englishman's tongue," even though sectarian prejudice against
Apollonius characterizes every writer prior to the nineteenth century. The
popularity of Apollonius in ancient times stands in sharp contrast to his
almost complete oblivion today.
"Wherefore, if the Clergy would have Apollonius esteemed a Rogue and a Juggler, that being risen from the dead, he is one of the principal fomenters of this Popish Plot; or that there never was any such man as Apollonius, with all my heart, what they please. For I had much rather have him decried in his reputation than that some grave Cardinal, with his long beard, and his excommunicative 'Ha', should have me burnt for a heretic.")
That Apollonius, a mere man, should rival Jesus, a god, in so many important respects, in the eyes of the churchmen constituted an important reason to suppress Philostratus's book, since it tended to belittle the dignity of their savior. That Philostratus composed his "Life of Apollonius of Tyana" as a pagan counterblast to the Christian gospels is an opinion which has been held by reputable scholars both before and after Blount's day. (This opinion, which has been widely held by Christian writers, is evidently false, since Christianity as we know it did not exist at the time when Philostratus wrote, for he makes no mention of Jesus or of Christianity. In spite of this fact, the book has always been held with the greatest suspicion; and, even after the Renaissance, when it was introduced into Europe, Aldus hesitated for a time before he gave the right to publish it, at last resolving to do so, but adding to the text a reply by Eusebius to Hierocles' criticism of Christianity, in which he opposed the Apollonian to the Christian miracles, thereby, as he expressed it, giving "the antidote with the poison.")
Thus, the Bishop of Avranches, writing in the seventeenth century, expressed this view as follows: "Philostratus seems to have made it his chief aim to deprecate both the Christian faith and Christian doctrine, both of which were progressing wonderfully at that time, by the exhibition on the opposite side of that shallow representation of a miraculous science, holiness and virtue. He invented a character in imitation of Christ, and introduced almost all the incidents in the life of Jesus Christ into the history of Apollonius, in order that the pagans might have no cause to envy the Christians by doing which he inadvertently enhanced the glory of Christ, for by falsely attributing to another the real character of the Savior, he gave to the latter the praise which is His just due, and indirectly held Him up as the admiration and praise of others."
Tredwell, in his "Sketch of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana," writes:
"From the time that disputes began concerning the Christian
religion, Christians have charged Philostratus with having
appropriated the events and miracles contained in Matthew's
gospel to adorn his life of Apollonius of Tyana, and the pagans
have made countercharges of plagiarism against the writer of
this gospel. Upon the earlier accounts of Apollonius these
charges have been held to be of sufficient importance to meet
with efforts of refutation from eminent Christians; even as late
as our day, Rev. Albert Reville did not think it beneath his
dignity nor his great learning, to attempt in 1866 a refutation
of `this great and monstrous infidel slander.' He attempted to
show in a little book bearing the title of `Apollonius the Pagan
Christ of the Third Century' (meaning the first century) that
Philostratus had borrowed leading facts from the Gospel of
Matthew. Miraculous phenomena were related almost identical with
that record by Matthew in his gospel of Jesus Christ. And while
Jesus is said to have been casting out devils in Galilee,
Apollonius was, according to a tradition quite as trustworthy,
rendering mankind a similar service in Greece. Such was the
opinion of Catholic writers on the subject; and, according to
Daniel Huet, this statement by the Bishop of Avranches `ever
since that time has had great weight with all thoughtful