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Against the Christians

The Rise of Early Anti-Christian Polemic- Second Printing


Jeffrey W. Hargis

Against the Christians examines the anti-Christian polemic works of Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the Apostate. The first book to analyze the phenomenon of early anti-Christian literature in depth, it chooses the critics' objection to Christian exclusivism as its starting point. The evolution in the polemic, from a rhetoric of radical distinction to one of «rhetorical assimilation,» reveals a sophisticated attempt to expose contradictions and inconsistencies within Christianity, while at the same time reflecting the process of fusion between Christianity and the culture of late antiquity.


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5. Julian the Apostate and the Politics of Hellenism 91


5 Julian the Apostate and the Politics of Hellenism Of our anti-Christian polemicists thus far, Celsus is unknown to us other than as the author of the True Doctrine, while Porphyry was a philosopher from the Neoplatonic school of Plotinus. With the em- peror Julian (331/2-363 CE), tagged by early Christian historians as "the Apostate" and the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire, we encounter not only the final important critic of Christianity, but per- haps the most fascinating personality of late antiquity.l That our final critic was the last pagan emperor gives us a unique perspec- tive not only into the development of anti-Christian polemic but also into the last decades of pagan power before its own marginal- ization, at least as a political force, by Christianity toward the end of the fourth century. The facts of Julian's life are well known from his own writings as well as those of several historians of the period. The son of Constantine's half brother, Julian was five years old when Constan- tine died in 337. A few months after the emperor's death a purge of many members of Constantine's family, likely initiated by his old- est son Constantius, reduced the chances of an immediate political challenge to the sons of Constantine. Julian's father was killed, as well as at least eight other members of the imperial family; Julian was spared on account of his youth. That Julian later blamed Constantius for the murder of his family is plain enough from...

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