Apuleius' Metamorphoses and Jewish/Christian Literature


  • Warren S. Smith


This paper argues that Apuleius in several passages of the Metamorphoses seems to reflect or react to charges made in the second century against Christians and Jews, while in the Isis-book (Book 11) the author both borrows from and corrects the details provided by Jewish-Christian apocalyptic literature as a model for the encounter of his protagonist with a divine figure. In particular, there are several passages in the first ten books of the novel which may reflect views expressed by Christian apologetics of the second century C.E. including the Octavius of Minucius Felix, the First and Second Apology of Justin Martyr, the Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, and the Apology of Tertullian as well as the Jewish apology, Against Apion, by Josephus. Then, the encounter between the narrator and Isis in Book 11 is compared with similar themes in contemporary Jewish-Christian apocalyptic literature, especially the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras. Among the similarities are a narrator who appeals for help to the divine, a dream-vision and a figure rising out of the sea, a direction to eat flowers, salvation and eternal life offered in return for obedience, the leaving behind of bestial ways, the prospect of recording these experiences in a book. 

Warren S. Smith is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of New Mexico. His most recent publication on Apuleius is  ‘An Author Intrudes into His Narrative: Lucius ‘Becomes’ Apuleius,’ 2012, in W. Keulen and U. Egelhaaf-Gaiser, eds.,Aspects of Apuleius’ Golden Ass Volume III: The Isis-Book. A Collection of Original Papers, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 202-219. Among his books is Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage from Plautus to Chaucer, Michigan 2005.