The Ubiquitous 'Divine Man'[1]

Review article


Jaap-Jan Flinterman                                                                                  Numen 43 (1996), 82-98

This is the full text of the original publication. The page numbers of the original are indicated between square brackets.

Erkki Koskenniemi, Apollonios von Tyana in der neutestamentlichen Exegese. For­schungs­bericht und Weiterführung der Diskussion. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. 2. Reihe 61. J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1994. ISBN 3-16-145894-X

Graham Anderson, Sage, saint and sophist. Holy men and their associates in the early Roman Empire. Routledge, London/New York 1994. ISBN 0-415-02372-6


In a note to the second chapter of Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox com­plained that 'the ubiquitous "divine man"' was in need of 'much clearer definition'.[2] Although one can hardly escape the impression that the British scholar welcomed the opportun­ity to disregard a set of phenomena which did not fit into his picture of pagan religiosity of the early Imperial period, there can be no doubt that he put his finger on a sore spot. Despite decades of scholarly exertions, the θεῖος ἀνήρ remains an elusive and controversial figure. To a large extent, this is related to the role of the 'divine man' in the debate on the background to New Testament Christologies: the suggestion that pagan conceptions could have influenced earliest Christianity was — and still is — bound to spark off polemic. As Lane Fox's remark suggests, however, the usefulness of the concept in understanding pagan concep­tions and realities has been exposed to criticism as well. Some of the problems involved were sketched by one of the leading proponents of its utilization in New Testament studies, Morton Smith, in an article published in 1971. In the first place, Smith pointed out that the evidence for the activities of 'divine men' is sparse — a situation that he explained by referring to 'the snobbishness of the literary tradition of antiquity'.[3] Second­ly, he drew attention to the fact that representatives of different social types 'claimed [83] or were credited with divinity',[4] with the consequence that there was not a uniform concep­tion of the divine man, but a constantly changing complex, encompassing many different patterns, only loosely held together by Hellenic anthropo­morphism.[5]

The accuracy of this second observation was aptly illustrated by Hans Dieter Betz, in his RAC-article 'Gott­mensch II (Griechisch-römische Antike u. Ur­christentum)'.[6] Betz marshalled representa­tives of a bewildering variety of social types who could each earn one of the epithets θεῖος, δαιμόνιος or θεσπέσιος, ranging from prophets and miracle- workers to royal favourites and mis­tresses. Readers inclined to think that there was no such thing as the divine man (or woman) were, however, sternly warned that this would be a 'Fehl­schluß'.[7] Neverthe­less, scholarship on the θεῖος ἀνήρ in the 1980s tended to stress the fluidity of the conception of the divine man in the Graeco-Roman world. An interesting specimen of this approach was the dissertation on Origen's Contra Celsum by Eugene V. Gallagher. Gallagher con­cluded that, while the search for a 'pre-existent device or pattern' should be con­sidered mis­guided, sources from the second to fourth centuries A.D. did show a consider­able interest in evaluating claims to divine status, resulting in contrasting assess­ments of charismatic sages and miracle-workers as divine men on the one hand, magicians or wizards on the other. The criteria used in such evaluations, however, depended on the beholders' views on society, human activity and the nature of divinity and were, therefore, flexible and subject to constant change. According to Gallagher, the only permanent demand that candidates for divine status had to meet was that their activities were for the good of mankind, and even this criterion was, understand­ably, open to diverging interpre­tations.[8]

Although Gallagher stressed the diversity of criteria used in evaluating claims to divinity, he concentrated his analysis on the assessments of persons with a reputa­tion for miracle-working and/or prophetic gifts, viz. Jesus of Nazareth, Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonouteichos. He hereby implicitly admitted the centrality of alleged achieve­ments in these fields to ancient debates on claims to a superhuman status and to modern scholarship on this phenomenon. At the same time, by selecting texts from the second to fourth centuries A.D. as his main evidence, Statue of a wandering philosopher, second century AD, Archaeological Museum Heraklion - photo: George Groutas, Wikimedia Commons <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Philosopher_Apollonius_of_Tyana_-_Archaeological_Museum_of_Herakleion.jpg>he avoided the first problem pointed out by Morton Smith, viz. the scarcity of sources from the period before the Antonine age on pagan miracle-workers. Even a superfi­cial acquaintance with scholarly work on 'divine men' suffices to indicate the frequent recurrence of a few figures, in particular Apollonius [84] of Tyana, who lived in the first century A.D., but who owes his fame in the first place to a heavily fictionalized biogra­phy by the Severan author Philo­stratus. As the reliability of Philo­stratus' picture of the Tyanean sage is questionable, to say the least, the importance of his Life of Apollonius to the modern image of pagan charismatic sages and miracle-workers from the beginning of the Christian era cannot fail to disturb scholars interested in first century facts as opposed to third-century fictions. It is at this point that the Finnish theologian Erkki Koskenniemi (K.) mounts a frontal attack on the 'θεῖος ἀνήρ hypo­thesis', culminating in an attempt to eliminate pagan miracle-workers from the environ­ment in which Christianity origi­nated by relegating them to the period from the later second cen­tury A.D onwards. Almost simultaneously, the British classicist Graham Anderson (A.) has published a monograph on early Imperial 'holy men' from different religious back­grounds, defining the object of his study as 'virtuoso religious activists' and stressing the continuity of their activities in the first three centuries A.D. Both books illustrate the topical­ity of the problems indi­cated by Morton Smith in 1971. While the scarcity of evidence brings K. to the conclusion that the phenom­enon was non-existent, A. tries to avoid the conceptual problems surrounding the 'divine man' by employing a very loose definition of the figures under discussion. Both books deserve a critical assessment of their respective merits and shortcomings.

Driving out the Divine Man

The main drift of K.'s argument can be summarized in five points.
A. The case for the existence of a Graeco-Roman conception of the θεῖος ανήρ, whose divinity is manifested in supernatural feats, is to a large extent built upon Philo­stratus' portrait of Apollonius of Tyana.
B. The proponents of the existence of such a conception and its influence on New Testament Christologies and miracle stories have insufficiently digested the results of philological studies of Philostratus' Life of Apollonius. These studies have cast severe doubts on the reliability of Philostratus' portrait of Apollonius, which belongs to the third century and not to the first century A.D.
C. While Jewish miracle-workers from the time of Jesus are abundantly attested, pagan miracle-workers mentioned in ancient sources are mainly a phenomenon of the later second and third centuries A.D. [85]
D. The growth in numbers of pagan miracle-workers from the second half of the second century onwards reflects a change in the religious climate. This change can be characterised as an intensification of the belief in the miraculous, a development which is also manifested in the growth of magical practices.
E. These findings put and end once and for all to the hypothesis that a pagan conception of the miracle-working θεῖος ανήρ lurks behind New Testament Christo­logies and miracle stories.

K.'s study has noticeable merits. In the first place, though dealing with a complex set of problems, the clarity of method and presentation is remarkable. Moreover, by bringing together the results of philological research, studies on the history of religions and theological scholarship, K. has done an immense service to students from these disci­plines, who too often experience difficulties in keeping up with publications of their colleagues, watching with a combination of horror and despair the growing pile of studies relevant to their field by specialists in other disciplines. In this respect, the first part of K.'s book (pp. 18-168) — a Forschungs­bericht dealing with form­geschicht­liche studies of the Gospels and Philostra­tus' Life of Apollonius, discussions of the 'divine man', and the role of the concept in New Testament exegesis — fills an obvious need.Resurrection of Jairus' daughter, Codex Egberti, 10th century - photo: Wikimedia Commons Last but not least, K. successfully demonstrates several defects in studies by advocates of the θεῖος ανήρ hypothesis. Given the importance of Philostratus' Life of Apollonius for the recon­struction of the hypotheti­cal Graeco-Roman conception of the miracle-working 'divine man', the neglect or inadequate treatment of the question of to what extent this third-century text reflects first-century conceptions and views is a serious flaw.[9] The utiliz­ation of Bieler's Gesamttypus of the θεῖος ανήρ, to a considerable extent compiled from the Life of Apollonius and the Gospels,[10] to clarify the evangelists' portrait of Jesus does amount to circular reason­ing.[11] The question of the frequency of the phenomenon of the pagan miracle-worker in the Hellen­istic period and the early Empire is a perfectly legit­imate one,[12] too often answered with unsubstantiated assertions or references to the familiar figures of Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonou­teichos, 'to mention only two.'[13] To sum up, K.'s criticism of a large part of the scholar­ship on the θεῖος ανήρ is a welcome antidote to a marked tendency to substitute conten­tions for a careful consider­ation of the evidence. None the less, I think that he grossly overstates his case, and this review must be mainly one of dissent. Leaving the question of to what extent New Testament Christologies and miracle stories have been influenced [86] by pagan concep­tions to scholars competent in the field of New Testament studies, I shall concen­trate on K.'s handling of the pagan evidence, dealing in succession with the points B, C and D men­tioned above, which are central to his argument.

(B) The second part of K.'s book begins with a discussion of the value of Philostra­tus' Life of Apollonius as evidence for the activities and opinions of the first century sage from Tyana (pp. 169-189). This discussion draws on a previous publica­tion by K.[14] and leads to the conclusion "daß das Apolloniosbild des Philostratos im wesent­lichen dem 3. Jahrhun­dert zuzuweisen ist."[15] In his scepticism regarding the historical reliability of Philostra­tus' fictionalized biography, K. follows in the footsteps of Eduard Meyer and Ewen L. Bowie.[16] Like these scholars, he adheres to the view that Philo­stratus' claim that he had access to the memoirs of one of Apollonius' pupils, the Syrian Damis, is a literary fiction.[17] As far as the other sources on Apollonius referred to by Philostra­tus are concerned, K. tries to demonstrate that even if the author of the Life of Apollonius wanted to write a historically reliable biography, such an intention would have been frustrated by the state of the evidence on the Tyanean sage in the early third century.[18] Combined with the doubts sur­round­ing Philostratus' intentions in writing the Life of Apollonius, this would be enough to disqualify his work as a dependable source of information on the historical Apollo­nius.

Although on this last point I find myself largely in agreement with K., I consider his treatment of pre-Philostrate­an traditions on Apollon­ius unsatisfactory. He admits (pp. 187f.) that Philostratus did use existing traditions about Apollonius and even goes so far as to concede (p. 211) that the Tyanean sage had a reputation as a miracle-worker in the second century. In developing his argument, however, he seems to under­esti­mate the possibil­ities of a tentative reconstruction of the views contained in e.g. letters ascribed to Apollonius, the lost works of Moerage­nes and Maximus of Aegae, and local traditions. If one looks for an element common to all these tradi­tions, it can be found precisely in the alleged supernatural powers of Apollonius. In letters ascribed to Apollonius, the epistolo­grapher defends himself against the accusation that he is a Pythagorean and thus a magician (Epp. Apoll. 16 and 17). According to Origen (Cels. 6.41), the title of Moerag­en­es' work was Memorabilia of Apollonius of Tyana, magician and philosopher, and it attributed magical powers to the protagonist.[19] Maximus of Aegae stressed the visionary faculties dis­played by Apol­lon­ius in the sanctuary of Asclep­ius in Aegae (VA 1.10 and 12).[20] Local tradi­tion in [87] Ephesus and several other cities around the Eastern Mediterra­nean knew him as a miracle-worker.[21] Now there must be a point where one should confront the question of whether this recurring feature of the pre-Philostratean Apollon­ius is nothing more than a posthumous accretion. K. evades this question (p. 188), and this also affects his handling of modern scholarship. He borrows argu­ments from Bowie to discredit Philostra­tus, but he does not refer to the view of the British scholar that local traditions portraying Apollonius as a prophet and miracle-worker may very well be authentic.[22] While he approves (pp. 188f.) of the method followed by the Polish scholar Maria Dzielska, who tried to provide a picture of the historical Apollonius primarily based on traditions relating to the Tyanean which are either older than Philostra­tus' work or give no indica­tion of having been influenced by it, he suppresses her conclusion that Apollon­ius was a magician.[23] One cannot help but feel that, as his argument requires the removal of a first-century miracle-worker from history, he does not ask questions which might elicit answers detrimental to his case.

(C) In the second chapter of the second part of his book (pp. 206-229), K. sets out to demonstrate "daß die heidnischen Wundertäter, wie wir sie in den antiken Quellen finden, vor allem teil des ausgehenden zweiten Jahrhunderts sind." Their activities reflect, according to K., 'eine algemeine Intensivierung des Wunderglau­bens' in the second century A.D. (p. 218). To support this claim, K. offers a survey of pagan miracle-workers from the Hellenistic period and the early Empire, showing that to make a reasonable case for the presence of such figures before the second century is a difficult job indeed. Again, however, several objections to K.'s argumentation should be mentioned.

In the first place, K.'s list excludes persons practising magical rites whose names have not been preserved (p. 207). This is a dubious procedure: when the existence of a miracle-worker is attested, our familiarity with his name is hardly relevant. Perhaps K.'s exclusion of anonymous magicians is motivated by his apparent convic­tion (p. 83 n. 313) that "Wun­dertäter (...) etwas anderes [sind] als die Kenner der magischen Riten, die als Verbrecher galten" — a curious notion, as people practising magic obviously were credited with the capacity to work miracles. One example may suffice to demon­strate why the omission of anonymous magicians detracts from the value of K.'s list.Raphael, The conversion of the proconsul - Victoria and Albert Museum, London In the year 16 A.D., a Roman senator by the name of Libo Drusus was accused of subversive deeds. Accord­ing to Tacitus (Ann. 2.27-32), he had consulted astrologers, magicians — one of them a necromancer — and [88] dream interpreters. Libo's posthumous conviction was followed by an expulsion of astrologers and magicians from Italy — neither the first nor the last measure of this kind.[24] K.'s exclusion of Jewish miracle-workers, on the other hand, is acceptable, because it is the alleged influence of the presence of pagan miracle-workers on earliest Christianity that he brings under discussion (see p. 207 n. 155). Neverthe­less, it tends to obscure the fact that pagans were well repre­sented among the clients of Jewish miracle-workers, Sergius Paulus being a case in point (Acta Ap. 13.6-12). At the very least, this indicates a pagan interest in the services of miracle-workers. Ultimately, our knowledge of the names of a number of first-century Jewish miracle-workers, as opposed to those of their pagan colleagues, may be largely due to the fact that the author of Acts and Flavius Josephus had a greater interest in such figures than Tacitus did. I venture the guess that if Sergius Paulus had been called to answer for his suspect contacts with a Jewish magician and a Christian mission­ary, we would not have learned the names of Elymas and Paul from Tacitus.

This brings us to a second objection to K.'s line of reasoning: it amounts to an argumen­tum e silentio.[25] According to K., the proliferation of the evidence for pagan miracle-workers in the second century A.D. reflects an increase in numbers. Again, this is a dubious argument. The most important second-century sources on pagan miracle-workers are written in Greek, and their protagon­ists come from the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. In order for us to get acquainted with miracle-workers, narrative texts are needed. For such texts to be written, intellectuals interested in miracle-workers are required. For such texts to be handed down, they must be appreciated by posterity for literary merit or intrinsic interest. The expansion of our evidence may thus very well be the outcome of a combina­tion of two other develop­ments, viz. an increase in the social and intellectual respectability of miracle-workers, and an amelior­iat­ion of the state of preserva­tion of pagan Greek prose literature from the later first century A.D. onwards.[26]

A third objection to K.'s treatment of pagan miracle-workers concerns his handling (p. 208) of an important pagan miracle-worker from the second century B.C.: the Syrian Eunus, leader of the first Sicilian slave revolt, portrayed by Diodorus/Posidonius. Eunus is a fine specimen of the species: he predicts the future, he performs — or fakes — miracles, and he claims a special relationship with divinity, i.c. the Syrian Goddess.[27] K. admits that Eunus was a miracle-worker, but he states that his activities were determined by an oriental cult and not by traditional Graeco-Roman religion, adding that [89] the character of the Syrian Goddess is untrace­ableDelos, mosaic floor in the sanctuary of Atargatis and Hadad - photo: Robert H. Consoli, <www.squinchpix.com>. To start with this last point, there can be no doubt that the goddess inspiring Eunus was Atargatis, whose cult was, in the Hellenistic period, patronized by the Seleucid kings and spread from Syrian Hierapolis throughout the Greek world: before the end of the second century B.C. it is attested in Aetolian Phistyon, Beroia in Macedonia, in Messenia, and on the islands of Astypalaia and Delos[28]. Given the rapid spread of the goddess' cult, I question the value of characterizing it in terms of a strict Orien­tal/Graeco-Roman dichotomy. Interestingly, the link between the cult of Atargatis and manumission, attested for Phistyon, Beroia and Delos, cannot be traced back to Hierapolis.[29] Outside Syria, Atargatis collected new names (e.g. Ἁγνὴ Ἀφροδίτη) and functions, and it is tempting to label her cult 'Hellenistic'. Anyway, K.'s observa­tion (pp. 218f.) that, in comparison with Greeks and Romans, orientals are over­represented among pagan miracle-workers, amounts to neglect of the effects of an age-long process of cultural interaction — without altering the fact that these miracle-workers were pagans.[30] In fact, by stressing the oriental origins of a number of pagan miracle-workers, his argument tends to reduce rather than to augment the distance between these figures and the cradle of Christianity. Returning to Eunus, we should not overlook the fact that our acquaintance with this figure is extremely fortuitous. If he had not become the leader of a slave revolt, itself the result of a series of coincidences, we would never have heard of him. This confirms the inappro­priateness of the utilization of arguments from silence on the issue under dis­cussion.

In conclusion, I think we must consider K.'s attempt to eliminate pagan miracle-workers from the environment in which Christianity originated a failure. However, this conclusion still leaves another question unanswered: were these miracle-workers in some way regarded as divine beings?[31] A link between miracle-working and human divinity certainly was part of the realm of thought of the Greek world in the Hellenistic period. Especially relevant in this context are the traditions on Pythagoras' divinity, handed down to the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods by Aristotle, among others, and attested from the second century B.C. onwards.[32] A conception of the miracle-working divine man was, therefore, available in the Hellenistic period and the first century A.D. But what about actual human beings who enjoyed a reputation for miracle-working and, on this basis, claimed or were credited with divinity? Admittedly, our evidence for the first centuries B.C. and A.D. is scarce.[33] Again, however, the behaviour of pagans in [90] Acts is suggestive of a pattern. It seems far-fetched to suppose that only Christian missionaries were acclaimed as gods in human shape, when they were believed to have miraculous­ly healed a cripple or survived a viper's bite.[34]

(D) The increase of our evidence from the second century A.D. onwards can, as I suggested above, at least partly be explained by an increase in the social and intellectual respectability of miracle-workers rather than by an increase in numbers. The revival of Pythagoreanism from the first century B.C. probably played a signifi­cant role in this upward mobility. The Pythagorean tenet of a third ontological category of intermediate beings 'like Pythagoras' between gods and humans[35] pro­vided a perfect philo­sophical legitimization for the activities of miracle-workers. To a considerable extent, the prolifer­ation of sources on miracle-workers in the second century A.D. may reflect the success of this legitimization in philosophical terms, as part of a trans­formation of intellectual ideals and models, rather than 'eine alge­meine Intensivie­rung des Wunderglaubens'.[36]

The evidence does not allow us to determine with certainty at which point in the Hellenistic period or early Empire miracle-workers started to legitimize their claims by referring to the Pythagorean tradition. However, if Bowie is right in arguing in favour of 'provisional acceptance' of Apollonius' Pythagoreanism,[37] the Tyanean sage would be the first for whom such a link is attested — which is not tantamount to the assumption that he was the first Pythagorean miracle-worker. Pace K., the ubiquity of miracle-working 'divine men', whether Pythagoreans or not, remains a probability to be reckoned with by students of the pagan environment of earliest Christianity.

A 'latter-day Celsus' on early Imperial holy men[38]

Weary of the proliferation of studies on ancient conceptions of the divine man, A. has made an attempt to get a grip on ancient realities. Acknowledging his indebtedness to the approach adopted by Peter Brown in his article on holy men in late Antiquity (p. 31),[39] but critical of Brown's distinc­tion between early Byzan­tine saints and the charismatic sages of an earlier period (p. 205), he sets out to map the activities of early Imperial holy men, their relations with pupils, clients, patrons and other associ­ates, and the human needs met by their accomplish­ments. A.'s intention to cast his nets widely is evident in his definition of the object of his investigations as 'anyone who can reasonably be called a "virtuoso religious activist"' (p. 3), a label [91] covering such diverging characters as the uncouth John the Baptist and the sophisti­cated Dio Chrysostom. Characteristic features of A.'s approach include the strong relativization of the importance of the holy men's religious loyalties (e.g. p. 9, 32 and 220) and an equally strong emphasis on the continuity of their activities throughout the early Imperial period (p. 33).[40]
               In the preface (p. x), the reader is warned to expect neither an exhaustive treatment of the phenomenon nor a detailed discussion of all relevant episodes from the evidence. Accordingly, liveliness is a more conspicuous virtue of this book than depth: the reader is taken by the hand, shown a great number of colourful tableaus, and offered comments of varying quality by his guide. A.'s remarks about the function of holy men as 'religious middlemen' (pp. 10f.), for example, are instructive, as is the parallel that he draws between the spiritual and the material world in this respect. More specifically, A. could have referred to the phenom­enon labelled 'brokerage in the distribution of beneficia' by Richard P. Saller.[41] Asclepius, Antiquarium of the Palatine, Rome - photo: www.livius.orgApollonius' activ­ities in the sanctuary of Asclepius at Aegae (VA 1.8-12) can very well be described in similar terms. There is a good observation (p. 131) on the problems of holy men with religious establishments, implicitly refuting Lane Fox's denial of the existence of any tension between institutionalised religion and figures such as Apollonius.[42] The case for taking the documentary value of incidents depicted in fictional literature seriously (p. 178) is well argued. Of course, warnings against the utilization of arguments from silence in discussing holy men (e.g. p. 197) are very much to the point. I experi­enced more difficulties trying to follow A. in what he calls (p. 112) 'respectable guesswork' on the actual proceedings behind alleged miracles (see e.g. pp. 20-22). When asked to understand the blinding of Elymas by Paul (Acta Ap. 13.6-12) as the result of an apostolic punch (p. 145f.), I find the designation of this interpreta­tion as 'guesswork' more appropriate than the addition of the epithet 'respect­able'. Interpretations such as these become even more questionable when they are combined with inaccurate paraphrases of the evidence. A.'s reproduction of Philostratus' story of an exorcism by Apollonius in Athens (VA 4.20) amounts to misrepresentation (p. 92). While Philostratus tells that the demon, as he left his victim, threw down a statue, A. attributes this act of iconoclasm to the patient: "As he is exorcised he throws down a statue." Obviously, the tumbling down of the statue is meant to demonstrate the demon's reality and the effectiveness of the exorcism: Philostra­tus uses the significant word τεκμήριον, 'visible sign', 'proof'. This point is apparently lost on A., who in his Celsus-like preoccu­pation with actual proceed­ings [92] tends to overlook the reason why attempts to recon­struct the events behind miracle stories are in many cases doomed to failure; too often the stories anticipate such attempts.
               Although A.'s choice of a 'flexible label' in defining the object of his investiga­tions is understandable given the exploratory nature of his study, he sometimes casts his net too widely. Of course, he is perfectly right in pointing out 'an often quite substantial area of overlap' of the fields worked by holy men and philosophers (p. 5). I could not help being surprised, however, by the inclusion of Euphrates of Tyrus (p. 46 with 238 n. 99; 134f.) and Dio of Prusa (p. 43) in the category of holy men. Dio's credentials in this respect boil down to the 'Zoroastrian myth' purportedly told to the Olbians (p. 177; or. 36.39-61); Euphrates' claim to holiness seems to rest on his quarrel with Apollon­ius — a flimsy basis for such a claim indeed. In addition to recording the overlap between the activities of philosophers and holy men, A. might have brought out more clearly what was typical of their respective roles.[43] Now part of his illustrations of holy men's activities falls under the suspicion of being atypical, especially as far as their appearances as magistri artis vitae and 'civic consultants' are con­cerned. Some conceptual clarity might have wrought miracles.
               An interesting aspect of A.'s approach is his willingness to use material on holy men from other periods and civilizations — the Muslim Near East, Elizabethan England, and modern Africa — to corroborate or complement his findings on the operations of holy men in the Mediterranean world of the early Imperial period and their social context (pp. 206-217). A more systematic exploration of comparative material in order to put new questions to the ancient evidence might have repaid the effort. A promising field of compara­tive research was suggested eight years ago by Charles Robert Phillips: 'the swarm of claimants to the status of holy men in contem­porary India'.[44] To the best of my knowl­edge, this sugges­tion has not yet been followed up.
               A.'s primary concern is with synchronic analysis of the activities of holy men in the first three centuries of the Christian era, and he only touches upon the question of what period should be assigned to the rise of the miracle-working 'divine man' whom we meet in the early Empire (pp. 11ff.). This problem holds an enduring fascination, and further discussion of it could deepen understanding of the 'divine man's' importance in the early Empire. Richard Reitzenstein (1861-1931)The view that it was the Hellenistic period which witnessed the emerg­ence of the miracle-working 'divine man' reaches back to Richard Reitzen­stein. [93] He explained the rise of the phenomenon primarily as a corollary to the missionary propa­ganda for oriental cults.[45] Morton Smith, on the other hand, listed several represen­ta­tives of the 'spiritual underworld of antiquity' from the Classical period.[46] Besides, as the legends surrounding Pythagoras are 'the oldest avail­able layer of the tradition' on the Crotonian sage,[47] the emergence of the miracle-working 'divine man' in the Hellenistic period should be considered a re-emergence rather than the appearance of a totally new phenom­enon. Of course, the assump­tion of a certain continuity in the activities of religious charismatics and miracle-workers is not incompatible with the hypothesis that there was a significant increase in their importance during the Hellenistic period. Attempts to explain such an increase might profit from taking into account the characterization of religious change in the Graeco-Roman world during the period under discussion by John North as 'the develop­ment of religious pluralism': the rise of a "new religious situation, in which the individual had to make his or her own choices and in which, as a result, the location of religious power became far more contentious."[48] It seems a reasonable assumption that the development envisaged by North opened unprece­dented oppor­tun­ities to figures who operated more or less independently of the established cults, and who claimed a special relation­ship with the divine which was manifested in their alleged supernatural powers.[49] The studies discussed in this contribution demonstrate that such figures remain a bone of contention to modern scholarship just as they were to contem­poraries.[50]  


[1]. In addition to the studies by Koskenniemi and Anderson reviewed in this article, the following publications are referred to by author's name only: H.D. Betz, 'Gottmensch II (Grie­chisch-römische Antike u. Urchristen­tum)', in: RAC 12 (1983), 234-312; L. Bieler, ΘΕIΟΣ ΑΝΗΡ. Das Bild des 'göttlichen Menschen' in Spätantike und Frühchristentum. Erster Band. Wien 1935; B. Blackburn, Theios anēr and the Markan miracle traditions. A critique of the theios anēr concept as an interpretative background of the miracle traditions used by Mark. Wissen­schaft­liche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. 2. Reihe 40. Tübingen 1991; E.L. Bowie, 'Apolloni­us of Tyana: tradition and reality', in: ANRW 2.16.2 (1978), 1652-1699; K.R. Brad­ley, Slavery and rebellion in the Roman world. Blooming­ton/London 1989; W. Burkert, Lore and science in ancient Pythagoreanism. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1972; G.P. Corrington, The 'divine man'. His origin and function in Hellenistic popular [94] religion. American university studies. Series VII, Theology and religion 17. New York/Bern/Frank­furt am Main 1986; M. Dzielska, Apollonius of Tyana in legend and history. Roma 1986; R. Goulet, 'Les vies de philosophes dans l'antiquité tardive et leur portée mystérique', in: Les actes apocryphes des apôtres. Christianisme et monde païen. Publications de la Faculté de Théologie de l'Université de Genève 4. Genève 1981, 161-208; J. Hahn, Der Philosoph und die Gesellschaft. Selbstver­ständnis, öffentliches Auftreten und populäre Erwartungen in der hohen Kaiserzeit. Heidelberger althistori­sche Beiträge und epigraphische Studien 7. Stuttgart 1989; M. Hönig, 'Dea Syria — Atargatis', in: ANRW 2.17.2 (1984), 1536-1581; R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians in the Mediterranean world from the second century A.D. to the conversion of Constantine. Harmondsworth 1986; R. Reitzenstein, Hellenistische Mysterienreligionen nach ihren Grundgedanken und Wirkungen. Leipzig 19273; M. Smith, 'Prolegome­na to a discussion of aretologies, divine men, the Gospels and Jesus', JBL 90 (1971), 174-199; J. Vogt, Ancient slavery and the ideal of man. Cambridge, Massachu­setts 1975. A previous publication on Philostra­tus' Life of Apollonius by E. Kos­kennie­mi (Der philostra­teische Apollonios. Societas Scientia­rum Fennica, Commen­tatio­nes Humana­rum Litterarum 94. Helsinki 1991) is referred to as: Koskennie­mi, Der philostratei­sche Apollonios.

[2]. Lane Fox, 686 n. 34.

[3]. Smith, 179-181; the quotation is from p. 179.

[4]. Smith, 187.

[5]. Smith, 181-188; cf. W. Speyer, 'Der numinose Mensch als Wundertäter', Kairos NF 26 (1984), 129-153, at 143: "Bei kaum einem anderen Menschentypos dürfte es eine so breit gefächerte Skala qualitativer Unterschiede geben wie bei diesem'' [i.e. bei dem numinosen Menschen]."

[6]. Betz, 234-288 deals with divine men from the Graeco-Roman world.

[7]. Betz, 235. In fact, the result produced by Betz's approach is very close to Bieler's 'Gesamttypus (...) des antiken Gottmenschen', on which see Bieler, 4; cf. Koskenniemi, 73. In view of the conceptual vagueness of Bieler's Gesamtty­pus, I feel that a definition that could be of use in historical discourse, should concentrate on persons with a reputation for miracle working and/or prophetic gifts. For an attempt in this direction see below, at n. 49.

[8]. E.V. Gallagher, Divine man or magician? Celsus and Origen on Jesus. Society of biblical literature dissertation series 64. Chico 1982, 174-178.

[9]. For examples see Koskenniemi, 78-80 (D. Georgi), 82-84 and 147-150 (M. Smith), 86-88 (G. Theißen), 95-98 (G.P. Corrington).

[10]. Bieler, 7-9 ('Die Quellen').

[11]. See Koskenniemi, 76, 78 and 160 for examples. Obviously, the same is true of attempts to present Philostratus' Apollonius as a typical specimen of Bieler's 'divine man', see e.g. D. Esser, Formgeschichtli­che Studien zur hellenistischen und zur [95] frühchristlichen Literatur unter besonderer berücksichtigung der vita Apollonii des Philostrat und der Evangelien. Bonn 1969, 91-98; Goulet, 178f.

[12]. Koskenniemi, 207 defines the persons to be looked for as 'menschliche heidnische Wun­dertäter, d.h. Menschen, denen in der Antike nicht rational erklär­bare, übermenschliche Fähigkeiten zugeschrieben wurden'.

[13]. Koskenniemi, 84 rightly criticizes the covering-up of the problem by phrases such as this one, used by Smith, 186.

[14]. E. Koskenniemi, Der philostrateische Apollonios.

[15]. Koskenniemi, 189 (correcting an obvious printer's error); cf. 206: "Aus dem, was im Abschnitt 3.1. dargelegt worden ist, muß jedoch der Schluß gezogen werden, daß der philostrateische Apollonios nicht dem ersten, sondern dem 3. Jahrhundert an­gehört."

[16]. E. Meyer, 'Apollonios von Tyana und die Biographie des Philostratos', Hermes 52 (1917), 371-424; Bowie, 1653-1671.

[17]. Koskenniemi, 173f.; cf. Koskenniemi, Der philostrateische Apollonios, 9-15. The 'Damis' issue remains controversial. For other opinions than Meyer's and Bowie's, see J. Mesk, 'Die Damisquelle des Philostra­tos in der Biographie des Apollonios', WS 41 (1919), 121-138; W. Speyer, 'Zum Bild des Apollonios von Tyana bei Heiden und Christen', JbAC 17 (1974), 47-63, esp. 48-53; G. Anderson, Philostratus. Biography and belles lettres in the third century A.D. London/New York/Sydney 1986, 155-173; and my Politiek,paideia & pythagorisme. Griekse identiteit, voorstellingen rond de verhou­ding tussen filosofen en alleenheer­sers en politieke ideeën in de Vita Apollonii van Philostra­tus. Groningen 1993, 87-97 (an English translation of this study will be published in 1995 by J.C. Gieben, Amsterdam).

[18]. Koskenniemi, 178; cf. Koskenniemi, Der philostrateische Apollonios, 18.

[19]. On Moeragenes see Bowie, 1673f.; D.H. Raynor, 'Moerage­nes and Philostratus: two views of Apollonius of Tyana', CQ 34 (1984), 222-226, also dealing with Epp. Apoll. 16 and 17.

[20]. On Maximus of Aegae see F. Graf, 'Maximos von Aigai. Beitrag zur Überlieferung von Apollonios von Tyana', JbAC 27/8 (1984/5), 65-73.

[21]. For local traditions see Bowie, 1686-1688; Dzielska, 51-84. Local tradition in Ephesus: VA 4.3, 4.10 and 8.26; Porph., Abst. 3.3.6; Lact., Inst. 5.3, and D.C. 67.18.1f., with Bowie, 1687.

[22]. Bowie, 1686f.

[23]. Dzielska, 15f., 29f., 96 and 185 (method); 83 (magician).

[24]. For a list see F.H. Cramer, Astrology in Roman law and politics. Philadelphia 1954, 234.

[25]. Curiously, K. (p. 83) calls the explanation of the scarcity of our evidence on 'divine men' before the Antonine period from 'the snobbishness of the literary [96] tradition of antiquity' by Smith, 179 an argumen­tum e silentio. Obviously, Smith's argument is exactly the opposite.

[26]. On the growth of 'superstition' in the period from the second to the fourth century A.D., to be conceived as a blurring of the contrast between elite and masses rather than as the rise of a new phenomenon, see R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire. New Haven/London 19822, 70-73. On the rather depressing state of preserva­tion of pagan (as opposed to Jewish) prose literature from the Hellenistic and Julio-Claudian periods see A. Dihle, Die griechische und lateinische Literatur der Kaiserzeit. München 1989, 70 and 153.

[27]. For Eunus as a miracle worker, see esp. D.S. 34/5.2.5-9, with Vogt, 65f. and Bradley, 55-57. On Posidonius as Diodorus' source for the Sicilian slave wars see Bradley, 133-136.

[28]. See F.R. Walton, 'Atargatis', in: RAC 1 (1950), 854-860; M. Hönig, 1565-1571 ('Griechische Welt'). On the 'naturalization of alien cults in Greek cities' cf. A.D. Nock, Conversion. The old and the new in religion from Alexander to Augustine of Hippo. Oxford 1933, 54-61, especially referring to the cult of Atargatis at 59f.

[29]. See Vogt, 65; cf. Hönig, 1565f.

[30]. I doubt if, in the case of (the father of) the theurgist Julian, the epithet 'Chaldae­an' has an ethnic meaning, as K. (p. 218) thinks, cf. LSJ s.v. Χαλδαῖος II. Julian's writings are not 'restlos verloren gegangen' (p. 215), see E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the irrational. Sather classical lectures 25. Berke­ley/Los Angeles/London 1951, 284f.

[31]. It is the merit of Blackburn, 13-96, esp. 13f. with n. 6 to have focussed on 'divine men (...) to whom miracles were ascribed' (my italics) rather than on miracle workers 'for whom (...) express attributions of divinity do not exist'. Blackburn's chapter on miracle-working 'divine men' far outranks K.'s treatment, and in what follows I am heavily indebted to his excellent discussion.

[32]. See Burkert, 136-147, esp. 141-144; cf. Blackburn, 37-51, esp. 38-40. K.'s discussion (pp. 226-228) of related problems is particularly inadequate; see e.g. the dating of the paradoxographer Apollonius in the second century A.D. (p. 227).

[33]. Note that at the dawn of the Hellenistic era a person claiming divinity on the basis of his healing powers is attested: the Syracusan physician Menecrates, see O. Weinreich, Menekrates Zeus und Salmoneus. Religionsge­schichtliche Studien zur Psychopathologie des Gottmenschentums in Antike und Neuzeit. Tübinger Beiträge zur Altertumswissen­schaft 18. Stuttgart 1933, esp. 1-27 and 91-102.

[34]. Acta Ap. 14.8-18 and 28.3-6, with Lane Fox, 99f.; cf. Corrington, 201f. Admittedly, the citizens of Lystra and the inhabitants of Malta think that they witness divine epiphanies rather than the appearance of θεῖοι ἄνδρες; cf. H.S. Versnel, 'What did ancient man see when he saw a god? Some reflections on Greco-Roman epiphany', in: D. van der Plas, Effigies Dei. Essays on the history of religions. Studies in the history of religions (supplements to Numen) 51. Leiden etc. 1987, 42-55, [97] referring to Acta Ap. 14.8-18 at 46. Nevertheless, these passages are relevant to the issue under discussion in that they reveal the reaction of pagan audiences to miracles worked by persons unknown to them. It seems a reasonable hypothesis that, if confronted with miraculous feats performed by persons with whom they were acquainted or whose origins were known to them, such audiences would have classified the miracle workers as human beings whose miraculous powers showed them to be in possession of a special, personal relationship with divinity, i.e. as 'divine men'.

[35]. See Arist., fr. 192 Rose (= Iamb., VP 31): τοῦ λογικοῦ ζῴου τὸ μέν ἐστι θεός, τὸ δὲ ἄνθρωπος, τὸ δὲ οἷον Πυθαγόρας. Cf. Burkert, 144.

[36]. On these developments see Goulet, 167-176; Hahn, 192-201.

[37]. Bowie, 1692, concluding a characteristically rigorous assesment of the evidence.

[38]. For A.'s characterization of his own attitude by comparison with Lucian's friend, the author of an Against magicians (κατὰ μάγων), see pp. x and 220; cf. Lucian, Alex. 21.

[39]. P. Brown, 'The rise and function of holy men in late Antiquity', JRS 61 (1971), 80-101.

[40]. Cf. p. 247 n. 31, where A. criticizes H.C. Kee (Medicine, miracle and magic in New Testament times. Society for New Testament studies, monograph series 55. Cambridge 1986, 78) for postulating 'basic shifts in the worldviews prevalent from the first part of the first century A.D. down into the second and third centuries', and brands Kee's use of Philostratus as 'particularly questionable'. Note the strong affinity of K.'s criticism of the 'θεῖος ἀνήρ hypothesis' to that of Kee.

[41]. R.P. Saller, Personal patronage under the early Empire. Cambridge 1982, 74-78.

[42]. See Lane Fox, 253.

[43]. On the role of philosophers in early Imperial society see Hahn, passim.

[44]. C.R. Phillips, 'The sociology of religious knowledge in the Roman Empire to A.D. 284', in: ANRW 2.16.3 (1986), 2677-2773, at 2759 with n. 266.

[45]. Reitzenstein, 25-27. More recently, the missionary function of miracle-working 'divine man' has been emphasized by Corrington, esp. 159-209. J.Z. Smith, Map is not territory. Studies in the history of religions. Leiden 1978, 187 also assigns the rise of the 'divine man' to the Hellenistic period.

[46]. Smith, 179-181. See also R. Garland, 'Priests and power in Classical Athens', in: M. Beard/J. North (eds), Pagan priests.Religion and power in the ancient world. London 1990, 73-91, dealing at 82-85 with chrēsmologoi and manteis in the Archaic and Classical periods and affirming at 83 that at least some of these seers relied on inspiration. For an interesting early fourth-century case, usually overlooked in scholarly literature on the θεῖος ἀνήρ, see Plu., Lys. 26.1: 'Apollo's son' Silenus, from Pontus, an (ultimately ineffective) instrument in Lysander's alleged scheme [98] to abolish the exclusive claim of the Agiads and the Eurypontids to the Spartan throne. Plutarch (Lys. 25.5) claims to follow the account of a man who was both a historian and a philosopher, probably Theophrastus, see J. Smits, Plutarchus' Leven van Lysander. Amsterdam 1939, 11 and 232.

[47]. Burkert, 137.

[48]. J. North, 'The development of religious pluralism', in: J. Lieu/J. North/T. Rajak (eds), The Jews among pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire. London/New York 1992, 174-193; the quotation is from p. 187.

[49]. I offer this characterization as a working definition of the miracle-working 'divine man'. It marks a return from Bieler's Gesamttypus to Reitzenstein's position, see Reitzenstein, 26: "... ein solcher Gottmensch [verbindet] auf Grund einer höheren Natur und persönlicher Heiligkeit in sich tiefstes Erkennen, Seher- und Wunder­kraft."

[50]. Thanks are due to Dr E. Koskenniemi, who kindly answered a previous formulation of my objections to his position by letter. Although he did not dispel my doubts, I appreciate his willingness to discuss differences of opinion. I am also indebted to the anonymous reader of Numen and to Professor J. den Boeft for helpful comments on an earlier version of this contribution, and to my former students Jona Lendering and Eva Dutilh, who in 1990 participa­ted in a seminar devoted to the Greek world of the early Empire and produced a paper on Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonoutei­chos.