The Pagan Reaction: Julian the Apostate, Part 4: Julian’s Religious Policy

Many young believers have no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our History of Christianity Scripture Passage today is Proverbs 3:3-4 which reads: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Phillip Yancey. He said: “Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to – because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Pagan Reaction: Julian the Apostate – Julian’s Religious Policy” (Part 4) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

To this end Julian took a series of measures, in all justice, however, it is necessary to insist that he never decreed persecution against Christians. There were Christian martyrs in a number of places, but this was due, not to imperial command, but rather to mob actions or to overzealous local officials. Julian himself was convinced that persecution of Christians would not help his cause.

Rather than persecuting Christians, Julian followed a two-pronged policy of hindering their progress and ridiculing them. On the first score, he passed laws forbidding Christians to teach classical literature. Thus, while prohibiting what was to him a sacrilege, he prevented Christians from using the great works of classical antiquity to spread their faith, as they had been doing since the time of Justin in the second century. Secondly, Julian set out to ridicule Christians, whom he called “Galileans.” With this in mind he wrote a work “Against the Galileans,” in which he demonstrated that he knew the Bible, and mocked both its contents and the teachings of Jesus. Although this work has been lost, its impact was such that eighty years later Bishop Cyril of Alexandria found it necessary to write a rebuttal in which he acknowledges that part of the power of Julian’s arguments stemmed from his having been Christian, and thus knowing the Bible and Christian doctrine. Apparently one of Julian’s main arguments was that the “Galileans” had twisted and misinterpreted Jewish scripture. Such arguments needed to be reinforced by policy and thus, Julian decided to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, not out of any particular affinity toward Judaism, but rather out of necessity for a practical rebuttal to the common Christian argument that the destruction of the Temple had been the fulfillment of prophecies in the Old Testament.

All of these projects were moving along as rapidly as possible, when death overtook him quite unexpectedly. Julian was leading his troops in a campaign against the Persians when he was fatally wounded by an enemy spear. A famous legend, but one lacking all historical foundation, claims that his last words were, “Thou hast conquered, Galilean!”