Porphyry, An Anti-Christian Plotinian Platonist


Porphyry, the Phoenician polymath, having studied with Plotinus when he was thirty years old, was a well-known Hellenic philosopher, an opponent of Christianity, a defender of Paganism and was born in Tyre, in the Roman Empire. We know of his anti-Christian ideology and of his defence of traditional Roman religions, by means of a fragment of his Adversus Christianos. This work incurred controversy among early Christians and was banned by Emperor Constantine the Great, and is entirely lost now, though it is not as contributory and influential as his Eisagōgē or Isagoge in the Middle Ages. Porphyry received his paideia from the master Ammonius Saccas and from Longinus and Plotinus. Eusebius, holding a different point of view from Porphyry, said that Ammonius remained a Christian throughout his life. Porphyry’s Adversus Christianos has been served as a critique of Christianity and a defence of the worship of the traditional gods, so it is unavoidable that his texts involved Biblical culture and religious Hellenism. Augustine in his De civitate Dei 10. 28 reproves Porphyry for wasting so much time in learning the theurgic arts and rites, which he considers dangerous for two reasons: its illegality and the inherent perils involved in the working of this art. This paper does not inquire into whether Porphyry’s philosophical monistic theology is shown in Plotinus’ Enneads, but focuses on his anti-Christian thought through the fragments that we have, particularly Augustine’s De Civitate Dei.

Author Information
Yip Mei Loh, Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ECERP2017
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and Religion

This paper is part of the ECERP2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon