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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Jamblichus, or Iamblichus
(Ι᾿άμβλιχος ), a celebrated Neoplatonic philosopher of the 4th century, was born at Chalcis, in Caele-Syria. What little we know of his life is derived from the works of Eunapius, a Sophist, whose love of the marvelous renders his testimony doubtful authority. He seems, however, to have studied under Anatolius and Porphyry, and resided in Syria until his death, which occurred during the reign of Constantine the Great, and probably before A.D. 333 (Suidas, s.v. Ι᾿άμβλιχος; Eunapius, Iamblich.). He was deeply versed in the philosophical system of Plato and Pythagoras, as well as in the theology and philosophy of the Egyptians and Chaldaeans, and enjoyed great reputation, being by some of his contemporaries considered even the equal of Plato. In his life of Pythagoras he appears as a Syincretist, or compiler of different systems, but without critical talent. So far as can be gathered from fragments in his works in Proclus's commentary on the Vimmeus, he went even further than his teachers in subtlety of arguments, subdividing Plotinus's trinity, and deriving there from a series of triads. "‘ Iamblichus distinguishes first three purely intelligible triads, then three intellectual ones, thus forming the νοητήν enneatical series, and the νοεράν.
By the side of the great triad he places inferior ones, νέοι δημίουργοι , whose mission it is to transcript the action of the former. He is also distinguished from Plotinus and Porphyry by an almost superstitious regard for numerical formulas. All the principles of his theology can be represented by numbers: the monad. the supreme unit, principle of all unity, as well as of all diversity; two, the intellect, the first manifestation or development of unity; three, the soul, or δημίουργοι, the principle' which brings all progressive beings back to unity; four, the principle of universal harmony, which comprises the causes of all things; eight, the source of motion (χώρησις ), taking all beings away from the supreme principle to disperse them through the world; nine, the principle of all identity and of all perfection; and finally, ten, the result of all the emanations of the τὸ ῎Εν. Neither Plotinus nor Porphry,' whatever their regard for Pythagoras's doctrines, ever went to such an extent in reducing their principles to numerical abstractions" (Vacherot, Hist. Critique de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, vol. 2). Jamblichus did not acquiesce in the doctrine of the earlier Neoplatonists, but thought that man could be brought into direct communication with the Deity through the medium of theurgic rites and ceremonies, and thus attached great importance to mysteries, initiations, etc. He wrote a number of works, the most important of which are:
1. Περὶ Πυθαγόρου αίρέσεως intended as a preparation for the study of Plato, and consisting originally of ten books, five of which are now lost. The principal extant are Περὶ τοῦ Πυθαγορικοῦ βίου (published first by J. Arcerius Theodoretus, Franeker, 1598, 4to; best ed. L. Kuster, Amst. 1707, 4to; and Th. Kiessling, Lpz. 1815, 2 vols. Svo); Προτρεπτικοὶ λόγοι εἰς φιλοσοφίαν (Th. Kiessling, Lpz. 1813, 8vo); — Περὶ κοινης μαθηματικῆς ἐπιστήμης (Ulloison, Anecdota Graeca, 2, 188 sq.; J. G. Fries, Copenhagen, 1790, 40): — Τὰ θεολογούμενα τῆς ἀριθμητικῆς (Ch. Wechel, Paris, 1543, 4to; Tr. Ast, Lpz. 1817, 8vo).
2. The Περῖ μνστηρίων , in one book, in which a priest named Abammon is introduced as replying to a letter of Porphyrius. He endeavors to vindicate-the truth purity, and divine origin of Egyptian and Chaldee theology, and maintains that man, through theurgic rites, may commune with the Deity. There has been some controversy concerning the authenticity of this work, but Tennemann and other eminent critics think there are no good reasons why the authorship should be denied to Iamblichus. It was published by Ficinus (Venice, 1483, 4to, with a Latin transl.); N. Scutellius (Rome, 1556, 4to), and Th. Gale (Oxf. 1678, fol., with a Latin transl.), etc. See Ielunapius, Vitae Sophist.; Julian, Orat. 4; 146; Epist. 40; Dodwell, Excercit. de State Pythgy. 1704; Hebenstreit, Dissertatio de Jamcablici Doctrina, Leipz. 1704, 4to; Brucker, Historia critica Philosophice, 2, 260, 431; Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, — 6, 246; Tennemann, Gesch. der Philosophie, 6, 246; Ritter, Gesch. der Philosophie, 4, 647; Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, vol. 4, pt. 3:p. 50; Tiedmann, Geist der Spekulat. Philosophie, 3:453; Jules Simon, Histoire de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, 2, 187-265. — Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biography, 2, 549; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gé neralé, 26:305 sq.; Lardlner, Works, vol. 8; Butler, Hist. Anc Philos. 1, 76, 77; 2, 321,329. (See NEOPLATONIS).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jamblichus, or Iamblichus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jamblichus-or-iamblichus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.