Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/143

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127
SIMON MAGUS

images of Simon under the form of Zeus, and of Helen under that of Athena. They were called Simoniani, and were the introducers of “knowledge falsely so called.” In the next chapter Irenaeus speaks of Menander, who was also a Samaritan, as the successor of Simon, and as having, like him, attained to the highest pitch of magic. His doctrine is represented, as being the same as that of Simon, only that it was he this time who was the saviour of the world.

It is evident that the Samaritans were not to be outdone by the Jews, that Mount Gerizim was once more being set up against Jerusalem, and that a bold bid was being made by the hated Samaritans for a world-wide religion, which should embrace Pagans as well as Christians. But before such an amalgam of paganism and Christianity could be propounded, it is evident that Christianity must have been for some little time before the world, and that the system cannot possibly be traced back to Simon Magus. Is it not this early struggle between Jewish and Samaritan universalism, involving as it did a struggle of religion against magic, that is really symbolized under the wild traditions of the contest between Peter and Simon?[1]

Tertullian is fond of alluding to Simon Magus. He says that he offered money for the Holy Spirit (De fuga, 12; De anima, 34), that he was cursed by the Apostles and expelled from the faith (De idol. 9), that he consoled himselfTertullian for the loss of the Spirit by the purchase of Helen of Tyre (De an. 34), that he was honoured at Rome with a statue bearing the inscription “Sancti Dei” (Apol. 13), that the Simonianae magiae disciplina, had been condemned by Peter (De praescr. 33), and that in his own day (he died in A.D. 220) the followers of Simon professed to raise the souls of prophets from the dead (De anima, 57). In a list of heretics Marcion, Valentine and Apelles are followed by Hebion and Simon, whom we may take as standing respectively for Jewish and Samaritan types of Christian heresy (De praescr. 10). But the important passage is the account of his doctrine in De anima, 34, which is evidently derived from the same source as that of Irenaeus. The pseudo-Tertullian in the short treatise Against all Heresies lets us know that the being whom the Most High God came down to seek was Wisdom. This is important as bearing upon the connexion between Simon and Valentinus. In the Clementine Homilies (ii. 25) it is said that Simon called Helen σοφία.

We now come to the important testimony of Hippolytus (c. A.D. 218–222). In his Refutatio omnium haeresium he gives the same account as Irenaeus with certain slight differences, which indicate a common source rather than directHippolytus. borrowing. The word used for the Thought of the first Father, which in Justin is ἔννοια., and which the translator of Irenaeus renders by conceptio and Tertullian by injectio, is in Hippolytus ἐπίνοια. We are told that Simon allegorized the wooden horse and “Helen with the lamp,”[2] and applied them to himself and his ἐπίνοια. Upon the story of “the lost sheep” Hippolytus comments as follows. “But the liar was enamoured of this wench, whose name was Helen, and had bought her and had her to wife, and it was out of respect for his disciples that he invented this fairy-tale” (Ref. O. H. vi. 19). To this he adds a scathing indictment against the licentiousness of the Simonians.[3] Hippolytus speaks in language similar to that of Irenaeus about the variety of magic arts practised by the Simonians, and also of their having images of Simon and Helen under the forms of Zeus and Athena. But. here he has a significant addition. “But if any one, on seeing the images either of Simon or Helen, shall call them by those names, he is cast out, as showing ignorance of the mysteries.” From this it is evident that the Simonians did not allow that they worshipped their founders. Lipsius conjectured that the supposed worship of Simon and Helen was really that of Hercules-Melkart and Selene-Astarte. Baur before him made Simon = שֶׁמֶשׁ, the Sun. In the Clementine Recognitions Helen is called Luna (ii. 8, 9), and in the Homilies she is mystically connected with the lunar month (Hom. ii. 23).

Hippolytus, like the rest, identified Simon of Gitta (Σίμων ὁ Γιττηνός, vi. 7) with Simon Magus. Reduced to despair, he says, by the curse laid upon him by Peter, he embarked on the career that has been described, “Until he came to Rome also and fell foul of the Apostles. Peter withstood him on many occasions. At last he came (here some words are missing) and began to teach sitting under a plane tree. When he was on the point of being shown up, he said, in order to gain time, that if he were buried alive he would rise again on the third day. So he bade that a tomb should be dug by his disciples and that he should be buried in it. Now they did what they were ordered, but he remained there until now: for he was not the Christ.”

Prefixed to this account of Simon, which, except in its dramatic close, so nearly tallies with that of Irenaeus, is a description of a book of which he was the author. It is quoted under the title of The Declaration (vi. 14, 18) or The Great Declaration (vi. 11). The longest extract from it is in vi. 18, but others occur here and there,[4] and, where not explicitly quoted, it still underlies the statements of Hippolytus. It is written in a mystical and pretentious style, but the philosophy of it, if allowance be made for the allegorical method of the time, is by no means to be despised. As Hippolytus himself in more than one place (iv. 51, vi. 20) points out, it is an earlier form of the Valentinian doctrine, but there are things in it which remind us of the Stoic physics, and much use is made of the Aristotelian distinction between ἑνέργεια and δύνμις.

Starting from the assertion of Moses that God is “a devouring fire” (Deut. iv. 24), Simon combined therewith the philosophy of Heraclitus which made fire the first principle of all things. This first principle he denominated a “power without end” (δύνμις ἀπέραντος), and he declared it to dwell in the sons of men, beings born of flesh and blood. But fire was not the simple thing that the many imagined, and Simon distinguished between its hidden and its manifest qualities, maintaining, like Locke, that the former were the cause of the latter. Like the Stoics, he conceived of it as an intelligent being. From this ungenerated being sprang the generated world of which we know, whereof there were six roots, having each its inner and its outer side, and arranged in pairs (συζυγίαι) as follows: νοῦς and ἐπίνοια = οὐρανός and γῆ; φωνή and ὄνομα = ἤλιος and σελήνη; λογισμός and ἐνθύμησις = ἀήρ and ὔδωρ. These six roots are also called six powers. Commingled with them all was the great power, the “power without end.” This was that “which stands, which stood and yet shall stand.” It existed potentially in every child of man, and might be developed in each to its own immensity. The small might become great, the point be enlarged to infinity (iv. 51, v. 9, vi. 14). This indivisible point which existed in the body, and of which none but the spiritual knew, was the Kingdom of Heaven, and the grain of mustard-seed (v. 9). But it rested with us to develop it, and it is this responsibility which is referred to in the words—“that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. xi. 32). For if the image of the Standing One were not actualized in us, it would not survive the death of the body. “The axe,” he said, “is nigh to the roots of the tree.. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire” (cf. Matt. iii. 10).

The whole book is a queer mixture of Hellenism and Hebraism, in which the same method of allegory is applied to Homer and Hesiod as to Moses. There is a physiological interpretation of the Garden of Eden. The five books of Moses are made to represent the five senses. There is a mystical passage on the unity of all things, suggestive of “the hymn the Brahman sings.” Its language seems to throw light on the story about Helen. “This,” he says, “is one power, divided between above and below, self-generating, self-increasing, self-seeking, self-finding, being its own mother, its own father, its own sister, its own spouse, its own daughter, its own son, mother, father, an abstract unity, being the root of all things” (Hipp. Ref. O. H. vi. 17). That a learned man like Hippolytus should refer a work which contains quotations from the Epistles and Gospels to Simon Magus, who was probably older than Jesus Christ, shows the extent to which men can be blinded by religious bigotry.

Next in order comes Origen, who was ordained priest in A.D. 231 (Eus. H. E. vi. 23, 26). The most interesting point in his evidence relates to the decline of the Samaritan attempt Origen.to establish a world religion. After speaking of Dositheus the Samaritan, who persuaded some of his countrymen that he was the Christ prophesied by Moses, he goes on to say: “Also Simon the Samaritan, a magician, wished to filch away some by his magic. And at the time indeed he succeeded in his deception, but now I suppose it is not possible to find 30 Simonians altogether in the world; and perhaps I have put the number higher than it really is. But in Palestine there are very few, and in the rest of the world, in which he wished to spread his own glory, his name is nowhere mentioned. If it is, this is due to the Acts of the Apostles. It is the Christians who say what is said about him, and it has become plain as daylight (ἡ ἐνάργεια ἐμαρτύρησεν) that Simon was nothing divine” (Origen, Cont. Cels. i. 57). Origen also mentions that some of the sect were called Heleniani (v. 62).

The treatise of the pseudo-Cyprian De Rebaptismate is assigned by some to about A.D. 260. The writer says that on the strength of the words of John, that “we were to be baptized with Pseudo-
Cyprian.
the Holy Ghost and with fire,” the Simonians maintained that the orthodox baptism was a mere form, and that they had the real baptism, for, as soon as their neophytes went down into the water, a fire appeared on it. The writer does not dispute the fact, but is at a loss what to make of it. Was it a bit of jugglery, or a natural phenomenon, or a piece of self-deception, or an effect of magic? In advocacy of this baptism, we are told, there was composed by the same heretics a book which was inscribed the Preaching of Paul.

Arnobius (early in the 3rd century) introduces us to a new phase of the Simon-legend. “They had seen,” he says, “the car of Simon Magus blown away by the mouth of Peter and vanish at the name of Christ. They had seen, I say, him who trustedArnobius. in false gods and was betrayed by those gods in their fear, brought headlong down by his own weight, lie with broken legs, and afterwards be carried to Brunda and, exhausted by suffering and

  1. The account given by Irenaeus should be compared with what is said of Simon Magus in the Clementine Homilies, ii. 22, where the rivalry between Jews and Samaritans becomes evident (cf. Recognitions, i. 57).
  2. On this see Epiph. xxi. 3.
  3. Hippolytus says the free love doctrine was held by them in its frankest form.
  4. E.g. iv. 51, v. 9, vi. 9, 11, 14, 17.