Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/145

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129
SIMON MAGUS

the truth, learn first from us what we learnt from Him, and when you have become a disciple of truth, become our fellow -workman.”

Here we have the advantage, rare in ecclesiastical history, of hearing the other side. The above is unmistakably the voice of those early Christians who hated Paul, or at all events an echo of that voice. But how late an echo it would be hazardous to decide. Schmiedel asks, " How should Paul ever come to be in the 2nd, or, as far as the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions are concerned, even in the 3rd or 4th century, the object of so fanatical a hatred? It is a psychological impossibility." Yet the love and hatred aroused by strong characters is not confined to their life-time. There is not the slightest reason why there should not have been people in the 3rd or 4th century who would have been glad to lampoon Paul. The introduction of Pauline features, however, into the representation of Simon Magus is merely incidental. The portrait as a whole is not in the least like Paul, and could not even have been intended for a caricature of him.

There are other features in the portrait which remind us strongly of Marcion. For the first thing which we learn from the Homilies about Simon's opinions is that he denied that God was just (ii. 14). By " God " he meant the Creator. But he undertakes to prove from Scripture that there is a higher God, who really possesses the perfections which are falsely ascribed to the lower (iii. 10, 38). On these grounds Peter complains that, when he was setting out for the Gentiles to convert them from their worship of many gods upon earth, the Evil Power (ή κακία) had sent Simon before him to make them believe that there were many gods in heaven. Peter throughout is represented as defending the μοναρχία of God against Simon's attacks on it (e.g. iii. 3, 9, 59).

If we knew more, we might detect other historical characters concealed under the mask of Simon. Just as whatever Plato approves is put into the mouth of Socrates, so whatever the author of the Homilies condemns is put into the mouth of Simon Magus. But while thus seeking for hidden meanings, are we not in danger of missing what lies on the surface, namely, that the Simon Magus of the Clementine romance is a portrait of Simon of Gitta, after he had been confused with the Simon of Acts? The mention of Helen in the Clementines stamps them as later than the Great Declaration, in which, to all appearance, her story originates. Indeed, the Clementine romance may most fitly be regarded as an answer to the Great Declaration, the answer of Jewish Gnosticism to the more Hellenized Gnosticism of Samaria. Let us look at the Homilies in this light, and see how far what they have to tell us about Simon accords with conclusions which we have already reached.

Simon, we are informed, was a Samaritan, and a native of Gitta, a village situated at a distance of 6 axolvoi (about 4 m.) from the „ ... city. The name of his father was Antonius, that of his Horn es. mother Rachel. He studied Greek literature in Alexandria, and, having in addition to this great power in magic, was so puffed up by his attainments that he wished to be considered a highest power, higher even than the God who created the world.[1] And sometimes he " darkly hinted " that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One. Which name he used to indicate that he would stand for ever, and had no cause in him for bodily decay. He did not believe that the God who created the world was the highest, nor that the dead would rise. He denied Jerusalem, and introduced Mount Gerizim in its stead. In place of the real Christ of the Christians he proclaimed himself; and the Law he allegorized in accordance with his own preconceptions. He did indeed preach righteousness and judgment to come: but this was merely a bait for the unwary.

So far we have had nothing that is inconsistent with Simon of Gitta, and little but what we are already familiar with in connexion either with him or his disciple Menander. But in what follows the identification of this Simon with the Simon of Acts has led the novelist to give play to his fancy. It may be well to premise that in the view of the writer of the Homilies, " All things are double one against another." " As first night, then day, and first ignorance, then knowledge (-fvuji.s), and first sickness, then healing, so the things of error come first in life, and then the truth supervenes upon them, as the physician upon the sickness." (Horn. ii. 33). In this way every good thing has its evil forerunner.

According to the Homilies, the manner of his entering on his career of impiety was as follows. There was one John, a Hemerobaptist, who was the forerunner of our Lord Jesus in accordance with the law of parity;[2] and as the Lord had twelve Apostles, bearing the number of the twelve solar months, so had he thirty leading men, making up the monthly tale of the moon. One of these thirty leading men was a woman called Helen. Now, as a woman is only half a man, in this way the number thirty was left incomplete, as it is in the moon's course. Of these thirty disciples of John the first and most renowned was Simon. But on the death of the master he was away in Egypt for the practice of magic, and one Dositheus, by spreading a false report of Simon's death, succeeded in installing himself as head of the sect. Simon on coming back thought it better to dissemble, and, pretending friendship for Dositheus, accepted the second place. Soon, however, he began to hint to the thirty that Dositheus was not as well acquainted as he might be with the doctrines of the school. Dositheus was so enraged at these suggestions, which were calculated to undermine his position as the Standing One, that he struck at Simon with his staff. But the staff went clean through the body of Simon as though it had been vapour. Whereat Dositheus was so amazed that he said to him, " Art thou the Standing One? And am I to worship thee? " When Simon said, " I am," Dositheus, knowing that he himself was not, fell down and worshipped him. Then he retired into the number of the twenty-nine leaders, and not long afterwards died.

The above is doubtless pure fiction. But Dositheus the Samaritan is a real person. He is mentioned by Hegesippus as the founder of a sect (Eus. H.E. iv. 22), and spoken of by the pseudo-Tertullian as a heretic from Judaism, not from Christianity, " who first dared to reject the prophets as not having spoken in the Holy Ghost." After this we return to the comparatively solid ground of Simon of Gitta. For the narrative goes on to say that Simon took Helen about with him, saying that she had come down into the world from the highest heavens, and was mistress, inasmuch as she was the allmother being and wisdom. It was for her sake, he said, that the Greeks and Barbarians fought, deluding themselves with an image of truth, for the real being was then present with the First God.[3] By such specious allegories and Grecian fables Simon deceived many, while at the same time he astounded them by his magic. A description is given of how he made a familiar spirit for himself by conjuring the soul out of a boy and keeping his image in his bedroom, and many instances of his feats of magic are given.

The Samaritans were evidently strong in magic. In all the accounts given us of Simon of Gitta magic is a marked feature, as also in the case of his pupil Menander. We cannot, therefore, agree with Dr Salmon's remark that the only reason why Justin attributed magic to Simon of Gitta was because of his identifying him with Simon Magus. Rather Simon Magus and his sorceries would have been forgotten had not his reputation been reinforced in the popular mind by that of his successor.

Whether Simon of Gitta ever exhibited his skill in Rome we have no means of determining, but at all events the compound Simon, resulting from the fusion of him with his predecessor, is brought to Rome by popular legend, and represented as enjoying great influence with Nero. One of his feats at Rome is to have himself beheaded and to rise again on the third day. It was really a ram that was beheaded, but he contrived by his magic to make people think that it was himself. The Clementines leave room for this development. In the Epistle of Clement to James prefixed to the Homilies Peter is spoken of as the light of the West, and as having met with a violent death in Rome; and in Homilies i. 16, Peter invites Clement to share his travels and listen to the words of truth which he is about to preach from town to town, " even unto Rome itself."

It would be superfluous to criticize the Tubingen view under a form in which it has already been abandoned. We may, therefore, confine our attention to the latest exposition of it by Schmiedel in the Ency. Biblica. In the narrative of Acts Schmiedel finds much to surprise him. He thinks, for instance, that verse 10 of chapter viii. must be interpolated, and that in the process irpoo-tixov was borrowed from verse 11. But there is no inconsistency between the two verses. Verse 10 merely states that the people gave heed to the magician, verse 11 adds why. All the complicated speculations about a redactor which follow are swept away by the simple assumption that the text is sound.

With Schmiedel's contention that there are passages in the Clementines which are aimed at Paul, we entirely agree. But this interesting discovery so dazzled the eyes of Baur and his followers that after it they saw Paul everywhere. In the Clementines Simon by his magic imposes his own personal appearance upon Faustus, the father of Clement. This he does for his own ends, but Peter seeing his opportunity adroitly makes Faustus go to Antioch, and in the person of Simon make a public

  1. Supplying, with Schmiedel, άνωτέρα.
  2. κατά τὸν τῆς συζυγίας λόγον, ii. 23.
  3. As to the phantasmal nature of Helen see Plat. Rep. 586 c; Sext. Emp. Adv. math. vii. 180; cf. Hdt. ii. 112-117. We have only the evidence of this passage for Simon having adopted the notion.