by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

Over the centuries, not a few people have noticed a resemblance between the lives of the ancient sage Apollonius of Tyana and the Christian savior Jesus Christ, a comparison most notably brought to light by the “very important Roman official” Sossianus Hierocles in the fourth century. Apollonius was said to have lived in the first century, precisely at the time of Jesus’s advent, although the former supposedly lived to be around 100 years old, while the latter allegedly died several decades earlier.

It is claimed that hundreds of statues of Apollonius were erected during the first centuries of the Christian era, with his fame as a “divine man” widespread around the Mediterranean. Numerous events in Apollonius’s life, as provided to us principally from a biography created around 210 by Philostratus, commissioned by the empress Julia Domna, peculiarly parallel those of Christ. It is difficult to determine what, if any, of Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius constitutes history, although there appears to be confirmation at least of Apollonius’s existence. In fact, from the odd coincidences between his life and that of Jesus, it has been suggested by not a few people that Jesus Christ is a fictional character based in large part on Apollonius of Tyana, although Christians beginning in early times cast the accusation of plagiarism in the opposite direction.

In addition to this possible development are striking correlations between the lives of Apollonius and the apostle Paul, who, like Jesus, strangely finds no place in contemporary history, despite claims to his having made quite a ruckus in a populated and well documented part of the world. It appears that the stories of both Jesus and Paul were in part fabricated from that of Apollonius. The opposite is also possible, although, in this author’s studied opinion, unlikely. It also may be that both Apollonius and Jesus were historical figures who did and said everything they are reported to have done and said, in which case we would be dishonest in accepting one without the other, both representing “God on Earth.”

The following table outlines germane events and characteristics in the lives of the three men, as recorded in various sources, particularly the Life of Apollonius and the Bible. It should be noted that just as the Bible does not acknowledge “Apollonius of Tyana,” nor does Apollonius’s biography mention Christ, Paul, Christians or Christianity. (The events herein are not necessarily in chronological order; nor is the list complete. A fuller treatment of this important subject would require an entire volume.)

 

Apollonius
 Apollonius of Tyana

Jesus
 Jesus Christ

Paul
 Apostle Paul

Born 4 BCEBorn 4 BCEBorn c. 2 CE?
Birth miraculously announced by a supernatural beingBirth miraculously announced by a supernatural being
Was the son of a god and a mortal womanWas the son of a god and a mortal woman.
Raised in TarsusRaised in Tarsus
Religiously precocious as a childReligiously precocious as a childReligiously precocious as a child
Asserted to be a native speaker of AramaicAsserted to be a native speaker of AramaicClaimed to be a speaker of Hebrew
Associated with wise men or magiAssociated with wise men or magi
Had a disciple named Damis from Asia MinorHad a disciple named Thomas; blessed a robber on the cross named
Demas 
Had a disciple named Demas from Asia Minor
Had an associate named TitusHad an associate named Titus
Associated with a DemetriusAssociated with a Demetrius
Associated with a StephanusAssociated with a Stephanus
Influenced by PlatoReflected PlatonismInfluenced by Philo/Plato
Renounced wealthDenounced wealthEmbraced poverty
Followed abstinence and asceticismFollowed abstinence and asceticismFollowed abstinence and asceticism
Wore long hair and robesWore long hair and robesWore long hair and robes
Discussed eunuchs for the kingdom of BabylonDiscussed eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven
Was unmarried and childlessWas unmarried and childlessWas unmarried and childless
Was anointed with oilWas anointed with oil
Went to JerusalemWent to JerusalemWent to Jerusalem
Spent much time at AntiochSpent much time at Antioch
Made missionary journeys around MediterraneanMade missionary journeys around Mediterranean
Traveled to the East for three years, where he was taught by sagesTraveled to the East for three years, where he was taught by Jesus
Wrote epistles instructing followers in spiritualityWrote epistles instructing followers in spirituality
Spoke in metaphorsSpoke in parables
Fought wild beasts at EphesusFought “wild beasts” at Ephesus
Saw and predicted the futureSaw and predicted the future
Performed miraclesPerformed miraclesPerformed miracles
Healed the sickHealed the sickHealed the sick
Cast out evil spiritsDrove out demonsCast out demons
Raised the daughter of a Roman official from the deadRaised the daughter of a Jewish official from the dead
Famed far and wideFamed far and wideWell known in Christian communities around the Mediterranean
Religious reformerReligious reformerReligious reformer
Spoke authoritatively to temple priestsSpoke authoritatively to temple priestsSpoke authoritatively to temple priests
Spoke as a “law-giver”Spoke as a “law-giver”
Founded a religious community at CorinthFounded a religious community at Corinth
Was on a mission to bring Greek culture to the “barbarians”Was on a mission to bring Jewish culture to the “nations”
Converted “unrefined” people to himselfConverted “unsaved” people to himself
Believed to be a “savior” from heavenBelieved to be a “savior” from heaven
Worshipped as a godWorshipped as a godMistaken for a god
Accused of being a magicianAccused of being a magician
Had his life threatenedHad his life threatenedHad his life threatened
Brought before a king, whose righteousness he challengedBrought before a king, whose righteousness he challenged
Was accused of killing a boyWas accused of killing a boy (Infancy Gospel of Thomas)
Condemned by Roman emperorCondemned by Roman authoritiesCondemned by Roman emperor
Imprisoned at RomeImprisoned at JerusalemImprisoned at Jerusalem and Rome
Miraculously escaped prisonMiraculously escaped prison
Was shipwreckedWas shipwrecked
Descended into the underworldDescended into the underworld
Was assumed into heavenAscended into heaven
Appeared posthumously to a detractor as a brilliant lightAppeared posthumously to a detractor as a brilliant light
Said to be in two places at onceSaid to be in many places at once
Had his image revered in templesHad his image revered in churches

As can be seen, there are many important details that correspond between the lives of all three men. In some ways, of course, one or the other of the godmen was superior in his capacities, such as the claim about Apollonius being able to speak and understand “all languages” without having studied or learned them.

In an interesting development, Apollonius and Paul’s journeys took a very similar route, though generally in reverse of each other. In fact, it has been calculated that Paul and Apollonius were at both Ephesus and Rome at precisely the same time. It would be very odd if two such similar and powerful men, preaching to religious communities in these places, were unknown to each other. Unless, of course, they were each other. Oddly enough, the book of Acts mentions an “Apollos” at Ephesus with Paul, the name “Apollos” being an abbreviation of “Apollonius.” In any event, encompassing various brotherhood and mystery school sites, the route taken by both Apollonius and Paul was also more or less that of Orpheus, a mythical proselytizer of the religion of Dionysus, whose epithet was said to have been IES, centuries before the Christian era. Many others doubtlessly also made this pilgrimage to these pre-Christian sacred sites and mystery schools over the centuries.

Paul’s Journeys

Paul's Journeys

Apollonius’s Journeys

Apollonius's Journeys

Not only are the journeys of Paul and Apollonius very similar, their names are as well. While Paul is “Paulos” in Greek, Thayer’s Lexicon states that “Apollos” is, according to some ancient authorities, contracted from “Apollonios.” Interestingly, “Apollos” is mentioned in five places in Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, in such a way – juxtapositioned with the names of Paul, “Cephas” and Christ; Paul and Christ; or Paul alone – as to attribute great significance to him. It has further been asserted that this contraction of the name Apollonius, Apollos, was found uncontracted in the Codex Bezae of the New Testament.

Moreover, the name “Apollonius,” it has been evinced, was also abbreviated in ancient times as “Pol,” but this writer has not been able to confirm that claim. It has further been asserted that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was not “Paulos” but “Apollos,” an interesting claim in consideration of the fact that Hebrews is written in “Hebraistic Greek” and that Apollonius was said to be a native speaker of the Hebraistic language of Aramaic. Oddly, Hebrews was one of the three epistles that were missing in the first New Testament compiled by Marcion. Furthermore, there are various “Pauline” writings that appeared after the alleged death of Paul, during the period when Apollonius was said to be still alive.

If the story of Apollonius was as well known in more or less detail as presented by Philostratus in the century proceeding that writer, i.e., the second century, with aristocracy admiring Apollonius to the point of worship, the gospel tale must be regarded as an obvious attempt at competition. In this scenario, fervent monotheists who believed it was their destiny to achieve religious hegemony set about to outdo the Capadoccian sage and, via their own usurping godman, prove themselves the spiritual leaders of mankind.

Sources:

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, Conybeare
The Bible, RSV and others
Bernard, Dr. Raymond, Apollonius the Nazarene, Health Research
“Apollonius of Tyana,” www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/apollonius01.html
Waite, Charles, History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred
Smith, William, “Apollonius Tyanaeus,” A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, www.apollonius.net/tyanaeus.html
Is Apollonius of Tyana – Paul of Tarsus?”