Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/144

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
128
SIMON MAGUS

shame, fling himself down once more from the gable of a lofty roof.” The immediate sequel shows that belief in this story was confined to Christians.

Eusebius (about A.D. 264-340) follows Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, but he adds the statement, which is not derived from them, that Peter opposed Simon at Rome under the reign of Claudius. From Origen's statement one mightEusebius. have thought that the Simonians would have dwindled out altogether by the time of Eusebius. But they were still extant in his time, and there is no sect of whom he speaks in such unmeasured terms of vituperation.[1] Eusebius's account of Menander (iii. 26) is also based upon Justin and Irenaeus.

St Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 346) in the sixth of his Catechetical Lectures prefaces his history of the Manichees by a brief account of earlier heresies. Simon Magus, he says, was the father of all heresy. After being cast Cyril.out by the Apostles he came to Rome where, having joined to himself a profligate woman of the name of Helen, he gave out that it was he who appeared as the father on Mt. Sinai, and afterwards, not in the flesh, but in appearance (δοκήσει) as Jesus Christ, and, finally, as the Holy Ghost, according to the promise of Christ. His success at Rome was so great that the emperor Claudius erected a statue to him with the inscription Simoni Deo Sancto. The triumph of Simon Magus was terminated on the arrival of Peter and Paul at Rome. Simon Magus had given out that he was going to be translated to heaven, and was actually careering through the air in a chariot drawn by demons when Peter and Paul knelt down and prayed, and their prayers brought him to earth a mangled corpse.

Such is the form assumed by the legend of Simon Magus about the middle of the 4th century. It is interesting to note in it the first introduction of Paul on the scene, at least by name. The reader who is not familiar with the eccentricities of the Tübingen school will doubtless be surprised to learn that the Paul who thus quietly slips in at the close of the drama was himself all along the disguised villain of the plot, the very Simon Magus whom he comes to assist Peter in destroying (see below).

Epiphanius (c. A.D. 367) is a writer who has nothing but his learning to recommend him. It seems that there were some Simonians still in exisstence in his day, but he speaks of them as Epiphanius. almost extinct. Gitta, he says, had sunk from a town into a village. He makes no mention of the Great Declaration, but as in several places he makes Simon speak in the first person, the inference is that he is quoting from it, though perhaps not verbatim. Take, for instance, the following passage: “But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, " in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prounikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men " (56 C, D). And again, " And on her account," he says, " did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ' the lost sheep ' " (58 A). Epiphanius further charges Simon with having tried to wrest the words of St Paul about the armour of God (Eph. vi. 14-16) into agreement with his own identification of the " ennoia " with Athena. He tells us also that he gave barbaric names to the " principalities and powers," and that he was the beginning of the Gnostics. The Law, according to him, was not of God, but of " the sinister power."[2]

The same was the case with the prophets, and it was death to believe in the Old Testament. Epiphanius clearly has before him the same written source as Hippolytus, which we know to have been the Great Declaration. The story of Helen is thus definitely shown to belong to the second Simon, and not at all to the first. Dr Salmon pointed out that Simon was known as a writer to the author of the Clementine Recognitions (ii. 38), and towards the close of the 4th century we find St Jerome quoting from him as such. [3]

Two points must by this time have become clear: (1) that our knowledge of the original Simon Magus is confined to what we are told in the Acts, and (2) that from the earliest times he has been confused with another Simon. The The Tübingen theory. initial error of Justin was echoed by every subsequent writer, with the one exception of Hegesippus, who had perhaps not read him. There were, of course, obvious reasons for the confusion. Both Simons were Samaritans, both were magicians, and the second Simon claimed for himself what was claimed for the earlier Simon by the people, namely, that he was the great power of God. But, if the end in view with the Fathers had been the attainment of truth, instead of the branding of heretics, they could not possibly have accepted the Great Declaration, which contains, as we have seen, the story of Helen, with its references to the Gospels, as the work of Simon Magus. As regards the third point, the difficulty is to make clear to the ordinary mind why it should be treated at all. But as Schmiedel champions the Tübingen view in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, it cannot be overlooked.

Among the sources of the Simon-legend we have omitted the pseudo-Clementine literature and a number of Apocryphal Martyria, Passiones and Actus. It is necessary to treat them separately in connexion with the Tübingen view, which represents Paul as the original Simon. That view is based on these works of fiction, of uncertain date and authorship, which seem to have been worked over by several hands in the interest of diverse forms of belief. The romance of Clement of Rome exists at present in two forms, in Greek under the name of the Clementine Homilies and in a Latin translation by Rufinus, which is known as the Recognitions (see Clementine Literature). It is contended that the common source of these documents may be as early as the 1st century, and must have consisted in a polemic against Paul, emanating from the Jewish side of Christianity. Paul being thus identified with Simon, it was argued that Simon's visit to Rome had no other basis than Paul's presence there, and, further, that the tradition of Peter's residence in Rome rests on the assumed necessity of his resisting the arch-enemy of Judaism there as elsewhere. Thus the idea of Peter at Rome really originated with the Ebionites, but it was afterwards taken up by the Catholic Church, and then Paul was associated with Peter in opposition -to Simon, who had originally been himself.

Now it must be conceded at once that the Clementine Homilies are marked by hostility to Paul. Prefixed to them is a supposed letter from Peter to James, in which Peter is made to write as follows:—

“For some of the converts from the Gentiles have rejected the preaching through me in accordance with the law, having accepted a certain lawless and babbling doctrine of the enemy (τοῦ έχθροῦ άνθρώπου). And this some people have attempted while I am still alive, by various interpretations to transform my words, unto the overthrow of the law; as though I also thought thus, but did not preach it openly: which be far from me! For to do so is to act against the law of God as spoken through Moses, the eternal duration of which is borne witness to by our Lord. Since He said thus— ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away: one jot or one tittle shall not pass away from the law’ (cf. Matt. v. 18). Now this He said that all might be fulfilled. But they, professing somehow to know my mind, attempt to expound the words they heard from me more wisely than I who spoke them, telling those who are instructed by them that this is my meaning, which I never thought of. But if they venture on such falsehoods while I am still alive, how much more when I am gone will those who come after me dare to do so!”

It would be futile to maintain that that passage is not aimed at Paul. It does not identify Paul with Simon Magus, but it serves to reveal an animus which would render the identification easy. In the 17th Homily the identification is effected. Simon is there made to maintain that he has a better knowledge of the mind of Jesus than the disciples, who had seen and conversed with Him in person. His reason for this strange assertion is that visions are superior to waking reality, as divine is superior to human (xvii. 5, 14). Peter has much to say in reply to this, but the passage which mainly concerns us is as follows:—

"But can any one be educated for teaching by vision? And if you shall say, ' It is possible,' why did the Teacher remain and converse with waking men for a whole year? And how can we believe you even as to the fact that he appeared to you? And how can he have appeared to you seeing that your sentiments are opposed to his teaching? But if you were seen and taught by him for a single hour, and so became an apostle, then preach his words, expound his meaning, love his apostles, fight not with me who had converse with him. For it is against a solid rock, the foundation-stone of the Church, that you have opposed yourself in opposing me. If you were not an adversary, you would not be slandering me and reviling the preaching that is given through me, in order that, as I heard myself in person from the Lord, when I speak I may not be believed, as though forsooth it were I who was condemned and I who was reprobate.[4] Or, if you call me 'condemned' (κατεγνωσμένον, Gal. ii. 11), you are accusing God who revealed the Christ to me, and are inveighing against Him who called me blessed on the ground of the revelation. But if indeed you truly wish to work along with

  1. See H.E. it. 1, 13, 14, iii. 26, iv. 11, 22.
  2. 58 D, xxi. 4, τῆς άριστερᾶς δυνάμεως.
  3. Comm. on Matt. xxiv. 5—Ego sum sermo Dei, ego sum speciosus, ego paracletus, ego omnipotens, ego omnia Dei.
  4. Reading with Schmiedel άδοκίου ὄντος (from I Cor. ix. 27) in place of εὐδοκιμοῦντος.