Apollonius the Sun of God, and Jesus the Son of God

by Nozrem ha Brit

One of the most influential people in history is unarguably the character commonly known as Jesus Christ. Yet surprisingly, there are no contemporary accounts of his very existence. All that we currently know of him is second hand through the writings of unknown authors decades after his time in what is now known as the Bible. In contrast, Apollonius of Tyana was a figure found in works of Philostratus, who it has been claimed lived at the same time. There are a number of startling similarities between Apollonius and Jesus that cannot be rule out by mere coincidence.

Even in the ancient world, the parallels between the two were obvious. During the time of Diocletian, a Roman consul named Hierocles published Candid Words to Christians, which outlined the numerous similarities. Centuries later in 1680, during the reign of Charles II, Charles Blount attempted to publish the works of Philostratus, but the clergy limited it to only two of the eight books. Hence, it is only in recent times that the resemblances have come under closer scrutiny. Around 4 BCE the messengers of Apollo proclaimed the birth of Apollonius, at the same time that angels, the messengers of YAHWEH, were proclaiming the birth of Jesus, both having divine fathers and human mothers. Supposedly, both had a exciting youths filled with assassination attempts on their lives, magical feats, and spiritual exorcisms. They also traveled throughout the Empire healing and teaching the people around them. In addition, they opposed the political system of the time and encouraged social reforms. Consequently, both incurred the wrath of the Roman rulers of the time, and encountered deaths surrounded by mystery. While reigning Roman Emperors, namely Nero and Domitian, opposed their teachings, each gained royal support at some time. The Emperor Septimius Severus erected a statue of Apollonius in the Pantheon, his son Caracalla building his own dedication in a monument. Vespesian, Titus, and Nerva, and a dozen other Emperors all honored Apollonius in some way, in fact by the 4th century nearly every temple had some form of dedication to Apollonius. Jesus himself gained his royal support from the conversion of Constantine and the subsequent Holy Roman Emperors who all collectively built their own monuments, and the transition of worship in the temples was made from Apollonius to Jesus. There seems to be a great deal of ambiguity between the two even for early Christians. Our current concept of the image of Jesus Christ also borrows heavily from the portrait of Apollonius painted during the reign of Vespesian. Catacomb descriptions made by Christians lack mention of the crucifixion, and portray a Greek figure of Hermes, the Good Shepherd, that seems to differ considerably from our current concept of Jesus.

Apollonius was described as a vegetarian and friend of animals. He was definitely more Hellenistic in character than the Semitic figure he was compared with. The city in which he was born, Tyana, was situated in Asia Minor, far from the traditional birthplace of Jesus. St. Helena determined in the 4th c. that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, coincidentally on the exact location of a shrine previously dedicated to the god Mithras. While Jesus was generally considered to be an uneducated shepherd, Apollonius studied philosophy extensively in Antioch and the mysteries of the priest at the temple of Apollo. He then furthered his pursuit of knowledge by studying in Egypt, and then traveling as far as India and the Himalayas, absorbing the individual mystic traditions of each land he visited. Apollonius is said to have told his disciples to have seen more of the face of the earth than any man up to that point. Though acknowledging a supreme creator, Apollonius prayed thrice daily to the sun, and abhorred the practice of sacrifices, which was common to the Jews at the time. He also differed from Jesus in his concept of the afterlife, favoring the concept of reincarnation that was thematic in the distant lands he had studied. Jesusí execution proclaims quite an anti-Roman sentiment, so it is obviously lacking from the Apollonius story. Yet for Apollonius, being of the Promethian (the Greek god condemned by Zeus for helping man) doctrine, there is the suffering for the good of mankind on the Scythian crag. The cross likely had a more powerful pagan symbolism at the time of its inclusion, centuries later. The Last Supper story also differs from that of Apollonius, but it is likely a story borrowed from the Eleusinian mysteries. Understanding that the two characters were in constant comparison in the ancient world, it is likely that there was considerable embellishment of the Apollonius story, for example in his education and travels, to make him appear superior to the simple Jesus.

While Constantine had his vision and converted to Christianity, the Emperor Aurelian earlier had a similar vision of the appearance of Apollonius during his march against Tyana. He decided to spare the inhabitants and erect a temple instead, which seems to suggest some political motivation for the propagation of Apollonius. The importance of Apollonius in history was acknowledged even by Christian writers as Cassiodorus, who recognized his reputation as a saint. Later medieval Christians always viewed the Apollonius story as a Roman innovation used as an attack on Christianity, or when admitting his existence, as a sorcerer who made a pact with Satan. What is far more likely is that Apollonius was a fabrication used as an attempt to include the rapidly spreading Christian faith. If so, theologians are readily acceptable to the idea that concepts were borrowed from Jesusí story for inclusion to that of Apollonius, yet are far more hesitant to recognize the effect of Apollonius on the teachings and story of Jesus.

(c) 2000 - 2001

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