Apollonius of Tyana - - Lectures by Paul J. Wigowsky
Lecture 1

It was in 1978 that I came to this chapel in Oregon, and I was introduced to the first century Greek philosopher named Apollonius of Tyana. I had heard of Apollonius before, just the name Apollonius of Tyana. All I knew was that there was a controversy that was going on between him and the Christian savior. So I started looking up these things and reading books about Apollonius. When I first heard about the book The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Flavius Philostratus, I tried to get a hold of a copy for myself. So I went to the Portland library, and I found an old English copy translated in the sixteenth century. The lady in the Archives section of the library told me there were copies of the book on Apollonius in print. She didn’t understand why I would want to handle a very old copy, which had to be handled very carefully and in a special room. So I went down to a local bookstore, and sure enough there it was: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Flavius Philostratus, Volumes I and II from the Loeb Classical Library. The two volumes were translated by F.C. Conybeare. My search was progressing.

The interesting part about this, which I would call, pilgrimage in search of Apollonius was that at the time I was doing research on another person that I was interested in, whose vibrations I was picking up. I went to Memphis where this American hero (Elvis) was buried, and in a cemetery where he was originally buried I passed a statue along the way. I stopped the car and said, “I’ve got to take a look at this.” I ran back and took a look at the statue. The statue was of St. Paul. Now I remembered right away, it clicked in my mind, that Paul was the shortened form of Apollonius. You take the Pol out of the middle and you get Pol (Paul). Right away I realized that there was some kind of connection. I took a picture of the statue of Apollonius. I noticed his finger pointing up into the sky, indicating the one light that lights the way of the whole world, the one light that shines for everyone.

That brought me to a few more interesting things about Apollonius. One of these was “The Secret Life of Jesus the Essene,” “Apollonius the Nazarene,” “The Unknown Life of Christ” – all these books I had to buy and start reading them. I kept on going. I found a book called Antiquity Unveiled, and this book really opened up my spiritual eyes about what was really going on as far as Apollonius was concerned. In it I found everything there was to know about Apollonius that was blocked out from our eyes for centuries.

Another book that I ran across was Apollonius of Tyana – The Philosopher Reformer of the First Century AD by George R.S. Mead. It was worth reading. It caused me to search for Apollonius in other sources from the first century. I started to look for references to Apollonius in the New Testament of the Bible, because it is a scripture that is usually associated with what happened during the first century of Church history.

There are biblical references to Apollonius, although the name in the Bible has been changed to Apollos. In the King James Version of the Bible, in my copy I have a place in the back called the Concordance, which tells you all the subject areas or all the things that you can look up and refer back to in different books and chapters of the Bible. My version also has a section called a Dictionary of Proper Names. There it is written that Apollos is “another form of Apollonius or Apollodorus.” There you have it. And right there were several scriptures: Acts 18:24. I looked it up and it says: “A certain Jew (they changed the Greek into a Jew here, which is typical of literary transformations), named Apollos, born in Alexandria (Alexandria was actually the library where all the great books were located), an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John (now the “baptism of John”, which the Christians taught, is actually Apollonius’ teaching of hydrotherapy, the purification through water). And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by he scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Now, what Apollonius was actually dong was proving to the people around him that Krishna (as a symbol of the Solar deity), the savior in India, was the person or avatar (divine manifestation) who was the symbol of the true light, he One Light which shines the way for all mankind.

Another scripture in Acts 19:1 says: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus.” Again we have another reference to Apollonius. (There is also a subtle juggling of names here, for instance, the juxtaposition of Apollos and Paul and the similarity of their travels, especially “came to Ephesus.” Compare Acts 18:24 and Acts 19:1 – “Apollos came to Ephesus” and “Paul came to Ephesus.” It should be mentioned in a sort of digression here that Acts 19:9 refers to a certain “school of one Tyrannus” (the name Tyrannus sounds too similar to Apollonius of Tyana to pass without noticing that the name Tyrannus probably was a slang used in connection with Apollonius, since Tyana was his hometown; also, Tyrannus in Latin means “illegitimate ruler” (tyrant) and might refer to Apollonius as the “hater of tyrants”).
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There is also another similarity in Acts 18:26, where Apollos (Apollonius) “began to speak boldly in the synagogue,” and Acts 19:8, where Paul “went into the synagogue, and spoke boldly” – the two men seem to be identical persons here. Apollonius, of course, spoke in temples. Another curious coincidence occurs in comparing Acts 18:27, where Apollos (Apollonius) was “disposed to pass into Achaia (Greece),” and Acts 19:21, where Paul “purposed in the spirit” to pass through “Macedonia and Achaia (Greece).”

There’s a place in I Corinthians 1:12 which says: “Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos (Apollonius); and I of Cephas (Peter); and I of Christ.” Apollos is a reference to Apollonius; Cephas is a reference to Peter (“a stone”), and Christ is a reference to Christna (Krishna). I Corinthians 3:4-8 is the scripture that really brings this all to a crossroads. Listen to what happens here: “For while one says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal? (This refers to the spiritual-minded versus the physical or carnal-minded). Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. Now pay attention to this: “”Now he that plants and he that waters are one.” So it appears that in the scriptures someone was actually able to get away with putting this together in a way that the wording is so precise that you actually get the image that “he that plants and he that waters are ONE (emphasized),” meaning that Paul and Apollos (Apollonius) are the same. They are one (person).

In I Corinthians 3:21-23 it says: “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” Here it juxtaposes Paul and Apollos (Apollonius) again. Then the discourse about the “apostles” (chapter 4) continues: In I Corinthians 4:6 the reference to Apollos (Apollonius), mentions him as a steward “of the mysteries of God” (v.1): “And these things (the mysteries), brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” This refers to those timeless mysteries, referred to in I Corinthians 2:7 as the “hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” These Mysteries, which no doubt included the Eleusinian mysteries practiced in the first century, were initiations that even Apollonius was involved in. [Life of Apollonius, 4:18, 5:19]

Another verse in I Corinthians 16:12 says: “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come to you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.” Supposedly, this refers to the time when he was supposed to come to Ephesus (v. 8). Another reference to Apollos (Apollonius) is in Titus 3:13 – “Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.”

[Note: Now, Titus is an interesting epistle, because here there is a direct link (Titus 3:1 – “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers”) to the historical General Titus and the Emperor Vespasian: In Life of Apollonius, Book 6, Chapters 29-34, the focus is on Apollonius' contacts with Vespasian's son and crown prince Titus. Apollonius writes a letter of eulogy of Titus for having refused to be crowned after the fall of Jerusalem (6.29). Titus invites Apollonius for a discussion in Tarsus before returning to Rome. The sage praises the harmony existing between Vespasian and Titus (6.30) and assigns Demetrius to the heir apparent as his philosophical advisor (6.31). He issues a cryptic prophecy of Titus' death (6.32) and brings about the immediate granting of a request made by the people of Tarsus.]

In Acts 13:6 we have a clue to the entire controversy. It mentions something by the wayside; it doesn’t have the name of Apollos in it, but the description might well fit the labels (of magician) that were attached to Apollonius after the Nicean “fathers” got a hold of his biography. At one time Apollonius, the wise sage, was known as “anti-Christ.” The controversial passage says: “And when they had gone through the isle (Cyprus, v.4) unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer (Greek, Magus), a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus).” Previously, we had seen where Apollos (Apollonius) was depicted as a Jew (Acts 18:24). Here again, a sorcerer (Magus) is depicted as a Jew, and his name is Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus) – also known as Elymas (v. 8), which means “a wise man.” This wise man (Elymas) was with Sergius Paulus (another form of Paul), the proconsul of Cyprus, who asks to hear the word of God from Saul of Tarsus. Acts 18:9 has the dramatic shift where Saul becomes Paul: “Saul (who also is called Paul).” The drama at Cyprus has Saul (Paul) blinding Elymas (the wise man), saying to him: “O full of subtlety and mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” The proconsul Paulus is convinced that Saul (Paul) is more powerful than Elymas (the wise man) and becomes a believer. So here you have a showdown between Saul (Paul) and Elymas (i.e. Apollonius, “a wise man”) in front of the proconsul Paulus. There seems to be a deliberate confusion of names (and people) in the entire account, even though historically, Sergius Paulus was a proconsul of Cyprus under Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41-54 AD. Elymas the sorcerer is struck blind before Sergius Paulus. Painting by Raphael Lucius Sergius Paullus was a Proconsul of Cyprus under Claudius. Claudius, Roman Emperor from 41 to 54.

What happened in the interesting story of Apollonius was that he was born right about the same time as the Christian savior was supposed to be born, at the beginning of the first century AD. That’s when it all started. As time progressed, the religion and the teachings evolved. There was mysticism. There were all kings od ideas about the coming of the Messiah and everything concerning eschatology (the end of days and the world to come). Everybody was really interested in those ideas. The library of Alexandria had numerous volumes, all dealing with the various teachings. Anybody who wanted to have reference material would go to that library. You could make up your own religion from the various sources. Just refer to all the books and put it all together. So when the Romans got a hold of the library, they put it all together for themselves in their own way, putting various images (and ideas) of sun-gods together to form the image of a new savior (a Roman Catholic savior). Now when I first laid eyes on the statue of Apollonius, I remembered something. It can’t be the traditional St. Paul of the Bible, because he had a different type of anatomy. In the Lost Books of the Bible, in a little book called “The Acts of Paul and Thecla,” I ran across this description of St. Paul in Chapter 1:7 – “At length they saw a man coming (namely Paul), of a low stature, bald (or shaved) on the head, crooked thighs, handsome legs, hollow-eyed; had a crooked nose; full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man, sometimes he had the countenance of an angel.” I don’t know how they managed to put “crooked thighs” and “handsome legs” together.

In the Secret Places of the Lion by Geore Hunt Williamson, I ran across a description which is more befitting to the Greek philosopher than to the Jewish Nazarene: “He was perfect – spiritually, mentally, and physically! His body was firm and strong, displaying no unmanly softness or delicacy. He looked as if he were molded from the finest marble; there was not a blemish or mark upon him! He was light and fair, and lithe as the finest athlete. He was six feet tall and weighed approximately one hundred and eighty pounds. His hair was golden red, and was worn short in the Roman style. He had only a suggestion of a golden beard, but allowed it to grow longer during his last years. His face was not soft and feminine; it was finely chiseled and possessed strong, masculine lines; the jaw was well set and square; the forehead high, with a slight bulging which was perceptible more at one time than another. In appearance, he looked like a mixture of two types. He was almost typically Roman and almost typically Greek, yet conformed to neither perfectly. He was calm, handsome of face, and forceful as any perfect man must be!” (p. 150) Now that was a description of Apollonius that I was seeing in the statue. There is a passage in Deceptions and Mythos of the Bible by Lloyd Graham that reveals what he discovered about Apollonius. Everybody is finding out different things about Apollonius, and once we put these things together, we’ll have a composite picture. Lloyd Graham, in reference to the first century, says: “There were at that time certain magicians who performed feats the credulous took for miracles. . . . There was Simon Magus, spoken of in Acts (8:9-24). The Apollos thereof was, perhaps, Apollonius of Tyana, whose ‘miracles’ so mystified Justin Martyr that he exclaimed: ‘How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power in certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, and the violence of the winds, and the attack of wild beasts; and whilst our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous and actually manifest in present facts.’ Of this man the American Encyclopedia says: ‘Apollonius was a Pythagorean philosopher born at Tyana, about the beginning of the Christian era. He professed miraculous powers, was venerated for his wisdom and considered by some a rival of Christ.’ (p. 289)

Lloyd Graham goes on to say: “According to some, we are indebted to this man for the entire story of Christ. The argument runs thus: There was in ancient India a very great sage called Deva Bodhisatoua. Among other things he wrote a mythological account of Krishna, sometimes spelled Chrishna. About 38 or 40 AD, Apollonius while travelling in the East found this story in Singapore. He considered it so important he translated it into his own language, namely, Samaritan. In this he made several changes according to his own understanding and philosophy. On his return he brought it to Antioch, and there he died. Some thirty years later another Samaritan, Marcion, found it. He too made a copy with still more changes. This he brought to Rome about 130 AD, where he translated it into Greek and Latin. This was seized upon by a hungry and disinherited priesthood and developed into the New Testament. Apollonius became Apollo(s), Marcion became Mark, and Chrishna became Christ. True or not, many of the things attributed to Christ are also in the Chrishna story. His raising of Jairus’ daughter, for instance, is too similar to that of Chrishna’s raising of Angashuna’s daughter to be anything other than a copy. The coming of the Magi, the herald angels also figure in the Hindu account.” (p. 289-290)

If you do any research into mythology and into religions, and you do some comparative study, you will discover that a lot of religions and mythologies had saviors who were born immaculately and that went through a process of death and resurrection. For example, Osiris in Egyptian mythology; Prometheus, the Greek savior who was chained to a rock and had his liver consumed perpetually by an eagle; Krishna, the Hindu savior, who was immaculately conceived, died and was resurrected. The same prototypes exist everywhere. Man must have gotten it from somewhere, because it’s so similar. It goes back to the Mysteries, the hidden wisdom, the ancient wisdom that talked about Spirit coming down into matter and then going back up – it’s the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

In my Encyclopedia Britannica (1965 edition), I found a slanted view of Apollonius, viewed no doubt through the incensed and censored eyes of Christian theologians: “Apollonius of Tyana (1st century AD), a Neo-Pythagorean sage whose celebrity is due entirely to the biography of him written by the rhetorician Philostratus, was born at Tyana in Cappadocia somewhere about the beginning of the Christian era and survived into the reign of the Roman emperor Nerva (96-98 AD). The biography of Philostratus, which is the only full account of him, was written approximately AD 200 at the request of the empress Julia Domna, second wife of Septimius Severus, and is a highly romantic and extremely untrustworthy work in which Apollonius appears as a wandering ascetic and wonder-worker; it is impossible to ascertain what facts lie behind the accounts of his wide-ranging journeys (including a visit to India) and miraculous exploits. The memoirs of his disciple Damis, on which Philostratus claimed to base his account, are almost certainly a work of fiction. The work of Philostratus had a great success and led to a certain amount of religious veneration for Apollonius among the devout pagans of the later Roman empire. Caracalla built a shrine to him, and Alexander Severus put a statue of him in his private chapel along with those of Abraham, Orpheus and Christ. The anti-Christian writer Hierocles of Nicomedia paralleled his miracles with those of Christ, and it is possible that Philostratus himself and Julia Domna intended the Life of Apollonius as a sort of pagan gospel to counteract the effect of the Christian (gospel). If so, the attempt had little success.”

By the way, the work of Hierocles attacks the Christians for setting up a savior who was modeled after a Greek philosopher. A certain Church father, Eusebius, wrote something about the work of Hierocles entitled “The Treatise of Eusebius, the son of Pamphilus, against the Life of Apollonius of Tyana written by Philostratus, occasioned by the parallel drawn by Hierocles between him and Christ.” The treatise is fortunately preserved in the Loeb Classic Library edition of The Life of Apollonius (translated by F.C. Conybeare). The treatise gives us the only remaining clues to the great controversy between Apollonius and the Christian savior. Eusebius goes to great length to deny everything that Hierocles wrote about the false savior that Christianity had set up for the people to worship. Eusebius contends that Apollonius was a wizard and a sorcerer who performed miracles by the use of magic. Hierocles claimed, on the other hand, that Apollonius’ miracles were quite natural. Eusebius actually mistook everything that Apollonius stood for. Apollonius stood for the Pythagorean way of life; he was a reformer-philosopher, not a savior. There was no intent on the part of Philostratus or his sources to compare Apollonius to anyone or to set Apollonius up as a rival to anybody. His life speaks for itself.

In conclusion, for Eusebius to say that Apollonius was a wizard or sorcerer who performed miracles by the use of magic is like the Pharisees saying that Jesus performed his miracles by the power of Beelzebub: “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:22-24)