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Chapter I.—Heresies Hitherto Refuted; Opinions of the Docetæ.

Since the great body of (the heretics) do not employ the counsel of the Lord, by having the beam in the eye,906906    Matt. vii. 3, 4; Luke vi. 41, 42. and announce that they see when in reality labouring under blindness, it seems to us expedient in no wise to be silent concerning the tenets of these. Our object is, that by the refutation accomplished by us, the (heretics), being of themselves ashamed, may be brought to know how the Saviour has advised (men) first to take away the beam, then to behold clearly the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. Having therefore adequately and sufficiently explained the doctrines of the majority (of the heretics) in the seven books before this, we shall not now be silent as regards the (heterodox) opinions that follow (from these). We shall by this means exhibit the abundance of the grace of the Holy Spirit; and we shall refute those (who suppose) that they have acquired stedfastness of doctrine, when it is only in appearance. Now these have styled themselves Docetæ,907907    See [vol. i. p. 526] Irenæus v. 1; Theodoret, Hær.  Fab., v. 12; and [vol. ii. p. 398, and Elucidation XIV. p. 407] Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom., iii.), who informs us that Julius Cassianus—a pupil of Valentinus—was founder of the Docetic heresy. and propound the following opinions:—

(The Docetæ maintain) that God is the primal (Being), as it were a seed of a fig-tree, which is altogether very diminutive in size, but infinite in power. (This seed constitutes, according to the Docetæ,) a lowly magnitude, incalculable in multitude,908908    Miller’s text reads ταπεινὸν (lowly), but this is obviously untenable. Duncker alters it into ἄπειρον (infinite), and joins ταπεινὸν with the word following. He renders the passage thus: “but infinite in power—a lowly magnitude.” Cruice strikes out the word ταπεινὸν , and renders the passage thus: “but infinite in power, a magnitude incalculable in bulk.” The above rendering seems to convey Hippolytus’ meaning. (and) labouring under no deficiency as regards generation. (This seed is) a refuge for the terror-stricken, a shelter of the naked, a veil for modesty, (and) the sought-for produce, to which He came in search (for fruit), he says, three times,909909    Or,“ the Lord came in search of fruit” (Roeper). The reading followed in the translation agrees with the scriptural account; see Luke xiii. 7. and did not discover (any). Wherefore, he says, He cursed the fig-tree,910910    Matt. xxi. 19, 20; Mark xi. 13, 14, 20, 21. because He did not find upon it that sweet fruit—the sought-for produce. And inasmuch as the Deity is, according to them—to express myself briefly—of this description and so great, that is, small and minute, the world, as it seems to them, was made in some such manner as the following: When the branches of the fig-tree became tender, leaves budded (first), as one may (generally) see, and next in succession the fruit. Now, in this (fruit) is pre118served treasured the infinite and incalculable seed of the fig-tree. We think, therefore, (say the Docetæ,) that there are three (parts) which are primarily produced by the seed of the fig-tree, (viz.,) stem, which constitutes the fig-tree, leaves, and fruit—the fig itself, as we have previously declared. In this manner, the (Docetic) affirms, have been produced three Æons, which are principles from the primal originating cause of the universe. And Moses has not been silent on this point, when he says, that there are three words of God, “darkness, gloom, tempest, and added no more.”911911    Deut. v. 22. For the (Docetic) says, God has made no addition to the three Æons; but these, in every respect, have been sufficient for (the exigencies of) those who have been begotten and are sufficient. God Himself, however, remains with Himself, far separated from the three Æons. When each of these Æons had obtained an originating cause of generation, he grew, as has been declared, by little and little, and (by degrees) was magnified, and (ultimately) became perfect. But they think that that is perfect which is reckoned at ten. When, therefore, the Æons had become equal in number and in perfection, they were, as (the Docetæ) are of opinion, constituted thirty Æons in all, while each of them attains full perfection in a decade. And the three are mutually distinct, and hold one (degree of) honour relatively to one another, differing in position merely, because one of them is first, and the other second, and the other of these third.  Position, however, afforded them diversity of power. For he who has obtained a position nearest to the primal Deity—who is, as it were, a seed—possessed a more productive power than the rest, inasmuch as he himself who is the immeasurable one, measured himself tenfold in bulk. He, however, who in position is second to the primal Deity, has, inasmuch as he is the incomprehensible one, comprehended himself sixfold. But he who is now third in position is conveyed to an infinite distance, in consequence of the dilatation of his brethren. (And when this third Æon) had thrice realized himself in thought, he encircled himself with, as it were, some eternal chain of union.

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