Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Hippolytus/The Refutation of All Heresies/Book V/Part 4

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. V, Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book V by Hippolytus, translated by John Henry MacMahon
Part 4

Chapter III.—Further Exposition of the Heresy of the Naasseni; Profess to Follow Homer; Acknowledge a Triad of Principles; Their Technical Names of the Triad; Support These on the Authority of Greek Poets; Allegorize Our Saviour’s Miracles; The Mystery of the Samothracians; Why the Lord Chose Twelve Disciples; The Name Corybas, Used by Thracians and Phrygians, Explained; Naasseni Profess to Find Their System in Scripture; Their Interpretation of Jacob’s Vision; Their Idea of the “Perfect Man;” The “Perfect Man” Called “Papa” By the Phrygians; The Naasseni and Phrygians on the Resurrection; The Ecstasis of St. Paul; The Mysteries of Religion as Alluded to by Christ; Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower; Allegory of the Promised Land; Comparison of the System of the Phrygians with the Statements of Scripture; Exposition of the Meaning of the Higher and Lower Eleusinian Mysteries; The Incarnation Discoverable Here According to the Naasseni.

Adopting these and such like (opinions), these most marvellous Gnostics, inventors of a novel[1] grammatical art, magnify Homer as their prophet—as one, (according to them,) who, after the mode adopted in the mysteries, announces these truths; and they mock those who are not indoctrinated into the holy Scriptures, by betraying them into such notions. They make, however, the following assertion: he who says that all things derive consistence from one, is in error; but he who says that they are of three, is in possession of the truth, and will furnish a solution of the (phenomena of the) universe. For there is, says (the Naassene), one blessed nature of the Blessed Man, of him who is above, (namely) Adam; and there is one mortal nature, that which is below; and there is one kingless generation, which is begotten above, where, he says, is Mariam[2] the sought-for one, and Iothor the mighty sage, and Sephora the gazing one, and Moses whose generation is not in Egypt, for children were born unto him in Madian; and not even this, he says, has escaped the notice of the poets.

“Threefold was our partition; each obtained

His meed of honour due.”[3]

For, says he, it is necessary that the magnitudes be declared, and that they thus be declared by all everywhere, “in order that hearing they may not hear, and seeing they may not see.”[4] For if, he says, the magnitudes were not declared, the world could not have obtained consistence.  These are the three tumid expressions (of these heretics), Caulacau,[5] Saulasau, Zeesar, i.e., Adam, who is farthest above; Saulasau, that is, the mortal one below; Zeesar, that is, Jordan that flows upwards. This, he says, is the hermaphrodite man (present) in all. But those who are ignorant of him, call him Geryon with the threefold body—Geryon, i.e., as if (in the sense of) flowing from earth—but (whom) the Greeks by common consent (style) “celestial horn of the moon,” because he mixed and blended all things in all. “For all things,” he says, “were made by him, and not even one thing was made without him, and what was made in him is life.”[6] This, says he, is the life, the ineffable generation of perfect men, which was not known by preceding generations. But the passage, “nothing was made without him,” refers to the formal world, for it was created without his instrumentality by the third and fourth (of the quaternion named above). For says he, this is the cup “Condy, out of which the king, while he quaffs, draws his omens.”[7] This, he says, has been discovered hid in the beauteous seeds of Benjamin.  And the Greeks likewise, he says, speak of this in the following terms:—

“Water to the raging mouth bring; thou slave, bring wine;

Intoxicate and plunge me into stupor.

My tankard tells me

The sort I must become.”[8]

This, says he, was alone sufficient for its being understood by men; (I mean) the cup of Anacreon declaring, (albeit) mutely, an ineffable mystery. For dumb, says he, is Anacreon’s cup; and (yet) Anacreon affirms that it speaks to himself, in language mute, as to what sort he must become—that is spiritual, not carnal—if he shall listen in silence to the concealed mystery. And this is the water in those fair nuptials which Jesus changing made into wine. This, he says, is the mighty and true beginning of miracles[9] which Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee, and (thus) manifested the kingdom of heaven. This, says he, is the kingdom of heaven that reposes within us as a treasure, as leaven hid in the three measures of meal.[10]

This is, he says, the great and ineffable mystery of the Samothracians, which it is allowable, he says, for us only who are initiated to know. For the Samothracians expressly hand down, in the mysteries that are celebrated among them, that (same) Adam as the primal man. And habitually there stand in the temple of the Samothracians two images of naked men, having both hands stretched aloft towards heaven, and their pudenda erecta, as with the statue of Mercury on Mount Cyllene. And the aforesaid images are figures of the primal man, and of that spiritual one that is born again, in every respect of the same substance with that man.  This, he says, is what is spoken by the Saviour: “If ye do not drink my blood, and eat my flesh, ye will not enter into the kingdom of heaven; but even though,” He says, “ye drink of the cup which I drink of, whither I go, ye cannot enter there.”[11] For He says He was aware of what sort of nature each of His disciples was, and that there was a necessity that each of them should attain unto His own peculiar nature. For He says He chose twelve disciples from the twelve tribes, and spoke by them to each tribe. On this account, He says, the preachings of the twelve disciples neither did all hear, nor, if they heard, could they receive. For the things that are not according to nature, are with them contrary to nature.

This, he says, the Thracians who dwell around Hæmus, and the Phrygians similarly with the Thracians, denominate Corybas, because, (though) deriving the beginning of his descent from the head above and from the unportrayed brain, and (though) permeating all the principles of the existing state of things, (yet) we do not perceive how and in what manner he comes down. This, says he, is what is spoken: “We have heard his voice, no doubt, but we have not seen his shape.”[12] For the voice of him that is set apart[13] and portrayed is heard; but (his) shape, which descends from above from the unportrayed one,—what sort it is, nobody knows. It resides, however, in an earthly mould, yet no one recognises it. This, he says, is “the god that inhabiteth the flood,” according to the Psalter, “and who speaketh and crieth from many waters.”[14] The “many waters,” he says, are the diversified generation of mortal men, from which (generation) he cries and vociferates to the unportrayed man, saying, “Preserve my only-begotten from the lions.”[15] In reply to him, it has, says he, been declared, “Israel, thou art my child: fear not; even though thou passest through rivers, they shall not drown thee; even though thou passest through fire, it shall not scorch thee.”[16] By rivers he means, says he, the moist substance of generation, and by fire the impulsive principle and desire for generation. “Thou art mine; fear not.” And again, he says, “If a mother forget her children, so as not to have pity on them and give them food, I also will forget you.”[17] Adam, he says, speaks to his own men: “But even though a woman forget these things, yet I will not forget you. I have painted you on my hands.”  In regard, however, of his ascension, that is his regeneration, that he may become spiritual, not carnal, the Scripture, he says, speaks (thus): “Open the gates, ye who are your rulers; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in,” that is a wonder of wonders.[18] “For who,” he says, “is this King of glory? A worm, and not a man; a reproach of man, and an outcast of the people; himself is the King of glory, and powerful in war.”[19]

And by war he means the war that is in the body, because its frame has been made out of hostile elements; as it has been written, he says, “Remember the conflict that exists in the body.”[20] Jacob, he says, saw this entrance and this gate in his journey into Mesopotamia, that is, when from a child he was now becoming a youth and a man; that is, (the entrance and gate) were made known unto him as he journeyed into Mesopotamia. But Mesopotamia, he says, is the current of the great ocean flowing from the midst of the Perfect Man; and he was astonished at the celestial gate, exclaiming, “How terrible is this place! it is nought else than the house of God, and this (is) the gate of heaven.”[21] On account of this, he says, Jesus uses the words, “I am the true gate.”[22] Now he who makes these statements is, he says, the Perfect Man that is imaged from the unportrayable one from above. The Perfect Man therefore cannot, he says, be saved, unless, entering in through this gate, he be born again. But this very one the Phrygians, he says, call also Papa, because he tranquillized all things which, prior to his manifestation, were confusedly and dissonantly moved. For the name, he says, of Papa belongs simultaneously to all creatures[23]—celestial, and terrestrial, and infernal—who exclaim, Cause to cease, cause to cease the discord of the world, and make “peace for those that are afar off,” that is, for material and earthly beings; and “peace for those that are near,”[24] that is, for perfect men that are spiritual and endued with reason. But the Phrygians denominate this same also “corpse”—buried in the body, as it were, in a mausoleum and tomb. This, he says, is what has been declared, “Ye are whited sepulchres, full,” he says, “of dead men’s bones within,”[25] because there is not in you the living man. And again he exclaims, “The dead shall start forth from the graves,”[26] that is, from the earthly bodies, being born again spiritual, not carnal. For this, he says, is the Resurrection that takes place through the gate of heaven, through which, he says, all those that do not enter remain dead. These same Phrygians, however, he says, affirm again that this very (man), as a consequence of the change, (becomes) a god.  For, he says, he becomes a god when, having risen from the dead, he will enter into heaven through a gate of this kind. Paul the apostle, he says, knew of this gate, partially opening it in a mystery, and stating “that he was caught up by an angel, and ascended as far as the second and third heaven into paradise itself; and that he beheld sights and heard unspeakable words which it would not be possible for man to declare.”[27]

These are, he says, what are by all called the secret mysteries, “which (also we speak), not in words taught of human wisdom, but in those taught of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him.”[28] And these are, he says, the ineffable mysteries of the Spirit, which we alone are acquainted with. Concerning these, he says, the Saviour has declared, “No one can come unto me, except my heavenly Father draw some one unto me.”[29] For it is very difficult, he says, to accept and receive this great and ineffable mystery. And again, it is said, the Saviour has declared, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”[30] And it is necessary that they who perform this (will), not hear it merely, should enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again, he says, the Saviour has declared, “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you.”[31] For “the publicans,” he says, are those who receive the revenues[32] of all things;[33] but we, he says, are the publicans, “unto whom the ends of the ages have come.”[34] For “the ends,” he says, are the seeds scattered from the unportrayable one upon the world, through which the whole cosmical system is completed; for through these also it began to exist.  And this, he says, is what has been declared: “The sower went forth to sow. And some fell by the wayside, and was trodden down; and some on the rocky places, and sprang up,” he says, “and on account of its having no depth (of soil), it withered and died; and some,” he says, “fell on fair and good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty fold. Who hath ears,” he says, “to hear, let him hear.”[35] The meaning of this, he says, is as follows, that none becomes a hearer of these mysteries, unless only the perfect Gnostics. This, he says, is the fair and good land which Moses speaks of: “I will bring you into a fair and good land, into a land flowing with milk and honey.”[36] This, he says, is the honey and the milk, by tasting which those that are perfect become kingless, and share in the Pleroma. This, he says, is the Pleroma, through which all existent things that are produced[37] have from the ingenerable one been both produced and completed.

And this same (one) is styled also by[38] the Phrygians “unfruitful.” For he is unfruitful when he is carnal, and causes the desire of the flesh. This, he says, is what is spoken: “Every tree not producing good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire.”[39] For these fruits, he says, are only rational living men, who enter in through the third gate. They say, forsooth, “Ye devour the dead, and make the living; (but) if ye eat the living, what will ye do?” They assert, however, that the living “are rational faculties and minds, and men—pearls of that unportrayable one cast before the creature below.”[40] This, he says, is what (Jesus) asserts: “Throw not that which is holy unto the dogs, nor pearls unto the swine.”[41] Now they allege that the work of swine and dogs is the intercourse of the woman with a man. And the Phrygians, he says, call this very one “goat-herd” (Aipolis), not because, he says, he is accustomed to feed the goats female and male, as the natural (men) use the name, but because, he says, he is “Aipolis”—that is, always ranging over,—who both revolves and carries around the entire cosmical system by his revolutionary motion. For the word “Polein” signifies to turn and change things; whence, he says, they all call the twos centre of the heaven poles (Poloi).  And the poet says:—

“What sea-born sinless sage comes hither,

Undying Egyptian Proteus?”[42]

He is not undone,[43] he says,[44] but revolves as it were, and goes round himself. Moreover, also, cities in which we dwell, because we turn and go round in them, are denominated “Poleis.”  In this manner, he says, the Phrygians call this one “Aipolis,” inasmuch as he everywhere ceaselessly turns all things, and changes them into their own peculiar (functions). And the Phrygians style him, he says, “very fruitful” likewise, “because,” says he, “more numerous are the children of the desolate one, than those of her which hath an husband;”[45] that is, things by being born again become immortal and abide for ever in great numbers, even though the things that are produced may be few; whereas things carnal, he says, are all corruptible, even though very many things (of this type) are produced. For this reason, he says, “Rachel wept[46] for her children, and would not,” says (the prophet), “be comforted; sorrowing for them, for she knew,” says he, “that they are not.”[47] But Jeremiah likewise utters lamentation for Jerusalem below, not the city in Phœnicia, but the corruptible generation below. For Jeremiah likewise, he says, was aware of the Perfect Man, of him that is born again—of water and the Spirit not carnal. At least Jeremiah himself remarked: “He is a man, and who shall know him?”[48] In this manner, (the Naassene) says, the knowledge of the Perfect Man is exceedingly profound, and difficult of comprehension. For, he says, the beginning of perfection is a knowledge of man, whereas knowledge of God is absolute perfection.

The Phrygians, however, assert, he says, that he is likewise “a green ear of corn reaped.” And after the Phrygians, the Athenians, while initiating people into the Eleusinian rites, likewise display to those who are being admitted to the highest grade at these mysteries, the mighty, and marvellous, and most perfect secret suitable for one initiated into the highest mystic truths: (I allude to) an ear of corn in silence reaped. But this ear of corn is also (considered) among the Athenians to constitute the perfect enormous illumination (that has descended) from the unportrayable one, just as the Hierophant himself (declares); not, indeed, emasculated like Attis,[49] but made a eunuch by means of hemlock, and despising[50] all carnal generation. (Now) by night in Eleusis, beneath a huge fire, (the Celebrant) enacting the great and secret mysteries, vociferates and cries aloud, saying, “August Brimo has brought forth a consecrated son, Brimus;” that is, a potent (mother has been delivered of) a potent child.  But revered, he says, is the generation that is spiritual, heavenly, from above, and potent is he that is so born. For the mystery is called “Eleusin” and “Anactorium.”  “Eleusin,” because, he says, we who are spiritual come flowing down from Adam above; for the word “eleusesthai” is, he says, of the same import with the expression “to come.” But “Anactorium” is of the same import with the expression “to ascend upwards.” This, he says, is what they affirm who have been initiated in the mysteries of the Eleusinians. It is, however, a regulation of law, that those who have been admitted into the lesser should again be initiated into the Great Mysteries. For greater destinies obtain greater portions. But the inferior mysteries, he says, are those of Proserpine below; in regard of which mysteries, and the path which leads thither, which is wide and spacious, and conducts those that are perishing to Proserpine, the poet likewise says:—

“But under her a fearful path extends,

Hollow, miry, yet best guide to

Highly-honoured Aphrodite’s lovely grove.”[51]

These, he says, are the inferior mysteries, those appertaining to carnal generation. Now, those men who are initiated into these inferior (mysteries) ought to pause, and (then) be admitted into the great (and) heavenly (ones). For they, he says, who obtain their shares (in this mystery), receive greater portions. For this, he says, is the gate of heaven; and this a house of God, where the Good Deity dwells alone. And into this (gate), he says, no unclean person shall enter, nor one that is natural or carnal; but it is reserved for the spiritual only. And those who come hither ought to cast off[52] their garments, and become all of them bridegrooms, emasculated through the virginal spirit. For this is the virgin[53] who carries in her womb and conceives and brings forth a son, not animal, not corporeal, but blessed for evermore. Concerning these, it is said, the Saviour has expressly declared that “straight and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there are that enter upon it; whereas broad and spacious is the way that leadeth unto destruction, and many there are that pass through it.”[54]


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Or, “empty.”
  2. The Abbe Cruice considers that this is taken from verses of Ezekiel, founding his opinion on fragments of these verses to be found in Eusebius’ Præparat. Evang., ix. 38.
  3. Iliad, xv. 189.
  4. Matt. xiii. 13.
  5. The commentators refer to Isa. xxviii. 10.  Epiphanius,Hæres., xxv., mentions these expressions, but assigns them a different meaning.  Saulasau is tribulation,Caulacau hope, and Zeesar “hope, as yet, little.” [See my note on Irenæus, p. 350, this series, and see Elucidation II.]
  6. John i. 3, 4.
  7. Gen. xliv. 2–5.
  8. Taken from Anacreon.
  9. John ii. 1–11.
  10. Matt. xiii. 33, 34; Luke xvii. 21.
  11. John vi. 53; Mark x. 38.
  12. John v. 37.
  13. ἀποτεταγμένου:  some read ἀποτεταμένου.
  14. Ps. xxix. 3, 10.
  15. Ps. xxii. 20, 21; xxxv. 17.
  16. Isa. xli. 8; xliii. 1, 2.
  17. Isa. xlix. 15.
  18. Ps. xxiv. 7–9.
  19. Ps. xxii. 6; xxiv. 8.
  20. This is a quotation from the Septuagint, Job xl. 27. The reference to the authorized (English) version would be xli. 8.
  21. Gen. xxviii. 7, 17.
  22. John x. 9; Matt. vii. 13.
  23. [A strange amplifying of the word, which is now claimed exclusively for one. Elucidation III.]
  24. Eph. ii. 17.
  25. Matt. xxiii. 27.
  26. Matt. xxvii. 52, 53.
  27. 2 Cor. xii. 2.
  28. 1 Cor. ii. 13, 14.
  29. John vi. 44.
  30. Matt. vii. 21.
  31. Matt. xxi. 31.
  32. The word translated “revenues” and “ends” is the same—τέλη
  33. Τῶν ὅλων: some read τῶν ὠνίων
  34. 1 Cor. x. 11.
  35. Matt. xiii. 3–9; Mark iv. 3–9; Luke viii. 5–8.
  36. Deut. xxxi. 20.
  37. Or, “genera.”
  38. ὐπὸ: Miller reads ἀπὸ
  39. Matt. iii. 10; Luke iii. 9.
  40. κάτω:  some read κάρπου
  41. Matt. vii. 6.
  42. Odyssey, iv. 384.
  43. πιπράσκεται; literally, bought and sold, i.e., ruined.
  44. λέγει: some read ἀμέλει, i.e., doubtless, of course.
  45. Isa. liv. 1; Gal. iv. 27.
  46. ἔκλαιε: this is in the margin; ἔλαβε is in the ms. The marginal reading is the proper correction of that of the ms.
  47. Jer. xxxi. 15; Matt. ii. 18.
  48. Jer. xvii. 9.
  49. [The Phrygian Atys (see cap. iv. infra), whose history should have saved Origen from an imitation of heathenism.]
  50. παρῃτημένος
     some read ἀπηρτισμένος,
    i.e., perfecting.
  51. These verses have been ascribed to Parmenides.
  52. Or, “receive.”
  53. Isa. vii. 14.
  54. Matt. vii. 13, 14.