Many people have pointed out the similarities between Apollonius of Tyana and Jesus. DM Murdoch, who died a few weeks ago, made the case that the Apostle Paul resembled Apollonius a great deal.
Apollonius lived from 15-100 CE and was a travelling, ascetic (denying oneself of earthly pleasures), religious magician-type who healed people and had a scribe named Damis, which is remarkably similar-sounding to Paul’s companion, Demas.
Apollonius’ journey around the world also resembles Paul’s quite a bit – in fact, DM Murdoch pointed out that this journey was typical of young wealthy people who were becoming initiated into the mystery schools (ekklesia) of the day – these ekklesia were often converted to Christian schools. These schools, and the communities that made them up, were roughly in competition with each other, but there was also a symbiosis between them. When you look at Gnosticism and Kabbalah, it’s easy to see how one of these mystic religions probably influenced the other (or, there was probably a loop of influence between them). A deeper investigation reveals other influences in Gnosticism, aside from the Kaballah, including Zoroastrianism. I think these details add weight to the notion that Gnostic Christianity preceded Apostolic Christianity, and that it was the Apostolic line (pre-Catholicism) that hijacked Jesus from the Gnostics, and not the other way around, as Christian historians like to argue.
I’ve pointed out that the references to the “educated Alexandrian” in Acts of the Apostles 18:24 might very well be a reference to Apollonius (“A Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus, and he was mighty in the Scriptures…being acquainted only with the baptism of John…”). Apollonius is referred to as Apollo in “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana”.
The Apollos from Acts first appeared in Paul’s own writings, such as 1 Corinthians when Paul struggles trying to bring in the Apollos faction into his own theology:
For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one
But compare the detail in Acts 18:24 with “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana“, which describes Apollonius of “purging” the Ephesians of the plague that was afflicting their town.
The accuser here interrupts me, you hear him yourself do so, my prince, and he remarks that I am not accused for having brought about the salvation of the Ephesians, but for having foretold that the plague would befall them; for this, he says, transcends the power of wisdom and is miraculous, so that I could never have reached such a pitch of truth if I were not a wizard and an unspeakable wretch.
The undercurrent of the story of Apollonius is that he is mightily revered, particularly in the places where there was a groundswell of early Christianity, such as in current-day western Turkey. In fact, the thing that prompted Julia Domna, wife of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, to call on the sophist Philostratus to write the book on Apollonius’ life was her excitement from reading existing excerpts of Apollonius’ life.
In Smyrna, Apollonius supposedly predicted a coming earthquake: “These words he uttered under divine impulse, because he foresaw, as I believe, the disasters which afterwards overtook Smyrna and Miletus…”
Smyrna, you’ll remember, was the home of Polycarp, and together with Sardis and Ephesus, created a triangulation of cities, each about a day’s walk from one another, and which appears to be ground-zero for Johannine Christianity (ultimately the “winning” sect of Christianity that controlled the eventual theological movement to Catholicism).
One of the interesting details of Apollonius’ life is that he was arrested by Domitian, just like the Apostle John supposedly was. The quick story of John was that he moved from Judea to Ephesus right before the destruction of the Jewish temple is Jerusalem in 70CE. After that, John was arrested and banished to the Island of Patmos (off the coast of modern Turkey), where he supposedly wrote Revelation.
John and Apollonius were both arrested under the rule of Domitian, and both freed by Emperor Nerva (who reigned from 96-98 CE), and both died around 100CE. According to tradition, both lived an exceedingly long time – well into their 80s or 90s. And both died in “mysterious ways” (John supposedly had Prochorus bury him neck deep in the sand, and died – Appolonius simply disappeared).
It seems clear to me that these stories exist because of the original oral traditions and legends. Anyone who wished to have legend attached to their name (or likewise, anyone who people wished would have legend attached to their name) needed to have legendary acts associated with them.
The cheapest way to do this is to hijack an existing tradition. For example, a person says to Iron Age cult member: “Apollonius of Tyana did a great many things.” Iron Age cult member responds: “No, you’re thinking of the Apostle John.”
That is why so many of these characters have similar attributes – ranging from Judas of Galilee to the Apostle Paul to John to Jesus. They all were inheritors of this fuzziness inherent in oral tradition.
There didn’t seem to be any shortage of this sort of hijacking. The people who (I think) euhemerized (converted from outer space messiah to earthly messiah) the cosmic messiah Jesus were all acquainted with the intellectual fodder of the day – they’d read Josephus, they were familiar with oral traditions, and they had the means to write and produce texts which supported their position.
This idea ties into my hypothesis that the Apostle Paul didn’t really exist; rather, he is a historical composite of Apollonius of Tyana, the euhemerized Jesus, and Marcion of Sinope, originally fitting the description of Simon Magus, but that name was eventually parsed out by the Johannine line (particularly Polycarp and Irenaeus) so as to integrate the Marcionite community into the broader orthodoxy – this move also served to pacify the Valentinians who had reverence for Paul, and who were already members of the orthodoxy, but conducted secret rituals and meetings in order to reveal their secret Christianity to those who were educated enough to understand it. The implication here is that Paul’s writings were not in the 40s through 60s; rather, they were Marcionite writings in the early 2nd century. This supports another hypothesis I have that Mark and the other gospels were written between 125 and 150CE. This also puts Acts of the Apostles in at least 150CE (maybe even closer to 175CE).
I’m actually in the process of writing a book…basically an introduction to mythicist theory. I plan on expanding this hypothesis quite a bit more…I’m always aiming for around 1000 word blog posts, and the effect of that goal is that my ideas come off scattershot and have sort of a stream of consciousness feel…I plan to be more careful and articulate in the book I’m writing.