A Sudden Fascination with Apollonius of Tyana

A little while back I wrote a blog, entitled “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, refuting the notion that there is less evidence and historical documentation for Jesus than would be expected – a view held by some who are insistent that, because of a lack of historical narrative about Jesus, he simply could not have been a real person. I demonstrated how those who propose this idea are arguing from a position of ignorance and that to argue that someone was not real because one cannot find enough written about said person is non sequitur and, therefore, not logical. This because, as anyone who has studied logic at all will understand, one cannot prove a negative.

Now, I have no real issue with what any of these people personally believe. They can “believe” that Jesus was not a real person, or even that he was an alien, all they want (although such is also not logical in formulation), but to continue to insist that a perceived lack of evidence proves that he never lived is going beyond the limits of good sense. Yet, as late as yesterday I came across yet another attempt (in an article entitled “Where’s the Historical Evidence for Jesus?” by Dr. David E. Lee; published in “The Real Truth about Religion” [http://realtruthaboutreligion.blogspot.com/2015/06/wheres-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html#.XJpmZHtKiM8]) to somehow prove that Jesus never lived as a real person simply because of a lack of documentation for his life. I basically responded that there is actually plenty of documentation, whether one wishes to accept it as valid or not.

But what was even more distressing than reading this tired scenario played out yet again was the fact that, in this case, it was coupled with the now popular assertion that the life of Jesus was modeled after the life of the ancient Pythagorean philosopher who lived at roughly the same time (only a bit longer, it would seem), Apollonius of Tyana. The author brought out the supposed similarities in the two lives, along with scripture references from the New Testament, to bolster his argument and, supposedly, seal the deal.

Now, I am not going to get into all of that because it is not necessary to what I have to say. I could pose a refutation of each point, one by one, and bore the reader to tears. And that would be self-defeating. No, instead, in this case, I am simply going to go straight for the jugular.

ALL arguments claiming that Jesus was not a real person because of some perceived lack of documentation for his life fall completely apart exactly by tying his life to the life of Apollonius of Tyana. Why? Because of a serious lack of documentation for the life of Apollonius of Tyana!

Those who want to claim that there is not enough historical evidence for the life of Jesus actually use the life of another person to compare him to who has even less historical evidence for his life! Shocking, isn’t it!

I should here reiterate, from my previous blog “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, that the most important source for the life of Jesus, meager as it is, outside of New Testament writings and other similar texts that did not become canonical, is the historian Josephus. That his work has obviously been edited over time is irrelevant here if we accept that he himself did write at least SOMETHING about Jesus – even a mere mention. And I do accept that. Other ancient sources were Tacitus, the philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, the historian Suetonius, The Babylonian Talmud, Pliny the Younger, the emperor Trajan (who indirectly referenced Jesus and Christianity), Thallus, Phlegon of Tralles, Lucian of Samosata, Porphyry, Celsus and the emperor Julian (the Apostate). This is actually quite a few extant sources given the overall, and often wholesale, destruction of ancient documents that took place over the millennia since.

By contrast, the sources for the life of Apollonius of Tyana are the following: “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana”, written by the sophist Philostratus at the request of the empress Julia Domna (160-217 CE; wife of the emperor Septimius Severus) and completed after her death (thus, not even a contemporary source since Apollonius died in about 100 CE); a work purportedly by Apollonius himself entitled “On Sacrifices”, parts of which have been preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea; some letters purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a “Biography of Pythagoras”, purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a book written by an imperial secretary, Maximus, detailing the supposed works of Apollonius in Aegaea, Aeolis (no longer extant); and a biography of Apollonius by Moiragenes (no longer extant).

All of these latter sources were used by Philostratus for his work. Thus, in reality, we have ONE source for the life of Apollonius of Tyana. And it was written over one-hundred years after his death. In addition, not one of the sources mentioned can be considered to have been penned by a real historian. AND, not one of those mentioned by Michael Paulkovich in his book “No Meek Messiah”, whom he states should have at least mentioned Jesus, mention Apollonius in any way whatsoever. AND, if that wasn’t enough, not one of the sources that mention or allude to Jesus mention Apollonius at all, period.

Thus, articles and books claiming any connection whatsoever between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana are at best fiction and at worst complete rubbish! One can posit a connection if one so desires, but one cannot base said supposition on anything that can be called evidence or documentation. Many things happened in history that we will never have any documentation for, so anything is POSSIBLE. But to purport to have evidence of any kind for this seriously flawed scenario is nothing more than charlatanry. These are articles and books of complete fiction.

If one wishes to read a book about the life of the man, Jesus, which is based on the evidence as it actually exists, then my book, “Apocalypse and Armageddon. The Secret Origins of Christianity” is one I highly recommend.

Neanderthals and the Nephilim

Bubble-burst before we even get there – this blog post is NOT about attempting to assert that the Neanderthals were the Nephilim of the Bible. I know that will disappoint some people, so I wanted to get it out there from the get go.

No, instead this blog post is about a quirky tendency of religious fanatics, because they read their holy books literally (most of the time), to make absurd statements that they cannot later back away from.

Case in point: Yesterday (3/18/2019) on the SBN Network program “Frances & Friends”, a question was posed by a caller as to how Neanderthals fit into the scheme of creation. My ears immediately perked up because I knew that this would be good, but I had no idea how delicious it would actually become.

Immediately Donnie Swaggart jumped in to answer the query. He explained that there is actually “no proof” that Neanderthals existed and continued to state that they have found no bones that they can prove are Neanderthal and that what has been found, he suggested, were later found to have been from some other animal species. Hey, I know the difficulties of trying to talk off the top of your head, but to trip yourself up THAT much in such a short space in time is a feat unto itself! And I won’t even get into all of it here. I will simply add that, in the end, Donnie Swaggart flatly stated that “Neanderthals never existed”.

That was early on in the program. If it had been left there, then that would have been enough fodder for anyone. But later another caller (sometimes I do think that people call in to try to trip the panel up and if not, then they do a good job of seeming to do so) asked if the Nephilim of the Bible were real. Again, Donnie Swaggart jumped right in without much forethought at all, stating that the Nephilim were definitely real and adding that they were a race of giants, products of cross-breeding between human females and angels (that he actually gets this mainly from the first Book of Enoch, he probably doesn’t even know).

The first irony here, if you will, is that Mr. Swaggart insisted that Neanderthals were not real and there is no evidence for them while on the very same program insisting that the Nephilim were real, providing no proof whatsoever. Of course, for the religious fanatic, if it is in their holy book then it must be real, after all. No further proof needed. Of course, an even greater irony here is that, because of the order in which the questions were posed, Mr. Swaggart missed out on a golden opportunity to claim that the Neanderthals and the Nephilim were one and the same. Whether he might have drawn that conclusion if the questions had been asked differently is anyone’s guess. but the fact is that such a connection was never drawn (and I am sure that others have drawn such a connection already).

For my part, the whole exchange just made me laugh! Mr. Swaggart was in a box of his own making from which he could not extricate himself, whether that had been the intent of the callers or not, and I knew that I would just HAVE to write something about it today.

Now, I don’t really care about the supposed argument here. I could care less whether he believes that Neanderthals existed or not. But, well before I decided to pursue theological studies my life’s focus was science. High school classmates even sometimes referred to me as “the mad scientist”. So, I take science seriously and I really chafe when people purport to know something and then spew babble all over the place for others to just lap up like kittens! In so many words, to put it more nicely, I take exception to what Mr. Swaggart said.

First: two skulls were initially discovered in separate caves in Europe, in 1829 and 1848. but only with the discovery of a third skull, accompanied with other bone fragments, in 1856, did researchers come to realize that they were dealing with a separate species of human. Since that time, more than four-hundred bone fragments of Neanderthals have been uncovered. So, unless one is positing that these bones are actually not Neanderthal, then there have indeed been many Neanderthal bone fragments found. Mr. Swaggart, therefore, is simply wrong.

But, more than this, DNA evidence has shown that all humans, other than sub-Saharan Africans, include SOME Neanderthal DNA. Now, one can hardly dispute DNA and EVEN on this very program one can find Frances Swaggart extolling DNA as “beautiful” and, of course, proof that there is a god. But, of course, if someone were to call into the program and ask her how it is that DNA is “proof of God”, but not proof of Neanderthals, she would refer to the question as “silly” (as she often does).

Of course, to be “fair”, some have claimed that they have found bones of “giants”. Some will also go on to claim that these are the bones of the Nephilim. I have, in the past, looked at the “evidence” for these claims and that, my friend, is what one would have to call “silly”. It is exactly on the same level as the “Ancient Astronaut Theory”; the “Flat Earth Theory”; the idea that gravity does not really exist (how one goes there is a feast for a mind that loves to be tortured by idiocy); the anti-vaxxers and their so-called “evidence”; QAnon (QMorons in my opinion) with their convoluted, incoherent conspiracy theories; people who believe in the planet Nabiru and the associated idiocy that comes along with it, etc., etc., etc. In so many words, the world, with the internet to support it, is full of bizarre “theories” having no basis in fact, just like religious traditions having no basis other than the Bible.

Finally, I want to make this disclaimer for those who still don’t understand as they read my blog posts. I am not here to bash religions, per se. That has never been my intent. A person has the human freedom to worship any way they want and to believe anything they want, as long as it is not harmful to others or to overall society or, dare I say, to the planet itself. I really don’t care if anyone believes some sort of misguided poppycock! Believe in Nephilim all you want. But, to attempt to authoritatively state that a scientific “fact” is not real, when there IS evidence for it, is a misuse of your role. The fanatic has long strayed from his/her, more or less, legitimate authority when it comes to explaining religious issues and has moved on into the political and the scientific. THAT is an absurdity that really should cease.