Porphyry

232-c.305. Neoplatonist writer. Born in Tyre and originally named Malchus, he was the pupil, successor, and editor of Plotinus.* A historian of philosophy and religion rather than an original thinker, he nevertheless initiated certain tendencies conspicuous in later Neoplatonism, e.g., in his own pupil Iamblichus (c.250-330), who taught mainly in Syria, and Proclus,* the most important of the Neoplatonists who took over Plato's Academy at Athens in the fifth century a.d.

Porphyry's work of fifteen books attacking Christianity has not survived, but was influential enough to merit suppression by the Council of Ephesus* in 431. We learn from Jerome that he rejected an early date for the Book of Daniel because it described second century b.c. events too accurately for prophecy. He evidently criticized the gospels for inconsistency, and although admiring Christ's teaching, felt that the apparent failure of His mission disproved His divinity. Porphyry himself wrote extensively on ethics, and preaches the cardinal virtues of “faith, truth, love (desire), hope.” He may be credited with sparking the pedantic overelaboration, doctrinaire vegetarianism, and extravagant allegorizing which characterized much of later Neoplatonism.* Its interest in magic and divination should probably be blamed on Iamblichus.

See T. Whittaker, The Neoplatonists (1918), and W. Theiler, Porphyrius und Augustine (1933).


PORPHYRY pôr’ fə rĭ. An igneous rock in which relatively large conspicuous crystals are set in a finer grained groundmass, the variation in crystal sizes often indicating magmatic crystalization at more than one crustal level during intrusion. Generally the rock occur in sheets or dykes, such as those that cut the Aqaba Granite Complex in the southern desert region of the Holy Lands. Porphyry was one of the materials used for the mosaic pavement in the floor of the king’s court at Susa (Esth 1:6).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(in Es 1:6, the Revised Version margin has "porphyry" (the King James Version margin "porphyre") for bahaT, English Versions of the Bible "red (marble)"; the Septuagint has smaragdtes, which was a green stone): Porphyry is an igneous rock containing distinct crystals of feldspar in a feldspathic matrix. It may be purple or of other colors, as green. "Porphyry" is from porphureos, "purple."

See also

  • Minerals