Thursday, February 02, 2017

Review of Becker, Porphyrios, 'Contra Christianos'

Matthias Becker, Porphyrios, 'Contra Christianos'. Neue Sammlung der Fragmente, Testimonien und Dubia mit Einleitung, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen. Texte und Kommentare, Bd 52. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. x, 667. ISBN 9783110440058. $196.00.

Reviewed by Ariane Magny, University of Ottawa (


In this colossal and meticulous work, Matthias Becker offers a new collection of the fragments of Against the Christians by the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry of Tyre. C. Chr. has survived only fragments in the works of late antique, Christian scholars. Becker’s is the first fragment collection to be produced by a German scholar since Adolf von Harnack first published his in 1916. Recently, other collections have been produced in English, Spanish, and Italian.1 A French one is currently in progress for Les Belles Lettres (by Sébastien Morlet). This interest in C. Chr. is part of a wider, renewed interest in Porphyry’s work in general,2 and contributes to our understanding of late antique inter-religious debates, for it seeks to reconstruct an anti-Christian treatise that was destroyed on the orders of various Christian emperors.

Porphyry is important for the history of NeoPlatonism and, more indirectly, Gnosticism, but he also is of some interest for ancient Judaism. He was the first to advance arguments for the Book of Daniel being composed during the Maccabean revolt. Porphyry also commented on some Gnostic Old Testament pseudepigrapha, as noted here. And some other PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to Porphyry are here, here, here, and here.