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Julian's Arguments Against the Christians


Translated by Thomas Taylor

Julian compares the Hebrew and Greek writings which support the monotheist and the polytheist positions, showing the latter to be superior.

Here, however, if you are willing, we will compare the words of Plato with those of Moses. What therefore Plato says of the Demiurgus, and what words he ascribes to him in the fabrication of the world consider, that we may compare the cosmogony of Plato and Moses with each other; for thus it will appear which is the more excellent, and which is more worthy of divinity; whether Plato who worshipped images, or he of whom the Scriptures says, that God spoke to him face to face. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, and the fruit tree yielding fruit. And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night. And God set them in the firmament of heaven, to give light upon the earth; and to rule over the day, and over the night."

In this account of the creation, Moses neither says that the abyss was made by God, nor the darkness, nor the water; though it was certainly requisite that he who said of the light that it was produced by the command of God, ought also to have said this of the night, of the abyss, and of the water. Moses, however, says nothing about the fabrication of them, though they are frequently mentioned by him. Besides this, neither does he make mention of the generation or creation of angels, nor of the manner in which they were produced, but alone speaks of the bodies which are contained in the heaven and the earth. So that God, according to Moses, is the fabricator of nothing incorporeal, but is the adorner of the subject matter of the universe. And when he says that the earth was without form and void, these are nothing more than the words of one who makes matter to be a moist and dry essence, and who introduces God as the adorner of it.

Let us, however, compare one with the other, and consider what, and after what manner Divinity fabricates according to Moses, and after what manner he fabricates according to Plato. "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

Hear now the speech which Plato (in the Timaeus) ascribes to the Demiurgus of the universe: "Gods of gods, of whom I am the Demiurgus and father, whatever is generated by me is indissoluble, such being my will in its fabrication. Indeed, every thing which is bound is dissoluble; but to be willing to dissolve that which is beautifully harmonized and well composed is the property of an evil nature. Hence, so far as you are generated, you are not immortal, nor in every respect indissoluble, yet you shall never be dissolved, nor become subject to the fatality of death; my will being a much greater and more excellent bond than the vital connectives with which you were bound at the commencement of your generation. Learn therefore what I now say to you indicating my desire. Three genera of mortals yet remain to be produced. Without the generation of these, therefore, the universe will be imperfect; for it will not contain every kind of animal in its spacious extent. But it ought to contain them, that it may be sufficiently perfect. Yet if these are generated, and participate of life through me, they will become equal to the gods. That mortal natures therefore may subsist, and that the universe may be truly all, convert yourselves according to your nature, to the fabrication of animals, imitating the power which I employed in your generation. And whatever among these is of such a nature as to deserve the same appellation with immortals, which obtains sovereignty in them, and willingly pursues justice, and reverences you, of this I myself will deliver the seed and beginning: it is your business to accomplish the rest; to weave together the mortal and immortal nature; by this means fabricating and generating animals, causing them to increase by supplying them with aliment, and receiving them back again when dissolved by corruption."

Whether or not this is a dream, learn by understanding it. Plato denominates gods those apparent natures the sun and moon, the stars, and the heaven. These, however, are the images of unapparent gods; the sun which is visible to the eyes, of the intelligible and unapparent sun; and again, the moon which is apparent to our eyes, and each of the stars are images of intelligibles. Plato, therefore, knew those unapparent gods which are inherent in, coexistent with, and generated and proceeding from the Demiurgus himself. Hence the Demiurgus in Plato very properly says, addressing himself to the unapparent divinities, Gods of gods, viz. of the apparent gods. But he who fabricated the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and who generated the stars which are the archetypes of these in intelligibles, is the common Demiurgus of both these. Consider, therefore, that what follows this is well added. Three genera of mortals, says he, yet remain to be produced, viz. men, animals, and plants; for each of these is distinguished by a peculiar nature. If, therefore, says he, each of these is generated by me, it will necessarily in every respect become immortal. For nothing else is the cause of immortality to the gods, and the apparent world, than their being generated by the Demiurgus. What then does he say? That whatever is immortal in these, is necessarily imparted by the Demiurgus: but this is the rational soul. Of this, therefore, I myself will deliver to you, being willing, the seed and beginning: it is your business to accomplish the rest, and to weave together the mortal and immortal nature.

It is evident, therefore, that the demiurgic gods receiving from their father a demiurgic power, produced mortal animals on the earth. For if the heaven ought to differ in no respect from man, nor by Jupiter from wild beasts, or serpents, and fishes swimming in the sea; it is necessary that there should be one and the same Demiurgus of all things. But if there is an abundant medium between immortal and mortal natures, which cannot be greater by any addition, nor diminished by any ablation with reference to mortal and perishable natures, it is fit that the causes of the one should be different from the causes of the other.

What occasion, however, have I here to call the Greeks and Hebrews as my witnesses? There is no one who, when praying, does not extend his hands to the heaven; or who, when he swears by god or the gods, possessing in short a conception of a divine nature, does not tend thither. Nor is he improperly affected in this manner. For men perceiving that nothing pertaining to the heavens is either diminished, or increased, or changed, or sustains any passion of disordered natures; but that its motion is harmonic, its order elegant, that the laws of the moon, and the rising and settings of the sun, are definite; and always in definite times, they have very reasonably believed it to be a god, and the throne of god. For a thing of this kind, as being multiplied by no addition, nor diminished by any ablation, and being remote from the mutation according to a change in quality and essence, is free from all corruption and generation. But being naturally immortal and indestructible, it is pure from every kind of stain. Since, also, it is perpetual and immutable as we see, it is either moved in a circle about the mighty Demiurgus, by a more excellent and divine soul, inhabiting in it, or receiving its motion, from divinity, as our bodies from the soul which is in us, it evolves an infinite circle, by an unceasing and eternal motion.


Compare with these things the Judaical doctrine, the paradise planted by God, the Adam fashioned by him, and afterwards the woman created for Adam. For God said, it is not good that the man should be alone: I will make an help meet for him. She was not, however, a help meet to him in any thing, but was deceived, and became the cause both to him and herself of being expelled from the delicacies of Paradise. For these things are perfectly fabulous; since how is it reasonable to suppose that God was ignorant that the woman who was made as an help meet for Adam, would rather be pernicious than beneficial to him?

As to the serpent that discoursed with Eve, what kind of language shall we say it used! and in what do things of this kind differ from the fables devised by the Greeks?

Is it not also excessively absurd, that God should forbid men fashioned by himself the knowledge of good and evil? For what can be more foolish than one who is not able to know what is good and what is depraved? For it is evident that such a one will not avoid some things, I mean evils; and that he will not pursue others, viz. such as are good. But, as the summit of all, God forbade man to taste of wisdom; than which nothing is more honourable to man. For that the knowledge of good and evil is the proper work of wisdom, is evident even to the stupid.

Hence the serpent was rather the benefactor, and not the destroyer of the human race. And not this only, but in what Moses afterwards adds, he makes God to be envious. For after God saw that man participated of wisdom, lest, says he, he should taste of the tree of life, he expelled him from Paradise, clearly saying, "Behold Adam is become as one of us to know good and evil: and now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden." Each of these narrations, therefore, unless it is a fable containing an arcane theory, which I should think is the case, is full of much blasphemy towards divinity. For to be ignorant that the woman, who was to be the assistant of man, would be the cause of his fall, and to forbid him the knowledge of good and evil, which alone appears to be the connective bond of human life; and besides this to be envious, lest by partaking of life, from being mortal he should become immortal, is the province of a being very envious and malevolent.