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Porphyry°

PORPHYRY°

PORPHYRY ° (233–305 c.e.), Greek philosopher, disciple of Plotinus, and one of the most versatile thinkers of his day. Porphyry displayed considerable interest in Judaism, both as one of the ancient religions of the Orient and as the source of Christianity, to which he was hostile. His attitude to Judaism is sympathetic. In his De Abstinentia he cites Josephus (the only pagan writer to do so), drawing upon his description of the Essenes, and he describes with commiseration the misfortunes suffered by the Jews during the reign of *Antiochus Epiphanes and under Roman rule. In his life of Pythagoras, he features him as a disciple of the Hebrews. In his lost polemic against Christianity, Porphyry did not confine himself to criticism of the books of the Bible and of the New Testament, but conducted an empirical investigation which revealed a knowledge of biblical sources even greater than that of *Celsus, his predecessor in this field. Porphyry devoted an entire book to discussion of the Book of Daniel (referred to in Jerome's commentary), concluding that it was written by a Jewish contemporary of Antiochus Epiphanes, and that it can, therefore, only be regarded as "prophecy after the event."

bibliography:

J. Bidez, Vie de Porphyre (1913); A.B. Hulen, Porhyry's Work against the Christians (1933); Schroeder, in: Welt als Geschichte, 17 (1957), 196–202; Reinach, Textes, 203–6.

[Menahem Stern]

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