Though they vary in some details, all five agree on three essentials of the narrative—the earthquake, the fire from somewhere below the temple, and some miraculous appearance of a cross symbol.
Maybe you haven’t heard of those historians and aren’t too inclined to trust them, but how about saints like John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus, who also wrote about the foiled rebuilding of the temple?
(Read their accounts here and here.) All five writers present the calamitous rebuilding as historical fact.
One ecclesiastical historian describes him as a man “who had made his soul a home of destroying demons.” For Julian, persecution, oppression, and financial extortion of Christians weren’t enough.
In the second year of his reign, in 362, he conceived an extraordinary plan to undermine the credibility of Jesus Christ by annulling one of his prophecies.
Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island.
Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism.However, public miracles that leave lots of eyewitnesses and involve some sort of dramatic occurrence seems like a thing of the Old Testament past—the parting of the Red Sea, the tumbling walls of Jericho, the fire and brimstone that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind.The foiled rebuilding of the temple under Emperor Julian the Apostate stands as an extraordinary witness to God’s enduring intervention in the created order.In whichever way the phenomenon might have occurred, it is equally wonderful.” Such are not the words one would expect from writers who are embellishers of pious legends.What makes the story so compelling is that it is also reported in a matter-of-fact fashion by the Roman pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who confirms the core narrative about a strange fire breaking out in his work, Res Gestae (“things done”): [T]errifying balls of flame kept bursting forth near the foundations of the temple, and made the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and since in this way the element persistently repelled them, the enterprise halted.Signs of trouble immediately appeared: after the first day, the workers awoke to find the soil they had removed had shifted back into place.