MoboReader> Literature > A Source Book for Ancient Church History

   Chapter 2 The Internal Crisis The Gnostic And Other Heretical Sects

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 69329

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


In the second century the Church passed through an internal crisis even more trying than the great persecutions of the following centuries and with results far more momentous. Of the conditions making possible such a crisis the most important was absence in the Church of norms of faith universally acknowledged as binding. Then, again, many had embraced Christianity without grasping the spirit of the new religion. Nearly all interpreted the Christian faith more or less according to their earlier philosophical or religious conceptions; e.g., the apologists within the Church used the philosophical Logos doctrine. In this way arose numerous interpretations of Christian teaching and perversions of that teaching, some not at all in harmony with the generally received tradition. These discordant interpretations or perversions [pg 076] are the heretical movements of the second century. They varied in every degree of departure from the generally accepted Christian tradition. Some, like the earlier Gnostics (§ 21), and even the greater Gnostic systems (§ 22), at least in their esoteric teaching, show that their principal inspiration was other than Christian; others, as the Gnosticism of Marcion (§ 23) and the enthusiastic sect of the Montanists (§ 25), seem to have built largely upon exaggerated Christian tenets, contained, indeed, in the New Testament, but not fully appreciated by the majority of Christians; or still others, as the Encratites (§ 24), laid undue stress upon what was generally recognized as an element of Christian morality.

The principal source materials for the history of Gnosticism and other heresies of this chapter may be found collected and provided with commentary in Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums, Leipsic, 1884.

§ 21. The Earlier Gnostics: Gnosticism in General

Gnosticism is a generic name for a vast number of syncretistic religious systems prevalent, especially in the East, both before and after the Christian era. For the most part the movement was outside of Christianity, and was already dying out when Christianity appeared. It derived its essential features from Persian and Babylonian sources and was markedly dualistic. As it spread toward the West, it adopted many Western elements, making use of Christian ideas and terms and Greek philosophical concepts. Modified by such new matter, it obtained a renewed lease of life. In proportion as the various schools of Gnosticism became more influenced by Christian elements, they were more easily confused with [pg 077] Christianity, and accordingly more dangerous to it. Among such were the greater schools of Basilides and Valentinus (see next section). The doctrines of Gnosticism were held by many who were nominally within the Church. The tendency of the Gnostics and their adherents was to form little coteries and to keep much of their teaching secret from those who were attracted by their more popular tenets. The esoteric element seems to have been the so-called "systems" in which the fanciful and mythological element in Gnosticism appears. This, as being the most vulnerable part of the Gnostic teaching, was attacked most bitterly by the opponents of heresy. There are no extant writings of the earlier Gnostics, Simon, Menander, or Cerinthus. They are known only from Christian opponents.

Sources for the history of Gnosticism: The leading sources are the Church Fathers Iren?us, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria (all translated in ANF), Origen (in part only translated in ANF), and Epiphanius. The accounts of these bitter enemies must necessarily be used with caution. They contain, however, numerous fragments from Gnostic writings. The fragments in the ante-Nicene Fathers may be found in A. Hilgenfeld, op. cit., in Greek, with commentary. For the literary remains of Gnosticism, see Krüger, §§ 22-31. The more accessible are: Acts of Thomas (best Greek text by Bonnet, Leipsic, 1903, German translation with excellent commentary in E. Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, Tübingen and Leipsic, 1904); Ptolem?us, Epistle to Flora (in Epiphanius, Panarion, H?r. XXXIII); Hymn of the Soul, from the Acts of Thomas (text and English translation by Bevan in Text and Studies, V, 3, Cambridge, 1897, also translated in F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity, N. Y., 1904).

(a) Tertullian, De Pr?scriptione H?reticorum, 7. (MSL, 2:21.)

A wide-spread opinion that Gnosticism was fundamentally a perversion of Christianity finds its most striking expression in the phrase of Harnack that it was "the acute secularizing or Hellenizing of Christianity" [pg 078] (History of Dogma, English translation, I, 226). The foundation for this representation is the later Gnosticism, which took over many Christian and Greek elements, and the opinion of Tertullian that Gnosticism and Greek philosophy discussed the same questions and held the same opinions. (Cf. the thesis of Hippolytus in his Philosophumena, or the Refutation of All Heresies; see the Proemium, ANF, V, 9 f., and especially bk. VII.) Tertullian, although retaining unconsciously the impress of his former Stoicism, was violently opposed to philosophy, and in his denunciation of heresy felt that it was a powerful argument against the Gnostics to show similarities between their teaching and the Greek philosophy he so heartily detested. It is a brilliant work and may be taken as a fair specimen of Tertullian's style.

These are the doctrines of men and of demons born of the spirit of this world's wisdom, for itching ears; and the Lord, calling this foolishness, chose the foolish things of this world to the confusion of philosophy itself. For philosophy is the material of the world's wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and dispensation of God. Indeed, heresies themselves are instigated by philosophy. From this source came the eons, and I know not what infinite forms, and the trinity of man in the system of Valentinus; he was of Plato's school. From this source came Marcion's better god with all his tranquillity; he came of the Stoics. Then again the opinion that the soul dies is held by the Epicureans. The denial of the resurrection of the body is taken from the united schools of all philosophers. When matter is made equal to God, you have the teaching of Zeno; and when anything is alleged touching a fiery god, then Heraclitus comes in. The same subject-matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved. Whence and wherefore is evil? Whence and how has come man? Besides these there is the question which Valentinus has very recently proposed, Whence comes God?

(b) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 23. (MSG, 7:670.)

Simon Magus. For additional source material, see Justin Martyr, Apol. I, 26, 56, Dial. c. Tryph., 120; Hippolytus, Ref. VI, 72 f. The appearance of Simon in the pseudo-Clementine literature (translated in ANF, VIII), presents an interesting historical problem. The [pg 079] present condition of investigation is given in the article "Clementine Literature" by J. V. Bartlett, in Encyc. Brit., eleventh ed.

Simon the Samaritan, that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the Apostles, says: "But there was a certain man, Simon by name," etc. [Acts 8:9-11, 20, 21, 23.] Since he did not put his faith in God a whit more, he set himself eagerly to contend against the Apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and studied with still greater zeal the whole range of magic art, that he might the better bewilder the multitude of men. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius C?sar, by whom also he is said to have been honored with a statue on account of his magic. This man, then, was glorified by many as a god, and he taught that it was he himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father, while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself as the loftiest of all powers, that it is he who is over all as the Father, and he allowed himself to be called whatsoever men might name him.

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all heresies derive their origin, has as the material for his sect the following: Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Ph?nicia, a certain woman named Helena,38 a prostitute, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that she was the first conception [Enn?a] of his mind, the mother of all, by whom he conceived in his mind to make the angels and archangels. For this Enn?a, leaping forth from him and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions and generated angels and powers, by whom, also, he declared this world was made. But after she had generated them she was detained by them through jealousy, because they were unwilling that they should be regarded as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, he was wholly unknown to them, but his Enn?a was detained by those powers and [pg 080] angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upward to her father, but was even shut up in a human body and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from one vessel to another vessel. She was in that Helen on whose account the Trojan War was undertaken; wherefore also Stesichorus was struck blind, because he cursed her in his poems; but afterward, when he had repented and written those verses which are called palinodes, in which he sung her praises, he saw once more. Thus passing from body to body and suffering insults in every one of them, she at last became a common prostitute; and she it is who was the lost sheep.

For this purpose he himself had come, that he might win her first and free her from chains, and confer salvation upon men by making himself known to them. For since the angels ruled the world poorly, because each one of them coveted the principal power, he had come to mend matters and had descended, been transfigured and assimilated to powers and angels, so that he might appear among men as man, although he was not a man; and that he was supposed to have suffered in Judea, although he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets inspired by the angels, who were the makers of the world, pronounced their prophecies; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regard them, but are free to do what they will; for men are saved according to his grace, and not according to their righteous works. For deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident and just as those angels who made the world have determined, seeking by such precepts to bring men into bondage. On this account he promised that the world should be dissolved and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both live profligately and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations, [pg 081] love-potions, also, and charms, as well as those beings who are called "familiars" [paredri] and "dream senders" [oniropompi], and whatever other curious arts can be had are eagerly pressed into their service.

(c) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 23. (MSG, 7:673.)

The system of Menander. Cf. also Eusebius. Hist. Ec., III, 26.

The successor of Simon Magus was Menander, a Samaritan by birth, who also became a perfect adept in magic. He affirms that the first power is unknown to all, but that he himself is the person who has been sent forth by the invisible beings as a saviour for the salvation of men. The world was made by angels, who, as he also, like Simon, says, were produced by the Enn?a, He gives also, as he affirms, by means of the magic which he teaches knowledge, so that one may overcome those angels that made the world. For his disciples obtain the resurrection by the fact that they are baptized into him, and they can die no more, but remain immortal without ever growing old.

(d) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 26. (MSG, 7:686.)

The system of Cerinthus. For additional source material, see Iren?us, III, 3, 4; Hippolytus, Ref. VII, 33; X, 21; Eusebius, Hist. Ec., III, 28.

Cerinthus, again, taught in Asia that the world was not made by the supreme God, but by a power separated and distant from that Ruler [principalitate] who is over the universe, and ignorant of the God who is above all. He represented Jesus as not having been born of a virgin, for this seemed impossible to him, but as having been the son of Joseph and Mary in the same way that all other men are sons, only he was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. After his baptism Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler; and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father and performed miracles. But at last Christ [pg 082] departed from Jesus, and then Jesus suffered and rose again, but Christ remained impassable, since He was a spiritual being.

§ 22. The Greater Gnostic Systems: Basilides and Valentinus

The Gnostic systems having most influence within the Church and effect upon its development were those of Basilides and Valentinus. Of these teachers and their followers we have not only the accounts of those opponents who attacked principally their esoteric and most characteristically Gnostic tenets, but also fragments and other remains which give a more favorable impression of the religious and moral value of the great schools of Gnosticism. In their "systems" of vast theogonies and cosmologies, in their wild mythological treatment of the most abstract conceptions and their dualism, the Church writers naturally saw at once their most vulnerable and most dangerous element.

A. The School of Basilides

The school of Basilides marks the beginning of the distinctively Hellenistic stadium of Gnosticism. Basilides, its founder, apparently worked first in the East; circa 120-130 he was at Alexandria. He was the first important Gnostic writer. Of his Gospel, Commentary on that Gospel in twenty-four books (Exegetica), and his odes only fragments remain of the second, preserved by Clement of Alexandria and in the Acta Archelai (collected by Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, 207-213).

Additional source material: Clement of Alexandria, Strom., II, 3, 8, 20; IV, 24, 26 (ANF. II); Hippolytus, Ref., VII, 20-27; X, 14 (=VII, 1-15, X, 10, ANF, V); Eusebius, Hist. Ec., IV. 7. The account of Hippolytus differs markedly from that of Iren?us, and his quotations and references have been the subject of long dispute among scholars.

(a) Acta Archelai, 55. (MSG, 10:1526.)

The Acta Archelai purport to be an account of a disputation held in the reign of the Emperor Probus (276-282) by Archelaus, Bishop of Kaskar in Mesopotamia, with Mani, the founder of Manich?anism. [pg 083] The work is of uncertain authorship; it belongs to the first part of the fourth century. It is the most important source for the Manich?an doctrine (v. infra, § 54). It exists only in a Latin translation probably from a Greek original.

Among the Persians there was also a certain preacher, one Basilides, of more ancient date, not long after the time of our Apostles. Since he was of a shrewd disposition himself, and observed that at that time all other subjects were preoccupied, he determined to affirm that dualism which was maintained also by Scythianus. And so, since he had nothing to advance which he might call his own, he brought the sayings of others before his adversaries. And all his books contain some matters difficult and extremely harsh. The thirteenth book of his Tractates,39 however, is still extant, which begins thus: "In writing the thirteenth book of our Tractates, the word of salvation furnished us with the necessary and fruitful word. It illustrates40 under the figure of a rich [principle] and a poor [principle], a nature without root and without place and only supervenes upon things.41 This is the only topic which the book contains." Does it not, then, contain a strange word, as also certain persons think? Will ye not all be offended with the book itself, of which this is the beginning? But Basilides, returning to the subject, some five hundred lines intervening, more or less, says: "Give up this vain and curious variation, and let us rather find out what inquiries the Barbarians [i.e., the Persians] have instituted concerning good and evil, and to what opinions they have come on all these subjects. For certain among them have said that there are for all things two beginnings [or principles], to which they have referred good and evil, holding these principles are without beginning and ingenerate; that is to say, that in the origins of things there were light and darkness, which existed of themselves, and which were not declared to exist.42 When these subsisted [pg 084] by themselves, they each led its own proper mode of life as it willed to lead, and such as was competent to it. For in the case of all things, what is proper to it is in amity with it, and nothing seems evil to itself. But after they came to the knowledge of each other, and after the darkness contemplated the light, then, as if fired with a passion for something superior, the darkness rushed to have intercourse with the light."

(b) Clement of Alexandria, Strom., IV, 12. (MSG, 8:1289.)

Basilides taught the transmigration of souls as an explanation of human suffering. Cf. Origen in Ep. ad Rom., V: "I [Paul], he says, died [Rom. 7:9], for now sin began to be reckoned unto me. But Basilides, not noticing that these things ought to be understood of the natural law, according to impious and foolish fables turns this apostolic saying into the Pythagorean dogma, that is, attempts to prove from this word of the Apostle that souls are transferred from one body to another. For he says that the Apostle has said, 'I lived without any law'-i.e., before I came into the body I lived in that sort of body which is not under the law, i.e., of beasts and birds."

Basilides, in the twenty-third book of the Exegetics, respecting those that are punished by martyrdom, expresses himself in the following language: "For I say this, Whosoever fall under the afflictions mentioned, in consequence of unconsciously transgressing in other matters, are brought to this good end by the kindness of Him who brings about all things, though they are accused on other grounds; so that they may not suffer as condemned for what are acknowledged to be iniquities, nor reproached as the adulterer or the murderer, but because they are Christians; which will console them, so that they do not appear to suffer. And if one who has not sinned at all incur suffering (a rare case), yet even he will not suffer aught through the machinations of power, but will suffer as the child which seems not to have sinned would suffer." Then further on he adds: "As, then, the child which has not sinned before, nor actually committed sin, but has in itself that which committed sin, when subjected [pg 085] to suffering is benefited, reaping the advantage of many difficulties; so, also, although a perfect man may not have sinned in act, and yet endures afflictions, he suffers similarly with the child. Having within him the sinful principle, but not embracing the opportunity of committing sin, he does not sin; so that it is to be reckoned to him as not having sinned. For as he who wishes to commit adultery is an adulterer, although he fails to commit adultery, and he who wishes to commit murder is a murderer, although he is unable to kill; so, also, if I see the man without sin, whom I refer to, suffering, though he have done nothing bad, I should call him bad on account of the wish to sin. For I will affirm anything rather than call Providence evil." Then, in continuation, he says expressly concerning the Lord, as concerning man: "If, then, passing from all these observations, you were to proceed to put me to shame by saying, perchance impersonating certain parties, This man has then sinned, for this man has suffered; if you permit, I will say, He has not sinned, but was like a child suffering. If you insist more urgently, I would say, That the man you name is man, but God is righteous, 'for no one is pure,' as one said, 'from pollution.'?" But the hypothesis of Basilides says that the soul, having sinned before in another life, endures punishment in this-the elect soul with honor by martyrdom, the other purged by appropriate punishment.

(c) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 24:3 ff. (MSG, 7:675.)

The system of Basilides, as presented by Iren?us, is dualistic and emanationist; with it is to be compared the presentation of the system by Hippolytus in his Philosophumena, where it appears as evolutionary and pantheistic. The trend of present opinion appears to be that the account given by Iren?us is more correct, or, at least, is earlier. The following account has all the appearance of having been taken from an original source (cf. Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, 195, 198). It represents the esoteric and more distinctively Gnostic teaching of the school.

Ch. 3. Basilides, to appear to have discovered something more sublime and plausible, gives an immense development [pg 086] to his doctrine. He declares that in the beginning the Nous was born of the unborn Father, that from him in turn was born the Logos, then from the Logos the Phronesis, from the Phronesis Sophia and Dynamis, and from Dynamis and Sophia the powers and principalities and angels, whom he calls the first; and that by these the first heaven was made. Then by emanation from these others were formed, and these created another heaven similar to the first. And in like manner, when still others had been formed by emanations from these, corresponding to those who were over them, they framed another third heaven; and from this third heaven downward there was a fourth succession of descendants; and so on, in the same manner, they say that other and still other princes and angels were formed, and three hundred and sixty-five heavens. Wherefore the year contained the same number of days in conformity with the number of the heavens.

Ch. 4. The angels occupying the lowest heaven, that, namely, which is visible to us, created all those things which are in the world, and made allotments among themselves of the earth, and of those nations which are upon it. The chief of them is he who is thought to be the God of the Jews. Inasmuch as he wished to make the other nations subject to his own people, the Jews, all the other princes resisted and opposed him. Wherefore all other nations were hostile to his nation. But the unbegotten and nameless Father, seeing their ruin, sent his own first-begotten Nous, for he it is who is called Christ, to set free from the power of those who made the world them that believe in him. He therefore appeared on earth as a man to the nations of those powers and wrought miracles. Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain Cyrenian, was compelled and bore the cross in his stead; and this latter was transfigured by him that he might be thought to be Jesus and was crucified through ignorance and error; but Jesus himself took the form of Simon and stood by and derided him. For as he is an incorporeal power and the Nous of the unborn Father, he [pg 087] transfigured himself at pleasure, and so ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be held, and was invisible to all. Those, then, who know these things have been freed from the princes who made the world; so that it is not necessary to confess him who was crucified, but him who came in the form of a man, and was thought to have been crucified, and was called Jesus, and was sent by the Father, that by this dispensation he might destroy the works of the makers of the world. Therefore, Basilides says that if any one confesses the crucified, he is still a slave, under the power of those who made our bodies; but whoever denies him has been freed from these beings and is acquainted with the dispensation of the unknown Father.

Ch. 5. Salvation is only of the soul, for the body is by nature corruptible. He says, also, that even the prophecies were derived from those princes who made the world, but the law was especially given by their chief, who led the people out of the land of Egypt. He attaches no importance to meats offered to idols, thinks them of no consequence, but makes use of them without hesitation. He holds, also, the use of other things as indifferent, and also every kind of lust. These men, furthermore, use magic, images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious arts. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they assert that some of these belong to the first, others to the second, heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, powers, of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the name in which the Saviour ascended and descended is Caulacau.43

Ch. 6. He, then, who has learned these things, and known all the angels and their causes, is rendered invisible and incomprehensible to the angels and powers, even as Caulacau also was. And as the Son was unknown to all, so must they also be known by no one; but while they know all and pass [pg 088] through all, they themselves remain invisible and unknown to all; for "Do thou," they say, "know all, but let nobody know thee." For this reason, persons of such a persuasion are also ready to recant, yea, rather, it is impossible that they should suffer on account of a mere name, since they are alike to all. The multitude, however, cannot understand these matters, but only one out of a thousand, or two out of ten thousand. They declare that they are no longer Jews, and that they are not yet Christians; and that it is not at all fitting to speak openly of their mysteries, but right to keep them secret by preserving silence.

Ch. 7. They make out the local position of the three hundred and sixty-five heavens in the same way as do the mathematicians. For, accepting the theorems of the latter, they have transferred them to their own style of doctrine. They hold that their chief is Abraxas [or Abrasax]; and on this account that the word contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.

B. The School of Valentinus

The Valentinians were the most important of all the Gnostics closely connected with the Church. The school had many adherents scattered throughout the Roman Empire, its leading teachers were men of culture and literary ability, and the sect maintained itself a long time. Valentinus himself was a native of Egypt, and probably educated at Alexandria, where he may have come under the influence of Basilides. He taught his own system chiefly at Rome c. 140-c. 160. The great work of Iren?us against the Gnostics, although having all Gnostics in view, especially deals with the Valentinians in their various forms, because Iren?us was of the opinion that he who refutes their system refutes all (cf. Adv. H?r., IV, pr?f., 2). It is difficult to reconstruct with certainty the esoteric system of Valentinus as distinguished from possibly later developments of the school, as Iren?us, the principal authority, follows not only Valentinus, but Ptolom?us [pg 089] and others, in describing the system. The following selection of sources gives fragments of the letters and other writings of Valentinus himself as preserved by Clement of Alexandria, passages from Iren?us bringing out distinctive features of the system, and the important letter of Ptolem?us to Flora, one of the very few extant writings of the Gnostics of an early date. It gives a good idea of the character of the exoteric teaching of the school.

Additional source material: The principal authority for the system of the Valentinians is Iren?us, Adv. H?r., Lib. I (ANF), see also Hippolytus, Refut., VI, 24-32 (ANF); "The Hymn of the Soul," from the Acts of Thomas, trans. by A. A. Bevan, Texts and Studies, III, Cambridge, 1897; The Fragments of Heracleon, trans. by A. E. Burke, Text and Studies, I, Cambridge, 1891; see also ANF, IX, index, p. 526, s. v., Heracleon. The Excerpta Theodoti contained in ANF, VIII, are really the Excerpta Prophetica, another collection, identified with the Excerpta Theodoti by mistake of the editor of the American edition, A. C. Coxe (on the Excerpta, see Zahn, History of the Canon of the New Testament).

(a) Clement of Alexandria, Strom., IV, 13. (MSG, 8:1296.)

The following passages appear to be taken from the same homily of Valentinus. The pneumatics are naturally immortal, but have assumed mortality to overcome it. Death is the work of the imperfect Demiurge. The concluding portion, which is very obscure, does not fit well into the Valentinian system. Cf. Hilgenfeld, op. cit., p. 300.

Valentinian in a homily writes in these words: "Ye are originally immortal, and ye are children of eternal life, and ye desired to have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when ye dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption."44 For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature [i.e., the pneumatics, v. infra], and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator [pg 090] of the world. Wherefore, also, he thus expounds that Scripture, "No one shall see the face of God and live" [Ex. 33:20], as if He were the cause of death. Respecting this God, he makes those allusions, when writing, in these expressions: "As much as the image is inferior to the living face, so much is the world inferior to the living Eon. What is, then, the cause of the image? It is the majesty of the face, which exhibits the figure to the painter, to be honored by his name; for the form is not found exactly to the life, but the name supplies what is wanting in that which is formed. The invisibility of God co-operates also for the sake of the faith of that which has been fashioned." For the Demiurge, called God and Father, he designated the image and prophet of the true God, as the Painter, and Wisdom, whose image, which is formed, is to the glory of the invisible One; since the things which proceed from a pair [syzygy] are complements [pleromata], and those which proceed from one are images. But since what is seen is no part of Him, the soul [psyche] comes from what is intermediate, and is different; and this is the inspiration of the different spirit. And generally what is breathed into the soul, which is the image of the spirit [pneuma], and in general, what is said of the Demiurge, who was made according to the image, they say was foretold by a sensible image in the book of Genesis respecting the origin of man; and the likeness they transfer to themselves, teaching that the addition of the different spirit was made, unknown to the Demiurge.

(b) Clement of Alexandria, Strom., II, 20. (MSG, 8:1057.)

According to Basilides, the various passions of the soul were no original parts of the soul, but appendages to the soul. "They were in essence certain spirits attached to the rational soul, through some original perturbation and confusion; and that again, other bastard and heterogeneous natures of spirits grow onto them, like that of the wolf, the ape, the lion, and the goat, whose properties, showing themselves around the soul, they say, assimilate the lusts of the soul to the likeness of these animals." See the whole passage immediately preceding the following fragment. The fragment can best be understood by reference [pg 091] to the presentation of the system by W. Bousset in Encyc. Brit., eleventh ed., art. "Basilides."

Valentinus, too, in a letter to certain people, writes in these very words respecting the appendages: "There is One good, by whose presence is the manifestation, which is by the Son, and by Him alone can the heart become pure, by the expulsion of every evil spirit from the heart; for the multitude of spirits dwelling in it do not suffer it to be pure; but each of them performs his own deeds, insulting it oft with unseemly lusts. And the heart seems to be treated somewhat like a caravansary. For the latter has holes and ruts made in it, and is often filled with filthy dung; men living filthily in it, and taking no care for the place as belonging to others. So fares it with the heart as long as there is no thought taken for it, being unclean and the abode of demons many. But when the only good Father visits it, it is sanctified and gleams with light. And he who possesses such a heart is so blessed that he shall see God."

(c) Clement of Alexandria, Strom., II. 8. (MSG, 8:972.)

The teaching in the following passage attaches itself to the text, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom" (cf. Prov. 1:7). Compare with it Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 30:6.

Here the followers of Basilides, interpreting this expression [Prov. 1:7] say that "the Archon, having heard the speech of the Spirit, who was being ministered to, was struck with amazement both with the voice and the vision, having had glad tidings beyond his hopes announced to him; and that his amazement was called fear, which became the origin of wisdom, which distinguishes classes, and discriminates, and perfects, and restores. For not the world alone, but also the election, He that is over all has set apart and sent forth."

And Valentinus appears also in an epistle to have adopted such views. For he writes in these very words: "And as terror fell on the angels at this creature, because he uttered things greater than proceeds from his formation, by reason [pg 092] of the being in him who had invisibly communicated a germ of the supernal essence, and who spoke with free utterance; so, also, among the tribes of men in the world the works of men became terrors to those who made them-as, for example, images and statues. And the hands of all fashion things to bear the image of God; for Adam, formed into the name of man, inspired the dread attaching to the pre-existing man, as having his being in him; and they were terror-stricken and speedily marred the work."

(d) Clement of Alexandria, Strom., III, 7. (MSG, 8:1151.)

The Docetism of Valentinus comes out in the following. It is to be noted that Clement not only does not controvert t

he position taken by the Gnostic as to the reality of the bodily functions of Jesus, but in his own person makes almost the same assertions (cf. Strom., VI, 9). He might indeed call himself, as he does in this latter passage, a Gnostic in the sense of the true or Christian Gnostic, but he comes very close to the position of the non-Christian Gnostic.

Valentinus in an epistle to Agathopous says: "Since He endured all things, and was continent [i.e., self-controlled], Jesus, accordingly, obtained for Himself divinity. He ate and drank in a peculiar manner, not giving forth His food. Such was the power of His continence [self-control] that the food was not corrupted in Him, because He himself was without corruption."

(e) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 7, 15; I, 8, 23. (MSG, 7:517, 528.)

The division of mankind into three classes, according to their nature and consequent capacity for salvation, is characteristic of the Valentinian Gnosticism. The other Gnostics divided mankind into two classes: those capable of salvation, or the pneumatics, or Gnostics, and those who perish in the final destruction of material existence, or the hylics. Valentinus avails himself of the notion of the trichotomy of human nature, and gives a place for the bulk of Christians, those who did not embrace Gnosticism; cf. Iren?us, ibid., I, 6. Valentinus remained long within the Church, accommodating his teaching as far as possible, and in its exoteric side very fully, to the current teaching of the Church. The doctrine as to the psychics, capable of a limited salvation, appears to be a part of this accommodation.

[pg 093] I, 7, 5. The Valentinians conceive of three kinds of men: the pneumatic [or spiritual], the choic [or material],45 and the psychic [or animal]; such were Cain, Abel, and Seth. These three natures are no longer in one person, but in the race. The material goes to destruction. The animal, if it chooses the better part, finds repose in an intermediate place; but if it chooses the worse, it, too, goes to the same [destruction]. But they assert that the spiritual principles, whatever Acamoth has sown, being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls, because they were sent forth weak, at last attain perfection and shall be given as brides46 to the angels of the Saviour, but their animal souls necessarily rest forever with the Demiurge in the intermediate place. And again subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good and others are by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the seed; the evil by nature, those who are never able to receive that seed.

I, 8, 23. The parable of the leaven which the woman is said to have hid in three measures of meal they declare manifests the three kinds of men: pneumatic, psychic, and the choic, but the leaven denoted the Saviour himself. Paul also very plainly set forth the choic, the psychic, and the pneumatic, saying in one place: "As is the earthy [choic] such are they also that are earthy" [I Cor. 15:48]; and in another place, "He that is spiritual [pneumatic] judgeth all things" [I Cor. 2:14]. And the passage, "The animal man receiveth not the things of the spirit" [I Cor. 2:15], they affirm was spoken concerning the Demiurge, who, being psychic, knew neither his mother, who was spiritual, nor her seed, nor the Eons in the pleroma.

(f) Iren?us. Adv. H?r., I, 1. (MSG, 7:445 f.)

The following passage appears, from the context, to have been written with the teaching of Ptolem?us especially in mind. It should [pg 094] be compared with the account further on in the same book, I, 11: 1-3. The syzygies are characteristic of the Valentinian teaching, and the symbolism of marriage plays an important part in the "system" of all the Valentinians. In the words of Duchesne (Hist. ancienne de l'église, sixth ed., p. 171): "Valentinian Gnosticism is from one end to the other a 'marriage Gnosticism.' From the most abstract origins of being to their end, there are only syzygies, marriages, and generations." For the connection between these conceptions and antinomianism, see Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 6:3 f. For their sacramental application, ibid., I, 21:3. Cf. I, 13:3, a passage which seems to belong to the sacrament of the bridal chamber.

They [the Valentinians] say that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent Eon, and him they call Proarche, Propator, and Bythos; and that he is invisible and that nothing is able to comprehend him. Since he is comprehended by no one, and is invisible, eternal, and unbegotten, he was in silence and profound quiescence in the boundless ages. There existed along with him Enn?a, whom they call Charis and Sige. And at a certain time this Bythos determined to send forth from himself the beginnings of all things, and just as seed he wished to send forth this emanation, and he deposited it in the womb of her who was with him, even of Sige. She then received this seed, and becoming pregnant, generated Nous, who was both similar and equal to him who had sent him forth47 and alone comprehended his father's greatness. This Nous they also call Monogenes and Father and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also sent forth Aletheia; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which also they denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythos and Sige, and then Nous and Aletheia. And Monogenes, when he perceived for what purpose he had been sent forth, also himself sent forth Logos and Zoe, being the father of all those who are to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire [pg 095] pleroma. From Logos and Zoe were sent forth, by a conjunction, Anthropos and Ecclesia, and thus were formed the first-begotten Ogdoad, the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names; namely, Bythos, Nous, Logos, and Anthropos. For each of these is at once masculine and feminine, as follows: Propator was united by a conjunction with his Enn?a, then Monogenes (i.e., Nous) with Aletheia, Logos with Zoe, Anthropos with Ecclesia.

(g) Ptolem?us, Epistula ad Floram, ap. Epiphanius, Panarion, H?r. XXXIII, 3. Ed. Oehler, 1859. (MSG, 41:557.)

Ptolem?us was possibly the most important disciple of Valentinus. and the one to whom Iren?us is most indebted for his first-hand knowledge of the teaching of the sect of the Valentinians. Of his writings have been preserved, in addition to numerous brief fragments, a connected passage of some length, apparently from a commentary on the Prologue or the Gospel of St. John (see Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 8:5), and the Epistle to Flora. The commentary is distinctly a part of the esoteric teaching, the epistle is as clearly exoteric.

That many have not48 received the Law given by Moses, my dear sister Flora, without recognizing either its fundamental ideas or its precepts, will be perfectly clear to you, I believe, if you become acquainted with the different views regarding the same. For some [i.e., the Church] say that it was commanded by God and the Father; but others [i.e., the Marcionites], taking the opposite direction, affirm that it was commanded by an opposing and injurious devil, and they attribute to him the creation of the world, and say that he is the Father and Creator. But such as teach such doctrine are altogether deceived, and each of them strays from the truth of what lies before him. For it appears not to have been given by the perfect God and Father, because it is itself imperfect, and it needs to be completed [cf. Matt. 5:17], and it has precepts not consonant with the nature and mind of God; neither is the Law to be attributed to the wickedness [pg 096] of the adversary, whose characteristic is to do wrong. Such do not know what was spoken by the Saviour, that a city or a house divided against itself cannot stand, as our Saviour has shown us. And besides, the Apostle says that the creation of the world was His work (all things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made), refuting the unsubstantial wisdom of lying men, the work not of a god working ruin, but a just one who hates wickedness. This is the opinion of rash men who do not understand the cause of the providence of the Creator [Demiurge] and have lost the eyes not only of their soul, but of their body. How far, therefore, such wander from the way of truth is evident to you from what has been said. But each of these is induced by something peculiar to himself to think thus, some by ignorance of the God of righteousness: others by ignorance of the Father of all, whom the Only One who knew Him alone revealed when He came. To us it has been reserved to be deemed worthy of making manifest to you the ideas of both of these, and to investigate carefully this Law, whence anything is, and the law-giver by whom it was commanded, bringing proofs of what shall be said from the words of our Saviour, by which alone one can be led without error to the knowledge of things.

First of all, it is to be known that the entire Law contained in the Pentateuch of Moses was not given by one-I mean not by God alone; but some of its precepts were given by men, and the words of the Saviour teach us to divide it into three parts. For He attributes some of it to God himself and His law-giving, and some to Moses, not in the sense that God gave laws through him, but in the sense that Moses, impelled by his own spirit, set down some things as laws; and He attributes some things to the elders of the people, who first discovered certain commandments of their own and then inserted them. How this was so you clearly learn from the words of the Saviour. Somewhere the Saviour was conversing with the people, who disputed with Him about divorce, that it was allowed in the Law, and He said to them: Moses, [pg 097] on account of the hardness of your hearts, permitted a man to divorce his wife; but from the beginning it was not so. For God, said He, joined this bond, and what the Lord joined together let not man, He said, put asunder. He therefore pointed out one law that forbids a woman to be separated from her husband, which was of God, and another, which was of Moses, that allows, on account of the hardness of men's hearts, the bond to be dissolved. And accordingly, Moses gives a law opposed to God, for it is opposed to the law forbidding divorce. But if we consider carefully the mind of Moses, according to which he thus legislated, we shall find that he did not do this of his own mere choice, but by constraint because of the weakness of those to whom he was giving the law. For since they were not able to observe that precept of God by which it was not permitted them to cast forth their wives, with whom some of them lived unhappily, and because of this they were in danger of falling still more into unrighteousness, and from that into utter ruin, Moses, intending to avoid this unhappy result, because they were in danger of ruin, gave a certain second law, according to circumstances less evil, in place of the better; and by his own authority gave the law of divorce to them, that if they could not keep that they might keep this, and should not fall into unrighteousness and wickedness by which complete ruin should overtake them. This was his purpose in as far as he is found giving laws contrary to God. That thus the law of Moses is shown to be other than the Law of God is indisputable, if we have shown it in one instance.

And as to there being certain traditions of the elders which have been incorporated in the Law, the Saviour shows this also. For God, said He, commanded: Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee. But ye, He said, addressing the elders, have said: It is a gift to God, that by which ye might be profited by me, and ye annul the law of God by the traditions of your elders. And this very thing Isaiah declared when he said: This people honor me with [pg 098] their lips, but their heart is far from me, vainly do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandment of men [cf. Matt. 15:4-9.] Clearly, then, from these things it is shown that this whole Law is to be divided into three parts. And in it we find laws given by Moses, by the elders, and by God; and this division of the whole Law as we have made it, has shown the real truth as to the Law.

But one portion of the Law, that which is from God, is again to be divided into three parts: first, into the genuine precepts, quite untainted with evil, which is properly called the law, and which the Saviour came not to destroy but to complete (for what he completed was not alien to Him, but yet it was not perfect); secondly, the part comprising evil and unrighteous things, which the Saviour did away with as something unfitting His nature; and thirdly, the part which is for types and symbols, which is given as a law, as images of things spiritual and excellent which, from being evident and manifest to the senses, the Saviour changed into the spiritual and unseen. Now the law of God, pure and untainted with anything base, is the Decalogue itself, or those ten precepts distributed in two tables, for the prohibition of things to be avoided and the performance of things to be done. Although they constitute a pure body of laws, yet they are not perfect, but need to be completed by the Saviour. But there is that body of commands which are tainted with unrighteousness; such is the law requiring vengeance and requital of injuries upon those who have first injured us, commanding the smiting out of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and revenging bloodshed with bloodshed. For one who is second in doing unrighteousness acts no less unrighteously, when the difference is only one of order, doing the self-same work. But such a precept was, and is, in other respects just, because of the infirmity of those to whom the law was given, and it was given in violation of the pure law, and was not consonant with the nature and goodness of the Father of all; it was to a degree appropriate, but yet given under a certain compulsion. [pg 099] For he who forbids the commission of a single murder in that he says, Thou shalt not kill, but commands that he who kills shall in requital be killed, gives a second law and commands a second slaying, when he has forbidden one, and has been compelled to do this by necessity. And therefore the Son, sent by Him, abolishes this portion of the Law, He himself confessing that it is from God, and this, among other things, is to be attributed to an ancient heresy, among which, also, is that God, speaking, says: He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But there is that part of the Law which is typical, laying down that which is an image of things spiritual and excellent, which gives laws concerning such matters as offerings, I mean, and circumcision, the Sabbath and fasting, the passover and the unleavened bread, and such like. For all these things, being images and symbols of the truth which had been manifested, have been changed. They were abrogated so far as they were external, visible acts of bodily performance, but they were retained so far as they were spiritual, the names remaining, but the things being changed. For the Saviour commands us to present offerings, though not of irrational animals or of incense, but spiritual offerings-praise, glory, and thanksgiving, and also liberality and good deeds toward the neighbor. He would have us circumcised with a circumcision not of the flesh, but spiritual and of the heart; and have us observe the Sabbath, for he wishes us to rest from wicked actions; and fast, but he does not wish us to observe a bodily fast, but a spiritual, in that we abstain from all that is unworthy. External fasting, however, is observed among our people, since it is capable of benefiting the soul to some degree, if it is practised with reason, when it is neither performed from imitation of any one, nor by custom, nor on account of a day, as if a day were set apart for that purpose; and at the same time it is also for a reminder of true fasting, that they who are not able to fast thus may have a reminder of it from the fast which is external. And that the passover, in the same way, and the [pg 100] unleavened bread are images, the Apostle Paul also makes clear, saying: Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, and That ye may be unleavened, not having any leaven (for he calls leaven wickedness), but that ye may be a new dough.

This entire Law, therefore, acknowledged to be from God, is divided into three parts: into that part which is fulfilled by the Saviour, such as Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not forswear thyself, for they are included in this, thou shalt not be angry, thou shalt not lust, thou shalt not swear; into that which is completely abolished, such as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, being tainted with unrighteousness, and having the same work of unrighteousness, and these are taken away by the Saviour because contradictory (for those things which are contradictory are mutually destructive), "For I say unto you that ye in no wise resist evil, but if any one smite thee turn to him the other cheek also;" and into that part which is changed and converted from that which is bodily into that which is spiritual, as he expounds allegorically a symbol which is commanded as an image of things that are excellent. For these images and symbols, fitted to represent other things, were good so long as the truth was not yet present; but when the truth is present, it is necessary to do the things of truth, not the image of truth. The same thing his disciples and the Apostle Paul teach, inasmuch as in regard to things which are images, as we have already said, they show by the passover and the unleavened bread that they are for our sake, but in regard to the law which is tainted with unrighteousness, they call it the law of commandments and ordinances, that is done away; but as to the law which is untainted with evil, he says that the law is holy and the commandment holy and just and good.

Accordingly, I think that it has been sufficiently shown you, so far as it is possible to discuss the matter briefly, that there are laws of men which have slipped in, and there is the very Law of God which is divided into three parts. There remains, [pg 101] therefore, for us to show, who, then, is that God who gave the Law. But I think that this has been shown you in what has already been said, if you have listened attentively. For if the Law was not given by the perfect God, as we have shown, nor by the devil, which idea merely to mention is unlawful, there is another beside these, one who gave the Law. This one is, therefore, the Demiurge and maker of this whole world and of all things in it, different from the nature of the other two, and placed between them, and who therefore rightly bears the name of the Midst. And if the perfect God is good according to His own nature, as also He is (for that there is only One who is good, namely, God and His Father, the Saviour asserted, the God whom He manifested), there is also one who is of the nature of the adversary, bad and wicked and characterized by unrighteousness. Standing, therefore, between these, and being neither good nor bad nor unjust, he can be called righteous in a sense proper to him, as the judge of the righteousness that corresponds to him, and that god will be lower than the perfect God, and his righteousness lower than His, because he is begotten and not unbegotten. For there is one unbegotten One, the Father, from whom are all things, for all things have been prepared by Him. But He is greater and superior to the adversary, and is of a different essence or nature from the essence of the other. For the essence of the adversary is corruption and darkness, for he is hylic and composite,49 but the essence of the unbegotten Father of all is incorruptibility, and He is light itself, simple and uniform. But the essence of these50 brings forth a certain twofold power, and he is the image of the better. Do not let these things disturb you, who wish to learn how from one principle of all things, whom we acknowledge and in whom be believe, namely, the unbegotten and the incorruptible and the good, there exist two other natures, namely, that of corruption and that of the Midst, which are not of [pg 102] the same essence [?νομοο?σιοι], though the good by nature begets and brings forth what is like itself, and of the same essence [?μοο?σιο?]. For you will learn by God's permission, in due order, both the beginning of this and its generation, since you are deemed worthy of the apostolic tradition, which by a succession we have received, and in due season to test all things by the teaching of the Saviour. The things which in a few words I have said to you, my sister Flora, I have not exhausted, and I have written briefly. At the same time I have sufficiently explained to you the subject proposed, and what I have said will be constantly of use to you, if as a beautiful and good field you have received the seed and will by it produce fruit.

§ 23. Marcion

Recently Marcion has been commonly treated apart from the Gnostics on account of the large use he made of the Pauline writings. By some he has even been regarded as a champion of Pauline ideas which had failed to hold a place in Christian thought. This opinion of Marcion is being modified under the influence of a larger knowledge of Gnosticism. At the bottom Marcion's doctrine was thoroughly Gnostic, though he differed from the vast majority of Gnostics in that his interest seems to have been primarily ethical rather than speculative. His school maintained itself for some centuries after undergoing some minor modifications. Marcion was teaching at Rome, A. D. 140. The aspersions upon his moral character must be taken with caution, as it had already become a common practice to blacken the character of theological opponents, regardless of the truth, a custom which has not yet wholly disappeared.

Additional source material: Justin Martyr, Apol., I. 26, 58; Iren?us, III. 12:12 ff. The most important source is Tertullian's elaborate Adversus Marcionem, especially I, 1 f., 29; III, 8. 11.

(a) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., I, 27: 1-3. (MSG, 7:687.)

The system of Cerdo and Marcion.

[pg 103] Ch. 1. A certain Cerdo, who had taken his fundamental ideas from those who were with Simon [i.e., Simon Magus], and who was in Rome in the time of Hyginus, who held the ninth place from the Apostles in the episcopal succession, taught that the God who was preached by the law and the prophets is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the former is known, but the latter is unknown; and the former is righteous, but the other is good.

Ch. 2. And Marcion of Pontus succeeded him and developed a school, blaspheming shamelessly Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets; saying that He is maker of evils and a lover of wars, inconstant in purpose and inconsistent with Himself. He said, however, that Jesus came from the Father, who is above the God who made the world, into Judea in the time of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Tiberius C?sar, and was manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judea, destroying the prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world and whom he also called Cosmocrator. In addition to this, he mutilated the Gospel which is according to Luke, and removed all that refers to the generation of the Lord, removing also many things from the teaching in the Lord's discourses, in which the Lord is recorded as very plainly confessing that the founder of this universe is His Father; and thus Marcion persuaded his disciples that he himself is truer than the Apostles who delivered the Gospel; delivering to them not the Gospel but a part of the Gospel. But in the same manner he also mutilated the epistles of the Apostle Paul, removing all that is plainly said by the Apostle concerning that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all that the Apostle taught by quotation from the prophetical writings which foretold the coming of the Lord.

Ch. 3. He taught that salvation would be only of the souls of those who should receive his doctrine, and that it is impossible for the body to partake of salvation, because it was taken from the earth.

[pg 104]

(b) Tertullian, Adv. Marcion., I, 19; IV, 2, 3. (MSL, 2: 293. 393.)

Tertullian's great work against Marcion is his most important and most carefully written polemical treatise. He revised it three times. The first book of the present revision dates from A. D. 207; the other books cannot be dated except conjecturally. In spite of the openly displayed hostile animus of the writer, it can be used with confidence when controlled by reference to other sources.

I, 19. Marcion's special and principal work is the separation of the law and the Gospel; and his disciples will not be able to deny that in this they have their best means by which they are initiated into, and confirmed in, this heresy. For these are Marcion's antitheses-that is, contradictory propositions; and they aim at putting the Gospel at variance with the law, that from the diversity of the statements of the two documents they may argue for a diversity of gods, also.

IV, 2. With Marcion the mystery of the Christian religion dates from the discipleship of Luke. Since, however, it was under way previously, it must have had its authentic materials by means of which it found its way down to Luke; and by aid of the testimony which it bore Luke himself becomes admissible.

IV, 3. Well, but because Marcion finds the Epistle to the Galatians by Paul, who rebukes even Apostles for "not walking uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel" [Gal. 2:14], as well as accuses certain false apostles of being perverters of the Gospel of Christ, he attempts to destroy the standing of those gospels which are published as genuine and under the names of Apostles, or of apostolic men, to secure, forsooth, for his own gospel the credit he takes away from them.

(c) Rhodon, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 13. (MSG, 20:459.)

At this time Rhodon, a native of Asia, who, as he himself states, had been instructed at Rome by Tatian, with whom we have already become acquainted, wrote excellent books, and published among the rest one against the heresy of Marcion which, he says, was in his time divided into various [pg 105] sects; and he describes those who occasioned the division and refutes carefully the falsehood devised by each. But hear what he writes: "Therefore also they have fallen into disagreement among themselves, and maintain inconsistent opinions. For Apelles, one of their herd, priding himself on his manner of life and his age, acknowledged one principle [i.e., source of existence], but says that the prophecies were from an opposing spirit. And he was persuaded of the truth of this by the responses of a demoniac maiden named Philumene. But others hold to two principles, as does the mariner Marcion himself, among these are Potitus and Basiliscus. These, following the wolf of Pontus and, like him, unable to discover the divisions of things, became reckless, and without any proof baldly asserted two principles. Again, others of them drifted into worse error and assumed not only two, but three, natures. Of these Syneros is the leader and chief, as those say who defend his teaching."

§ 24. Encratites

Asceticism is a wide-spread phenomenon in nearly all religions. It is to be found in apostolic Christianity. In the early Church it was regarded as a matter in the option of the Christian who was aiming at the religious life [see above, § 16]. The characteristic of the Encratites was their insistence upon asceticism as essential to Christian living. They were therefore associated, and with abundant historical justification, with Gnosticism.

Additional source material: Clement of Alexandria, Strom., III, passim; Eusebius, Hist. Ec., IV, 29, cf. the many references in the notes to McGiffert's edition, PNF.

(a) Hippolytus, VIII, 13. (MSG, 16:3368.)

See above, § 19, c.

Others, however, styling themselves Encratites, acknowledge some things concerning God and Christ in like manner [pg 106] with the Church, but in respect to their mode of life they pass their time inflated with pride; thinking that by meats they glorify themselves, they abstain from animal food, are water drinkers, and, forbidding to marry, they devote the rest of their life to habits of asceticism.

(b) Iren?us, Adv. H?r. I, 28. (MSG, 7:690.)

Many offshoots of numerous heresies have already been formed from those heresies which we have described.… By way of example, let us say there are those springing from Saturninus and Marcion, who are called Encratites [i.e., self-controlled], who preached the unmarried state, thus setting aside the original creation of God, and indirectly condemning Him who made male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of those reckoned as belonging to them have also introduced abstinence from animal food, being ungrateful to God who created all things. They deny, also, the salvation of him who was first created. It is but recently that this opinion has been discovered among them, since a certain man named Tatian first introduced the blasphemy. He had been a hearer of Justin's, and as long as he continued with him he expressed no such views; but after his martyrdom [circa A. D. 165] he separated from the Church, and having become excited and puffed up by the thought of being a teacher, as if he were superior to others, he composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He invented a system of certain invisible Eons, like the followers of Valentinus; and like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication. But this denial of Adam's salvation was an opinion due entirely to himself.

§ 25. Montanism

Montanism was, in part at least, an attempt to revive the enthusiastic prophetic element in the early Christian life. In its first manifestations, in Asia Minor, Montanism was wild [pg 107] and fanatical. It soon spread to the West, and in doing so it became, as did other Oriental religious movements (e.g., Gnosticism and Manich?anism, see § 54), far more sober. It even seemed to many serious persons to be nothing more than a praiseworthy attempt to revive or retain certain primitive Christian conditions, both in respect to personal morals and ecclesiastical organization and life. In this way it came to be patronized by not a few (e.g., Tertullian) who, in other respects, deviated in few or no points from the prevailing thought and practice of Christians. See also § 26.

Additional source material: Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 16-19, cf. literature cited in McGiffert's notes. The sayings of Montanus, Maximilla, and Priscilla are collected in Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, 591 ff. See also Hippolytus, Refut., X, 25f. [= X, 21, ANF.]

(a) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 16:7. (MSG, 20:463.)

For Eusebius, see § 3.

There is said to be a certain village named Ardabau, in Mysia, on the borders of Phrygia. There, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name-who, in his boundless desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him-first became inspired; and falling into a sort of frenzy and ecstasy raved and began to babble and utter strange sounds, prophesying in a manner contrary to the traditional and constant custom of the Church from the beginning.… And he stirred up, besides, two women [Maximilla and Priscilla], and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked frantically, at unseasonable times, and in a strange manner, like the person already mentioned.… And the arrogant spirit taught them to revile the universal and entire Church under heaven, because the spirit of false prophecy received from it neither honor nor entrance into it; for the faithful in Asia met often and in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter and to examine the recent utterances, and they pronounced them profane and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons [pg 108] were expelled from the Church and shut out from the communion.

(b) Apollonius, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 18. (MSG, 20:475.)

Apollonius was possibly bishop of Ephesus. His work against the Montanists, which appears to have been written about 197, was one of the principal sources for Eusebius in his account of the Montanists. Only fragments of his work have been preserved.

This is he who taught the dissolution of marriages; who laid down laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion (which were small cities in Phrygia) Jerusalem, desiring to gather people to them from everywhere; who appointed collectors of money; who devised the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, so that by gluttony the teaching of his doctrine might prevail.

(c) Hippolytus, Refut., VIII, 19. (MSG, 16:3356.)

For Hippolytus, see § 19, c.

But there are others who are themselves in nature more heretical than the Quartodecimans. These are Phrygians by birth and they have been deceived, having been overcome by certain women called Priscilla and Maximilla; and they hold these for prophetesses, saying that in them the Paraclete Spirit dwelt; and they likewise glorify one Montanus before these women as a prophet. So, having endless books of these people, they go astray, and they neither judge their statements by reason nor pay attention to those who are able to judge. But they behave without judgment in the faith they place in them, saying they have learned something more through them than from the law and the prophets and the Gospels. But they glorify these women above the Apostles and every gift, so that some of them presume to say that there was something more in them than in Christ. These confess God the Father of the universe and creator of all things, like the Church, and all that the Gospel witnesses concerning Christ, [pg 109] but invent new fasts and feasts and meals of dry food and meals of radishes, saying that thus they were taught by their women. And some of them agree with the heresy of the Noetians and say that the Father is very Son, and that this One became subject to birth and suffering and death.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares