Saturday, October 4, 2008
Apollonius of Tyana
About 2000 years ago a pregnant woman got a visit from a heavenly agent who told the mother-to-be that her son would be the son of God. His birth which was associated with some supernatural signs and as a boy he made himself a name among the religious leader. When he got older he left his home to walk around from town to town and convinced people to give up on their material belongings and instead focus on the spiritual dimension of life.
His followers were convinced that their teacher was divine, and indeed he was able to heal the sick as well as casting out daemons. Towards the end of his life he was prosecuted by the roman authorities, and then he disappeared. However, even after he were gone, his followers continued to believe in him and there are even reports of him showing up after he was dead. He came down from heaven to convince the spectators that there is a life after death.
Does this man sound familiar to you? Who am I talking about? Many books have been written about this pagan philosopher. His name is Apollonius of Tyana and his historical existence is not disputed due to the fact that there are several independent sources. These survive in spite of the fact that the catholic church actively tried to destroy all records of Apollonius existence. Apollonius followers had heard about Jesus and they believe he was a fake.
I did not hear about this man Apollonius until recently and I must admit that I was quite surprised to hear that Jesus is not unique at all, at least not if you go by historical documents which is really the only proper way to go about if you do not want use subjective arguments such as "I feel (or know) that Jesus existed and that he did all those things written about in the gospel".
I have found a number of webpages claiming that a lot of what is written in the New Testament was really about Apollonius and that only later was names changed. This could explain some of the discrepancies between different books of the bible, but I guess it is very hard to tell one way or the other. I am no historian so I will merely say that I find it unlikely that those who wrote the New Testament had not been influenced by the books or tales about Apollonius in any sense. The stories of Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana simply have too much in common with each other for everything to just be random chance
Here is another blogpost from "atheism and happiness"