One of the first things that gets mentioned about the historical Jesus is a comparison with the contemporary Greek and Roman theioi andres or "divine men" (sing. theios aner). Because Jesus is unambiguously presented as a miracle-worker in all four Gospels, it's normal to compare him to similar portraits, usually Hellenistic because of the widespread nature of the religion amongst Gentiles by the time such a development would've taken place.
However, this comparison is in my opinion so unwarranted that not only is there no comparison, but as I see it, the evidence doesn't even suggest there was a category of miracle workers associated with the "divine men" in Greco-Roman culture at all! This idea came as a natural product of the mentality that ruled the 19th and early 20th centuries of biblical scholarship, and is taken as such an indisputable fact, that the evidence, which was never thoroughly looked at in the first place, is completely unresearched.
What ends up happening is individual miracle-stories in the ancient sources are used and compared with the New Testament, and the whole of these stories is then transposed to some category associated with "divine men". The only types of regular supernatural occurences in this period were magic and temple visions/healings; the former, a well known scam, the latter, dreams and sympathetic magic (Asclepian temples, Apollonius some of the time) - quite unlike the miracles of Jesus which did not use manipulations of nature like incantations or herbs - the main staple of magicians, usually for potions - and certainly nothing about historical godmen.
In fact, the only two cases of a widespread, historical "divine man", only the former being a miracle-worker, Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abunoteichos, are so different in their category that they could've had no connection to Christianity except some indirect influence by it in the case of Philostratus' exaggerated stories of the former. Apollonius of Tyana never claimed divinity in his lifetime, and the tradition that he did, reflected in Philostratus, was developed long after, and was a minority view outside Anatolia and Syria. Alexander of Abunoteichos was no miracle worker (some minor healings, but mainly oracles) and claimed semi-divinity, through his father, only because he claimed to have the oracular god Glycon, and the Pythagorean reincarnation of Asclepius into Glycon either necessitated this or was a natural and safe claim for Alexander to make for himself. His followers assumed various properties for him, including that he was a reincarnated Pythagoras, who aside some divine attributes (such as the golden thigh, a sign of being the son of Apollo) was not divine.
- Magic: Greco-Roman Background
- Mystery Cults
- Established Religion
- Ancient Magicians
- Asclepiades of Bithynia
- Apion Grammaticus
- "Divine men" in the days of Jesus
- God-men and Apotheosis
- Hero cults
- Ancient Miracle-Workers
- Apollonius of Tyana
- Alexander of Abunoteichos
- Alexander the Great
- Hanina ben Dosa
- No Other Unknown
- Comparison with Jesus
I. Magic: Greco-Roman Background
In the five subsections below, I'll try to explain each and show their connections to each other and how it relates to this whole topic.
It is not a very well-known category, but there was a vast difference between magicians and healing done through sacrifice or other regularly established religious temples and shrines. Magicians were reviled by the upper class, but fairly popular with the populace. What the common people liked or believed compared with the more educated was often at odds; Pliny the Younger comments on how incredible it is to many that the Earth is round and the implication that people on the other side, antipodes, would have their feet facing theirs (by an unknown force!), but accepts the sphericity of the world as true. The traditional temples, on the other hand, were being replaced by the mystery religions, which were considered old and authoritative by everyone.
There isn't a sharp line between these, except perhaps between the old Greek and Roman temples and magicians. A lot of the time, a magician was also a physician, though not necessarily the other way around. Magicians used talismans, incantations, instructions on various rituals, and sometimes the mystical powers of herbs. On top of this, philosophers had a wide range between simply thinkers to all sorts of religious beliefs and practices such as the neo-Pythagoreans. By the 2nd century this line was very blurred - hence Justin Martyr's pursuit of the "true" philosophy ended with Christianity! In that vein, some considered Plato the son of Apollo and not Ariston, and even the deistic Epicurus was ascribed some divine attributes, including by the essentially atheist follower of his, Lucretius!
And the common people really didn't have a problem seeing the physician turned magician Alexander be an oracle of Apollo and a priest in the mystery religions. Beloved and believed by emperors, many used incantations from him in a severe plague in 165 (to no avail).
What irritated the more sober-minded people was that the magicians and their amulets, rituals, or potions were typically overpriced scams. [Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 7.39; Lucian, Alexander 6, 9] So Lucian considers himself and his fellow Epicureans to be bigger critical thinkers, and praises others of his philosophy. [Lucian, Alexander 43]
"That it [magic] first originated in medicine, no one entertains a doubt; or that, under the plausible guise of promoting health, it insinuated itself among mankind, as a higher and more holy branch of the medical art." [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30.1]
It may seem strange that doctors would have anything to do with the supernatural category, but one has to remember that 2000 years ago, a lot about the world wasn't understood. The obvious link between the two is healing. Pliny says that magic and medicine were founded in the same year. [Nat. Hist. 30.2] And sometimes this was done so well by a doctor, he was accused of magic (similarly, if it's not a legend, contemporaries of Gauss and his math). Hero of Alexandria's engine-driven self-opening doors of the temple are another example. This connection shouldn't be too surprising: magicians typically needed knowledge of compounds and herbs, so in every age they were naturally considered pharmacists and physicians merely by their skill with chemicals, such as Count Cagliostro (1743-1795).
According to Eusebius, Anaxilaus of Larissa was banished from Rome in 28 BC by Augustus on the charge of practicing magic. [Taran, 150] Anaxilaus wrote about the "magical" properties of minerals, herbs, and other substances and derived drugs, cited by Pliny in this regard. [ibid.] His exceptional knowledge of natural science allowed him to produce tricks that were mistaken for magic.
Prior to becoming an oracle in his hometown, Alexander of Abunoteichos worked travelling medicine shows in Greece. He learned the tricks from two different men. One a public physician and pupil of Apollonius of Tyana, spending years with him who knew Apollonius' whole "bag of tricks". The other a poet. Both of them magicians. With the second they duped a rich (and insecure) woman from Macedonia. [Lucian, Alexander 5-6] So one can see the origin of the charges against Apuleius when his friend encouraged him to marry his wealthy widow mother, that he'd persuaded her with magic.
Hence, often the targets of such mythologizing stories were of physicians/herb-dealers. (Empedocles, Asclepiades of Bythinia, Apollonius sympathetic magic, Anaxilaus of Larissa).
But it's not that the two were equated, certainly the opposite. For the Greeks and Romans, a magician compared to a healer was like a practitioner of alternative medicine compared to an MD. One was legitimate, as noted, the other typically a scam. This is apparent from the case of an executed ancient Greek witch, Theoris of Lemnos, in the 4th century BC. Derek Collins writes: "From the point of view of late fifth- and fourth-century intellectuals (physicians, philosophers), the prejudice against Theoris and her alleged magic sounds similar to those of contemporary American physicians toward folk healers and their remedies. Many of the same differences between modern physicians and folk healers toward illness outlined, for example, in the work of David Hufford (1988 and 1992), bear striking resemblances to the attacks on magic by Plato and Hippocrates." [Collins, Derek. “The Trial of Theoris of Lemnos: A 4th Century Witch or Folk Healer?” Western Folklore 59, no. 3/4 (2000): 251]
If a connection between physicians and magicians was surprising, then how much more one between them and philosophers! When we think of philosophy, we think of logic, wisdom, thinking; certainly not spells and oracles!
Yet even here we have a lot connected to magicians. Particularly, the neo-Pythagoreans, who began to be revived toward the end of the 1st century BC [Cicero, Timaeus 1], were more supernaturally-inclined in both idea and practice, than philosophy. Nigidius Figulus tried with some success to revive the doctrines of Pythagoreanism. "Pythagorean" was not always an honorable title: Nigidius Figulus was accused of being a "Pythagoricus" and "magus" by Suetonius. [Thesleff, 45] His prophecy, questionable for its authenticity by a late writer like Suetonius, was that the newborn Augustus would rule the world based on astrology. [Suet. Aug. 94.5] Astrology and divination, part of Roman religion, were considered a legitimate science and art; Pliny names it along with medicine and religion as one of the three legitimate "sciences", contrasted with magic which had usurped them. [Nat. Hist. 30.1]
Apuleius reports that, by the employment of magic boys (magici pueri), he helped to find a sum of money that had been lost. [Apuleius, Apologia 42] The same abilities of finding lost treasure ascribed to both Alexander of Abunoteichos and his teacher [Lucian, Alex. 5, 24] (cf. the popularity of finding treasures used in Jesus' parable in Matt. 13:44). This seems to have been a common accusation against the neo-Pythagoreans. [Kingsley, P. Ancient philosophy, mystery, and magic (1995), 317-334; Dickie, M. W. Magic and magicians in the Greco-Roman world (2001), 168-175] They did have an interest in mathematics, but this was mainly used in describing their cosmic ideas, which systems the later Gnostics entirely borrowed.
The Pythagorean Arignotus was portrayed by Lucian as a magician whose occult skills were learned from a famous Egyptian priest-magician called Pancrates, independently attested in Magic Papyri. [Ogden, 107] It's not just the Pythagoreans who are mentioned in this connection with magic in Lucian's story:
Here Tychiades gives his friend Philocles an account of the gathering of philosophers he has just witnessed at the house of the rich Eucrates (the Platonist Ion, the Peripatetic Cleodemus, the Stoic Dinomachus and the Pythagorean Arignotus; the Hippocratic Antigonus also attends). Tychiades' frustration has mounted as the credulous symposiasts have attempted to convince him of the efficacy of magic and the reality of supernatural intervention in human life by telling him fantastic stories, supposedly of their own experience. [Ogden, 102]
Pythagoras was an example to be followed by the neo-Pythagoreans, mainly in cultic aspects. Stories include that he didn't sacrifice meat, was vegetarian, could speak with animals, and many other religious qualities. He was certainly respected, as Plutarch notes the prevailing tradition that he taught the Roman king Numa. Essentially, Pythagoreans were concerned with how nature worked, and this superior knowledge led to claimed or believed magic.
Of the connection to philosophy, particularly to Pythagoras, Pliny writes:
though at the same time I would remark, that in the most ancient times, and indeed almost invariably, it was in this22 branch of science, that was sought the highest point of celebrity and of literary renown. At all events, Pythagoras, we find, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato, crossed the seas, in order to attain a knowledge thereof, submitting, to speak the truth, more to the evils of exile23 than to the mere inconveniences of travel. [Nat. Hist. 30.2]
Apparently, like all things where humans are concerned, here too we find money scams. Artemidorus (Dreambook 1, 69) says that "if you dream of Pythagoreans, physiognomonics, astragaloinants, tyromants, gyromants, coscinomants, morphoscopes, chiroscopes, lecanomants, or necyomants, you must consider all that they say false and unreliable; for their trades are such. They do not know even a little bit about prophecy, but fleece their patrons by charlatanism and fraud." Maybe for this reason that Aristippus was criticized for taking money for teaching philosophy. It's hard to divorce the idea that Artemidorus isn't equating Pythagoreans with magicians, seeing how the same exact comments about the latter are given by Lucian and Philostratus. The connection to, false in Artemidorus' view, prophecies by the Pythagorean-magi is a connection found in Lucian, with Alexander of Abunoteichos, who learned the art of herbs and drugs from his teacher, prior to becoming an oracle [Lucian, Alex. 5], hence why he claimed to be the grandson of the healing god, Asclepius [Lucian, Alex. 11], and continued to pretend to heal beside the oracles. [Lucian, Alex. 24] The healing oracles, also, were based on food and medicine. [Lucian, Alex. 22, 25] Notably, this Alexander was liked by all the philosophical sects, except Epicureans; Lucian mentions Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Peripatetics. [Lucian, Alex. 25]
The one most likely to have succeeded Alexander after his death was, Paetus, a physician. [Lucian, Alex. 60] This is also connected to philosophy, for Lucian says, "Paetus was one of them, a physician by profession, a greybeard, who conducted himself in a way that befitted neither a physician nor a greybeard." [ibid] Why a physician is supposed to act a certain (clearly moral) way does not make sense, except if it was in some immodest way - coupled with the comment about "greybeard", this would seem a juvenile, immature and generally uncultivated way. That doesn't relate to medical activity so much as the virtues in Greek philosophy.
That neo-Pythagoreans were connected to the magical healers is suggested by Apollonius of Tyana, Alexander of Abunoteichos, and others. Epicharmus of Kos raised according to the Asclepiad tradition of his father, as an adult Epicharmus became a follower of Pythagoras. Asclepius was the god of healing, and Alexander claimed him as his direct grandfather. The connection between philosophy and the doctor can perhaps be seen in Asclepiades of Bythinya trying to become a rhetorician but failing and then turning to the art of medicine. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 26.12] At least in his case, the popularity was based on his physician skills, but also kind treatment of patients.
Philosophers in general had certain ideals of virtue. The Stoics wanted to put emotion away since we're all made of the same things as inanimate objects. So Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic, in his Meditations writes not to lament because it was the course of the universe and there's nothing you can do about it. While not all philosophy was religious, clearly, their investigations into such matters frequently led them either to speculate on it, or to be so exalted by others that more famous philosophers became legendized to a degree. So some believed that Plato's father was not Ariston, but Apollo. [Apuleius, De Dogmate Platonis 1]
The line between philosophy and religion was clearly somewhat blurred. Philosophers' "mode of life and their devotion to knowledge seemed often to place them above the normal level and in close contact with the divine." [MacLean, 76] Lucretius and Lucian on Epicurus. Hence Apollonius refers to Pythagoras, Socrates, and an Indian philosopher, Iarchas, as divine, as well as Vespasian. [Philostratus, LoA 8.7.4; 6.19; 6.3; 7.14; 8.7.3]
Even a conservative, anti-superstitious philosophy like Epicureanism shows a connection to the mystery religions of Apollo and Demeter: Eikas, Epicurean celebration of the 20th of every month. The day had special significance among the Greeks before Epicurus, the twentieth being sacred to the god Apollo, and also corresponding to the final day of the rites of initiation to the mysteries of Demeter. [DeWitt, Norman Wentworth (1964), Epicurus and His Philosophy, Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 104-105] Though Epicurus was born on the twentieth, the Apollo and Demeter significance would explain why the Epicureans celebrated it every month.
So it should come as little surprise when even the Epicurean, which philosophy was frequently referred to as "atheist" because of their religious skepticism [Lucian, Alex. 25, 38, 46], could fall under the breeze of religious entanglement. Hence, MacLean writes: "[E]ven Lucian, when called upon to say something unkind about him [Pythagoras], still feels it wise to ask his forgiveness and to describe him as "a wise man of divine intellect". [MacLean, 77] Lucretius calls Epicurus "divine". [MacLean, 77] [cf. Lucian Alex. 61] Even as his biggest enemy (Lucian, Alex. 55-7), Lucian refers to the physical appearance of Alexander as "godlike". [Lucian, Alex. 3] Justin Martyr, while looking for the true philosophy, accepted a religion - Christianity. It's not like Lucian was only skeptical of Alexander (he has many other works like this: De Morte Peregrini, Philopseudes), and he rationalizes a myth about a magical disappearance. [Lucian, Alex. 19] For many, it was simply an aspect of philosophy to some degree.
For this reason, unlike secularists like sophists/rhetoricians (Philostratus), grammarians, or historians, philosophers were practically seen as magicians since the first century. Magic was held in low esteem and condemned by speakers and writers. [Fowler, Robert (1995). "Greek Magic, Greek Religion". Illinois Classical Studies. 20: 1–22.] Thus, Philostratus writes that
Nero was opposed to philosophy, because he suspected its devotees to be addicted to magic, and of being diviners in disguise; and at last the philosopher's mantle brought its wearers before the law courts, as if it were a mere cloak of the divining art. [LoA 4.35]
It's no surprise then, that in 71 Vespasian exiled all philosophers from Rome! [Cassius Dio, Roman History, Epitome of Book 65] Notably, this had happened with Jews in 19 and 49 AD because of religious turmoil.
The Mystery Religions
Their name was due to the secret rites and knowledge that only initiates were allowed. Divulging these secrets was considered a very sacrilegous act, hence the accusation against Diagoras "the Atheist" of Melos. Demosthenes mentions a woman, Ninos, executed in the 350s or 340s BC – apparently for performing rites which mocked the Dionysian mysteries. [Collins, 138] A court case involving secrets of the mysteries had Augustus, himself an initiate, dismiss counsellors and bystanders to hear the priests in private. [Suet. Aug. 93] That didn't prevent people from sneaking in, as Lucian did; a fact the initiates were all too aware of by their chant of "Out with the Epicureans" and "Out with the Christians". [Lucian, Alex. 38-40] Barbarians, murderers, and traitors were excluded and there was some sort of restriction in regard to previous diet (may relate to Pythagoras' vegetarianism and non-animal sacrifices).
There is some connection between the Mystery religions, magic, and the association with physicians. Magic papyri frequently look like a recipe (potions/heals). They frequently borrowed terms from mystery religions. Magicians were termed magikokoi - the priest who initiates. Pliny also connects the origin of magic out of medicine, "[f]rivolous and lying as it is, it still bears, however, some shadow of truth upon it; though reflected, in reality, by the practices of those who study the arts of secret poisoning, and not the pursuits of magic." [Nat. Hist. 30.6] The secrecy of the Egyptian magicians is noted in the same section where Apion Grammaticus "doesn't dare say" what Homer told him about Egypt and his parents. Similarly, Lucian's Pancrates refusing to divulge his animation spell. [Ogden, 105]
The connection between the mystery religions is seen also in a comment by Pliny on the travels and knowledge (from Egypt and Babylon) by Pythagoras and others: "Returning home, it was upon the praises of this art that they expatiated—it was this that they held as one of their grandest mysteries." [Nat. Hist. 30.2] Orpheus also is connected to both magic and medicine. Pliny writes:
I should have been inclined to think that Orpheus had been the first to introduce into a country so near his own, certain magical superstitions based upon the practice of medicine, were it not the fact that Thrace, his native land, was at that time totally a stranger to the magic art. [Nat. Hist. 30.2]
So far as the Greeks and Romans were concerned, the Mysteries were the authentic religious traditions of the Greeks, and not an innovation like Christianity. The old and established religions of the countries were respected. Thus, Augustus avoided the Egyptian Apis cult and praises Gaius for not offering prayers at the Jerusalem Temple, [Suet. Aug. 93] the irony being that both were older than Greek or Roman religion by centuries. For this reason, Tacitus calls Christianity a "superstition". [Ann. 15.44]
The connection between the Mysteries and philosophy was probably based on the knowledge of the world both claimed, through different sources. Orphism was a reform of the earlier Dionysian religion, reinterpreting the myth of Dionysus, Hesiod's Theogony, based in part on pre-Socratic philosophy. [A. Henrichs, “‘Hieroi Logoi’ and ‘Hierai Bibloi’: The (Un) Written Margins of the Sacred in Ancient Greece,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 101 (2003): 213-216.] Popularity (especially for philosophy) earned one entry in the Mysteries (e.g. Demonax and the Eleusinian Mysteries: although he refrains from entering them, it's implied he could and normally should [Lucian, Demonax 11]).
The Neoplatonists considered Orphism through the Pythagoreans to be the original religious doctrines of the Greeks. Plato's wisdom was considered to have an Egyptian source and to have also learned the doctrines of Pythagoras. [Apuleius, De Dogmate Platonis I.1, 3] The Egyptian magicians, prevalent in Rome it seems, were also extremely secretive. [Ogden, 105] Their abilities to summon demons at their disposal or the ghost of Homer were doubted not only by Lucian, as Pliny the Elder calls Apion Grammaticus of Alexandria a liar. [Ogden, 105]
The basis for Apollonius' wonders and predictions was philosophical wisdom. [LoA 1.2] His supernatural acts are linked to his knowledge of mysteries. [MacLean, 79] Hence Asclepius and the serpent (which was a euphemism for wisdom (cf. Matt. 10:16)). It is said that in return for some kindness rendered by Asclepius, a snake licked Asclepius's ears clean and taught him secret knowledge (to the Greeks snakes were sacred beings of wisdom, healing, and resurrection), so again, we see this connection between physician, philosopher, magic, and the Mysteries. The New Testament, on the other hand, prefers good works over physical knowledge (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Matt. 11:25).
Alexander of Abunoteichos was a priest of and performed mystery religion services (of Apollo). [Lucian, Alex. 38-40] Not just he, but other oracles in nearby areas. [Lucian, Alex. 29] Those who believed Alexander, put up verses as charmed incantations (magic)) during the plague of 165. [Lucian, Alex. 36] The connection between Apollonius and Orpheus (as popular cults) may be reflected by the Augustan History where we're told Alexander Severus had idols of Apollonius and Orpheus (among Jesus and Abraham!) (SHA Alexander Severus 29.2). Even though the Augustan History is late (c.400 AD) and unreliable, it shows the widespread opinion of the time as it became a popular work.
The Established Religion
And no one can be surprised at the extent of its [magic's] influence and authority, when he reflects that by its own energies it has embraced, and thoroughly amalgamated with itself; the three other sciences which hold the greatest sway upon the mind of man...Then, in the next place, to promises the most seductive and the most flattering, it has added all the resources of religion, a subject upon which, at the present day, man is still entirely in the dark. Last of all, to complete its universal sway, it has incorporated with itself the astrological art; there being no man who is not desirous to know his future destiny, or who is not ready to believe that this knowledge may with the greatest certainty be obtained, by observing the face of the heavens...[Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30.1]
Elsewhere, Pliny writes:
It was Democritus, too, who first drew attention to Apollobeches of Coptos, to Dardanus, and to Phœnix: the works of Dardanus he sought in the tomb of that personage, and his own were composed in accordance with the doctrines there found. [Nat. Hist. 30.2]
The connection here is that Dardanus was the one who introduced religion to Samothrace.
While the Greek religion had the mysteries, the religion common people participated in was very decentralized: no sacred texts or central institutions. Similarly, the Roman religion, which was in essence centered around rituals and augury. The relationship between the two was maybe more on the side of tension. The Greek writers Cassius Dio and Plutarch are clearly uncomfortable with the divinization of Roman Emperors. [MacLean, 82] This may have been because for Greek religion, having no centralization like the Bible for Jews and Christians, caused tension at innovation - the same reason Christianity was reviled by them. [Burkert, Walter (1985), Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674362810.] Perhaps for this reason, Lepidus the high priest of the cult of Augustus and his followers in the city of Amastris in Pontus is chiefly spoken out against by Alexander; though strangely Lucian's text seems to imply some connection to Epicureanism. [Lucian, Alex. 25, 43] I don't think this tension was due to competition over money, because Alexander had more than enough and was willing to share not just with his own subordinates, but with other oracles, whom he legitimized and even advertized. [Lucian, Alex. 23, 29]
This sentiment was apparently one-sided, because the Romans freely engaged in Greek religion and equated their gods with Greek ones. Rutilianus, a high-ranking Roman, as well as throngs of Romans, rush to get oracles from Alexander in Asia Minor once his fame spreads to Italy. [Lucian, Alex. 30-1] On the other hand, magic was considered a superstition amongst the Greeks: Pliny calls Asia Minor "the most frivolous nation" [Nat. Hist. 26.], and comments negatively on how Thessaly came under the popular sway of magic in Menander's day. [Nat. Hist. 30.2] He writes:
That it was this same 'Osthanes, more particularly, that inspired the Greeks, not with a fondness only, but a rage, for the art of magic, is a fact beyond all doubt...[Nat. Hist. 30.2]
Philostratus maintains that unlike a magician, supplicants of the gods obtained healings without manipulation of nature, but through prayer and sacrifice. [LoA 7.38-9] In reality, the healings at temples of Asclepius were little more than the same kind of sympathetic magic (a modern, anthropological phrase) as Apollonius did in the rabies healing. [LoA 6.43] For example, inscriptions have a mute boy brought by his father to be cured; a priest asks him a question which the boy answers, making him cured! Or spear rust from the same spear on the wound of Telephus of Mysia. [Philostratus, LoA 6.43] Usually one slept in these temples and, like shrines, received visions that told truths. [LoA 8.31; MacLean 75ff, 82]
The magic in these days was mainly for the love stricken and essentially for good luck: merchant to make money, athlete to win a contest, an admirer to have his gifts make him liked. One had to do a ritual in a specific way, and if it didn't work, the person blamed himself and that he didn't do something this way or didn't add enough of that. [LoA 7.39] Potions and charms, talismans, written incantations were common, and high prices were charged for these. Many herbs were also given magical properties, but these the writers are totally skeptical of and with good reason as their names are completely made up. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 26.9 for example] Pliny dedicates all of his book 30 to "refute the impostures of the magic art." [Nat. Hist. 30.1]
As noted, magicians were detested. Their herbs and plants with magical powers were, aside from fictitious, completely rejected by those like Pliny on numerous grounds. [Nat. Hist. Book 30] Pliny considers their origin from medical formulas for poisoning [Nat. Hist. 30.6], and in this sense he's in agreement with Demosthenes. Their talismans and spells were, other than hearsay, ineffectual as Lucian's Philopseudes derides, and notes how Alexander of Abunoteichos' followers and their magic incantations did not rescue them from the plague in 165, but in fact they were the highest casualties due to their false belief in protection. [Lucian, Alex. 36]
Magicians would charge exorbitant prices. Amphilochus charged 2 obols (=half a day's work; for a reference, the buying power of a half-obol was apparently big enough that Pases the magician had a coin of that value that he could recall back to him at will [Ogden, 105 n.13]). [Lucian, Alexander 19] Alexander of Abunoteichos would charge 2 days' worth of work (1 drachma 2 oboli) per answer, and would make 70,000-80,000 drachmas a year. [Lucian, Alex. 23] Others, a more "modest" price of half a day's work. [Lucian, Alex. 19] As a consequence, mostly the rich would be the main customers. Alexander of Abunoteichos and his teacher (a disciple of Apollonius of Tyana!) whose scheme apparently involved various drug compounds [Lucian, Alex. 5], called it "trimming the fat heads" (i.e. rich), and looked for a region with rich and gullible people. [Lucian, Alex. 6, 9] It's no wonder that after Alexander's death his close attendants put all their efforts in establishing a prophetic succession, each one trying to be the next oracle. [Lucian, Alexander 60]
As mentioned, magicians were liked by many. But others saw them as charlatans who fleeced those gullible or desperate enough to request their services. [Lucian, Alex. 5-6, 8-9; LoA 7.39; Demosthenes Speech 26] In 13 BC Augustus burned 2000 magic scrolls publicly. So it was by no means a popular movement among Greco-Romans. The pains with which Apollonius Letter 16 tries to equate magicians with more respectable philosophy or other established institutions is evident: "I think that those who follow no matter whom, ought to be called "magicians", if only they are determined to be divine and just men."
It's possible that by the late 2nd century the reputation of magicians was to some degree rehabilitated, following Harnouphis' invocation of rain for Marcus Aurelius' army c.172 AD. [Ogden, 105, n.8] This may be reflected by Commodus' belief that he was Hercules reincarnated - reincarnation being a core neo-Pythagorean belief (cf. LoA 1.4 - Apollonius being Proteus reincarnated; Alexander speculated by some of his followers to be a reincarnated Pythagoras [Lucian, Alex. 40]), as well as the commission to write Apollonius' biography by Julia Domna to Philostratus in the early 3rd century.
Unlike Lucian, the eternal skeptic, most willingly believed, particularly in Asia Minor as Alexander himself picked his native Paphlagonia for this reason. [Lucian, Alex. 9; cf. Pliny's remarks on it being "the most frivolous nation" in Nat. Hist. 26.8] Magicians had a poor reputation among many because it was clearly being used for money (e.g. foretelling the future - cf. Acts 16:16, Lucian, Alex. 19), and this is definitely going to involve a scam. But some were praised, such as Arnuphis [Cassius Dio, 72.8], Apion Grammaticus. [Ogden, 104-5] The Epitome of Cassius Dio 72.9 says Marcus Aurelius did not like the company of magicians (though Lucian notes he listened to the oracle of Alexander, and his predecessor issued coins of Glycon), and attributes the miracle to Christians. The idea that Hadrian had a copy of Apollonius' book may be an invention, or truth, but it wasn't until Julia Domna's influence on Philostratus that there was any kind of appeal, not to magicians, but to Apollonius specifically. [MacLean, 77]
Their powers lay principally in the knowledge of various potions and herbs with magical powers. [Fictional as they are, some enumerated in Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.102, 26.9] In addition, a common theme seems to have been the ability to tame/control animals: Pythagoras and the eagle [Plutarch, Numa 8.5], Democritus' plant that can tame lions [Nat. Hist. 24.102], Apion Grammaticus' Androcles and the lion [Aulus Gellius 5.14 - though this is a natural taming], and Pancrates in Lucian's Philopseudes. [Ogden, 105]
These were sometimes travellers, like Asclepiades of Bithynia, or Osthanes accompanying Alexander the Great. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30.2]
II. Ancient Magicians
Although many others from the next section belong here, their overall assessment I felt leaned more toward the category of "god-man" as opposed to merely a magician. Their relationship to magic is also discussed.
Asclepiades of Bithynia
Asclepiades of Bithynia was a physician who flourished in the mid-1st century BC. He revolutionized, or at least reformed, a lot of barbarous medical treatments, some of which Pliny the Elder describes. [Nat. Hist. 26.8] His cure for diseases were essentially diet, wine/cold water, ointments, and exercise. In addition, he's described as tactful, and the simplicity of his theories, of which Pliny is critical ("annulled by numerous authorities since his day"), attracted the average person who felt these cures were within his grasp. [ibid., 26.7-8]
Asclepiades' medical teachings appealed to the Romans, since he avoided the great surfeit of terms and sophisticated philosophical reasoning characteristic of the Greek medicine coming to Rome." [Scarborough, John. “The Drug Lore of Asclepiades of Bithynia.” Pharmacy in History 17, no. 2 (1975): 44]
It seems he travelled extensively before settling in Rome. Perhaps, like Paracelsus 1600 years later, these travels gave him an extensive knowledge of various folk remedies with greater effect than the practitioners and their humor-based medical theories. While at Rome, Pliny tells us he became a rhetorician, but that the money he made wasn't enough, so he switched to medicine. The abruptness of the switch, and the reason - monetary gain - are both cited against him. [Nat. Hist. 26.8]
Asclepiades and Magic
It seems he also dabbled in magic, in the forms of herbs with special powers, of which Pliny is especially skeptical, on which count so should we as the names of these plants seem wholly made up. [Nat. Hist. 26.9] Pliny actually cites this as the main cause of Asclepiades' rise to fame, with the comment that it went so far that it destroyed confidence in the medicinal value of plants.
It's easy to see some bias, because Pliny's incredulity is based in part on Asclepiades' common origins, and that he was from Asia Minor ("the most frivolous country"). [Nat. Hist. 26.9] That some of Asclepiades' changes were certainly beneficial, however, he notes: baths instead of forced sweating through multiple layers of clothes, end to emetics, etc. But his criticism seems to be aimed at Asclepiades taking it too far: "It really would be a marvellous fact that human credulity, taking its rise originally in the very soundest of notions, should have ultimately arrived at such a pitch as this..." [ibid., 26.9] Asclepiades' treatments, consisting,
Perhaps maybe Asclepiades wasn't such a great physician after all. His best student, Themison of Laodicea, was criticized for cruel treatment of mental patients. [Soranus, De Arte Obstetr.] His cures are as (in)effective as his teacher's. While Pliny does note this Themison departed from his teacher's ways (Nat. Hist. 29.4), Dioscorides too critices Sextius Niger and the whole school of Ascelpiades in not being careful. [Wellman, Max, 1889, 'Sextius Niger' Hermes 24, 545] This Sextus Nigerius, however, is given praise by Pliny and Galen. [Deichgräber (1931), 'Sextius Niger' Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Suppl. V 971, 34-972, 24; 972] This Sextus Nigerius equally embraced various near-magical properties of plants and animals from folk beliefs such as comments on the salamander:[Deichgräber (1931), 972; cf. Wellmann (1889), 543.] "Sextius says that sexual desire is increased by eating them, if they are preserved in honey with the guts and head and feet removed, but denies that fire can be put out by them."
Pliny gives several reasons for Asclepiades' rise to fame. In Nat. Hist. 26.7 he strongly implies it was the simplicity and common understanding and access of his treatment theories. In 26.8 it seems to be tact and appropriate use of wine, as well as the public baths and various other methods such as swinging beds to "lull maladies" and induce sleep. And in 26.9 he says it was because of magical herbs. Perhaps the last was the biggest reason. That Pliny and the others must've been biased against him due to the magic label is clear enough. But if Pliny's willing to acknowledge the beneficial aspects, as well as enumerating Asclepiades' herbs which are clearly made up, it would seem there was at least something to the accusation of a monetary motivation, bordering on scamming, yet mixed with genuine and frequently beneficial, at least better than alternative barbaric methods, medical advice. In Nat. Hist. 7.37 and 23.22 he again attributes the medicinal abilities of wine as Asclepiades' trademark - knowledge of which certainly must've helped him as we see from Pliny's list of qualities in 23.22. It seems Pliny had independent information about Asclepiades ("...treated with disdain the promises of King Mithridates conveyed to him by an embassy..." - Nat. Hist. 7.37).
Asclepiades and philosophy
That Asclepiades read and followed Empedocles is shown by his citing herbs mentioned by the latter, as Pliny notes. [Nat. Hist. 26.9] As Empedocles was a Pythagorean, there is some indication Asclepiades may have been a neo-Pythagorean, but this is questionable, as the connection are clearly that of medicine. So we see how the desire for money, a very common theme for magicians of the day and medicine - Asclepiades taking it up out of nowhere - are easily intertwined.
Asclepiades and Miracles
The only "miracle" associated with him, other than the wonders he claimed certain unidentified herbs had (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 26.9) was a story about how he revived a man placed on the funeral pyre. But all the sources are clear this was due to the skills of a physician, and not any supernatural act. [Apuleius Florida 19; Celsus II.6.15 and Pliny Nat. Hist. 26.8 who allude to it without details, clearly attribute a natural revification to Asclepiades' medical expertise] Apuleius' much fuller account, notes that Asclepiades recovered the person through drugs. The story bears only superficial similarities to Jesus raising the young girl, such as the understandable disbelief of the crowds. Asclepiades needs something medicinal to bring back the person to full health, whereas in Jesus' story the girl needs no recovery time. The same is true for the young man from Nun who is in his coffin in a procession like Asclepiades' patient. The numerous people who woke up in coffins, known by the infamous bells left on top of new graves shows revivification is plausible. There are even cases of people waking up from their own funeral/in the morgue, and in one case living another two weeks before dying (again).
Asclepiades' fame was not of a religious nature. When Pliny refers to him as believed "as if sent from heaven," this is about the popularity of his revolutionary medical theories and advice, and so is a non-religious metaphor. [Nat. Hist. 26.7]
Notably, herbs that rescuscitated life are mentioned, with no special skill of a physician needed. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 25.5] Interesting to note that the connection between Pythagoras and Democritus, both herblore experts in Greco-Roman tradition [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.99], and training with Magi and other typical places of magic such as Egypt. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.99; 25.5]
He was a philosopher and magician. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30.2] His infamous death by throwing himself in a volcano to prove he was a god evidently did not gain much traction if the subsequent stories depict it as either a deception or a non-reappearance.
Democritus was a Pythagorean. Pliny the Elder calls him a "physician" whose high authority recommended the founder of the Empiric school of medicine. [Nat. Hist. 29.4] Pliny also tells us of a work of his on herbal powers and remedies and gives some details of it. [Nat. Hist. 24.102, 26.9] He calls him second only to Pythagoras in "the most intimate knowledge of the learning of the Magi" [ibid], though strangely cites him as the founder of the art of magic in 454 BC. [Nat. Hist. 30.2] So we have a philosophical connection as well as one to the mystery religions (secret knowledge).
Democritus simply had merits that Pliny approved, but also magical connections, gained from an exile to Egypt, and perhaps Babylonia it seems, that many disliked:
All the particulars there found are so utterly incredible, so utterly revolting, that those even who admire Democritus in other respects, are strong in their denial that these works were really written by him. Their denial, however, is in vain; for it was he, beyond all doubt, who had the greatest share in fascinating men's minds with these attractive chimeras. [Nat. Hist. 30.2]
He may or may not have rehabilitated the reputation of magicians, at least for some of them to some degree. [Ogden, 105 n.8] He's mentioned in Dio Cassius [Epitome 72.8] as responsible for the rain miracle for Marcus Aurelius' army.
Xiphilinus accuses Cassius Dio and "the Greeks" of covering up the real story that it was a Christian, Julius the Chaldean, from the "Thundering" Legion who were legionnaires from Miletene, which only had Christians. Whether this is true or not, Cassius Dio's indifference may be at play, though the same indifference would be reason to mention an alternate story about the rain miracle if it was the dominant tradition. Since this Harnouphis is historical [Ogden, 104], it may have been that he really did this, or the alternate legend was invented to cover up the Christian miracle.
Strangely, Ogden says Harnouphis calls up "a series of demons, including Hermes-Aerios" [Ogden, 104], but Cassius Dio simply mentions "gods, particularly Mercury, god of the air".
The infamous posthumous opponent of Josephus, among his colorful stories are "Androcles and the lion" (Aulus Gellius 5.14), a magician called Pases who could throw spells bringing up banquets out of nowhere, as well as a coin he could pay with but return to him out of nowhere at will (Suda, "Pases" pi 752) - apparently literally the oldest trick in the book - and a claim that he spoke with the ghost of Homer - which Pliny rejects as a lie, perhaps due to Apion's secrecy of what Homer told him. [Nat. Hist. 30.18] In general, he is not much different in the nature of his actions than Harnouphis and Lucian's Pancrates. [Ogden, 104-5] He is considered a liar by both Pliny [Ogden, 105] as well as Josephus. The latter in particular mentions the impossibility of his having snuck in the Temple when it was empty due to the impossibility of one man opening its heavy, giant doors.
A minor note on the returning coin of Pases: there is a corruption in the Suda which says it was made of (something - feminine noun), which reading "mina" (silver unit) is rejected. Perhaps there was some sign to show it was indeed the same coin. But clearly it would be, since otherwise the magician would be paying literally, and assuredly he'd want to show he wasn't doing this and didn't have other coins, etc, instead of performing a simple sleight of hand. If anyone sees a good magician's sleight of hand today, they'd be equally impressed, so one can see how this specific trick was remembered.
III. "Divine men" in the days of Jesus
In the Gospels, Jesus is presented as a wonder-worker and isn't merely a man (pre-existent at the very least: Mark 12:35-37). Note, this is not a discussion of the historical Jesus, but how the Gospels present him - just so there's no debate on the differences with other figures. What I suppose is that pagans who performed miracles did so occasionally, not as miracle-workers, or as magicians through intermediary items (talismans, objects) or rituals (incantations, certain ways of sacrifice, potions) and in the few cases they were considered divine, they were never regarded as truly human, but docetic imprints. For example, after a single miracle, Barnabas and Paul are treated as incarnations of gods (Zeus and Mercury respectively), not god-men or human miracle-workers themselves (Acts 14:11-13). Similarly, the magician Simon Magus was viewed as a god by the Romans. [Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 26, 56] Not until death was a man (or woman!) divinized.
Strange as it may seem, if one seriously investigates the primary sources on the topic of "miracle workers", while there are numerous individual wonders in Jewish, pagan, and Christian legends, there are virtually no examples of people who churned out wonders like an assembly line: only Apollonius and Hanina ben Dosa. In addition, men within historical memory whose nature was anything more than human is true of only two: Apollonius and Alexander, and of these only the former had any miracles. So in essence, we only have one parallel to Jesus, Apollonius of Tyana, who is discussed in more detail below. But hardly anything like what could be called a "category" or "movement" of "divine men" (theioi andres).
Thus, Andrew J. Kelley writes:
Although narratives featuring Jewish miracle-workers are prevalent in the milieu I have outlined for this thesis, the same cannot be said of Greco-Roman miracle-workers. This may seem counterintuitive as the theios anēr archetype, which was meant to be populated with Greco-Roman miracle narratives, was a major way that Jesus as a miracle-worker was understood for many years. However, there simply is a dearth of examples from the time period in question. [Kelley, Andrew J. (2019) Thaumaturgic Progress, p.66]
And elsewhere he notes that:
One of the deficiencies of the theios aner archetype is that many of the figures one wishes to use in order to substantiate it appear in literature after the composition of the Gospels. [Kelley, (2019). Thaumaturgic Prowess: Autonomous and Dependent Miracle-Working in Mark's Gospel and the Second Temple Period. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-31-615594-7-1. p.67]
Certainly if a near-godless philosophy like Epicureanism could thrive and be widespread, there couldn't have been much of Greco-Roman miracle workers. Lucian's satirical works are mainly aimed at false prophets and the occasional hearsay of magic. Whether Christianity also influenced the craze for mystery religions at the expense of traditional religion which occurred in the second century [Michael Grant (1960), A History of Rome] is questionable.
There are many bits of information that, when integrated, reflect this picture: no Greek theioi andres. "For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom," Paul tells us (1 Cor. 1:22). He was not a strong public speaker, hence despite his miracles, some better rhetoricians superceded his authority (2 Cor. 12). Haenchen reasons these miracles must've been so small as to be insignificant, but how else would he have spread a message so unlike what the Greeks considered (1 Cor. 1:23), while being a poor public speaker? So these miracles must've been at least somewhat integral of what people believed about him, and the career of wonders depicted in Acts is in accord with what other sources tell us about Asia Minor (Lucian in Alexander the False Prophet describes Paphlagonia as credulous; Pliny calls Asia Minor or Bithynia the "most frivolous nation". [Nat. Hist. 26.8]
The similarities between the pagan myths that the early Church Fathers themselves acknowledge are so few and general, that Justin Martyr could only come up with a few small chapters on them, much of them being filled by citations from the Old Testament. The mystery rites couldn't have been complete secrets, because for example, Lucian sneaks in one such rite. [Alex. 38-40] While it may be true that some parallels were strained to avoid persecution and portray Christianity as not at all dissimilar from other religions [Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 213-4], this isn't the case everywhere.
There is no doubt that Justin Martyr was deeply perturbed by these parallels. He mentions Perseus "born of a virgin" several times, without details, showing the myth, perhaps relatively unknown to him until after his conversion, struck a good deal of anxiety. He seems to have gotten over this by his "demonic imitation" hypothesis, which in addition to the Old Testament, served as a strong counter-argument in his mind. Hence, he doesn't really bother addressing the other Greek half-gods (Theseus, etc).
But the man's simplistic interpretations are the root of these connections. He thinks Hercules' strength has anything to do with an Old Testament prophecy of Jesus. [1 Apol. 54] He considers proof of Jesus the "form of the cross" in common objects of his day (ship sails, digging tools, etc - 1 Apol. 55). This parallelomania mindset is the source of his overreaction. This exaggeration is shown by the pagan parallels he does cite. He connects Mithras as a copy of prophecies in Daniel and Isaiah merely because of a connection to rocks. He doesn't seem to know that Bacchus' "resurrection" was a literal reimpregnation through a woman drinking parts of his heart mixed in a drink, and this literal rebirth, like the other (mythological) god-men, is a physical, non-virginal conception. The same is true of Perseus and the rest. By this logic, one may as well call Athena's origin a "virgin birth", except the "virgin" here is Zeus' forehead (or alternatively, Ouranos' fallen member)!
The difference between Jesus' conception and the Greek demigods is that the latter is not a Virgin birth. [Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist, 214]. This is shown for example by the fact that Achilles' father is mortal whereas it's his mother who is a goddess: clearly his father's physical DNA was involved with natural processes. This should not surprise us because the Greeks considered the gods formed from the same chaos as the Earth. Hence Epicurus considered the gods to be made of atoms like the world! For this reason, a Phoenician chastised the Greek view of Asclepius and other gods having been born through a mortal mother! [Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.23.7]
Bacchus' "ascension" is nothing more than the logical trek back to Heaven, after retrieving his mother: where else are the gods supposed to go? Aside from this, he mentions Asclepius' healings and raisings of the dead (through a herb, so a medicinal/magical revivification), which are discussed in his subsection below: healings are always going to be the major miracle-stories, real or false, because of this basic, frequently incurable, human need.
The fact that Philostratus, strange to our ears, calls Apollonius' ascension a "death" means it was a spiritual ascension like that of Romulus and others of his day (Plutarch, Romulus 28). Ascension by lightning bolt strike, though it could cause death (Bacchus' mother), was a common way one ascended: Aesculapius, though a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven. [Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 21]
Noteworthy is the absence of any mention of Apollonius of Tyana amidst other magicians in e.g. 1 Apol. 26. He does mention Jesus' miracles ascribed to magic. So here we see that Jesus' reputation and stories were circulating already by the mid-2nd century: not wide enough for Lucian to have known too much about them as he clearly doesn't, but wide enough for Justin Martyr to know of criticisms, leading to Celsus' book some decades later (c.180). These stories, clearly taken at face value, show that there is no way the Greek religious traditions of the 2nd century and later Asia Minor/Syria/Palestine (the Jew, Trypho, knows of Jesus' stories) remained uninfluenced.
And Syria is exactly where Julia Domna, Philostratus' patron, hails from and commissions him - she and her neo-Pythagorean circle. Philostratus has Apollonius asked why he was thought of as a god, with Apollonius replying that all good men were. [LoA 8.5] This agrees with Apollonius Letter 16: "I think that those who follow no matter whom, ought to be called "magicians", if only they are determined to be divine and just men." (divine used as euphemism for godly). This is not the same sense Philostratus uses the term and idea later on in his embellishments. It shows the weak evidence magicians had (+a mixture with an appeal to likability from philosophy and justice). Clearly not true historically, and clearly an invented dialogue, because in addition (Talmudic Tiberius disputed legend?), Philostratus goes to great lengths to show the miraculous (non-wizardry as he claims!) elements that showed Apollonius a god [LoA 7.38-9, etc].
In fact, no one really refers to anyone as a "divine man" prior to Philostratus the way he does of Apollonius in LoA. Otherwise, Apollonius wouldn't have been the main (and only) "go-to" example by the ancient pagan critics, who not coincidentally do not exist prior to roughly Philostratus' day (Celsus, Porphyry), exactly because it was by the 2nd century that Christianity was making an impact. Sossinus of the early 4th century could only cite Apollonius as a contrast to Jesus. Similarly Porphyry (contemporaneous with Philostratus).
In a bit of a comical admission in order to glorify Apollonius, Philostratus admits he didn't even know of anyone who could practice divination, nor did he really verify much: "Not only then do I regard the work on the science of the stars and the whole subject of such divination as transcending human nature, but I do not even know if anyone has these gifts". [LoA 3.41] This cannot be the case because Nigidius Figulus' prediction of Augustus' reign was pretty well-known and believed a century earlier. [Suetonius, Augustus 94.5] So we're not really talking about an onslaught of wonder-workers or oracles, at least not ones outside accepted shrines as he frequently mentions those, for him to be able to make this claim.
That Philostratus was an innovator for paganism not only in this categorical regard, but with respect to the Apollonius tradition is evident from LoA 1.2 where he states: "It seems to me then that I ought not to condone or acquiesce in the general ignorance, but write a true account of the man..." This "true" account coming over a century later is not to be compared with that of an eyewitness such as Josephus, who wrote the Jewish Wars 5-10 years after the events. Most considered Apollonius non-divine and now Philostratus is to write the "real" account vs the "general ignorance".
This influence of Christianity can also be seen on the mysteries. E. Kessler supposes that by the 4th century, the Dionysian, Mithraic, and other mysteries had evolved to monotheistic, in competition with Christianity. [E. Kessler, Dionysian Monotheism in Nea Paphos, Cyprus. Symposium on Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire, Exeter, 17–20 July 2006. - Reyes, E. Christopher In His Name: Vol. IVB Who Wrote the Gospels (2014), p.91]
God-men and Apotheosis
While there were very few, if practically no god-men miracle workers, there were many who were treated as gods. This is maybe where the confusion arose in the 19th century, connecting this phenomenon with Jesus as he was known, and ignoring all subtlety. Only a few gained popularity outside of their regional locale, except for the emperor cult through Apotheosis.
One became a theios aner after death; at best shortly before. Images of divine men were set up at temples, gymnasiums, philosophical school houses [MacLean 81, 83], and marketplace (Herodotus 4.15). Occasionally some priest (or priestess!) could claim divinity. [Maclean, 82] But there was never a widespread cult beyond their disciples or children, for obvious reasons.
In the case of the few (local) divine men/women, one typically prayed near their shrine, and expected a vision ("day or night") to tell them a truth - so the connection to philosophy is clearly visible. [Maclean, 82-3] Thus a youth comes to Tyana to pray to Apollonius and receives a (half-dream?) vision, similar to the case of a deified Anatolian priestess. [Philostratus, LoA 8.31][MacLean, 83] Apollonius' shrine mainly in Tyana [Caracalla in Cassius Dio 78.18.4; LoA 8.31 - MacLean, 80], though it also existed in other places (e.g. Mopsuesta inscription - Maclean, 83). This vision to the youth happens while he is with others outside, not in a temple, because some are drawing shapes on the ground, presumably in the dirt. Yet, the vision promised by the female theios aner isn't specified to be at the temple. Still, it needs to be near the locale of the shrine of the person, similar to the hero cults (more on this below), which is why the youth in LoA 8.31 has to travel to Tyana for it. I don't know why MacLean [MacLean, 82] considers Peregrinus or Demonax "theioi andres" when they have no miracles, no oracles, no shrines, etc. Demonax is liked by the Athenians, and that's about all.
Plutarch clearly considers post-mortem appearances to be a sign of divinity. [Plutarch Romulus 28.6] Yet he only mentions mythological heroes or gods or men in the distant past. In Herodotus, the dead body of a certain Aristeas vanishes and there are a sequences of reappearances. Aristeas was not originally divine, but something like early Greek apotheosis, because he was initially a crow. [Histories 4.14-15] Having been dead prior to disappearance, these earlier ascensions were less like the later Greco-Roman ones, perhaps showing an evolution. He first reappears, being seen the same day by a man travelling from elsewhere, then after 7 years again shows up (to write a poem!), and then after 240 years (!) appears again to tell the Metapontines to make an altar for him next to the one of Apollo. Jesus does appear through locked doors (John 20:19), or disappear (Luke 24:31), but aside from a more engaged teaching discourse (Luke 24 - the disfigured face would've kept his identity hidden), he remains present on Earth and isn't going back and forth between heaven and Earth such as how the Docetics and Marcion have him.
The common experience of an appearance of a god was through a vision. [MacLean, 75ff][Plutarch, Rom. 5] Clearly a god could take the form of anything and would take his mortal form (having been deified, or been a deity from the beginning), such as the Docetic appearances. But this could happen in any shape (Zeus as serpent, etc) or at any time (Aristeas 7 years later, then 240 again - Herodotus Hist. 4.14f.).
The various Greco-Roman apparitions and visions were so weak in Plutarch's day that he refers to them as "supersitions" [Numa 8.3] - perhaps the same reason Tacitus does. This is abundantly clear from the confused events taken as signs whose interpretations were unknown by the pagans. [MacLean, 75f.]
The appearances are docetic but can interact with the physical world (if the gods can impregnate women for example). But only when necessary, though Epicurus seemed to consider the gods to be made of atoms, having arisen out of the same Chaos as Earth. This makes Jesus' proof to Thomas a bit more understandable: why fake a wound, when the body of the reappeared in Greek culture was glorified (Plutarch, Romulus 28.1; cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-44).
Other docetic appearances include Theseus at Marathon and various post-mortem ones. [Plutarch, Romulus 27-8] The Greeks and Romans considered it a confused and unnatural idea for the physical to have anything to do with the divine (Plutarch Romulus 28.6-8; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). Thus Epicurus denied the immortality of the soul, reasoning it was absurd for the immortal and imperishable to mix with the mortal and corrupt. In Lucian, upon Peregrinus Proteus' death: "He said that he wanted to...die like Heracles and be comingled with the aether" [Lucian, De Morte Peregrini, 33] This is completely different from the Jewish view and for this reason Paul explains the resurrection in terms and concepts the Greeks would understand and not find illogical (vv.44, 50), where the flesh is called corruptible ("flesh and blood" v.50) to mean mortal (1 Cor. 15:50-54), but it's still a bodily resurrection (vv.52-3). Hence why he talks about different kinds of flesh (vv.39ff), so his Greek audience could think a little outside the box, yet there is no contradiction the kind Epicurus considered (i.e. corrupt and incorrupt "comingling").
The Egyptian magic-priests brought up ghosts, not bodies, of gods (Memnon - Apion Grammaticus, Ogden, 105 - this is rather a statue that has the god speak through it) or other (famous) personages, like Homer. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30.6] Like the Witch of Endor with Samuel. In the Talmud too, appearances are docetic - ghosts; e.g. the Talmudic legend of Onkelos bringing up the spirits of Jesus and others (Gittin 56b-57a). Like the Witch of Endor.
The ascensions are all lightning fast, because it's essentially the soul returning to heaven. [28.7; the two versions in LoA - one with lightning like the Romulus one with a storm and rain - 27.6-7] And ascensions only happened in the distant past: Romulus, Aristeas, Cleomedes, Alcmene and "many others". [Plutarch Romulus 28]. Ascension/Rising/Reappearance is docetic in Greco-Roman: Augustus (+hercules shade?): Suet. Aug. 100.4. Plutarch Romulus 27-8. Herodotus 4.14f.
Another character, Peregrinus, has a statue built in his honor after his death. There were claims of its oracular power. [Athenagoras, Presbeia peri Christianon, 26.] Some implication of him being a god-man, but not much strength behind it: Lucian portrays him simply as a mistaken, vile man. His is a biased view for sure, but nobody attributes miracles to him.
Achilles is half-god, but if he has any powers, these are strictly his ability to fight: a Greek virtue like courage and fame.
Apotheosis was a political act, mainly of emperors. Commodus was so unpopular and not deified until his memory was rehabilitated by Severus for his own reasons. And it didn't even have to be too consistent. Commodus gave divine attributions to himself in his lifetime: the titles "Exsuperatorius" (title given to Jupiter; inconsistent as he's supposed to be his son, Hercules); "Amazonius" (Hercules' title). Commodus considered himself unique in these powers and attributes, so it shows that the idea of current, living god-man was quite an innovation even in his day (late 2nd century). Hence Cassius Dio and Plutarch could inaccurately but synonymously enough call the deified emperors (and Apollonius himself) "heroes" [MacLean, 80-2]
Apotheosis was declared after the emperor's death, because that's when the soul could join the above, spiritually not physically. [Plutarch, Romulus 28.6-8] One ex-praetor swore he saw the form of the cremated Augustus ascending to heaven. [Suet. Aug. 100.4] Divinity was retroprojected to the whole life of a deified emperor, but not before he'd died. [Suet. Augustus 5]
Claudius, while alive, received widespread private worship as a living princeps [Gradel I. Emperor worship and Roman religion. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN 978-0-19-927548-9] but was only deified by Nero and the Senate after death, almost immediately. [Suet. Nero 9] He had a temple in Britain, for example. Augustus had one in Amastris (Paphlagonia, Asia Minor). But these were similar to hero cults, which were essentially always local, and had no oracles.
It's probably for this reason that writers of the time were uncomfortable with the whole institution. [MacLean, 82] At any rate, this idea was not uncommon throughout history: Egyptian pharaohs for example had been doing this for centuries prior, and many of the Greek kings traced their lineage to a first king typically the son of a god and mortal mother (e.g. Theseus).
It's debatable whether the reappeared god-men can even touch anything (neither Romulus in Plut. Rom. 28, and Aristeas may have dictated his compositions, while Theseus merely charged in battle for morale). But in all likelihood they could've, unless Marcion developed the idea (because his Docetic Jesus can clearly interact. or does he avoid this?). Thus the references to ghosts during the storm or Thomas' doubt show a difference. In fact, the few references to actual ghosts in Josephus show an inability to physically interact: they can control/influence others (War 1.31.2; cf. Plut. Rom. 28.4), discover things that no one else can through inquiry (War 1.30.7), torment mentally and through dreams (War 7.11.4), or merely influence only by their apperance (Against Apion II.5). So the Jewish conception in Josephus of ghosts is similar to that in the NT (Jesus confused for a ghost in the sea; Thomas' doubt alleviated by physical contact). So Marcion's docetic Jesus interacting is not so much a development as the gods who came down from heaven could interact. For this reason Apollonius has to be made as an incarnation of the god Proteus [LoA 1.4]. Romulus was always half-god [Plutarch]. Augustus and the other emperors are retrojected as gods from birth. [Suet. Aug. 5] None of that in the NT. The docetic shades of the Greek and Roman religions are also called ghosts by Josephus. (Ant. 19.4.6). Gnosticism and Docetism clearly influenced from the pagan parallels of various deities coming down in the shapes of whatever (also e.g. Augustus' "form" seen ascending into Heaven, despite there being ashes - by an ex-praetor - Suetonius, Augustus 100.4).
The hero cult in the Roman empire, particularly in the Greek part, at the time consisted of a man honored with a shrine. These men were either mythical or within recent, living memory: "social". The mythical ones were worshipped and had oracles at their shrines. [MacLean, 81] The social ones were honored since the days of Thucydides but local: perhaps into more than one community if families allied. [Maclean, 81] The "divine men" were a "much rarer type". [MacLean, 82] "After the Hellenistic period [323 BC - 31 BC], there seems no evidence for such social [i.e. historical] heroes receiving priests or other manifestations of public cult, or for their resting places to be called sanctuaries", nor giving oracles, but could appear in dreams and visions (cf. LoA 8.31). [MacLean, 81] They were "not of national or universal significance." [MacLean, 82]
One could easily become a hero just by appearing in the dreams of someone who cared, such as a deceased son to his father ("dreams, signs and visions"), or do a public service. [MacLean, 75] The Greeks and Romans appealed to dreams primarily. This is seen by Tertullian's comment that "the majority of people get their knowledge of God from dreams" [An. 47.2] Artemidorus' book is also an example of this. [JGRChJ 16 (2020): 118-120] The hero honors would be given after their death. [MacLean, 81] The Greeks did not accept other nations' gods the way the Romans did (except notably the practice of Alexander the Great). And they transferred the cults of heroes much more than cults of gods. [MacLean, 94] There was apparently a connection to neo-Pythagoreanism (reincarnation). [MacLean, 75]
IV. Ancient Miracle-Workers
Apollonius of Tyana
Paradoxically, the question of the historical Apollonius, interesting and worthwhile on its own, versus the one in Philostratus is not exactly a relevant one here. Like in Section III, we're interested in the idea of the miracle-worker, be it Christian or pagan; not the personal life of Apollonius himself. Later, however, the question of what Apollonius and his contemporaries thought is of relevance, but I believe it will be demonstrated that most of the narrative were legends influenced specifically by Christianity.
I don't agree with Kelley's argument that Apollonius doesn't exactly match Jesus because he was literally god/half-god (Thaumaturgic Prowess (2019), p.67) hence he isn't autonomous/or deferring but the god himself(?). He is a miracle-worker at the least. Though he admits he was much later than Jesus (implying influence by Christianity(?)).
Apollonius is presented as divine [LoA 7.38-9]; not just in communion with the gods, but being of their nature. This already seems like it's fighting not only the common belief about Apollonius, but about this being a realistic category ("divine men") overall. He's presented as having his chains fall miraculously (cf. Paul and Silas in Acts). Yet unlike Paul's prayer and song (or Jesus - John 5:30), Apollonius claims it's his own will that does it. Moreover, he simply takes his foot out of the chains; nothing miraculous necessarily even if the story happened (much like the earthquake in Acts with Paul and Silas in jail: yet the point there is that Paul now converts the jailer; in LoA, it's all about a straightforward powertrip by Apollonius ("And who," said Damis, "is so invulnerable as that?")).
He's painted somewhat in the tradition of apotheosis because he's born as a reincarnated god. Others of the time with similar claims would be Alexander of Abunoteichos, claiming to be a grandson of Asclepius, and Commodus claiming to be Hercules reborn. Not a virgin or miraculous birth (some magical elements with animals) and a (typical for important persons of every culture and age) supernatural appearance of a god while mother pregnant. How exactly Proteus appears to his mother "shortly before birth" when he's supposed to be in the womb is a bit of a mystery. [LoA 1.4] In addition to this, Apollonius is somehow "more of a prophet than Proteus" while being Proteus?! [ibid] At any rate, he's described as a god of Egypt, which is quite fitting given that the Egyptians were renowned for their magic, the same being true of Apollonius. Moreover, the emphasis on Proteus' wisdom and that of Apollonius in connection with divinity (!) colors Philostratus' narrative in an awkward way that reveals an artificial construction.
A magician/astrologer + philosopher, who sometimes wandered. In reality, it's unlikely he ever left Asia Minor and Greece. One's fame could spread without ever setting foot outside his area: Alexander of Abunoteichos' fame spreading to Rome. [Lucian, Alexander 30]
Notably, he's a philosopher at 12 years old. [LoA 2.31] Naturally, as a magician, he's a Neo-Pythagorean. There are numerous references to reincarnation: 1.4, 6.43, etc. Clearly in the tradition of philosophers (witticism in LoA 7.36: "...who would ever have thought of Apollonius being thrown into chains?" - "The person who threw him," said Apollonius, "for surely he would not have done so, if he had not thought of it."). But also seems to borrow from Stoics (or Cynics?) on not focusing on pain. [LoA 7.36] Also the "transmigration" is neo-pythagorean, probably not Orphic, because Telephus would be presumed to be with the heroes probably. But not a contradiction to Orphic, as most mystery cults accepted reincarnation. [Lucian, Alexander. 38-40] <- not heroes (Pythagoras, etc) though?
Among his teachings is the idea that being a philosopher alone was being a good man. [LoA 3.28; Letter 16] He was anti-cultic, arguing the gods didn't need sacrifices (cf. Psalm 50:13) - most Pythagoreans were against sacrifice. He did not consider physical rituals as important as their significance, and this included the disrespect of having his locks cut off - an act which meant nothing to him. [LoA 7.36]
His values include the typical Greek ones: beauty, size, courage. [LoA 3.19, 3.38] Education, reason/wisdom, skills like archery. [LoA 3.38] Apollonius is called beautiful even with wrinkles [LoA 8.29]. Similarly beauty, grace (in manners and speech) about Augustus in Suetonius Augustus 79, but also some asceticism/non-luxury and humbleness. It's clear from Suetonius that anything physically negative can be overlooked or turned into a positive. Apollonius is abstinent, which was very unusual seeing how Philostratus could only come up with two similar examples [1.13], and again shows the Syrian roots of Apollonius and Philostratus' source (cf. Porphyry of Tyre's On Abstinence). He had great memory [1.14], vegetarian like Pythagoras, and not materialistic. [1.7]
Like Orphic images, he's connected kindly to animals and can speak with them. [Porphyry, Abstinence Book 3] At the end of his life, the temple dogs submit to him. In the rabies cure, he's clairvoyant about where the rabid dog is. His clairvoyance also extends to knowing the moment Domitian dies despite not being in Rome. (Cassius Dio 67.18.1; also LoA Domitian, same incident). Predicts a plague in Ephesus: through a "lighter diet" being "more sensitive". [LoA 8.5] Other predictions include the Year of three Emperors. [LoA 5.12] He can speak all languages and has the rhetorical ability of expression. [LoA 1.19] Exorcises a demon, heals a lame man, a blind man, a woman's labor issues, and preventing the early death of the next son of a father. [LoA 3.38-40] All these miracles, however, are accomplished through incantations or ritual instructions such as having a hare or cooking eggs of hen owls a specific way. Strange for a man who could simply shake off chains at will like a god. [LoA 7.38] In addition, peculiarly, the lame man is said to only have a dislocated hip: had feeling in it. [LoA 3.39] Peculiarly, the blind man had both eyes "put out" but walked away having recovered sight of them both?! The cure for the woman with labor issues has failure conditions. The early death of the father's sons is because they drank wine - so a theological origin for this legend. Just about the only miracle without some kind of naturalistic explanation or potential hiccup is the paralyzed man's hand restored, which for all the legends knew, could've been similarly a dislocation. This listing of miracles is strangely suspect because, like in the Gospels with Jairus' daughter, the boy's parent arrives in the middle of a discussion. There's no urgency, this happens to be a coincidence. And the subsequent list of miracles is not in any narrative order, as they didn't happen at that time or place in the story.
Obviously, famous philosophers and teachers had followers. Damis in no way is comparable to the Apostles; esp not in function. He's more like Luke to Paul, the latter of which Apollonius seems to have more in common than Jesus.
In Philostratus' narrative, Apollonius disappears in a temple, having evaded chains and befriended vicious guard dogs, called up by a chorus of maidens. [LoA 8.30] The dogs themselves are apparently not immune to being overcome, given Lucian's derision of their inability to prevent a temple of Zeus from being looted.
An ex-praetor swore seeing Augustus' ascension, seemingly slowly (seeing his "form"), despite there being ashes. [Suetonius, Augustus 100.4] Empedocles pretended to disappear to convince others he'd become a god. [Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 69] This along with Herodotus' Aristeas legend [Histories 4.14f], shows that the sudden disappearance was usually instantaneous (also Plutarch, Romulus 28). So the Apollonius' ascension is typical in the Greco-Roman tradition.
It can't be denied that to a certain degree Philostratus inflected with his aims the traditions about Apollonius, themselves already probably somewhat developed from the occasional Christian story. Despite his various claims about the nature of Apollonius, a picture of a human mage emerges much more vividly in the stories: incantations against demons, herbal magical lore, and so on. [LoA 3.38-40] Philostratus himself notes he's fighting the main traditions by his claim that his work was there to set a "new account" up against the "general ignorance". [LoA 1.2] But unlike, for example, Josephus and the Jewish war, he isn't an eyewitness who could personally correct common misconceptions. This is like a man with an agenda, writing over a century after his protagonist's life. The variant traditions already show a disunified picture of what should've been an empire-wide famous man. For example, did he ascend or not? This isn't some minor difference in detail such as Judas' death in Christian tradition.
Not only this, but Philostratus' sources are very suspect as they are newly discovered "hitherto unknown" by Julia Domna, the emperors' mother and patron. [LoA 1.3] Damis who followed Apollonius from the ends of the Earth simply left his journal in secret for 150 years! Julia Domna's provenance is Syrian and her inner circle neo-Pythagoreans. [Hemelrijk, E. A. (1999). Matrona docta: educated women in the Roman élite from Cornelia to Julia Domna, London/New York, 122-126 (with references at 303-306)][Robiano (2000). "Julia Domna", in R. Goulet (1989-), Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, Paris, vol. 3, 954-960] So a connection to Apollonius is completely understandable. In addition, Philostratus rejects information in earlier sources when they don't suit him, such as the work by Moeragenes a few generations earlier, which he nevertheless uses, but denies the explicit identification of Apollonius as a magician. With Maximux of Aegae, another source, he also disagrees regarding Apollonius' age. Apollonius is said to be 20 around 17 AD, but lives to the death of Domitian (96 AD), and is said to be a "young man" when departing on his journey (LoA 1.18), yet returns in the reign of Nero. [LoA 4.37] Some years makes sense, but he must've stayed decades abroad, possible, but by no means implied by a text that's supposed to be based on the eyewitness Damis, who took notes of everything Apollonius said. [LoA 1.19] Even where Philostratus does use earlier sources, these are filled with obvious inventions. For example, how likely is it that Apollonius decided to live in the city where Maximus was from, Aegae, so that everyone flocked to see him in the temple of Asclepius? [LoA 1.7-8] The letters he cites are also widely considered forgeries - at least for the most part.
Notably, Moeragenes' source is unsympathetic to Apollonius. Unlike Philostratus' Life of Apollonius, Moeragenes portrays Apollonius through his magic as the victimizer of Euphrates, not Euphrates as a slanderer. The positive view of Euphrates shared by Pliny the Young, Epictetus, and Fronto is in stark contrast to Philostratus' narrative. [Penella, 89]
Why use all these sources only to contradict them? It's clear Philostratus had no sources agreeing with his point of view to any reasonable or historically justifiable degree. Not even the common tradition agreed with his (or Julia Domna's) ideas, as he himself notes. [LoA 1.2]
And in these places where one could expect the most historically authentic information - Apollonius' dealings with other philosophers - are rife with contradictions. LoA 3.35 claims Apollonius as superior to Musonius, yet LoA 4.46 calls Musonius as the greatest philosopher, acknowledges Apollonius' subservience to him in their exchanged letters, and it's Musonius who is jailed for philosophy, not Apollonius - a parallel to Socrates, where Musonius and not Apollonius, is the main philosopher. In other places, it's Dio Chrysostom who is the superior orator and not Apollonius. [LoA 5.37] And if Musonius could not excuse his exile, e.g. through a speech, how is it Apollonius did?
The positive relationship between Apollonius and Musonius or Dio Chrysostom cannot be trusted. One could suppose Euphrates, a student of Musonius, despised Apollonius for personal and unfounded reasons. But for Philostratus to describe Musonius to be from "Babylon" (LoA 3.35), makes it difficult to believe anything Philostratus claims in the details. How likely is it
Whatever Apollonius and Dio's connection, the former seems to have liked him because "Dion was a delightful conversationalist and always declined to quarrel" - not much of a meaningful connection, which means Apollonius, given his bitter quarrels with Euphrates, was in a subservient relationship in terms of wisdom and acknowledgment to Musonius and his circle.
MacLean notes Philostratus is especially cautious with stories of Apollonius' disappearance. [Maclean, 80] His ascension instead of a natural death was not the majority view. Philostratus admits so [LoA 8.29] where he shows his bias "if he did actually die". Philostratus says he could never find a tomb of Apollonius, though having "traversed most of the earth". Strangely, he considers his direct ascension as death despite it not being physical/normal. It's hard to understand why the absence of a tomb was any proof of divinity, when the presence of one didn't disprove it: the emperors, Alexander the Great. It's certainly a strong indication, but Empedocles' death shows it doesn't mean much without witnesses. Moreover, a tomb was not always proof of death, but a sign of respect. In Lucian's Toxaris, the Argives and Myceneans are chastised for not having so much as a tomb to Orestes and his friend Pylades, whereas the Scythians built them temples.
That Philostratus knows of a story of his death, probably mentioned because of its prophetic aspect as well as the fact that two different islands (Rhodes and Crete) are given as the place of his last days shows how late the traditions of the ascension and about the historical Apollonius in general must be. The story of his death is also legendary. Taken altogether, the absence of a tomb means that Apollonius, without a doubt popular in his day, was not nearly as influential as Philostratus makes him out to be, and his last days, like his early ones, were simply forgotten.
In his one and only post-mortem appearance, a very stubborn young opponent of the then deceased/ascended Apollonius challenged the idea that he was still alive for a while. Then Apollonius appears to him in a dream, which becomes a trance or some strange mixture in the narrative. Apollonius claims the teachings aren't needed, but still gives them. [LoA 8.31] Perhaps the youth annoyed too much. Like Alexander in Lucian (ch.55), Apollonius is here making followers of all enemies! Dream quests was the typical way of healing in Hellenistic temples: vision quest. Apollonius' teaching is standard neo-Pythagoreanism. The twist is that he seems to basically say that it does nothing for you knowing/wondering these things. This antithesis to the mystery religions is inline with the implicit idea in the Apollonius tradition that one is a good man by his works, clearly interpreted by one's own conscience (cf. Rom. 2:10-12, 14:5), as well as Philostratus' idea that if one isn't a god, if you perform your rituals with respect, what can teachings do for you outside satisfying curiosity? Curiosity such as the realization by the young man that Apollonius is indeed alive - and thus a confirmation of his teachings.
I think some evidence points to a not so incidental imitation of Christian theology and the Gospel stories by the pagans. The movement (theioi andres by Philostratus) began by mixing Greek philosophy with Christianity. At first it was Docetism, [Ladd, 231ff.] as we see it combatted in John's letters [Telford, 96]. Then the systems became more developed as the various Pythagorean cosmic systems got infused (the Valentinian etc of the mid-2nd century and on).
It's possible Philostratus developed his portrait of Apollonius to some degree to mimic the Gospels (e.g. LoA 7.38). Already Christians had some notoriety in the mid 2nd century (Gnosticism's rise; disputes with emperors; Lucian of Samosata). There's no way Philostratus was unaware of Christianity and the stories of Jesus. In fact, from Lucian's False Prophet, ch.25, Alexander of Abunoteichos accuses Pontus of being full of atheists (Epicureans) and Christians. Pliny the Younger himself notes how he had to deal with them frequently in the early 2nd century. And Philostratus was writing from Ephesus. Thus, he certainly knew of the stories of Jesus, if not the Gospels themselves. Porphyry, who was quite aware of Christians and their stories, possibly copied Life of Plotinus based on them to a degree, the way Philostratus or his sources copied the common stories of the time about Pythagoras and attributed them to Apollonius; Apollonius is not merely someone imitating Pythagoras' life, but every legend is attributed to him. So we know Philostratus or the sources to LoA had no qualms in using popular stories in this way.
Peregrinus going to a community of Christians because they were accepting/pariahs? or widespread? if the latter, then certainly Lucian et al Eastern philosophers were influenced to some degree by Christian concepts and terms. This may be seen, for example, by Lucian's (or the captain's) use of the phrase "God-fearing", to describe morality. [Alexander 56]
Responses to this include that Paul's pagan opponents considered Jesus a mere member of this tradition instead of the Son of God as he preached, which might have influenced the writing of gospels to avoid this identification.[Telford, pp.93, 97ff] [Dieter Georgi. The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians]. This is untrue: Telford supposes that MK 13:6, 21-3, etc may reflect theioi andres that Georgi considers to have been Paul's opponents in 2 Corinthians 12. But these "super-apostles" are clearly not of any supernatural ilk (even if miracles=wisdom [MacLean, 79]): they are rhetoricians and sophists as the chapter itself tells us, and Paul would've hardly mentioned his own miracles as such an afterthought if he were competing with theirs, which would've clearly been superior and more numerous. If anything he would've resorted to Jesus', but that would've proved nothing: because one theios aner does not disprove the existence of another. So why Paul would be displaced by such when he mentions his own miracles (but is clearly not considering himself a theios aner!), remains a mystery with such an interpretation.
Apollonius, for example, was considered divine because of love of wisdom and asceticism, but lesser beings have to be proven by miracles. [MacLean, 79] So when Lucian talks about Peregrinus "worshipped like a god" by Christians, clearly an invented claim, he's just elucidating a common motif, perhaps like his panegyric for Epicurus in Alex. 61. I don't think Apollonius' divinity or miracles were "just wisdom" as MacLean says, but certainly the focus of it. Similar legends emphasize this aspect such as Diogenes' request for Alexander to move because he was casting a shadow (who dislikes shadows from the Sun anyway? Unless he was drawing something on the ground?).
Notably, in LoA 8.5 as well as Apollonius Letter 16 where a "divine" man (=righteous) is simply someone wise who does good things. [MacLean, 79] In LoA 1.2 we read: "Now these feats are set down to the wisdom of Anaxagoras by the same people who would rob Apollonius of the credit of having predicted things by dint of wisdom, and say that he achieved these results by art of wizardry." Apollonius calls several people divine (gymnosophists in general!) [Maclean, 79] Perhaps also of Epicurus [Lucian, Alexander 61], and Peregrinus [Lucian "worshipped second only to [Jesus]"].
This then explains expressions like the Mopsuesta Inscription, where Apollonius was "extinguished the wanderings of men, sent by heaven, to drive out the sorrows of mortals." [MacLean, 83] The Mopsuesta Inscription has to be figurative because everyone knew he was from Tyana. In praising Quintus Sextius, Seneca writes: "But when you come to read Sextius you will say: "He is alive; he is strong; he is free; he is more than a man; he fills me with a mighty confidence before I close his book."" [Seneca, Epistles, lxiv, 3.] - Greek value of wisdom over miracles (or equated with miracles?)? Similarly, Suetonius on Augustus: "He had clear, bright eyes, in which he liked to have it thought that there was a kind of divine power, and it greatly pleased him, whenever he looked keenly at anyone, if he let his face fall as if before the radiance of the sun" [Augustus 79.2] Also, as noted above, Pliny refers to Asclepiades with the same euphemism as an expression. [Nat. Hist. 26.7]
And the argument is about interpreting Jesus' message anyway, not the ontology of either he, Paul, or the opponents. Davies supposes Hellenistic "divine men" could have existed (pp.167ff). The false prophets in Mark existed in any age and have no relation to theioi andres: these are merely men who lead astray and that their miracles are not necessarily proof if their words and actions do not correspond (Matt. 7:15-23 (particularly vv.15, 22); Gal. 1:8 [clearly not fighting theioi aner]).
For the Gospels to have reacted to "theioi andres" by "historicizing" Jesus, Mark doesn't particularly do much (the examples in Ladd are few and have different purposes), and the tradition was essentially quite solid to begin with (cf. Last Supper in 1 Cor. 10-11; Q; Special Material of LK and MT). The Docetic heretics do not appear widespread until c.100, as seen in 1 John. Moreover, other exorcists outside the Apostles' community are not condemned (Mark 9:38-41), and the comical portrayal of the failure of the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-17 has no excessive rhetoric. In fact, Acts 16:16-18 mentions a pagan fortune-teller, a typical magician's practice, without much rhetoric other than Paul's actions. So it's hard to exactly agree with the thesis that there was some crisis in the New Testament to differentiate Jesus from other "divine men". The whole NT then does not fight docetism or theioi andres: Mark doesn't as shown above (also Matt. independently shown above), nor Luke who used Mark (nor Acts, written by Luke), nor Paul.
Even in Philostratus' day one needed a supplication for a connection to the gods, rather than being in direct communication, esp for miracles. [LoA 7.38] Paul especially calls Jesus a "Son of God" and would've been a little more cautious, or at least would've differentiated, from the pagan ideas - but as a Jewish idea, he is thoroughly at home (OT references; Jesus as Son of Man (Ezekiel)). The New Testament would've emphasized a contrast, the way e.g. Philostratus does frequently between magic and divine power for Apollonius in many places (e.g. LoA 7.39).
Lucian does say Peregrinus was "worshipped like a god" by the Christians. But all he knew of them was hearsay: the claim Peregrinus was worshipped, doesn't know Jesus' name, talks about Peregrinus learning the "lore of the Christians" - obviously no knowledge of Christian beliefs: calls Jesus a "crucified sophist"! That they live "according to his laws". Clearly he considered him akin to the philosophers (out of a better understanding) and was just using the title "sophist" as a euphemism.
Yet, was Lucian ready to have that community attribute "god-man" status to Peregrinus as if it was something common? How far that phrase can be used literally is debatable. Peregrinus is mainly a con-artist, not much even claimed of supernatural abilities in his Christian episode ("like a law-giver" - perhaps implying the philosophy of the wise Greek lulled the barbarians; though Lucian was himself Syrian). The fact that Peregrinus is booted out by them may imply "worshipping" him was not meant to be taken literally
Christian influence on Philostratus and his sources/traditions is very likely. Philostratus must've known of Christians, like his contemporaries (Lucian, Porphyry, Celsus). It's very possible that some traditions were modified to some degree from the Gospel oral tradition and attributed to Apollonius, by Philostratus' sources. To what degree, this cannot be known, nor if it happened directly. For example, Apollonius' celibacy, not a Greek concept, and provenance from Capadoccia, along with sources from Syria.
Philostratus is certainly avoiding mention of Christianity: mentions just about every philosophy in LoA 1.7, including Epicureans, whom Lucian in Alexander connects so closely in their rejection of most traditional religious concepts. [Lucian, Alex. 25, 38] This may mean he knew of Jesus but was unwilling to acknowledge his following because his protagonist was in direct competition; thus making his changes conscious or unconscious parallels to Christianity, or else he would've not been so threatened by its popularity. That means that aside from influency by stories about Jesus, his Apollonius is a unique and distinct from other "god-men" version, and so in no way represents any category of Greek miracle workers at all, but an imitation of one.
It's not that Philostratus would've copied Christian stories, but that his Syrian source(s) are indirectly influenced by Christian traditions over time is much more likely: the opposite of the very process usually ascribed to the Gospels, except more plausible due to chronology and a near non-category of "god-men". These traditions would've been somewhat widespread in Asia Minor by Pliny's day 100 years earlier, due to his numerous dealings with Christians. Lucian's Alexander set in Asia Minor in the mid 2nd century is also replete with mentions of Christians. Then, at the behest of his patron, Julia Domna, Philostratus quite enthusiastically in full gear flooded the narrative with claims of Apollonian divinity; many of the explanations and references are certainly his own (LoA 1.13, 7.38, etc).
Clearly the people developed legends that were discernible even in Philostratus' day - LoA 1.5 (son of Zeus vs son of Apollonius (rel Alexander the Great?)). For example, the Pythagorean element in Philostratus' legends is completely missing in the local legends, but must be authentic, because it's found in the Epistles (authentic or not, the letters are an independent tradition), as well as details of Apollonius that are authentic (sacrificing without killing animals).
Philostratus' narrative simply doesn't make sense on a lot of levels. Apollonius' birth is an incarnation of the god, Proteus: strange that Proteus speaks with his mother when he's supposed to be in her womb. Also, the explanation for him reincarnating as Apollonius in being a shape-shifter is rather strange, as if to convince why/how a god incarnated (with no signs of being this god afterward) as if no other god could (without being a shapeshifter?!).
There is evidence where Philostratus or his sources clearly invented the narrative. LoA 7.36 is clearly modeled on the idea that magicians are up to no good and have a secret way of doing magic (and that Apollonius is a magician); it's likely Philostratus is inventing it. In LoA 7.38 Apollonius can miraculously take off chains, but puts them back on. Clearly for the story because this could've at least served as a demonstration that Domitian is persecuting a righteous man, and may reflect a real imprisonment of Apollonius (where he died?). Apollonius of Tyana's theology "gods need no sacrifice" evident in LoA 7.37-8 and clearly transformed into him being a deity. The legend of the maids at his death: clear legend, the only reason Philostratus preserves it probably. How anyone would know who the slave-girl married is a mystery: if she were that famous, then of course someone rich would marry her.
The episode with the rabies is a clear exaggeration: some of the symptoms don't match and are obviously invented (the boy barks like a dog etc). Shows Apollonius used sympathetic magic (a modern term; not the magic condemned by Philostratus):
- The comments that mad dogs rarely bark (or maybe fold ears/wag tails) is a bit suspicious.
- That rabid dogs are cured if they drink water, though afraid of it. Apollonius says something flattering about the boy (reincarnated Iliad hero) to the crowd, so he's a speaker (and trickster) for sure.
- Sympathetic magic: Offers a prayer to the river
- He does sympathetic magic + some folk cures (antiseptic tongue of dog, who licks the wound he caused).
Other possible inventions may be like Apollonius studying in Asclepian temple (LoA 1.7). Either Philostratus (or his sources) invented this to differentiate him from magicians, or it shows a connection between the two. This is too conjectural, and I think the above examples are plenty as a demonstration of the fiction of the narrative. The plot in Apollonius' story isn't even as plausible as The Wonders Beyond Thule.
Regardless, there wouldn't be much support for a divine-man category from which Jesus drew here. If anything, Apollonius of Tyana was copied off Paul in Acts, with whom he shares much more in many ways, than Jesus in the Gospels.
Philostratus: inventor or unreliable source use?
But who was responsible for these edits? Philostratus himself? The fake Damis source? Legends by the post-Apollonius generations?
Aside from the already repeated observations that Philostratus was out on an "editing-spree" of what he considered to be "misunderstandings" [LoA 1.2], is there any direct literary evidence that it was him or his source? Such a question is important because if we establish that Philostratus is the inventor of a certain narrative, then he couldn't have had qualms making up some of the bigger claims about Apollonius.
However, without his sources, this is impossible. Even where he makes his own comments, there's simply no way to prove he was inventing anything as opposed to interpreting in his own way what he had before him. This doesn't exactly matter in this case, because if his sources were the inventors, we would be able to reasonable deduce this, and the ancient testimony outside Philostratus in the specific case of Apollonius shows that Philostratus was fighting a general ignorance by replacing it with one of his own.
That Philostratus used sources shouldn't be doubted. Lendering [Apollonius 2] notes how a tradition by Philostratus about a different Apollonius may have been incorrectly attributed by him to the one of Tyana. This shows that Philostratus was not inventing at least some of his sources. And it's unlikely he made this mistake frequently. But it does show how he can be interpretive of a single source in a way that's vastly different from its original meaning or intent. Overall it shows his sources greatly mythologized Apollonius and thus his miracle/oracle stories long after Apollonius, in addition to divergent tradition.
But was there even a journal of Damis? If Philostratus is merely "polishing" this authentic source, why is it that Apollonius and Damis go from Nineveh west to Zeugma on their way to India?! [LoA 1.20] Why would Damis confuse his geography, and if this was from another source, whose journal and why is it inserted here? Not only Damis, but Apollonius was wiling to describe the people and places he went to at length. [LoA 5.37] Why is Philostratus' ignorance of Near Eastern geography and topography as well as ethnography so poor to the point where he confines Arabs and Armenians in Mesopotamia?! [LoA 1.20] Nineveh and Babylon repopulated despite their destructions could've been known in Syria. And the whole narrative does not sound like a simple eyewitness journal, such as the critic of Damis' journal at the end of LoA 1.19: it's Philostratus retelling a story as if he heard it, instead of reading it from a witness source. For instance, it may be understandable that Damis "worships" Apollonius as some more than human entity (LoA 1.19) only to later truly realize Apollonius is a god (LoA 7.38). But why did it take him so long after having seen so many miracles?
The sentence, "The soul of Telephus of Mysia has been transferred into this boy, and the Fates impose the same things upon him as upon Telephus" seems certain to have been put in Apollonius' mouth by Philostratus who elsewhere denies he was a magician or fortune teller other than by what the Fates told him. [LoA 6.43] Though reincarnation is a belief of the Pythagoreans, aside from the comment of the Fates, Philostratus or his traditions (most likely the former in these cases) certainly purified him here (I think he says this elsewhere; also disagrees with his sources when they don't agree with his viewpoint - i.e. the 4-book guy). The final comment in LoA 6.43 is clear that Apollonius was mainly a speaker. But elsewhere, perhaps unable to make things up (too many people knew), Philostratus reproduces embarrassing things and combats them.
In LoA 1.1, Philostratus misunderstands/misuses/amplifies sources? [1.1] hecatomb proverbial (see Livius note): proverb taken literally? Doesn't know neo-Pythagorean philosophy (+no word on it in his other writings), and clearly interprets this as he wills. Possible also when he uses the word "satrap" in a very loose way (=eunuch). [LoA 1.21] It's unlikely he would've done so if he used any legitimately middle eastern eyewitness itinerary like Damis' journal is supposed to be.
Philostratus proclaims his aim is "to recast and edit Damis' essays, paying attention to the style and diction of them" (LoA 1.2). But goes beyond because Damis isn't present in the first journey to Rome or to Greece/Asia Minor. Since he's there at Hispania and the second trip to Rome, yet no tradition of Apollonius existed there, leading Lendering to conclude he probably never went there, it means Damis' journal was a literary invention by Philostratus' source. Damis' absence from Greece and Asia Minor also means he was likely invented and added onto Apollonius' itinerary: India, Egypt, Hispania. The two trips one with one without him at Rome is explainable since Rome was so central (the Church very early on there, so naturally, being the Capital everyone would be going there: real or imagined), maybe multiple, duplicate traditions arose.
Damis (character) is clearly made up. He knows and explains Greek philosophers to Apollonius!: 7.37. Even if Philostratus "polished" a supposed original, he or a previous edit must've placed the dialogues in Damis' mouth seeing his extensive Hellenistic knowledge. How likely is it that Philostratus was unaware of this?
The word "legends" isn't accurate. But the stories that were shaped, consciously or not, were borrowed from such. Aside from what has already been mentioned, the various travels of Apollonius, at least outside of Asia Minor/Syria and Greece, must've been fiction. That's where most of Philostratus' material hails from, and it's where he writes at (Ephesus).
The travelling philosopher was a common motif: to India, Egypt, Mesopotamia. [LoA 1.2] Diodorus mentions some traditions which state an older, Indian or Egyptian Dionysus existed. Egypt was the place magic was associated with (Harnouphis, Apion Grammaticus; even another Apollonius - of Egypt). Hercules was rumored to have travelled the Earth. [Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 54]
Egypt was depicted as a typical source of wisdom. Plato considered going to the Indians and Magi, so this was clearly a trope. [Apuleius, De Dogmate Platonis I.3] Learned Pythagorean doctrines, associated with Egypt, and "he was more desirous of imitating the restraint and chastity of things". [ibid.] Jesus is even said to have learned his magic there in the Talmud. But the visit to Egypt is almost an afterthought in LoA. The "nude ascetics of Egypt" (LoA 1.2), more likely a conflation of Indians or Ethiopians, do not convince as an authentic reflection. Had he actually gone there for any extensive, relevant to his career stay, he would've had more association both in oral tradition and in his philosophy.
Apollonius was probably never in Rome for there to be no traditions about him. One's fame could spread well outside one's active area (Alexander of Abunoteichos: from Paphlagonia to Italy without ever stepping foot there). Rome was the capital and would naturally have attracted such stories as well as followers, possibly ones out of whom such legends grew. If he didn't go West, it's unlikely he went East to India or Mesopotamia. In addition, the geographical errors mentioned above negate this report. Notably, a close follower of Apollonius is also from Tyana. [Lucian, Alex. 5] This follower takes Alexander of Abunoteichos and the two go only to Greece and Macedonia and back - this should suggest the historical Apollonius never really went much outside these regions and had a base in Tyana (which LoA 1.18 suggests as much prior to his travels East).
These were likely influenced by myths from the Dionysian mysteries: many of the myths of Dionysus are connected with his arrival in the form of a procession. This includes a grand triumphant return from "India", which influenced symbolic conceptions of the Roman triumph in Nonnus' Dionysiaca. Similarly, Pliny describes Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato as having learned their philosophy from abroad. [Nat. Hist. 30.2]
The travels are not the only things copied from stories, particularly ones about Pythagoras:
|initiate in all the mysteries
||Iamblichus, Pythagoreanism 1.14, 18-19, 151
|able to remember former incarnations
||Porphyry, Pyth. 26-7, Laertius, Lives 8.5
Also Alexander of Abunoteichos (reincarnated Pythagoras!) [Lucian, Alex. 40]
|Descent in a Cave
||Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 17
Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the Philosophers 8.41
|Tames wild animals
||A dog - LoA 6.43
||An eagle - Plutarch Numa 8.5
Note: Orpheus in a fresco from Dura-Europos is shown surrounded by animals
|Finder of Treasure
||Alexander of Abunoteichos (and his teacher, a student of Apollonius!): Lucian, Alex. 5, 23-24
|vow of silence for five years
||Porph., Pyth. 19 and Iambl., Pyth. 1.104, 226, 246, 252
|be at two places at once
||Porph., Pyth. 29 and Iambl., Pyth. 1.134-136
|died in a temple at an old age
||Porph., Pyth. 57
Other similarities exist: abstinence, bloodless sacrifices (Plutarch, Numa 8.8), refrain from meat or wine. [LoA 1.8] Pythagoras was said to have dressed all in white. He is also said to have borne a golden wreath atop his head and to have worn trousers after the fashion of the Thracians. [Riedweg, 2] - similarly Apollonius dresses in linen. [LoA 1.8] But the historical Apollonius could have done all of these, as they were general neo-Pythagorean habits. In fact, the bloodless sacrifice and abstinence are certainly historical, and probably not drinking wine too.
Ancient philosophers modelled their lives like older ones. But this could clearly become so artificial and expected, that a later biographer could assert it. Even Reminiscences of Apollonius about Tyana, magician and philosopher by Moeragenes seems to have tried to imitate the famous Reminiscences about Socrates by the author Xenophon (c.430-c.355), a disciple of the Athenian philosopher. It's difficult to believe Apollonius copied Pythagoras so exactly, as opposed to invented traditions as shown above.
Apollonius was probably not worshipped as a god in his own lifetime [LoA 7.33], at least not as a public cult. [MacLean, 79] I base this on the fact that Alexander of Abunoteichos barely claimed to be the son of an obscure god: Asclepius' son, Podaleirus [Lucian, Alex. 11, 39, 59], and was a pupil of a student of Apollonius. [Lucian, Alex. 5] And one doesn't get the impression that either Alexander's teacher or Apollonius ever claimed or were claimed to be gods; neither in Lucian nor other sources (Porphyry, Celsus) except Philostratus. Even later, few seem to have considered him divine outside the, apparently, main place of his travels: Asia Minor and Greece, and Syria: not even in sources 100 years after Philostratus is Apollonius considered a god in the mainstream view (Sossianus). Apollonius was thus probably not worshipped, publicly at least, as a god/demigod in his own lifetime. [Maclean, 79-80] It's more likely the divine aspect was Alexander's innovation, boldly based on the stories of heroes like Heracles, Alexander the Great, or Perseus, from whom he claimed descent. [Lucian, Alex. 11]
Certainly some places might have worshipped him as a god, later at least - Philostratus' account's popularity to some degree. There was a shrine to him in Mopsuesta, Cilicia (Asia Minor). [MacLean, p.83] And probably ones in other places too. The fact that his images were in temples and also coins supports this as well. And according to the Historia Augusta, Severus had an image of him (along with an image of Jesus, Abraham, and Orpheus! - at least the idea that Apollonius was worship-worthy existed in the 4th or 5th century of the Historia Augusta). But for Sossinius to say he wasn't divine, means the shrines were near his locale in Tyana: Philostratus implies as much that the biggest legends came from there and most honored temple was there, where emperors paid him honors (one had one of his books). But not much outside Asia Minor/Syria where Julia Domna recruited him and gave him her sources: Caracalla built a special shrine to him in Tyana, and not anywhere else. [Cassius Dio 78.18.4] In Epistle 48 "Apollonius" maintains the gods themselves had often spoken of him as of a godly man, not only privately to specific individuals but publicly as well, but refrains from saying anything more.
While writing to the Stoic Euphrates, who despised him, Apollonius indicates that as an imitator of Pythagoras, he also considered himself to belong to the class of daimones (Ep. 50; cf. LoA 1.19). [Penella, 116] The same is seen in Epp. 16 and 17, where the designation the negative term applied to him, "magus", is turned into a compliment beyond its original, positive, Persian sense of pious and just "worshipper of the gods." [Penella, ibid., p. 101; add Porphyry, On abstinence, IV, 16, 1] For Apollonius in the letters, "magos" equals "godly man" (theios), "man of divine nature" (ho ten physin theios) – a designation that he seems to wholeheartedly accept for himself. Thus one understands the connection Philostratus makes between wisdom and divinity. [Maclean, 78-9] In Epistle 1, he describes base men as "anthropoi kakodaimones" and gives the quality of "kakodaimonia" to Euphrates in Epistle 3 [Penella, 90] so the word "daimonos" was not exclusively a designation of any divine or spiritual beings.
On the issue of Apollonius' divinity, an important objective of Philostratus, we see the most tampering. Unlike in Jesus' case, Philostratus' position was one of many views, and a minority one. For example, Porphyry considered Apollonius a magician who defrauded widows: clearly a baseless claim (similar false accusations against Apuleius), but shows his opinion was widespread enough to be so boldly proclaimed (and preserved). And he's not the only one. Lucian refers to his teachings as a "bag of tricks". [Lucian, Alexander 5]
All the deified emperors had to be either gods or sons of gods from the beginning: usually reincarnated [Commodus - Hercules; Hadrian of Augustus]. So Philostratus' traditions project Proteus onto Apollonius, quite awkwardly, as the two have nothing in common. In this case, like Apollonius, Augustus is born in the flesh (retroprojected) as a god [Suet. Aug. 5] and can't be docetic. But many of the god-men of mythology were born physically (Perseus, Hercules, the emperors).
"Philostratus consistently represents Apollonius as "divine" (theios), though he does so with caution, usually making characters in the work use the adjective rather than expressing his own opinion." [MacLean, 78] Apollonius legends were extended to an apotheosis gone rampant by Philostratus and his circle. This is a real example of the theory Atkins unconvincingly attempts to ascribe to Jesus in his Caesar's Messiah and other such theories of mythologization: even then only of stories, Apollonius very much real. Adam Kezenis considers LoA to be political social propaganda, influenced by travel tales such as that of Dictys Cretensis or The Wonders Beyond Thule. [Adam Kemezis. “Roman Politics and the Fictional Narrator in Philostratus’ Apollonius.” Classical Antiquity 33, no. 1 (2014): 61–101]
In Cassius Dio's day (contemporary of Philostratus), Apollonius was worshipped at Tyana mainly. [Maclean, Jennifer et al (eds). Philostratus's Heroikos, p.82] But he uses the term "hero", same as for the deified emperors because uncomfortable with it (like Plutarch is). [ibid., p.83] This shows how arbitrary the process was, and that the concept of "god-men" was by no means popular with everyone, meaning it was not on much of a historical ground (or did he not check the sources for Apollonius? Though why only worshipped at Tyana?). In 78.18.4 Cassius Dio says Caracalla honored Apollonius "of Cappadocia" with a shrine, clearly intending to mean worship.
Philostratus portrays Apollonius much like the mythological heroes (not the ones within living memory) who had oracles at their shrines. [MacLean, 81] His base is at Tyana, where one of his closest followers (who learned everything) is from. [Lucian, Alex. 5] Also the youth in LoA 8.31 travels to Tyana to challenge him; but like theioi andres Apollonius appears to him. Caracalla also built a shrine to him at Tyana, like the local heroes, yet Philostratus insists on deifying him, and this contrary picture [MacLean, 82-3] should show that it wasn't even Philostratus' tradition that conflicted, but his own biased point of view in changing the narrative, which he edited for this reason as he admits. [LoA 1.2 - "true account" vs "general ignorance"] Hence Apollonius' uniqueness is owed to this: he may be an exception to the "hero" rule, and would be the only one. [MacLean, 83]
Since Alexander, a pupil of a student of Apollonius [Lucian, Alex. 5], was very reticent in some godman characteristics (not too famous god for a father (Podaleirus)) did not take his cues from Apollonius via the disciple of the latter who was his teacher, about which teacher who taught Alexander nothing like this is implied by Lucian.
Likely Philostratus or his sources exaggerated Apollonius' nature, as he is more possibly a hero [MacLean 83] (+ a mixture of apotheosis by the people as opposed to the state for emperors), seeing how his best shrine was locally, in Tyana [Philos. LoA...] and Caracalla also built one there in Philostratus' day [MacLean, 81], clearly showing he was thought of as like a famous local hero, that eventually became more divine, but still some (Sossinius, Porphyry) knew of divergent traditions.
Focus makes miracles possible (wisdom=miracle? [MacLean, 79]). [LoA 7.36] Philostratus consistently refers to Apollonius as "divine" but with caution (cite MacLean, 78). Narrow boundary "seeming divine" vs "seeming a god", and he was not worshipped in his lifetime [MacLean 79], and clearly not even 100 years later as Philostratus is at pains to potray him as divine [LoA 7.38].
Sossinius notes how Apollonius was not worshipped (apparently by most to make this claim in the 4th century) despite having miracles. So it would appear his fame was exaggerated by Philostratus or by his sources, later; hence his attributes would have been exaggerated as well.
Apollonius only became famous because of his oratory and philosophical aspects, something repeatedly described in Philostratus, even when it contradicts Apollonius' miraculous powers: why travel abroad when he could learn information through clairvoyance, like he did about Domitian's death?
His herblore and various skills (finding treasures) identify him as a magician, like the early sources. Magicians were hated by the establishment, but his philosophy provided him likability. He was charismatic (frequently alluding to what's proper etc (LoA or letters).
Like Demonax (he at first offends the Athenians, then they and all Greece love him [Lucian, Demonax 63]), Apollonius liked and famous due to philosophy (after Domitian acquittal - but was probably never in Rome (rel to popularity after Domitian acquittal? to trial? to vision of Domitian death?)). [MacLean, 79]
Apollonius was only famous in Syria and Anatolia where these miracles were popular due to its eastern influence (cf. Paul's "Jews love miracles, Greeks love wisdom" - and also Acts 14). This explains why, like Alexander of Abunoteichos, he was so popular in Asia Minor.
Alexander was easily a pupil of a student of Apollonius: the age matches. He dies at 70 around 170-180. [ch.59; he has a daughter of marriageable age in the 160's before Rutilius was proconsul in Asia - ch.35] And his teacher got him as an assistant while Alexander was young (a teenager) and died when Alexander's youth begins to fade (late 30's?), by which point he partners with Cocconas, shortly (at least a few years) after which he begins his cult, c.150. This also gives us a chronology for Apollonius, meaning the reports of his survival after Domitian are likely true, and that he died in the late 90's. For Alexander's teacher to know Apollonius' "whole bag of tricks", he must've spent at least a decade or two under Apollonius, the way Alexander did with him, meaning Apollonius' pupil would be born c.60-70; an age which matches well for an implied natural death in the 130's or so. [ch.5] Alexander and his teacher must've been quite good at their "quackery" because they went all over the country for years. [ch.5] Hence Apollonius was nothing supernatural and not all that inimitable, and his student really did learn his "tricks" quite well, and so did Alexander. And it was entirely physician treatments + trick acts (some of these, esp regarding mind-reading and clairvoyance, Lucian describes in Alexander 21, and notes his recipient, Celsus, knew of many others - ch.21).
As Lucian notes, Alexander had natural learning talent to the full, but utilized it wrong. [Lucian, Alex. 3-4] Hence such a person could dupe others quite easily (and note how he was the best follower of the best follower of Apollonius' - Lucian Alex. 5-6).
In Lucian, Apollonius and one of his most devout followers are just big dupes. [Alexander 5] If this very close disciple of Apollonius who taught Alexander the tricks had only one close follower (Alexander), who was taken as a young kid, and together they were dupesters, then it says a lot about Apollonius; who may have also taken the same teacher of Alexander at a young age: if Apollonius died c.97, and there needed at least 10-15 years for Alexander's teacher to learn his craft, then he would've been born, if joining Apollonius at c.15 (like Alexander joining him), 70-75 AD, and dying some years before Alexander partnered with Cocconas and then made his cult, perhaps around 140, that makes him 65 and it's a good age for a natural death as Lucian implies. [Alex. 5-6ff]
This isn't judging a philosophy by its abuse (i.e. Apollonius was good but his student, the teacher of Alexander, wasn't), because Lucian tells us this man was Apollonius' best student (knew his "whole" bag of tricks), and he would be in a position to know. Lucian refers to the "notorious" Apollonius. If such a dissenting opinion could have been obtained within 100 years of his lifetime (calls him "notorious" so he's not the only one; and perhaps the reservations of Cassius Dio (Apollonius had many enemies: the Euphrates of the Letters, real or not, must've reflected a real attitude, as we see in Porphyry, one which Philostratus notes in LoA 1.2), judging by the two different remarks (referred to as wizard twice? once positively...?)), then it's a bit strange that Celsus, who was a Jew, wouldn't have similar opinions. He levels many rumors on Jesus (Panthera, etc), but nothing like Lucian's "bag of tricks". Yet Lucian himself says nothing particularly unkind about Christians. [Lucian, Alex. 5-6]
There is certainly some unreliable bias in Lucian's comment, because he says, "You see what sort of school the man that I am describing comes from!" [chapter 5] So he already made up his mind, and is assuming this about Apollonius, clearly without even a source, let alone some knowledge. But since he knew the tricks of Alexander, and he and his first teacher were doing this "all over the country" [chapter 5], the teacher being from Tyana, it's probably a reliable report.
It is interesting to note Artemidorus (Dreambook 1, 69):
if you dream of Pythagoreans, physiognomonics, astragaloinants, tyromants, gyromants, coscinomants, morphoscopes, chiroscopes, lecanomants, or necyomants, you must consider all that they say false and unreliable; for their trades are such. They do not know even a little bit about prophecy, but fleece their patrons by charlatanism and fraud.
And Lucian's criticism of Alexander and his teacher, the pupil of Apollonius of Tyana, because Apollonius was both a physician and neo-Pythagorean, who was (perhaps for this reason) considered a wizard. The absence of an interest in mathematics or music by Apollonius (or Alexander) may also suggest a more passive neo-Pythagoreanism (though note Lucian's proverb in Alex. 9 - "whenever a man but turned up with someone at his heels to play the flute or the tambourine or the cymbals, telling fortunes with a sieve, as the phrase goes" meaning trickery), and a magician.
Apollonius is anti-cultic like Pythagoreans (Plut. Numa 14.2). Alexander of Abunoteichos' connection to Pythagoras while being an oracle of Apollo (see below) may support Lucian's claim that he belonged to Apollonius' circle - which would mean we can't ignore Lucian's quite detailed account about Apollonius' scoundrel teacher, himself the best student of Apollonius - and thus the inference about Apollonius and his "bag of tricks". [Lucian Alex. 5-6]
Cassius Dio 78.18.4: that Apollonius was a "juggler and a magician". "Juggler" meant swindler (Plutarch Numa 8.5 - citing Timon of Phlius (3rd century BC)). It's also said about Pythagoras, showing he was considered a magician as well as swindler by many in Plutarch's day. [Numa 8.5] Are both Cassius and Lucian unreliably biased, especially when the former repeats the story of clairvoyance with no reservations (showing some, but again not a lot, of popularity)?
The majority tradition in Philostratus' day considered Apollonius a magician, an idea he constantly resists in his biography. [LoA 5.12; 7.39] The statements by Cassius Dio, Porphyry, and Celsus as well as the Letters confirm this. He was also, unsurprisingly, a neo-Pythagorean. The historical Apollonius wrote a work, On Sacrifice, where, like stories about Pythagoras, he rejected blood sacrifices for one. Among the numerous parallels to Pythagoras' life as depicted in his day above, he was anti-cultic like Pythagoreans (Plut. Numa 14.2). Apollonius was also connected to medicine: both in Philostratus' work and in the Letters. A charge of being a magician in its negative sense against Apollonius because of his healing activities (Ep. 8.4) leads him to compare himself to Asclepius. Elsewhere (Ep. 23) notes that according to Pythagoras medicine is the most godly enterprise. Clearly all magicians and many neo-Pythagoreans employed medicine to heal.
Notably, Philostratus tries to explain away failures (at the oracle of Trophonius, at Eleusis, and on Crete). In sum, Apollonius was a successful, but atypical magician, not just because of the level of his skill but because he probably did not defraud for money - possibly a result of his genuine devotion to philosophy and religion. He was a philosopher and became popular because of skills of both, perhaps the former more than the latter.
In sum, for one of Apollonius' students to be a teacher to Alexander of Abunoteichus [Lucian, Alex. 5] and teach him nothing of philosophy, makes one wonder how much of Apollonius' career was spent in the love of wisdom. Alexander or his followers' behavior perhaps personal [Lucian, Alex. 42, 60], still reflects he does not seem to have had any philosophical leanings, so the idea that Apollonius had too much to do with philosophy is probably an invention: certainly nothing like the claims in Philostratus' narrative, and certainly not reflecting a common category of Greek divine miracle workers of Apollonius' or Philostratus' day.
Alexander of Abunoteichos
Lucian's Alexander of Abunoteichos was a unique and revolutionary case: possibly but debatably based on Christianity's popularity (knows of them). As Harmon says, "Although Alexander achieved honour not only in his own country, a small city in remote Paphlagonia, but over a large part of the Roman world, almost nothing is known of him except from the pages of Lucian. Gems, coins, and inscriptions corroborate Lucian as far as they go, testifying to Alexander's actual existence and widespread influence, and commemorating the name and even the appearance of Glycon, his human-headed serpent. But were it not for Lucian, we should not understand their full significance. Alexander's religious activity covered roughly the years A.D. 150-170. The cult which he established outlasted him for at least a century. It was highly unusual in its character, as Cumont observes. [Mémoires couronnées de l'academie de Belgique, vol. xl (1887)] Sacred snakes were a regular feature of sanctuaries of Asclepius ; but to give a serpent a human head and style it the god incarnate was a distinct innovation. He made himself to be the grandson of Asclepius and great-grandson of Apollo. [Lucian, Alexander 39] So in a sense, it was like Heracles, and premature apotheosis?
Moreover, the proper function of Asclepius was to heal the sick, who passed the night in his temple, expecting either to be cured while they slept or to have some form of treatment suggested to them in their dreams. But at Abonoteichus we hear nothing of incubation, and only incidentally of healing; the "new Asclepius" deals in oracles like Apollo, and gives advice on any subject. [Alexander sleeps on scrolls and gives oracles next day, Lucian, Alex. 49]"
Lucian must be correct on Alexander being a magician-physician as so is Apollonius (internal evidence). Yet Alexander hid/erased this past for the socially accepted mystery religions and oracles.
Alexander claims divinity, but not really: his father is a god, but his followers call him Pythagoras (not a deity, some miracle stories) and he tentatively accepts, meaning he accepted higher honors as time went on. But never a full-blown deity status the kind Philostratus applies to Apollonius. His father is also a pretty obscure deity, so he wasn't openly saying anything that could make his claims suspect.
Alexander of Abunoteichos not a theios aner but magician-healer-oracle: He found believers from Pontus to Rome through pretended arts of soothsaying and magic and was revered and consulted as a prophet by many notable individuals of his age.[Neander, Johann August W, General history of the Christian religion and Church (1850), p. 41.] During the plague of 166 a verse from the oracle was used as an amulet and was inscribed over the doors of houses as a protection (these types of stones, amulets, etc and money charging for them (and oracles maybe) practices condemned by Philostratus - LoA 7.39).
The healing "oracles" were food/medicine based (hence magicians). [Lucian, False Prophet, chs.22, 25].
Imitation of Pythagoras with the golden thigh [Lucian Alex. 38-9] is unequivocal in representing himself as Pythagoras. [Plut. Numa 8.5] Thus he had this association with Pythagoreans while performing Apollo's mysteries. Moreover, he tacitly accepted being a reincarnated Pythagoras (Lucian, Alex. 40), despite the claim of being a son of Podaleirus - I suppose not mutually exclusive, but why not claim the stronger, second claim first and more openly?
His oracles involved acts of magic to e.g. obtain victory against a foreign army. - and these types of acts vs prayer were also at Asclepian temples, at which Alexander served (was also a physician). With healing was accompanied prophecy, typically at Asclepian temples. He took it a step further and made mysteries.
His Glycon was a reborn Asclepius (like Apollonius being a reborn Proteus - LoA 1.4). Perhaps even suggesting a (foretold?) "Second Coming" when he answers a question about who he is as "the latter-day Asclepius". [Alex. 43]
As noted above, Lucian's negative comment on the school of Apollonius and the magician's "bag of tricks" [Alex. 5] cannot be ignored, despite his bias. In addition, the chronology that Alexander of Abunoteichos was a student of a pupil of Apollonius matches: Apollonius outlives Domitian (died 96 AD), and if Alexander's teacher was a follower of Apollonius for at least 10-20 years, he doesn't have to be born earlier than c.60-70 AD, making him in his 50's/60's when he meets Apollonius and begins teaching him - in line with Lucian's revulsion of the whole relationship which he more than implies was based on factors other than their business relations. [Lucian, Alex. 5-6; also the comments on Alexander's practices himself in 41]
Alexander the Great
According to legend, Alexander was born on the same day the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burnt down. Plutarch remarked that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple. Alexander later offered to pay for the temple's rebuilding, but the Ephesians refused on the ground that it was inappropriate for a god to dedicate offerings to other gods. (Strabo 14.1.22) Shows he didn't think of himself as one, and that he was elevated so out of popularity (from conquests).
Pliny the Elder tells us of Pythagoras and Democritus' herblore which they, among "assertions which transcend all belief", learned from the Magi in Persia, and other places like Egypt. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.99; 25.5] The most learned in the knowledge of the Magi. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.102] Called "good bard" and "master of warfare" by Lucian. [Lucian, Alex. 33] Diogenes Laërtius presents Pythagoras with self-control: cheerful, but without indulging in laughter, jokes and "idle stories". [Ferguson, 58-9] Commended for saying one should only sleep with his wife; also celibate. [LoA 1.13]
Somewhat of a supernatural figure.
Within his own lifetime, Pythagoras was already the subject of elaborate hagiographic legends. [Kahn, 5] Had a golden thigh, which he publicly exhibited at the Olympic Games and showed to Abaris the Hyperborean as proof of his identity as the "Hyperborean Apollo". [Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 20; Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 31, 140; Aelian, Varia Historia, ii. 26; Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 36.] In Roman times, a legend claimed that Pythagoras was the son of Apollo. [Ferguson, 10]
Supposedly, the priest of Apollo gave Pythagoras a magic arrow, which he used to fly over long distances and perform ritual purifications. [McKeown, 155] He was supposedly once seen at both Metapontum and Croton at the same time. [Ferguson, 60; Herodian, iv. 94] When Pythagoras crossed the river Kosas (the modern-day Basento), "several witnesses" reported that they heard it greet him by name. [Ferguson, 60]
Pythagoras was said to have had extraordinary success in dealing with animals. [Ferguson, 60] A fragment from Aristotle records that, when a deadly snake bit Pythagoras, he bit it back and killed it. [Ferguson, 60] Both Porphyry and Iamblichus report that Pythagoras once persuaded a bull not to eat fava beans and that he once convinced a notoriously destructive bear to swear that it would never harm a living thing again, and that the bear kept its word. [Kahn, 5][Cornelli & McKirahan, 160] [Pythagoras advised against eating beans either because of some ill-effect, or even that the souls of deceased might have been in them(!) - Pliny, Nat. Hist. 18.30; though it could've been something as simple as avoiding politics because beans were used in place of balls or pebbles in voting]
Already we see that the common idea of beastmastery as well as a few other wonders are the majority of the legends about him. He wasn't really a healer, but was knowledgeable in herbs - which all of the healers used and not any miracle. [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 24.99; 25.5]
Anti-Pythagorean legends were also circulated. Diogenes Laërtius retells a story of deception that he had been in the underworld yet knew what had happened in his absence and leading them to trust him with their wives. [Ferguson, Kitty (2008), The Music of Pythagoras: How an Ancient Brotherhood Cracked the Code of the Universe and Lit the Path from Antiquity to Outer Space, New York City, New York: Walker & Company, p.61. ISBN 978-0-8027-1631-6]
If Christians defended and liked Pythagoras from Eusebius to Augustine, he couldn't have seriously been considered a miracle-worker, let alone supernatural or a god, because the only charge he's seriously defended against by Christians who liked him was the prevalent doctrine of reincarnation associated with him and the neo-Pythagoreans.
A god [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 25.5] who communicated to priests who healed (apparently primarily). [LoA 1.8] Herblore and magi connection. [Pliny Nat. Hist. 25.5] Just a physician in Homer. Had temples to him since the 4th century BC or earlier. A mythological figure (also e.g. Amphiaraus).
He brings back Glaucus from the dead with a special herb that he learned through secret knowledge (so mystery religions? or just a secret physicians knew? Because obviously if everyone knew it, they would all use it, so maybe not mystery religions related here). But this is no miracle.
Asclepius surpassed all at healing, including his father Apollo. He was therefore able ot evade death and bring others on the brink of it. As a result there were a lot of humans and Zeus killed him to maintain a balance. Again, note his craft was with natural remedies.
He started bringing back to life dead people. [Stesichorus, fr. 147 from Sextus Empricicus, Against the Professors)] [Pindar, Pythian Ode 3; Plato, Republic 408b; Philodemus, On Piety (trans. Campbell, Vol.); Greek Lyric IV; Stesichorus, fr. 147 and Cinesias, fr. 774)] In all other accounts he uses his skills simply as a physician. After Asclepius's death, Zeus placed his body among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus ("the Serpent Holder").[Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.14] Later, Apollo asks Zeus to bring Asclepius back as a god on Olympus.[Ovid, Fasti 6.735; Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.24] This isn't really a resurrection in any sense other than to bring Asclepius from Hades to Olympus. One may note how his body is (unrealistically) used for a whole constellation, which constellation remains (it's still there in the sky) after Asclepius is "brought back" so this is not a physical return. It is an apotheosis-like act, similar to Hercules' fate (who, strangely, because he was half human had a "shade" to wander in Hades for him - again showing the docetic nature of the spirit "entrapped" in the physical body (one of the reasons Epicurus rejected the immortality of the soul: how could something perishable capture the imperishable?)).
Lucian writes about Epicurus being "saintly and divine in his nature" and that he "alone truly discerned right ideals and handed them down, who proved himself the liberator of all who sought his converse." [Lucian Alexander 61] Lucian was Syrian after all (Asia Minor and Syria propensity for mystery religions and gods).
Epicureans and admirers of Epicureanism revered Epicurus himself as a great teacher of ethics, a savior, and even a god.[DeWitt, 3, 31-2] His image was worn on finger rings, portraits of him were displayed in living rooms, and wealthy followers venerated likenesses of him in marble sculpture. [DeWitt, pp.3, 32] His admirers revered his sayings as divine oracles, carried around copies of his writings, and cherished copies of his letters like the letters of an apostle. [ibid]
Still, the legendization is clear and was obvious. And this was centuries after, with no stories of miracles or any supernatural powers, except good teachings. [Lucian, Alex. 61]
Hanina ben Dosa
Here we have the only other (beside Apollonius) genuine example of a miracle-worker. The main difference from the other parallels to Jesus are obvious: Hanina is Jewish. Otherwise, he lived in the mid/late 1st century, far from Jerusalem. The stories frequently depict him as extremely poor and a rabbi.
He lived either in the middle or the end of the first century. Not in Jerusalem, perhaps some considerable distance away, because of the large amount of money the first group of workers want for transporting his gift of a large rock to the Temple. [Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:1; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1] Ben Dosa denies being a prophet, is extremely poor, unconnected to the priesthood and doesn't seem to have been a teacher of the Torah, though he has the title "Rabbi/Rabban". [Bava Kamma 50a] He is cited as the most righteous, and his power is attributed to his merit and he himself says his miracles come from "uninterrupted prayer," possibly in the literal sense and not something like doubt or sin, because the implication is that the words continuously flow, as well as the story of the lizard/snake bite that he didn't notice. So we have a one of a kind person here, who must've had some basis in reality if even Johanan ben Zakkai's subordinance in merit is explained away. [Berakhot 34b] Mention of his students implies he was in some sense a teacher, and the legends of poverty are perhaps exaggerated or pre-date his rise in fame, which certainly could not have left him destitute for long, especially if he's a traveller. [Ta'anit 24b] The story of the rock Temple gift perhaps shows this wasn't "business as usual" travel. He is also a student of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai. [Berakhot 34b]
However, the sources are all much later than either Jesus, Hanina, or the Gospels. Like in Apollonius' case, there was at least some indirect influence of the Jesus tradition on the stories of Hanina. For example, like Apollonius' prediction of the exact time of Domitian's death, the healing of the son of Gamaliel II [Berakhot 34b], is an exact parallel to the healing of the Centurion's servant. Like in Philostratus' narrative, the details are developed: Hanina not only heals the son at the same time, but knows of the intent of the two messengers, who are recorded as writing down the details that are later confirmed by Gamaliel II.
The much later Sotah tractate says wonder-workers stopped after Hanina ben Dosa. [Sotah 9.15] This reference to him being a wonder-worker cannot be independent testimony as Sotah copies the earlier tractates (e.g. Sotah 47a=Sanhedrin 107b) and is thus much later. The unique distinction he's given here and elsewhere (his merit sufficing for the whole world! [Ta'anit 24b]) shows he was considered one of a kind, and like Apollonius for the Greeks, was the Jews' version of Jesus. The human identification with a relatable, central protagonist (cf. Hebrew 4:15) was apparently recognized. The same tractates date Jesus to the 1st century BC as a disciple of Joshua ben Perachiah. The Talmud certainly knew of stories of Jesus (Berakhot 17b) and his reputation for miracles (Sanhedrin 107b), and was depicted as a magician (Sanhedrin 107b).
The miracles also show literary development of legends because they are always instructional and do not make sense as much in a historical setting (so Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition). For example, the story of his daughter putting vinegar instead of oil in the Sabbath lamp is, of course, related to insistance on correct Sabbath observance. Similarly the table that wouldn't let him eat untithed food, which his stolen donkey would not eat either. This is quite unlike similarly discovered but intentional sins of such a legalistic nature such as Achan's sin. Similarly the rain that stopped and restarted for him, and a basket of diamonds is intended for material for saints in Heaven in the future! [Bava Batra 74a] These are merely miracles for the sake of proving there are miracles about someone or some important lesson.
Similarly, the forbidding of the demon Agrat by Hanina (and Abaye after him) to travel near inhabited cities except on Sabbath and Tuesday nights relates to the rule to not travel on the Sabbath: clearly a legend out of a popular rule. [Pesachim 112b]
The poverty motif is the basis for the miraculous loaves to appear for no reason other than to fool a nosy woman; not to actually feed anybody! The same motif has Hanina dedicating a polished rock to the Temple, where the authorities inform him angels helped him with it, who agreed to a much smaller price compared to the previous workers whose help he requested - this contradistinction's exaggeration shows the invention. Extreme poverty leads his wife to have him pray for "an advance portion of his future lot" in response to which one of the legs of their table turns golden, only to return it because of a dream in which her husband was shamed with a two-legged table in Heaven in the future. That he couldn't buy a new table is perhaps because she requested his portion from his future in advance. Still, one wonders exactly why golden tables are so necessary in Heaven, where one clearly has everything one needs.
These miracles are self-serving. For one, we're never told exactly what made Hanina ben Dosa so righteous, unlike others such as Nehunya, who dug ditches (apparently with "distress") and donated public wells. [Bava Kamma 50a] This Nehunya is also honored as a rabbi for being well-known as a righteous man, and the same place gives the title to Hanina despite not being unconnected to the priesthood or as a teacher in the stories. It's clear that the legends became so developed that Hanina's merit is even given as enough for the whole world! [Ta'anit 24b] Similarly, again, showing some historical truth amongst legends, he's said to be a rabbi, but few teachings, and his whole reputation was on his conduct and prayer, to which these miracles were attached much later.
This type of legendary development is seen in how the Babylonian Talmud greatly expands upon the tractates also found in the Jerusalem Talmud. For example, the unnamed misbehaving student in Jerusalem Talmud's, Chagigah 2.2 becomes Jesus in Sanhedrin 107b/Sotah 47a.
Typical for the Talmud, Hanina's healings are of important rabbis/men or their children. When the daughter of Nehunya (a ditchdigger who donated wells to the public and "a great man") fell in a cistern, following Hanina's prayer, she is pulled out by Abraham and his donkey. [Bava Kamma 50a] The lesson then is, "shall the offspring of Nehunya stumble by means of the very matter which distressed that righteous man?" Yet the same text tells us that Nehunya's son died of thirst, in an attempt to explain the Problem of Evil as a minor fault of Nehunya.
The similarities are here most because Jesus' culture was Jewish so a lot of concepts and figures of speech have a parallel with the New Testament.
No Other Unknown
One could always suppose that there was some unknown miracle worker god-man. But he couldn't have been very widespread, nor long-lasting in his fame. And certainly not enough for them to have been a category that influenced the Gospels.
In reality, Apollonius is the only real parallel to Jesus, and he was heavily influenced by the latter's stories - directly or indirectly - as shown above. Philostratus flatly states in several places that there wasn't anyone else like Apollonius: "And his shrine in Tyana is singled out and honored with royal officers: for neither have the Emperors denied to him the honors of which they themselves were held worthy." [LoA 8.31] He perhaps also confirms that Apollonius' hero worship was essentially apotheosis and not a divinity in Apollonius' lifetime - a view shown to be Philostratus' exaggeration by the comment by Sossianus Hierocles that Apollonius wasn't universally considered a god.
Yet Apollonius was one of their only if not the only chief alternatives/responses to the Christians' Jesus. In [1.2] Philostratus compares Apollonius to all the famous philosophers, saying he succeeded better than Pythagoras at the divine mysteries - showing the imagination and non-philosophical nature of Philostratus, who elsewhere shows no neo-Pythagorean leanings - so Philostratus clearly considers Apollonius one of a kind. This is also implied by his desire to write about, "the habits and temper of wisdom by means of which he succeeded in being considered a supernatural and divine being." [1.2] a statement so unqualified that he considers it unprecedented, except for the emperors. At any rate, if there were another like Apollonius in terms of fame, we would've had at least something, the way we have remarks about him and letters (of varying authenticity, but still clearly written by admirers). If someone was a successful magician/miracle-worker, usually they were a traveller, so their fame would've spread to where they would leave evidence - certainly if there were many of them claiming non-magical but divine powers.
Due to Philostratus' machinations of his sources into transforming Apollonius (as shown above), Apollonius may be an exception to the "hero" rule being localized only, and would be the only one. [MacLean, 83] Despite Apollonius' rivalry to Jesus, his vita survived. [Maclean, 84] So if there ever were anyone as famous as him, he would've been remembered. Philostratus isn't the only source for Apollonius: the letters (authentic or not), testimony by others (Dio Cassius, Porphyry, Celsus), and coins as well as e.g. the Mopsuesta Inscription.
Coins are timeless documents due to their volume and toughness. That's how the dating issues with Ptolemy II Philadelphos are able to be resolved. [Hazzard, R. A. “The Regnal Years of Ptolemy II Philadelphos.” Phoenix 41, no. 2 (1987): 140ff] Apollonius and Alexander of Abunoteichos both had these that have survived till today. [cf. also Lucian, Alexander 18] Other miracle workers would've had coins and inscriptions of others, or at least a mention in some work, like we do of the statue of Zeus at Olympia. Apollonius alone was represented with an image alongside Pythagoras, Pindar, Socrates, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great. [Maclean, 83].
Regarding Alexander of Abunoteichos, the vivid narrative of his career given by Lucian might be taken as fictitious but for the corroboration of certain coins of the emperors Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius [Joseph Hilarius Eckhel, Doctrina Numorum veterum, ii. pp. 383, 384] and of a statue of Alexander, said by Athenagoras to have stood in the forum of Parium. [Athenagoras, Apology, c.26][Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander the Paphlagonian". Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p.567, citing: Samuel Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (1904); F. Gregorovius, The Emperor Hadrian, trans. by M. E. Robinson (1898).] There is further evidence from inscriptions. [Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, nos 4079-80]
While the cult of Alexander gradually lost followers after the death of its leader in c.170, it survived for at least a hundred years thereafter, with Alexander being incorporated into its mythology as a grandson of Asclepius. It's a catch-22: if there was anyone as famous as Jesus/Apollonius/Alexander, they would've left evidence from their many followers. If they didn't have many followers, they were not as famous and thus not a parallel and probably tricksters to not be so famous (their charisma only liked in their own town perhaps).
The Augustan History maintains Alexander Severus kept images of Apollonius alongside of Jesus, Abraham, and Orpheus. [Maclean, 78 - SHA Alexander Severus 29.2] Even though the Augustan History is considered late (c.400 AD) and unreliable, and this is clearly shown by the inclusion of Abraham as worshipped, the fact is it couldn't think of anyone widespread and famous like Jesus (because of Christians), Abraham (because of Jews), and Apollonius and Orpheus (because of pagans). And it shows the widespread opinion of the time as it became a popular work.
Historia Augusta's story of Aurelian’s vision of Apollonius shows for the pagan aristocrats Apollonius was not simply a "true friend of gods" (amicum vere deorum), but also "himself inhabited by the divine" (ipsum... pro numine frequentandum). For that reason, they thought that nothing on earth was "more holy, more venerable, more honourable, and more divine than him" (sanctius, venerabilius, antiquius diviniusque). This tells us that Apollonius' cult was unique in its knock-off version of Christian traditions.
Though Philostratus clearly avoids any mention of Christians or Jesus, a famous miracle-worker, of whom he must've been aware, like our suggestion above maintains, other sources (Celsus, Porphyry, Talmud, etc) are quite happy to mention him.
So for these reasons I don't suppose there's a "hitherto unknown" miracle-worker waiting to be discovered in some ancient papyrus.
V. Comparison with Jesus
Not a Magician
Most of the requests to magicians, who gave amulets or incantations, were understandably for healing; but many were for love potions, to win races etc (Philostratus, LoA 7.39): nothing like this in NT. And the healing "oracles" were food/medicine based (hence magicians). [Lucian, False Prophet, chs.22, 25].
Although Jesus was a healer, he did not employ nature in this regard, i.e. a physician (nor any amulets, etc (compare NT vs DSS on this; Talmud?)). Jesus never gives medical/herbal/food advice (only food as relating to the Law). Apollonius was a magician. Jesus a healer. The difference is that the magician would try and use incantations, etc, but mainly amulets and spells which were widespread. None of that in the NT. The sympathetic magic and incantations Apollonius frequently resorts to are wholly absent. No amulets/counter-magics nor associated with herbs/physicians (physical/natural ones), nor philosophy.
The clairvoyance tricks Alexander employed [Lucian, Alex. 19-21, 32, 37, 51] unrelated (clairvoyance not mentioned at all in Gospels except the Centurion servant in a quite different context and methodology) to NT miracles. Jesus not a treasure-hunter, which among the other popular magic-oriented actions (love-potions, trade, winning contests (Lucian Alex. 5, Philos. 7.39)) was popular. Jesus not doing or concerned with any of that and thus Gospels reflect a Semitic rabbi much more than Hellenism (which was on the decline somewhat after the Maccabees? Certainly quite a bit of Hellenism, but Jesus is here a rabbi).
The similarity to the Feeding miracles, where Pases the magician was able to conjure up dinners out of nowhere (Suda, pi 752 "Pases") with Jesus' feeding of the crowds has to be discarded as coincidental due to the universal desire for food. The details about Pases are much more elaborated: lavish banquets, with waiters. Jesus' miracle has no such elaborations and is closer to the OT Elisha feeding miracle in style. Pases uses magic spells for this, and the dinners are ex nihilo, whereas Jesus gathers the loaves and fishes (in all Gospel accounts?).
Another story about Pases is his ability to return a half-obol coin and the stater (4 drachma) coin Jesus tells Peter will find in the fish's mouth (Matt. 17:27). The differences are again distinguishable: 1. Pases' coin is seemingly made out of something specific ("He also possessed a half-obol [sc. coin] made for him out of a single [...]" - female noun missing - "mina" unconvincing 1549 Basel tr. suggestion). 2. This coin is returned at will out of nowhere; Jesus' is found in the mouth of a fish. 3. The coin is perhaps used as a scam - Pases' character is called "weak"; in MT 17, it's at worst someone's lost half week wage, though it's more likely a miracle. It may be that Pases' coin is non-duplicable (being made of something specific (hence how it's identified as the same half-obol? yet looks like a half-obol?); rel to the specific herbs and magical powers (Pliny Nat. Hist. 24.102, 26.9)?)?
If anything it's only Jesus' knowledge that's miraculous of this fish having swallowed a stater (or in its mouth, though how does it bite on the bait when Peter catches it?): fish swallow all sorts of strange things: from pebbles, rings, cigarette ends, pieces of plastic, to even $20 bills and bottles with a message! That Jesus here uses an "intermediary" is nothing different from it being a symbol like Moses' bronze snake. Pases' magic included a spell (for banquets); the coin reappearing with him at will is due to its properties it seems - certainly it wasn't just a regular coin, as it's described in some detail (Suda "Pases" pi 752).
I don't think these examples are "intermediary" power (where Jesus needs an object to induce a supernatural power: e.g. the fish with the coin or the loaves/fish for the feeding), because there are no spells or objects that induce, but these are merely like a symbol for the people to see. Whereas Phases uses spells for the banquets, and the silver coin is "at will", sure, but that's a minor example and the coin is described at some length, indicating perhaps it was enchanted(?). Still examine this aspect of "at will" vs using "fish" for the coin, etc in MT 17.
As already noted, oracles and magicians charged very high prices. [LoA 7.39] While Jesus had money, from which John says Judas stole, this was likely from possessions sold or work due to necessity - like Paul's work; hence they are given an expensive perfume which Judas suggests be sold. There is no indication of charging for prophecies in the early Church's prophets in Paul, not even a hint. The only parallel to this in the NT is Simon Magus, who is quickly expelled, and further reflects the difference between the Christians and the magicians. Fragment II of Apollonius of Ephesus (fl. c.210) confirms that prophets could not take gifts or money. His fragments show how Montanus and his followers took a lot of money, wore expensive clothes, gambled, lent loans on interest; but pretended not to. The problem isn't accepting gifts but that this can easily divert from philosophy to greed, as Montanus and his prophets are accused by Apollonius. Thus Aristippus, Socrates' student, was criticized for accepting money and gifts for teachings. Since there were such non-profit Christian prophets, it means Jesus was certainly involved with prophecy, but seeing how his followers did not charge money, he must've not charged any either. Also Jesus' anger at the moneychangers. The idea that wealth should not be a motivation was clearly accepted by the pagans and charlatans themselves as well, hence why they had to deny it. [Apollonius, Fragment V; Lucian, Alexander 24] Jesus closer to the rabbis than philosophers in this regard; certainly not close to magicians.
Finally, historically, Jesus was never associated with magicians by either followers or detractors until much later (2nd century AD). The lack of NT defense against charges of magic, shows that the milieu is entirely Jewish (where miracles, not philosophy was the main - as Paul says). And neither in the Gospels nor Acts, despite Paul basically being a miracle-worker like Jesus there.
Charges against magic are late and unsubstantiated. Porphyry's charge that Jesus' miracles were nothing new is modelled on Apuleius and is thus baseless. First, he projects the scandal of Apuleius onto not only Jesus but also Apollonius of Tyana: that they did magic to defraud rich widows.
In the Gospels, Jesus is never defended from magic charges (the accusation of Beelzebub is hardly such - and not identified as/with magikoi (see above); also very briefly dealt so no widespread accusations), so obviously a Semitic source. Paul mentions miracles, so clearly no magician (or would've been villified and at least had to defend himself. Instead he uses the miracles to defend himself in 2 Cor. 12 - so the early Christians were not doing magic). Also no philosophical polemics like Philostratus' LoA, save a few comments in John (e.g. his preface); not even terms or ideas until the Gnostics and the 2nd century Fathers.
The argument against Jesus' miracles that he was using the powers of Beelzebub is not the same as magic, or at least is a very strange (and Semitic (is a Jewish expression for Satan (+cf. Paul's Beliar))) expression, so again it shows no connection to Greco-Roman magikoi. This is the only instance the NT defends against such a charge, and does so with a single verse: showing it was not a widespread accusation. That Jesus was a miracle worker was an early tradition (because Paul considered himself one, and clearly cannot be one if Jesus wasn't), so that means no one contested the stories of his works or considered them magic (or would've had divergent traditions such as for example about Romulus or various names/word meanings - Plut. Rom. 5; also, it's a minor tradition that Plato was born of Apollo [Apuleius, De Dogmate Platonis I.1])). Similarly, Jesus' baptism is explained by a single verse in Matthew (only), and while it was a bit strange, it was not embarrassing as all Gospels acknowledge Jesus as having been baptized by John. This shows no tension with JtB and his followers (+Apollos counted as one in Acts). The charge of a stolen body is mentioned, again only in Matthew. Showing it couldn't have been that widespread (cf. LoA 7.39).
The comment on the scribes who "devour widows' houses" (Mark 12:40) is also suspiciously similar to the accusations against magicians (Alexander and his partner scheme with an elderly rich Macedonian woman [Lucian, Alex. 6]; Apuleius' accusers when marrying a friend's rich widow mother). Moreover, the Jewish exorcists are not condemned but accepted or derided (sons of Sceva): so there couldn't have been early charges of Jesus being a magician (hence no magic acts/talismans/incantations or money-scams - and the few times a magician is introduced, his actions condemned - Simon Magus, Elymas (Acts 13:8-11)). This friction with magicians was clearly not defensive in that others identified the Christians as "magikoi" (for all followers of magicians were themselves magicians), and only in the late 2nd century do the accusations arise (Talmud, Celsus, Porphyry, etc): not defended against earlier. In Acts 16, the fortune-telling girl considers Paul and the others as part of her group (compare Alexander acknowledging other oracles - Lucian Alex. 29), and Paul simply becomes annoyed with her and exorcises (probably a euphemism). Simon Magus misinterprets the Christians to be doing some kind of new money-scheme scam. And Elymas opposes Paul, but is condemned on perverting righteousness - not anything on the nature of his magic vs Paul's miracles (which he uses one against him) - cf. Philostratus explaining the difference between magic and healing/miracles (LoA 7.39).
Pliny considers Moses a magician. [Nat. Hist. 30.2] Clearly then, there is nothing but slander in Celsus/Porphyry/Talmud allegations of Jesus being one (but it isn't evidence for either Jesus' miracles nor his existence).
The word "hierogrammateus/hieron grammateon" signified a magician (Harnouphis; Lucian's Pancrates; Apion Grammaticus). [Ogden, 104-5] Yet in the NT, the frequent mentions of "priests" (hiereis; sing. hiereus) and "scribes" (grammateon; sing. grammateus) have nothing to do with magic, and one scribe is even depicted as willing to follow Jesus (though somewhat ambiguously responded to - MT 8:19ff). This means the Gospels were fighting no charges of Jesus being a magician, and the Talmud's depiction of him as such is a later invention, following the similarly conjured charges by those like Celsus and Porphyry.
Not a Greek hero
The characteristics of the Greek hero mentioned also don't correspond to Jesus. These were local and not widespread. [Maclean, 81-2] Apollonius has some shrines, but not too spread out (not as much as his image) - because the one in Tyana singled out for special honors (compare Jesus: all churches were churches - and spread throughout). Christian prophets were not like the cult oracles - there was no temple/shrine, no rites, and the pagan oracles came in visions in dreams regarding philosophical truths - so the Jewish nature of the prophets in Paul is evident (e.g. Abagus vs Simon Magus or the fortune-telling girl in Acts 16).
Heroes were immortalized (mythological) but adored by crowds. But they typically are said to stand out from them (unlike Jesus who ran away from them and blended in with them). E.g. Apollonius Rhodius on the Argonauts: "As they hastened on their way a great crowd of citizens ran with them, but the heroes stood out among them like bright stars among clouds", Book 1.238–240.
Apollonius’ similes typically draw on Homeric models but are much more integrated into the narrative and act to bring to the fore deeper, allusive meanings and, through repetitive images, even create thematic patterns. [Effe, B. 2001. “The Similes of Apollonius Rhodius: Intertextuality and Epic Convention.” In Papanghelis, T. D., and A. Rengakos, eds. 2001. A Companion to Apollonius Rhodius. Leiden. p.148; Nyberg, L. 1992. Unity and Coherence: Studies in Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica and the Alexandrian Epic Tradition. Lund. p.18].
Not a Greek divine-man
The Greek divine men (theioi andres) had shrines; [Maclean, Philostratus Heroikos 82-3] Jesus did not. Jesus hid being the Messiah - accurate for his day and also unlike the theioi andres. Jesus' ascension is also not only bodily without special signs like violent thunderstorms, lightning, etc, but slowly and not as Plutarch and every other Greek example: fast as lightning.
Since the early Church clearly considered Jesus pre-existent (Mark 12:35-7; Philippians 2:5-8), thus probably Jesus considered himself also, because the theioi andres were not pre-existent (unless they were a god themselves, really only Apollonius' case). If Jesus was a "theios aner" the NT would've been replete with divinity references (or fighting them). And not a debate about it into the 4th century! And pre-existence of a man was typically not part of "theios aner" (Philippians 2:5ff.; Mark 12:35-7), certainly not one in recent history. [cf. Plutarch Romulus 28]
If the Gospel traditions had been Hellenized by the "theios aner" idea, Jesus would have been sharply differentiated from the numerous magicians and divine men. Whereas Paul is considered a god in Acts 14:11-18, rebukes the people in only two verses with no effect (compare LoA 7.39's lengthy discussion; or e.g. Plutarch Romulus 28.6-8 to fend off accusations of absurdity), and in Acts 28:6 the same belief isn't even challenged. If the Evangelists were fighting the idea, they would've been a lot more wary of making comments of Jesus using his own power (Mark 2:11, 6:2; cf. Philos. LoA 7.38). Instead, Jesus sometimes uses intermediate objects (Mark 8:23; not talismans/incantations or sympathetic magic, like Apollonius' rabies cure or common Jewish and Greek objects used as talismans (nails from crucifixion, etc)), prayer (Mark 9:29, 11:24), sometimes directly his own hands (Mark 5:41, 6:2), sometimes just words or intent (Mark 4:39; Matt. 8:13), sometimes he's unaware (Mark 5:30). The same is true of Paul in Acts: both miracles through God, equated to a "higher" level where things Paul had touched would heal (Acts 19:11-12; 28:3-6). In the episode with Eutychius, he is like Elisha rather than any Greek hero. So we see the Greek conception of a sharp differentiation between illegitimate (and essentially fake, money-oriented) magicians and healing through shrines or visions of "truth" are not at all present.
Jesus of the Gospels is Semitic, not Hellenic
For one, his miracles are much more in line with the Talmud (Hanina ben Dosa's: divine voice, Centurion same hour healed). Mystery religions/oracles/Asclepian Temples: had unrelated rites and miracles (attributed to both mythical and historical figures). Athena influencing the council over Achilles' armor to go to Odysseus (also Romulus on the patricians and others - Plutarch, Romulus 28), Apollonius considered divine by all after getting acquitted by Domitian - due to a speech: showing the connection between miracles and wisdom (Greeks want wisdom, Jews miracles - 1 Corinthians 1:22). [MacLean 79-80(?)] After all, one got power by such rhetorical persuasion frequently in Greek society.
That Jesus' followers were in no way physicians/philosophers shows that Jesus was not influenced by this phenomenon which he may have geared into existence himself. Jesus not a traveller or learner of other culture's wisdom or doctrines - Pythagoras and Plato and Apollonius. Egypt was considered the most advanced wisdom (+/= magic? philosophy?). Greek philosophers travelled: Asclepiades of Bithynia (this one's a physician actually), Apollonius, seems to have been the ilk of philosophers (e.g. Justin Martyr). The rabbis would travel too I think (source? - scour the seas for convert twice child hell in MT (but Talmud source? Eleazer in Josephus who converted a king? exception? influenced by Hellenism (or Josephus' (maybe legendary?) acocunt was?)?))
The motif of travelling to India was there then (more commonly Egypt (is this mentioned in LoA?)). Nothing of this in Gospels about Jesus - not even a hint, nor a defense of an accusation (showing the difference to Greek philosophy).
Jesus' childhood not as exaggerated as e.g. Apollonius' in excelling in wisdom, or signs (e.g. Suetonius Augustus 94.6ff - about ruling the world). Also the 2nd century miracles of child Jesus (Protevangelion of James?). It's more like a historian, such as Josephus' mention of a 12-year old who knew some things.
The Greek (dis/re)appearances were spiritual. So an ex-praetor swore he saw Augustus ascend after his cremation! [Suetonius, Augustus 100.4] Empedocles according to one version threw himself in the volcano to prove he'd reappear as a god. Clearly one being physically disfigured did not reflect in the reappearance.
In Greece/Rome one had to be divine to reappear (Aristeas in Herodotus Hist. 4.14f, Plutarch Romulus 28, etc). Unlike the Greco-Roman traditions, the NT is thoroughly Semitic in its outlook: Elijah and Moses appear, but are clearly not gods. Jesus is also considered to be a returned Elijah (not reincarnated because cf. Matt. 17:10ff.). The idea of such docetic reappearances or reincarnation that was prevalent explains how Herod could both be anxious of a reappearance of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:1-2) and yet dismiss it (Luke 9:9); though Matthew could be typically exaggerating. Reincarnation was quite prevalent in Greek society. Hence some of the more Hellenized Jews believed Jesus was possibly a reincarnated prophet (Matt. 16:14).
In Luke 9:8 the rumor is elaborated that "one of the ancient prophets had risen." Also may relate to the saints rising in Matthew. Since the Jews did not believe in a resurrection before Judgment Day, nor in the ability to rise after death, this comment has to be Luke's (Matthew's is not said to be a comment from the Jews: their tombs open so it's clearly physical: again no Greek influence shown). While JtB's body had been taken, so it's perhaps debatable that Herod et al thought it was docetic, there's no inquiry about it, and the fact that he was decapitated with the head missing shows it must've been docetic. Meanwhile the Jewish priests contended that Jesus' body was stolen because he prophesied a physical resurrection. At any rate, there is no polemic against the reported rumor of Jesus being a docetic ghost of John the Baptist in Luke 9:7-8 for example.
The appearances of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration does not require anything Greek/pagan (e.g. Apollonius appears in a dream/vision - LoA 8.31; typically visions (MacLean 82)), and the fact that these were the only two by legend to have not ascended is not appealed to as Abraham helps Nehunya out of a well in Bava Kama 50a - again, the culture is Jewish (+non-docetic - but such appearances of others including Jesus (who teleports, like Hanina ben Dosa in the Temple gift rock miracle - Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:1; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1) are not frequently appealed to at all).
No such early divergent traditions with Jesus and the NT ensures no WBThesis, because no one would've so quickly accepted such a widespread idea of Jesus' pre-existence (unconnected with divinity as the Greco-Romans did!). Certainly, since Papias knew those who spoke with the Apostles by 120, there couldn't have been any tradition of Jesus' divinity popular and widespread (without being connected to any of the Greek ideas - be they heroes, apotheosis, etc) by e.g. Justin Martyr's day (and even before him: Jason and Papriscus). Simply put, if something like this had happened it would've been like the Gnostics or Montanists, who were virulently opposed and condemned by the majority.
No such dissent [LoA 1.2: Philostratus writes a "true account" vs the (common, popular) ignorance] is to be found in the Christian/Gospel communities - early or otherwise: by Justin Martyr's day (mid 2nd century), Jesus' divinity was widely accepted. [1 Apol. 55] The fact that Lucian supposes Peregrinus was "worshipped as a god" by the Christians shows how unknown Christianity was to him, as he elsewhere notes their rejection of the Greek gods. This must've formed the basis for the Roman misinterpretation of Christianity: a rejection of Greek/Roman gods, not all gods beside God. After all, Jesus was a man and he was worshipped. But he was not a Greek or Roman man. This also shows that many of these god-men (i.e. Peregrinus) were rumors out of assumptions.
Unlike Apollonius' ascension or natural death variants in Philostratus, none such in NT case (and Papias and 2nd century Christians were in a position, like Philostratus, to know alternate traditions (e.g. Judas death in Papias: would freely record them): none predating the Gospels).
Not a popular figure
Apollonius, Alexander of Abunoteichos and other magicians were liked by the people and had minor friction at worst with the establishment, or were quite popular from the start. This is a difference with Jesus. Apollonius' few reforms - abstinence from wine and meat, no meat sacrifice - were not central nor too radical and were neo-Pythagorean; Jesus' hugely so, at least in the long run. Jesus' religion after his death! Except Socrates, no philosopher, "god man" or Jewish revolutionary had that kind of success - the post-death appearances in e.g. Plutarch Romulus 27-8 did not make those people or their cults famous - they were already famous in life. Nor the ascensions add anything but "woah" value (=self-serving).
Unlike other figures of Jesus' day, Mark's Gospel presents Jesus as using his own power. In reviewing Kelley's book, Jennifer Eyl writes:
Kelley's approach and argument are convincing. It does, indeed, appear that Jesus acts autonomously, whereas other human wonder-workers in antiquity defer to a higher power...Ancient Mediterranean gods do not typically defer to other gods for power (even when their parents are also gods)." [Batten, A. (Ed.). (2021). Review of Biblical Literature, 2021. The Society of Biblical Literature. p.331]
Jesus acted through prayer or through his own will, but is not a god-man to do merely his own will (Apollonius - LoA 7.38; Hercules, any of them really (Romulus in Plut. Rom. 28.2 - says will of gods? Not really - just the "pleasure of the gods" that he would be with them for a short time, and not through supplication, just kind of given authority to wing it?)), but is more Jewish in supplicating God. The aforementioned pagan theology has Apollonius and Alexander the Great be excluded from paying homage to a deity being gods themselves. This difference, yet no intermediary power of Jesus' shows that he is more Semitic in rendering thanks and authority to God, while retaining power on his own.
Other figures such as the magician Harnouphis in Cassius Dio 72.8 summons deities (not demons as Ogden strangely claims [Ogden, 105]) and these are not visible: through various incantations, not prayer or will like Jesus (or Apollonius per Philostratus).
Jesus was not against the Temple cult (Mark 11:17; Matt. 23:16-22). The Gospels depict Jesus as a man who had authority to act on his own, but was himself under God's authority (Matt. 8:9) and the source of his authority is equated with John the Baptist (Mark 11:28-30). So he is presented as a Jewish prophet rather than Greek (or Jewish) magician or theios aner. Unlike Philostratus' narrative, Jesus' miracles have relevant details (Mark 8:23-5 - people born blind at first see details hazy; compare Apollonius who is able to escape from his chains but leaves them on, clearly for the story to proceed (LoA 7.38; vs Paul and Silas' escape from prison or the shipwreck)). In fact, Jesus' power is unambiguously equated as coming from God and his authority like other Jewish prophets (Mark 8:6-7; 11:29-30). He is presented as connecting the Temple to a direct connection to God (Matt. 23:20-22). Acknowledges the Temple but also personal prayer - e.g. Mark 11:17, 24-25 - in line with his disagreement about the traditions of the Elders as well as the Sabbath work ban.
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