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Julian's Against the Galileans Hardcover – November 1, 2004

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Flavius Claudius Julianus (331/332-363 CE), better known to history by the name imposed by his Christian opponents, Julian "the Apostate," was a nephew of the first Christian emperor, Constantine I. Julian is one of the most fascinating figures of late antiquity. More information is available about him from both pagan and Christian sources than about any other Roman emperor. His reign inspired both admiration and contempt.

Julian's ambitious program was to reign state the religion of his ancestors and, in the process, to subdue the growth of the Christian church, which had achieved legitimacy under the reign of his uncle. Once in power, he immediately sought to revive the religion of classical Rome, to reform the pagan priesthood, to revitalize training in classics and pagan philosophy, and--as an affront to Christian prophecy--to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

This is the first modern English translation of the complete corpus of Julian's AGAINST THE GALILEANS and related writings, including letters and edicts bearing on Julian's attitude toward Christians and the Church, together with the most famous accounts of his short career written by the Christian historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozemon, both composed within a century of Julian's death. It not only puts the work of the philosopher-emperor into historical perspective but also offers important insights into the waning days of pagan philosophy and the growth of the Christian church against the background of intellectual and religious opposition. The translations are supported by a full historical introduction to the life of Julian and a detailed treatment of his religious philosophy, including the origins of his understanding of the Christian faith.

This translation is essential reading for anyone interested in the religions of late antiquity, the growth of the Christian church, and the final phase of the conflict between paganism and Christian teaching.

About the Author

R. Joseph Hoffmann is the author of many books on early Christianity including Porphyry’s Against the Christians. He is Campbell Professor of Religion at Wells College, New York, and chair of the Council for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and the American University of Beirut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (November 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021988
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,053,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By RA Meeks on October 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent volume of the Emperor Julian's perhaps most remembered essay against, as he called the Christians, the Glileans. While apparently familiar with the works of Celsus and Porphyry, Julian enthusiastically tries his hand at pointing out what he perceived as the contradictions and inherent problems of Christianity, which, prior to his reign, had become the state religion of the Roman Empire. Prior to this, Rome had been pagan and polytheistic and had shown a fair amount of tolerance for faiths and practices of other peoples in the late Republic and Empire. This changed with Constantine.

Julian's uncle, Constantine (called by some the Great), had named Christianity the official faith of the Empire. Julian became Emperor after the death of his cousin the Emperor Constantious. Julian attempted to arrest the growth and influence of the Christians, trying to restore Rome to a more polytheistic approach to worship.

Love him or hate him, Julian was a remarkable, accomplished man and a benign ruler. He excelled in both the study of philosophy and religion, and his military genius has been compared by some to that of Julius Caesar, an unexpected talent in one who grew up reading, hoping to devote his life to the study of philosophy.

For context and background, you might enjoy Adrian Murdoch's "The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World", and/or "God Against the Gods" by Jonathan Kirsch. For a more literary twist on Julian's life and efforts, Gore Vidal's "Julian" is excellent. Ammianus Marcellinus' "The Later Roman Empire" has a great deal of information about Julian's reign.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on January 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
R.J. Hoffmann's remarkable research brings to life the enigmatic Roman emperor Julian, his religious philosophy, his view on Christianity and the Christians and his religious tract `Against the Galileans'.

Religious philosophy
Julian was a pagan philosopher-soldier who wanted to restore the religion of his Roman forefathers and to reassert his authority over the religious institutions in his empire.
He was an eclectic Neo-Platonist. As explained by Plotinus in the Enneads, for a Neo-Platonist the ultimate goal is `assimilation to God', who is the source of the whole existing universe. God's emanations (beings) move again towards God (the One). The intelligible world as an emanation of the One consists of Mind (intellect) and Soul (a world-soul).

View on Christianity and the Christians
For Julian, Christianity is a disease, which has to be treated, not punished. It is a bundle of historical absurdities, superstitions and moral aberrations. Its story of the Garden of Eden shows clearly that its God refused to let man taste of wisdom, although nothing is more important for mankind.
Christians are not only political troublemakers, but also warmongers among themselves: `there are no wild beasts so hostile to mankind as are most Christians in their hatred for one another.'
Its clergymen are hypocrites and opportunists: `the clergy advocates rebellion because we have taken away certain privileges. They long for the powers they used to enjoy when they sat as judges, fashioned wills, stole other men's inheritance, pulled every string to bring on disorder and chaos.'

`Against the Galileans'
Only excerpts of the first of three books are preserved.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By G. Stucco on March 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The emperor appears to have been a noble, higher soul; nobler than ordinary folks, a man yearning for peace and tranquillity. He was inclined to contemplative, scholarly life and to philosophy. Unfortunately for him, Life had different plans for him. Once he became an emperor he inherited a difficult reign. He was not respected by his contemporaries and was opposed by the Christian community because of his revival of paganism (what's wrong with that?)
He was the nephew of Constantine; his brother, father and other relatives were assassinated by Constance II. The latter elevated him to the rank of Caesar (i.e., vice-emperor). At the age of twenty he repudiated Christianity. He was a passionate man, and not a detached person like Marcus Aurelius. He was initiated into the Eleusian and Mithraic mysteries. He followed neo-Platonism and was initiated into it by Iamblichus. He died in 363 at the age of 32. In a very controversial decree he forbade Christian teachers to teach classical authors; however he did not enforce this decree through force. He promoted works of moral, religious, political and economic renewal. His work Discourses against the Galileans) anticipates the themes of the rationalist school during the Enlightenment:
1. He criticizes Judeo-Christian intolerance
2. While Christians criticize pagan myths as fables, they should be critical of OT stories
3. How could God leave out of his plan of salvation all the people who lived before Christ?
4. God in the Bible is subject to passions such as anger and jealousy. How could that be? This God compares unfavorably to the meek Licurgus, the generous Solon, and the moderate attitude of Romans toward vanquished foes.
5. He calls Jesus the "deceased Galilean"
6. None of Jesus' disciples, except John, ever called him God
7. Christians are true apostates of Judaism (Jesus warned them not to teach others to deviate from the Law)
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