New work on the “Apocriticus” of Macarius Magnes, Porphyry “Contra Christianos”

The “Apocriticus” of Macarius Magnes is a 4th century dialogue with a pagan, in five books.  The work nearly did not survive; a manuscript known in Venice in the 16th century which contained book 5 was never printed; a damaged manuscript located in Greece in the late 19th century vanished from the Greek National Library, some years after being printed, but did not contain book 5.  The statements of the pagan seem to be drawn from Porphyry’s lost Contra Christianos.

A welcome email from John Cook has drew my attention to further work in this area, since I last looked at it some years ago.  First a new edition of the text, in two volumes with French translation, has appeared by R. Goulet.  A review of this in BMCR is here.

This is very helpful, not least since the sole version previously was very hard to obtain.  Indeed the copy that arrived at Ipswich library was proudly marked “for use in library only”.  Luckily the assistant didn’t spot this, and issued it to me, whereupon I went straight down to the local copy shop and photocopied the lot!  An English translation of this by Crafer is available online, while the ‘Porphyry’ passages were retranslated by R.J.Hoffmann more recently.

In addition Goulet has written a lengthy article which rebuts some recent ideas about the nature of the Contra Christianos:  “Hypothèses récentes sur le traité de Porphyre Contre les Chrétiens.” in: Hellénisme et christianisme, Mythes, Imaginaires, Religions, ed. M. Narcy and É. Rebillard, 61-109, Villeneuve d’Ascq 2004.

John also mentions his own work, The Interpretation of the New Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism, which addresses some of the same issues raised in Macarius Magnes.

Apparently the complete translation of all the fragments of Porphyry by R. Berchman has not received a very favourable response.  P. W. van der Horst seems to have reviewed it positively in Vigiliae Christianae 60 (2006):  239-241.  I must admit that Berchman was hard to read, since it arose from his work as a philosopher.

Some more reading here for me, I think!


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