§ 112. Judaism and Heathenism within the Church.


Having described in previous chapters the moral and intellectual victory of the church over avowed and consistent Judaism and heathenism, we must now look at her deep and mighty struggle with those enemies in a hidden and more dangerous form: with Judaism and heathenism concealed in the garb of Christianity and threatening to Judaize and paganize the church. The patristic theology and literature can never be thoroughly understood without a knowledge of the heresies of the patristic age, which play as important a part in the theological movements of the ancient Greek and Latin churches as Rationalism with its various types in the modern theology of the Protestant churches of Europe and America.

Judaism, with its religion and its sacred writings, and Graeco-Roman heathenism, with its secular culture, its science, and its art, were designed to pass into Christianity to be transformed and sanctified. But even in the apostolic age many Jews and Gentiles were baptized only with water, not with the Holy Spirit and fire of the gospel, and smuggled their old religious notions and practices into the church. Hence the heretical tendencies, which are combated in the New Testament, especially in the Pauline and Catholic Epistles.775

The same heresies meet us at the beginning of the second century, and thenceforth in more mature form and in greater extent in almost all parts of Christendom. They evince, on the one hand, the universal import of the Christian religion in history, and its irresistible power over all the more profound and earnest minds of the age. Christianity threw all their religious ideas into confusion and agitation. They were so struck with the truth, beauty, and vigor of the new religion, that they could no longer rest either in Judaism or in heathenism; and yet many were unable or unwilling to forsake inwardly their old religion and philosophy. Hence strange medleys of Christian and unchristian elements in chaotic ferment. The old religions did not die without a last desperate effort to save themselves by appropriating Christian ideas. And this, on the other hand, exposed the specific truth of Christianity to the greatest danger, and obliged the church to defend herself against misrepresentation, and to secure herself against relapse to the Jewish or the heathen level.

As Christianity was met at its entrance into the world by two other religions, the one relatively true, and the other essentially false, heresy appeared likewise in the two leading forms of ebionism and gnosticism, the germs of which, as already observed, attracted the notice of the apostles. The remark of Hegesippus, that the church preserved a virginal purity of doctrine to the time of Hadrian, must be understood as made only in view of the open advance of Gnosticism in the second century, and therefore as only relatively true. The very same writer expressly observes, that heresy had been already secretly working from the days of Simon Magus. Ebionism is a Judaizing, pseudo-Petrine Christianity, or, as it may equally well be called, a Christianizing Judaism; Gnosticism is a paganizing or pseudo-Pauline Christianity, or a pseudo-Christian heathenism.

These two great types of heresy are properly opposite poles. Ebionism is a particularistic contraction of the Christian religion; Gnosticism, a vague expansion of it. The one is a gross realism and literalism; the other, a fantastic idealism and spiritualism. In the former the spirit is bound in outward forms; in the latter it revels in licentious freedom. Ebionism makes salvation depend on observance of the law; Gnosticism, on speculative knowledge. Under the influence of Judaistic legalism, Christianity must stiffen and petrify; under the influence of Gnostic speculation, it must dissolve into empty notions and fancies. Ebionism denies the divinity of Christ, and sees in the gospel only a new law; Gnosticism denies the true humanity of the Redeemer, and makes his person and his work a mere phantom, a docetistic illusion.

The two extremes, however, meet; both tendencies from opposite directions reach the same result—the denial of the incarnation, of the true and abiding union of the divine and the human in Christ and his kingdom; and thus they fall together under St. John’s criterion of the antichristian spirit of error. In both Christ ceases to be mediator and reconciler and his religion makes no specific advance upon the Jewish and the heathen, which place God and man in abstract dualism, or allow them none but a transient and illusory union.

Hence, there were also some forms of error, in which Ebionistic and Gnostic elements were combined. We have a Gnostic or theosophic Ebionism the pseudo-Clementine), and a Judaizing Gnosticism (in Cerinthus and others). These mixed forms also we find combated in the apostolic age. Indeed, similar forms of religious syncretism we meet with even before the time and beyond the field of Christianity, in the Essenes, the Therapeutae, and the Platonizing Jewish philosopher, Philo.


 § 113. Nazarenes and Ebionites (Elkesaites, Mandoeans).


I. Irenaeus: Adv. Haer. I. 26. Hippolytus: Refut. omnium Haer., or Philosophumena, 1. IX. 13–17. Epiphanius: Haer. 29, 30, 53. Scattered notices in Justin M., Tertullian, Origen, Hegesippus, Eusebius, and Jerome. Several of the Apocryphal Gospels, especially that of the Hebrews. The sources are obscure and conflicting. Comp. the collection of fragments from Elxai, the Gospel of the Hebrews, etc. in Hilgenfeld’s Novum Test. extra Canonem receptum. Lips. 1866,

II. Gieseler: Nazaräer u. Ebioniten (in the fourth vol. of Stäudlin’s and Tzschirner’s "Archiv." Leipz. 1820).

Credner: Ueber Essaeer und Ebioniten und einen theitweisen Zusammenhang derselben (in Winer’s "Zeitschrift für wissensch. Theol." Sulzbach, 1829).

Baur: De Ebionitarum Origine et Doctrina ab Essaeis repetenda. Tüb. 1831.

Schliemann: Die Clementinen u. der Ebionitismus, Hamb. 1844, p. 362–552.

Ritschl: Ueber die Secte der Elkesaiten (in Niedner’s "Zeitschr. Hist. Theol." 1853, No. 4).

D. Chwolsohn: Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus. St. Petersburg, 1856,· vols.

Uhlhorn: Ebioniten and Elkesaiten, in Herzog, new ed., vol. IV. (1879), 13 sqq. and 184 sqq.

G. Salmon: Elkesai, Elkesaites, in Smith & Wace, vol. II. (1880) p. 95 98.

M. N. Siouffi: Études sur la religion des Soubbas on Sabéens, leurs dogmes, leurs möurs. Paris, 1880.

K. Kessler: Mandaeer, in Herzog, revised ed., IX. (1881), p. 205–222.

AD. Hilgenfeld: Ketzergesch. des Urchristenthums, Leip., 1884 (421 sqq.).


The Jewish Christianity, represented in the apostolic church by Peter and James, combined with the Gentile Christianity of Paul, to form a Christian church, in which "neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature in Christ."

I. A portion of the Jewish Christians, however, adhered even after the destruction of Jerusalem, to the national customs of their fathers, and propagated themselves in some churches of Syria down to the end of the fourth century, under the name of Nazarenes; a name perhaps originally given in contempt by the Jews to all Christians as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.776  They united the observance of the Mosaic ritual law with their belief in the Messiahship and divinity of Jesus, used the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, deeply mourned the unbelief of their brethren, and hoped for their future conversion in a body and for a millennial reign of Christ on the earth. But they indulged no antipathy to the apostle Paul, and never denounced the Gentile Christians and heretics for not observing the law. They were, therefore, not heretics, but stunted separatist Christians; they stopped at the obsolete position of a narrow and anxious Jewish Christianity, and shrank to an insignificant sect. Jerome says of them, that, wishing to be Jews and Christians alike, they were neither one nor the other.

II. From these Nazarenes we must carefully distinguish the heretical Jewish Christians, or the ebionites, who were more numerous. Their name comes not, as Tertullian first intimated,777 from a supposed founder of the sect, Ebion, of whom we know nothing, but from the Hebrew word, a,b]yron, poor. It may have been originally, like "Nazarene" and "Galilean," a contemptuous designation of all Christians, the majority of whom lived in needy circumstances;778 but it was afterwards confined to this sect; whether in reproach, to denote the poverty of their doctrine of Christ and of the law, as Origen more ingeniously than correctly explains it; or, more probably, in honor, since the Ebionites regarded themselves as the genuine followers of the poor Christ and his poor disciples, and applied to themselves alone the benediction on the poor in spirit. According to Epiphanius, Ebion spread his error first in the company of Christians which fled to Pella after the destruction of Jerusalem; according to Hegesippus in Eusebius, one Thebutis, after the death of the bishop Symeon of Jerusalem, about 107, made schism among the Jewish Christians, and led many of them to apostatize, because he himself was not elected to the bishopric.

We find the sect of the Ebionites in Palestine and the surrounding regions, on the island of Cyprus, in Asia Minor, and even in Rome. Though it consisted mostly of Jews, Gentile Christians also sometimes attached themselves to it. It continued into the fourth century, but at the time of Theodoret was entirely extinct. It used a Hebrew Gospel, now lost, which was probably a corruption of the Gospel of Matthew.

The characteristic marks of Ebionism in all its forms are: degradation of Christianity to the level of Judaism; the principle of the universal and perpetual validity of the Mosaic law; and enmity to the apostle Paul. But, as there were different sects in Judaism itself, we have also to distinguish at least two branches of Ebionism, related to each other as Pharisaism and Essenism, or, to use a modern illustration, as the older deistic and the speculative pantheistic rationalism in Germany, or the practical and the speculative schools in Unitarianism.

1. The common Ebionites, who were by far the more numerous, embodied the Pharisaic legalism, and were the proper successors of the Judaizers opposed in the Epistle to the Galatians. Their doctrine may be reduced to the following propositions:

(a) Jesus is, indeed, the promised Messiah, the son of David, and the supreme lawgiver, yet a mere man, like Moses and David, sprung by natural generation from Joseph and Mary. The sense of his Messianic calling first arose in him at his baptism by John, when a higher spirit joined itself to him. Hence, Origen compared this sect to the blind man in the Gospel, who called to the Lord, without seeing him: "Thou son of David, have mercy on me."

(b) Circumcision and the observance of the whole ritual law of Moses are necessary to salvation for all men.

(c) Paul is an apostate and heretic, and all his epistles are to be discarded. The sect considered him a native heathen, who came over to Judaism in later life from impure motives.

(d) Christ is soon to come again, to introduce the glorious millennial reign of the Messiah, with the earthly Jerusalem for its seat.

2. The second class of Ebionites, starting with Essenic notions, gave their Judaism a speculative or theosophic stamp, like the errorists of the Epistle to the Colossians. They form the stepping-stone to Gnosticism. Among these belong the Elkesaites.779  They arose, according to Epiphanius, in the reign of Trajan, in the regions around the Dead Sea, where the Essenes lived. Their name is derived from their supposed founder, Elxai or Elkasai, and is interpreted: "hidden power," which (according to Gieseler’s suggestion) signifies the Holy Spirit.780  This seems to have been originally the title of a book, which pretended, like the book of Mormon, to be revealed by an angel, and was held in the highest esteem by the sect. This secret writing, according to the fragments in Origen, and in the "Philosophumena" of Hippolytus, contains the groundwork of the remarkable pseudo-Clementine system.781  (See next section.)  It is evidently of Jewish origin, represents Jerusalem as the centre of the religious world, Christ as a creature and the Lord of angels and all other creatures, the Holy Spirit as a female, enjoins circumcision as well as baptism, rejects St. Paul, and justifies the denial of faith in time of persecution. It claims to date from the third year of Trajan (101). This and the requirement of circumcision would make it considerably older than the Clementine Homilies. A copy of that book was brought to Rome from Syria by a certain Alcibiades about a.d. 222, and excited attention by announcing a new method of forgiveness of sins.

3. A similar sect are the Mandaeans, from Manda, knowledge (gnw'si")also Sabians, i.e. Baptists (fromsâbi, to baptize, to wash), and Mughtasilah, which has the same meaning. On account of their great reverence for John the Baptist, they were called "Christians of John."782  Their origin is uncertain. A remnant of them still exists, in Persia on the eastern banks of the Tigris. Their sacred language is an Aramaic dialect of some importance for comparative philology.783  At present they speak Arabic and Persian. Their system is very complicated with the prevalence of the heathen element, and comes nearest to Manichaeism.784


 § 114. The Pseudo-Clementine Ebionism.


I. Sources:


1. Ta; Klhmevntia, or more accurately Klhvmento" tw'n Pevtrou ejpidhmiw'n khrugmavtwn ejpitomhv first published (without the twentieth and part of the nineteenth homily) by Cotelier in "Patres Apost." Par. 1672; Clericus in his editions of Cotelier, 1698, 1700, and 1724; again by Schwegler, Stuttg. 1847 (the text of Clericus); then first entire, with the missing portion, from a new codex in the Ottobonian Library in the Vatican, by Alb. R. M. Dressel (with the Latin trans. of Cotelier and notes), under the title: Clementis Romani quae feruntur Homiliae Viginti nunc primum integrae. Gott. 1853; and by Paul de Lagarde: Clementina Graece. Leipz. 1865.

2. Clementis Rom. Recognitiones ( jAnagnwrismoiv or  JAnagnwvsei"), in ten books, extant only in the Latin translation of Rufinus (d. 410); first published in Basel, 1526; then better by Cotelier, Gallandi, and by Gersdorf in his "Bibl. Patr. Lat." Lips. 1838. Vol. I. In Syriac, ed. by P. de Lagarde (Clementis Romani Recognitiones Syriace). Lips. 1861. An English translation of the Recognitions of Clement by Dr. Thomas Smith, in the "Ante-Nicene Christian Library," Edinburgh, vol. III. (1868), pp. 137–471. The work in the MSS. bears different titles, the most common is Itinerarium St. Clementis.

3. Clementine Epitome de Gestis Petri (Klhvm. ejpisk. JRwvmh" peri; tw'n pravxewn ejpidhmiw'n te kai; khrugmavtwn Pevtrou ejpitomhv), first at Paris, 1555; then critically edited by Cotelier, l.c.; and more completely with a second epitome by A. R. M. Dressel: Clementinorum Epitomae duae, with valuable critical annotations by Fr. Wieseler. Lips. 1859. The two Epitomes are only a summary of the Homilies.


II. Works.


Neander and Baur, in their works on Gnosticism (vid. the following section), and in their Church Histories.

Schliemann: Die Clementinen nebst den verwandten Schriften, u. der Ebionitismus. Hamb. 1844.

Ad. Hilgenfeld: Die Clementinischen Recognitionem n. Homilien nach ihrem Ursprüng n. Inhalt. Jena, 1848. Art. by the same in the "Theol. Jahrbücher" for 1854 (483 sqq.), and 1868 (357 sqq.); and Die Apost. Väter. Halle 1853, p. 287–302.

G. Uhlhorn: Die Homilien n. Recognitionem des Clemens Romanus. Gött. 1854. Comp. the same author’s article "Clementinen," in Herzog, second ed., vol. III. (1878), p. 277–286.

Ritschl: Die Entstehung der altkath. Kirche 1857 (second ed. p. 206–270).

J. Lehmann: Die Clementinischen Schriften mit besonderer Rücksicht auf ihr liter. Verhältniss. Gotha 1869. He mediates between Hilgenfeld and Uhlhorn. (See a review by Lipsius in the "Protest. Kirchenztg," 1869, 477–482, and by Lagarde in his "Symmicta," I. 1877, pp. 2–4 and 108–112, where Lehmann is charged with plagiarism).

R. A. Lipsius: Die Quellen der römischen Petrus-Sage kritish untersucht. Kiel 1872. Lipsius finds the basis of the whole Clementine literature in the strongly anti-Pauline Acta Petri.

A. B. Lutterbeck: Die Clementinen und ihr Verh. z. Unfehlbarkeitsdogma. Giessen, 1872.


The system of the pseudo-Clementine Homilies exhibits Ebionism at once in its theosophic perfection, and in its internal dissolution. It represents rather an individual opinion, than a sect, but holds probably some connection, not definitely ascertained, with the Elkesaites, who, as appears from the "Philosophumena," branched out even to Rome. It is genuinely Ebionitic or Judaistic in its monotheistic basis, its concealed antagonism to Paul, and its assertion of the essential identity of Christianity and Judaism, while it expressly rejects the Gnostic fundamental doctrine of the demiurge. It cannot, therefore, properly be classed, as it is by Baur, among the Gnostic schools.

The twenty Clementine Homilies bear the celebrated name of the Roman bishop Clement, mentioned in Phil. 4:3, as a helper of Paul, but evidently confounded in the pseudo-Clementine literature with Flavius Clement, kinsman of the Emperor Domitian. They really come from an unknown, philosophically educated author, probably a Jewish Christian, of the second half of the second century. They are a philosophico-religious romance, based on some historical traditions, which it is now impossible to separate from apocryphal accretions. The conception of Simon as a magician was furnished by the account in the eighth chapter of Acts, and his labors in Rome were mentioned by Justin Martyr. The book is prefaced by a letter of Peter to James, bishop of Jerusalem, in which he sends him his sermons, and begs him to keep them strictly secret; and by a letter of the pseudo-Clement to the same James in which he relates how Peter, shortly before his death, appointed him (Clement) his successor in Rome, and enjoined upon him to send to James a work composed at the instance of Peter, entitled "Clementis Epitome praedicationum Petri in peregrinationibus."785 By these epistles it was evidently designed to impart to the pretended extract from the itinerant sermons and disputations of Peter, the highest apostolical authority, and at the same time to explain the long concealment of them.786

The substance of the Homilies themselves is briefly this: Clement, an educated Roman, of the imperial family, not satisfied with heathenism, and thirsting for truth, goes to Judaea, having heard, under the reign of Tiberius, that Jesus had appeared there. In Caesarea he meets the apostle Peter, and being instructed and converted by him, accompanies him on his missionary journeys in Palestine, to Tyre, Tripolis, Laodicea, and Antioch. He attends upon the sermons of Peter and his long, repeated disputations with Simon Magus, and, at the request of the apostle, commits the substance of them to writing. Simon Peter is thus the proper hero of the romance, and appears throughout as the representative of pure, primitive Christianity, in opposition to Simon Magus, who is portrayed as a "man full of enmity," and a "deceiver," the author of all anti-Jewish heresies, especially of the Marcionite Gnosticism. The author was acquainted with the four canonical Gospels, and used them, Matthew most, John least; and with them another work of the same sort, probably of the Ebionitic stamp, but now unknown.787

It has been ingeniously conjectured by Baur (first in 1831), and adopted by his pupils, that the pseudo-Clementine Peter combats, under the mask of the Magician, the apostle Paul (nowhere named in the Homilies), as the first and chief corrupter of Christianity.788  This conjecture, which falls in easily with Baur’s view of the wide-spread and irreconcilable antagonism of Petrinism and Paulinism in the primitive church, derives some support from several malicious allusions to Paul, especially the collision in Antioch. Simon Magus is charged with claiming that Christ appeared to him in a vision, and called him to be an apostle, and yet teaching a doctrine contrary to Christ, hating his apostles, and denouncing Peter, the firm rock and foundation of the church, as "self-condemned."789  But this allusion is probably only an incidental sneer at Paul. The whole design of the Homilies, and the account given of the origin, history and doctrine of Simon, are inconsistent with such an identification of the heathen magician with the Christian apostle. Simon Magus is described in the Homilies790 as a Samaritan, who studied Greek in Alexandria, and denied the supremacy of God and the resurrection of the dead, substituted Mount Gerizim for Jerusalem, and declared himself the true Christ. He carried with him a companion or mistress, Helena, who descended from the highest heavens, and was the primitive essence and wisdom. If Paul had been intended, the writer would have effectually concealed and defeated his design by such and other traits, which find not the remotest parallel in the history and doctrine of Paul, but are directly opposed to the statements in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles.

In the Recognitions the anti-Pauline tendency is moderated, yet Paul’s labors are ignored, and Peter is made the apostle of the Gentiles.

The doctrine which pseudo-Clement puts into the mouth of Peter, and very skillfully interweaves with his narrative, is a confused mixture of Ebionitic and Gnostic, ethical and metaphysical ideas and fancies. He sees in Christianity only the restoration of the pure primordial religion,791 which God revealed in the creation, but which, on account of the obscuring power of sin and the seductive influence of demons, must be from time to time renewed. The representatives of this religion are the pillars of the world: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Christ. These are in reality only seven different incarnations of the same Adam or primal man, the true prophet of God, who was omniscient and infallible. What is recorded unfavorable to these holy men, the drunkenness of Noah, the polygamy of the patriarchs, the homicide of Moses, and especially the blasphemous history of the fall of Adam, as well as all unworthy anthropopathical passages concerning God, were foisted into the Old Testament by the devil and his demons. Thus, where Philo and Origen resorted to allegorical interpretation, to remove what seems offensive in Scripture, pseudo-Clement adopts the still more arbitrary hypothesis of diabolical interpolations. Among the true prophets of God, again, he gives Adam, Moses, and Christ peculiar eminence, and places Christ above all, though without raising him essentially above a prophet and lawgiver. The history of religion, therefore, is not one of progress, but only of return to the primitive revelation. Christianity and Mosaism are identical, and both coincide with the religion of Adam. Whether a man believe in Moses or in Christ, it is all the same, provided he blaspheme neither. But to know both, and find in both the same doctrine, is to be rich in God, to recognize the new as old, and the old as become new. Christianity is an advance only in its extension of the gospel to the Gentiles, and its consequent universal character.

As the fundamental principle of this pure religion, our author lays down the doctrine of one God, the creator of the world. This is thoroughly Ebionitic, and directly opposed to the dualism of the demiurgic doctrine of the Gnostics. But then he makes the whole stream of created life flow forth from God in a long succession of sexual and ethical antitheses and syzygies, and return into him as its absolute rest; here plainly touching the pantheistic emanation-theory of Gnosticism. God himself one from the beginning, has divided everything into counterparts, into right and left, heaven and earth, day and night, light and darkness, life and death. The monad thus becomes the dyad. The better came first, the worse followed; but from man onward the order was reversed. Adam, created in the image of God, is the true prophet; his wife, Eve, represents false prophecy. They were followed, first, by wicked Cain, and then by righteous Abel. So Peter appeared after Simon Magus, as light after darkness, health after sickness. So, at the last, will antichrist precede the advent of Christ. And finally, the whole present order of things loses itself in the future; the pious pass into eternal life; the ungodly, since the soul becomes mortal by the corruption of the divine image, are annihilated after suffering a punishment, which is described as a purifying fire.792  When the author speaks of eternal punishment, he merely accommodates himself to the popular notion. The fulfilling of the law, in the Ebionitic sense, and knowledge, on a half-Gnostic principle, are the two parts of the way of salvation. The former includes frequent fasts, ablutions, abstinence from animal food, and voluntary poverty; while early marriage is enjoined, to prevent licentiousness. In declaring baptism to be absolutely necessary to the forgiveness of sin, the author approaches the catholic system. He likewise adopts the catholic principle involved, that salvation is to be found only in the external church.

As regards ecclesiastical organization, he fully embraces the monarchical episcopal view. The bishop holds the place of Christ in the congregation, and has power to bind and loose. Under him stand the presbyters and deacons. But singularly, and again in true Ebionitic style, James, the brother of the Lord, bishop of Jerusalem, which is the centre of Christendom, is made the general vicar of Christ, the visible head of the whole church, the bishop of bishops. Hence even Peter must give him an account of his labors; and hence, too, according to the introductory epistles, the sermons of Peter and Clement’s abstract of them were sent to James for safe-keeping, with the statement, that Clement had been named by Peter as his successor at Rome.

It is easy to see that this appeal to a pseudo-Petrine primitive Christianity was made by the author of the Homilies with a view to reconcile all the existing differences and divisions in Christendom. In this effort he, of course, did not succeed, but rather made way for the dissolution of the Ebionitic element still existing in the orthodox catholic church.

Besides these Homilies, of which the Epitome is only a poor abridgement, there are several other works, some printed, some still unpublished, which are likewise forged upon Clement of Rome, and based upon the same historical material, with unimportant deviations, but are in great measure free, as to doctrine, from Judaistic and Gnostic ingredients, and come considerably nearer the line of orthodoxy.

The most important of these are the Recognitions of Clement, in ten books, mentioned by Origen, but now extant only in a Latin translation by Rufinus. They take their name from the narrative, in the last books, of the reunion of the scattered members of the Clementine family, who all at last find themselves together in Christianity, and are baptized by Peter.

On the question of priority between these two works, critics are divided, some making the Recognitions an orthodox, or at least more nearly orthodox, version of the Homilies;793 others regarding the Homilies as a heretical corruption of the Recognitions.794  But in all probability both works are based upon older and simpler Jewish-Christian documents, under the assumed names of Peter and Clement.795

As to their birth-place, the Homilies probably originated in East Syria, the Recognitions in Rome. They are assigned to the second half of the second century.

In a literary point of view, these productions are remarkable, as the first specimens of Christian romance, next to the "Pastor Hermae." They far surpass, in matter, and especially in moral earnestness and tender feeling, the heathen romances of a Chariton and an Achilles Tatios, of the fourth or fifth centuries. The style, though somewhat tedious, is fascinating in its way, and betrays a real artist in its combination of the didactic and historical, the philosophic and the poetic elements.




Lagarde (in the Preface to his edition of the Clementina, p. 22) and G. E. Stietz (in the lengthy review of Lagarde in the "Studien und Kritiken" for 1867, No. III p. 556 sqq), draw a parallel between the pseudo-Clementine fiction of Simon and the German story of Faust, the magician, and derive the latter from the former through the medium of the Recognitions, which were better known in the church than the homilies. George Sabellicus , about a.d. 1507, called himself Faustus junior, magus secundus. Clement’s father is called Faustus, and his two brothers, Fatistinus and Faustinianus (in the Recognitions Faustus, and Faustinus), were brought up with Simon the magician, and at first associated with him. The characters of Helena and Homunculus appear in both stories, though very differently. I doubt whether these resemblances are sufficient to establish a connection between the two otherwise widely divergent popular fictions.


 § 115. Gnosticism. The Literature.




1. Gnostic (of the Valentinian school in the wider sense): Pistis Sopitia; Opus gnosticum e codice Coptico descriptum lat. vertit M. G Schwartze, ed. J. H. Petermann. Berl. 1851. Of the middle of the third century. An account of the fall and repentance of Sophia and the mystery of redemption. Comp. the article of Köstlin in the "Tüb. Theol. Jahrbücher," 1854.—The Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypses are to a large extent of Gnostic origin, e.g. the Acts of St. Thomas (a favorite apostle of the Gnostics), John, Peter, Paul, Philip, Matthew, Andrew, Paul and Thecla. Some of them have been worked over by Catholic authors, and furnished much material to the legendary lore of the church. They and the stories of monks were the religious novels of the early church. See the collections of the apocryphal literature of the N. T. by Fabricius, Thilo, Tischendorf, Max Bonnet, D. William Wright, G. Phillips, S. C. Malan, Zahn, and especially Lipsius: Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostelligenden (Braunschweig, 1883, 2 vols.)  Comp. the Lit. quoted in vol. I. 90 sq.; 188 sq., and in Lipsius, I. 34 sqq.

II. Patristic(with many extracts from lost Gnostic writings): Irenaeus: Adv. Hareses. The principal source, especially for the Valentinian Gnosticism. Hippolytus: Refutat. Omnium Haeresium (Philosophumena), ed. Duncker and Schneidewin. Gott. 1859. Based partly on Irenaeus, partly on independent reading of Gnostic works. Tertullian: De praeescriptionibus Haereticorum; Adv. Valentin; Scorpiace; Adv. Marcionem. The last is the chief authority for Marcionism. Clemens Alex.: Stromata. Scattered notices of great value. Origenes: Com. in Evang. Joh. Furnishes much important information and extracts from Heracleon. Epiphanius: Panavrion. Full of information, but uncritical and fanatically orthodox. Eusebius: Hist. Eccl. Theodoret: Fabulae Haer.

See Fr. Oehler’s Corpus Haereseologicum (a collection of the ancient anti-heretical works of Epiphanius, Philastrus, Augustin, etc.). Berol. 1856–1861, 5 vols.

III. Neo-Platonist: Plotinus: Pro;" tou;" gnwstikouv" (or Ennead. II. 9).

IV. Critical: R. A. Lipsius: Zur Quellen-Kritik des Epiphanios. Wien 1865. Die Quellen der äItesten Ketzergeschichte. Leipz. 1875 (258 pp.)

Ad. Harnack: Zur Quellen-Kritik der Geschichte des Gnosticismus. Leipz. 1873. Comp. his article in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für K. Gesell." for 1876, I. Also Hilgenfeld: Ketzergesch. p. 1–83.




Massuet (R.C.): Dissert. de Gnosticorum rebus, prefixed to his edition of Irenaeus; also in Stieren’s edition of Iren. vol. II. pp. 54–180.

Mosheim: Comment. de rebus ante Const. M. pp. 333 sqq.

Neander: Genet. Entwicktlung der gnost. Systeme. Berl. 1818. Comp. the more mature exposition in his Ch. Hist. He first opened a calm philosophical treatment of Gnosticism.

Jaques Matter.: Histoire critique du Gnosticisme et de son influence sur les sectes religieuses el philosophiques des six premiers siècles  Par. 1828; second ed. much enlarged. Strasb. and Par. 1844, in 3 vols.

Burton: Bampton Lectures on the Heresies of the Apost. Age. Oxf. 1830,

Möhler (R.C.): Der Ursprung des Gnosticismus. Tüb. 1831 (in his "Vermischte Schriften." I. pp. 403 sqq.)

Baur: Die christliche Gnosis in ihrer geschichtl. Entwicklung. Tüb. 1835. A masterly philosophical analysis, which includes also the systems of Jacob Böhme, Schelling, Schleiermacher, and Hegel. Comp. his Kirchengesch. vol. I. 175–234.

Norton: History of the Gnostics. Boston, 1845.

H. Rossel: Gesch. der Untersuch. ueber den Gnostic.; in his "Theol. Nachlass." published by Neander. Berl. 1847, vol. 2nd, p. 179 sqq.

Thiersch: Kritik der N. Tlichen Schriften. Erl. 1845 (chap. 5, pp. 231 sqq. and 268 sqq.)

R. A. Lipsius: Der Gnosticismus, sein Wesen, Ursprung und Entwicklungsgang. Leipz. 1860 (from Ersch and Gruber’s "Allgem. Encycl." 1. Sect. vol. 71). Comp. his critical work on the sources of Gn. quoted above.

E. Wilh. Möller: Geschirhte des, Kosmologie in der griechischen Kirche bis auf Origenes. Mit specialuntersuchungen ueber die gnostischen Systeme. Halle, 1860 (pp. 189–473).

C. W. King: The Gnostics and their Remains (with illustrations of Gnostic symbols and works of art). Lond., 1864.

Henry L. Mansel (Dean of St. Paul’s, d. 1871): The Gnostic Heresies, ed. by J. B. Lightfoot. London, 1875.

J. B. Lightfoot: The Colossian Heresy, Excursus in his Com. on Colossians and Philemon. London, 187, 5, pp. 73–113. This is the best account of Gnosticism, written by an Englishman, but confined to the apostolic ige.

Renan: L’ église chrétienne (Paris, 1879), Chap. IX. and X. p. 140–185, and XVIII. p. 350–363.

J. L. Jacobi: Gnosis, in the new ed. of Herzog, vol. V. (1879), 204–247, condensed in Schaff’s "Rel. Encycl." 1882, vol. I. 877 sqq.

G. Salmon, in Smith and Wace, II. 678–687.

G. Koffmane: Die Gnosis nach ihrer Tendenz und Organisation. Breslau, 1881. (Theses, 33 pages).

Ad. Hilgenfeld:Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums. Liepzig, 1884 (162 sqq.).

A number of monographs on the individual Gnostics, see below.


 § 116. Meaning, Origin and Character of Gnosticism.


The Judaistic form of heresy was substantially conquered in the apostolic age. More important and more widely spread in the second period was the paganizing heresy, known by the name of Gnosticism. It was the Rationalism of the ancient church; it pervaded the intellectual atmosphere, and stimulated the development of catholic theology by opposition.

The Greek word gnosis may denote all schools of philosophical or religious knowledge, in distinction from superficial opinion or blind belief. The New Testament makes a plain distinction between true and false gnosis. The true consists in a deep insight into the essence and structure of the Christian truth, springs from faith, is accompanied by the cardinal virtues of love and humility, serves to edify the church, and belongs among the gifts of grace wrought by the Holy Spirit.796  In this sense, Clement of Alexandria and Origen aimed at gnosis, and all speculative theologians who endeavor to reconcile reason and revelation, may be called Christian Gnostics. The false gnosis797 on the contrary, against which Paul warns Timothy, and which he censures in the Corinthians and Colossians is a morbid pride of wisdom, an arrogant, self-conceited, ambitious knowledge, which puffs up, instead of edifying,798 runs into idle subtleties and disputes, and verifies in its course the apostle’s word: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."799

In this bad sense, the word applies to the error of which we now speak, and which began to show itself at least as early as the days of Paul and John. It is a one-sided intellectualism on a dualistic heathen basis. It rests on an over-valuation of knowledge or gnosis, and a depreciation of faith or pistis. The Gnostics contrasted themselves by this name with the Pistics, or the mass of believing Christians. They regarded Christianity as consisting essentially in a higher knowledge; fancied themselves the sole possessors of an esoteric, philosophical religion, which made them genuine, spiritual men, and looked down with contempt upon the mere men of the soul and of the body. They constituted the intellectual aristocracy, a higher caste in the church. They, moreover, adulterated Christianity with sundry elements entirely foreign, and thus quite obscured the true essence of the gospel.800

We may parallelize the true and false, the believing and unbelieving forms of Gnosticism with the two forms of modern Rationalism and modern Agnosticism. There is a Christian Rationalism which represents the doctrines of revelation as being in harmony with reason, though transcending reason in its present capacity; and there is an anti-Christian Rationalism which makes natural reason (ratio) the judge of revelation, rejects the specific doctrines of Christianity, and denies the supernatural and miraculous. And there is an Agnosticism which springs from the sense of the limitations of thought, and recognizes faith as the necessary organ of the supernatural and absolute;801 while the unbelieving Agnosticism declares the infinite and absolute to be unknown and unknowable and tends to indifferentism and atheism.802

We now proceed to trace the origin of Gnosticism.

As to its substance, Gnosticism is chiefly of heathen descent. It is a peculiar translation or transfusion of heathen philosophy and religion into Christianity. This was perceived by the church-fathers in their day. Hippolytus particularly, in his "Philosophumena" endeavors to trace the Gnostic heresies to the various systems of Greek philosophy, making Simon Magus, for example, dependent on Heraclitus, Valentine on Pythagoras and Plato, Basilides on Aristotle, Marcion on Empedocles; and hence he first exhibits the doctrines of the Greek philosophy from Thales down. Of all these systems Platonism had the greatest influence, especially on the Alexandrian Gnostics; though not so much in its original Hellenic form, as in its later orientalized eclectic and mystic cast, of which Neo-Platonism was another fruit. The Platonic speculation yielded the germs of the Gnostic doctrine of aeons, the conceptions of matter, of the antithesis of an ideal and a real world, of all ante-mundane fall of souls from the ideal world, of the origin of sin from matter, and of the needed redemption of the soul from the fetters of the body. We find also in the Gnostics traces of the Pythagorean symbolical use of numbers, the Stoic physics and ethics, and some Aristotelian elements.

But this reference to Hellenic philosophy, with which Massuet was content, is not enough. Since Beausobre and Mosheim the East has been rightly joined with Greece, as the native home of this heresy. This may be inferred from the mystic, fantastic, enigmatic form of the Gnostic speculation, and from the fact, that most of its representatives sprang from Egypt and Syria. The conquests of Alexander, the spread of the Greek language and literature, and the truths of Christianity, produced a mighty agitation in the eastern mind, which reacted on the West. Gnosticism has accordingly been regarded as more or less parallel with the heretical forms of Judaism, with Essenism, Therapeutism, Philo’s philosophico-religious system, and with the Cabbala, the origin of which probably dates as far back as the first century. The affinity of Gnosticism also with the Zoroastrian dualism of a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness is unmistakable, especially in the Syrian Gnostics. Its alliance with the pantheistic, docetic, and ascetic elements of Buddhism, which had advanced at the time of Christ to western Asia, is equally plain. Parsic and Indian influence is most evident in Manichaeism, while the Hellenic element there amounts to very little.

Gnosticism, with its syncretistic tendency, is no isolated fact. It struck its roots deep in the mighty revolution of ideas induced by the fall of the old religions and the triumph of the new. Philo, of Alexandria, who was a contemporary of Christ, but wholly ignorant of him, endeavored to combine the Jewish religion, by allegorical exposition, or rather imposition, with Platonic philosophy; and this system, according as it might be prosecuted under the Christian or the heathen influence, would prepare the way either for the speculative theology of the Alexandrian church fathers, or for the heretical Gnosis. Still more nearly akin to Gnosticism is Neo-Platonism, which arose a little later than Philo’s system, but ignored Judaism, and derived its ideas exclusively from eastern and western heathenism. The Gnostic syncretism, however, differs materially from both the Philonic and the Neo-Platonic by taking up Christianity, which the Neo-Platonists directly or indirectly opposed. This the Gnostics regarded as the highest stage of the development of religion, though they so corrupted it by the admixture of foreign matter, as to destroy its identity.

Gnosticism is, therefore, the grandest and most comprehensive form of speculative religious syncretism known to history. It consists of Oriental mysticism, Greek philosophy, Alexandrian, Philonic, and Cabbalistic Judaism, and Christian ideas of salvation, not merely mechanically compiled, but, as it were, chemically combined. At least, in its fairly developed form in the Valentinian system, it is, in its way, a wonderful structure of speculative or rather imaginative thought, and at the same time all artistic work of the creative fancy, a Christian mythological epic. The old world here rallied all its energies, to make out of its diverse elements some new thing, and to oppose to the real, substantial universalism of the catholic church an ideal, shadowy universalism of speculation. But this fusion of all systems served in the end only to hasten the dissolution of eastern and western heathenism, while the Christian element came forth purified and strengthened from the crucible.

The Gnostic speculation, like most speculative religions, failed to establish a safe basis for practical morals. On the one side, a spiritual pride obscured the sense of sin, and engendered a frivolous antinomianism, which often ended in sensuality and debaucheries. On the other side, an over-strained sense of sin often led the Gnostics, in gIaring contrast with the pagan deification of nature, to ascribe nature to the devil, to abhor the body as the seat of evil, and to practice extreme austerities upon themselves.

This ascetic feature is made prominent by Möhler, the Roman Catholic divine. But he goes quite too far, when he derives the whole phenomenon of Gnosticism (which he wrongly views as a forerunner of Protestantism) directly and immediately from Christianity. He represents it as a hyper-Christianity, an exaggerated contempt for the world,803 which, when seeking for itself a speculative basis, gathered from older philosophemes, theosophies, and mythologies, all that it could use for its purpose.

The number of the Gnostics it is impossible to ascertain. We find them in almost all portions of the ancient church; chiefly where Christianity came into close contact with Judaism and heathenism, as in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor; then in Rome, the rendezvous of all forms of truth and falsehood; in Gaul, where they were opposed by Irenaeus; and in Africa, where they were attacked by Tertullian, and afterwards by Augustin, who was himself a Manichaean for several years. They found most favor with the educated, and threatened to lead astray the teachers of the church. But they could gain no foothold among the people; indeed, as esoterics, they stood aloof from the masses; and their philosophical societies were, no doubt, rarely as large as the catholic congregations.

The flourishing period of the Gnostic schools was the second century. In the sixth century, only faint traces of them remained; yet some Gnostic and especially Manichaean ideas continue to appear in several heretical sects of the middle ages, such as the Priscillianists, the Paulicians, the Bogomiles, and the Catharists; and even the history of modern theological and philosophical speculation shows kindred tendencies.


 § 117. The System of Gnosticism. Its Theology.


Gnosticism is a heretical philosophy of religion, or, more exactly a mythological theosophy, which reflects intellectually the peculiar, fermenting state of that remarkable age of transition from the heathen to the Christian order of things. If it were merely an unintelligible congeries of puerile absurdities and impious blasphemies, as it is grotesquely portrayed by older historians,804 it would not have fascinated so many vigorous intellects and produced such a long-continued agitation in the ancient church. It is an attempt to solve some of the deepest metaphysical and theological problems. It deals with the great antitheses of God and world, spirit and matter, idea and phenomenon; and endeavors to unlock the mystery of the creation; the question of the rise, development, and end of the world; and of the origin of evil.805  It endeavors to harmonize the creation of the material world and the existence of evil with the idea of an absolute God, who is immaterial and perfectly good. This problem can only be solved by the Christian doctrine of redemption; but Gnosticism started from a false basis of dualism, which prevents a solution.

In form and method it is, as already observed, more Oriental than Grecian. The Gnostics, in their daring attempt to unfold the mysteries of an upper world, disdained the trammels of reason, and resorted to direct spiritual intuition. Hence they speculate not so much in logical and dialectic mode, as in an imaginative, semi-poetic way, and they clothe their ideas not in the simple, clear, and sober language of reflection, but in the many-colored, fantastic, mythological dress of type, symbol, and allegory. Thus monstrous nonsense and the most absurd conceits are chaotically mingIed up with profound thoughts and poetic intuitions.

This spurious supernaturalism which substitutes the irrational for the supernatural, and the prodigy for the miracle, pervades the pseudo-historical romances of the Gnostic Gospels and Acts. These surpass the Catholic traditions in luxuriant fancy and incredible marvels. "Demoniacal possessions," says one who has mastered this literature,806 "and resurrections from the dead, miracles of healing and punishment are accumulated without end; the constant repetition of similar events gives the long stories a certain monotony, which is occasionally interrupted by colloquies, hymns and prayers of genuine poetic value. A rich apparatus of visions, angelic appearances, heavenly voices, speaking animals, defeated and humbled demons is unfolded, a superterrestrial splendor of light gleams up, mysterious signs from heaven, earthquakes, thunder and lightning frighten the impious; fire, earth, wind and water obey the pious; serpents, lions, leopards, tigers, and bears are tamed by a word of the apostles and turn upon their persecutors; the dying martyrs are surrounded by coronets, roses, lilies, incense, while the abyss opens to swallow up their enemies."

The highest source of knowledge, with these heretics was a secret tradition, in contrast with the open, popular tradition of the Catholic church. In this respect, they differ from Protestant sects, which generally discard tradition altogether and appeal to the Bible only, as understood by themselves. They appealed also to apocryphal documents, which arose in the second century in great numbers, under eminent names of apostolic or pre-Christian times. Epiphanius, in his 26th Heresy, counts the apocrypha of the Gnostics by thousands, and Irenaeus found among the Valentinians alone a countless multitude of such writings.807  And finally, when it suited their purpose, the Gnostics employed single portions of the Bible, without being able to agree either as to the extent or the interpretation of the same. The Old Testament they generally rejected, either entirely, as in the case of the Marcionites and the Manichaeans, or at least in great part; and in the New Testament they preferred certain books or portions, such as the Gospel of John, with its profound spiritual intuitions, and either rejected the other books, or wrested them to suit their ideas. Marcion, for example, thus mutilated the Gospel of Luke, and received in addition to it only ten of Paul’s Epistles, thus substituting an arbitrary canon of eleven books for the catholic Testament of twenty-seven. In interpretation they adopted, even with far less moderation than Philo, the most arbitrary and extravagant allegorical principles; despising the letter as sensuous, and the laws of language and exegesis as fetters of the mind. The number 30 in the New Testament, for instance, particularly in the life of Jesus, is made to denote the number of the Valentinian aeons; and the lost sheep in the parable is Achamoth. Even to heathen authors, to the poems of Homer, Aratus, Anacreon, they applied this method, and discovered in these works the deepest Gnostic mysteries.808  They gathered from the whole field of ancient mythology, astronomy, physics, and magic, everything which could, serve in any way to support their fancies.

The common characteristics of nearly all the Gnostic systems are (1) Dualism; the assumption of an eternal antagonism between God and matter. (2) The demiurgic notion; the separation of the creator of the world or the demiurgos from the proper God. (3) Docetism; the resolution of the human element in the person of the Redeemer into mere deceptive appearance.809

We will endeavor now to present a clear and connected view of the theoretical and practical system of Gnosticism in as it comes before us in its more fully developed forms, especially the Valentinian school.

1. The Gnostic Theology. The system starts from absoIute primal being. God is the unfathomable abyss,810 locked up within himself, without beginning, unnamable, and incomprehensible; on the one hand, infinitely exalted above every existence; yet, on the other hand, the original aeon, the sum of all ideas and spiritual powers. Basilides would not ascribe even existence to him, and thus, like Hegel, starts from absolute nonentity, which, however, is identical with absolute being.811  He began where modern Agnosticism ends.

2. Kosmology. The abyss opens; God enters upon a process of development, and sends forth from his bosom the several aeons; that is, the attributes and unfolded powers of his nature, the ideas of the eternal spirit-world, such as mind, reason, wisdom, power, truth, life.812  These emanate from the absolute in a certain order, according to Valentine in pairs with sexual polarity. The further they go from the great source, the poorer and weaker they become. Besides the notion of emanation,813 the Gnostics employed also, to illustrate the self-revelation of the absolute, the figure of the evolution of numbers from an original unit, or of utterance in tones gradually diminishing to the faint echo.814  The cause of the procession of the aeons is, with some, as with Valentine, the self-limiting love of God; with others, metaphysical necessity. The whole body of aeons forms the ideal world, or light-world, or spiritual foulness, the Pleroma, as opposed to the Kenoma, or the material world of emptiness. The one is the totality of the divine powers and attributes, the other the region of shadow and darkness. Christ belongs to the Pleroma, as the chief of the aeons; the Demiurge or Creator belongs to the Kenoma. In opposition to the incipient form of this heresy, St. Paul taught that Jesus Christ is the whole pleroma of the Godhead (Col. 1:19; 2:9), and the church the reflected pleroma of Christ (Eph. 1:22).

The material visible world is the abode of the principle of evil. This cannot proceed from God; else he were himself the author of evil. It must come from an opposite principle. This is Matter (u{lh), which stands in eternal opposition to God and the ideal world. The Syrian Gnostics, and still more the Manichaeans, agreed with Parsism in conceiving Matter as an intrinsically evil substance, the raging kingdom of Satan, at irreconcilable warfare with the kingdom of light. The Alexandrian Gnostics followed more the Platonic idea of the u{lh and conceived this as kevnwma, emptiness, in contrast with plhvrwma, the divine, vital fulness, or as the mh; o[n, related to the divine being as shadow to light, and forming the dark limit beyond which the mind cannot pass. This Matter is in itself dead, but becomes animated by a union with the Pleroma, which again is variously described. In the Manichaean system there are powers of darkness, which seize by force some parts of the kingdom of light. But usually the union is made to proceed from above. The last link in the chain of divine aeons, either too weak to keep its hold on the ideal world, or seized with a sinful passion for the embrace of the infinite abyss, falls as a spark of light into the dark chaos of matter, and imparts to it a germ of divine life, but in this bondage feels a painful longing after redemption, with which the whole world of aeons sympathizes. This weakest aeon is called by Valentine the lower Wisdom, or Achamoth,815 and marks the extreme point, where spirit must surrender itself to matter, where the infinite must enter into the finite, and thus form a basis for the real world. The myth of Achamoth is grounded in the thought, that the finite is incompatible with the absolute, yet in some sense demands it to account for itself.

Here now comes in the third principle of the Gnostic speculation, namely, the world-maker, commonly called the Demiurge,816 termed by Basilides "Archon" or world-ruler, by the Ophites. "Jaldabaoth," or son of chaos. He is a creature of the fallen aeon, formed of physical material, and thus standing between God and Matter. He makes out of Matter the visible sensible world, and rules over it. He has his throne in the planetary heavens, and presides over time and over the sidereal spirits. Astrological influences were generally ascribed to him. He is the God of Judaism, the Jehovah, who imagines himself to be the supreme and only God. But in the further development of this idea the systems differ; the anti-Jewish Gnostics, Marcion and the Ophites, represent the Demiurge as an insolent being, resisting the purposes of God; while the Judaizing Gnostics, Basilides and Valentine, make him a restricted, unconscious instrument of God to prepare the way for redemption.

3. Christology and Soteriology. Redemption itself is the liberation of the light-spirit from the chains of dark Matter, and is effected by Christ, the most perfect aeon, who is the mediator of return from the sensible phenomenal world to the supersensuous ideal world, just as the Demiurge is the mediator of apostacy from the Pleroma to the Kenoma. This redeeming aeon, called by Valentine swthvr or  jIhsou'" descends through the sphere of heaven, and assumes the ethereal appearance of a body; according to another view, unites himself with the man Jesus, or with the Jewish Messiah, at the baptism, and forsakes him again at the passion. At all events, the redeemer, however conceived in other respects, is allowed no actual contact with sinful matter. His human birth, his sufferings and death, are explained by Gnosticism after the manner of the Indian mythology, as a deceptive appearance, a transient vision, a spectral form, which he assumed only to reveal himself to the sensuous nature of man. Reduced to a clear philosophical definition, the Gnostic Christ is really nothing more than the ideal spirit of himself, as in the mythical gospel-theory of Strauss. The Holy Ghost is commonly conceived as a subordinate aeon. The central fact in the work of Christ is the communication of the Gnosis to a small circle of the initiated, prompting and enabling them to strive with clear consciousness after the ideal world and the original unity. According to Valentine, the heavenly Soter brings Achamoth after innumerable sufferings into the Pleroma, and unites himself with her—the most glorious aeon with the Iowest—in an eternal spirit-marriage. With this, all disturbance in the heaven of aeons is allayed, and a blessed harmony and inexpressible delight are restored, in which all spiritual (pneumatic) men, or genuine Gnostics, share. Matter is at last entirely consumed by a fire breaking out from its dark bosom.

4. The Anthropology of the Gnostics corresponds with their theology. Man is a microcosm consisting of spirit, body, and soul reflecting the three principles, God, Matter, and Demiurge, though in very different degrees. There are three classes of men: the spiritual,817 in whom the divine element, a spark of light from the ideal world, predominates; the material,818 bodily, carnal, physical, in whom matter, the gross sensuous principle, rules; and the psychical,819 in whom the demiurgic, quasi-divine rules; principle, the mean between the two preceding, prevails.

These three classes are frequently identified with the adherents of the three religions respectively; the spiritual with the Christians, the carnal with the heathens, the psychical with the Jews. But they also made the same distinction among the professors of any one religion, particularly among the Christians; and they regarded themselves as the genuine spiritual men in the full sense of the word; while they looked upon the great mass of Christians820 as only psychical, not able to rise from blind faith to true knowledge, too weak for the good, and too tender for the evil, longing for the divine, yet unable to attain it, and thus hovering between the Pleroma of the ideal world and the Kenoma of the sensual.

Ingenious as this thought is, it is just the basis of that unchristian distinction of esoteric and exoteric religion, and that pride of knowledge, in which Gnosticism runs directly counter to the Christian virtues of humility and love.


 § 118. Ethics of Gnosticism.


All the Gnostic heretics agree in disparaging the divinely created body, and over-rating the intellect. Beyond this, we perceive among them two opposite tendencies: a gloomy asceticism, and a frivolous antinomianism; both grounded in the dualistic principle, which falsely ascribes evil to matter, and traces nature to the devil. The two extremes frequently met, and the Nicolaitan maxim in regard to the abuse of the flesh821 was made to serve asceticism first, and then libertinism.

The ascetic Gnostics, like Marcion, Saturninus, Tatian, and the Manichaeans were pessimists. They felt uncomfortable in the sensuous and perishing world, ruled by the Demiurge, and by Satan; they abhorred the body as formed from Matter, and forbade the use of certain kinds of food and all nuptial intercourse, as an adulteration of themselves with sinful Matter; like the Essenes and the errorists noticed by Paul in the Colossians and Pastoral Epistles. They thus confounded sin with matter, and vainly imagined that, matter being dropped, sin, its accident, would fall with it. Instead of hating sin only, which God has not made, they hated the world, which he has made.

The licentious Gnostics, as the Nicolaitans, the Ophites, the Carpocratians, and the Antitactes, in a proud conceit of the exaltation of the spirit above matter, or even on the diabolical principle, that sensuality must be overcome by indulging it, bade defiance to all moral laws, and gave themselves up to the most shameless licentiousness. It is no great thing, said they, according to Clement of Alexandria, to restrain lust; but it is surely a great thing not to be conquered by Iust, when one indulges in it. According to Epiphanius there were Gnostic sects in Egypt, which, starting from a filthy, materialistic pantheism and identifying Christ with the generative powers of nature, practised debauchery as a mode of worship, and after having, as they thought, offered and collected all their strength, blasphemously exclaimed: "I am Christ." From these pools of sensuality and Satanic pride arose the malaria of a vast literature, of which, however, fortunately, nothing more than a few names has come down to us.


 § 119. Cultus and Organization.


In cultus, the Gnostic docetism and hyper-spiritualism led consistently to naked intellectual simplicity; sometimes to the rejection of all sacraments and outward means of grace; if not even, as in the Prodicians, to blasphemous self-exaltation above all that is called God and worshiped.822

But with this came also the opposite extreme of a symbolic and mystic pomp, especially in the sect of the Marcosians. These Marcosians held to a two-fold baptism, that applied to the human Jesus, the Messiah of the psychical, and that administered to the heavenly Christ, the Messiah of the spiritual; they decorated the baptistery like a banquet-hall; and they first introduced extreme unction. As early as the second century the Basilideans celebrated the feast of Epiphany. The Simonians and Carpocratians used images of Christ and of their religious heroes in their worship. The Valentinians and Ophites sang in hymns the deep longing of Achamoth for redemption from the bonds of Matter. Bardesanes is known as the first Syrian hymn-writer. Many Gnostics, following their patriarch, Simon, gave themselves to magic, and introduced their arts into their worship; as the Marcosians did in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Of the outward organization of the Gnostics (with the exception of the Manichaeans, who will be treated separately), we can say little. Their aim was to resolve Christianity into a magnificent speculation; the practical business of organization was foreign to their exclusively intellectual bent. Tertullian charges them with an entire want of order and discipline.823  They formed, not so much a sect or party, as a multitude of philosophical schools, like the modern Rationalists. Many were unwilling to separate at all from the Catholic church, but assumed in it, as theosophists, the highest spiritual rank. Some were even clothed with ecclesiastical office, as we must no doubt infer from the Apostolic Canons (51 or 50), where it is said, with evident reference to the gloomy, perverse asceticism of the Gnostics: "If a bishop, a priest, or a deacon, or any ecclesiastic abstain from marriage, from flesh, or from wine, not for practice in self-denial, but from disgust,824 forgetting that God made everything very good, that he made also the male and the female, in fact, even blaspheming the creation;825 he shall either retract his error, or be deposed and cast out of the church. A layman also shall be treated in like manner." Here we perceive the polemical attitude which the Catholic church was compelled to assume even towards the better Gnostics.


 § 120. Schools of Gnosticism.


The arbitrary and unbalanced subjectivity of the Gnostic speculation naturally produced a multitude of schools. These Gnostic schools have been variously classified.

Geographically they may be reduced to two great families, the Egyptian or Alexandrian, and the Syrian, which are also intrinsically different. In the former (Basilides, Valentine, the Ophites), Platonism and the emanation theory prevail, in the latter (Saturninus, Bardesanes, Tatian), Parsism and dualism. Then, distinct in many respects from both these is the more practical school of Marcion, who sprang neither from Egypt nor from Syria, but from Asia Minor, where St. Paul had left the strong imprint of his free gospel in opposition to Jewish legalism and bondage.

Examined further, with reference to its doctrinal character, Gnosticism appears in three forms, distinguished by the preponderance of the heathen, the Jewish, and the Christian elements respectively in its syncretism. The Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Prodicians, Antitactes, and Manichaeans belong to a paganizing class; Cerinthus, Basilides, Valentine, and Justin (as also the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, though these are more properly Ebionitic), to a Judaizing; Saturninus, Marcion, Tatian, and the Encratites, to a Christianizing division. But it must be remembered here that this distinction is only relative; all the Gnostic systems being, in fact, predominantly heathen in their character, and essentially opposed alike to the pure Judaism of the Old Testament and to the Christianity of the New. The Judaism of the so-called Judaizing Gnostics is only of an apocryphal sort, whether of the Alexandrian or the Cabalistic tinge.826

The ethical point of view, from which the division might as well be made, would give likewise three main branches: the speculative or theosophic Gnostics (Basilides, Valentine), the practical and ascetic (Marcion, Saturninus, Tatian), and the antinomian and libertine (Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Antitactes).

Having thus presented the general character of Gnosticism, and pointed out its main branches, we shall follow chiefly the chronological order in describing the several schools, beginning with those which date from the age of the apostles.


 § 121. Simon Magus and the Simonians.


I. Commentaries on Acts 8:9–24. Justin Martyr: Apol. I. 26 and 56. The pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions. Irenaeus, I. 23. Hippolytus, VI. 2–15, etc.

II. Simson: Leben und Lehre Simon des Magiers, in the "Zeitschrift für hist. Theologie" for 1841.

Hilgenfeld: Der Magier Simon, in the "Zeischrift für wissenschaftl. Theologie" for 1868.

Lipsius: Simon d. Mag. in Schenkel’s "Bibel-Lexikon," vol. V. (1875), p. 301–321. Comp. the literature quoted there, p. 320.


Simon Magus is a historical character known to us from the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.827  He was probably a native of Gitthon, in Samaria, as Justin Martyr, himself a Samaritan, reports;828 but he may nevertheless be identical with the contemporaneous Jewish magician of the same name, whom Josephus mentions as a native of Cyprus and as a friend of Procurator Felix, who employed him to alienate Drusilla, the beautiful wife of king Azizus of Emesa, in Syria, from her husband, that he might marry her.829

Simon represented himself as a sort of emanation of the deity ("the Great Power of God"),830 made a great noise among the half-pagan, half-Jewish Samaritans by his sorceries, was baptized by Philip about the year 40, but terribly rebuked by Peter for hypocrisy and abuse of holy things to sordid ends.831  He thus affords the first instance in church history of a confused syncretism in union with magical arts; and so far as this goes, the church fathers are right in styling him the patriarch, or, in the words of Irenaeus, the "magister "and "progenitor" of all heretics, and of the Gnostics in particular. Besides him, two other contemporaneous Samaritans, Dositheus and Menander, bore the reputation of heresiarchs. Samaria was a fertile soil of religious syncretism even before Christ, and the natural birth-place of that syncretistic heresy which goes by the name of Gnosticism.

The wandering life and teaching of Simon were fabulously garnished in the second and third centuries by Catho-lics and heretics, but especially by the latter in the interest of Ebionism and with bitter hostility to Paul. In the pseudo-Clementine romances he represents all anti-Jewish heresies. Simon the Magician is contrasted, as the apostle of falsehood, with Simon Peter, the apostle of truth; he follows him, as darkness follows the light, from city to city, in company with Helena (who had previously been a prostitute at Tyre, but was now elevated to the dignity of divine intelligence); he is refuted by Peter in public disputations at Caesarea, Antioch, and Rome; at last he is ignominiously defeated by him after a mock-resurrection and mock-ascension before the Emperor Nero; he ends with suicide, while Peter gains the crown of martyrdom.832  There is a bare possibility that, like other heretics and founders of sects, he may have repaired to Rome (before Peter); but Justin Martyr’s account of the statue of Simon is certainly a mistake.833

The Gnosticism which Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and other fathers ascribe to this Simon and his followers is crude, and belongs to the earlier phase of this heresy. It was embodied in a work entitled "The Great Announcement" or "Proclamation"834 of which Hippolytus gives an analysis.835  The chief ideas are the "great power," "the great idea," the male and female principle. He declared himself an incarnation of the creative world-spirit, and his female companion, Helena, the incarnation of the receptive world-soul. Here we have the Gnostic conception of the syzygy.

The sect of the Simonians, which continued into the third century, took its name, if not its rise, from Simon Magus, worshipped him as a redeeming genius, chose, like the Cainites, the most infamous characters of the Old Testament for its heroes, and was immoral in its principles and practices. The name, however, is used in a very indefinite sense, for various sorts of Gnostics.


 § 122. The Nicolaitans.


Irenaeus: Adv. Haer. I. 26, 3; Clement Of Alex.: Strom. III. 4 (and in Euseb. H. E. III. 29); Hippolytus: Philos. VII. 24; Epiphanius: Haer. I. 2, 25.


The Nicolaitans are mentioned as a licentious sect in the Apocalypse 2:6, 15. They claimed as their founder Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch and one of the seven deacons of the congregation of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). He is supposed to have apostatized from the true faith, and taught the dangerous principle that the flesh must be abused,836 that is, at least as understood by his disciples, one must make the whole round of sensuality, to become its perfect master.

But the views of the fathers are conflicting. Irenaeus (who is followed substantially by Hippolytus) gives a very unfavorable account.

"The Nicolaitanes," he says, "are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, where they are represented as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: ’But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.’ "

Clement of Alexandria says that Nicolas was a faithful husband, and brought up his children in purity, but that his disciples misunderstood his saying (which he attributes also to the Apostle Matthias), "that we must fight against the flesh and abuse it."837


 § 123. Cerinthus.


Iren. I. (25) 26, § 1; III. 3,§ 4; III. 11, § 1; Hippol. VII. 21; Euseb. III. 28; IV. 14. Comp. Dorner: Lehre v. der Person Christi, I. 314 sq. Art. Cerinth in "Smith and Wace," I. 447.


Cerinthus838 appeared towards the close of the first century in Asia Minor, and came in conflict with the aged Apostle John, who is supposed by Irenaeus to have opposed his Gnostic ideas in the Gospel and Epistles. The story that John left a public bath when he saw Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, fearing that the bath might fall in, and the similar story of Polycarp meeting Marcion and calling him "the first born of Satan," reveal the intense abhorrence with which the orthodox churchmen of those days looked upon heresy.839

Cerinthus was (according to the uncertain traditions collected by Epiphanius) an Egyptian and a Jew either by birth or conversion, studied in the school of Philo in Alexandria, was one of the false apostles who opposed Paul and demanded circumcision (Gal. 2:4; 2 Cor. 11:13), claimed to have received angelic revelations, travelled through Palestine and Galatia, and once came to Ephesus. The time of his death is unknown.

 His views, as far as they can be ascertained from confused accounts, assign him a position between Judaism and Gnosticism proper. He rejected all the Gospels except a mutilated Matthew, taught the validity of the Mosaic law and the millennial kingdom. He was so far strongly Judaistic, and may be counted among the Ebionites; but in true Gnostic style he distinguished the world-maker from God, and represented the former as a subordinate power, as an intermediate, though not exactly hostile, being. In his Christology he separates the earthly man Jesus, who was a son of Joseph and Mary, from the heavenly Christ,840 who descended upon the man Jesus in the form of a dove at the baptism in the Jordan, imparted to him the genuine knowledge of God and the power of miracles, but forsook him in the passion, to rejoin him only at the coming of the Messianic kingdom of glory. The school of Valentine made more clearly the same distinction between the Jesus of the Jesus and the divine Saviour, or the lower and the higher Christ—a crude anticipation of the modern distinction (of Strauss) between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith. The millennium has its centre in Jerusalem, and will be followed by the restoration of all things.841

The Alogi, an obscure anti-trinitarian and anti-chiliastic sect of the second century, regarded Cerinthus as the author of the Apocalypse of John on account of the chiliasm taught in it. They ascribed to him also the fourth Gospel, although it is the best possible refutation of all false Gnosticism from the highest experimental Gnosis of faith.

Simon Magus, the Nicolaitans and Cerinthus belong to the second half of the first century. We now proceed to the more developed systems of Gnosticism, which belong to the first half of the second century, and continued to flourish till the middle of the third.

The most important and influential of these systems bear the names of Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion. They deserve, therefore, a fuller consideration. They were nearly contemporaneous, and matured during the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. Basilides flourished in Alexandria a.d. 125; Valentine came to Rome in 140; Marcion taught in Rome between 140 and 150.


 § 124. Basilides.


Besides the sources in Irenaeus, Hippolytus (L. VII. 20–27), Clemens Alex. (Strom. VII.), Eusebius (IV. 7), and Epiphanius, comp. the following monographs:

Jacobi: Basilidis philosophi Gnostici Sentent. ex Hippolyti lib. nuper reperto illustr. Berlin, 1852. Comp. his article Gnosis in Herzog, vol. V. 219–223, and in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch." for 1876–77 (I. 481–544).

Uhlhorn: Das Basilidianische System. Göttingen, 1855. The best analysis.

Baur in the Tübinger "Theol. Jahrbücher" for 1856, pp. 121–162.

Hofstede de Groot: Basilides as witness for the Gospel of John, in Dutch, and in an enlarged form in German. Leipz. 1868. Apologetic for the genuineness of the fourth Gospel.

Dr. Hort in Smith and Wace, "Dictionary of Christian Biography (Lond. 1877). I. 268–281 (comp." Abrasax," p. 9–10). Very able.

Hilgenfeld, in his "Zeitschrift für wissensch. Theol." 1878, XXI. 228–250, and the Lit. there given.


Basilides (Basileivdh") produced the first well-developed system of Gnosis; but it was too metaphysical and intricate to be popular. He claimed to be a disciple of the apostle Matthias and of an interpreter (eJrmhvneuv") of St. Peter, named Glaucias. He taught in Alexandria during the reign of Hadrian (A. D. 117–138). His early youth fell in the second generation of Christians, and this gives his quotations from the writings of the New Testament considerable apologetic value. He wrote (according to his opponent, Agrippa Castor) "twenty-four books (bibliva) on the Gospel." This work was probably a commentary on the canonical Gospels, for Clement of Alexandria quotes from "the thirty-third book" of a work of Basilides which he calls Exegetica."842

His doctrine is very peculiar, especially according to the extended and original exhibition of it in the "Philosophumena." Hippolytus deviates in many respects from the statements of Irenaeus and Epiphanius, but derived his information probably from the works of Basilides himself, and he therefore must be chiefly followed.843  The system is based on the Egyptian astronomy and the Pythagorean numerical symbolism. It betrays also the influence of Aristotle; but Platonism, the emanation-theory, and dualism do not appear.

Basilides is monotheistic rather than dualistic in his primary idea, and so far differs from the other Gnostics, though later accounts make him a dualist. He starts from the most abstract notion of the absolute, to which he denies even existence, thinking of it as infinitely above all that can be imagined and conceived.844  This ineffable and unnamable God,845 not only super-existent, but non-existent,846 first forms by his creative word (not by emanation) the world-seed or world-embryo,847 that is, chaos, from which the world develops itself according to arithmetical relations, in an unbroken order, like the branches and leaves of the tree from the mustard seed, or like the many-colored peacock from the egg. Everything created tends upwards towards God, who, himself unmoved, moves all,848 and by the charm of surpassing beauty attracts all to himself.

In the world-seed Basilides distinguishes three kinds of sonship,849 of the same essence with the non-existent God, but growing weaker in the more remote gradations; or three races of children of God, a pneumatic, a psychic, and a hylic. The first sonship liberates itself immediately from the world-seed, rises with the lightning-speed of thought to God, and remains there as the blessed spirit-world, the Pleroma. It embraces the seven highest genii,850 which, in union with the great Father, form the first ogdoad, the type of all the lower circles of creation. The second sonship, with the help of the Holy Spirit, whom it produces, and who bears it up, as the wing bears the bird, strives to follow the first,851 but can only attain the impenetrable firmament,852 that is the limit of the Pleroma, and could endure the higher region no more than the fish the mountain air. The third sonship, finally, remains fixed in the world-seed, and in need of purification and redemption.

Next Basilides makes two archons or world-rulers (demiurges) issue from the world-seed. The first or great archon, whose greatness and beauty and power cannot be uttered, creates the ethereal world or the upper heaven, the ogdoad, as it is called; the second is the maker and ruler of the lower planetary heaven below the moon, the hebdomad. Basilides supposed in all three hundred and sixty-five heavens or circles of creation,853 corresponding to the days of the year, and designated them by the mystic name Abrasax, or Abraxas,854 which, according to the numerical value of the Greek letters, is equal to 365.855 This name also denotes the great archon or ruler of the 365 heavens. It afterwards came to be used as a magical formula, with all sorts of strange figures, the "Abraxas gems," of which many are still extant.

Each of the two archons, however, according to a higher ordinance, begets a son, who towers far above his father, communicates to him the knowledge received from the Holy Spirit, concerning the upper spirit-world and the plan of redemption, and leads him to repentance. With this begins the process of the redemption or return of the sighing children of God, that is, the pneumatics, to the supra-mundane God. This is effected by Christianity, and ends with the consummation, or apokatastasis of all things. Like Valentine, Basilides also properly held a threefold Christ—the son of the first archon, the son of the second archon, and the son of Mary. But all these are at bottom the same principle, which reclaims the spiritual natures from the world-seed to the original unity. The passion of Christ was necessary to remove the corporeal and psychical elements, which he brought with him from the primitive medley and confusion (suvgcusi" ajrcikhv). His body returned, after death, into shapelessness (ajmorfiva); his soul rose from the grave, and stopped in the hebdomad, or planetary heaven, where it belongs; but his spirit soared, perfectly purified, above all the spheres of creation, to the blessed first sonship (uiJovth") and the fellowship of the non-existent or hyper-existent God.

In the same way with Jesus, the first-fruits, all other pneumatic persons must rise purified to the place where they by nature belong, and abide there. For all that continues in its place is imperishable; but all that transgresses its natural limits is perishable. Basilides quotes the passage of Paul concerning the groaning and travailing of the creation expecting the revelation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19). In the process of redemption he conceded to faith (pistis) more importance than most of the Gnostics, and his definition of faith was vaguely derived from Hebrews 11:1.

In his moral teaching Basilides inculcated a moderate asceticism, from which, however, his school soon departed. He used some of Paul’s Epistles and the canonical Gospels; quoting for example, John 1:9 ("The true light, which enlightens every man, was coming into the world"), to identify his idea of the world seed with John’s doctrine of the Logos is the light of the world.856  The fourth Gospel was much used and commented upon also by the Ophites, Perates, and Valentinians before the middle of the second century. The Gnostics were alternately attracted by the mystic Gnosis of that Gospel (especially the Prologue), and repelled by its historic realism, and tried to make the best use of it. They acknowledged it, because they could not help it. The other authorities of Basilides were chiefly the secret tradition of the apostle Matthias, and of a pretended interpreter of Peter, by the name of Glaucias.

His son Isidore was the chief, we may say the only important one, of his disciples. He composed a system of ethics and other books, from which Clement of Alexandria has preserved a few extracts. The Basilidians, especially in the West, seem to have been dualistic and docetic in theory, and loose, even dissolute in practice. They corrupted and vulgarized the high-pitched and artificial system of the founder. The whole life of Christ was to them a mere sham. It was Simon of Cyrene who was crucified; Jesus exchanged forms with him on the way, and, standing unseen opposite in Simon’s form, mocked those who crucified him, and then ascended to heaven. They held it prudent to repudiate Christianity in times of persecution, regarding the noble confession of martyrs as costing dearly before swine, and practiced various sorts of magic, in which the Abraxas gems did them service. The spurious Basilidian sect maintained itself in Egypt till the end of the fourth century, but does not seem to have spread beyond, except that Marcus, a native of Memphis, is reported by Sulpicius Severus to have brought some of its doctrines to Spain.


 § 125. Valentinus.


I. The sources are: 1) Fragments Of Valentinus; Ptolomey’s Epistola ad Floram; and exegetical fragments of Heracleon. 2) The patristic accounts and refutations of Irenaeus (I. 1–21 and throughout his whole work); Hippolytus (VI. 29–37); Tertullian (Adv. Valentinianos); Epiphanius, (Haer. XXXI; in Oehler’s ed. I. 305–386). The last two depend chiefly upon Irenaeus. See on the sources Lipsius and Heinrici (p. 5–148).

II. Ren. Massuet: Dissert. de Haereticis, Art. I. De Valentino, in his ed. of Irenaeus, and in Stieren’s ed. Tom. II. p. 54–134. Very learned and thorough.

George Heinrici: Die Valentinianische Gnosis und die heilige Schrift. Berlin, 1871 (192 pages).

Comp. Neander (whose account is very good, but lacks the additional information furnished by Hippolytus); Rossel, Theol. Schriften (Berlin, (1847), p. 280 sqq.; Baur, K. Gesch. I. 195–204; and Jacobi, in Herzog2, vol. V. 225–229.


Valentinus or Valentine857 is the author of the most profound and luxuriant, as well as the most influential and best known of the Gnostic systems. Irenaeus directed his work chiefly against it, and we have made it the basis of our general description of Gnosticism.858  He founded a large school, and spread his doctrines in the West. He claimed to have derived them from Theodas or Theudas, a pupil of St. Paul.859  He also pretended to have received revelations from the Logos in a vision. Hippolytus calls him a Platonist and Pythagorean rather than a Christian. He was probably of Egyptian Jewish descent and Alexandrian education.860  Tertullian reports, perhaps from his own conjecture, that he broke with the orthodox church from disappointed ambition, not being made a bishop.861  Valentine came to Rome as a public teacher during the pontificate of Hyginus (137–142), and remained there till the pontificate of Anicetus (154).862  He was then already celebrated; for Justin Martyr, in his lost "Syntagma against all Heresies," which he mentions in his "First Apology" (140), combated the Valentinians among other heretics before a.d. 140. At that time Rome had become the centre of the church and the gathering place of all sects. Every teacher who wished to exercise a general influence on Christendom naturally looked to the metropolis. Valentine was one of the first Gnostics who taught in Rome, about the same time with Cerdo and Marcion; but though he made a considerable impression by his genius and eloquence, the orthodoxy of the church and the episcopal authority were too firmly settled to allow of any great success for his vagaries. He was excommunicated, and went to Cyprus, where he died about a.d. 160.

His system is an ingenious theogonic and cosmogonic epos. It describes in three acts the creation, the fall, and the redemption; first in heaven, then on earth. Great events repeat themselves in different stages of being. He derived his material from his own fertile imagination, from Oriental and Greek speculations, and from Christian ideas. He made much use of the Prologue of John’s Gospel and the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians; but by a wild exegesis he put his own pantheistic and mythological fancies into the apostolic words, such as Logos, Only Begotten, Truth, Life, Pleroma, Ecclesia.

Valentine starts from the eternal primal Being, which he significantly calls Bythos or Abyss.863  It is the fathomless depth in which the thinking mind is lost, the ultimate boundary beyond which it cannot pass. The Bythos is unbegotten, infinite, invisible, incomprehensible, nameless, the absolute agnoston; yet capable of evolution and development, the universal Father of all beings. He continues for immeasurable ages in silent contemplation of his own boundless grandeur, glory, and beauty. This "Silence" or "Solitude" (hJ sighv) is his Spouse or suvzugo". It is the silent self-contemplation, the slumbering consciousness of the Infinite. He also calls it "Thought" (e[nnoia), and "Grace" (cariv").864  The pre-mundane Bythos includes, therefore, at least according to some members of the school, the female as well as the male principle; for from the male principle alone nothing could spring. According to Hippolytus, Valentine derived this sexual duality from the essential nature of love, and said: "God is all love; but love is not love except there is some object of affection."865  He grappled here with a pre-mundane mystery, which the Orthodox theology endeavors to solve by the doctrine of the immanent eternal trinity in the divine essence: God is love, therefore God is triune: a loving subject, a beloved object, and a union of the two. "Ubi amor, ibi trinitas."

After this eternal silence, God enters upon a process of evolution or emanation, i.e. a succession of generations of antithetic and yet supplementary ideas or principles. From the Abyss emanate thirty aeons in fifteen pairs,866 according to the law of sexual polarity, in three generations, the first called the ogdoad, the second the decad, the third the dodecad. The Aeons are the unfolded powers and attributes of the divinity. They correspond to the dynameis in the system of Basilides. God begets first the masculine, productive Mind or Reason (oJ nou'"),867 with the feminine, receptive Truth (hJ ajlhvqeia); these two produce the Word (oJ lovgo") and the Life (hJ zwhv), and these again the (ideal) Man (oJ a[nqrwpo") and the (ideal) Church (hJ ejkklhsiva). The influence of the fourth Gospel is unmistakable here, though of course the terminology of John is used in a sense different from that of its author. The first two syzygies constitute the sacred Tetraktys, the root of all things.868  The Nous and the Aletheia produce ten aeons (five pairs); the Logos and the Zoë, twelve aeons (six pairs). At last the Nous or Monogenes and the Aletheia bring forth the heavenly Christ (oJ a[vnw Cristov") and the (female) Holy Spirit (to; pneu'ma a{gion), and therewith complete the number thirty. These aeons constitute together the Pleroma, the plenitude of divine powers, an expression which St. Paul applied to the historical Christ (Col. 2:9). They all partake in substance of the life of the Abyss; but their form is conditioned by the Horos (o{ro"), the limiting power of God. This genius of limitation stands between the Pleroma and the Hysterema outside, and is the organizing power of the universe, and secures harmony.869  If any being dares to transcend its fixed boundaries and to penetrate beyond revelation into the hidden being of God, it is in danger of sinking into nothing. Two actions are ascribed to the Horos, a negative by which he limits every being and sunders from it foreign elements, and the positive by which he forms and establishes it.870  The former action is emphatically called Horos, the latter is called Stauros (cross, post), because he stands firm and immovable, the guardian of the Aeons, so that nothing can come from the Hysterema into the neighborhood of the aeons in the Pleroma.

The process of the fall and redemption takes place first in the ideal world of the Pleroma, and is then repeated in the lower world. In this process the lower Wisdom or Sophia, also called Achamoth or Chakmuth plays an important part.871  She is the mundane soul, a female aeon, the weakest and most remote member of the series of aeons (in number the twenty-eighth), and forms, so to speak, the bridge which spans the abyss between God and the real world. Feeling her loneliness and estrangement from the great Father, she wishes to unite herself immediately, without regard to the intervening links, with him who is the originating principle of the universe, and alone has the power of self-generation. She jumps, as it were by a single bound, into the depth of the eternal Father, and brings forth of herself alone an abortion (e[ktrwma),a formless and inchoate substance, 872 of which Moses speaks when he says: "The earth was without form and void." By this sinful passion she introduces confusion and disturbance into the Pleroma.873  She wanders about outside of it, and suffers with fear, anxiety, and despair on account of her abortion. This is the fall; an act both free and necessary.

But Sophia yearns after redemption; the aeons sympathize with her sufferings and aspirations; the eternal Father himself commands the projection of the last pair of aeons, Christ and the Holy Spirit, "for the restoration of Form, the destruction of the abortion, and for the consolation and cessation of the groans of Sophia." They comfort and cheer the Sophia, and separate the abortion from the Pleroma. At last, the thirty aeons together project in honor of the Father the aeon Soter or Jesus, "the great High Priest," "the Joint Fruit of the Pleroma," and "send him forth beyond the Pleroma as a Spouse for Sophia, who was outside, and as a rectifier of those sufferings which she underwent in searching after Christ." After many sufferings, Sophia is purged of all passions and brought back as the bride of Jesus, together with all pneumatic natures, into the ideal world. The demiurge, the fiery and jealous God of the Jews, as "the friend of the bridegroom,"874 with the psychical Christians on the border of the Pleroma, remotely shares the joy of the festival, while matter sinks back into nothing.

In Valentine’s Christology, we must distinguish properly three redeeming beings: (1) The a[nw Cristov" or heavenly Christ, who, after the fall of Sophia, emanates from the aeon monogenhv", and stands in conjunction with the female principle, the pneu'ma a{gion. He makes the first announcement to the aeons of the plan of redemption, whereupon they strike up anthems of praise and thanksgiving in responsive choirs. (2) The swthvr or  jIhsou'", produced by all the aeons together, the star of the Pleroma. He forms with the redeemed Sophia the last and highest syzygy. (3) The kavtw Cristov", the psychical or Jewish Messiah, who is sent by the Demiurge, passes through the body of Mary as water through a pipe, and is at last crucified by the Jews, but, as he has merely an apparent body, does not really suffer. With him Soter, the proper redeemer, united himself in the baptism in the Jordan, to announce his divine gnosis on earth for a year, and lead the pneumatic persons to perfection.




Dr. Baur, the great critical historian of ancient Gnosticism and the master spirit of modern Gnosticism, ingeniously reproduces the Valentinian system in Hegelian terminology. I quote the chief part, as a fair specimen of his historic treatment, from his Kirchengeschichte, vol. I. 201 sqq. (comp. his Gnosis, p. 124 sqq.):


"Der Geist, oder Gott als der Geist an sich, geht aus sich heraus, in dieser Sebstoffenbarung Gottes entsteht die Welt, die in ihrem Unterschied von Gott auch wieder an sich mit Gott eins ist. Wie man aber auch dieses immanente Verhältniss von Gott und Welt betrachten mag, als Selbstoffenbarung Gottes oder als Weltentwicklung, es ist an sich ein rein geistiger, im Wesen des Geistes begründeter Process. Der Geist stellt in den Aeonen, die er aus sich hervorgehen lässt, sein eigenes Wesen aus sich heraus und sich gegenüber; da aber das Wesen des Geistes an sich das Denken und Wissen ist, so kann der Process seiner Selbstoffenbarung nur darin bestehen, dass er sich dessen bewusst ist, was er an sich ist. Die Aeonen des Pleroma sind die höchsten Begriffe des geistigen Seins und Lebens, die allgemeinen Denkformen, in welchen der Geist das, was er an sich ist, in bestimmter concreter Weise für das Bewusstsein ist. Mit dem Wissen des Geistes von sich, dem Selbstbewusstsein des sich von sich unterscheidenden Geistes, ist aber auch schon nicht blos ein Princip der Differenzirung, sondern, da Gott und Welt an sich Eins sind, auch ein Princip der Materialisirung des Geistes gesetzt. Je grösser der Abstand der das Bewusstsein des Geistes vermittelnden Begriffe von dem absolutes Princip ist, um so mehr ver dunkelt sich das geistige Bewusstsein, der Geiste, entäussert sich seiner selbst, er ist sich selbst nicht mehr klar und durchsichtig, das Pneumatische sinkt zum Prychischen herab, das Psychische verdichtet sich zum Materiellen, und mit dem Materiellen verbindet sich in seinem Extrem auch der Begriff des Dämonischen und Diabolischen. Da aber auch das psychische an sich pneumatischer Natur ist, und Keime des geistigen Lebens überall zurückgeblieben sind, so muss das Pneumatische die materielle Verdunklung des geistigen Bewusstseins auf der Stufe des psychischen Lebens wieder durchbrechen und die Decke abwerfen, die in der Welt des Demurg auf dem Bewusstsein des Geistes liegt. Die ganze Weltentwicklung ist die Continuität desselben geisigen Processes, es muss daher auch einen Wendepunkt geben, in welchem der Geist aus seiner Selbstentäuserung zu sich selbst zurückkehrt und wieder zum klaren Bewusstsein dessen, was er an sich ist, kommt. Dies ist der gnostische Begriff der christlichen Offenbarung. Die Wissenden im Sinne der Gnostiker, die Pneumatischen, die als solche auch das wahrhaft christliche Bewusstsein in, sich haben, sind ein neues Moment des allgemeinen geistigen Lebens, die höchste Stufe der Selbstoffenbarung Gottes und der Weltentwicklung. Diese Periode des Weltverlaufs beginnt mit der Erscheinung Christi und endet zuletzt damit, dass durch Christus und die Sophia alles Geistige in das Pleroma wieder aufgenommen wird. Da Christus, wie auf jeder Stufe der Weltentwicklung, so auch schon in den höchsten Regionen der Aeonenwelt, in welcher alles seinem Ausgangspunkt hat, and von Anfang an auf dieses Reultant des Ganzen angelegt ist, als das wiederherstellende, in der Einheit mit dem Absolutn erhaltende Princip thätig ist, so hat er in der Waltanschauung der Gnostiker durchaus die Bedeutung eines absolutn Weltprincips."


 § 126. The School of Valentinus. Heracleon, Ptolemy, Marcos, Bardesanes, Harmonius.


Of all the forms of Gnosticism, that of Valentinus was the most popular and influential, more particularly in Rome. He had a large number of followers, who variously modified his system. Tertullian says, his heresy "fashioned itself into as many shapes as a courtesan who usually changes and adjusts her dress every day."

The school of Valentinus divided chiefly into two branches, an Oriental,875 and an Italian. The first, in which Hippolytus reckons one Axionicos, not otherwise known, and Ardesianes ( jArdhsiavnh", probably the, same with Bardesanes), held the body of Jesus to be pneumatic and heavenly, because the Holy Spirit, i.e. Sophia and the demiurgic power of the Highest, came upon Mary. The  Italian school—embracing Heracleon and Ptolemy —taught that the body of Jesus was psychial, and that for this reason the Spirit descended upon him in the baptism. Some Valentinians came nearer the orthodox view, than their master.

Heracleon was personally instructed by Valentine, and probably flourished between 170 and 180 somewhere in Italy. He has a special interest as the earliest known commentator of the Gospel of John. Origen, in commenting on the same book, has preserved us about fifty fragments, usually contradicting them. They are chiefly taken from the first two, the fourth, and the eighth chapters.876  Heracleon fully acknowledges the canonical authority of the fourth Gospel, but reads his own system into it. He used the same allegorical method, as Origen, who even charges him with adhering too much to the letter, and not going deep enough into the spiritual sense. He finds in John the favorite Valentinian ideas of logos, life, light, love, conflict with darkness, and mysteries in all the numbers, but deprives the facts of historical realness. The woman of Samaria, in the fourth chapter, represents the redemption of the Sophia; the water of Jacob’s well is Judaism; her husband is her spiritual bridegroom from the Pleroma; her former husbands are the Hyle or kingdom of the devil. The nobleman in Capernaum (John 4:47) is the Demiurge, who is not hostile, but short-sighted and ignorant, yet ready to implore the Saviour’s help for his subjects; the nobleman’s son represents the psychics, who will be healed and redeemed when their ignorance is removed. The fact that John’s Gospel was held in equal reverence by the Valentinians and the orthodox, strongly favors its early existence before their separation, and its apostolic origin.877

Ptolemy is the author of the Epistle to Flora, a wealthy Christian lady, whom he tried to convert to the Valentinian system.878  He deals chiefly with the objection that the creation of the world and the Old Testament could not proceed from the highest God. He appeals to an apostolic tradition and to the words of Christ, who alone knows the Father of all and first revealed him (John 1:18). God is the only good (Matt. 19:17), and hence he cannot be the author of a world in which there is so much evil. Irenaeus derived much of his information from the contemporary followers of Ptolemy.

Another disciple of Valentine, Marcos, who taught likewise in the second half of the second century, probably in Asia Minor, perhaps also in Gaul, blended a Pythagorean and Cabbalistic numerical symbolism with the ideas of his master, introduced a ritual abounding in ceremonies, and sought to attract beautiful and wealthy women by magical arts. His followers were called Marcosians.879

The name of Colarbasus, which is often connected with Marcos, must be stricken from the list of the Gnostics; for it originated in confounding the Hebrew Kol-Arba, "the Voice of Four," i.e. the divine Tetrad at the head of the Pleroma, with a person.880

Finally, in the Valentinian school is counted also Bardesanes or Bardaisan (son of Daisan, Bardhsavnh").881  He was a distinguished Syrian scholar and poet, and lived at the court of the prince of Edessa at the close of the second and in the early part of the third century.882  But he can scarcely be numbered among the Gnostics, except in a very wide sense. He was at first orthodox, according to Epiphanius, but became corrupted by contact with Valentinians. Eusebius, on the contrary, makes him begin a heretic and end in orthodoxy. He also reports, that Bardesanes wrote against the heresy of Marcion in the Syriac language. Probably he accepted the common Christian faith with some modifications and exercised freedom on speculative doctrines, which were not yet clearly developed in the Syrian church of that period.883  His numerous works are lost, with the exception of a "Dialogue on Fate," which has recently been published in full.884  It is, however, of uncertain date, and shows no trace of the Gnostic mythology and dualism, ascribed to him. He or his son Harmonius (the accounts vary) is the father of Syrian hymnology, and composed a book of one hundred and fifty (after the Psalter), which were used on festivals, till they were superseded by the Orthodox hymns of St. Ephraem the Syrian, who retained the same metres and tunes.885  He enjoyed great reputation, and his sect is said to have spread to the Southern Euphrates, and even to China.

His son Harmonius, of Edessa, followed in his steps. He is said to have studied philosophy at Athens. He shares with Bardesanes (as already remarked) the honor of being the father of Syrian hymnology.


 § 127. Marcion and his School.


I. Justin M.: Apol. I. c. 26 and 58. He wrote also a special work against Marcion, which is lost  Irenaeus: I. 28. IV. 33 sqq. and several other passages. He likewise contemplated a special treatise against Marcion (III. 12)  Tertullian: Adv. Marcionem Libri V. Hippol. Philos. VII. 29 (ed. Duncker and Schneidewin, pp. 382–394). Epiphanius: Haer. XLII. Philaster.: Haer. XLV. The Armenian account of Esnig in his "Destruction of Heretics" (5th century), translated by Neumann, in the "Zeitschrift für histor. Theologie," Leipzig, vol. IV. 1834. Esnig gives Marcionism more of a mystic and speculative character than the earlier fathers, but presents nothing which may not be harmonized with them.

II  Neander (whose account is too charitable), Baur (I. 213–217), Möller (Gesch. der Kosmologie, 374–407), Fessler. (in Wetzer and Welte, VI. 816–821), Jacobi (in Herzog, V. 231–236), Salmon (in Smith and Wace, III. 816–824). Ad. Hilgenfeld: Cerdon und Marcion, in his "Zeitschrift für wissenschaftl. Theol." Leipz. 1881, pp. 1–37.

III. On the critical question of Marcion’s canon and the relation of his mutilated Gospel of Luke to the genuine Gospel of Luke, see the works on the Canon, the critical Introductions, and especially Volkmar: Das Evangelium Marcions, Text und Kritik (Leipz. 1852), and Sanday: The Gospels in the Second Century (London, 1876). The last two have conclusively proved (against the earlier view of Baur, Ritschl, and the author of "Supernat. Rel.") the priority of the canonical Luke. Comp. vol. I. 668.


Marcion was the most earnest, the most practical, and the most dangerous among the Gnostics, full of energy and zeal for reforming, but restless rough and eccentric. He has a remote connection with modern questions of biblical criticism and the canon. He anticipated the rationalistic opposition to the Old Testament and to the Pastoral Epistles, but in a very arbitrary and unscrupulous way. He could see only superficial differences in the Bible, not the deeper harmony. He rejected the heathen mythology of the other Gnostics, and adhered to Christianity as the only true religion; he was less speculative, and gave a higher place to faith. But he was utterly destitute of historical sense, and put Christianity into a radical conflict with all previous revelations of God; as if God had neglected the world for thousands of years until he suddenly appeared in Christ. He represents an extreme anti-Jewish and pseudo-Pauline tendency, and a magical

supranaturalism, which, in fanatical zeal for a pure primitive Christianity, nullifies all history, and turns the gospel into an abrupt, unnatural, phantomlike appearance.

Marcion was the son of a bishop of Sinope in Pontus, and gave in his first fervor his property to the church, but was excommunicated by his own father, probably on account of his heretical opinions and contempt of authority.886  He betook himself, about the middle of the second century, to Rome (140–155), which originated none of the Gnostic systems, but attracted them all. There he joined the Syrian Gnostic, Cerdo, who gave him some speculative foundation for his practical dualism. He disseminated his doctrine by travels, and made many disciples from different nations. He is said to have intended to apply at last for restoration to the communion of the Catholic Church, when his death intervened.887  The time and place of his death are unknown. He wrote a recension of the Gospel of Luke and the Pauline Epistles, and a work on the contradictions between the Old anad New Testaments. Justin Martyr regarded him as the most formidable heretic of his day. The abhorrence of the Catholics for him is expressed in the report of Irenaeus, that Polycarp of Smyrna, meeting with Marcion in Rome, and being asked by him: "Dost thou know me?" answered: "I know the first-born of Satan."888

Marcion supposed two or three primal forces (ajrcaiv): the good or gracious God (qeo;" ajgaqov"), whom Christ first made known; the evil matter (u{lh) ruled by the devil, to which heathenism belongs; and the righteous world-maker (dhmiourgo;" divkaio"), who is the finite, imperfect, angry Jehovah of the Jews. Some writers reduce his principles to two; but he did not identify the demiurge with the hyle. He did not go into any further speculative analysis of these principles; he rejected the pagan emanation theory, the secret tradition, and the allegorical interpretation of the Gnostics; in his system he has no Pleroma, no Aeons, no Dynameis, no Syzygies, no suffering Sophia; he excludes gradual development and growth; everything is unprepared, sudden and abrupt.

His system was more critical and rationalistic than mystic and philosophical.889  He was chiefly zealous for the consistent practical enforcement of the irreconcilable dualism which he established between the gospel and the law, Christianity and Judaism, goodness and righteousness.890   He drew out this contrast at large in a special work, entitled "Antitheses."  The God of the Old Testament is harsh, severe and unmerciful as his law; he commands, "Love thy neighbor, but hate thine enemy," and returns "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;" but the God of the New Testament commands, "Love thine enemy." The one is only just, the other is good. Marcion rejected all the books of the Old Testament, and wrested Christ’s word in Matt. 5:17 into the very opposite declaration: "I am come not to fulfil the law and the prophets, but to destroy them." In his view, Christianity has no connection whatever with the past, whether of the Jewish or the heathen world, but has fallen abruptly and magically, as it were, from heaven.891  Christ, too, was not born at all, but suddenly descended into the city of Capernaum in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, and appeared as the revealer of the good God, who sent him. He has no connection with the Messiah, announced by the Demiurge in the Old Testament; though he called himself the Messiah by way of accommodation. His body was a mere appearance, and his death an illusion, though they had a real meaning.892  He cast the Demiurge into Hades, secured the redemption of the soul (not of the body), and called the apostle Paul to preach it. The other apostles are Judaizing corrupters of pure Christianity, and their writings are to be rejected, together with the catholic tradition. In over-straining the difference between Paul and the other apostles, he was a crude forerunner of the Tübingen school of critics.

Marcion formed a canon of his own, which consisted of only eleven books, an abridged and mutilated Gospel of Luke, and ten of Paul’s epistles. He put Galatians first in order, and called Ephesians the Epistle to the Laodicaeans. He rejected the pastoral epistles, in which the forerunners of Gnosticism are condemned, the Epistle to the Hebrews, Matthew, Mark, John, the Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and the Apocalypse.

Notwithstanding his violent antinomianism, Marcion taught and practiced the strictest ascetic self-discipline, which revolted not only from all pagan festivities, but even from marriage, flesh, and wine. (He allowed fish). He could find the true God in nature no more than in history. He admitted married persons to baptism only on a vow of abstinence from all sexual intercourse.893  He had a very gloomy, pessimistic view of the world and the church, and addressed a disciple as "his partner in tribulation, and fellow-sufferer from hatred."

In worship he excluded wine from the eucharist, but retained the sacramental bread, water-baptism, anointing with oil, and the mixture of milk and honey given to the newly baptized.894  Epiphanius reports that he permitted females to baptize. The Marcionites practiced sometimes vicarious baptism for the dead.895  Their baptism was not recognized by the church.

The Marcionite sect spread in Italy, Egypt, North Africa, Cyprus, and Syria; but it split into many branches. Its wide diffusion is proved by the number of antagonists in the different countries.

The most noteworthy Marcionites are Prepo, Lucanus (an Assyrian), and Apelles. They supplied the defects of the master’s system by other Gnostic speculations, and in some instances softened down its antipathy to heathenism and Judaism. Apelles acknowledged only one first principle. Ambrosius, a friend of Origen, was a Marcionite before his conversion. These heretics were dangerous to the church because of their severe morality and the number of their martyrs. They abstained from marriage, flesh and wine, and did not escape from persecution, like some other Gnostics.

Constantine forbade the Marcionites freedom of worship public and private, and ordered their meeting-houses to be handed over to the Catholic Church.896  The Theodosian code mentions them only once. But they existed in the fifth century when Theodoret boasted to have converted more than a thousand of these heretics, and the Trullan Council of 692 thought it worth while to make provision for the reconciliation of Marcionites. Remains of them are found as late as the tenth century.897  Some of their principles revived among the Paulicians, who took refuge in Bulgaria, and the Cathari in the West.


 § 128. The Ophites. The Sethites. The Peratae. The Cainites


I. Hippolytus: Philosoph. bk. V. 1–23. He begins his account of the Heresies with the Naasseni, or Ophites, and Peratae (the first four books being devoted to the systems of heathen philosophy). Irenaeus: Adv. Haer. I. 30 (ed. Stieren, I. 266 sqq.). Epiphan. Haer. 37 (in Oehler’s ed. I. 495 sqq.).

II. Mosheim: Geschichte der Schlangenbrüder. Helmstädt, 1746, ’48.

E. W. Möller: Geschichte der Kosmologie. Halle, 1860. Die ophitische Gnosis, p. 190 sqq.

Baxmann: Die Philosophumena und die Peraten, in Niedner’s "Zeitschrift für die Hist. Theol." for 1860. Lipsius: Ueber das ophitische System. In "Zeitschrift für wissenschaftl. Theologie" for 1863 and ’64.

Jacobi in Herzog, new ed., vol. V. 240 sq.

George Salmon: "Cainites," in Smith and Wace, vol. I. 380–82. Articles "Ophites" and "Peratae," will probably appear in vol. IV., not yet published.


The origin of the Ophites,898 or, in Hebrew, Naasenes,899 i.e. Serpent-Brethren, or Serpent-Worshippers, is unknown, and is placed by Mosheim and others before the time of Christ. In any case, their system is of purely heathen stamp. Lipsius has shown their connection with the Syro-Chaldaic mythology. The sect still existed as late as the sixth century; for in 530 Justinian passed laws against it.

The accounts of their worship of the serpent rest, indeed, on uncertain data; but their name itself comes from their ascribing special import to the serpent as the type of gnosis, with reference to the history of the fall (Gen. 3:1), the magic rod of Moses (Ex. 4:2, 3), and the healing power of the brazen serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21:9; Comp. John 3:14). They made use of the serpent on amulets.

That mysterious, awe-inspiring reptile, which looks like the embodiment of a thunderbolt, or like a fallen angel tortuously creeping in the dust, represents in the Bible the evil spirit, and its motto, Eritis sicut Deus, is the first lie of the father of lies, which caused the ruin of man; but in the false religions it is the symbol of divine wisdom and an object of adoration; and the Eritis sicus dii appears as a great truth, which opened the path of progress. The serpent, far from being the seducer of the race, was its first schoolmaster and civilizer by teaching it the difference between good and evil. So the Ophites regarded the fall of Adam as the transition from the state of unconscious bondage to the state of conscious judgment and freedom; therefore the necessary entrance to the good, and a noble advance of the human spirit. They identified the serpent with the Logos, or the mediator between the Father and the Matter, bringing down the powers of the upper world to the lower world, and leading the return from the lower to the higher. The serpent represents the whole winding process of development and salvation.900  The Manichaeans also regarded the serpent as the direct image of Christ.901

With this view is connected their violent opposition to the Old Testament. Jaldabaoth,902 as they termed the God of the Jews and the Creator of the world, they represented as a malicious, misanthropic being. In other respects, their doctrine strongly resembles the Valentinian system, except that it is much more pantheistic, unchristian, and immoral, and far less developed.

The Ophites again branch out in several sects, especially three.

The Sethites considered the third son of Adam the first pneumatic man and the forerunner of Christ. They maintained three principles, darkness below, light above, and spirit between.

The Peratae or Peratics903 (Transcendentalists) are described by Hippolytus as allegorizing astrologers and as mystic tritheists, who taught three Gods, three Logoi, three Minds, three Men. Christ had a three-fold nature, a three-fold body, and a three-fold power. He descended from above, that all things triply divided might be saved.904

The Cainites boasted of the descent from Cain the fratricide, and made him their leader.905  They regarded the God of the Jews and Creator of the world as a positively evil being, whom to resist is virtue. Hence they turned the history of salvation upside down, and honored all the infamous characters of the Old and New Testaments from Cain to Judas as spiritual men and martyrs to truth. Judas Iscariot alone among the apostles had the secret of true knowledge, and betrayed the psychic Messiah with good intent to destroy the empire of the evil God of the Jews. Origen speaks of a branch of the Ophites, who were as great enemies of Jesus as the heathen Celsus, and who admitted none into their society who had not first cursed his name. But the majority seem to have acknowledged the goodness of Jesus and the benefit of his crucifixion brought about by the far-sighted wisdom of Judas. A book entitled "the Gospel of Judas" was circulated among them.

No wonder that such blasphemous travesty of the Bible history, and such predilection for the serpent and his seed was connected with the most unbridled antinomianism, which changed vice into virtue. They thought it a necessary part of "perfect knowledge" to have a complete experience of all sins, including even unnamable vices.

Some have identified the Ophites with the false teachers denounced in the Epistle of Jude as filthy dreamers, who "defile the flesh, and set at naught dominion, and rail at dignities," who "went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah," as "wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever." The resemblance is certainly very striking, and those heretics may have been the forerunners of the Ophites of the second century.


 § 129. Saturninus (Satornilos).


Iren. I. 24, § 1, 2; ch. 28. Hippol. VII. 3, 28 (depending on Iren.). Tert. Praesc. Haer. 46. Hegesippus in Euseb. IV. 22, 29. Epiph. Haer. XXIII. Theod. Fab. Haer. I. 3. Comp. Möller, l c., p. 367–373.


Contemporary with Basilides under Hadrian, was Saturninus or Satornilos906 in Antioch. He was, like him, a pupil of Menander. His system is distinguished for its bold dualism between God and Satan, the two antipodes of the universe, and for its ascetic severity.907  God is the unfathomable abyss, absolutely unknown (qeo;" a[gnwsto"). From him emanates by degrees the spirit-world of light, with angels, archangels, powers, and dominions. On the lowest degree, are the seven planetary spirits (a[ggeloi kosmokravtore") with the Demiurge or God of the Jews at the head. Satan, as the ruler of the hyle, is eternally opposed to the realm of light. The seven planetary spirits invade the realm of Satan, and form out of a part of the hyle the material world with man, who is filled by the highest God with a spark of light (spinqhvr). Satan creates in opposition a hylic race of men, and incessantly pursues the spiritual race with his demons and false prophets. The Jewish God, with his prophets, is unable to overcome him. Finally the good God sends the aeon Nous in an unreal body, as Soter on earth, who teaches the spiritual men by gnosis and strict abstinence from marriage and carnal food to emancipate themselves from the vexations of Satan, and also from the dominion of the Jewish God and his star-spirits, and to rise to the realm of light.


 § 130. Carpocrates.


Iren. I. 25 (24). Hippol. VII. 32 (D. & Schn. p. 398 sqq.). Clem. Alex. Strom. III. 511. Epihianius, Haer. XXV.


Carpocrates also lived under Hadrian, probably at Alexandria, and founded a Gnostic sect, called by his own name, which put Christ on a level with heathen philosophers, prided itself on its elevation above all the popular religions, and sank into unbridled immorality. The world is created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. Jesus was the son of Joseph, and just like other men, except that his soul was steadfast and pure, and that he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God. For this reason a power descended upon him from the Father, that by means of it he might escape from the creators of the world. After passing through them all, and remaining in all points free, he ascended again to the Father. We may rise to an equality with Jesus by despising in like manner the creators of the world.

The Carpocratians, say Irenaeus and Hippolytus, practiced also magical arts, incantations, and love-potions, and had recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over the princes and framers of this world. But they led a licentious life, and abused the name of Christ as a means of hiding their wickedness. They were the first known sect that used pictures of Christ, and they derived them from a pretended original of Pontius Pilate.908

Epiphanes, a son of Carpocrates, who died at the age of seventeen, was the founder of "monadic "Gnosticism, which in opposition to dualism seems to have denied the independent existence of evil, and resolved it into a fiction of human laws. He wrote a book on "Justice," and defined it to be equality. He taught that God gave his benefits to all men alike and in common, and thence derived the community of goods, and even of women. He was worshipped by his adherents after his death as a god, at Same in Cephalonia, by sacrifices, libations, banquets, and singing of hymns. Here we have the worship of genius in league with the emancipation of the flesh, which has been revived in modern times. But it is not impossible that Clement of Alexandria, who relates this fact, may have made a similar mistake as Justin Martyr in the case of Simon Magus, and confounded a local heathen festival of the moon known as ta;  jEpifavneia or oJ  jEpifanhv" with a festival in honor of Epiphanes.909


 § 131. Tatian and the Encratites.


I. Tatian: Lovgo" pro;"  {Ellhna" (Oratio adversus Graecos), ed. S. Worth, Oxon. 1700 (an excellent ed.); in Otto’s Corpus. Apol., vol. VI., Jenae 1851; and in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, Tom. VI. fol. 803–888. Eng. transl. by Pratten & Dods in the "Ante-Nicene Library," vol. III. (Edinb. 1867). A Commentary of St. Ephraem on Tatian’s Diatessaron (To; dia; tessavrwn), was found in an Armenian translation in the Armenian Convent at Venice, translated into Latin in 1841 by Aucher, and edited by Mösinger (Prof. of Biblical Learning in Salzburg) under the title "Evangelii Concordantis Expositio facta a Sancto Ephraemo Doctore Syro."  Venet. 1876. The Diatessaron itself was found in an Arabic translation in 1886, and published by P. Aug. Ciasca: Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae, Arabice, Rom. 1888. A new and more critical edition of the Oratio ad Gr., by Ed. Schwartz, Lips., 1888 (105 pp).

Orthodox Notices of Tatian: Iren. I. 28, 1; III. 23, 8 sqq. (in Stieren, I. 259, 551 sq.). Hippol.: VIII. 16 (very brief). Clem. Alex.: Strom. l. III. Euseb.: H. E. IV. 16, 28, 29; VI. 13. Epiphanius, Haer. 46 (Tatian) and 47 (Encratites). The recently discovered work of Macarius Magnes (Paris 1876), written about 400, contains some information about the Encratites which agrees with Epiphanius.

II. H. A. Daniel: Tatian der Apologet. Halle 1837.

James Donaldson: A Critical History of Christian Liter., etc. Lond. vol. IIIrd. (1866), which is devoted to Tatian, etc., p. 3–62.

Theod. Zahn: Tatian’s Diatessaron. Erlangen, 1881. (The first part of Forschungen zur Gesch. des neutestamntl. Kanons).

Ad. Harnack: Tatian’s Diatessaron, in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch." 1881, p. 471–505; Die Oratio des Tatian nebst einer Einleitung über die Zeit dieses Apologeten, in "Texte und Untersuchungen zur Gesch. der altchristl. Literatur," vol. I. No. 2, p. 196–231. Leipz., 1883, and his art., "Tatian," in "Encycl. Brit." xxiii. (1888).

Fr. Xav. Funk (R.C.): Zur Chronologie Tatian’s, in the Tübing. "Theol. Quartalschrift," 1883, p. 219–234.


Tatian, a rhetorician of Syria, was converted to Catholic Christianity by Justin Martyr in Rome, but afterwards strayed into Gnosticism and died a.d. 172.910  He resembles Marcion in his anti-Jewish turn and dismal austerity. Falsely interpreting 1 Cor. 7:5, he declared marriage to be a kind of licentiousness and a service of the devil. Irenaeus says, that Tatian, after the martyrdom of Justin, apostatised from the church, and elated with the conceit of a teacher, and vainly puffed up as if he surpassed all others, invented certain invisible aeons similar to those of Valentine, and asserted with Marcion and Saturninus that marriage was only corruption and fornication. But his extant apologetic treatise against the Gentiles, and his Gospel-Harmony (recently recovered), which were written between 153 and 170, show no clear traces of Gnosticism, unless it be the omission of the genealogies of Jesus in the "Diatessaron." He was not so much anti-catholic as hyper-catholic, and hyper-ascetic. We shall return to him again in the last chapter.

His followers, who kept the system alive till the fifth century, were called, from their ascetic life, Encratites, or Abstainers, and from their use of water for wine in the Lord’s Supper, Hydroparastatae or Aquarians.911  They abstained from flesh, wine, and marriage, not temporarily (as the ancient catholic ascetics) for purposes of devotion, nor (as many modern total abstainers from intoxicating drink) for the sake of expediency or setting a good example, but permanently and from principle on account of the supposed intrinsic impurity of the things renounced. The title "Encratites," however, was applied indiscriminately to all ascetic sects of the Gnostics, especially the followers of Saturninus, Marcion, and Severus (Severians, of uncertain origin). The Manichaeans also sheltered themselves under this name. Clement of Alexandria refers to the Indian ascetics as the forerunners of the Encratites.

The practice of using mere water for wine in the eucharist was condemned by Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Chrysostom, and forbidden by Theodosius in an edict of 382. A certain class of modern abstinence men in America, in their abhorrence of all intoxicating drinks, have resorted to the same heretical practice, and substituted water or milk for the express ordinance of our Lord.


 § 132. Justin the Gnostic.


Hippolytus: Philos. V. 23–27 (p. 214–233), and X. 15 (p. 516–519).


Hippolytus makes us acquainted with a Gnostic by the name of Justin, of uncertain date and origin.912  He propagated his doctrine secretly, and bound his disciples to silence by solemn oaths. He wrote a number of books, one called Baruch, from which Hippolytus gives an abstract. His gnosis is mostly based upon a mystical interpretation of Genesis, and has a somewhat Judaizing cast. Hippolytus, indeed, classes him with the Naassenes, but Justin took an opposite view of the serpent as the cause of all evil in history. He made use also of the Greek mythology, especially the tradition of the twelve labors of Hercules. He assumes three original principles, two male and one female. The first is the Good Being; the second Elohim, the Father of the creation; the third is called Eden and Israel, and has a double form, a woman above the middle and a snake below. Elohim falls in love with Eden, and from their intercourse springs the spirit-world of twenty angels, ten paternal and ten maternal, and these people the world. The chief of the two series of angels are Baruch, who is the author of all good, and is represented by the tree of life in Paradise, and Naas, the serpent, who is the author of all evil, and is represented by the tree of knowledge. The four rivers are symbols of the four divisions of angels. The Naas committed adultery with Eve, and a worse crime with Adam; he adulterated the laws of Moses and the oracles of the prophets; he nailed Jesus to the cross. But by this crucifixion Jesus was emancipated from his material body, rose to the good God to whom he committed his spirit in death, and thus he came to be the deliverer.


 § 133. Hermogenes.


Tertullian: Adv. Hermogenem. Written about a.d. 206. One of his two tracts against H. is lost. Hippolytus: Philos. VIII. 17 (p. 432). Comp. Neander: Antignosticus, p. 448; Kaye: Tertullian, p. 532; Hauck: Tertullian, p. 240; Salmond: in "Smith & Wace," III. 1–3.


Hermogenes was a painter in Carthage at the end of the second and beginning of the third century. Tertullian describes him as a turbulent, loquacious, and impudent man, who "married more women than he painted."913  He is but remotely connected with Gnosticism by his Platonic dualism and denial of the creation out of nothing. He derived the world, including the soul of man, from the formless, eternal matter,914 and explained the ugly in the natural world, as well as the evil in the spiritual, by the resistance of matter to the formative influence of God. In this way only he thought he could account for the origin of evil. For if God had made the world out of nothing, it must be all good. He taught that Christ on his ascension left his body in the sun, and then ascended to the Father.915   But otherwise he was orthodox and did not wish to separate from the church.


 § 134. Other Gnostic Sects.


The ancient fathers, especially Hippolytus and Epiphanius, mention several other Gnostic sects under various designations.

1. The Docetae or Docetists taught that the body of Christ was not real flesh and blood, but merely a deceptive, transient phantom, and consequently that he did not really suffer and die and rise again. Hippolytus gives an account of the system of this sect. But the name applied as well to most Gnostics, especially to Basilides, Saturninus, Valentinus, Marcion, and the Manichaeans. Docetism was a characteristic feature of the first antichristian errorists whom St. John had in view (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).916

2. The name Antitactae or Antitactes, denotes the licentious antinomian Gnostics, rather than the followers of any single master, to whom the term can be traced.917

3. The Prodicians, so named from their supposed founder, Prodicus, considered themselves the royal family,918and, in crazy self-conceit, thought themselves above the law, the sabbath, and every form of worship, even above prayer itself, which was becoming only to the ignorant mass. They resembled the Nicolaitans and Antitactae, and were also called Adamites, Barbelitae, Borboriani, Coddiani, Phibionitae, and by other unintelligible names.919

Almost every form of immorality and lawlessness seems to have been practiced under the sanction of religion by the baser schools of Gnosticism, and the worst errors and organized vices of modern times were anticipated by them. Hence we need not be surprised at the uncompromising opposition of the ancient fathers to this radical corruption and perversion of Christianity.


 § 135. Mani and the Manichaeans.



I. Oriental Sources: The most important, though of comparatively late date. (a) Mohammedan (Arabic): Kitâb al Fihrist. A history of Arabic literature to 987, by an Arab of Bagdad, usually called Ibn Abi Jakub An-Nadîm; brought to light by Flügel, and published after his death by Rödiger and Müller, in 2 vols. Leipz. 1871–’72. Book IX. section first, treats of Manichaeism. Flügel’s transl. see below. Kessler calls Fihrist a "Fundstätte allerersten Ranges." Next to it comes the relation of the Mohamedan philosopher Al-Shahrastanî (d. 1153), in his History of Religious Parties and Philosophical Sects, ed. Cureton, Lond. 1842, 2 vols. (I. 188–192); German translation by Haarbrücker. Halle, 1851. On other Mohammedan sources see Kessler in Herzog2, IX. 225 sq. (b) Persian sources, relating to the life of Mani; the Shâhnâmeh (the Kings’ Book) of Firdausî, ed. by Jul. Mohl. Paris, 1866 (V. 472–475). See Kessler, ibid. 225. c) Christian Sources: In Arabic, the Alexandrian Patriarch Eutychius (d. 916), Annales, ed. Pococke. Oxon. 1628; Barhebraeus (d. 1286), in his Historia Dynastiarum, ed. Pococke. In Syriac: Ephraem Syrus (d. 393), in various writings Esnig or Esnik, an Armenian bishop of the 5th century, who wrote against Marcion and Mani (German translation from the Armenian by C. Fr. Neumann in Illgen’s "Zeitschrift für die Hist. Theol." 1834, p. 77–78).

II. Greek Sources: Eusebius (H. E. VII. 31, a brief account). Epiphanius (Haer. 66). Cyril Of Jerusal. (Catech. VI. 20 sqq.). Titus of Bostra (pro;" Manicaivou", ed. P. de Lafarde, 1859). Photius: Adv. Manichœos (Cod. 179 Biblioth.). John Of Damascus: De Haeres. and Dial.

III. Latin Sources: Archelaus (Bishop of Cascar in Mesopotamia, d. about 278): Acta Disputationis cum Manete haeresiarcha; first written in Syriac, and so far belonging to the Oriental Christian sources (Comp. Jerome, De vir. ill. 72), but extant only in a Latin translation, which seems to have been made from the Greek, edited by Zacagni (Rom. 1698) and Routh (in Reliquiae Sacrae., vol. V. 3–206), Engl. transl. in Clark’s "Ante-Nicene Library" (vol. XX. 272–419). These Acts purport to contain the report of a disputation between Archelaus and Mani before a large assembly, which was in fall sympathy with the orthodox bishop, but (as Beausobre first proved) they are in form a fiction from the first quarter of the fourth century (about 320) by a Syrian ecclesiastic (probably of Edessa), yet based upon Manichaean documents, and containing much information about Manichaean doctrines. They consist of various pieces, and were the chief source of information to the West. Mani is represented (ch. 12) as appearing in a many-colored cloak and trousers, with a sturdy staff of ebony, a Babylonian book under his left arm, and with a mien of an old Persian master. In his defense he quotes freely from the N. T. At the end he makes his escape to Persia (ch. 55). Comp. H. V. Zittwitz: Die Acta Archelai et Manetis untersucht, in Kahnis’ "Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol." 1873, No. IV. Oblasinski: Acta Disput. Arch., etc. Lips. 1874 (inaugural dissert.). Ad. Harnack: Die Acta Archelai und das Diatessaron Tatians, in "Texte und Untersuch. zur Gesch. der altchristl. Lit." vol. I. Heft. 3 (1883), p. 137–153. Harnack tries to prove that the Gospel quotations of Archelaus are taken from Tatian’s Diatessaron. Comp. also his Dogmengeschichte, I. (1886), 681–694.

St. Augustin (d. 430, the chief Latin authority next to the translation of Archelaus): Contra Epistolam Manichaei; Contra Faustum Manich., and other anti-Manichaean writings, in the 8th vol. of the Benedictine edition of his Opera. English translation in Schaff’s "Nicene and Post-Nicene Library," Vol. IV., N. York, 1887.

Comp. also the Acts of Councils against the Manich. from the fourth century onward, in Mansi and Hefele.

Modern Works:

*Isaac De Beausobre ( b. 1659 in France, pastor of the French church in Berlin, d. 1738): Histoire crit. de Manichée et du Manichéisme. Amst. 1734 and 39. 2 vols. 4º. Part of the first vol. is historical, the second doctrinal. Very full and scholarly. He intended to write a third volume on the later Manichaeans.

*F. Chr. Baur: Das Manichaeische Religionssystem nach den Quellen neu untersucht und entwickelt. Tüb. 1831 (500 pages). A comprehensive Philosophical and critical view. He calls the Manich. system a "glühend prächtiges Natur- und Weltgedicht."

Trechsel: Ueber Kanon, Kritik, und Exegese der Manichäer. Bern, 1832.

D. Chwolson: Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus. Petersb. 1856, 2 vols.

*Gust. Flügel (d. 1870): Mani, seine Lehre und seine Schriften. Aus dem Fihrist des Abî Jakub an-Nadîm (987). Leipz. 1862. Text, translation, and Commentary, 440 pages.

Fr. Spiegel: Eranische Alterthumskunde, vol.II. 1873, p. 185–232.

Alex. Geyler: Das System des Manichäisimus und sein Verh. zum Buddhismus. Jena, 1875.

*K. Kessler: Untersuchungen zur Genesis des manich. Rel. systems. Leipz. 1876. By the same: Mânî oder Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Religionsmischung im Semitismus. Leipz. 1882. See also his thorough art. Mâni und die Manichäer, in "Herzog," new ed., vol. IX. 223–259 (abridged in Schaff’s "Encycl." II. 1396–1398).

G. T. Stokes: Manes, and Manichaeans in "Smith and Wace," III. 792–801.

Ad. Harnack: Manichaeism, in the 9th ed. of the "Encycl. Britannica, vol. XV. (1883), 481–487.

The accounts of Mosheim, Lardner, Schröckh, Walch, Neander, Gieseler.


We come now to the latest, the best organized, the most consistent, tenacious and dangerous form of Gnosticism, with which Christianity had to wage a long conflict. Manichaeism was not only a school, like the older forms of Gnosticism, but a rival religion and a rival church. In this respect it resembled Islam which at a later period became a still more formidable rival of Christianity; both claimed to be divine revelations, both engrafted pseudo-Christian elements on a heathen stock, but the starting point was radically different: Manichaeism being anti-Jewish and dualistic, Mohammedanism, pseudo-Jewish and severely and fanatically monotheistic.

First the external history.

The origin of Manichaeism is matter of obscure and confused tradition. It is traced to Mani (Manes, Manichaeus),920 a Persian philosopher, astronomer, and painter,921 of the third century (215–277), who came over to Christianity, or rather introduced some Christian elements into the Zoroastrian religion, and thus stirred up an intellectual and moral revolution among his countrymen. According to Arabic Mohammedan sources, he was the son of Fatak (Pavtekio"), a high-born Persian of Hamadan (Ecbatana), who emigrated to Ctesiphon in Babylonia. Here he received a careful education. He belonged originally to the Judaizing Gnostic sect of the Mandaeans or Elkesaites (the Mogtasilah, i.e. Baptists); but in his nineteenth and again in his twenty-fourth year (238) a new religion was divinely revealed to him. In his thirtieth year he began to preach his syncretistic creed, undertook long journeys and sent out disciples. He proclaimed himself to be the last and highest prophet of God and the Paraclete promised by Christ (as Mohammed did six hundred years later). He began his "Epistola Fundamenti," in which he propounded his leading doctrines, with the words: "Mani, the apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father. These are the words of salvation from the eternal and living source." He composed many books in the Persian and Syriac languages and in an alphabet of his own invention but they are all lost.922

At first Mani found favor at the court of the Persian king Shapur I. (Sapor), but stirred up the hatred of the priestly cast of the Magians. He fled to East India and China and became acquainted with Buddhism. Indeed, the name of Buddha is interwoven with the legendary history of the Manichaean system. His disputations with Archelaus in Mesopotamia are a fiction, like the pseudo-Clementine disputations of Simon Magus with Peter, but on a better historic foundation and with an orthodox aim of the writer.923

In the year 270 Mani returned to Persia, and won many followers by his symbolic (pictorial) illustrations of the doctrines, which he pretended had been revealed to him by God. But in a disputation with the Magians, he was convicted of corrupting the old religion, and thereupon was crucified, or flayed alive by order of king Behram I. (Veranes) about 277; his skin was stuffed and hung up for a terror at the gate of the city Djondishapur (or Gundeshapur), since called "the gate of Mani."924  His followers were cruelly persecuted by the king.

Soon after Mani’s horrible death his sect spread in Turkistan, Mesopotamia, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Spain. As it moved westward it assumed a more Christian character, especially in North Africa. It was everywhere persecuted in the Roman empire, first by Diocletian (A. D. 287), and afterwards by the Christian emperors. Nevertheless it flourished till the sixth century and even later. Persecution of heresy always helps heresy unless the heretics are exterminated.

The mysteriousness of its doctrine, its compact organization, the apparent solution of the terrible problem of evil, and the show of ascetic holiness sometimes were the chief points of attraction. Even such a profound and noble spirit as St. Augustin was nine years an auditor of the sect before he was converted to the Catholic church. He sought there a deeper philosophy of religion and became acquainted with the gifted and eloquent Faustus of Numidia, but was disappointed and found him a superficial charlatan. Another Manichaean, by the name of Felix, he succeeded in converting to the Catholic faith in a public disputation of two days at Hippo. His connection with Manichaeism enabled him in his polemic writings to refute it and to develop the doctrines of the relation of knowledge and faith, of reason and revelation, the freedom of will, the origin of evil and its relation to the divine government. Thus here, too, error was overruled for the promotion of truth.

Pope Leo I. searched for these heretics in Rome, and with the aid of the magistrate brought many to punishment. Valentinian III. punished them by banishment, Justinian by death. The violent and persistent persecutions at last destroyed their organization. But their system extended its influence throughout the middle ages down to the thirteenth century, reappearing, under different modifications, with a larger infusion of Christian elements, in the Priscillianists, Paulieians, Bogomiles, Albigenses, Catharists and other sects, which were therefore called "New Manichaeans." Indeed some of the leading features of Manichaeism—the dualistic separation of soul and body, the ascription of nature to the devil, the pantheistic confusion of the moral and physical, the hypocritical symbolism, concealing heathen views under Christian phrases, the haughty air of mystery, and the aristocratic distinction of esoteric and exoteric—still live in various forms even in modern systems of philosophy and sects of religion.925


 § 136. The Manichaean System.


Manichaeism is a compound of dualistic, pantheistic, Gnostic, and ascetic elements, combined with a fantastic philosophy of nature, which gives the whole system a materialistic character, notwithstanding its ascetic abhorrence of matter. The metaphysical foundation is a radical dualism between good and evil, light and darkness, derived from the Persian Zoroastrism (as restored by the school of the Magasaeans under the reign of the second Sassanides towards the middle of the second century). The prominent ethical feature is a rigid asceticism which strongly resembles Buddhism.926  The Christian element is only a superficial varnish (as in Mohammedanism). The Jewish religion is excluded altogether (while in Mohammedanism it forms a very important feature), and the Old Testament is rejected, as inspired by the devil and his false prophets. The chief authorities were apocryphal Gospels and the writings of Mani.

1. The Manichaean theology begins with an irreconcilable antagonism between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. And this is identified with the ethical dualism between good and bad. These two kingdoms stood opposed to each other from eternity, remaining unmingled. Then Satan who with his demons was born from darkness, began to rage and made an assault upon the kingdom of light. From this incursion resulted the present world, which exhibits a mixture of the two elements detached portions of light imprisoned in darkness. Adam was created in the image of Satan, but with a strong spark of light, and was provided by Satan with Eve as his companion, who represents seductive sensuousness, but also with a spark of light, though smaller than that in Adam. Cain and Abel are sons of Satan and Eve, but Seth is the offspring of Adam by Eve, and full of light. Thus mankind came into existence with different shares of light, the men with more, the women with less. Every individual man is at once a son of light and of darkness, has a good soul, and a body substantially evil, with an evil soul corresponding to it. The redemption of the light from the bonds of the darkness is effected by Christ, who is identical with the sun spirit, and by the Holy Ghost, who has his seat in the ether. These two beings attract the lightforces out of the material world, while the prince of darkness, and the spirits imprisoned in the stars, seek to keep them back. The sun and moon are the two shining ships (lucidae naves) for conducting the imprisoned light into the eternal kingdom of light. The full moon represents the ship laden with light; the new moon, the vessel emptied of its cargo; and the twelve signs of the zodiac also serve as buckets in this pumping operation.

The Manichaean christology, like the Gnostic, is entirely docetic, and, by its perverted view of body and matter, wholly excludes the idea of an incarnation of God. The teachings of Christ were compiled and falsified by the apostles in the Spirit of Judaism. Mani, the promised Paraclete, has restored them. The goal of history is an entire separation of the light from the darkness; a tremendous conflagration consumes the world, and the kingdom of darkness sinks into impotence.

Thus Christianity is here resolved into a fantastic dualistic, and yet pantheistic philosophy of nature; moral regeneration is identified with a process of physical refinement; and the whole mystery of redemption is found in light, which was always worshipped in the East as the symbol of deity. Unquestionably there pervades the Manichaean system a kind of groaning of the creature for redemption, and a deep sympathy with nature, that hieroglyphic of spirit; but all is distorted and confused. The suffering Jesus on the cross (Jesus patibilis) is here a mere illusion, a symbol of the world-soul still enchained in matter, and is seen in every plant which works upwards from the dark bosom of the earth towards the light, towards bloom and fruit, yearning after freedom. Hence the class of the "perfect" would not kill nor wound a beast, pluck a flower, nor break a blade of grass. The system, instead of being, as it pretends, a liberation of light from darkness, is really a turning of light into darkness.

2. The morality of the Manichaeans was severely ascetic, based on the fundamental error of the intrinsic evil of matter and the body; the extreme opposite of the Pelagian view of the essential moral purity of human nature.927  The great moral aim is, to become entirely unworldly in the Buddhistic sense; to renounce and destroy corporeity; to set the good soul free from the fetters of matter. This is accomplished by the most rigid and gloomy abstinence from all those elements which have their source in the sphere of darkness. It was, however, only required of the elect, not of catechumens. A distinction was made between a higher and lower morality similar to that in the catholic church. The perfection of the elect consisted in a threefold seal or preservative (signaculum).928

(a) The signaculum oris, that is, purity in words and in diet, abstinence from all animal food and strong drink, even in the holy supper, and restriction to vegetable diet, which was furnished to the perfect by the "bearers," particularly olives, as their oil is the food of light.

(b) The signaculum manuum: renunciation of earthly property, and of material and industrial pursuits, even agriculture; with a sacred reverence for the divine light-life diffused through all nature.

(c) The signaculum sinus, or celibacy, and abstinence from any gratification of sensual desire. Marriage, or rather procreation, is a contamination with corporeity, which is essentially evil.

This unnatural holiness of the elect at the same time atoned for the unavoidable daily sins of the catechumens who paid them the greatest reverence. It was accompanied, however, as in the Gnostics, with an excessive pride of knowledge, and if we are to believe the catholic opponents, its fair show not rarely concealed refined forms of vice.

3. Organization. Manichaeism differed from all the Gnostic schools in having a fixed, and that a strictly hierarchical, organization. This accounts in large measure for its tenacity and endurance. At the head of the sect stood twelve apostles, or magistri, among whom Mani and his successors, like Peter and the pope, held the chief place. Under them were seventy-two bishops, answering to the seventy-two (strictly seventy) disciples of Jesus; and under these came presbyters, deacons and itinerant evangelists.929  In the congregation there were two distinct classes, designed to correspond to the catechumens and the faithful in the catholic church: the "hearers;"930 and the "perfect," the esoteric, the priestly caste,931 which represents the last stage in the process of liberation of the spirit and its separation from the world, the transition from the kingdom of matter into the kingdom of light, or in Buddhistic terms, from the world of Sansara into Nirwana.

4. The worship of the Manichaeans was, on the whole, very simple. They had no sacrifices, but four daily prayers, preceded by ablations, and accompanied by prostrations, the worshipper turned towards the sun or moon as the seat of light. They observed Sunday, in honor of the sun, which was with them the same with the redeemer; but, contrary to the custom of the catholic Christians, they made it a day of fasting. They had weekly, monthly, and yearly fasts. They rejected the church festivals, but instead celebrated in March with great pomp the day of the martyrdom of their divinely appointed teacher, Mani.932  The sacraments were mysteries of the elect, of which even Augustin could learn very little. Hence it has been disputed whether they used baptism or not, and whether they baptized by water, or oil. Probably they practised water baptism and anointing, and regarded the latter as a higher spiritual baptism, or distinguished both as baptism and confirmation in the catholic church.933  They also celebrated a kind of holy supper, sometimes even under disguise in catholic churches, but without wine (because Christ had no blood), and regarding it perhaps, according to their pantheistic symbolism, as the commemoration of the light-soul crucified in all nature. Their sign of recognition was the extension of the right hand as symbol of common deliverance from the kingdom of darkness by the redeeming hand of the spirit of the sun.



* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

775  Comp. vol. 1. 564 sqq., and my History of the Apost. Church, § 165-169.

776  The heathen enemies of Christianity, as Julian the Apostate, called them sometimes "Galileans." So also Epictetus in the only passage, in which he alludes to the Christians.

777  Praescr. Haeret. c. 13.

778  Minut. Felix, Octav. 36: "Ceterum quod plerique PAUPERES dicimur non est infamia nostra, sed gloria; animus enim ut luxu solvitur, ita frugalitate firmatur."

779  jElkessai'oi (Epiphanius); jHlcassaiv (Hippolytus); JElkesaitaiv (Origen). Also Samyai'oi, from   vm,v, , sun.

780  Duvnami" kekallumevnh, ys'K] lyje. Comp. the duvnami" a[sarko"in the Clem. Homilies, XVII. 16. Other derivations: from Elkesi, a village in Galilee (Delitzsch); from yD'v lae; from  syvij;K,l]a'  = apostatae.

781  See the fragments collected in Hilgenfeld’s Nov. Test. extra Canonem receptum, III. 153-167.

782  Johanneschristen, Chrétiens de Saint Jean.

783  Mandäische Grammatik, by Th. Nöldeke. Halle, 1875.

784  For further particulars see the article of Kessler in Herzog, above quoted.

785  Klhvmento'" tw'n Pevtrou ejpidhmiw'n khrugmavtwn ejpitomhv.

786  The Tübingen School, under the lead of Dr. Baur, has greatly exaggerated the importance of these heretical fictions which the unknown author never intended to present as solid facts. Thus Hilgenfeld says (l. c. p. 1) There is scarcely a single writing which is of so great importance for the history of Christianity in its first age, and which has already given such brilliant disclosures [?] at the hands of the most renowned critics in regard to the earliest history of the Christian Church, as the writing ascribed to the Roman Clement, the Recognitions and Homilies."Their importance is confined to the history of heresy, which with the Tübingen school is the most interesting portion of ancient church history.

787  The Tübingen school first denied the use of the fourth Gospel, but the discovery of the missing portion by Dressel in 1853 has settled this point, for it contains (Hom. XIX. 22) a clear quotation from John 9:1-3.

788  The hypothesis has been most fully carried out by Lipsius in his article on Simon Magus in Schenkel’s "Bibellexicon, " vol. V. 301-321.

789  Comp. Hom. XVII. 19 (p. 351 sq. ed. Dressel) with Gal. 2:11, where Paul uses the game word kategnwmevno" of Peter.

790  Hom. II. 22 sqq. (p. 57 sqq.).

791  The prwvth th'/ ajnqrwpovthri paradoqei'sa swthvrio" qrhskeiva.

792  Pu'r kaqavrsion, ignis purgatorius.

793  Clericus, Möhler, Schliemann, Uhlhorn, Schwegler, partly also Lehmann. Uhlhorn has since modified his view (1876).

794  Particularly Hilgenfeld and Ritschl, find among older writers, Cave and Whiston. Salmon also assigns the priority of composition to the Recognitions.

795  The Perivodoi Pevtrou dia; Klhvmento",and the still older Khruvgmata Pevtrou (about a.d. 140-145), the contents of which are mentioned in Recogn. III. 75, and the oldest Acta Petri, parts of which are preserved in the apocryphal Acta Petri et Pauli. See Lipsius, Quellen der röm. Petrus-Sage, 1872, pp. 14 sqq. Uhlhorn assents in his last art. in the new ed. of Herzog, III. 285. Dr. Salmon (in Smith and Wace, 1. 571) likewise assumes that both are drawn from a common original, but that the author of Homilies borrowed the biographical portions from Recognitions.

796  Lovgo" gnwvsew" , lovgo" sofiva" , 1 Cor. 12:8; Comp. 13:2, 12; Jno. 17:3.

797  Yeudwvnumo" gnw'si" 1 Tim. 6:20.

798  1 Cor. 8:1.

799  Rom. 1:22.

800  Baur takes too comprehensive a view of Gnosticism, and includes in it all systems of Christian philosophy of religion down to Schelling and Hegel.

801  Sir William Hamilton and Dean Mansel.

802  Hume, Spencer, Comte. As to Kant, he started from Hume, but checked the scepticism of the theoretical reason by the categorical imperative of the practical reason. See Calderwood’s article "Agnosticism" in Schaffs "Rel. Encycl." vol. I.

803  He calls Gnosticism a "Verteufelung der Natur."

804  Even some of the more recent writers, as Bishop Kaye (Eccl. History of the Second arid Third Centuries), and the translators of Irenaeus in the "Ante-Nicene Christian Library" (Edinb. 1868, vol. 1st, Introductory Notice) have the same idea of the Gnostic system as an impenetrable wilderness, of absurdities. But Mansel, Lightfoot, and Salmon show a clear knowledge of the subject, and agree; substantially with Neander’s account.

805  Povqen to; kakovn, orhJ kakiva: unde malum? (See Tertullian, De Praescript. 7; Adv. Marc. I. 2; Euseb. H. E, V. 27; Baur, Gnosis, p. 19.

806  Dr. Lipsius, Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden (1883), vol. 1. P. 7.

807  Adv. Haer.l.c. 20. §1: jAmuvqhton plh'qo" ajpokruvfwn kai; novqwn grafw'n, a}}" aujtoi; e[plasan, pareisfevrousin eiv" katavplhxin tw'n ajnohvtwn kai; ta; th'" ajlhqeiva" mh; ejpistamevnwn gravmmata.

808  Hippol. Philos. IV. 46, V. 8, 13, 20.

809  Dovkhti", favntasma.

810  Buqov".

811  So in the old Hindu philosophy, absolute Being is regarded as the ground of all existence. It is itself devoid of qualities, incapable of definition, inconceivable, neither one thing nor another thing, yet containing in itself the possibilities; of all things; and out from its dark depths the universe was evolved through some mysterious impulse. The Vedas describe it thus: "It is neither Brahma, nor Vishnoo, nor Sivan, but something back of these, without passion, neither great nor small, neither male nor female, but something far beyond."

812  Nou'", lovgo" , sofiva, duvnami", ajlhvqeia, zwhv , etc.

813  Probolhv (from probavllw), a putting forward, a projection.

814  Basilides and Saturninus use the former illustration; Marcos uses the latter.

815  JH kavtw sofiva, jAcamwvq  (Iren. 1. 4; in Stieren, I. 44),  h'j;k]mrot or  a'KiymWt the Chaldaic form of the Hebrew j;k]m;h .

816  Dhmiourgov", a term used by Plato in a similar sense.

817  Peumatikoiv.

818  Swmatikoiv, fusikoiv, sarkikoiv, uJlikoiv.

819  Yucikoiv.

820  OiJ polloiv.

821  Dei' katacrh'sqai th'/ sarkiv, the flesh must be abused to be conquered.

822  Comp. 2 Thess. 2:4

823  De Praescr. Haeret., c. 41.

824  bdeluriva.

825  blasfhmw'n diabavllei th;n dhmiourgivan .

826  Gibbon, who devotes four pages (Ch. XV.) to the Gnostics, dwells exclusively on the anti-Jewish feature, and makes them express his own aversion to the Old Testament. He calls them (from very superficial knowledge, but with his masterly skill of insinuation) "the most polite, the most learned, and the most wealthy of the Christian name," and says that, being mostly averse to the pleasures of sense, "they morosely arraigned the polygamy of the patriarchs, the gallantries of David, and the seraglio of Solomon," and were at a loss to reconcile "the conquest of Canaan, and the extirpation of the unsuspecting natives with the common notions of humanity and justice."

827  The Tübingen school, which denies the historical character of the Acts, resolves also the story of Simon into a Jewish Christian fiction, aimed at the apostle Paul as the real heretic and magician. So Baur, Zeller, and Volkmar. Lipsius ingeniously carries out this Simon-Paul hypothesis, and declares (I. c. p. 303): "Der Kern der Sage ist niches als ein vollständig ausgeführtes Zerrbild des Heidenapostels, dessen Zäge bis in’s einzelne hinein die Person, die Lehre, und die Lebenschicksale des Paulus persifliren sollen." But the book of Acts gives the earliest record of Simon and is the production, if not of Luke, as we believe with the unanimous testimony of antiquity, at all events of a writer friendly to Paul, and therefore utterly unlikely to insert an anti-Pauline fiction which would stultify the greater part of his own book. Comp. the remarks above, §114, p. 438.

828  Apol. I, 26 (Sivmwna mevn tina Samareva, to;n ajpo; kwvmh" legomevnh" Gittw'n); comp. Clem. Hom. I. 15; II. 22 (ajpo; Gitqw'n); Hippol. Philos. VI. 7 (oJ Gitthnov").There was such a place as Givttai, not far from Flavia Neapolis (Nablus), Justin’s birthplace. It is now called Kuryet Jît (Dschit). See Robinson’s Pal. II. 308, and Otto’s note on the passage in Justin (Opera I. 78).

829  According to Josephus, Ant. XX. 7, 2. The identity is assumed by Neander, De Wette, Hilgenfeld. There was on the island of Cyprus a city named Kivtion  (Thucyd. I. 112, 1), which Justin M. may possibly have confounded with Gitthon, in Samaria, as he confounded Simo and Semo on the statue in Rome. But it is much more likely that Josephus was mistaken on a question of Samaria than Justin, a native of Flavia Neapolis (the ancient Shechem).

830  hJ Duvnami" tou' qeou' h{ Megavlh, Acts 8:10. According to the Clementine Homilies (II. 22) and Recognitions (II.7), Simon called himself " the Supreme Power of God"(ajnwtavth duvnami" ,Virtus Suprema).

831  The memory of this incident is perpetuated in the name of simony for profane traffic in ecclesiastical offices.

832  The legendary accounts, both catholic and heretical, vary considerably. Justin M. reports Simon’s visit to Rome, but assigns it to the reign of Claudius (41-54), and says nothing of an encounter with Peter. Other reports put the journey in the reign of Nero (54-68). According to Hippolytus, Simon was buried alive at his own request, being confident of rising again on the third day, as a pseudo-Christ. According to the Apostolical Constitutions, he attempted to fly, but fell and broke his thigh and ankle-bone in answer to the prayers of Peter, and died in consequence of this injury. According to Arnobius, he attempted to ascend in a fiery chariot, like Elijah, but broke his leg, and in the confusion of shame committed suicide by throwing himself from a high mountain. See Lipsius, l.c. p. 310.

833  He reports (Apol. I26 and 56) that Simon Magus made such an impression by his magical arts upon the Roman Senate and people that they paid him divine homage, and erected a statue to him on the island of the Tiber. But he mistook Semo Sancus orSangus, a Sabine-Roman divinity unknown to him, for Simo Sanctus. For in 1574 a statue was found in the place described, with the inscription: Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio sacrum, etc. The mistake is repeated by Irenaeus Adv. Hoer. I. 23, 1, Tertullian Apol. 13, and Eusebius, but Hippolytus who resided at Rome does not mention it. See Otto’s note on Just. I. 26, Opera I. 79 sq. (ed. III).

834  jApovfasi" megavlh.

835  Philos. VI. 6 sqq.

836  Dei' katacrh'sqai th'/ sarkiv.

837  He adds the curious statement (Strom. III.c. 4) that on a certain occasion Nicolas was sharply reproved by the Apostles as a jealous husband, and repelled the charge by offering to allow his beautiful wife to become the wife of any other person. Extremely improbable.

838  Khvrinqo".

839  Both recorded by, Irenaeus III.c. 3, § 4 as illustrating Tit. 3:10. But the same story of John in the bath is also told of Ebion, whose very existence is doubtful.

840  oJ a[vvnw Cristov". He also calls the Holy Spirit hJ a[vnw duvnami" , the power from on high which came down upon Jesus. Valentine called the Jewish Messiah (oJ kavtw Cristov"). The best account of Cerinth’s Christology is given by Dorner.

841  The chiliastic eschatology of Cerinthus is omitted by Irenaeus, who was himself a chiliast, though of a higher spiritual order, but it is described by Caius, Dionysius (in Eusebius), Theodoret, and Augustin.

842  Comp. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. IV. 7 and Clem. Alex. Strom. IV. 12. p. 599 sq. Origen (Hom. in Luc. I: 1) says that Basilides "had the audacity (ejtovlmhsen) to write a Gospel according to Basilides;" but he probably mistook the commentary for an apocryphal Gospel. Hippolytus expressly asserts that Basilides, in his account of all things concerning the Saviour after "the birth of Jesus" agreed with "the Gospels."

843  The prevailing opinion is that Hippolytus gives the system of Basilides himself, Irenaeus that of his school. So Jacobi, Uhlhorn, Baur, Schaff (first ed.), Möller, Mansel, Hort. The opposite view is defended by Hilgenfeld, Lipsius, Volkmar and Scholten. The reasoning of Hort in favor of the former view, l.c. p. 269 sq., is based on the extracts of Clement of Alex. from the ejxhghtikav of Basilides. He assumes the priority of the Valentinian system, from which Basilides proceeded to construct his own by contrast. But history puts Valentinus about a decade later.

844  Herein, as already remarked, be resembles Hegel, who likewise begins with the idea of absolute non-entity, and reconstructs the universe ex nihilo. In both systems "nothing" must be understood in a non-natural sense, as opposed to all definite, concrete being or form of existence. It is in fact identical with the most abstract conception of pure being. Nichts ist sein, and Sein ist Nichts, but, set in motion by a dialectic process, they produce the Werden, and the werden results in Dasein. And here again the latest German philosophy meets with the oldest Hindu mythology. See the note on p. 453.

845  ajrrhto", ajkatonovmasto" .

846  oJ oujk w}n qeo".

847  panspermiva-a Stoic idea.

848  ajkivnhto" kinhthv"

849  uiJovth" trimerhv".

850  nou'", lovgo" , frovnhsi", sofiva, duvnami" , dikaiosuvnh, andeijrhvnh.

851  Hence it is called mimhtikhv.

852  sterevwma

853  ktivsei", ajrcaiv, dunavmei" , ejxousivai.

854  jAbrasavxorjAbraxav". Abraxas is a euphonic inversion, which seems to date from the Latin translator of Irenaeus.

855  Thrice a = 3; b = 2; r = 100; " = 200; x = 60. Epiphanius mentions that the Basilidians referred the word to the 365 parts (mevlh) of the human body as well as to the days of the year. But modern writers are inclined to think that the engravers of the Abrasax gems and the Basilidians received the mystic name from an older common source. Dr. Hort suggests the derivation from Ab-razach, Ab-zarach, i.e. "the father of effugence," a name appropriate to a solar deity. According to Movers, Serach was a Phoenician name for Adonist, whose worship was connected with the seasons of the year. Comp. Bellermann, Ueber die Gemmen der Alten mit dem Abraxasbilde (Berlin, 1817, ’19) King, The Gnostics and their Remains (London, 1864), Hort, l.c., Matter, Abraxas,"etc. in Herzog, I. 103-107, and Kraus, in his " Real-Encykl. der christl. Alterthümer,"I. 6-10 (with illustrations).

856  Philosoph., VII. 22. He also quoted John 2:4, "My hour is not yet come" , and Luke 1:35, "A Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and a power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." It is true that Hippolytus sometimes mixes up the opinions of the matter with those of his followers. But there is no ambiguity here where Basilides is introduced with fhsiv, "he says," while when quoting from the school he uses the formula "according to them (kat j_ aujtouv"). The joint testimony of these early heretics (to when) we must add the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and the heathen Celsus) is overwhelming against the Tübingen hypothesis of the the origin of the fourth Gospel. See vol. I. p. 707, and Abbott, Authorship of the Fourth Gospel. p. 85 sqq.

857  Oujalentivno" or Balenti'no" .

858  "No other system," says Baur (I. 203), "affords us such a clear insight into the peculiar character of the Gnosis, the inner connection of its view of the world, and the deeper intellectual character of the whole."

859  Clemens Alex. Strom. I. VII. p. 898 (ed. Potter). Nothing certain is known of Theudas.

860  Epiph. Haer. XXXI. 2. The Jewish extraction may be inferred from some of his terms, as "Achamoth."

861  De Praesc. Haer. c. 30, and Adv. Valent. c. 4. Tertullian and the orthodox polemics generally are apt to trace all heresies to impure personal motives.

862  Iren. III. 4, 3. Comp. Euseb. H. E. IV. 10, 11 (quoting from Irenaeus). All authorities agree that he taught at Rome before the middle of the second century.

863  buqov",alsopropavtwr, proarchv, aujtopavtwr.

864  · Iren. I. 1, § 1; Tert. Adv. Val. c. 7.

865  Philos. VI. 24. There seems, however, to have been a difference of opinion among the Valentinians on the companionship of the Bythos, for in ch. 25 we read: "The Father alone, without copulation, has produced an offspring ... he alone possesses the power of self-generation."

866  suvzugoi. The same number of aeons as in Hesiod’s theogony.

867  Also called oJ pathvr (as immediately proceeding from the propavtwr), the Father, also oJ monogenhv", the Onlv Begotten (comp. John 1:18), and the ajrchv as the Beginning of all things (Comp. ejn ajrch'/, John 1:1).

868  The iJera; tetraktuv" of the Pythagoreans. Tert. (c. 7): " prima quadriga Valentinianae factionis, matrix et origo cunctorum."

869  "Es ist eine tiefe Idee des Vatentinianischen Systems," says Neander (II. 722), dass, wie alles Dasein in der Selbstbeschränkung des Bythos seinen Grund hat, so das Dasein alter geschaffenen Wesen auf Beschränkung beruht."

870  The ejnergeiva meristikh; kai; dioristikhv and theejnergeiva eJdrastikh; kai; sthristikhv.

871  Usually identified with Chocmah, but by Lipsius and Jacobi with Chakmuth, the world-mother, which has a place in the system of Bardesanes. The idea of Sophia as the mediatrix of creation is no doubt borrowed from the Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon.

872  oujsiva a[morfo" kai; ajkataskeuvasto" .Philos. VI. 28 (30 ed. Duncker and Schneidewin, I. 274). The Thohuvabohu of Genesis.

873  "Ignorance having arisen within the Pleroma in consequence of Sophia, and shapelessness (ajmorfiva) in consequence of the offspring of Sophia, confusion arose in the pleroma (qovrubu" ejgevneto ejn plhrwvmati)."Philos. VI. 26 (31 in Duncker and Schneidewin).

874  oJ fivlo" tou' numfivou, John 3. 29.

875  Didaskaliva ajnatolikhv. Hippol. VI. 35 (p. 286).

876  They are collected by Grabe, Spicil. II. 83-117, Stieren, in his ed. of Iren. Tom. I. 938-971. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. IV. 9) quotes also from a Commentary of Heracleon on Luke 12:8.

877  Baur (I. 203) significantly ignores Heracleon’s Commentary, which is fatal to his hypothesis of the late origin of the fourth Gospel.

878  The Epistola ad Floram is preserved by Epiphanius (Haer XXIII. § 3). Stieren, in a Latin inaugural address (1813), denied its genuineness, but Rossel in an Appendix to Neanders Church History (Germ. ed. II. 1249-1254, in Torrey’s translation I. 725-728), and Heinrici (l.c. p. 75 sqq.) defend it.

879  Marcos and the Marcosians are known to us from Clement of Alex. and Iren. (I. 13-21). Hippolytus (VI. 39 sqq., p. 296 sqq.) and Epiphanius depend here almost entirely on Irenaeus, who speak of Marcos as still living.

880  It is to be derived from l/q , voice (not from  lKO, all), and  [B'r]a', four. The confusion was first discovered by Heumann (1743), and more fully explained by Volkmar, Die Colarbasus-Gnosis, in Niedner’s "Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol." 1855, p. 603-616. Comp. Baur, I. 204, note, and Hort in Smith and Wace, I. 594 sq.

881  Comp. Aug. Hahn: Bardesanes, Gnosticus Syrorum primus hymnologus. Lips. 1819. A. Merx: Bardes. v. Edessa. Halle, 1863. Lipsius: In the "Zeitschrift für wissenschaftl. Theol." 1863, p. 435 sqq. A. Hilgenfeld. Bardesanes, der letzte Gnostiker. Leipz. 1864. K. Macke: Syrische Lieder gnostischen Ursprungs, in the "Tüb. Theol. Quartalschrift" for 1874. Dr. Hort: Bardaisan, in Smith and Wace, I. 256-260 (very thorough).

882  Eusebius (IV. 30) and Jerome (De Vir. illutstr. 33), misled by the common confusion of the earlier and later Antonines, assign him to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180), but according to the Chronicle of Edessa (Assemani, Bibl. Or. I. 389) He was born July 11, 155, and according to Barhebraeus (Chron. Eccl. ed. Abbeloos and Lamy, 1872, p. 79) he died in 223, aged 68 years. Hilgenfeld, Jacobi and Hortl adopt the latter date.

883  Dr. Hort (p. 252) thinks that "there is no reason to suppose that Bardaisan rejected the. ordinary faith of Christians, as founded on the Gospels and the writings of the Apostles, except on isolated points." The varying modern constructions of his system on a Gnostic basis are all arbitrary.

884  Peri; eiJmarmevnh".It was formerly known only from a Greek extract in Eusebius’s Proeparatio, Evang. (VI. 9, 10). The Syriac original was discovered among the Nitrian MSS of the British Museum, and published by Cureton, in Spicilegium Syriacum. London 1855, with an English translation and notes. Merx gives a German translation with notes (p. 25-55). The treatise is either identical with the Book of the Laws of Countries, or an extract from it. Dr. Hort doubts its genuineness.

885  Ephraem the Syrian speaks of a book of 150 hymns, by which Bardesanes list had beguiled the people, and makes no mention of Harmonius; but Sozomen and Theodoret report that Harmonius was the first to adapt the Syrian language to metrical formal, and music, and that his hymns and times were used till the time of Ephraem. Dr. Hort explains this contradiction, which has not received sufficient attention, by supposing that the book of hymns was really written by Harmonius, perhaps in his father’s lifetime, and at his suggestion. But it is equally possible that Bardesanes was the author and Harmonius the editor, or that both were hymnists. The testimony Ephraem cannot be easily set aside as a pure error. Fragments of hymns of Bardesanes have been traced in the Acta Thomae by K. Macke in the article quoted above. The Syriac hymns of Ephraem are translated into German by Zingerle (1838), and into English by H. Burgess (1853).

886  Epiphanius and others mention, as a reason, his seduction of a consecrated virgin; but this does not agree well with his asceticism, and Irenaeus and Tertullian bring no charge of youthful incontinence against him.

887  So Tertullian: but Irenaeus tells a similar story of Cerdo. Tertullian also reports that Marcion was repeatedly (semel et iterim) excommunicated.

888  Adv. Haer. iil.c. 3, § 4: jEpiginwvskw to;n prwtovtokon tou' Satana'.

889  The Armenian bishop, Esnig, however, brings it nearer to the other forms of Gnosticism. According to him Marcion assumed three heavens; in the highest dwelt the good God, far away from the world, in the second the God of the Law, in the lowest his angels; beneath, on the earth, lay Hyle, or Matter, which he calls also the power (duvnami") or essence (oujsiva) of the earth. The Hyle is a female principle, and by her aid, as his spouse, the Jewish God of the Law made this world, after which he retired to his heaven, and each ruled in his own domain, he with his angels in heaven, and Hyle with her sons on earth. Möller (p. 378) is disposed to accept this account as trustworthy. Salmon thinks; it such a system as Marcion may have learned from Cerdo, but he must have made little account of the mystic element, else it would be mentioned by the earlier writers.

890  " Separatio legis et evangelii proprium et principale opus est Marcionis." Tertullian, Adv. Marc I. 19.

891  "Subito Christus, subito Joannes. Sic sunt omnia apud Marcionem, que suum et plenum habent ordinem apud creatorem." Tert. IV. 11.

892  Renan (L’englise chrét., p. 358) says of the shadowy narrative of Christ’s which Marcion elaborated on the basis of his mutilated Luke: "Si Jesus ne nous avait été connu que par des textes de ce genre, on aurait pu douter s’il avaitvraiment existé, ous’il n’ était pas une fiction, A PRIORI, dégagée de tout lien avec le réalité. Dans un pareil système, le Christ ne naissait pas (la naissance, pour Marcion, était une souillure), ne souffrait pas, ne mourait pas."

893  Tertullian, I. 29; IV. 10.

894  Tert. I. 14.

895  So they understood. 1 Cor. 15:29.

896  Euseb. Vit. Const. III. 64.

897  Flügel’s; Mani, p. 160, 167 (quoted by Salmon). Prof. Jacobi (in Herzog, V. 236) quotes a letter of Hasenkamp to Lavater of the year 1774, and later authorities, to prove the lingering existence of similar opinions in Bosnia and Herzegowina.

898  JOfianoiv, from o[fi", serpent, Serpentini.

899  From  vj;nI.

900  As Baur (K. Gesch. I. 195) expresses it: "Die Schlange ist mit EinemWort der durch die Gegensätze dialectisch sich hindurchwindende Weltentwicklungsprocess relbst."

901  Augustin, De Haer. c. 17 and 46.

902  tWhB; aD;l]y", product of chaos.

903  From peravw, to pass across, to go beyond (the boundary of the material world). We know their system from the confused account of Hippolytus, Philos. I. v. 7 sqq. He says, that their blasphemy against Christ has for many years escaped notice. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius are silent about the Peratae. Clement of Alex. mentions them.

904  The following specimen of Peratic transcendental nonsense is reported by Hippolytus (v. 12): "According to them, the universe is the Father, Son, [and] Matter; [but] each of these three has endless capacities in itself. Intermediate, then, between the Matter and the Father sits the Son, the Word, the Serpent, always being in motion towards the unmoved Father, and [towards] matter itself in motion. And at one time he is turned towards the Father, and receives the powers into his own person; but at another time takes up these powers, and is turned towards Matter. And Matter, [though] devoid of attribute, and being unfashioned, moulds [into itself] forms from the Son which the Son moulded from the Father. But the Son derives shape from the Father after a mode ineffable, and unspeakable, and unchangeable ... No one can be saved or return [into heaven] without the Son, and the Son is the Serpent. For as he brought down from above the paternal marks, so again he carries up from thence those marks, roused from a dormnant condition, and rendered paternal characteristics, substantial ones from the unsubstantial Being, transferring them hither from thence."

905  Kai>noi (Hippol. VIII. 20), Kai>anistaiv (Clem. Alex. Strom, VII. 17), Kai>anoiv (Epiph. Haer. 38), Caiani, Cainaei.

906  This second form, says Renan (L’égl. chrét, p. 177), is common in inscription.

907  So Mosheim, Neander, Baur, Gieseler, Renan. But Möller (p. 371) disputes the dualism of Saturninus, and maintains that Satan and the God of the Jew, ; are alike subordinate, though antagonistic beings. But so is Ahriman in the Parsee dualism, and the Demiurge in all the Gnostic systems.

908  Hippol. Philos. VII. 32: eijkovna" kataskeuavzousi tou' Cristou' levgonte" uJpo; Pilavtou tw'// kairw/'/ ejkeivnw// genevsqai.

909  This was the conjecture of Mosheim, which has been worked out and modified by Volkmar in a monthly periodical of the Wissenschaftl. Verein at Zürich. He maintains that the deity worshipped at Same was the new appearing moon, oJ jEpifanhv".

910  The chronology, is not certain. Zahn and Harnack put his birth at a.d. 110, his conversion at 150, his death at 172. Funk puts the birth and conversion about 10 years later.

911  jEgkrati'tai, also jEgkratei'", jEgkrathtaiv, Continentes, the abstemious; or, JYdroparastavtai, Aquarii.

912  Lipsius regards him as one of the earliest, Salmon (in "Smith & Wace," III. 587), with greater probability, as one of the latest Gnostics. The silence of Irenaeus favors the later date.

913  This was enough to condemn him in the eyes of a Montanist.

914  Hippol. l.c.: e[fh to;n qeo;n ejx u{lh" sugcrovnou kai; ajgennhvtou pavnta pepoihkevnai.

915  This foolish notion be proved from Ps. 19: "He hath placed his tabernacle in the sun."

916  For a fuller account see two good articles of Dr. Salmon on Docetae and Docetism, in "Smith & Wace," I. 865-870.

917  See Clement of Alex., Strom. III. 526. From ajntitavssesqai, to defy, rebel against, the law.

918  Eujgenei'".

919  See Clem. Alex., Strom. I. f. 304; III. f. 438; VII. f. 722; and Epiphan., Haer. 26 (Oehler’s ed. I. 169 sqq.).

920  Mavnh", Mavnto" Manicai'o",Manes (Gen. Manetis), Manichaeans (the last form always used by St. Augustin). The name is either of Persian or Semitic origin, but has not yet been satisfactorily explained. Kessler identifies it with Mânâ, Manda, i.e. knowledge, gnw'i",of the Mandaeans. According to the Acta Archelai he was originally called Cubricus, which Kessler regards as a corruption of the Arabic Shuraik.

921  At least, according to Persian accounts; but the Arabs, who hate painting, and the church fathers are silent about his skill as a painter.

922  Among these are mentioned the Book of Mysteries, the Book of Giants, the Book of Precepts for Hearers (Capitula orEpistola Fundamenti, from which Augustin gives large extracts), Shâhpûrakân (i.e. belonging to King Shâhpûr), the Book of Life, the Gospel or the Living Gospel. See Kessler, l. c, p. 249 sqq.

923  Beausobre (vol. I. Pref. p. viii): "Les Actes de cette Dispute sont évidemment une fiction pareille à celle de cet imposteur, qui a pris le nom de Clément Romain, et qui a introduit S. Pierre disputant contre Simon le Magicien."

924  The cruel death of Mani and the maltreatment of his corpse are well attested but his being skinned alive is perhaps a later Christian tradition. The Disput. Archelai (c. 55) towards the close gives this account: "He was apprehended and brought before the king, who, being inflamed with the strongest indignation against him, and fired will the desire of avenging two deaths upon him—namely, the death of his own son, and the death of the keeper of the prison—gave orders that he should be flayed alive and hung before the gate of the city and that his skin should be dipped in certain medicaments and inflated: his flesh, too, he commanded to be given as a prey to the birds." See the different accounts in Beausobre, I. 205 sq.

925  The Mormons or Latter-Day Saints of Utah present an interesting parallel, especially in their hierarchical organization; while in their polygamy they as strongly contrast with the ascetic Manichaeans, and resemble the Mohammedans.

926  Kessler (followed by Harnack) derives Manichaeism exclusively from Chaldaean sources, but must admit the strong affinity with Zoroastric and Buddhist ideas and customs. The Fihrist says that Mani derived his doctrine from Parsism and Christianity. On the Buddhistic element, see Baur, p. 433-44,).

927  Schleiermacher correctly represents Manichaeism and Pelagianism as the two fundamental heresies in anthropology and soteriology the one makes man essentially evil (in body), and thus denies the possibility of redemption; the other makes man essentially good, and thus denies the necessity of redemption.

928  The meaning of signaculum is not criterion (as Baur explains, l. c. p. 248), but seal (as is clear from the corresponding Arabic hatâm in the Fihrist). See Kessler.

929  The organization of the Mormons is similar.

930  Auditores, catechumeni, in Arabic sammaûn.

931  Electi, perfecti, catharistae, e[klectoi, tevleioi, in the Fihrist siddîkûn. Faustus terms them the sacerdotale genus.

932  The feast of "the chair," bh'ma, cathedra. The Mormons likewise celebrate the martyrdom of their founder, Joseph Smith who was killed by the mob at Carthage, Illinois (June 27, 1844).

933  Gieseler and Neander are disposed to deny the use of water-baptism by the Manichaeans, Beausobre, Thilo, Baur, and Kessler assert it. The passages in Augustin are obscure and conflicting. See Baur, l.c. p. 273-281. The older Gnostic sects (the Marcionites and the Valentinians), and the New Manichaeans practised a baptismal rite by water. Some new light is thrown on this disputed question by the complete Greek text of the Gnostic Acts of Thomas, recently published by Max Bonnet of Montpellier (Acta Thomae, Lips. 1883). Here both baptism and anointing are repeatedly mentioned, p. 19 (in a thanksgiving to Christ: kaqarivsa" aujtou;" tw'/ sw'/ loutrw'/ kai; ajleivya" aujtou;" tw'/ sw'/ ejleivw/ ajpo; th'" periecouvsh" autou;" plavnh"), 20, 35, 68, (where, however, the pouring of oil is mentioned before water-baptism), 73, 32 (ajleivya" ... kai; ejbaptisen aujtou;" ... ajnelqovntwn de; aujtw'n ejk tw'n uJdavtwn labw;n a[rton kai; pothvrion eujlovghsen eijpwvn...). Comp. The discussion of Lipsius in Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden (Braunschweig, 1883), p. 331, where he asserts: "Die Wassertaufe stand bei den Manichaeern ebenso wie bei den meisten älteren gnostichen Secten un Uebung."