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Apollonius, Jesus and Paul:
Men or Myths?

by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

Over the centuries, not a few people have noticed a resemblance between the lives of the ancient sage Apollonius of Tyana and the Christian savior Jesus Christ, a comparison most notably brought to light by the "very important Roman official" Sossianus Hierocles in the fourth century. Apollonius was said to have lived in the first century, precisely at the time of Jesus's advent, although the former supposedly lived to be around 100 years old, while the latter allegedly died several decades earlier.

It is claimed that hundreds of statues of Apollonius were erected during the first centuries of the Christian era, with his fame as a "divine man" widespread around the Mediterranean. Numerous events in Apollonius's life, as provided to us principally from a biography created around 210 by Philostratus, commissioned by the empress Julia Domna, peculiarly parallel those of Christ. It is difficult to determine what, if any, of Philostratus's Life of Apollonius constitutes history, although there appears to be confirmation at least of Apollonius's existence. In fact, from the odd coincidences between his life and that of Jesus, it has been suggested by not a few people that Jesus Christ is a fictional character based in large part on Apollonius of Tyana, although Christians beginning in early times cast the accusation of plagiarism in the opposite direction.

In addition to this possible development are striking correlations between the lives of Apollonius and the apostle Paul, who, like Jesus, strangely finds no place in contemporary history, despite claims to his having made quite a ruckus in a populated and well documented part of the world. It appears that the stories of both Jesus and Paul were in part fabricated from that of Apollonius. The opposite is also possible, although, in this author's studied opinion, unlikely. It also may be that both Apollonius and Jesus were historical figures who did and said everything they are reported to have done and said, in which case we would be dishonest in accepting one without the other, both representing "God on Earth."

The following table outlines germane events and characteristics in the lives of the three men, as recorded in various sources, particularly the Life of Apollonius and the Bible. It should be noted that just as the Bible does not acknowledge "Apollonius of Tyana," nor does Apollonius's biography mention Christ, Paul, Christians or Christianity. (The events herein are not necessarily in chronological order; nor is the list complete. A fuller treatment of this important subject would require an entire volume.)

Apollonius
 Apollonius of Tyana

Jesus
 Jesus Christ

Paul
 Apostle Paul

Born 4 BCE Born 4 BCE Born c. 2 CE?
Birth miraculously announced by a supernatural being Birth miraculously announced by a supernatural being  
Was the son of a god and a mortal woman Was the son of a god and a mortal woman.  
Raised in Tarsus   Raised in Tarsus
Religiously precocious as a child Religiously precocious as a child Religiously precocious as a child
Asserted to be a native speaker of Aramaic Asserted to be a native speaker of Aramaic Claimed to be a speaker of Hebrew
Associated with wise men or magi Associated with wise men or magi  
Had a disciple named Damis from Asia Minor Had a disciple named Thomas; blessed a robber on the cross named Demas  Had a disciple named Demas from Asia Minor
Had an associate named Titus   Had an associate named Titus
Associated with a Demetrius   Associated with a Demetrius
Associated with a Stephanus   Associated with a Stephanus
Influenced by Plato Reflected Platonism Influenced by Philo/Plato
Renounced wealth Denounced wealth Embraced poverty
Followed abstinence and asceticism Followed abstinence and asceticism Followed abstinence and asceticism
Wore long hair and robes Wore long hair and robes Wore long hair and robes
Discussed eunuchs for the kingdom of Babylon Discussed eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven  
Was unmarried and childless Was unmarried and childless Was unmarried and childless
Was anointed with oil Was anointed with oil  
Went to Jerusalem Went to Jerusalem Went to Jerusalem
Spent much time at Antioch   Spent much time at Antioch
Made missionary journeys around Mediterranean   Made missionary journeys around Mediterranean
Traveled to the East for three years, where he was taught by sages   Traveled to the East for three years, where he was taught by Jesus
Wrote epistles instructing followers in spirituality   Wrote epistles instructing followers in spirituality
Spoke in metaphors Spoke in parables  
Fought wild beasts at Ephesus   Fought "wild beasts" at Ephesus
Saw and predicted the future Saw and predicted the future  
Performed miracles Performed miracles Performed miracles
Healed the sick Healed the sick Healed the sick
Cast out evil spirits Drove out demons Cast out demons
Raised the daughter of a Roman official from the dead Raised the daughter of a Jewish official from the dead  
Famed far and wide Famed far and wide Well known in Christian communities around the Mediterranean
Religious reformer Religious reformer Religious reformer
Spoke authoritatively to temple priests Spoke authoritatively to temple priests Spoke authoritatively to temple priests
Spoke as a "law-giver" Spoke as a "law-giver"  
Founded a religious community at Corinth   Founded a religious community at Corinth
Was on a mission to bring Greek culture to the "barbarians" Was on a mission to bring Jewish culture to the "nations"  
Converted "unrefined" people to himself Converted "unsaved" people to himself  
Believed to be a "savior" from heaven Believed to be a "savior" from heaven  
Worshipped as a god Worshipped as a god Mistaken for a god
Accused of being a magician Accused of being a magician  
Had his life threatened Had his life threatened Had his life threatened
Brought before a king, whose righteousness he challenged Brought before a king, whose righteousness he challenged  
Was accused of killing a boy Was accused of killing a boy (Infancy Gospel of Thomas)  
Condemned by Roman emperor Condemned by Roman authorities Condemned by Roman emperor
Imprisoned at Rome Imprisoned at Jerusalem Imprisoned at Jerusalem and Rome
Miraculously escaped prison   Miraculously escaped prison
Was shipwrecked   Was shipwrecked
Descended into the underworld Descended into the underworld  
Was assumed into heaven Ascended into heaven  
Appeared posthumously to a detractor as a brilliant light Appeared posthumously to a detractor as a brilliant light  
Said to be in two places at once Said to be in many places at once  
Had his image revered in temples Had his image revered in churches  

As can be seen, there are many important details that correspond between the lives of all three men. In some ways, of course, one or the other of the godmen was superior in his capacities, such as the claim about Apollonius being able to speak and understand "all languages" without having studied or learned them.

In an interesting development, Apollonius and Paul's journeys took a very similar route, though generally in reverse of each other. In fact, it has been calculated that Paul and Apollonius were at both Ephesus and Rome at precisely the same time. It would be very odd if two such similar and powerful men, preaching to religious communities in these places, were unknown to each other. Unless, of course, they were each other. Oddly enough, the book of Acts mentions an "Apollos" at Ephesus with Paul, the name "Apollos" being an abbreviation of "Apollonius." In any event, encompassing various brotherhood and mystery school sites, the route taken by both Apollonius and Paul was also more or less that of Orpheus, a mythical proselytizer of the religion of Dionysus, whose epithet was said to have been IES, centuries before the Christian era. Many others doubtlessly also made this pilgrimage to these pre-Christian sacred sites and mystery schools over the centuries.

Paul's Journeys

Paul's Journeys

Apollonius's Journeys

Apollonius's Journeys

Not only are the journeys of Paul and Apollonius very similar, their names are as well. While Paul is "Paulos" in Greek, Thayer's Lexicon states that "Apollos" is, according to some ancient authorities, contracted from "Apollonios." Interestingly, "Apollos" is mentioned in five places in Paul's 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, in such a way - juxtapositioned with the names of Paul, "Cephas" and Christ; Paul and Christ; or Paul alone - as to attribute great significance to him. It has further been asserted that this contraction of the name Apollonius, Apollos, was found uncontracted in the Codex Bezae of the New Testament.

Moreover, the name "Apollonius," it has been evinced, was also abbreviated in ancient times as "Pol," but this writer has not been able to confirm that claim. It has further been asserted that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was not "Paulos" but "Apollos," an interesting claim in consideration of the fact that Hebrews is written in "Hebraistic Greek" and that Apollonius was said to be a native speaker of the Hebraistic language of Aramaic. Oddly, Hebrews was one of the three epistles that were missing in the first New Testament compiled by Marcion. Furthermore, there are various "Pauline" writings that appeared after the alleged death of Paul, during the period when Apollonius was said to be still alive.

If the story of Apollonius was as well known in more or less detail as presented by Philostratus in the century proceeding that writer, i.e., the second century, with aristocracy admiring Apollonius to the point of worship, the gospel tale must be regarded as an obvious attempt at competition. In this scenario, fervent monotheists who believed it was their destiny to achieve religious hegemony set about to outdo the Capadoccian sage and, via their own usurping godman, prove themselves the spiritual leaders of mankind.

Sources:

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, Conybeare
The Bible, RSV and others
Bernard, Dr. Raymond, Apollonius the Nazarene, Health Research
"Apollonius of Tyana," www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/apollonius01.html
Waite, Charles, History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred
Smith, William, "Apollonius Tyanaeus," A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, www.apollonius.net/tyanaeus.html
"Is Apollonius of Tyana - Paul of Tarsus?"

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"Murdock's scholarship is relentless! ...the research conducted by D.M. Murdock concerning the myth of Jesus Christ is certainly both valuable and worthy of consideration." —Dr. Kenneth L. Feder, Professor of Archaeology, Central Connecticut State University, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience In Archaeology

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