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E01986: The emperor Julian, in his treatise Against the Galilaeans (Christians) of 362, denounces the Christian cult of tombs and relics as a form of witchcraft, which contradicts the doctrines of Christ himself. Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria).

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posted on 03.11.2016, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Julian the Apostate (Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus), Against the Galilaeans (Christians)

p. 225-226.

Ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν τὸ κακὸν ἔλαβε παρὰ Ἰωάννου τὴν ἀρχήν· ὅσα δὲ ὑμεῖς ἑξῆς προσευρήκατε, πολλοὺς ἐπεισάγοντες τῷ πάλαι νεκρῷ τοὺς προσφάτους νεκροὺς, τίς ἂν πρὸς ἀξίαν βδελύξαιτο; πάντα ἐπληρώσατε τάφων καὶ μνημάτων, καίτοι οὐκ εἴρηται παρ’ ὑμῖν οὐδαμοῦ τοῖς τάφοις προσκαλινδεῖσθαι καὶ περιέπειν αὐτούς. εἰς τοῦτο δὲ προεληλύθατε μοχθηρίας, ὥστε οἴεσθαι δεῖν ὑπὲρ τούτου μηδὲ τῶν γε Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ναζωραίου ῥημάτων ἀκούειν. ἀκούετε οὖν, ἅ φησιν ἐκεῖνος περὶ τῶν μνημάτων· «οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταὶ, ὅτι παρομοιάζετε τάφοις κεκονιαμένοις· ἔξωθεν ὁ τάφος φαίνεται ὡραῖος, ἔσωθεν δὲ γέμει ὀστέων νεκρῶν καὶ πάσης ἀκαθαρσίας.» εἰ τοίνυν ἀκαθαρσίας Ἰησοῦς ἔφη πλήρεις εἶναι τοὺς τάφους, πῶς ὑμεῖς ἐπ’ αὐτῶν ἐπικαλεῖσθε τὸν θεόν; (...) καὶ μαθητοῦ τινος λέγοντος «κύριε, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι πρῶτον ἀπελθεῖν καὶ θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μοῦ», αὐτὸς ἔφη· «ἀκολούθει μοι καὶ ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάπτειν τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς.» τούτων οὖν οὕτως ἐχόντων, ὑμεῖς ὑπὲρ τίνος προσκαλινδεῖσθε τοῖς μνήμασι; ἀκοῦσαι βούλεσθε τὴν αἰτίαν; οὐκ ἐγὼ φαίην ἂν, ἀλλ’ Ἡσαΐας ὁ προφήτης· «ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι καὶ ἐν τοῖς σπηλαίοις κοιμῶνται δι’ ἐνύπνια.» σκοπεῖτε οὖν, ὅπως παλαιὸν ἦν τοῦτο τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις τῆς μαγγανείας τὸ ἔργον, ἐγκαθεύδειν τοῖς μνήμασιν ἐνυπνίων χάριν. ὃ δὴ καὶ τοὺς ἀποστόλους ὑμῶν εἰκός ἐστι μετὰ τὴν τοῦ διδασκάλου τελευτὴν ἐπιτηδεύσαντας ὑμῖν τε ἐξ ἀρχῆς παραδοῦναι τοῖς πρώτοις πεπιστευκόσι, καὶ τεχνικώτερον ὑμῶν αὐτοὺς μαγγανεῦσαι, τοῖς δὲ μεθ’ ἑαυτοὺς ἀποδεῖξαι δημοσίᾳ τῆς μαγγανείας ταύτης καὶ βδελυρίας τὰ ἐργαστήρια.

'Now, this evil [of venerating a mortal man as god] originates with John. But who could detest as they deserve all those things you [Christians] have subsequently devised, adding up, as you did, several recent dead to the dead man of old? You have filled everything with tombs and sepulchres, even though it is nowhere said in your doctrines that you need to grovel by tombs and pay them honour. But you have reached such a level of perversion that you believe that, in this matter, you need not listen even to the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself. Hear, then, what he says about sepulchres: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres; outward the tomb appears beautiful, but within it is full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." [Mt. 23.27] If, then, Jesus said that tombs are full of uncleanness, how do you invoke God at them? [...] And when a disciple said “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father”, he [Jesus] said: “Follow me and let the dead bury their dead.” [Mt. 8.22] Therefore, since this is so, why do you grovel among tombs? Do you wish to hear the reason? It is not I who will tell you, but the prophet Isaiah: "They lodge among tombs and in caves in pursuit of dream visions." [Is. 65.4] You see, then, how ancient this kind of witchcraft was among the Jews, namely to sleep among tombs in pursuit of dream visions. It is then plausible that, after their teacher's death, your apostles practised it too, and handed it down from the beginning to the first of you who believed; and they practised the magic more skilfully than you, and openly indicated to their successors the places where this witchcraft and abomination is practised.'

Text: Neumann 1880. Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E01986

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

362

Evidence not after

363

Activity not after

363

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

Julian (emperor)

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family

Source

Born in Constantinople in 331/332, Flavius Claudius Iulianus reigned as emperor in 361-363. His reign is most famous for his attempt to restore paganism as the official religion of the Roman state. A man of letters, he has left a substantial corpus of rhetorical, philosophical and epistolary texts. Written during his stay in Antioch in AD 362/3, the treatise Against the Galilaeans (Christians) was a three-volume critique of the Christian religion. The text is preserved only in fragments quoted by Cyril of Alexandria who wrote a response to it (Against Julian) in AD 435 (E03589). Julian was the third thinker to write a comprehensive critique of Christianity, after Celsus (c. AD 177) and Porphyrius of Tyre (AD 234-305). His work is distinguished from the other two for taking account of the latest developments of the Christian religion, especially the cult of martyrs and monasticism.

Discussion

In this section, Julian attacks what he regards as the most abominable aspect of the Christian religion, namely the cult of tombs and relics, which he also repeatedly denounces and derides in other writings. In this passage, it is quite clear that the author does not refer to Christian funerary practices as a whole, but rather specifically to the cult of the tombs of saints. Elsewhere, Julian refers to Christian devotion and care for the tombs of the dead as one of the positive aspects of the religion, alongside the charitable practices of the Christian communities. The cult of tombs and relics of saints, however, is consistently attacked by him as a central manifestation of the godless and blasphemous nature of the Christian religion. Here, Julian refers to the cult of relics and tombs of saints as reproducing and multiplying the core doctrine of venerating a dead man as god (Christ). Julian observes that this practice does not derive from any prescription of the Christian Scripture, and may indeed be found to be contradicting Christ himself. The cult of relics and tombs is a practice which Julian ascribes, not to the founder of Christianity, but to doctrines and practices introduced by the disciples of Christ. Julian interprets the cult of tombs and relics as a classic form of necromancy, employed in pursuit of dream visions. For him, this is an ancient form of Jewish magic, denounced even by the Prophets themselves, to which the disciples of Christ resorted after the death of their master, and handed it down to their converts as the backbone of their religion: Christianity is just necrolatry, a devotion to corpses, established by a group of superstitious Jews who couldn’t get over the death of their master; they taught the Christians how to worship this dead man as god, and how to reproduce this by the creation of tomb-shrines for their saints. Julian’s thesis, that the cult of tombs is a sort of magic seeking to cause dream visions, does not derive solely from his research into the Bible, but probably refers to the Christian practice of incubation, which consisted of spending time at a saint’s shrine in expectation/pursuit of a miraculous manifestation, healing or vision.

Bibliography

Text and translations: Neumann, C. I. Iuliani Imperatoris librorum contra Christianos quae supersunt. Leipzig: Teubner, 1880. Maraschia, E. Giuliano Imperatore. Contra Galilaeos. Roma: 1990. Wright, W. C.The Works of the Emperor Julian, vol. 3, Loeb classical library, London: W. Heinemann, New York: G. Putnam's Sons, 1913-1923, vol. III, 313-433 (with English translation) Further reading: Athanassiadi-Fowden, P. Julian and Hellenism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981. Bidez, J. La vie de l'empereur Julien, Paris: Belles Lettres, 1930. Lippold, A. "Iulianus I (Kaiser)." In Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, 442-83. Stuttgart: Heinemann, 2001. Meredith, A. "Porphyry and Julian against the Christians." In: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 2.23.2 (1980), 1138-1149. Rinaldi, G. La Bibbia dei pagani. La Bibbia nella storia. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1997, 319-414

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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