JulianUgaritica 141015 ss.pdf


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Julian first argues hermeneutically, turning “the weapons of the Jewish-Christian
apologists against themselves,”17 by declaring that any attempt to substantiate a claim for
the divinity of Jesus is undermined from the start, and therefore condemned to failure,
because the Christian interpretation and application of the Hebrew writings concerning
Yahweh and the gods is fatally flawed.18 Christians claim legitimacy for their ‘new’
teachings by looking backwards into the ‘old’ Jewish Scriptures; but as their
interpretative transformation of the Jewish Scriptures is extremely selective, which Julian
seeks to demonstrate by his own textual analyses, this method turns out, at best, to be
nothing more than a dubious religious-historical claim for legitimacy. Julian then argues
philosophically against the legitimacy of Galilean belief from his own certainly more
‘enlightened’ neo-platonic conception of the world of gods.19 So he exposes both the
hermeneutical and speculative oddity of the peculiar Galilean belief of “triune-theism,”
opposing this to the more traditional form of polytheism familiar to ancients in general,
and the Greeks, Romans and Persians in particular.
It is an irony of western intellectual history that Julian’s attacks on the faith of the
Galileans, and particularly their interpretation of the Jewish writings, were doomed to
fade into almost unchallenged obscurity. The argument of Against the Christians has
been preserved only in a bitter counter-polemic entitled Against Julian, which was
composed by Cyril (ca. 378-444), Bishop of Alexandria, sometime between 439-441
CE.20 Voltaire (1994:137) gallically understates the importance of Julian’s Contra
Galilaeos when he writes: “Un tel écrit aurait pu renverser la religion chrétienne établie
par Constantin, si Julien eut vécu longtems pour le bonheur du monde: mais après lui le
fanatisme triompha.” Indeed, the irony will be such that instead of destroying the
philosophical and hermeneutical credibility of the Galilean phenomenon as he had
intended, Julian’s own ‘religion’, the “Neo-Platonic Anti-Church with its Platonizing
hierarchy,”21 will furnish the nascent institution of the Christian Church with a
philosophical model for idealizing and codifying its God. This will allow the Christian
bishops, effectively and permanently, to separate this God from any conceptual
contamination by association with the gods of paganism. In a further irony, it shall prove
to be the case that the manner in which Julian organizes the institutions of pagan worship
in the empire shall provide the model for the Christian Church’s future organizational or
17

Riedweg, 1999, 87.
Friedrich Delitzsch will already elaborate this argument philosophically in 1920, in a small volume
entitled, Die Grosse Täuschung, thus anticipating the findings of Ugarit by some ten years. Typical of his
argument is this statement: “Jaho, der Spezialgott Israels, der höchste unter allen Göttern—all das ist
konsequent gedacht, aber diesen Partikulargott Jaho mit Gott, dem Weltgeist, dem allerhöchsten geistigen
Wesen über all Völker der Erde, den Schöpfer und Regierer des Weltalls, zu vereinerleien ist eine
Selbsttäuschung der alttestamentlichen Propheten und eine gar nicht auszudenkende Täuschung der
Menschheit überhaupt” (71; cf. 72, 74).
19 By the time Julian becomes emperor, according to Nock (1973, 159), “Paganism had moved largely
towards a sort of monotheism…”
20 See Evieux (in Contre Julien, 1985, 10-15) for a discussion on the dating of Cyril’s CJ.
21 Popper, 1963, 302; cf. 23. Nock (1973, 135), however, disagrees with Popper about the primacy of
Julian’s hierarchic organization, asserting that in the mystery cults, “[a] hierarchic organization did not
exist except when […] Julian in the sixth decade of the fourth century created it, following Christian
precedents.” Likwise Nock (Ibid, 159): “Paganism had moved largely towards a sort of monotheism, and
Julian’s revival depended on the giving to it of those features which had in Christianity been most effective,
theological and moral dogma, hierarchic organization, and systematic works of charity and benevolence.”
18

Contra Galilaios
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