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18 Porphyry on Judaism: Some Observations

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Chapter Summary

Porphyry was the most important and influential student of Plotinus. His attitude towards Judaism seems to be ambiguous at first sight: on the one hand he severely criticizes the Jewish Bible, on the other he regards the God of the Jewish people as the highest divinity and the Jews as belonging to the wisest of nations. This chapter sheds some light on this problem. The works in which Porphyry speaks about the Jews are De abstinentia, the Vita Pythagorae, Contra Christianos, De philosophia ex oraculis haurienda, Ad Gaurum, and De antro nympharum. In terms of criticism of biblical accounts, the best known instance is Porphyry's extensive investigation of the historical circumstances in which the book of Daniel was written. The most remarkable passages in terms of positive and sympathetic statements about Jews and Judaism are to be found in Porphyry's Philosophy to Be Derived from Oracles.

Keywords: book of Daniel; Contra Christianos; De abstinentia; Jewish Bible; Judaism; Porphyry; Vita Pythagorae



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