JulianUgaritica 141015 ss.pdf


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Hence the relevance of reconsidering Julian’s short exposé, Against the Christians, in the
light of Ugaritic findings and post-Ugaritic scholarship. The substance of the apostate
emperor’s decisive condemnation of the Christians, whom he calls Galileans, is grounded
in his criticism of the Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, he claims
that although the Galileans accept without qualification the writings of Moses as reliable
and authoritative in matters of faith and doctrine, they are either woefully uninformed, or
dangerously disingenuous about the true nature of the gods, and the GOD, profiled in the
scriptural texts.
JULIAN THE APOSTATE EMPEROR
Nephew to Constantine I, the emperor who legalized Christianity in CE 313, and
so-called apostate7 emperor of the fourth century Roman Empire, Julian (CE 331-363)
was trained in the Christian faith as a youth8 and later seemingly abandoned that faith in
favor of the Great GOD, who oversaw not only the time-honored and traditional gods of
the Greeks and Romans, but also all the other gods of the other nations and tribes. For
this reason he has been styled by Christian writers as the apostate emperor, epithet that
would seem consistent with his self-styled Christo perfidus Imperator9 and apostate.10
Yet Julian will actually turn the accusation of apostasy against Greeks who, abandoning
their own religion, converted to the faith of the Christians; he will claim that it is they
who are apostate from the true religion. In Contra Galilaeos 389[235D] he clearly
includes himself in the category of those, precisely, “who have not given [themselves]
over to the spirit of apostasy,” by converting to Christianity. Voltaire (1994,134, lns. 115116) probably reads this situation more astutely than most moderns when he writes: “On
a reproché à Julien d’avoir quitté le christianisme dès qu’il le put faire sans risquer sa vie.
C’est reprocher à un homme pris par des voleurs, & enrollé dans leur bande le couteau
sur la gorge, de s’échaper des mains de ces brigands.”

7

Augustine, The City of God, Chap. XXI, 103: The God “who gave [power] to the Christian Constantine
gave it also to the apostate Julian, whose gifted mind was deceived by a sacrilegious and detestable
curiosity, stimulated by the love of power.” Cf. Bowersock, 1978, 22, 116. Modern scholarship, however,
seems to want to dispute whether or not Julian was an apostate, which is to say, whether he had ever really
been a Christian in order to become apostate. For this, see Smith, 1995, 179ff.
8 In The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, Bk. III, Ch. 1, 76-77, one reads that when the
emperor Constantius had suspicion that Julian was being swayed away from “religious sentiment” by
philosophy, “Julian…became very anxious to lull the suspicions which had been awakened… He was
shaved to the very skin, and pretended to live a monastic life: and while in private he pursued his
philosophical studies, in public he read the sacred writings of the Christians, and moreover was constituted
a reader in the church of Nicomedia. Thus by these specious pretexts he succeeded in averting the
emperor’s displeasure.”).
9 “Iulianus etenim Christo perfidus Imperator sic Photino haeresiarchae adversus Diodorum scribit:”
Epistulae Julianus, #55: To Photinus (Loeb, vol. 3, 186).
10 Misopogon 5.8, 28.28; Epistulae 10.3, 14.26, 84.14, 86.26, 86.32, 88.29, 89b.12, 89b.161, 89b.438,
89b.469, 98.70, 106.5; Contra Galilaeos 164.12, 165.11, 176.17, 177.1, 177.5, 197.7, 205.6, 207.6, 219.2,
222.11, 222.17, 223.1, 226.11. Cf. Riedweg, 1999, 70. Evieux, in his introduction to the French edition of
Cyril of Alexandria’s Contre Julien (1985:34, 40), chooses to understate the question by explaining
Julian’s apostasy from the Christian faith as a visceral reaction to the massacre of his family at the hands of
Christians.

Contra Galilaios
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