Emperor Julian on the Wisdom of Solomon and Polytheism

5 posts

Bronze Age Pervert

Here are some nice paragraphs from "Against the Galileans," contrasting Hellenic and Hebrew wisdom:

How would partisans of Jerusalem answer the argument in bold?

Julian was not an atheist, and believed in this God as a god among gods:

The power of the Semitic god should not be honored at the expense of others...

Henotheistic worship of YHWH is impossible, and thus Julian never worshiped Him. Also there is no divination or bird watching, this is not paganism. The monotheistic claim of creator and master is exclusionary, and the polytheistic idea of "gods" is completely different than that of the single creator.

Bronze Age Pervert
In general I agree with you, but from the polytheistic (and correct) point of view, the Semitic god is just one among many...whose power, however, waxes too great now at the expense of the others...

How do you answer the argument in bold about Solomon?
I'd answer that Solomon was, as he prayed for, a discerning judge. It was his chief duty as king, and the bounty given to him by God for his selfless and earnest prayer was his keen ability to execute that duty, shown in stories like that of the baby fought over by two women. This doesn't imply perfection, or even entirely well rounded intelligence/wisdom/virtue. If his follies leave him among the unwise to you, so be it. The same would then be said of David's righteousness, Abraham's faithfulness, etc. The standard that you hold them to is foreign from a biblical point of view. Maybe that's because the patriarchs and kings were never given demi-god status like in Greco-Roman culture.
Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Stubby's right to focus on 2 Kings 3 (rather than his dubious authorship of wisdom literature - he didn't actually write any proverbs), it's the earliest source in the Hebrew Canon of the Solomon narrative and it gives both the proper context and origin of Solomon's wisdom. Here God meets Solomon in a dream and grants him a wish. The wish Solomon asks for is to have the wisdom to govern his people wisely. God is pleased that Solomon, who is only a boy, cares enough for His people to ask for this particular gift and so He grants him the wish and then God shows his appreciation by also granting Him the very Jewish blessing that is (naturally) more shekels.

Anyway, this is part of the bible's earliest Solomon material (Deuteronomist) and so it explains what is meant by Solomon's wisdom. Solomon's wisdom is specifically that he governs well. It has nothing to do with whether Solomon is moral or virtuous . In fact the Deuteronomists are quite clear that Solomon, like Saul and David, are not very moral people at all. They are all quite flawed and that suits the authors' political ideology that a human monarchy was a rejection of God's rule (as exemplified by the ideal politics of Judges). Solomon especially exemplifies the short-failings of kingship since his reign is seen as the greatest, hence the great work projects and especially the creation of the Temple.