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4. The Founding of the First Church of Rome and Its Corruption by Simon Magus and Cerdon (§§1-17)

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4. The Founding of the First Church of Rome and Its Corruption by Simon Magus and Cerdon (§§1-17)



1. The First Church of Rome was founded shortly after Pentecost. There were Jews from Rome and native-born Romans who had been converted to Judaism1 amongst the pilgrims from many lands staying at Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost in AD 332. Many believed the message of the Resurrection, when they heard the preaching of Peter and witnessed the miraculous demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power performed through the Apostles: some will have returned after the Feast to their native lands, carrying their new faith with them.

2. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans3 written around AD 58, mentions two members of the Church in Rome, Junia (traditionally a woman’s name) and Andronicus, who were Christians before Paul, that is, before c. AD 37. This was several years prior to the conversion of the first Roman Gentiles or non-Jews at the house of Cornelius (c. AD 41), as related in the Acts of the Apostles4. Therefore, Junia and Andronicus are unlikely to have heard the Gospel through Gentile intermediaries. They were Jews by birth, not proselytes (Paul calls them his kinsmen), and had come to Christ at a time when the Gospel had not spread beyond the ancient boundaries of Israel and the city of Damascus, except for the individuals from foreign lands who were present at Pentecost and occasional foreign converts such as the Ethiopian eunuch. As they had Roman names, they were perhaps Jews who had been born in Italy, or had natural ties with that country. How and where, then, did these two become Christians so early in the history of the Church? They were either converted at Pentecost or in the first few years thereafter and most probably in the near vicinity of Judaea. If they were originally Jewish residents in Rome, they may have made a pilgrimage to the festival at Jerusalem in AD 33, as Jews who lived in foreign countries commonly did, and there heard Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost and witnessed for themselves the momentous and miraculous events of that time.

3. They were evidently more than mere spectators. Paul uses an unusual phrase to describe Junia and Andronicus: he says they were “of note among the apostles”. 1) They were OF NOTE (Greek episemoi, literally marked or stamped, i.e., as we might say, they were noticeably of the same fine brand as the Apostles); 2) they were counted AMONG the Apostles; 3) they were counted among THE Apostles. These considerations suggest not only that they were closely associated with the circle of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem (point 3) but also that they had the same remarkable, supernatural ministry and self-sacrificing energy which distinguished the Galilean Apostles (point 1): Paul uses the image of a seal, imprinting impressions, marks or signs on clay or metal to describe the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the human personality; the “signs” or “marks” of an Apostle were miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit, like healing and prophecy, that accompanied the ministry, and the patient endurance of suffering and hardship in behalf of the Gospel. Junia and Andronicus were obviously “stamped” with that Apostolic Seal. Paul refers to them as his “fellowprisoners” and this shows they had already suffered for the cause of Christ. The phrase also appears to denote that Andronicus and Junia received the Seal or Stamp of the Holy Spirit “among the Apostles”, i.e. when and where the Apostles received It, confirming their presence at Pentecost. Furthermore, it implies (point 2) that they had a singular call to missionary work and that this work rivaled in importance that of the Apostles themselves. What more likely than that call was in the direction of their adopted home,




The Probable Location of the Upper Room (“Cenacle”) on the Madaba Map Jerusalem Section



to evangelize the capital of the Gentile world as the Apostles evangelized the capital of Israel? At any event, on their return to or arrival in Rome, as joyful, Spirit-filled believers in the Lord Jesus, baptized in His Name, they surely would have spread the Word amongst their Jewish compatriots, and gathered a Jewish Christian circle, as well as Gentile converts, around them. The core of the fellowship would have been what we would call today Messianic Jews, keeping the commandments of the Torah, the Law of Moses, as did the disciples in Jerusalem, but depending wholly on the Messiah Jesus for salvation of their soul.

4. We know that when Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) enacted legislation against the Jews, first denying them the right to assemble (early AD 41)5, and subsequently (c. AD 45-49) expelling all Jews from Rome, it was because he had become alarmed at the increasing number of foreign cults in the city and the disturbances to which they gave rise: the Jews were, according to the Roman historian, Suetonius, continually causing riots because “they were driven to do so by Chrestus”6 (Chrestus is the common, pagan Roman, way of spelling the name Christ). This implies there were already Christians in Rome by the time of Claudius and that their preaching had upset the established Jewish community. The same decree of Claudius drove two Jews from Rome, named Aquila and Prisca (or, less formally, Priscilla), a man and his wife. They fled to Corinth, the chief city of Achaea or Southern Greece, and there met the Apostle Paul who was preaching the Gospel in that city. The Acts of the Apostles mentions nothing of their conversion and implies that Paul was immediately at home with them; in fact he set up business with them (both Aquila and Paul made tents for a living). This strongly suggests they were already Christians when Paul met them.

5. There seems, then, to have existed at Rome in the reign of Claudius a community of Christians, composed of Messianic Jews and as many Gentile converts as they had won to Christ, founded between AD 33 and 49 as a consequence of the preaching of Peter at Pentecost, and counting in its ranks the Jewish couple Aquila and Priscilla and probably also the Spirit-anointed Jewish missionaries Andronicus and Junia. The location of this community seems to have been quite close to the center of the city in the crowded Subura, since a remnant of that first church is found in the second century AD holding meetings in an extension of the Subura along the Vicus Lateranus on the Esquiline Hill, priding itself in its status as the “First Church of Rome”; also a second house-church associated with members of the fellowship of Junia and Andronicus listed in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, traditionally a “sister-church” of the one on the Vicus Lateranus, is found located in another extension of the Subura, along the Vicus Patricius on the Viminal Hill, from the latter half of the first century AD, which tends to confirm the connection of the two missionaries with that particular district. The common origin and subsequent estrangement of these twin house-churches will form the central theme of the story as it unfolds. The Subura was a bustling, noisy, red-light zone, described as dirty and wet, frequented by traders in provisions and delicacies and artisans of various sorts, and dotted with the occasional residence of some noble family, including that of Caesar himself and that of L. Arruntius Stella, consul in AD 101. There was, indeed, a Jewish colony in the Subura, as there were in several other regions of the city, including Porta Capena on the Aventine (also traditionally the site of a house-church in the latter half of the first century AD), but the largest Jewish settlement in the reigns of the early emperors was on the Janiculum Hill in Trastevere (Trans Tiberim in Latin), across the River Tiber from the Roman Forum, that being the heartland of the rabbinical Jewish community in the city. Then came the decree banishing Jews — including Christian Jews — from Rome. Emperor Claudius did not revoke his decrees during his lifetime, therefore they were still in force until his death in AD 54. During his 13 year reign only Jewish Christians who did not adhere to the Law of Moses and latterly only Christians who were not of the nation of Israel could practice their faith without hindrance in the city. The Gentile converts of that first church would suddenly have found themselves orphaned7: their Jewish teachers and faithful apostles, their spiritual guides, had been driven out of the city. What would become of them in the hostile, pagan, and downright corrupt, environment of first-century Rome? As their subsequent history proves, that fatal wound to the earliest church in the capital was never properly healed.

6. Some years after the death of Claudius, around AD 58, Paul wrote his Epistle to the Roman Christians. He states in that epistle that he had wanted to visit the Christians in Rome for “many years”8: “many” must mean more than one or two, and considering that “few” means “eight” elsewhere9 in the New Testament epistles, this confirms the existence of a Christian community in Rome at least as early as the reign of Claudius. Now, in Chapter 16 of the epistle, Paul sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla and Junia and Andronicus. So by AD 58, when Claudius was dead and his decrees had lapsed, the Jewish Christians were back in Rome.

7. In fact Paul refers in his epistle to THREE groups of Christians in Rome at that time. One is the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. The church of Santa Prisca on the Aventine near the Circus Maximus occupies the traditional site of their house, in the Porta Capena area with its Jewish colony. The second is the group whose missionaries were Junia and Andronicus. They did not have a pastor at that time and Junia and Andronicus were in prison. It was to this second group mainly that Paul wrote his epistle. Paul said he longed to come to Rome himself and establish these latter Christians in the Faith, imparting to them some spiritual benefit by his presence. Paul’s normal practice would have been, once he arrived there, to exhort them to band around their God-given elders and, depending on the need at the time, to ordain an elder with the necessary qualifications as “overseer” or “supervisor” (Gk. episkopos, “bishop”) of the financial business of the assembly, viz. funding its spiritual and charitable operations. The church leaders in those days were called “elders” (in Greek presbuteroi, from which we get the word “priests”) or “shepherds” (Greek poimenes, pastor is the Latin word for “shepherd”). They were elected by God Himself and equipped with spiritual gifts to do the job. The “supervisors, overseers” (in Greek episkopoi, “bishops”), whose purview was material welfare, though elders also in their own right, were elected by the church-members to their charitable post, confirmed by the ordination or laying-on of hands by apostles, and, if the number of welfare-recipients required, were assisted in the exercise of their commission by “administrators” (“deacons”, Greek diakonoi)9a. All, elders, overseers and administrators, were supposed to be servants of the laity, not overlords. One of the Christians in this second group, Rufus, is believed by some to have been the Roman senator Rufus Pudens, who later opened his house on the Vicus Patricius for Christian meetings. An overseer to administer the welfare of this assembly was ordained by “apostles”, Paul perhaps one of them, when he finally reached the capital. The church of Santa Pudenziana (Pudentiana), named after Pudens, on the Viminal Hill, marks the traditional site of this ancient house-church. Hermas, another in this second group, a converted slave, later received a prophetic ministry amongst the brethren of Pudens’ fellowship.

8. Finally, Paul refers to a rather mysterious, THIRD group of Christians present in Rome around AD 58. The members of this group, Paul says, were the cause of DIVISIONS in the Christian body of Rome (i.e. they had formed a sect or sects of their own) and they were opposed to the True Faith of the Christians Paul was writing to. Paul said their god was their belly: they were selfish, sensual Christians, interested in Christianity only for what they could get out of it. Paul told the Christians to MARK AND AVOID them. This means they were past correcting in Paul’s judgment. In fact these false ones tried to deceive the simple believers by their show of higher education and oratory, by “good words” and fair speeches. They were a menace to the newly reconstituted churches of the city. No wonder Paul was concerned for that flock without a pastor.

9. Where did this SECT come from? A clue is found in the name “Chrestus” (not “Christus”) which the Roman history gives as the name of the instigator (impulsor) of the Jewish riots in Claudius’ reign and who the wording of the passage implies was actually present in Rome at that time. There was a sect of heretical Christians, called Gnostics (“Knowing Ones”), who claimed to have special divine “Gnosis” (“Knowledge” or “Science” falsely so called — Paul refers to it10 at the end of his First Epistle to Timothy); they had particular reasons to call Jesus “Chrestus” and the cult-leader who founded their movement is said to have arrived in Rome during the reign of Claudius. The origin and beliefs of this sect will be examined in more detail hereafter. “Chrestus” means the “Good One” and was a title of several heathen gods. The pagans whom the heretics were eager to impress already knew of gods called “Chrestus”, but Jesus’ proper title “Christus” (from the Greek Christos, “Anointed One”, a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach, “Anointed One, Messiah”) meant nothing to them: it is not surprising, therefore, to find the name “Chrestus” for Christ and “Chrestiani” for Christians in common use thereafter amongst the pagan Romans, this being the earliest historical evidence of that usage. Furthermore, the heretics wanted to disassociate their “good” god from what they termed the “evil” god of the Jews. The latter, the Creator God of the Old Testament, was, on their blasphemous theorizing, a veritable demon, a malevolent, inferior, spirit, guilty by his own admission of the murder of innocent, Canaanite, babies, and prone to fits of bad temper, in which, as at Sinai, he thundered down in judgment and damnation on “good”, sweet, loving people (like themselves and the worshipers of the Golden Calf!). He was also responsible, according to them, for all the suffering, pain and death found in the material world which he had created. Such a god, they said, could never have been the Father of their Jesus “Chrestus”, the messenger of Love and Goodness. There are nominal Christians still under the influence of this heretical view of the God of the Old Testament through its appropriation by, and perpetuation in, Roman Catholic Christianity, as well as in certain Protestant movements which sprang from Rome in the Reformation. It breeds anti-Semitism in all its vile forms. Notice the “good words” (Greek CHRESTOlogia) which Paul in the Epistle to the Romans says the heretics used to deceive the faithful. Notice also how Paul begins his letter to the pastorless Roman Christians with a condemnation of certain intellectual pseudo-believers who, like these heretics, had a knowledge (epiGNOSIS) of God but who fell into idolatry and then into all kinds of moral deviation and sexual perversion11.

10. Christian writers in the second century AD claimed that the earliest sect of heretics in Rome were the disciples of the Samaritan cult-leader, Simon Magus12. Simon Magus is said to have been, originally, a disciple of the prophet, and forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist, the most prominent of his inner circle of thirty disciples. However, after acquiring a smattering of Greek learning in Alexandria, Simon drifted into heresy. He became the associate of a false teacher and sorcerer, called Dositheus, who was likewise, originally, one of the thirty disciples of John the Baptist. Dositheus claimed to be nothing less than the manifestation or embodiment of God on earth, the so-called “Standing One”, who would never taste of death. This was his way of asserting that he was the expected “Coming One” (the Christ or Messiah) foretold by John the Baptist. For John had prophesied to those who asked him whether he was the Messiah: “I baptize with water: but there STANDETH one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose”13. Dositheus, like John, was the head of thirty disciples. Simon eventually ousted his master from his position of leadership. The story goes that on one occasion, when Dositheus smote Simon with a staff, because of his impudence in asserting his superior knowledge, the staff passed through him as though through smoke. Dositheus asked Simon if it was he, indeed, who was the “Standing One”, and, on receiving an answer in the affirmative, bowed down to him in worship. Filling out his divine title a little, Simon now presented himself as “He Who Stood, Stands and Is To Stand”! Soon he established himself in his home territory of Samaria, bewitching the multitudes by his pretended “signs and wonders” and persuading them to believe that he was indeed the embodiment of the Supreme Power.

10a. That, for the present purposes, would have been the end of the story had not an unusual turn of events brought Simon into contact with the Apostles of Jesus shortly after Pentecost14. Philip the Evangelist was led of the Spirit to preach the Word of God and the Resurrection of Jesus in Samaria. Simon was astounded at the miracles he saw performed in the ministry of Philip the Evangelist, which far surpassed anything he was able to produce, and which thoroughly convinced the previously bewitched Samaritans of the truth of Philip’s message. Simon, too, was convinced and believed (so far as his intellectual faculties were persuaded by the outward manifestations of the Spirit) and was baptized. A little while later, however, the Apostles Peter and John came to Samaria to pray for the new believers there to receive the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was received by the Samaritans at the laying-on of hands by the Apostles, Simon imagined that this was some kind of magical rite, through which the supernatural powers he had witnessed in Philip’s ministry could be conferred from person to person. He approached Peter and offered him money to acquire from him the power to lay on hands and transfer the Holy Spirit to others. (Both the creed and the deed thus first exemplified in Simon Magus are prevalent in denominational Christianity to this day.) Peter roundly rebuked him for his shamelessness and blasphemy. His real motivation and lack of heartfelt faith could not be concealed from the all-seeing eye of the Spirit of God in Peter. He was openly denounced as a money-loving hypocrite, thoroughly, still, in bondage to the occult.

10b. Though terrified at Peter’s rebuke and the fate that might befall him as an apostate, Simon was far from being repentant, as his subsequent history proves. He realized that his exposure by the Apostles and the success of the Gospel preached by them amongst the Samaritans spelt the death-knell to his efforts in those parts. Looking for greener pastures in the West, Simon came to Rome IN THE TIME OF THE EMPEROR CLAUDIUS, between AD 41 and 54, precisely in the period when the Jews, including Christian Jews, were expelled from Rome because of rioting at the instigation of “Chrestus”. Though Simon himself seems to have been Jewish on his mother’s side, and Gentile Cypriot on his father’s, he was a Samaritan by nationality, a native of the Samaritan village of Gitto, and also had at least one, very powerful, friend in Claudius’ court15. Claudius’ ban did not affect him. Later Christian writers claim that Simon deluded and held under his occult sway many Christians present in Rome at that time. The reference must be mainly to Gentile Christians16 — since faithful Jews had been forced to leave — and indeed, being Gentiles, newly brought to faith in Christ and without Jewish background in the Scriptures, they would have been easy targets for deceivers like Simon17. Here was the sad remnant of that first church, so cruelly orphaned by Claudius’ decree. Satan had provided the orphans with a “father”. These Gentile Christians were now wholly under the turbulent influence of Simon Magus and his Gnostic heresy18. But the Samaritan magus also impressed some Romans in high position in the State, because the authorities of Rome sanctioned the erection of a statue to Simon “The Holy God” on the island in the River Tiber at Rome, the base of which with its inscription was discovered in 1574. This was at a point in the River just below the Jewish colony at the foot of the Janiculum Hill, and was, no doubt, a provocation to the Jews. The Roman authorities would in the circumstances have had no objection to such anti-Semitic posturing.

10c. The evidence is that in Rome Simon became acquainted with Claudius’ favorite, the ex-slave and socialite, Antonius Felix. Felix influenced the legislation that Claudius introduced. As Simon’s anti-Semitic sway over Felix increased, Felix encouraged Claudius to act against the Jews. Hence Claudius’ law expelling Jews from Rome (c. AD 45-49). Later in Claudius’ reign, Felix was granted his wish to become, of all things, procurator of Judaea. There his obligation to Simon became even greater. He asked the magus to help him woo the young and beautiful Drusilla from her royal husband, Azizus, king of Emesa. Simon agreed. Sent by Felix to Drusilla, Simon’s hypnotic powers of persuasion prevailed. Drusilla abandoned her husband and married Felix. When, a few years later, the Apostle Paul was arrested in Judaea, he was brought to trial before Felix and his adulterous consort, Drusilla, in Caesarea (c. AD 59). It is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that Felix trembled when he heard Paul talk about righteousness and the divine Judgment to come, this in spite of the fact that (probably through the magus Simon) Felix had a quite accurate knowledge of Christian doctrine. As was the case with his friend, Simon, Felix’s intellectual appraisal of Christianity was utterly divorced from its practical, moral, application19. It does not surprise us to find Felix thereafter pursuing anti-Semitic policies in Judaea and provoking Jewish riots. Soon Simon’s dreams were fulfilled. The Jewish reaction led to Roman intervention, then to the Jewish revolt against Rome, and finally to the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (AD 70). Nine years later, as the judgment of God on all the players in this drama unfolded, Drusilla’s child, Agrippa III, the offspring of her illegitimate union, perished in the eruption of Vesuvius.

11. In the light of this evidence, we would expect there to be another early church in Roman tradition, apart from Santa Prisca (Aquila and Prisca’s house-church) and Santa Pudenziana (the second house-church in Pudens’ house), which would mark the site of this original Christian fellowship in Rome. To recap, the community was founded, as seems most likely, by Andronicus and Junia during their earlier mission-work in Rome before the reign of Claudius, but subsequently, when its Jewish members were banished from the city, it fell into Gnostic error under the influence of Simon Magus. Another such house-church does appear in the old records, called Santa Prassede. It was located in the Subura district on the Vicus Lateranus (the modern Via S. Martino ai Monti and Via Santa Prassede near S. Maria Maggiore) and is one of the three house-churches said to have existed within the walls of Rome before the middle of the second century AD, these three being Santa Prisca, Santa Pudenziana, and Santa Prassede20: in Roman tradition Santa Prassede is also referred to as a sister-church of Santa Pudenziana, i.e. originally it was closely connected with Pudens’ fellowship and its missionaries Junia and Andronicus. Furthermore, the later bishops of this church insisted that it was the FIRST and ORIGINAL church in Rome, and indeed it was. What they did not say is that it was hopelessly and irremediably backslidden from its original pure Christian faith. We shall see later how this church came to be named after one of Pudens’ faithful daughters, whilst providing an ecclesiastical home for the Gnostic heretics.

12. Simon was a devotee of the religion of the Magi21. The form of Magism practiced at Rome in that period was Mithraism, the worship of the god Mithras, and Mithras was one of the deities who was titled “Chrestos” (in Latin, “Chrestus”), the “Good One”. Simon claimed to be the very embodiment of that “Good One” the Gnostics preached about22. so the “Chrestus” or “Good” Christ that drove the Jews to riot in Rome and who the words of the Roman history imply was actually present in Rome at that time as a mover of sedition could well have been Simon Magus himself. There had been bitter blood for centuries between Samaritans and Jews: it would not be at all surprising if in the time of Claudius Jews had been offended to the point of rioting by this Samaritan heretical form of Christianity. One obvious, public provocation, noted by later Christian historians, was the statue of the “god” Simon on the island in the Tiber, which was within sight of the main Jewish colony in Trastevere and stood like a malignant sentinel between the Jews and the city of Rome. Certainly Simon seems to have had quite an impact in the cities where he was active. The whole of Samaria, according to the Acts of the Apostles, was stirred by his phenomenal demonstrations. Similar results were achieved in Rome, if we accept the account of Simon’s fellow Samaritan (and learned heresy-hunter), Justin Martyr, who was well placed to know the facts, and other Christian writers who followed and amplified it. There is, in fact, evidence that a revival or, rather, a recreation of Mithraism occurred about this time: a “religious genius”23 who lived no later than around AD 100 seems to have combined the ancient Mithraic cult with the popular, syncretic paganism of the early Empire, with Platonism and with themes apparently derived from Christianity in such a way that by the second century AD the new cult of Mithraism was widely accepted throughout the Roman world. Simon was a magus who fitted the bill precisely, operating in the very heart of the empire and combining the Magian cult with elements of Graeco-Roman paganism, philosophy and Christianity, exactly as this reconstruction requires. Mithraism was thereafter the deadly rival of Christianity. If the Roman Empire had not turned officially “Christian” in the time of Constantine, it almost certainly would have turned Mithraic.

13. The secondary effect of Simon’s cultic activity was to cast in a false light the Christian faith preached by the original Jewish Christians. The followers of Simon were not correctable in Paul’s judgment, so Aquila and Priscilla, on their return to Rome, set up their new house-church, in a different location from Simon’s group, on a spur of the Aventine Hill near the Circus Maximus (Santa Prisca). The other group of Christians are found later conducting meetings likewise, at a separate location from the Simonians, in senator Pudens’ house on the Viminal Hill on the Vicus Patricius (now the church of Santa Pudenziana on the Via Urbana). This house-church was, however, much nearer the heretical school than Aquila and Priscilla’s gathering, in the same district of the Subura. Later this proved a liability as some of the elders from the church in Pudens’ house defected to the Gnostics; the geographical proximity perhaps facilitated fellowship between the two groups.

14. The heretics aped the Gentile, pagan, religions and combined Christianity with pagan cults. They were popular with their heathen neighbors and with the authorities of the city. They suffered no persecution24. Popularity and acclaim was what they coveted. All the trappings of paganism, image-worship, multiplicity of gods and goddesses, rituals and sacrifices, they introduced into their “New Age” form of Christianity, retaining only the titles of the original faith and dispensing with the substance. Also they formed themselves into a philosophical “school” like the heathen philosophers. Schools of this kind were common throughout the Roman Empire. The Apostle Paul had taught in the school of one Tyrannus in Ephesus on the coast of Turkey, but he used it only as a place to preach and teach. The Church in Ephesus founded by Saint Paul was different altogether. Schools were academic institutions, the Church was led supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.

15. Simon Magus was succeeded as head of the Gnostic movement in Rome by another leader, or “Father” as they called him (a blasphemous assumption of God’s paternal title)25, who developed and modified the Gnostic teaching according to his own “inner light”. With a head start from Simon and his immediate circle of disciples, a Syrian called Cerdon launched out on the Gnostic path and took up his residence in Rome26. He taught that the Supreme God was higher than the Creator-god of the Old Testament, and was the ideal Ultimate Good to which the pagan philosophers aspired — if the aim was to seduce intellectuals — or otherwise was the Supreme Deity, the Beneficent or Good Being, of the idolatrous heathen. Spirit was good and was the essence of the Superior God. Matter was evil and was the creation of the inferior god. This doctrine was derived from the dualistic theories of the Zoroastrian Magians. He looked down on the Jewish Law and the Scriptures of the Old Testament, believing them to be inspired by the inferior Creator-god. Jesus was the Son of the Superior God, on his theory, and was consequently a pure Spirit-being, having no real, fleshly, body. He was not born in a literal sense from the Virgin and did not really suffer on the Cross (for how could a pure Spirit be born or die?). The kind of Gnostic theories to which Cerdon subscribed held that whilst the Supreme God appeared in an apparitional body as Jesus, his proper, material, body was BREAD (!), the bread of the eucharist, and Gnostics of this stamp refused to hold communion with Bible-believing Christians who held otherwise27. Initiates were “born again” or “redeemed,” not by faith in the risen Jesus and reception of the Holy Spirit as taught by the Apostles, but by the literal waters of baptism, or by sprinkling, followed by an anointing with oil and a benediction of “peace” — all these nonbiblical, magical, rites being performed with a strictly prescribed, liturgical, formula, in a language foreign to the hearers. In other forms of the Gnostic “rebirth” the initiate dressed up in bridal attire, or, if on the point of death, received an anointing with oil which was supposed to guarantee entrance into the realm of the Supreme God. Some believed, contrariwise, that the acceptance of the ridiculously complex theories of the Gnostic gurus was itself the true “rebirth”28. A literal Resurrection of the body Cerdon denied outright. At death, the human soul entered into eternal life, that being the “Resurrection” referred to in those Scriptures which he accepted as inspired by the Superior God. Being wholly averse to the Jewish Law, and imagining that the Apostle Paul sympathized with that viewpoint29 Cerdon accepted only the Gospel of Luke (Paul’s Gospel) as authentic. However, all the passages in that Gospel which contradicted his Gnostic theory he excised from the text. He treated the Epistles of Paul likewise. The Acts of the Apostles and the Revelation of John he rejected altogether. In the course of a long and prosperous career as head of the Roman school he managed to corrupt some eminent members of the rival, Bible-believing, fellowship and latterly, in a master stroke, retransformed his school into (the outward semblance of) a Christian Church. His group was known at first as the Cerdonian “heresy” by the Bible-believing Christians and only after its alleged transformation was it referred to as a “church”. However, it was not long before the Bible teachers exposed Cerdon’s ecclesiastical charade. Cerdon, in turn, was succeeded by the infamous archheretic, Marcion, in the first half of the second century AD. The modifications introduced by each successor resulted in further degradation of the original, Pentecostal, Christian, faith. Also splinter-groups broke away from Simon’s school and formed schools of their own, aping once again the pagan philosophies. By AD 62 there were already seven sects of heretics30, of which Simon’s was the first31. By the middle of the second century AD, a whole swarm of Gnostic heresies32 had spread over the Roman Empire from the breeding-ground in the capital, and principally from the school of Cerdon and Marcion. The demonic inspiration for these movements came from the East, and usually the founding gurus made their way from the East to Rome, from Alexandria in Egypt or from Antioch in Syria, but the whole movement began to center around Rome itself. These cult-leaders wanted to become famous in the capital city of the Empire. They hoped to rise up the social ladder by peddling their “Gnosis”, or theological “Science”, amongst the rich and idle upper classes of Rome. Lust for influence and wealth was what motivated them.

15a. From a letter of Emperor Hadrian, sent in AD 134 at the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt to his brother-in-law Servianus, we obtain a glimpse of what the Gnostic gurus appeared like in their eastern homelands to well-informed contemporaries. (The letter was cited originally in a lost work of Phlegon, the freedman of Hadrian, from which, in turn, it was quoted by Vopiscus, in Vita Saturnini VIII. 1-7:) “Hadrian Augustus to Servianus, Consul, greetings! My dearest Servianus, I have now got the measure of Egypt, which you praised up to me. It is full of vanity, dependent on others to prop it up, and ready to fly at every rumor doing the rounds. The worshipers of Serapis are Christians, and those who call themselves bishops [Latin: episcopos] of Christ are under vow in the service of Serapis. There is not a leader of a Jewish synagogue, not a Samaritan, not a Christian presbyter [Latin: presbyter], who is not an astrologer [Latin: mathematicus], a diviner [Latin: aruspex] or anointer [Latin: aliptes]. The patriarch [Latin: patriarcha] himself, when he arrives in Egypt, by some is huddled off to worship Serapis, by others Christ. It is a social group always ready to promote seditions, full of empty boasting, and dangerous in the extreme … They only have one god — money! The Christians worship him, the Jews worship him, and so do all the racial communities ….”33. Note that the fusion of the obscene cult of Serapis with that of Christ went hand in hand in Egypt with the affectation of hierarchical, non-Scriptural, titles, like “patriarch” (= “chief father”), by the leaders of the paganizing pseudo-Christians, which had the effect of elevating them above the ordinary members of their congregation.

16. When Paul arrived in Rome around AD 61, he was a “house-prisoner” awaiting trial by Caesar. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem hoped he would be found guilty of causing public disturbances and punished (preferably executed) by the Roman authorities. The Jews in Rome had heard nothing from the religious authorities in Jerusalem about Paul and he was able to preach the Word amongst them for at least two years, according to Luke’s account in the Acts of the Apostles. He used his hired accommodation in Rome as a meeting-house. At some point following that period he was transferred to the Praetorium, or Praetorian Camp, which was the military garrison and barracks of the Praetorian Guard which policed the city. His presence in Rome must have been a great encouragement to the Christians there. The modest gatherings of disciples mentioned in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans swelled to a “huge multitude”34 (implying hundreds, if not thousands) while Paul was in the city, though their days were destined to be few in the “vale of tears”.

17. Whilst under arrest, Paul also wrote letters to the churches he had helped to set up in Europe and Asia. In these letters we find Paul mentioning the heretical Christian sect. They were clearly still active in the city. In his letter from Rome to the Christian Church in Philippi in Macedonia (Northern Greece), around AD 63, Paul mentions a group of so-called Christians in Rome who preached Christ, but with wrong motives. They were envious of the true believers and argued and disputed with them. Of false brethren like these Paul says in his letter, their god is their belly, they are proud of what they ought to be ashamed of, they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, they are concerned with worldly affairs, and their end is destruction; he refers to “dogs” (religiously-motivated sodomites) and “evil-workers” and to the “concision” (meaning circumcised professors of Christianity — both Samaritans and Jews were circumcised and there were Gnostics who were also circumcised Jews); by contrast, true Christians, he says, belong to a heavenly Kingdom, waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus, and the transformation of the body He will effect at that time, and have nothing to do with secular politics. “Belly-worship” is the identical phrase Paul used to describe the Roman heretics in his earlier Epistle to the Romans. The phrase is not mere metaphor as some actually worshiped the phallic god Priapus under the title the “Good God”35. These false brethren wanted to make Paul’s situation worse, hoping that the authorities would punish him with something more than imprisonment. Indeed, it is in this very letter, and immediately before his mention of the heretics’ agitation against him, that Paul refers for the first time to his imprisonment in the Praetorian military garrison. Paul’s penal conditions had deteriorated since the days of his house-arrest. The provocateurs were not Jews by religion, they were — nominally — Christians. Also they were active, spreading their propaganda around the city by public preaching. They were OF the world, not merely IN it. They wanted to obtain their objectives by USING THE SECULAR AUTHORITIES AGAINST THE TRUE CHRISTIANS. This was the technique of Simon and his Gnostic disciples.

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Footnotes 1-35


1. Acts, 2. 1-13: ¶ And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 ¶ And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.


2. On the date AD 33 rather than AD 30 and for other details about the events at the Crucifixion, see Appendix 1.


3. In the following passage of Romans, we find Paul addressing a group of Christian believers, listed by name, amongst them Andronicus and Junia (v. 7) , but no pastor or bishop is designated amongst that group. There is no indication that this group was divided into different fellowships. Paul also mentions (v. 3) a separate church (ekklesia) in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. Here, then, in AD 58 we find two fellowships in Rome, one a church (ekklesia) so called under Paul’s steadfast adherents, Aquila and Priscilla, and a second group, apparently forming a looser fellowship, who included the missionaries Andronicus and Junia, but were without a pastor. Finally, vv. 17-18, is mentioned a group of schismatics and heretics, who were a danger to the simple-hearted believers. Romans, 16. 1-20: “¶ I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord. 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. 16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. 17 ¶ Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words [chrêstologia] and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”


4. The beginning of the Gentile Church was held to have been the conversion of Cornelius and his friends: Acts of the Apostles, Ch. 10 (passim) and 15. 7: Acts 10. 45-48: “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” Acts 15. 7: “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.”


5. Dion Cassius, LX. vi: “The Jews had by this time increased in numbers again and it would have been difficult to remove them from the city without a disturbance of their own people; so, he [Claudius] did not expel them, but brought in legislation forbidding them to assemble, whilst they continued to order their daily lives by their ancestral Law. The associations reintroduced by Gaius [Caligula], he dissolved.”. On the dating to AD 41 compare Dion Cassius LX. viii. 1-4: [A series of intervening acts] “Next [my emphasis, the decree of Claudius relating to the Jews being mentioned earlier in Dion’s account] he [Claudius] restored Commagene to Antiochus, since Gaius, though he had himself given him the district, had taken it away again; and Mithridates the Iberian, whom Gaius had summoned and imprisoned, was sent home again to resume his throne. To another Mithridates, a lineal descendant of Mithridates the Great, he granted Bosporus, giving to Polemon some land in Cilicia in place of it. He enlarged the domain of Agrippa [I] of Palestine, who, happening to be in Rome, had helped him to become emperor, and bestowed on him the rank of consul; and to his brother Herod he gave the rank of praetor and a principality. And he permitted them to enter the senate and to express their thanks to him in Greek.The acts I have named, now, were the acts of Claudius himself, and they were praised by everybody; but certain other things were done at this time of quite a different nature by his freedmen and by his wife Valeria Messalina ….” The decree of Claudius on the Jews preceded [“next” viii. 1] these acts but was effected at the same period [“at this time” viii. 4], according to the simple reading of Dion Cassius, and according to Josephus, Wars, II. xi. 5, the donation of Claudius to Agrippa happened “immediately” after and as a consequence of the help Agrippa gave to Claudius when he was raised to the imperial purple. This dates the decree to AD 41, as Claudius was made emperor at the very beginning of AD 41 on Jan 24th of that year. The decree of Claudius reads as follows: “Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, pontifex maximus, holding the tribunician power, proclaims:….Therefore it is right that also the Jews, who are in all the world under us, shall maintain their ancestral customs without hindrance and to them I now also command to use this my kindness rather reasonably and not to despise the religious rites of the other nations, but to observe their own laws.”


6. Suetonius, Life of Claudius, XXV. 4: Suetonius writes “Iudaeos impulsore Chresto adsidue tumultantis Roma expulsit.” “The Jews, who were persistently causing public disturbances because they were driven to do so by Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled from Rome.”


7. This word is used by the Apostle Paul regarding the new, Gentile, converts of Thessalonica in Macedonia (I Thess. 2. 7: Gk. ‘êmeis de adelphoi aporphanisthentes aph’ ‘umôn …., i.e. “We, brethren, having been separated from you like (parents from) orphans ….” Cp. ibid. 2. 7, 11. When Paul wrote I Thessalonians from Athens, he, Silvanus and Timothy had been compelled by circumstance to leave the new converts without spiritual guidance at a time when they were under persecution from the local authorities and Jewish radicals. A similar situation is envisaged here. In fact in I Thessalonians, Paul uses expressions in this connection almost identical to those in the first chapter of Romans, describing his great desire to see the “orphaned” brethren face to face and to supply any deficiency in their knowledge of Christ (cp. I Thess. 2. 17f. and 3. 10 with Romans 1. 10-13).


8. Romans, 15. 22-24: “22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. 23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; 24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.”


9. I Peter, 3. 20: “… Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”


9a. The difference between the presiding elders called pastors (shepherds) and the presiding elders called overseers (bishops) is of major importance in this regard. The elders known as shepherds (pastors) are in the New Testament sovereign gifts of Christ to His Body universal: Ephesians 4. 11ff.: “11 And he {Christ} gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors {lit. “shepherds”} and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, etc.” Christ Himself appoints them to this post (verse 11), as He does the other gifted ministers in the fivefold ministry detailed here. For example Christ Himself selected and appointed the twelve apostles in the days of His flesh (apostles being one of the callings in the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4). The elders called overseers (bishops), on the other hand, are chosen for their overseeing post by the members of the flock, this choice being confirmed by the senior presiding elders present, for example by apostles in the New Testament, with the blessing of God over the whole process. The overseers, as overseers, are literally “clerks” (that is holders of an allotted position, from Gk. kleros, lot, or, a position for which lots, that is, votes, are cast). That is the word used in Acts 1. 26 (when the lots were cast for Matthias as bishop) and I Peter 5. 3 (where the overseers or bishops are said literally to have oversight of the “lots”, meaning of the positions into which they were voted). Peter knew the meaning of this word when he wrote his Epistle because he had presided over the original process in Acts 1. Assisted, as we shall see, by deacons or administrators, theirs is a “business” relating to “tables” (Acts 6. 2-3), not a purely spiritual calling: the fivefold ministry, on the contrary, relates to ministry of the Word of God. The first overseer (bishop) was Judas, and his elected job was to hold the funds for the apostolic band and provide funds from it to the other apostles and for the poor (John 12. 6, 13. 29). When Judas apostatized his post as overseer was filled by a vote amongst the one hundred and twenty disciples, which elected two men with an equal tally of votes. Then the apostles cast lots between the two with the blessing of God and the lot fell on Matthias. (Acts 1. 15-26.) He was the elected overseer to replace Judas, and his job was identical. Notice this was by vote of all the members, laity and ministers, and confirmed by the senior presiding elders, the apostles, not by sovereign appointment of Christ Himself through the Spirit. This overseer (bishop), like all future ones in apostolic Christianity, was already an elder by divine appointment (as Matthias had been a witness of the ministry of Christ along with the eleven remaining apostles, Acts 1. 21-22), but was voted into his extra position as overseer, just as Judas was already an elder, an apostle chosen by Christ, and additionally was elected by the disciples as overseer. When the number of disciples grew from one hundred and twenty to thousands, after Pentecost, faithful, approved and Spirit-filled laymen (not elders for this post) were likewise elected as “deacons” in Jerusalem, that is, administrators, to assist in the charitable distributions under the supervision of the elected overseer (Matthias). Acts 6. 1-6. This was purely because of the expansion of the work in Jerusalem, and therefore also of the need. When Paul led the mission-work into Gentile lands, he appointed (lit. “appointed by vote with a show of hands”) as overseers certain elders whom God had raised up amongst the new believers, following precisely the apostolic practice after Pentecost. (Acts 14. 23, cf. Titus 1. 5, where we see these elders are ordained [lit. “put into office”] to be “bishops”, viz. overseers.) Paul explains in his Pastoral Epistles (I Timothy 3. 1-7, Titus 1. 5-9) what qualifications these elected overseers must meet to fulfill the duty of ministering faithfully in the distribution of God-given funds, and those qualifications are strict; likewise in the case of deacons (administrators), and the qualifications for the latter are, in certain respects, even stricter. (I Timothy 3. 8-13.) Similarly stringent regulations are applied to widows and others who are to be the recipients of the charitable distributions of believers. (I Timothy 5. 3-16.) The temptation to abuse the Church’s generosity is the reason for its regulation, since the love of money, as Paul himself pointed out, is “the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6. 10). The qualifications applied to elders in the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4 are the spiritual qualifications of men elected by Christ Himself, beyond and above the say of man, but every ministry must be tested on the anvil of the written Word of God before it is accepted by faithful believers. It is not enough for a pastor (elder) to say, Christ has called me to this position. He must prove by his life, signs and works, to the satisfaction of Bible-believing brethren, that he is Word-qualified. There are some elders who are simply “elders” (older in the Lord), there are some elders who “rule” or “preside” (meaning they have a calling or position of responsibility in the ministry, either in the fivefold or spiritual ministry of Ephesians 4, laboring in the Word and doctrine, or as an overseer, a bishop, in material distribution), and there are some elders who “rule well”. (I Timothy 5. 17.) The last, of course, is the preferred state. The overseer’s ministry is to a single local flock where he exercises his responsibility for distribution, but the elders of the fivefold ministry have a universal ministry which covers both local flocks and other flocks wherever they are located across the world, perhaps through missionary (apostolic) work, or through letter etc. The difference is clearly in view in Acts 20. 28 which reads: (Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders) “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had you overseers placed, to feed {lit. “shepherd”} the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” (The verb “ … had you placed …” exactly as in Acts 12. 4, middle voice, where Herod “had Peter placed” in prison.) Here Paul says to the elders to “feed (shepherd) THE CHURCH OF GOD” purchased by the blood of God, that is the whole Church of Christ universally. That confirms the application of the ministry of elders-pastors as one of the fivefold ministries to the universal Church. Likewise he says to those elders who are also overseers, that is bishops (it may be all these elders or only some of them who were also bishops, it is not stated directly) to take heed to “the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit had you overseers (bishops) placed”. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III. xiv. 2) understood this passage to relate to two groups of ministers, 1) elders and 2) overseers (bishops): “In Miletus … were called together the bishops (episcopi) and the elders (presbyteri) from Ephesus and the rest of the neighboring settlements”. In Acts 20. 28 certainly there is a difference made between the “whole flock” (whole individual flock) in which certain elders happen to have been placed as overseers by the foreordination of the Holy Spirit, and the “Church of God” (universal) purchased by the blood of God, to which all the elders have a ministry. That is because an overseer was an overseer of a local flock, there being perhaps several local flocks in Ephesus (and its dependent territories), and the overseer’s individual ministry of distribution was for that local flock only. If Paul had meant that these elders had been ordained bishops of the whole church of Ephesus or the church universal, higher than and as leaders of other elders, he would have simply said, “Take heed to yourselves and the whole flock or church of God over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”. His separation of the local flock of oversight and the universal Church is precisely in accord with the Scriptures already examined. The contrast the Apostle was drawing, by implication, was between the attitude of Judas, that of the very first bishop or overseer (episkopos), who betrayed his Master and caused the shedding of God’s blood in promoting the material interests of his local (Judaean) flock above the universal interests of the Church of God, and the opposite attitude impressed on these elders. We will notice, as the history unfolds, that the role of overseer (bishop) was changed from one of material distribution to spiritual governance, in complete contradiction to the Biblical order. This occurred by error (no doubt) in the first instance, when the expedient was adopted by Ignatius, a disciple of the apostles, to defend against heresy: he ensured by this means that the elders appointed as bishops by himself and his adherents were the elders who would be in authority, because he knew they were untainted by heresy. It was a means of guaranteeing their doctrine was wholesome: he himself or his like-minded brethren had personally ordained these elders to be bishops, and their faith was proven first. This seemed to be the way forward, as it prevented some heretic’s rising up and proclaiming he was “anointed by Christ” to preach. In one of the few pre-Ignatian sub-Aposolic works to have survived the devastation of the ages, viz. in the Shepherd of Hermas, we find the work of the overseer or bishop (episkopos) clearly defined as follows: (Similitude IX. xxvii. 2) “Bishops (episkopoi) and hospitable men who at all times received the servants of God into their houses gladly and without hypocrisy; and the bishops (episkopoi) ever ceaselessly sheltered the destitute and the widows by their ministration (diakonia), and ever behaved with holiness”. However, Ignatius refused to treat even deacons as the “ministers of tables” they very clearly were in the Acts of the Apostles (6. 2), stating (Trallians 3. 2) that deacons are not “ministers (diakonoi) of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God”. Ignatius’ modifications were not authorized by the Word of God and the doctrine of the apostles. They led quickly to a system in which man-ordained bishops, not God-ordained elders, became the leaders of the Church. The average member of the Body was not now expected to test the spirits of preachers and teachers by the Word before accepting them, as God commanded (I John 4. 1ff.), he just had to accept the committee’s appointees, and the inevitable result was “Organization”, the cancer which has sapped the strength of the Spirit-directed Body of Christ through the centuries.


10. I Timothy, 6. 20f.: “20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [Greek: gnosis] falsely so called: 21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.”


11. Romans, 1: 18-32: “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 ¶ Because that which may be known [Greek: to gnoston] of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew [Greek: gnontes] God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge [Greek: epignosei], God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing [Greek: epignontes] the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”


12. §1. The most reliable traditions relating to Simon Magus outside of the New Testament are those found in Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, dating from around the middle of the second century AD, along with an account in Josephus relating to Felix’s associate, Simon. Justin, First Apology, 26: “…. After Christ’s ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were gods; and they were not only not persecuted by you, but even deemed worthy of honors. There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a God, and as a God was honored by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: — “Simoni Deo Sancto,” “To Simon the holy God.” And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first God; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Menander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetaea, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his. And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other God greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds — the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh — we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a treatise against all the heresies that have existed already composed, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you.” Also Dial.Tryph. cxx: “For I gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Caesar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and might.” Irenaeus Adv. Haer. I. xxiii. 1-4: “CHAPTER 23 DOCTRINES AND PRACTICES OF SIMON MAGUS AND MENANDER 1. Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries.” This Simon, then — who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus — suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would, — was addressed in these words by Peter: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God can be purchased with money: thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honored with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a God; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him. 2. Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: — Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Ennoea leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions [of space], and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this world was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Ennoea was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus was struck blind, because he had cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep. 3. For this purpose, then, he had come that he might win her first, and free her from slavery, while he conferred salvation upon men, by making himself known to them. For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world. 4. Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practice magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called “Paredri” (familiars) and “Oniropompi” (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them “knowledge, falsely so called,” received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions.”

§2. More detailed accounts of the background and history of Simon Magus are found in less reliable, but still rather circumstantial and, to that extent, creditworthy, heretical writings. The following are expurgated versions of an heretical tract of an Elkesaite tendency, dating from the first half of the third century AD. The underlying heretical tract was an adaptation of sub-apostolic traditions relating to Peter and Simon Magus. Clementine Homilies II. xxiii-xxv: “CHAPTER 23 SIMON A DISCIPLE OF THE BAPTIST “But that he came to deal with the doctrines of religion happened on this wise. There was one John, a day-baptist, who was also, according to the method of combination, the forerunner of our Lord Jesus; and as the Lord had twelve apostles, bearing the number of the twelve months of the sun, so also he, John, had thirty chief men, fulfilling the monthly reckoning of the moon, in which number was a certain woman called Helena, that not even this might be without a dispensational significance. For a woman, being half a man, made up the imperfect number of the triacontad; as also in the case of the moon, whose revolution does not make the complete course of the month. But of these thirty, the first and the most esteemed by John was Simon; and the reason of his not being chief after the death of John was as follows: — CHAPTER 24 ELECTIONEERING STRATAGEMS “He being absent in Egypt for the practice of magic, and John being killed, Dositheus desiring the leadership, falsely gave out that Simon was dead, and succeeded to the seat. But Simon, returning not long after, and strenuously holding by the place as his own, when he met with Dositheus did not demand the place, knowing that a man who has attained power beyond his expectations cannot be removed from it. Wherefore with pretended friendship he gives himself for a while to the second place, under Dositheus. But taking his place after a few days among the thirty fellow-disciples, he began to malign Dositheus as not delivering the instructions correctly. And this he said that he did, not through unwillingness to deliver them correctly, but through ignorance. And on one occasion, Dositheus, perceiving that this artful accusation of Simon was dissipating the opinion of him with respect to many, so that they did not think that he was the Standing One, came in a rage to the usual place of meeting, and finding Simon, struck him with a staff. But it seemed to pass through the body of Simon as if he had been smoke. Thereupon Dositheus, being confounded, said to him, ‘If you are the Standing One, I also will worship you.’ Then Simon said that he was; and Dositheus, knowing that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshiped; and associating himself with the twenty-nine chiefs, he raised Simon to his own place of repute; and thus, not many days after, Dositheus himself, while he (Simon) stood, fell down and died. CHAPTER 25 SIMON’S DECEIT “But Simon is going about in company with Helena, and even till now, as you see, is stirring up the people. And he says that he has brought down this Helena from the highest heavens to the world; being queen, as the all-bearing being, and wisdom, for whose sake, says he, the Greeks and barbarians fought, having before their eyes but an image of truth; for she, who really is the truth, was then with the chiefest God. Moreover, by cunningly explaining certain things of this sort, made up from Grecian myths, he deceives many; especially as he performs many signal marvels, so that if we did not know that he does these things by magic, we ourselves should also have been deceived. But whereas we were his fellow-laborers at the first, so long as be did such things without doing wrong to the interests of religion; now that he has madly begun to attempt to deceive those who are religious, we have withdrawn from him.” Clementine Recognitions II. vii-xv: CHAPTER 7 “This Simon’s father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation he is a Samaritan, from a village of the Gettones; by profession a magician yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be the Christ, and to be called the Standing One. And he uses this name as implying that he can never be dissolved, asserting that his flesh is so compacted by the power of his divinity, that it can endure to eternity. Hence, therefore, he is called the Standing One, as though he cannot fall by any corruption. CHAPTER 8 SIMON MAGUS: HIS HISTORY “For after that John the Baptist was killed, as you yourself also know, when Dositheus had broached his heresy, with thirty other chief disciples, and one woman, who was called Luna — whence also these thirty appear to have been appointed with reference to the number of the days, according to the course of the moon — this Simon ambitious of evil glory, as we have said, goes to Dositheus, and pretending friendship, entreats him, that if any one of those thirty should die, he should straightway substitute him in room of the dead: for it was contrary to their rule either to exceed the fixed number, or to admit any one who was unknown, or not yet proved; whence also the rest, desiring to become worthy of the place and number, are eager in every way to please, according to the institutions of their sect each one of those who aspire after admittance into the number, hoping that he may be deemed worthy to be put into the place of the deceased, when, as we have said, any one dies. Therefore Dositheus, being greatly urged by this man, introduced Simon when a vacancy occurred among the number. CHAPTER 9 SIMON MAGUS: HIS PROFESSION “But not long after he fell in love with that woman whom they call Luna; and he confided all things to us as his friends: how he was a magician, and how he loved Luna, and how, being desirous of glory, he was unwilling to enjoy her ingloriously, but that he was waiting patiently till he could enjoy her honorably; yet so if we also would conspire with him towards the accomplishment of his desires. And he promised that, as a reward of this service, he would cause us to be invested with the highest honors, and we should be believed by men to be gods; ‘Only, however, on condition,’ says he, ‘that you confer the chief place upon me, Simon, who by magic art am able to show many signs and prodigies, by means of which either my glory or our sect may be established …. CHAPTER 11 SIMON MAGUS, AT THE HEAD OF THE SECT OF DOSITHEUS “Meantime, at the outset, as soon as he was reckoned among the thirty disciples of Dositheus, he began to depreciate Dositheus himself, saying that he did not teach purely or perfectly, and that this was the result not of ill intention, but of ignorance. But Dositheus, when he perceived that Simon was depreciating him, fearing lest his reputation among men might be obscured (for he himself was supposed to be the Standing One), moved with rage, when they met as usual at the school, seized a rod, and began to beat Simon; but suddenly the rod seemed to pass through his body, as if it had been smoke. On which Dositheus, being astonished, says to him, ‘Tell me if thou art the Standing One, that I may adore thee.’ And when Simon answered that he was, then Dositheus, perceiving that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshiped him, and gave up his own place as chief to Simon, ordering all the rank of thirty men to obey him; himself taking the inferior place which Simon formerly occupied. Not long after this he died. CHAPTER 12 SIMON MAGUS AND LUNA “Therefore, after the death of Dositheus Simon took Luna to himself; and with her he still goes about, as you see, deceiving multitudes, and asserting that he himself is a certain power which is above God the Creator, while Luna, who is with him, has been brought down from the higher heavens, and that she is Wisdom, the mother of all things, for whom, says he, the Greeks and barbarians contending, were able in some measure to see an image of her; but of herself, as she is, as the dweller with the first and only God, they were wholly ignorant. Propounding these and other things of the same sort, he has deceived many. But I ought also to state this, which I remember that I myself saw. Once, when this Luna of his was in a certain tower, a great multitude had assembled to see her, and were standing around the tower on all sides; but she was seen by all the people to lean forward, and to look out through all the windows of that tower. Many other wonderful things he did and does; so that men, being astonished at them, think that he himself is the great God.’ …. CHAPTER 14 SIMON MAGUS, PROFESSES TO BE GOD “At those sayings of his Simon grew pale; but after a little, recollecting himself, he thus answered: ‘Do not think that I am a man of your race. I am neither magician, nor lover of Luna, nor son of Antonius. For before my mother Rachel and he came together, she, still a virgin, conceived me, while it was in my power to be either small or great, and to appear as a man among men. Therefore I have chosen you first as my friends, for the purpose of trying you, that I may place you first in my heavenly and unspeakable places when I shall have proved you. Therefore I have pretended to be a man, that I might more clearly ascertain if you cherish entire affection towards me.’ But when I heard that, judging him indeed to be a wretch, yet wondering at his impudence; and blushing for him, and at the same thee fearing lest he should attempt some evil against us, I beckoned to Niceta to feign for a little along with me, and said to him: ‘Be not angry with us, corruptible men, O thou incorruptible God, but rather accept our affection, and our mind willing to know who God is; for we did not till now know who thou art, nor did we perceive that thou art he whom we were seeking.’”


13. John 1. 26-27.


14. Acts, 8. 9-25: 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 ¶ Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.


15. §1. On Felix: Ancient sources: Acts 23. 24-26, 24, 25.14; Josephus, Antiquities 20.7.1-2, 20.8.5-7, 20.8.9; War 2.12.8, 2.13.2, 2.13.4-5, 2.13.7; Tacitus, Histories 5.9; Annals 12.54; Suetonius, Claudius 28.

The earliest account in Acts locates Simon in Samaria but says nothing of his family or origin. The next account in Josephus (below) tells us of a magus by the name of Simon who was an intimate associate of Antonius Felix the procurator of Judaea before whom Paul appeared in Caesarea c. AD 59. This Simon the magus was already a friend of Felix in the early years of his procuratorship during the latter part of the reign of Claudius. At the prompting of Felix, Simon won over the young and beautiful Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I and wife of Azizus, king of Emesa, and persuaded her to commit adultery and marry Felix (c. AD 54). Josephus says Simon was a Jew and by birth a Cypriot. (A scribal slip seems to have produced the impossible “Atomos” as the name of this magus in a couple of MSS., probably through the insertion and corruption of the name Antonius [Felix], and perhaps also through Simon’s adoption of this, his Roman patron’s, name. Note that in the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions the “father” of the Biblical Simon Magus is called Antonius and the magus denies this Antonius was his real father — though admittedly only to claim a virgin birth for himself! [Below.]) Felix was one of the chief favorites of the Emperor Claudius (r. AD 41-54) amongst his freedmen, second only, if not equal, in Claudius’ esteem, to the freedman Posides. Claudius granted the procuratorship of Judaea to Felix (c. AD 52-53) as an imperial favor. The close relationship between Felix and Claudius, on the one hand, and between Simon the magus and Felix, on the other, would have given Simon considerable influence in imperial circles in Rome.

§2. The next account in Justin Martyr tells us that a magus called Simon, the one mentioned in Acts, came from Samaria to Rome in the days of Claudius and received great honors there. He was worshiped as a god and a statue of Simon, identifying him with the Roman deity Semo Sancus, was erected on the Isle in the Tiber. Simon Magus was the founder of a sect of heretics in Rome and founded a school which gave birth to a swarm of other Gnostic heresies. (The setting of the Dialogue with Trypho is Ephesus at some period near or just after the end of the Bar-Kokhba revolt c. AD 135-145, and the First Apology dates from around the third quarter of the second century AD.) Justin’s account is corroborated by Irenaeus (c. AD 180), Adv. Haer. I. xxiii. 1. The likelihood is, as has frequently been observed, that Acts, Josephus and Justin are talking about the same magus. It would be highly improbable that there were two magi of the name Simon, both connected with the area of Judaea and Samaria in the days of Claudius, and, at the same time, having access to, and great influence with, the inner circles of the imperial court in Rome. (Scholars of both the conservative and the critical schools have accepted the identity of the two Simons; Waitz says the identification is “not improbable” in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. X, col. 420a, s.v. Simon Magus.) We find that when Felix was made procurator of Judaea, towards the end of the reign of Claudius, he embarked on a policy of wicked aggravation of his Jewish subjects. His period in office marked, according to Tacitus and Josephus, a milestone in the deterioration of the relationship between the Jews and the Romans, which finally culminated in the disastrous Jewish revolt and the sacking of Jerusalem in AD 70. And the fault, Tacitus tells us, was on the part of Felix. Is it a coincidence that the Gnostic teaching of Simon Magus, Felix’s close friend and spiritual advocate, was markedly anti-Semitic?

§3. But even before Felix arrived in Judaea, we find anti-Semitic policies being put into effect by Claudius, viz. the expulsion of Jews from Rome (c. AD 45-49). (Dion Cassius tells us that the earlier decree of AD 41, forbidding Jews to assemble, was Claudius’ own. The earlier decree was moderate in tone and tolerant, the second decree draconian.) According to Suetonius, the reason for the expulsion was that the Jews were continually causing riots, “because they were driven to do so by Chrestus” (impulsore Chresto). “Chrestus” is a common, pagan, Roman way of spelling the name Christ (the Messiah), but was also a heathen divine name, meaning the “Good One”. Seemingly there was someone in Rome stirring up Jewish riots who called himself the “Good One” or “Christ”. Claudius’ legislation, however, did not expel the alleged troublemaker, “Chrestus”, but rather the Jews whom he provoked to riot. Suetonius also informs us (Claudius 25) that the inspiration for these and other legal pronouncements did not originate with Claudius himself but with his favorites. And we know that one of his chief favorites was Felix, with his anti-Semitic spiritual advocate, Simon Magus. Again, can it be coincidence that Simon Magus, according to the later Christian and apocryphal writers, called himself “Christ” (Christus or Chrestus) and also identified himself as the pagan supreme deity, the “Good One”? It would appear that these Jewish riots in Rome in the days of Claudius were stirred up by Felix’s friend Simon Magus, who blasphemously assumed the titles of godhead and Messiahship, and used his influence with Felix to attack the Jews, first in Rome, then in Judaea, when Felix became procurator there. Simon’s Gnostic followers are known to have adopted an identical policy of anti-Semitic provocation and aggravation in the reigns of the Emperors Domitian and Trajan.

§4. The contradiction some have seen in the different accounts of Simon’s background is illusory. Josephus says by BIRTH Simon was of Cypriot origin and that he was a Jew. The apocryphal Vercelli Acts of Peter (going back to a source c. AD 200), ch. vi., likewise call Simon — the biblical Simon Magus — a Jew. According to Justin, Simon was from the Samaritan village of Gitto. Samaria was a region populated by a rich mix of races. Because Simon’s home was Gitto in Samaria, that need not mean that his parents were Samaritan. The “Samaritan” tag is linked with the village and is an indication of Simon’s geographical origin, whilst Josephus is talking about his genetic origin. The next account in Irenaeus (c. AD 180) repeats and corroborates the account of Justin. The next account in the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions adds a few details about Simon’s family, stating that the name of his father, or alleged father, was Antonius, and his mother’s name, Rachel, and confirming that his home town was Gitto (called Gitthae in the Apostolic Constitutions, and the village of the Gettones or Gitthae or Gitthi in the pseudo-Clementines). Rachel could be either a Jewish or a Samaritan name (hence Simon could have been Jewish on his mother’s side), whilst Antonius is non-Jewish, Roman in form, and is, perhaps, derived from Simon’s Roman patron, Antonius Felix. When a foreigner became a Roman citizen, he adopted a new name which was formed like that of the freedman. He chose his own praenomen (Roman personal name); he received the nomen (Roman family or gens name) of his citizen sponsor; and he adopted his original name as cognomen. For example, when the Greek poet Archias became a citizen, his name changed to Aulus Licinius Archias. He had been attached to the Luculli family so he adopted the nomen of his patron, L. Licinius Lucullus. In this case the nomen would be Antonius, taken from Antonius Felix, and the cognomen Simon. We can presume that Simon was the recipient of Roman citizenship, considering he was the recipient of Roman divinity! (For the later history of Simon Magus, after his adventures in Rome, see below, n. 20 §3.)

§5. Jos. Ant XX vii. 2: But for the marriage of Drusilla with Azizus, it was in no long time afterward dissolved upon the following occasion: While Felix was procurator of Judea, he saw this Drusilla, and fell in love with her; for she did indeed exceed all other women in beauty; and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon, one of his friends; a Jew he was, and by birth [note] a Cypriot, and one who pretended to be a magician, and endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry him; and promised, that if she would not refuse him, he would make her a happy woman. Accordingly she acted ill, and because she was desirous to avoid her sister Bernice’s envy, for she was very ill treated by her on account of her beauty, was prevailed upon to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and to marry Felix; and when he had had a son by her, he named him Agrippa. But after what manner that young man, with his wife, perished at the conflagration of the mountain Vesuvius, in the days of Titus Caesar, shall be related hereafter.

§6. For Justin Martyr’s account, see note 12.

§7. Apost Const. VI. 7: . Now the original of the new heresies began thus: the devil entered into one Simon, of a village [note] called Gitthae, a Samaritan, by profession a magician, and made him the minister of his wicked design.

§8. Rec. Clem II. 7: This Simon’s father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation [note] he is a Samaritan, from a village [note] of the Gettones; by profession a magician yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be the Christ, and to be called the Standing One. And he uses this name as implying that he can never be dissolved, asserting that his flesh is so compacted by the power of his divinity, that it can endure to eternity. Hence, therefore, he is called the Standing One, as though he cannot fall by any corruption.

§9. Rec. Clem II. 14: “At those sayings of his Simon grew pale; but after a little, recollecting himself, he thus answered: ‘Do not think that I am a man of your race. I am neither magician, nor lover of Luna [“Moon” = Helena], nor son of Antonius. For before my mother Rachel and he came together, she, still a virgin, conceived me, while it was in my power to be either small or great, and to appear as a man among men. Therefore I have chosen you first as my friends, for the purpose of trying you, that I may place you first in my heavenly and unspeakable places when I shall have proved you.

§10. For Claudius and his favorites: see Suetonius: Lives of the Caesars, Claudius, 25 … The Jews, who were persistently causing public disturbances because they were driven to do so by Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled from Rome …. But in these and other things, and indeed the greater part of his administration, he was directed not so much by his own judgment, as by the influence of his wives and freedmen; for the most part acting in conformity to what their interests or fancies dictated. … 28. Amongst his freedmen, the greatest favorite was the eunuch Posides, whom, in his British triumph he presented with the headless spear, classing him among the military men. Next to him, if not equal, in favor was Felix, whom he not only preferred to commands both of cohorts and troops, but to the government of the province of Judea; and he became, in consequence of his elevation, the husband of three queens.

§11. On Felix as a vexatious procurator who had a hand in stirring up the Jewish Revolt, cf. Tacitus Annals 12. 54: “Not equally moderate was his [Pallas’] brother, surnamed Felix, who had for some time been governor of Judaea, and thought that he could do any evil act with impunity, backed up as he was by such power. It is true that the Jews had shown symptoms of commotion in a seditious outbreak, and when they had heard of the assassination of Caius [Caligula], there was no hearty submission, as a fear still lingered that any of the emperors might impose the same orders. Felix meanwhile, by ill-timed remedies, stimulated disloyal acts; while he had, as a rival in the worst wickedness, Ventidius Cumanus, who held a part of the province, which was so divided that Galilea was governed by Cumanus, Samaria by Felix. The two peoples had long been at feud, and now less than ever restrained their enmity, from contempt of their rulers. And accordingly they plundered each other, letting loose bands of robbers, forming ambuscades, and occasionally fighting battles, and carrying the spoil and booty to the two procurators, who at first rejoiced at all this, but, as the mischief grew, they interposed with an armed force, which was cut to pieces. The flame of war would have spread through the province, but it was saved by Quadratus, governor of Syria. In dealing with the Jews, who had been daring enough to slay our soldiers, there was little hesitation about their being capitally punished. Some delay indeed was occasioned by Cumanus and Felix; for Claudius on hearing the causes of the rebellion had given authority for deciding also the case of these procurators. Quadratus, however, exhibited Felix as one of the judges, admitting him to the bench with the view of cowing the ardor of the prosecutors. And so Cumanus was condemned for the crimes which the two had committed, and tranquillity was restored to the province.”

§12. Histories 5. 9: “Under Tiberius all was quiet. But when the Jews were ordered by Caligula to set up his statue in the temple, they preferred the alternative of war. The death of the Emperor put an end to the disturbance. The kings were either dead, or reduced to insignificance, when Claudius entrusted the province of Judaea to the Roman Knights or to his own freedmen, one of whom, Antonius Felix, indulging in every kind of barbarity and lust, exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave. He had married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, and so was the grandson-in-law, as Claudius was the grandson, of Antony. Yet the endurance of the Jews lasted till Gessius Florus was procurator. In his time the war broke out.”

§13. Josephus, Ant. XX. viii. 5: “Felix also bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because he frequently gave him admonitions about governing the Jewish affairs better than he did, lest he should himself have complaints made of him by the multitude, since he it was who had desired Caesar to send him as procurator of Judea. So Felix contrived a method whereby he might get rid of him, now he was become so continually troublesome to him; for such continual admonitions are grievous to those who are disposed to act unjustly. Wherefore Felix persuaded one of Jonathan’s most faithful friends, a citizen of Jerusalem, whose name was Doras, to bring the robbers [the so-called sicarii] upon Jonathan, in order to kill him; and this he did by promising to give him a great deal of money for so doing. Doras complied with the proposal, and contrived matters so, that the robbers might murder him after the following manner: Certain of those robbers went up to the city, as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments, and by thus mingling themselves among the multitude they slew Jonathan and as this murder was never avenged, the robbers went up with the greatest security at the festivals after this time; and having weapons concealed in like manner as before, and mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew certain of their own enemies, and were subservient to other men for money; and slew others, not only in remote parts of the city, but in the temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty. And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred of these men’s wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery, as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities.”

§14. According to a passage of Josephus preserved in Eusebius Hist. Ecc. the War was divine punishment for the Jews’ murder of James the brother of Jesus, which murder was induced by heretics spawned by the school of Simon Magus. In this case, too, impulsore Chresto, Simon was the instigator of the Jews’ misfortune.

§15. The role of the heretics in fomenting disturbances, war and captivity in Judaea is probably alluded to also in I Clement 3. 2.


16. See Appendix 2.


17. The apocryphal Vercelli Acts of Peter, which go back to a Docetic heretical source c. AD 200, and draw on ancient ecclesiastical traditions, mixed with myth and legend, describe just such a situation in Rome (op. cit. chs. iv, v, vi and vii): “[IV.] …. And the brethren were not a little offended among themselves, seeing, moreover, that Paul was not at Rome, neither Timotheus nor Barnabas, for they had been sent into Macedonia by Paul [this dates the terminus a quo to the latter part of the reign of Claudius, as Timothy does not appear till then, in Acts 16], and that there was no man to comfort us, to speak nothing of them that had but just become catechumens. And as Simon exalted himself yet more by the works which he did, and many of them daily called Paul a sorcerer, and others a deceiver, of so great a multitude that had been stablished in the faith all fell away save Narcissus the presbyter and two women in the lodging of the Bithynians, and four that could no longer go out of their house, but were shut up (day and night): these gave themselves unto prayer (by day and night), beseeching the Lord that Paul might return [sic in these Acts] quickly, or some other that should visit his servants, because the devil had made them fall by his wickedness. [V.] And as they prayed and fasted, God was already teaching Peter at Jerusalem of that which should come to pass. For whereas the twelve years which the Lord Christ had enjoined upon him were fulfilled, he showed him a vision after this manner, saying unto him: Peter, that Simon the sorcerer whom thou didst cast out of Judaea, convicting him, hath again come before thee (prevented thee) at Rome. And that shalt thou know shortly (or, and that thou mayest know in few words): for all that did believe in me hath Satan made to fall by his craft and working: whose Power Simon approveth himself to be …. [VI] … a certain Jew had broken into the city, named Simon, and with his charms of sorcery and his wickedness hath he made all the brotherhood fall away this way …. [VII.] …. if he [Satan] overthrew me [Peter] and persuaded me to flee as if I had put my trust in a man, what think ye will he do unto you [Roman believers deceived by Simon] which are but young in the faith?


18. See Appendix 3.


19. There was little to choose morally between Drusilla and her sister Bernice. The latter was living in incestuous marriage with her brother Agrippa II when Festus had Paul testify before Agrippa II after two years’ confinement in Caesarea! “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” said Agrippa II to Paul, but almost was not enough. (Acts 24. 24 — 26. 32).


20. The traditional connection of these three, earliest, house-churches in Rome with the family of Pudens, with the earliest of the Roman Catacombs, and with the Christians greeted by Paul in Romans 16, is brought out in the online Catholic Encyclopedia’s article “Early Roman Christian Cemeteries” at www.newadvent.org/cathen (Section “C”): “Cemetery of Priscilla. This is the oldest general cemetery of Early Christian Rome (Kaufmann) and in several respects the most important. It takes its name from Priscilla, the mother of the Senator Pudens in whose house St. Peter, according to ancient tradition, found refuge. The sepulchral plot (area) of Pudens on the New Salarian Way became the burial-place of Aquila and Prisca (Rom., xvi, 3), and of Sts. Pudentiana and Praxedes, daughters of Pudens. In this manner the history of the very ancient Roman churches of Santa Pudentiana and Santa Prassede, also that of Santa Prisca on the Aventine, being originally the meeting-places (domesticæ ecclesiæ, Rom., xvi, 5), of the little Christian community, became intimately connected with the burial-site of the family to which they originally belonged.”


21. See Appendix 4.


22. §1. Observation 1.: Simon’s doctrine was built on earlier theories mixing paganism and Judaism like those of the Naassenes, the Peratae, the Sethians, and individual heretics like Justinus. The supreme “Good One” in the Naassene system was (in one of his principal manifestations) the Egyptian grain-god Osiris, whilst in the system of Justinus he was actually the pagan phallic deity Priapus (!) who, in turn, was identified with the Egyptian Osiris. Osiris was commonly titled “The Good or Beneficent Being” (wnn nfr). Simon Magus was educated in Egypt, in Alexandria, and so were many of the Gnostics who succeeded him. The High God, worshiped, under whatever name, by heathen idolaters and allegorized by heathen philosophers, retained his supremacy in Gnosticism and the God of the Jews was demoted to an inferior position under him: by this expedient paganism replaced Judaism. Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, V. 21: “[Hippolytus is in the middle of an account of the “pseudo-Gnostic” system of Justinus, having summarized before this the doctrines of the Naassenes, the astrological Peratae and the Sethians] …. ‘Finally, however, in the days of Herod the king, Baruch is dispatched, being sent down once more by Elohim; and coming to Nazareth, he found Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, a child of twelve years, feeding sheep. And he announces to him all things from the beginning, whatsoever had been done by Eden and Elohim, and whatsoever would be likely to take place hereafter, and spoke the following words: “All the prophets anterior to you have been enticed. Put forth an effort, therefore, Jesus, Son of man, not to be allured, but preach this word unto men, and carry back tidings to them of things pertaining to the Father, and things pertaining to the Good One, and ascend to the Good One, and sit there with Elohim, Father of us all.” And Jesus was obedient unto the angel, saying that, “I shall do all things, Lord,” and proceeded to preach. Naas therefore wished to entice this one also. (Jesus, however, was not disposed to listen to his overtures), for he remained faithful to Baruch. Therefore Naas, being inflamed with anger because he was not able to seduce him, caused him to be crucified. He, however, leaving the body of Eden on the (accursed) tree, ascended to the Good One; saying, however, to Eden, “Woman, thou retainest thy son,” that is, the natural and the earthly man. But (Jesus) himself commending his spirit into the hands of the Father, ascended to the Good One. Now the Good One is Priapus [the phallic god], (and) he it is who antecedently caused the production of everything that exists. On this account he is styled Priapus, because he previously fashioned all things (according to his own design). For this reason, he says, in every temple is placed his statue, which is revered by every creature; and (there are images of him) in the highways, carrying over his head ripened fruits, that is, the produce of the creation, of which he is the cause, having in the first instance formed, (according to His own design), the creation, when as yet it had no existence’ [end of explanation of system of Justinus] …. Since, then, we have explained the attempts (at a system) of the pseudo-gnostic Justinus, it appears likewise expedient in the following books to elucidate the opinions put forward in heresies following [in the way of consequence on the systems already described], and to leave not a single one of these (speculators) unrefuted. Our refutation will be accomplished by adducing the assertions made by them; such (at least of their statements) as are sufficient for making a public example (of these heretics). (And we shall attain our purpose), even though there should only be condemned the secret and ineffable (mysteries) practiced amongst them, into which, silly mortals that they are, scarcely (even) with considerable labor are they initiated. Let us then see what also Simon [Magus] affirms….”

§2. Observation 2.: Simon Magus identified himself with the so-called Supreme God (the Good One): Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I. xxiii. 1: “This man [Simon Magus], then, was glorified by many as if he were a God; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.” and op. cit., II. ix. 1: “This God, then, being acknowledged, as I have said, and receiving testimony from all to the fact of His existence, that Father whom they conjure into existence is beyond doubt untenable, and has no witnesses [to his existence]. Simon Magus was the first who said that he himself was God over all, and that the world was formed by his angels. Then those who succeeded him, as I have shown in the first book, by their several opinions, still further depraved [his teaching] through their impious and irreligious doctrines against the Creator. These [heretics now referred to], being the disciples of those mentioned, render such as assent to them worse than the heathen. For the former “serve the creature rather than the Creator,” and “those which are not gods,” notwithstanding that they ascribe the first place in Deity to that God who was the Maker of this universe. But the latter maintain that He, [i.e., the Creator of this world,] is the fruit of a defect, and describe Him as being of an animal nature, and as not knowing that Power which is above Him, while He also exclaims, “I am God, and besides Me there is no other God.” Affirming that He lies, they are themselves liars, attributing all sorts of wickedness to Him; and conceiving of one who is not above this Being as really having an existence, they are thus convicted by their own views of blasphemy against that God who really exists, while they conjure into existence a God who has no existence, to their own condemnation. And thus those who declare themselves “perfect,” and as being possessed of the knowledge of all things, are found to be worse than the heathen, and to entertain more blasphemous opinions even against their own Creator.”

§3. Observation 3.: Simon Magus’ doctrine represented the Apostles as under the influence of Judaism and its so-called inferior Creator-god. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III. xii. 12: “For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another God; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine], and more intelligent, than the apostles. Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, they assert that these are alone authentic, which they have themselves thus shortened. In another work, however, I shall, God granting [me strength], refute them out of these which they still retain. But all the rest, inflated with the false name of “knowledge,” do certainly recognize the Scriptures; but they pervert the interpretations, as I have shown in the first book. And, indeed, the followers of Marcion do directly blaspheme the Creator, alleging him to be the creator of evils, [but] holding a more tolerable theory as to his origin, [and] maintaining that there are two beings, gods by nature, differing from each other, — the one being good, but the other evil. Those from Valentinus, however, while they employ names of a more honorable kind, and set forth that He who is Creator is both Father, and Lord, and God, do [nevertheless] render their theory or sect more blasphemous, by maintaining that He was not produced from any one of those Aeons within the Pleroma, but from that defect which had been expelled beyond the Pleroma. Ignorance of the Scriptures and of the dispensation of God has brought all these things upon them. And in the course of this work I shall touch upon the cause of the difference of the covenants on the one hand, and, on the other hand, of their unity and harmony.”


23. Britannica.com (1999-2000), s.v. Mithraism: “There is little notice of the Persian god in the Roman world until the beginning of the 2nd century, but, from the year AD 136 onward, there are hundreds of dedicatory inscriptions to Mithra. This renewal of interest is not easily explained. The most plausible hypothesis seems to be that Roman Mithraism was practically a new creation, wrought by a religious genius who may have lived as late as c. AD 100 and who gave the old traditional Persian ceremonies a new Platonic interpretation that enabled Mithraism to become acceptable to the Roman world.”


24. Justin, First Apology, 26: “All who take their opinions from these men [Simon, Menander, Marcion and the Gnostics], are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds — the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh — we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a treatise against all the heresies that have existed already composed, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you.” Also, e.g., pseudo-Tertullian, Against All Heresies, 1: “Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. … Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.”


25. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III. iv. 3: “But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take rise from Menander, Simon’s disciple, as I have shown; and each one of them appeared as both the father and the high priest of that doctrine into which he has been initiated.” Op. cit., I.xxiii.1: “This man [Simon Magus], then, was glorified by many as if he were a God; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.” (On the last assertion, compare Simon’s teaching in the so-called “Great Announcement” apud Hippolytus, Refutation, VI. 14: “And so [it was that Jesus] appeared as man, when in reality he was not a man. And [so it was] that likewise he suffered — though not actually undergoing suffering, but appearing to the Jews to do so — in Judea as ‘Son,’ and in Samaria as ‘Father,’ and among the rest of the Gentiles as ‘Holy Spirit.’” And [Simon alleges] that Jesus tolerated being styled by whichever name [of the three just mentioned] men might wish to call him. “ This shows that, according to Irenaeus’ account, Simon assumed any and all the titles of divinity that belonged to Jesus.) On the proper Scriptural use of the word “father” see further §54.


26. §1. Quotation 1: Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III. iv. 3 (Greek in Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. IV. xi. 1): “For, prior to Valentinus [another notorious Gnostic heretic], those who follow Valentinus had no existence; nor did those from Marcion exist before Marcion; nor, in short, had any of those malignant-minded people, whom I have above enumerated, any being previous to the initiators and inventors of their perversity. For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, himself, Marcion’s predecessor, having come [Gk. elthôn] into the church and (now) professing true faith [Gk. exomologoumenos], continued on in this fashion in the time of Hyginus, who was the ninth bishop, being at one time [Gk. pote men] a secret teacher [viz. of heresy, Gk. lathrodidaskalôn], then again [Gk. pote de palin] a professor of the true faith [Gk. exomologoumenos], and then [Gk. pote de] denounced for corrupt teaching and separated from communion with [Gk. aphistamenos] the assembly [Gk. synodia] of the brethren. Now, Marcion, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate. But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take rise from Menander, Simon’s disciple, as I have shown; and each one of them appeared as both the father and the high priest of that doctrine into which he has been initiated. But all these [the Marcosians, another group of heretics] broke out into their apostasy much later, even during the intermediate period of the Church [i.e. the period between Anicetus and Eleutherus, the bishop when Irenaeus was writing this account].”

§2. Quotation 2: Ibid. I. xxvii. 1 (Greek in Eusebius Hist. Ecc. IV. x. 2): A certain Cerdon received from Simon and his immediate circle the wherewithal to launch out, and came to live at Rome. In the time of Hyginus, who held the ninth place in the episcopal succession from the apostles downwards, he taught that the God proclaimed by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the former was known, but the latter unknown; while the one also was righteous, but the other benevolent. 2. Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and increased the school, blaspheming unblushingly. [The following concerns Marcion but illustrates the common ground between him and Cerdon, whose particular theories are outlined in the next quotation from pseudo-Tertullian] In so doing, he advanced the most daring blasphemy against Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets, declaring Him to be the author of evils, to take delight in war, to be infirm of purpose, and even to be contrary to Himself. But Jesus being derived from that father who is above the God that made the world, and coming into Judaea in the times of Pontius Pilate the governor, who was the procurator of Tiberius Caesar, was manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judaea, abolishing the prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world, whom also he calls Cosmocrator. Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most clearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord. 3. Salvation will be the attainment only of those souls which had learned his doctrine; while the body, as having been taken from the earth, is incapable of sharing in salvation. In addition to his blasphemy against God Himself, he advanced this also, truly speaking as with the mouth of the devil, and saying all things in direct opposition to the truth, — that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom. But the serpent which was in Marcion declared that Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and those other righteous men who sprang from the patriarch Abraham, with all the prophets, and those who were pleasing to God, did not partake in salvation. For since these men, he says, knew that their God was constantly tempting them, so now they suspected that He was tempting them, and did not run to Jesus, or believe His announcement: and for this reason he declared that their souls remained in Hades. 4. But since this man is the only one who has dared openly to mutilate the Scriptures, and unblushingly above all others to inveigh against God, I purpose specially to refute him, convicting him out of his own writings; and, with the help of God, I shall overthrow him out of those discourses of the Lord and the apostles, which are of authority with him, and of which he makes use. At present, however, I have simply been led to mention him, that thou mightest know that all those who in any way corrupt the truth, and injuriously affect the preaching of the Church, are the disciples and successors of Simon Magus of Samaria. Although they do not confess the name of their master, in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines. They set forth, indeed, the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure, but in various ways they introduce the impieties of Simon; and thus they destroy multitudes, wickedly disseminating their own doctrines by the use of a good name, and, through means of its sweetness and beauty, extending to their hearers the bitter and malignant poison of the serpent, the great author of apostasy.

§3. Observations: The second quotation from Irenaeus has been interpreted (first in Cyprian’s Latin adaptation of Irenaeus’ words, Ep. 74 ad Pompeium) in the sense that Cerdon arrived in Rome in the time of Hyginus. That this is a mistake is shown 1) by the fact that it was “Simon and his immediate circle” (this is the proper meaning of the Greek idiom tôn peri ton Simôna) who provided Cerdon with the “wherewithal to launch out” (Gk. aphormas) — the former phrase asserting, and the word aphormas suggesting, immediate succession from Simon — and this latter phase of Simon’s career must be dated to the second half of the first century AD and certainly no later than the first few years of the second century AD. Simon is not otherwise known to have been alive beyond the reign of Nero in the 60s of the first century, and then only apocryphal legends connect him with Nero rather than Claudius. However, this quotation of Irenaeus — an historical, not a legendary source — implies he was (back) in the area of Syria when he commissioned/prompted Cerdon to head the Gnostic movement in Rome. That Cerdon arrived in Rome before the time of Hyginus is demonstrated further 2) by the first quotation from Irenaeus which states that Cerdon continued as a professing Christian in the days of Hyginus (whose episcopate is dated traditionally c. AD 136-140), which means he already professed orthodox Christianity before the episcopate of Hyginus at least as early as the days of Telesphorus (traditionally c. AD 125-136, but more probably c. AD 90-120), and prior to that he is stated to have been a secret teacher of heresy. (On secret teaching see para. 19, below, >>) Some time between the late 60s of the first century AD and the episcopate of Telesphorus, Cerdon switched from being a Simonian Gnostic to being, professedly, a Christian. The evidence cited indicates the time of Telesphorus’ predecessor, Sixtus, as the point when Cerdon “joined the Church”. (Sixtus’ episcopate is traditionally dated c. AD 115-125, but this is contradicted by the only contextual historical information about him which still survives, that he was bishop at the time of the Neronian persecution. A more probable date for his episcopate is c. AD 58-90.). According to the third-century Anti-Marcionite poem, Cerdon arrived in Rome in the time of Telesphorus, but only to afflict new wounds on the church there at that time, having been prior to that involved in secret teaching, and therefore expelled from communion. (See footnote 83, below, >>, §7.) This implies that Cerdon’s teaching in the time of Telesphorus and his successor, Hyginus, referred to by Irenaeus, viz. the two-gods doctrine commonly associated with the name of Cerdon, was propagated by him after he had temporarily left Rome and returned, at the latest in the time of Telesphorus. The period of secret teaching, of his nominal acceptance of orthodox Christianity and of his exposure by the orthodox Bible-teachers preceded that, and the last event, as is implied by the Anti-Mrcionite poem, led to his temporary departure from Rome. (Simon’s follower Cerdon could have lived on well on into the second century AD, even as late the second half of that century, on the analogy of John the Apostle’s disciple, Polycarp, John himself being a contemporary of Simon Magus. Polycarp was martyred as late as AD 177, according to the most probable chronology, or in AD 156 on the usual, modern, dating. For example, if Cerdon was a young man of 20 in the latter phase of the career of Simon Magus c. AD 65, he would have been an old man of 99 when Marcion succeeded him c. AD 144. For comparison, Symeon son of Clopas, the natural cousin of Jesus, was 120 years old, Polycarp a minimum of 86 years, and Pothinus over 90 years, at the time they were martyred, Eusebius Hist. Ecc. III. xxxii. 6, IV. xv. 20, V. i. 29.)

Note: The history of Simon reconstructed here, including a return of Simon to the area of Syria in the second half of the first century AD, most probably explains the Kabbalistic tradition that Jewish magic was based on the teaching of a Rabbi called Shimeon (Simon), who visited Rome and was patronized there by a noble Roman imperator called “Antoninus” (sic, presumably Antonius [Felix], rather than the emperor Antoninus Pius), and who was present in Palestine between the First and the Second Jewish Revolts against Rome. The Kabbalah has strong affinities to Mandaism, which, in turn, goes back to first century Gnosis of a kind similar to that espoused in the second and third centuries by the Elkesaites. It is this very same form of Gnosis which underlies the third-century, pseudo-Clementine, traditions relating to Simon Magus and his supposed dealings with Peter in Rome. In the native Jewish tradition Shimeon is called Bar (son of) Yohai, and Yohai is reminiscent of the name of the great Mandaean prophet Yahya (John the Baptist). Simon Magus was a “son of John the Baptist” in the Jewish idiomatic sense that he was his disciple. Furthermore, the Kabbalistic tradition is that Shimeon Bar Yohai was present in the area of Palestine (Syria), or, more specifically in Galilee, living as an ascetic in a cave and teaching in his own school there, in the second half of the first century and in the early years of the second century AD, where he was involved, with Rabbi Aqiba, in the disastrous uprising of Bar Kokhba against the Romans. This resulted in the utter extirpation of the Jews from their homeland and is precisely the kind of role we would expect Simon Magus to have taken if he did indeed return to the area of Syria in the second half of the first century AD. It could be that Justin Martyr is referring to Simon’s recent participation in the second Jewish revolt in the following passage of the Dialogue with Trypho, the setting of which is Ephesus, shortly after the Bar Kokhba debacle referred to elsewhere in the work (ibid. i): Dial.Tryph. cxx: “For I [Justin] gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Caesar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and might.” It is also possible that a break in the text of Hippolytus’ Refutation, in a passage relating to Simon Magus’ travels after leaving Rome, which presently reads “elthôn en t . . . . tê,” covers an original reading “elthôn en têi Sebastêi”, i.e. “repairing to Sebaste [the city of Samaria],” which would likewise indicate a return of Simon to his homeland. The passage reads as follows: Hippolytus, Refut. VI. xv. = ed. Miller VI. 20 (67r) (for the Greek, see Appendix 13 §8): “This Simon, deceiving many in Samaria by his sorceries, was reproved by the Apostles, and was laid under a curse, as it has been written in the Acts. But he afterwards abjured the faith, and attempted these (aforesaid practices). And journeying as far as Rome, he fell in with the Apostles; and to him, deceiving many by his sorceries, Peter offered repeated opposition. This man, ultimately repairing to <Sebas?>te (and) sitting under a plane tree, continued to give instruction (in his doctrines). And in truth at last, when conviction was imminent, in case he delayed longer, he stated that, if he were buried alive, he would rise the third day. And accordingly, having ordered a trench to be dug by his disciples, he directed himself to be interred there. They, then, executed the injunction given; whereas he remained (in that grave) until this day, for he was not the Christ.” It is remarkable that the corruption of all three monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, in that case resulted specifically from the admixture of Simonian Gnosis in an Elkesaite form, Christianity from the kind of Gnosis adopted by the First Church of Rome, Judaism from Kabbalistic Gnosis and Islam from the Gnosis of the Subba, or Mandaeans, who are treated with special favor in the Koran, along with Christians and Jews, as “people of the Book”.)

§4. Quotation 3: As regards Cerdon’s teaching, and his pre-Marcionite attack on the Canon of Scripture, the following quotation is illuminating. Pseudo-Tertullian, Against All Heresies, Ch. 6. 1-2: “To this is added one Cerdo. He introduces two first causes, that is, two Gods — one good, the other cruel: the good being the superior; the latter, the cruel one, being the creator of the world. He repudiates the prophecies and the Law; renounces God the Creator; maintains that Christ who came was the Son of the superior God; affirms that He was not in the substance of flesh; states Him to have been only in a phantasmal shape, to have not really suffered, but undergone a quasipassion, and not to have been born of a virgin, nay, really not to have been born at all. A resurrection of the soul merely does he approve, denying that of the body. The Gospel of Luke alone, and that not entire, does he receive. Of the Apostle Paul he takes neither all the epistles, nor in their integrity. The Acts of the Apostles and the Apocalypse he rejects as false. After him emerged a disciple of his, one Marcion by name, a native of Pontus, son of a bishop, excommunicated because of a rape committed on a certain virgin. He, starting from the fact that it is said, “Every good tree beareth good fruit, but an evil evil,” attempted to approve the heresy of Cerdo; so that his assertions are identical with those of the former heretic before him.” Latin: “VI. [1] Accedit his Cerdon quidam. Hic introducit initia duo, id est duos deos, unum bonum, et alterum saevum, bonum superiorem, saevum hunc mundi creatorem. Hic prophetias et legem repudiat, deo creatori renuntiat, superioris dei filium Christum venisse tractat, hunc in substantia carnis negat, in phantasmate solo fuisse pronuntiat, nec omnino passum, sed quasi passum, nec ex virgine natum, sed omnino nec natum. Resurrectionem animae tantummodo probat, corporis negat. Solum evangelium Lucae, nec tamen totum recipit. Apostoli Pauli neque omnes neque totas epistolas sumit. Acta Apostolorum et Apocalypsim quasi falsa reicit. [2] Post hunc discipulus ipsius emersit Marcion quidam nomine, Ponticus genere, episcopi filius, propter stuprum cuiusdam virginis ab ecclesiae communicatione abiectus. Hic ex occasione qua dictum sit, Omnis arbor bona bonos fructus facit, mala autem malos, haeresim Cerdonis approbare conatus est, ut eadem diceret quae ille superior haereticus ante dixerat.”

§5. Quotation 4: According to Hippolytus, Refutation VII. xxiv-xxv, Cerdon followed in the footsteps of the Nicolaitans and Simon, the Nicolaitans encouraging the spread of the Gnostic movement by advocating indifference as regards the eating of meat sacrificed to idols and participation in forbidden sexual relationships (on the Nicolaitans and their connection with Nicolaus of Myra, “Santa Claus”, see Appendix 12): “There are, however, among the Gnostics diversities of opinion; but we have decided that it would not be worth while to enumerate the silly doctrines of these (heretics), inasmuch as they are (too) numerous and devoid of reason, and full of blasphemy. Now, even those (of the heretics) who are of a more serious turn in regard of the Divinity, and have derived their systems of speculation from the Greeks, must stand convicted (of these charges). But Nicolaus has been a cause of the widespread combination of these wicked men. He, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifference of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols. CHAPTER 25 THE HERESY OF CERDON But one Cerdon himself also, receiving occasion in like manner from these (heretics) and Simon, affirms that the God preached by Moses and the prophets was not Father of Jesus Christ. For (he contends) that this (Father) had been known, whereas that the Father of Christ was unknown, and that the former was just, but the latter good. And Marcion corroborated the tenet of this (heretic) in the work which he attempted to write, and which he styled Antitheses. And he was in the habit, (in this book,) of uttering whatever slanders suggested themselves to his mind against the Creator of the universe. In a similar manner likewise (acted) Lucian, the disciple of this (heretic).”

§6. Observations: This notice takes us back to the early Apostolic era (another indicator of Cerdon’s early date), when the problem of meat sacrificed to idols and fornication was addressed by the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem. This issue was a point of debate between those Christians who adhered over-enthusiastically to the Jewish Law and those who advocated leniency in an attempt to more easily absorb Gentile converts. Nicolaus seems to have tended in the latter direction (he was a proselyte from a Gentile background in Antioch and was involved in the distribution of food to the Hellenist or Greek-speaking members of the Church in Jerusalem shortly after Pentecost, Acts 6. 1-5), but according to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. III. xxv, xxvi, Eusebius Hist. Ecc. III. xxix) he himself and his children were orthodox in faith and morally blameless, though some, including Hippolytus, thought he departed in some way from orthodox doctrine. His avowed followers, the “Nicolaitans”, evidently took an extreme position and thus encouraged the development of Gentile Gnosticism which pandered to Gentile idolatry and the sexual immorality associated with it. The deacon Nicolaus had nothing to do with the Gnostic sect which stole his name and his identity. According to Dorotheus (De Septuaginta Domini Discipulis Commentarius, num. 12, ed. Venice, 1729, p. 343), the deacon Nicolaus later “became a bishop of Samaria,” and the heterodox companion of Simon, and thus founded the Nicolaitan sect. This is the only pre-Nicene mention of a bishop Nicolaus, and here he is a Gnostic heretic. Given the prominence of the name Nicolaus in that circle, and the popularity of the doctrine of re-incarnation amongst Gnostic heretics in general, it is likely the Simonian bishop mentioned by Dorotheus believed he was a re-incarnation of Nicolaus the deacon, on account of the particular sexual fault thought to have been committed by the latter in relation to his attractive wife. It was said Nicolaus the deacon was stung by rumors he was too attached to his wife, and therefore abstained from sexual relations with her. (Epiphanius, Panarion, Haer. XXV, ed. Migne XLI, col. 321.) The Gnostics took this to mean he had become “celibate”. (“Celibacy” in the Gnostic system involved abstaining from normal marital relationships and consorting freely with unmarried “sisters”.) Thus, the deacon’s conduct after that incident, when he continued to treat her as his wife, and his wife alone, was seen as a “fall from grace” on his part, and a reversion to the “selfish, materialistic, lustful” behavior characteristic of the followers of the Jewish Creator-god. The “Gnostic Nicolaus” would surely eschew such “selfishness”, and treat all “sisters” as common property (barring the occasional “selfish lapse”). This fit in well with the tenets of Gnosticism, according to which the archetypal Female Principle fell into the world of sin and lust, under the dominion of the Creator-god of the Jews, and was ultimately redeemed only by the Gnostic Savior-figure (as embodied, they thought, in Simon, bishop Nicolaus etc.). The Apocalypse of John which rebuked bishop Nicolaus’ followers by name was, of course, utterly rejected by Cerdon, and fought for recognition even in some ecclesiastical circles where Gnosticism had gained a footing. The testimony of Clement of Alexandria (Strom. III. xxv, xxvi), suggests the Nicolaitans were actually Carpocratians, who improperly adduced the example of Nicolaus’ selfless, though, perhaps reckless, submission to the will of God in his marital relations to justify their own antinomianism. Their presence in Asia brought these Carpocratian Nicolaitans to the notice of the Apostle John in his message to the Seven Asian Churches. Later the name “Nicolaitans” became attached to a sect originating from the Carpocratians, called Caians, who may, or may not, be the same as the Cainites (Tertullian, Praescr. 33, Epiphanius, Panarion, Haer. XXXVIII, ii, ed. Migne, XLI, col. 656C); the latter believed that all the figures in the Old and New Testament castigated by the God of the Jews (i.e., on their theory, by the wicked Creator-god), viz. Cain, the Sodomites, Judas etc., must, necessarily, be held up as examples of moral rectitude, and their practices emulated! For why, otherwise, they reasoned, would the wicked Creator-god be so antagonistic to such? Note that Hippolytus says Cerdon drew for his heresy on two sources: 1) the Gnosis of the Nicolaitans (i.e. Carpocratians) and 2) the Gnosis of Simon himself. See further on this the following subsection.

§7. Cerdon, according to Irenaeus (a reliable witness) received the wherewithal to launch out on the Gnostic path from Simon and his immediate circle, whilst, according to Epiphanius (Panarion, XLI [XXI]. i.), a less reliable witness, but one who preserved much circumstantial detail about the heretics from earlier sources, Cerdon was a successor of Heracleon, being of the school of Simon and Saturninus (otherwise, Saturnilus). Saturninus is doubtless one of the “immediate circle of Simon” referred to by Irenaeus. Syrian Gnosticism was formed principally out of the teachings of Simon, Simon’s successor, Menander and Menander’s twin scions, Saturninus (whose residence was Antioch in Syria) and Basilides (who subsequently migrated to Egypt). Again, according to Epiphanius (ibid., agreeing with Irenaeus), Cerdon migrated from Syria to Rome and preached his Gnostic gospel there during the episcopate of Hyginus. Heracleon himself was a successor of Colorbasus (Epiphanius ibid. XXXVI [XVI]. i.), whilst the roots of the Gnosticism of Colorbasus were the same as those of the Valentinian Ptolemaeus (ibid. XXXV [XV]. i.) and the doctrine of both Valentinus (Epiphanius, Haer. XXXVIII, ii, ed. Migne, XLI, col. 656C, and the following citation) and Ptolemaeus was derived ultimately from the school of Secundus and Epiphanes, the son of Carpocrates (XXXIII [XIII]. i.). Heracleon is usually dated some time in the second century AD, and belonged to what is known as the Italian or Western branch of Valentinian Gnosis. The details of his life are, however, obscure. It is probable that Cerdon’s contact with and adoption of Heracleon’s Gnosis occurred after he had migrated to Rome, and were super-added to his foundational Syrian beliefs. Cerdon’s career had, indeed, as we have seen, two main phases. In the earlier phase he taught his Syrian Gnostic theories secretly (like his precursor Simon). It was during this phase that he “came into” the Catholic communion. Bishop Sixtus seems to have provided him an ecclesiastical umbrella. After his exposure by the orthodox Bible-teachers, he left Rome temporarily and then returned to afflict “new wounds” on the church in the city during the episcopate of Telesphorus, the successor of Sixtus and precursor of Hyginus. In this phase he taught his Gnosticism publicly. This is most likely the period when he adopted and adapted the theories of the Italian Gnosis of Heracleon, with its roots in the teaching of Carpocrates, since the school of Carpocrates (that of the Nicolaitans) seems to have practiced its Gnostic occultism openly from the beginning (see further on Carpocrates’ public teaching, footnote 38, below, >>).


27. Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, VII. 1: “They abstain from thanksgiving [Gk. eucharistia, “eucharist”] and prayer, because of a failure to agree that the thanksgiving [“eucharist”] is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, which the Father raised up by His goodness.” A common misinterpretation of this passage is that the Docetists abstained from the eucharist because they did not agree that the bread was the body of Jesus (period). This interpretation can be shown to be erroneous. Cerdon (see footnote 26), and Gnostics like Cerdon, are probably the Docetists Ignatius is referring to in this passage. Yet Marcion, the Docetist par excellence, who adopted the Gnostic theories of Cerdon wholesale, we know had an “eucharist” (eucharistia) with literal bread. (Wine was excluded because of his otherworldly, pseudo-ascetic, principles.) Furthermore, he considered the bread to be the proper body of the Supreme Good God who manifested himself as Jesus, whilst Jesus’ human body was a mere apparition (see the quotations from Tertullian below). This suggests that the statement of Ignatius should be interpreted otherwise, and with proper emphasis given to all the phrases in the statement: that the Docetists abstained from the orthodox “thanksgiving” (eucharistia) because they identified this “eucharistia” with the body of Jesus, yet the orthodox held that the body of Jesus was a normal human body that had suffered and was then raised up by God, and the Docetists did not believe in a physical, human, body of Jesus that had so suffered and been resurrected. Docetists of the earliest period believed Jesus’ human body was a mere apparition, that it was a phantasmic manifestation of the highest God. However, they also believed that that same supreme Deity did have a proper material body by which he was exhibited to the world — and that was the bread of the “eucharist”! This inevitably led to a separation in their theory, as it developed, between the bread-body of Jesus and the human body of Jesus, which the doctrine of transubstantiation in Roman Catholicism was concocted to address. In the disputes over transubstantiation between Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Protestants affirmed that the communion bread could not be the body of Jesus in the sense Roman Catholics held it to be (the literal body) because that had been raised up by God and was now seated in glory. In the dogmatic madness of transubstantiation, on the contrary, the communion bread is the real body of Jesus, for it only appears to be bread, but is, in substance, the flesh of Jesus. And, in the world as it actually is, rather than as it exists in the mind of the Roman theologian, we have a human body of Jesus which is a phantasm, appearing in the form of a piece of bread, and a piece of bread which is dogmatically asserted to be Jesus’ actual body. This is nothing but the old Docetism Ignatius combated in a modern sophistic guise. As regards the terminology, the juxtaposition of “thanksgiving” and “prayer” in this passage (Smyrnaeans VII. 1) suggests “thanksgiving” meant just that to Ignatius: the Docetists abstained from the prayers and vocal thanksgivings of the orthodox, because there was a difference between the two parties over the nature of “thanksgiving”. Ignatius defines that as the belief that the “thanksgiving” (eucharistia) was the “body” of Jesus. Certainly the orthodox did not believe the (vocal) thanksgiving had that nature, so it must have been the Docetists. A little later Ignatius (VIII. 1) refers to “thanksgiving” (eucharistia) as something that must be done under the supervision of the bishop (episkopos); then after a few phrases he refers (VIII. 2) to “baptism and the agape (love-feast)” as duties which must similarly be performed only under the eye of the bishop. The fact that Ignatius distinguishes eucharistia and agape here, and at the same time juxtaposes agape with baptism, suggests he used the word agape to describe the meal during which communion was commonly celebrated, and treated eucharistia as something akin to prayer, as in the earlier passage (VII. 1). This same, then, is the first intimation that heretics applied the word “eucharist” (eucharistia, “thanksgiving”) to the communion bread. They did this, perhaps, because Paul referred to “praise” as the “sacrifice of our lips” in Heb. 13. 15. This could be taken (wrongly) to be a reference to the bread that goes into the believer’s lips, rather than the praise that goes out of them. If it was applied as a name to the communion bread, it would turn the bread into a sacrifice. There is evidence from a later period that the communion meal was treated as a “sacrifice” by the Docetists of the First Church of Rome. (See §83, below , >>.) The thought suggests itself: why should the Docetists have held so dogmatically to the idea that the proper material body of the supreme God was BREAD if it was not because their supreme God, the “Good One”, was , in fact, as in the system of the Naassenes, just the fertility-god of the pagan mysteries, the GRAIN-GOD OSIRIS (identified with SERAPIS and PRIAPUS etc.), THE “GOOD GOD” OF EGYPTIAN PAGANISM? The following quotations are from Tertullian’s Five Books Against Marcion (Adv. Marc.) and refer to Marcion’s eucharistic beliefs and practices: Tertullian Adv. Marc. I. xiv. 3: “Indeed, up to the present time, he [Marcion’s highest or Good God] has not disdained the water which the Creator [Marcion’s inferior god] made wherewith he washes his people; nor the oil with which he anoints them; nor that union of honey and milk wherewithal he gives them the nourishment of children; nor the bread by which he represents his own proper body [lit. presents in manifest form his own very body, ipsum corpus suum repraesentat], thus requiring in his very sacraments the “beggarly elements” of the Creator.” (Sed ille quidem usque nunc nec aquam reprobavit creatoris qua suos abluit, nec oleum quo suos unguit, nec mellis et lactis societatem qua suos infantat, nec panem quo ipsum corpus suum repraesentat, etiam in sacramentis propriis egens mendicitatibus creatoris.) Ibid. III. xix. 3-4: “This tree [the Cross] it is which Jeremiah likewise gives you intimation of, when he prophesies to the Jews, who should say, ‘Come, let us destroy the tree with the fruit, (the bread) thereof,’ that is, His body. For so did God in your [Marcion’s] own gospel even reveal the sense, when He called His body bread; so that, for the time to come, you may understand that He has given to His body the figure [note Tertullian emphatically states the figurative interpretation] of bread, whose body the prophet of old figuratively [note] turned into bread, the Lord Himself designing to give by and by an interpretation of the mystery.” (Hoc lignum et Hieremias tibi insinuat, dicturis praedicans Iudaeis, Venite, iniciamus lignum in panem eius, utique in corpus. [4] Sic enim deus in evangelio quoque vestro revelavit, panem corpus suum appellans, ut et hinc iam eum intellegas corporis sui figuram panis dedisse, cuius retro corpus in panem prophetes figuravit, ipso domino hoc sacramentum postea interpretaturo.) Ibid. IV. xxxiv. 5: [Marcion had an eucharist and strict admission rules to it] “If, however, you [Marcion] deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side destroy marriage, not uniting man and woman, nor admitting to the sacrament of baptism and of the eucharist those who have been united in marriage anywhere else, unless they should agree together to repudiate the fruit of their marriage, and so the very Creator Himself?” (Aut si omnino negas permitti divortium a Christo, quomodo tu nuptias dirimis, nec coniungens marem et feminam, nec alibi coniunctos ad sacramentum baptismatis et eucharistiae admittens nisi inter se coniuraverint adversus fructum nuptiarum, ut adversus ipsum creatorem?) ( Ibid. IV. xl. Tertullian offers arguments from the eucharist against Marcion’s theory of an apparitional body of Christ, implying throughout Marcion’s literal eucharist.) For an example of the striking perpetuation in Roman Catholicism of Gnostic theory, and even terminology, in the matter of the Eucharist, consider the following quotation (one amongst many that could be cited) from a book about the convent experiences of a nun: “The old priest to whom I applied was Father Rocque. He is still [1836] alive. He was, at that time, the oldest priest in the seminary, and carried the Bon Dieu, Good God, as the sacramental wafer is called. When going to administer it in any country place, he used to ride with a man before him, who rang a bell as a signal. When the Canadians heard it, whose habitations he passed, they would come and prostrate themselves to the earth, worshiping it as a God.” (The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, Milner and Company, Manchester, 1836, p. 19. A copy of this work can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/maria-monk-illus.pdf.)


28. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I. xxi: “1. It happens that their tradition respecting redemption is invisible and incomprehensible, as being the mother of things which are incomprehensible and invisible; and on this account, since it is fluctuating, it is impossible simply and all at once to make known its nature, for every one of them hands it down just as his own inclination prompts. Thus there are as many schemes of “redemption” as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith. 2. They maintain that those who have attained to perfect knowledge must of necessity be regenerated [= “born again”] into that power which is above all. For it is otherwise impossible to find admittance within the Pleroma, since this [regeneration] it is which leads them down into the depths of Bythus. For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins, but the redemption brought in by that Christ who descended upon Him, was for perfection; and they allege that the former is animal, but the latter spiritual. And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Jesus was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, “And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it.” Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, “Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?” Paul, too, they declare, has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms. 3. For some of them prepare a nuptial couch, and perform a sort of mystic rite (pronouncing certain expressions) with those who are being initiated, and affirm that it is a spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above. Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them, with the utterance of these words, “Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe — into truth, the mother of all things — into Him who descended on Jesus — into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers.” Others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated, as follows: “Basema, Chamosse, Baoenaora, Mistadia, Ruada, Kousta, Babaphor, Kalachthei.” The interpretation of these terms runs thus: “I invoke that which is above every power of the Father, which is called light, and good Spirit, and life, because Thou hast reigned in the body.” Others, again, set forth the redemption thus: The name which is hidden from every deity, and dominion, and truth which Jesus of Nazareth was clothed with in the lives of the light of Christ — of Christ, who lives by the Holy Ghost, for the angelic redemption. The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsoeman, Chaldoeaur, Mosomedoea, Acphranoe, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria. The interpretation of these words is as follows: “I do not divide the Spirit of Christ, neither the heart nor the supercelestial power which is merciful; may I enjoy Thy name, O Savior of truth!” Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, “I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who liveth.” Then the bystanders add these words, “Peace be to all on whom this name rests.” After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odor which is above all things. 4. But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned. And this they maintain to be the redemption. They, too, are accustomed to anoint with balsam. Others, however, reject all these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power ought not to be performed by visible and corruptible creatures, nor should that of those [beings] who are inconceivable, and incorporeal, and beyond the reach of sense, [be performed] by such as are the objects of sense, and possessed of a body. These hold that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption. For since both defect and passion flowed from ignorance, the whole substance of what was thus formed is destroyed by knowledge; and therefore knowledge is the redemption of the inner man. This, however, is not of a corporeal nature, for the body is corruptible; nor is it animal, since the animal soul is the fruit of a defect, and is, as it were, the abode of the spirit. The redemption must therefore be of a spiritual nature; for they affirm that the inner and spiritual man is redeemed by means of knowledge, and that they, having acquired the knowledge of all things, stand thenceforth in need of nothing else. This, then, is the true redemption. 5. Others still there are who continue to redeem persons even up to the moment of death, by placing on their heads oil and water, or the pre-mentioned ointment with water, using at the same time the above-named invocations, that the persons referred to may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers, and that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner, as if their body were left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge.” The “Redemption” or “Rebirth” in its bridal form was followed, in some cases at least, by a literal carnal connexion between the female initiates and their Gnostic instructors: Ibid. I. xiii: “6. Some of his [Marcus’] disciples, too, addicting themselves to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being “perfect,” so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles. They assert that they themselves know more than all others, and that they alone have imbibed the greatness of the knowledge of that power which is unspeakable. They also maintain that they have attained to a height above all power, and that therefore they are free in every respect to act as they please, having no one to fear in anything. For they affirm, that because of the “Redemption” it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge. But even if he should happen to lay hold upon them, then they might simply repeat these words, while standing in his presence along with the “Redemption:” “O thou, who sittest beside God, and the mystical, eternal Sige, thou through whom the angels (mightiness), who continually behold the face of the Father, having thee as their guide and introducer, do derive their forms from above, which she in the greatness of her daring inspiring with mind on account of the goodness of the Propator, produced us as their images, having her mind then intent upon the things above, as in a dream, — behold, the judge is at hand, and the crier orders me to make my defense. But do thou, as being acquainted with the affairs of both, present the cause of both of us to the judge, inasmuch as it is in reality but one cause.” Now, as soon as the Mother hears these words, she puts the Homeric helmet of Pluto upon them, so that they may invisibly escape the judge. And then she immediately catches them up, conducts them into the bridal chamber, and hands them over to their consorts.” The ritual of the bridal chamber continued and continues to be practiced in closed orders of the First Church of Rome: “The Christian homes of England and America may be pointed out, thank God, as illustrating the divine wisdom; while the degraded monasteries of Italy and Spain and South America, with the horrible history of enforced celibacy in the Latin priesthood, are proofs of the unwisdom of those who imported into the Western churches the very heresies and abortive argumentations which Clement [of Alexandria] disdains [in his denunciation in the Stromata Book III of Carpocratian Gnostics and related groups], while he pulverizes them and blows them away, thoroughly purging his flour, and burning up this chaff.” A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Church Fathers, vol. 2, p. 808, Stromata Book III, Elucidation 6. For the practice in the 19th and 20th centuries see the testimonies of escaped closed order nuns Maria Monk and Charlotte Keckler online at:

http://www.christianhospitality.org/wp/?page_id=2398
http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/charlotte-convent-to-pentecost.pdf
http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/charlotte.pdf

and audio at:

http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/charlotte01.mp3, http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/charlotte02.mp3

also:

http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/maria-monk-illus.pdf.


29. Paul addressed this problem himself in his Epistle to the Romans 3. 5-8, where he denounced the teaching that was circulating at that time that God was unjust to punish sin if he predestinated all things, and which led, as he pointed out, to an antinomian perversion of his own Gospel of Grace. That was c. AD 58. Similarly, Peter, a few years thereafter (in II Peter 3. 16), rebuked the unstable ones (asteriktoi) who twisted the writings of Paul, and also referred to such (in v. 17) as lawless ones (athesmoi). Both of these words are used in the preceding chapter (vv. 7 and 14) of the type of people involved in the heresies of the false teachers and false prophets operating at that time within the nominal Church. The reference here, at least in part, is to the antinomian, Carpocratian, form of Gnosticism. Cerdon is known to have wrested Paul’s writings and is dateable likewise within the first generation of heretics contemporary with Simon Magus, though he belonged originally to the pseudo-ascetic school of Syrian Gnosticism, not the antinomian. Cerdon may be one, perhaps the chief, target of Ignatius’ attacks on Docetism (the belief that Jesus’ body was not real flesh and blood) in his Epistles (Trallians ix-xi, Smyrnaeans i-vii), and his followers the target of his condemnation of heretics who disputed what was and what was not in the true Scriptures (Philadelphians viii. 2) . Cerdon, like Ignatius, originated from Syria, and no doubt Ignatius was familiar with other and similar forms of Syrian Gnosticism. Compare also Polycarp’s denunciation (Philippians 7. 1) of any such teacher as “the firstborn of Satan” — a phrase which Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III. iii. 4) states he used later to describe Marcion, Cerdon’s successor.


30. Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. II. xxiii. 8-9, quoting Hegesippus, in a passage describing how members of the seven Gnosticizing sects acted as agents-provocateurs to bring about the death of James the brother of the Lord in Jerusalem in AD 62: “Now some of the seven [Gnostic] sects [see footnote 31], which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him [James], ‘What is the gate of Jesus?’ and he replied that he was the Savior. On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one who is coming to give to every man according to his works.”


31. Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. IV. xxii. 4-6, quoting Hegesippus: “HEGESIPPUS in the five books of Memoirs ….: “And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom [AD 62], as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord’s uncle, Clopas, was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord. Therefore, they called the Church a virgin, for it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses. But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it from the seven sects among the people, amongst whose numbers he was included, (namely) from those who included Simon, from whom came Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came Dositheans, and Gorthaeus, from whom came Goratheni, and Masbothaeans {five sects are named here out of the seven that existed in the time of James and were the source of errors introduced by Thebuthis into the virgin Church}. From these sprang the Menandrianists, and Marcionists, and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ.” The earlier generation of Gnostics (which did not include Marcion) often claimed to be following the teaching of the Apostles as transmitted to them through certain ones who were personal hearers of the Apostolic preaching: Clement of Alexandria, Strom. VII. xvii: “For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Hadrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims (as they boast) for his master, Glaucias, the interpreter of Peter. Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. (For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics].) And after him [viz., presumably, Theudas] Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.” The Theudas who heard Paul must have done so before Simon Magus went to Rome (c. AD 45), as Simon is said here to have heard Peter after Theudas heard Paul and there is no reliable evidence that Simon met Peter outside of Samaria and Caesarea. This would probably date Theudas’ meeting with Paul in the early years of Paul’s conversion, before Paul left for Tarsus, where he remained c. AD 37-43 (Acts 9. 30 and 11. 25). It was during Paul’s absence that Cornelius was converted in Caesarea through the ministry of Peter (Acts 10) and an early sub-Apostolic tradition represents Peter as disputing with Simon Magus in Caesarea at that period. Theudas, therefore, seems to have heard Paul around AD 35-37 either in Damascus (Acts 9. 20-22) or in Jerusalem (Acts 9. 28), and Simon Magus seems to have heard Peter in Caesarea some time between AD 41 and AD 45. Like the elders in Ephesus, Theudas himself may have drifted into heresy, or Valentinus distorted Theudas’ teaching. (On the Ephesian elders see Acts 20. 29: “For I [Paul] know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”) Since nothing is known of Theudas elsewhere in the literature of Gnosticism, the latter is the more probable hypothesis, particularly as Valentinus is said to have originally been orthodox, falling into heresy because he did not receive the bishopric in some orthodox church (Tertullian Adv. Val. I. 4). Cerdon, according to Irenaeus (a reliable witness) received the wherewithal to launch out on the Gnostic path from Simon and his immediate circle, and Simon was a “hearer” of Peter. As the Apostle John said (1 John 2. 19): “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”


32. See Appendix 5.


33. VII. 1 Saturninus oriundo fuit Gallus, ex gente hominum inquietissima et avida semper vel faciendi principis vel imperii. 2 huic inter ceteros duces, quod vere summus vir esset, certe videretur, Aurelianus limitis orientalis ducatum dedit, sapienter praecipiens, ne umquam Aegyptum videret. 3 cogitabat enim, quantum videmus, vir prudentissimus Gallorum naturam et verebatur, ne, si praeturbidam civitatem vidisset, quo eum natura ducebat, e<o> societate quoque hominum duceretur. 4 sunt enim Aegyptii, ut satis nosti, <in>venti ventosi, furibundi, iactantes, iniuriosi atque adeo vani, liberi, novarum rerum usque ad cantilenas publicas cupientes, versificatores, epigrammatarii, mathematici, haruspices, medici. 5 nam <in> eis C<h>ristiani, Samaritae et quibus praesentia semper tempora cum enormi libertate displiceant. 6 ac ne quis mihi Aegyptiorum irascatur et meum esse credat, quod in litteras rettuli, Hadriani epistolam, <p>romam ex libris Flegontis liberti eius proditam, ex qua penitus Aegyptiorum vita detegatur. VIII. 1 ‘Hadrianus Augustus Serviano consuli salutem. Aegyptum, quam mihi laudabas, Serviane carissime, totam didici levem, pendulam et ad omnia famae momenta volitantem. 2 illic qui Serapem colunt, C<h>ristiani sunt et devoti sunt Serapi, qui se C<h>risti episcopos dicunt, nemo illic archisynagogus Iud<a>eorum, nemo Samarites, nemo C<h>ristianorum presbyter non mathematicus, non haruspex, non aliptes. 4 ipse ille patriarcha cum Aegyptum venerit, ab aliis Serapidem adorare, ab aliis cogitur Christum. 5 genus hominum seditiosissimum, vanissimum, iniuriosissimun, civitas opulenta, dives, fecunda, in qua nemo vivat otiosus. 6 alii vitrum, conflant, aliis c<h>arth[h]a conficitur, omnes certe linifiones <aut> cuiuscumque artis et <professionis> videntur; et habent podagrosi, quod agant, habent <prae>cisi, quod agant, habent caeci, quod faciant, ne chiragrici quidem apud eos otiosi vivunt. unus illis deus nummus est. 7 hunc Christiani, hunc Iud<a>ei, hunc omnes venerantur et gentes. et utinam melius esset morata civitas, digna profecto, quae pro sui f<ec>unditate, quae pro sui magnitudine totius Aegypti tenea[n]t principatum. 8 huic ego cuncta concessi, vetera privilegia reddidi, nova sic addidi, ut praesenti gratias agerent. denique ut primum inde discessi, et in filium meum Verum multa dixerint, et de Antin[in]o<o> quae dixerint, comperisse te credo. 9 nihil illis opto, nisi ut suis pullis alantur, quos quem ad modum fecundant, pudet dicere. 10 calices tibi allassontes <di>versi coloris transmisi, quos mihi sacerdos templi obtulit, tibi et sorori meae specialiter dedicatos, quos tu velim festis diebus conviviis adhibeas. caveas tamen, ne his Africanus noster indulgenter utatur.’


Translation (Lacus Curtius): “VII. 1 Saturninus was a Gaul by birth, one of a nation that is ever most restless and always desirous of creating either an emperor or an empire. 2 To this man, above all the other generals, because it seemed certain that he was truly the greatest, Aurelian had given the command of the Eastern frontier, wisely charging him never to visit Egypt. 3 For, as we see, this far-sighted man was well acquainted with the Gallic character and feared that if Saturninus visited this turbulent land he might be drawn by association with the inhabitants to a course toward which he was by nature inclined. 4 For the Egyptians, as you know well enough, are puffed up, madmen, boastful, doers of injury, and, in fact, liars and without restraint, always craving something new, in their popular songs, writers of verse, makers of epigrams, astrologers, soothsayers, quacksalvers. 5 Among them, indeed, are Christians and Samaritans and those who are always ill-pleased by the present, though enjoying unbounded liberty. 6 But, lest any Egyptian be angry with me, thinking that what I have set forth in writing is solely my own, I will cite one of Hadrian’s letters, taken from the works of his freedman Phlegon, which fully reveals the character of the Egyptians. VIII. 1 From Hadrian Augustus to Servianus the consul, greeting. The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-minded, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour. 2 There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. 3 There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer. 4 Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ. 5 They are a folk most seditious, most deceitful, most given to injury; but their city is prosperous, rich, and fruitful, and in it no one is idle. 6 Some are blowers of glass, others makers of paper, all are at least weavers of linen or seem to belong to one craft or another; the lame have their occupations, the eunuchs have theirs, the blind have theirs, and not even those whose hands are crippled are idle. 7 Their only god is money, and this the Christians, the Jews, and, in fact, all nations adore. And would that this city had a better character, for indeed it is worthy by reason of its richness and by reason of its size to hold the chief place in the whole of Egypt. 8 I granted it every favour, I restored to it all its ancient rights and bestowed on it new ones besides, so that the people gave thanks to me while I was present among them. Then, no sooner had I departed thence than they said many things against my son Verus, and what they said about Antinous I believe you have learned. 9 I can only wish for them that they may live on their own chickens, which they breed in a fashion I am ashamed to describe. [According to Aristotle, Hist. Anim. vi.2, they hatched the eggs by burying them in dung-heaps.] 10 I am sending you over some cups, changing colour and variegated, presented to me by the priest of a temple and now dedicated particularly to you and my sister. I should like you to use them at banquets on feast-days. Take good care, however, that our dear Africanus does not use them too freely.”

This letter has been thought by some to be spurious, but Lightfoot, amongst the more reputable critics, accepted it as genuine.


34. This is the “great multitude” martyred under Nero, I Clement, 6 and Tacitus, Annals, XV. 44.


35. Philippians, 1. 12-18: “12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Ibid., 3. 2-3, 17-21: “2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Compare Romans, 16. 18: “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words (CHRESTOlogia) and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”




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