The Apostate

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He issued proclamations in which he declared his intention to rule as a philosopher, on the model of Marcus Aurelius.

All Christian bishops exiled by Constantius were allowed to return to their sees although the purpose of this may have been to promote dissension among the Christians , and an edict of proclaimed freedom of worship for all religions. But this initial toleration of Christianity was coupled with a determination to revive paganism and raise it to the level of an official religion with an established hierarchy.

Julian apparently saw himself as the head of a pagan church. He performed animal sacrifices and was a staunch defender of a sort of pagan orthodoxy, issuing doctrinal instructions to his clergy. Not surprisingly, this incipient fanaticism soon led from apparent toleration to outright suppression and persecution of Christians.

Pagans were openly preferred for high official appointments, and Christians were expelled from the army and prohibited from teaching classical literature and philosophy. That was inhumane, and better committed to oblivion, that he forbade teachers of rhetoric and literature to practice their profession if they were followers of the Christian religion. Here perhaps may be detected the sunset snobbery of the Athens of his day. Though professing to be a Neoplatonist and a sun worshipper, Julian himself was an addict of superstition rather than religion, according to Ammianus.

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His project to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was designed rather to insult the Christians than to please the Jews, who, for long accustomed to the worship of the synagogue, would have found the revival of animal sacrifice acutely embarrassing. Christian cities were penalized, and churches were burned in Damascus and Beirut. Bishops, including the great Athanasius, were banished. One was horribly tortured. At Antioch , where Julian was preparing for a campaign against the Persians , his closing of the great basilica and the removal of the relics of the martyr Babylas from the sacred grove of Daphne annoyed the Christians.

The invasion of Persian territory was always a lure in antiquity and one to which Julian was not immune. The Persians, aided by the desert, famine, treachery, and the incompetence of the Romans, once again proved themselves superior. He died the next night at age 31, having been emperor for 20 months. It had shown that paganism, as a religion, was doomed.

It is perhaps sad, in retrospect, that the odium of proving it should rest on Julian, who with a little less venom and more tact might have been remembered for his many virtues rather than for his two fatal blunders. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

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Written By: E. Christian Kopff Stewart Henry Perowne. See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The emperor Julian the Apostate — reopened hostilities after the death of Constantius but died after having reached the vicinity of Ctesiphon. Roman Empire, the ancient empire, centred on the city of Rome, that was established in 27 bce following the demise of the Roman Republic and continuing to the final eclipse of the Empire of the West in the 5th century ce.

A brief treatment of the Roman Empire follows. For full treatment, see…. Battle of Ctesiphon, The Romans won on the battlefield, but then faced a Persian scorched-earth policy. The campaign ended with the Roman army exhausted…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox!

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At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context. We can assume that a belief such as that which Paul countered in 2 Thessalonians could have grave implications for the Church. One might ask, what happens to the Church when such men are no longer in it?

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In the letter of James, it is clear that the Apostle was contending against incorrect ideas concerning the nature of faith in relation to Christian works. An underemphasis of the works of the gospel is perhaps not the kind of problem that would bring all of Christianity to ruin, and James gave us no hint that he expected wholesale apostasy because of it. If 1 Corinthians is a realistic indicator, the church at Corinth developed serious problems in doctrine and behavior not long after it was founded.

In chapters 1 to 4 [ 1 Cor. It can be argued that giving allegiance to one church leader over others is, in lesser degrees, not the stuff from which apostasy immediately develops. It is clear, however, that if left uncorrected it could bring more serious problems of allegiance and doctrine into the Church. In chapter 5, Paul reprimanded the Corinthian Saints in the strongest of terms for allowing a case of incest to go uncorrected. He commanded in the name of the Lord that the guilty party be excommunicated. It should be recalled that a few years later Paul prophesied that the abandonment of true religion would be accompanied by the acceptance of degenerate standards of moral behavior.

See 2 Tim.

First Corinthians deals with doctrinal heresies as well, among which were the misuse of the sacrament 1 Cor. Yet perhaps the most revealing doctrinal problem at Corinth was the belief of some that there is no resurrection. In chapter 15 Paul established the validity of the doctrine that Jesus rose from the dead and that all people would do likewise, pointing out that Christianity is meaningless if there is no resurrection.

See 1 Cor. To deal with each of these issues at Corinth, Paul wrote decisively and firmly. We have no way of knowing to what degree his letter motivated the Corinthians to reject the false ideas circulating among them, but the issues involved were serious and potentially very damaging. In 2 Corinthians Paul reveals much of himself, his problems, and his actions. Paul felt the situation was serious enough to warrant a frank defense. See 2 Cor.

Paul said he was speaking foolishly in doing so see 2 Cor. If the Corinthian Saints rejected Paul, the messenger who brought them the gospel, what would prevent them from rejecting the message as well?


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In the letter to the Galatians, Paul responded to a movement within the Church that countered his teachings with a Judaized Christianity and attacked him personally. Among the Jewish converts in the Church were those who held that members must observe certain Jewish practices to be saved. It appears from the letter that the success of the anti-Pauline Judaizers was high, which caused Paul a great deal of concern. Among other things, he accused them of looking back to the Law of Moses for salvation Gal. This idea held that God was a being of pure spirit and could have nothing to do with man, a creature of matter and therefore evil ; so instead of worshipping God, gnostics revered an extensive hierarchy of lower deities.

One problem Christian gnostics faced was that Christians believed Jesus Christ to have been both God and man. Because Jesus had a body of matter, his position in the heavenly hierarchies was problematic for gnostics.

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Paul responded forcefully to this ambivalence regarding the role of Jesus when he emphasized in Colossians —17 and —10 [ Col. Gnosticism and related heresies were a serious problem for the Church.


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  • Such beliefs were so antithetical to the doctrines of Jesus and the Apostles that attempts to merge and reconcile them contributed to the corruption of the original faith. Extra-biblical sources tell us that gnosticism played an important role in the first centuries of Christian history.

    The pastoral epistles give additional evidence that apostate doctrines were widespread in Christianity even while Paul was still alive. A major source of heretical teaching was gnosticism.


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      In some second-century gnostic systems, there were as many as levels in this chain of divine beings. The pastoral epistles show other signs of the popularity of false doctrine in the Church. Paul warned Timothy of those who teach ideas other than the word of Jesus Christ. He told Titus:.