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Contained below is a manuscript summarizing the class lecture(s) covering the above specified range of topics from the List of Topics for Religion 492. Quite often hyperlinks (underlined) to sources of information etc. will be inserted in the text of the lecture. Test questions for all quizzes and exams will be derived in their entirety or in part from these lectures; see Exams in the course syllabus for details. To display the Greek text contained in this page download and install the free BSTGreek from Bible Study Tools.
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, "Patristic Interpretation," Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, pp. 77-128
The allegorical mode has been of major importance in representing the cosmos: the earliest Greek philosophers, for example, speculated on the nature of the universe in allegorical terms; in the Old Testament's oblique interpretation of the universe, too, the world is seen as a symbolic system. The symbolic stories that explain the cosmos are ritualized to ensure that they encode a message. Held together by a system of magical causality, events in allegories are often surrounded by an occult atmosphere of charms, spells, talismans, genies, and magic rites. Science becomes science fiction or a fantastic setting blurs reality so that objects and events become metamorphically unstable. Allegorical fictions are often psychological dramas whose scene is the mind; then their protagonists are personified mental drives. Symbolic climate is most prominent in romance, whose heroic quests project an aura of erotic mysticism, perfect courtesy, and moral fervour that creates a sublime heightening of tone and a picturesque sense of good order.Also in the Britannica is this helpful article, "Allegory":
The cosmic and demonic character of allegorical thinking is most fully reflected in the period of its greatest vogue, the High Middle Ages. During this period poets and priests alike were able to read with increasingly elaborate allegorical technique until their methods perhaps overgrew themselves. A belief had been inherited in the “Great Chain of Being,” the Platonic principle of cosmic unity and fullness, according to which the lowest forms of being were linked with the highest in an ascending order. On the basis of this ladderlike conception were built systems of rising transcendency, starting from a material basis and rising to a spiritual pinnacle. The early Church Fathers sometimes used a threefold method of interpreting texts, encompassing literal, moral, and spiritual meanings. This was refined and commonly believed to have achieved its final form in the medieval allegorist's “fourfold theory of interpretation.” This method also began every reading with a search for the literal sense of the passage. It moved up to a level of ideal interpretation in general, which was the allegorical level proper. (This was an affirmation that the true Christian believer was right to go beyond literal truth.) Still higher above the literal and the allegorical levels, the reader came to the tropological level, which told him where his moral duty lay. Finally, since Christian thought was apocalyptic and visionary, the fourfold method reached its apogee at the anagogic level, at which the reader was led to meditate on the final cosmic destiny of all Christians and of himself as a Christian hoping for eternal salvation.
While modern scholars have shown that such thinking played its part in the poetry of the Middle Ages and while the Italian poet Dante himself discussed the theological relations between his poems and such a method of exegesis, the main arena for the extreme elaboration of this allegory was in the discussion and the teaching of sacred Scriptures. As such, the fourfold method is of highest import, and it should be observed that it did not need to be applied in a rigid four-stage way. It could be reduced, and commonly was reduced, to a two-stage method of interpretation. Then the reader sought simply a literal and a spiritual meaning. But it could also be expanded. The passion for numerology, combined with the inner drive of allegory toward infinite extension, led to a proliferation of levels. If four levels were good, then five or eight or nine might be better.
a symbolic fictional narrative that conveys a secondary meaning not explicitly set forth in the literal narrative. Allegory encompasses such forms as fable, parable, and apologue and may involve either a literary or an interpretive process.Philip Barton Payne in the Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible article, "Allegory," makes the following observations:
Literary allegories typically describe situations and events or express abstract ideas in terms of material objects, persons, and actions. Such early writers as Plato, Cicero, Apuleius, and Augustine made use of allegory, but it became especially popular in sustained narratives in the Middle Ages. Probably the most influential allegory of that period is the 13th-century French didactic poem Roman de la Rose (Romance of the Rose). This poem illustrates the allegorical technique of personification, in which a fictional character—in this case, The Lover—transparently represents a concept or a type. As in most allegories, the action of the narrative “stands for” something not explicitly stated. The Lover's eventual plucking of the crimson rose represents his conquest of his lady.
Other notable examples of personification allegory are John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) and the medieval morality play Everyman. Their straightforward embodiments of aspects of human nature and abstract concepts, through such characters as Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, and Death in Everyman and such places as Vanity Fair and the Slough of Despond in The Pilgrim's Progress, are typical examples of the techniques of personification allegory.
Another variant is the symbolic allegory, in which a character or material thing is not merely a transparent vehicle for an idea, but rather has a recognizable identity or narrative autonomy apart from the message it conveys. In Dante's Divine Comedy, for example, the character Virgil represents both the historical author of The Aeneid and the human faculty of reason, while the character Beatrice represents both the historical woman of Dante's acquaintance and the concept of divine revelation. The symbolic allegory, which can range from a simple fable to a complex, multilayered narrative, has often been used to represent political and historical situations and has long been popular as a vehicle for satire. In the verse satire Absalom and Achitophel (1681), for example, John Dryden relates in heroic couplets a scriptural story that is a thinly veiled portrait of the politicians involved in an attempt to alter the succession to the English throne. A modern example of political allegory is George Orwell's novel Animal Farm (1945), which, under the guise of a fable about domestic animals, expresses the author's disillusionment with the outcome of the Bolshevik Revolution and shows how one tyrannical system of government in Russia was merely replaced by another.
Allegory may involve an interpretive process that is separate from the creative process; that is, the term allegory can refer to a specific method of reading a text, in which characters and narrative or descriptive details are taken by the reader as an elaborate metaphor for something outside the literal story. For example, the early Church Fathers sometimes used a threefold (later fourfold) method of interpreting texts, encompassing literal, moral, and spiritual meanings. One variety of such allegorical interpretation is the typological reading of the Old Testament, in which characters and events are seen as foreshadowing characters and events in the New Testament.
A popular form of literature in which a story points to a hidden or symbolic parallel meaning. Certain elements, such as people, things, and happenings in the story, point to corresponding elements in another realm or level of meaning. The closer the resemblances between the two realms, the more detailed is the allegory. The best allegories are interesting, coherent stories in their own right and through the story provide new insight into the realm they depict (e.g., Pilgrim's Progress and The Narnia Chronicles). Semitic parables, including the Gospel parables, have varying amounts of allegorical elements. Those with many corresponding elements in both realms are properly called allegories.At the heart of this method is the exploration of meaning below the surface level expression of the text. Compulsion to do this is heightened when the surface level meaning poses theological issues (God's cruelty), expresses customs and traditions not readily understood, etc. In the desire to find relevant meaning (application) to the world of the interpreter, this hidden meaning is sought. Various techniques evolved from the earliest times when Homer's writings were "brought up to date" during the classical era of Greece using this method. The Jewish interpreter Philo at the beginning of the Christian era used this method on the Hebrew Bible to try to prove the superiority of the Jewish religious tradition to Greek philosophy. Christian interpretation picks up on this especially during the patristic era as it seeks to interpret first the Old Testament and then later the New Testament to a Greek and Latin oriented world increasingly hostile to things Jewish. In these various streams of allegorical interpretation different applications and procedures will surface. This is one of the challenges of studying the patristic era of biblical interpretation.
Allegorical interpretation, sometimes called allegorizing, is interpretation of texts that treats them as allegorical, whether or not their author intended them to be allegories. Allegorical interpretations even of true allegories can be misleading, either in incorrectly identifying the corresponding elements in the referent or in identifying corresponding elements where no correspondence was originally intended. Either allegorizing error usually detracts from the coherence of the message the author intended. Such unwarranted allegorizing was prevalent in the later church fathers and often ludicrous in gnostic circles.
Before 200 A.D.
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, relevant sections in this chapter.
Resource Materials to also be studied:
With the close of the apostolic era, Christianity moved into the post-apostolic and apologist era during the second century A.D. These two groups of writings reflect the beginning of Christian interpretive history. In reality three groups exist from this period, if one considers the heretical writings of both Marcion and the Gnostics. These groups of writings need exploration. Bray is weak in his treatment of the first group.
At the web site of the Institute for Christian Leadership page, "Guide to Early Church Documents," this summation of the Apostolic Fathers can be found:
The Apostolic FathersA careful survey of this material illustrates two main points. First, the Bible of early second century Christianity was the Septuigant. Second, although substantial allusion to various writings of the New Testament surface, direct citation of NT documents is exceedingly rare. Phraseology and vocabulary from the New Testament reappear often in many of these writings. This reflects the fact that the New Testament canon was just beginning to take shape and these writers, who occasionally had physical links to a few of the apostles, namely John, were working off their oral tradition understanding of the heart of the gospel, more than from written documents regarded as sacred scripture.
1st Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians [ca 96]: A formal letter written on behalf of the Roman Christian community urging Christians who had been rebelling against church authority to be submissive and obedient. Tradition attributes it to Clement, allegedly one of the first bishops of Rome.
2nd Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians [ca 150]: Sermon thought not to be the writing of Clement himself. Advocates sound view of Christ, the resurrection, and holiness unto God. Enter into battle against the ways of this world, work out salvation through strength in Christ.
The Epistle of Barnabas [ca 130]: This letter, probably not authored by the NT Barnabas, repudiates the claims of Jewish Christians at the time who advocated adhering to observance of the Mosiac Law. Argued that Christ provided salvation and man is no longer bound by the Law. Compares holy life to unrighteousness.
Didache (Teaching of the Lord through the Apostles): Eleventh century MS discovered by Philotheus Bryennios. The Didache consists of various parts, starting with the "Two Ways" ethical instruction (see Barn 18-21) and including community rules for liturgical practices and leadership conduct, before ending with a short apocalyptic section. While some of the material might go back before the year 100, the current form of the document is probably mid-second century at earliest.
The Shepherd of Hermas [ca. 150]: Written by Hermas, who is believed to be brother of Pius, the Bishop of Rome. The Shepherd of Hermas is an apocalyptic document (in the sense that it claims to be revealed), modelled after the Book of Revelation. It deals with practical matters of church purity and discipline in second century Rome.
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [ca 130?]: Polycarp was a church leader (bishop) in Smyrna, Asia Minor. Exhorted the Philippians to holy living, good works, steadfast faith. Interested in ministry and practical aspects of daily life of Christians.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp: The earliest preserved Christian martyrology, probably from the latter part of the second century (not too long after the event). Records the tradition of the trial and execution (burned at the stake) of Polycarp.
The Writings of Ignatius: Bishop of Antioch in Syria [ca 1-2 century] martyred in Rome by beasts (ca 105-116). On his way to Rome, he visits and then writes to various churches, warning and exhorting them. He also writes ahead to Rome, and writes to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Warned the church against heresies that threatened peace and unity, opposed Gnosticism and Docetism. In the Epistle to Smyrna, insisted Christ came in the flesh not just in spirit.To the Ephesians (cf. comparison with other recensions)
To the Magnesians
To the Trallians
To the Romans (cf. comparison with other recensions)
To the Philadelphians
To the Smyrnaeans
To Polycarp (cf. comparison with other recensions)
Use of AllegoryTo be sure, the Jewish interpreter Philo had provided the model for allegorical treatment of the Hebrew scriptures, but these writers used allegory to find affirmation that Jesus was the annointed Messiah that had been prophesied centuries before.
The epistle is characterized by the use of exaggerated allegory. In this particular the writer goes far beyond St. Paul the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and St. Ignatius. Not content with regarding the history and institutions of the Jews as containing types of Christianity, he casts aside completely the transitory historical character of the old religion. According to many scholars he teaches that it was never intended that the precepts of the Law should be observed in their literal sense, that the Jews never had a covenant with God, that circumcision was the work of the Devil, etc.; thus he represents a unique point of view in the struggle against Judaism. It might be said more exactly that he condemns the exercise of worship by the Jews in its entirety because in his opinion, the Jews did not know how to rise to the spiritual and typical meaning which God had mainly had in view in giving them the Law. It is this purely material observance of the ceremonial ordinances, of which the literal fulfilment was not sufficient, that the author holds to be the work of the Devil, and, according to him, the Jews never received the divine covenant because they never understood its nature (ch. vii, 3, 11, ix, 7; x, 10; xiv).
A Study of Biblical TypologyA more basic definition related to Christian interpretative history is found at the web site Biblical Typology, Typological Interpretation:
by Wayne Jackson
Christian Courier: Archives
Wednesday, November 3, 1999
One of the most fascinating areas of Bible study is that of typology - the study of Scripture “types.” Few Christians have made any sort of in-depth investigation of biblical types. As a matter of fact, this field of study has fallen into disrepute in recent years and this can probably be accounted for on two bases:
First, the extravagant speculations of earlier typologists have left a bad taste for the study in the minds of many; they feel it has been discredited.
Second, the spirit of religious liberalism has silently assaulted the thinking of some. They thus tend to dismiss the supernatural elements of the Scriptures, and since typology relates to prophecy, it has been similarly discarded. The Bible itself, however, makes it quite clear that “types” are a vital component of Jehovah’s redemptive plan.
The Term Defined
Exactly what is a type? Theologically speaking, a type may be defined as “a figure or ensample of something future and more or less prophetic, called the ‘Antitype’” (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, p. 768).
Muenscher says a type is “the preordained representative relation which certain persons, events, and institutions of the Old Testament bear to corresponding persons, events, and institutions in the New” (quoted in: M. S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 246).
Wick Broomall has a concise statement that is helpful. “A type is a shadow cast on the pages of Old Testament history by a truth whose full embodiment or antitype is found in the New Testament revelation” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 533).
We would, in summary, suggest the following definition, which we paraphrase from Terry. A type is a real, exalted happening in history which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which He purposed to bring to fruition in Christ Jesus.
New Testament Terms
There are several words used in the Greek New Testament to denote what we have just defined as a type. First, there is the term tupos (the basis of our English word “type”). Though this word is variously employed in the New Testament, it is certainly used in our present sense in Romans 5:14 where Paul declares that Adam “is a figure (tupos) of him that was to come”, i.e., Christ.
Second, there is the word skia, rendered “shadow.” In Colossians 2:17, certain elements of the Mosaic system are said to be “a shadow of the things to come” (cf. Heb. 8:5; 10:1).
Third, there is the term hupodeigma, translated “copy,” and used in conjunction with “shadow” in Hebrews 8:5 (cf. Heb. 9:23).
Fourth, the Greek word parabole (compare our English, “parable”) is found in Hebrews 9:9, where certain elements of the tabernacle are “a figure for the present time” (cf. Heb. 11:19).
Finally, one should note the use of antitupon, rendered “figure” (KJV) or “pattern” (ASV) in Hebrews 9:24, and “like figure” (KJV) or “true likeness” (ASV) in I Peter 3:21. This word, as used in the New Testament, denotes “that which corresponds to” the type; it is the reality which fulfills the prophetic picture.
One must be very cautious in his study of Bible types. There are some dangerous extremes to be avoided. On the one hand, as indicated earlier, some deny the use of biblical types altogether. Obviously, this is a radical view contrary to the teaching of the Bible itself.
Others, though, feel that the use of types in the Scriptures is quite limited. Accordingly, one can only identify a type when the New Testament specifically does so. This is an extreme position. If one followed a similar line of reasoning, he might assert that there are no prophecies in the Old Testament save those which are specifically quoted in the New Testament.
Still another extreme is the notion that virtually every little detail of the Old Testament system was typical of some New Testament circumstance. Thus, even the cords and pegs of the tabernacle were seen by some commentators as representing significant antitype New Testament truths. The truth is to be found between these extremes.
There are several interpretative principles that one should keep in mind as he begins a study of this subject.
1. It must be recognized that types are grounded in real history; the people, places, events, etc. were deliberately chosen by God to prepare for the coming of the Christian system. An old writer has wonderfully described it:
“God in the types of the last dispensation was teaching His children their letters. In this dispensation He is teaching them to put the letters together, and they find that the letters, arrange them as they will, spell Christ, and nothing but Christ.”
2. It must be clear (on the basis of reasonable evidence) that the type was designed by God to preview its fulfillment in the New Testament.
3. There is a graduation from type to antitype; of the lesser to the greater; from the material to the spiritual; the earthly to the heavenly.
4. One must distinguish what is essential in the type and what is merely incidental. A failure to do this can lead to some serious errors. Broomall notes, for example, that “Jonah’s expulsion from the great fish typifies Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 12: 40); but Jonah’s restoration to the land does not necessarily typify Israel’s restoration to Palestine” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 534).
We are now ready to consider several different categories of Old Testament types.
A number of Old Testament people, due to some character or relation which they sustain in redemptive history, serve as types.
1. Adam is a type of Christ in that as the former introduced sin into the world, even so, through the latter a system of righteousness was made available for mankind (Rom. 5:19).
2. Melchizedek, who was both king of Salem and a priest of God - at the same time (Gen. 14:18-20), was a type of Christ - who, at his ascension, began to reign on David’s throne and to simultaneously function as our high priest (cf. Psa. 110:4; Zech. 6:12,13; Heb. 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:1-17). This point, incidentally, is disastrous for millennialism. If Christ is not yet king (as premillennialism asserts), then he is not yet a priest and we are yet in our sins!
3. Moses, in his noble role of prophet, leader, and mediator for Jehovah’s people, was typical of the Lord Jesus who functions in a similar, though more exalted, capacity (cf. Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22; 1 Cor. 10:2; Gal. 3:27; Gal. 3:19; 1 Tim. 2: 5).
Several prominent places emphasized in the Old Testament appear to have a typical significance. Egypt represents a state of bondage such as holds the sinner prior to his conversion (Gal. 4:2; Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 10:lff); Jerusalem or Zion typifies the church and finally heaven (cf. Gal. 4:25,26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:2); and Babylon, which held God’s people captive in the Old Testament, pictures the condition of an apostate church that has departed from the simplicity of the New Testament pattern (Rev. 11:8; 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2ff).
Certain Old Testament objects preview New Testament truths. For example, Jacob’s ladder, with the angels ascending and descending upon it (Gen. 28:12), apparently pictured Christ (cf. John 1:51), who provides both communication from the Father (John 1:18; Heb. 1:1-2) and access to heaven (John 14:6).
The brazen serpent, lifted up in the wilderness, through which the people found physical healing (Num. 21:8) was a type of the lifted-up Christ (John 3: 14; 12:32), through whom spiritual healing comes (Isa. 53:5).
As indicated earlier, the tabernacle and many of its features were typical of the present time (cf. Heb. 9:8-9). As the tabernacle was designed to be a “house of God,” and since He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24), it was proper that the tabernacle be composed of two compartments; one representing God’s heavenly dwelling place and the other His earthly dwelling place. Accordingly, the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle represented Heaven (Heb. 6:19,20; 9:8,24), while the Holy Place was a type of the church (Acts 15:16,17; 1 Cor. 3:16; I Tim. 3:15).
Several Old Testament events seem to represent things to come. The creation of light on the first day of Earth’s history (Gen. 1:3) suggests the coming brilliant illumination of the gospel of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6).
The Flood of Noah’s day (Gen. 6-8) typified the sudden destruction of the world yet to come at the end(Matt. 24:37-39).
The miraculous water from the rock in the wilderness (Ex. 17:6) was a preview of the life-sustaining water provided by our Lord (John 4:14; 1 Cor. 10:4).
The manna from heaven in the wilderness (Ex. 16:14-16) was a type of that spiritual Bread who came down from heaven to nourish humanity (John 6:32).
The deliverance of Noah’s family from a corrupted world, by means of ”water,” prefigured our salvation, through baptism, from the power of darkness into the kingdom of Christ (cf. I Pet. 3:20-21; Col. 1:13).
There were three offices in the Old Testament characterized by an anointing. Prophets (I Kings 19:16), priests (Ex. 28:41), and kings (I Sam. 10:1) were anointed in anticipation of the coming of the Anointed One (cf. Dan. 9:25,26) who is Prophet (Acts 3:22), Priest (Heb. 3:1), and King (Rev. 17:14).
We too, as Christians, have an anointing from God (2 Cor. 1: 21) and we function as prophets (not miraculously, but simply as “forth speakers” of the Word of God - cf. I Cor. 11:4,5), priests, and kings (cf. I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6). The anointings of the Old Testament thus prefigured both the work of Christ and our service to Him.
Certain ceremonial actions of the Old Testament system typified the atoning work of the Messiah. For instance, on the annual Jewish day of Atonement, amidst numerous other rituals, the High Priest presented two goats before the door of the tabernacle. After the casting of lots upon these animals, one was sacrificed as a “sin-offering” and the other was “set alive before Jehovah” (Lev. 16:9,10).
The blood of the slain goat was taken into the Most Holy Place where it was sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat. This, of course, was typical of the sacrificial death of Christ (Heb. 9:11,12). The High Priest then took the living goat, laid hands upon him and confessed over him all the iniquities of the people. Subsequently, by an appointed servant, the animal was led away into the wilderness (Lev. 16:21,22).
The two goats were, so to speak, two sides of the same coin; both constituted the solitary offering of Christ. The one signified his death and the atoning effect of his blood; the other his resurrection (cf. Rom. 4:25) and the complete removal of our sins (cf. Isa. 53:4,6; John 1:29).
Note also the similar ceremony in connection with the cleansing of the leper (Lev. 14:4-7). Two birds were selected; one was killed, and the other was dipped in its blood and let loose alive.
Many institutions of the Old Testament era were prophetic shadows of good things to come. The Passover, for instance, with its spotless lamb (Ex. 12:5) which was slain “between the two evenings” (12:6, ASVfn), i.e., between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M., without any bones being broken (12:46). It was a type of the death of Jesus (cf. I Cor. 5:7), who was without spot or blemish (I Pet. 1:19), who died at about 3:00 P.M. (Matt. 27:46), and who had none of his bones broken (John 19:33ff).
The feast of the firstfruits (Lev. 23:10), i.e., Pentecost, was a celebration in which the initial produce of the harvest was offered to God as a token of the full crop to follow. This ritual typified:
1. the early influx of the Jews into the church of Christ (Rom. 11:16); and,
2. the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as God’s pledge of the general resurrection to ultimately come (I Cor. 15:20, 23).
The feast of the tabernacles was instituted to commemorate Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness (Lev. 23:43). But it was also designed to remind us that we are but sojourners on this earth (I Pet. 2:11), and that someday we will lay aside this earthly tabernacle (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:13,14) for a more permanent abiding place (cf. Heb. 11:9-13).
There are numerous other Old Testament types which cannot be discussed in the scope of this brief study. Surely, though, the reader can see from this limited survey what a thrilling area of biblical investigation this can be. Yes, it must be approached with judicious caution, but abuses should not deter the careful student from exploring such rich material. God intended for us to learn valuable lessons from Bible typology.
Note Paul’s statement after discussing the experiences of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. “Now these things were our examples (tupoi), to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (I Cor. 10:6; cf. 10:11).
May we truly attempt to learn the lessons of those pictures - those “visual aids” - which Jehovah incorporated into the text of his divine volume.
Typology (or typological symbolism) is a Christian form of biblical interpretation that proceeds on the assumption that God placed anticipations of Christ in the laws, events, and people of the Old Testament. Typology, which had enormous influence on medieval Europe, seventeenth century England, and Victorian Britain, not only provided literature and art with powerfully imaginative images but also influenced attitudes towards reality and time as well.Armed with these two interpretative tools, the post apostolic fathers mined the pages of the LXX to find affirmation of Jesus as the Christ and often to defend orthodox faith from perceived corruptions coming from fringe groups, such as the Gnostics.
The heretical writers fall into two basic groups: Marcion and the Gnostic writers. Although Marcion held certain views in common with Gnostic writers such a Valentinus, Basilides, Hermogenes et al., his views are sufficiently distinct from them so that he belongs in a separate category. They will be treated as such in the discussion below.
Robert L. Bradshaw in his article, Marcion: Portrait of a Heretic, has this helpful summation:
There is little doubt that the teachings of Marcion and his followers represented a greater threat to Orthodox Christianity than any other heresy in the second century.(1) Although none of his own writings are extant(2) it is possible to piece together a picture of the man and his message from the writings of his opponents,(3) especially from Tertullian (c.160 - c.225 AD), though this must be done carefully, realising that they were far from unbiased.When one tries to understand Marcion's exegetical methodology, it appears to be more a matter is 'sissors and paste' than anything else. By rejecting the Old Testament scriptures completely, he dispensed of the need to trying to make sense of this material and connecting it up to Christianity. By rejecting the bulk of the apostolic writings and reducing his New Testament down to just Luke and some of Paul's letters, he didn't have to deal with exegesis to any appreciable degree. Finally, by eliminating all Jewish oriented references inside this very slim canon, he narrowed down any interpretative problems. In a nutshell, he solved any exegetical difficulties by just eliminating as scripture anything that he didn't like or that disagreed with his preconceived bias about religion and Christianity. His use of selected aspects of Greek philosophy as his starting point allowed him to then read whatever he wanted to into his very narrow version of sacred writings. He basically read out of his "New Testament" the idea of love as central to everything. This concept of love was such that eventually everybody would find redemption, even those already banished to Hell.
Marcion was born in c.85(4) at Sinope (modern Sinop on the Black Sea) in Pontus(5) the son of a bishop(6) and became a prosperous ship owner and merchant.(7) Epiphanius (c.315-403) alleges that his father expelled him from his home church for seducing a consecrated virgin,(8) but this generally held to be a libel among modern scholars.(9) He travelled to Rome in 135- 140 and presented the church there with a gift of 200 000 sesterces.(10) It was here, while a member of the church, that he developed his theology, possibly incorporating the ideas of the Gnostic teacher Cerdo with whom he became aquainted.(11) On being rejected by the eldership of the church and having his money returned to him, he set about organising his followers into a separate community(12) before finally being excommunicated in 144.(13) From Rome he began to spread his message far and wide.(14) Justin Martyr (c.100-165) wrote in the 150’s that he was “teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and earth and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son”.(15) Marcion died c.160, but the movement to which he gave his name continued into the third century.(16) By the fourth century most of the Marcionite churches had been absorbed into Manicheism, another pseudo-Gnostic movement influenced by the writings of Paul the Apostle.(17) Ephraem Syrus (c.306-373) “emphasised always the kinship between Marcionites and Manicheans in his day.”(18)
Ancient writers such as Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130 - c.200).(19) Tertullian and Hippolytus (c.170 - c.236)(20) did not hesitate in classifying Marcion as a Gnostic. Many scholars, however, are not convinced that his teaching was truly ‘Gnostic’.(21) Paul Johnson provides a helpful summary of the difficulties involved in this issue:No one has yet succeeded in defining ‘gnosticism’ adequately, or indeed in demonstrating whether this movement preceded Christianity or grew from it. Certainly Gnostic sects were spreading at the same time as Christian ones; both were part of the general religious osmosis. Gnostics had two central presuppositions: belief in the existence of a secret code of truth, transmitted by word of mouth or by arcane writings. Gnosticism is a ‘knowledge religion’ - that is what the word means - which claims to have an inner explanation of life. Thus it was, and indeed is, a spiritual parasite which used other religions as a ‘carrier’. Christianity fitted into this role very well. It has a mysterious founder, Jesus, who had conveniently disappeared, leaving behind a collection of sayings and followers to transmit them; and of course in addition to the public sayings there were ‘secret’ ones, handed on from generation to generation by members of the sect. Thus Gnostic groups seized on bits of Christianity, but tended to cut it off from its historical origins. They were Hellenizing it [making it acceptable to the Greeks (from ‘hellenas’=Greek)]... Their ethic varied to taste: sometimes they were ultra-puritan, sometimes orgiastic. Thus some groups seized Paul’s denunciation of the law to preach complete licence.(22)Kenneth Scott Latourette argues that Marcion’s teachings were in starker contrast to Gnosticism than they were with Judaism.(23) Although Marcion was a dualist (the second characteristic of Gnosticism), his dualism took a different form to the other Gnostics(24) and in contrast to them did not claim to possess a secret body of knowledge.(25) For classic Gnostic teachers such as Valentinus (2nd century) and Basilides (who taught in Alexandria in the 2nd quarter of the 2nd century)(26) salvation was the release of the divine ‘spark’ or pneuma from the ‘prison’ of the fleshly body, “for the pneuma is not at home in the world of light and spirit”.(27) After death the pneuma (spirit) has to pass through a number of spheres, each ruled by a demonic ‘archon’. The number of spheres varied with each Gnostic system. Basilides had 365 of them!(28) Possession of Gnosis allowed the spirit to pass through the spheres and be reunited with the ‘Supreme God’.(29)
W.H.C. Frend considers that though the Gnostic Cerdo(30) may have provided Marcion with ideas he “may well have come to similar conclusions by another route, namely, by attentive study of the Scriptures and in particular the key work for Christians, Isaiah 39-66. There he found in 45:7 the claim made by Yahweh, ‘I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who do all these things,’ and this was fundamental to his interpretation of Christianity.(31) How, Marcion reasoned, could an evil tree bring forth good fruit? So he concluded that there must be two Gods: the Creator God of the OT, who was characteristically a God of Law, who involved himself in contradictory courses of action, who was fickle, ignorant, despotic and cruel.(32) The Supreme God, Marcion held, was wholly a God of Love who had remained completely hidden until he was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. “Out of pure mercy… he undertook to rescue… beings for whom he had no responsibility, since they were the creatures of that other God, the Demiurge.”(33)
Marcion’s Christ was docetic(34) (he only appeared to be a man, because Marcion considered matter to be evil - the creation of the Demiurge), it is also difficult to see a distinction between his representation of the Father and the Son, leading to the conclusion that he was also a modalist.(35)
Latourette continues:Christ, so Marcion contended, came down from heaven and began teaching, proclaiming a new kingdom and deliverance from the rule of the malevolent Demiurge. However, those who were loyal to the Demiurge crucified Christ, thus unwittingly contributing to the defeat of the former, since the death of Christ was the price by which the God of Love purchased men from the latter’s kingdom into his own. Christ also rescued from the underworld those who had died and who in their life-time had not been obedient to the Demiurge and thus from the standpoint of his Law were wicked. All that the Good God asks of men if they are to escape from the rule of the Demiurge is faith in response to his love. Men have been emancipated from the legalistic requirements of the Demiurge and of his creature Judaism.(36)Marcion refused point-blank to allegorise the OT text(37) instead he rejected it completely. For him it was the true account of the history of the Jews, but spoke of the Demiurge.(38) Paul, Marcion claimed, was the only true apostle and gathered together ten of his epistles, excluding 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, from which he carefully removed any ‘Jewish corruptions’.(39)
All of the other apostles, he maintained, had corrupted their Master’s teaching by an admixture of legalism.(40) Marcion selected Luke as the only reliable Gospel, editing out all OT references, the accounts of the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist (because they contain OT prophesies and links to historical events), His genealogy, records of historical local rulers of the time (Luke 3:1) and began at Luke 4:31 “...Jesus came down to Capernaum...” By this his readers were to suppose that He simply appeared from heaven, fully grown.(41) Finally Marcion added his own book, the ‘Antitheses’ or ‘Contradictions’, in which he expounded his theology.(42)
Marcion’s ethics err on the side of asceticism. Tertullian claims that he forbade marriage because procreation was the invention of the Demiurge.(43) Despite this his teachings proved extremely popular and their spread, phenomenal. Justin declared that they had become diffused through every race of men(44) and Tertullian compared the Marcionites - who had churches, bishops and martyrs of their own - to “swarms of wasps building combs in imitation of the bees”.(45) No other heretic of the second century called forth such a widespread response from the Orthodox church; writers who agreed on little else were united against him.(46) Tertullian wrote no less than five books against him.(47)
Commenting on Marcion’s role in Church history F.F. Bruce points out that:...the chief importance of Marcion in the second century lies in the reaction which he provoked among the leaders of the Apostolic Churches. Just as Marcion’s canon stimulated the more precise defining of the NT canon by the Catholic Church, not to supersede but to supplement the canon of the OT, so, more generally, Marcion’s teaching led the Catholic Church to define its faith more carefully, in terms calculated to exclude a Marcionite interpretation.(48)Latourette concurs that Marcion appears to have been the first to gather some of the Christian writings into a well-defined collection and so speeded the formation of an authoritative Orthodox canon.(49) In addition he points out that although the so-called ‘Apostle’s Creed’ as we know it dates from the 6th century, it derives from an earlier, briefer form known as the Roman Symbol, thought to originate in the late 2nd century. This credal statement seems to have been formulated to counter Marcionite and other similar heretical teachings. It makes clear that the Father, not the Demiurge, created the universe; that there is only One God; that Jesus had a normal human birth (through a miraculous conception); that Jesus was a human being, and that he will return to be Judge of the living and the dead (the All-Loving God of Marcion was not the Judge - a role that he assigned to the Demiurge.(50)
E.H. Broadbent in The Pilgrim Church concludes: “Any error may be founded on parts of Scripture; the truth alone is based on the whole. Marcion’s errors were the inevitable result of his accepting only what pleased him and rejecting the rest”.(51)
In order to understand the gnostic hermeneutic, one must first understand the movement called Gnosticism. The online Catholic Encyclopedia has a helpful article on "Gnosticism" which is reproduced here:
The doctrine of salvation by knowledge. This definition, based on the etymology of the word (gnosis "knowledge", gnostikos, "good at knowing"), is correct as far as it goes, but it gives only one, though perhaps the predominant, characteristic of Gnostic systems of thought. Whereas Judaism and Christianity, and almost all pagan systems, hold that the soul attains its proper end by obedience of mind and will to the Supreme Power, i.e. by faith and works, it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. Gnostics were "people who knew", and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know. A more complete and historical definition of Gnosticism would be:The Gnostic exegetical methodology, if such can be identified, consisted mostly of creating authoritative writings, falsely in the name of first century Christian leaders, and then basing its belief system largely on those writings. Some of the canonical New Testament writings were occasionally used, such as the fourth gospel and some of Paul, most notably Colossians, simply because these documents, although themselves largely a polemic against proto-gnosticism, contained the code words, light/darkness etc. that were central to the gnostic religious vocabulary. Utilizing a practice similar to modern day cultic groups such as Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses et al, they read their definitions back into these words and then read out of these NT documents an apostolic justification of their beliefs.
A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.
However unsatisfactory this definition may be, the obscurity, multiplicity, and wild confusion of Gnostic systems will hardly allow of another. Many scholars, moreover, would hold that every attempt to give a generic description of Gnostic sects is labour lost.
The beginnings of Gnosticism have long been a matter of controversy and are still largely a subject of research. The more these origins are studied, the farther they seem to recede in the past. Whereas formerly Gnosticism was considered mostly a corruption of Christianity, it now seems clear that the first traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era. Its Eastern origin was already maintained by Gieseler and Neander; F. Ch. Bauer (1831) and Lassen (1858) sought to prove its relation to the religions of India; Lipsius (1860) pointed to Syria and Phoenicia as its home, and Hilgenfeld (1884) thought it was connected with later Mazdeism. Joel (1880), Weingarten (1881), Koffmane (1881), Anrich (1894), and Wobbermin (1896) sought to account for the rise of Gnosticism by the influence of Greek Platonic philosophy and the Greek mysteries, while Harnack described it as "acute Hellenization of Christianity". For the past twenty-five years, however, the trend of scholarship has steadily moved towards proving the pre-Christian Oriental origins of Gnosticism. At the Fifth Congress of Orientalists (Berlin, 1882) Kessler brought out the connection between Gnosis and the Babylonian religion. By this latter name, however, he meant not the original religion of Babylonia, but the syncretistic relgion which arose after the conquest of Cyrus. The same idea is brought out in his "Mani" seven years later. In the same year F.W. Brandt published his "Mandiäische Religion". This Mandaean religion is so unmistakably a form of Gnosticism that it seems beyond doubt that Gnosticism existed independent of, and anterior to, Christianity. In more recent years (1897) Wilhelm Anz pointed out the close similarity between Babylonian astrology and the Gnostic theories of the Hebdomad and Ogdoad. Though in many instances speculations on the Babylonian Astrallehre have gone beyond all sober scholarship, yet in this particular instance the inferences made by Anz seem sound and reliable. Researches in the same direction were continued and instituted on a wider scale by W. Bousset, in 1907, and led to carefully ascertained results. In 1898 the attempt was made by M. Friedländer to trace Gnosticism in pre-Christian Judaism. His opinion that the Rabbinic term Minnim designated not Christians, as was commonly believed, but Antinomian Gostics, has not found universal acceptance. In fact, E. Schürer brought sufficient proof to show that Minnim is the exact Armaean dialectic equivalent for ethne. Nevertheless Friedländer's essay retains its value in tracing strong antinomian tendencies with Gnostic colouring on Jewish soil. Not a few scholars have laboured to find the source of Gnostic theories on Hellenistic and, specifically, Alexandrian soil. In 1880 Joel sought to prove that the germ of all Gnostic theories was to be found in Plato. Though this may be dismissed as an exaggeration, some Greek influence on the birth, but especially on the growth, of Gnosticism cannot be denied. In Trismegistic literature, as pointed out by Reitzenstein (Poimandres, 1904), we find much that is strangely akin to Gnosticism. Its Egyptian origin was defended by E. Amélineau, in 1887, and illustrated by A. Dietrich, in 1891 (Abraxas Studien) and 1903 (Mithrasliturgie). The relation of Plotinus's philosophy to Gnosticsm was brought out by C. Schmidt in 1901. That Alexandrian thought had some share at least in the development of Christian Gnosticism is clear from the fact that the bulk of Gnostic literature which we possess comes to us from Egyptian (Coptic) sources. That this share was not a predominant one is, however, acknowledged by O. Gruppe in his "Griechische Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte" (1902). It is true that the Greek mysteries, as G. Anrich pointed out in 1894, had much in common with esoteric Gnosticism; but there remains the further question, in how far these Greek mysteries, as they are known to us, were the genuine product of Greek thought, and not much rather due to the overpowering influence of Orientalism.
Although the origins of Gnosticism are still largely enveloped in obscurity, so much light has been shed on the problem by the combined labours of many scholars that it is possible to give the following tentative solution: Although Gnosticism may at first sight appear a mere thoughtless syncretism of well nigh all religious systems in antiquity, it has in reality one deep root-principle, which assimilated in every soil what is needed for its life and growth; this principle is philosophical and religious pessimism. The Gnostics, it is true, borrowed their terminology almost entirely from existing religions, but they only used it to illustrate their great idea of the essential evil of this present existence and the duty to escape it by the help of magic spells and a superhuman Saviour. Whatever they borrowed, this pessimism they did not borrow -- not from Greek thought, which was a joyous acknowledgment of and homage to the beautiful and noble in this world, with a studied disregard of the element of sorrow; not from Egyptian thought, which did not allow its elaborate speculations on retribution and judgment in the netherworld to cast a gloom on this present existence, but considered the universe created or evolved under the presiding wisdom of Thoth; not from Iranian thought, which held to the absolute supremacy of Ahura Mazda and only allowed Ahriman a subordinate share in the creation, or rather counter-creation, of the world; not from Indian Brahminic thought, which was Pantheism pure and simple, or God dwelling in, nay identified with, the universe, rather than the Universe existing as the contradictory of God; not, lastly, from Semitic thought, for Semitic religions were strangely reticent as to the fate of the soul after death, and saw all practical wisdom in the worship of Baal, or Marduk, or Assur, or Hadad, that they might live long on this earth. This utter pessimism, bemoaning the existence of the whole universe as a corruption and a calamity, with a feverish craving to be freed from the body of this death and a mad hope that, if we only knew, we could by some mystic words undo the cursed spell of this existence -- this is the foundation of all Gnostic thought. It has the same parent-soil as Buddhism; but Buddhism is ethical, it endeavours to obtain its end by the extinction of all desire; Gnosticism is pseudo-intellectual, and trusts exclusively to magical knowledge. Moreover, Gnosticism, placed in other historical surroundings, developed from the first on other lines than Buddhism.
When Cyrus entered Babylon in 539 B.C., two great worlds of thought met, and syncretism in religion, as far as we know it, began. Iranian thought began to mix with the ancient civilization of Babylon. The idea of the great struggle between evil and good, ever continuing in this universe, is the parent idea of Mazdeism, or Iranian dualism. This, and the imagined existence of numberless intermediate spirits, angels and devas, as the conviction which overcame the contentedness of Semitism. On the other hand, the unshakable trust, in astrology, the persuasion that the planetary system had a fatalistic influence on this world's affairs, stood its ground on the soil of Chaldea. The greatness of the Seven -- the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn -- the sacred Hebdomad, symbolized for millenniums by the staged towers of Babylonia, remained undiminished. They ceased, indeed, to be worshipped as deities, but they remained archontes and dynameis, rules and powers whose almost irresistible force was dreaded by man. Practically, they were changed from gods to devas, or evil spirits. The religions of the invaders and of the invaded effected a compromise: the astral faith of Babylon was true, but beyond the Hebodomad was the infinite light in the Ogdoad, and every human soul had to pass the adverse influence of the god or gods of the Hebdomad before it could ascend to the only good God beyond. This ascent of the soul through the planetary spheres to the heaven beyond (an idea not unknown even to ancient Babylonian speculations) began to be conceived as a struggle with adverse powers, and became the first and predominant idea in Gnosticism. The second great component of Gnostic thought is magic, properly so called, i.e. the power ex opere operato of weird names, sounds, gestures, and actions, as also the mixture of elements to produce effects totally disproportionate to the cause. These magic formulae, which caused laughter and disgust to outsiders, are not a later and accidental corruption, but an essential part of Gnosticism, for they are found in all forms of Christian Gnosticism and likewise in Mandaeism. No Gnosis was essentially complete without the knowledge of the formulae, which, once pronounced, were the undoing of the higher hostile powers. Magic is the original sin of Gnosticism, nor is it difficult to guess whence it is inherited. To a certain extent it formed part of every pagan religion, especially the ancient mysteries, yet the thousands of magic tablets unearthed is Assyria and Babylonia show us where the rankest growth of magic was to be found. Moreover, the terms and names of earliest of Gnosticism bear an unmistakable similarity to Semitic sounds and words. Gnosticism came early into contact with Judaism, and it betrays a knowledge of the Old Testament, if only to reject it or borrow a few names from it. Considering the strong, well-organized, and highly-cultured Jewish colonies in the Euphrates valley, this early contact with Judaism is perfectly natural. Perhaps the Gnostic idea of a Redeemer is not unconnected with Jewish Messianic hopes. But from the first the Gnostic conception of a Saviour is more superhuman than that of popular Judaism; their Manda d'Haye, or Soter, is some immediate manifestation of the Deity, a Light-King, an Æon (Aion), and an emanation of the good God. When Gnosticism came in touch with Christianity, which must have happened almost immediately on its appearance, Gnosticism threw herself with strange rapidity into Christian forms of thought, borrowed its nomenclature, acknowledged Jesus as Saviour of the world, simulated its sacraments, pretended to be an esoteric revelation of Christ and His Apostles, flooded the world with aprocryphal Gospels, and Acts, and Apocalypses, to substantiate its claim. As Christianity grew within and without the Roman Empire, Gnosticism spread as a fungus at its root, and claimed to be the only true form of Christianity, unfit, indeed, for the vulgar crowd, but set apart for the gifted and the elect. So rank was its poisonous growth that there seemed danger of its stifling Christianity altogether, and the earliest Fathers devoted their energies to uprooting it. Though in reality the spirit of Gnosticism is utterly alien to that of Christianity, it then seemed to the unwary merely a modification or refinement thereof. When domiciled on Greek soil, Gnosticism, slightly changing its barbarous and Seminitic terminology and giving its "emanatons" and"syzygies" Greek names, sounded somewhat like neo-Platonism, thought it was strongly repudiated by Plotinus. In Egypt the national worship left its mark more on Gnostic practice than on its theories.
In dealing with the origins of Gnosticism, one might be tempted to mention Manichaeism, as a number of Gnostic ideas seem to be borrowed from Manichaeism, where they are obviously at home. This, however, would hardly be correct. Manichaeism, as historically connected with Mani, its founder, could not have arisen much earlier than A.D. 250, when Gnosticism was already in rapid decline. Manichaeism, however, in many of its elements dates back far beyond its commonly accepted founder; but then it is a parallel development with the Gnosis, rather than one of its sources. Sometimes Manichaeism is even classed as a form of Gnosticism and styled Parsee Gnosis, as distinguished from Syrian and Egyptian Gnosis. This classification, however, ignores the fact that the two systems, though they have the doctrine of the evil of matter in common, start from different principles, Manichaeism from dualism, while Gnosticism, as an idealistic Pantheism, proceeds from the conception of matter as a gradual deterioration of the Godhead.
Owing to the multiplicity and divergence of Gnostic theories, a detailed exposition in this article would be unsatisfactory and confusing and to acertain extent even misleading, since Gnosticism never possessed a nucleus of stable doctrine, or any sort of depositum fidei round which a number of varied developments and heresies or sects might be grouped; at most it had some leading ideas, which are more or less clearly traceable in different schools. Moreover, a fair idea of Gnostic doctrines can be obtained from the articles on leaders and phases of Gnostic thought (e.g. BASILIDES; VALENTINUS; MARCION; DOCETAE; DEMIURGE). We shall here only indicate some main phases of thought, which can be regarded as keys and which, though not fitting all systems, will unlock most of the mysteries of the Gnosis.
Gnosticism is thinly disguised Pantheism. In the beginning was the Depth; the Fulness of Being; the Not-Being God; the First Father, the Monad, the Man; the First Source, the unknown God (Bythos pleroma, ouk on theos, propator, monas, anthropos, proarche, hagnostos theos), or by whatever other name it might be called. This undefined infinite Something, though it might be addressed by the title of the Good God, was not a personal Being, but, like Tad of Brahma of the Hindus, the "Great Unknown" of modern thought. The Unknown God, however, was in the beginning pure spirituality; matter as yet was not. This source of all being causes to emanate (proballei) from itself a number of pure spirit forces. In the different systems these emanations are differently named, classified, and described, but the emanation theory itself is common too all forms of Gnosticism. In the Basilidian Gnosis they are called sonships (uiotetes), in Valentinianism they form antithetic pairs or "syzygies" (syzygoi); Depth and Silence produce Mind and Truth; these produce Reason and Life, these again Man and State (ekklesia). According to Marcus, they are numbers and sounds. These are the primary roots of the Æons. With bewildering fertility hierarchies of Æons are thus produced, sometimes to the number of thirty. These Æons belong to the purely ideal, noumenal, intelligible, or supersensible world; they are immaterial, they are hypostatic ideas. Together with the source from which they emanate they form the pleroma. The transition fromthe immaterial to the material, from the noumenal to the sensible, is brought about by a flaw, or a passion, or a sin, in one of the Æons. According to Basilides, it is a flaw in the last sonship; according to others it is the passion of the female Æon Sophia; according to others the sin ofthe Great Archon, or Æon-Creator, of the Universe. The ultimate end of all Gnosis is metanoia, or repentance, the undoing of the sin of material existence and the return to the Pleroma.
In the greater number of Gnostic systems an important role is played by the Æon Wisdom -- Sophia or Achamoth. In some sense she seems to represent the supreme female principle, as for instance in the Ptolemaic system, in which the mother of the seven heavens is called Achamoth, in the Valentinian system, in which he ano Sophia, the Wisdom above, is distinguished from he kato Sophia, or Achamoth, the former being the female principle of the noumenal world, and in the Archotian system, where we find a "Lightsome Mother" (he meter he photeine), and in which beyond the heavens of the Archons is he meter ton panton and likewise in the Barbelognosis, where the female Barbelos is but the counterpart of the Unknown Father, which also occurs amongst the Ophites described by Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres., III, vii, 4). Moreover, the Eucharistic prayer in the Acts of Thomas (ch. 1) seems addressed to this supreme female principle. W. Bousset's suggestion, that the Gnostic Sophia is nothing else than a disguise for the Dea Syra, the great goddess Istar, or Astarte, seems worthy of consideration. On the other hand, the Æon Sophia usually plays another role; she is he Prouneikos or "the Lustful One", once a virginal goddess, who by her fall from original purity is the cause of this sinful material world. One of the earliest forms of this myth is found in Simonian Gnosis, in which Simon, the Great Power, finds Helena, who during ten years had been a prostitute in Tyre, but who is Simon's ennoia, or understanding, and whom his followers worshipped under the form of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. According to Valentinus's system, as described by Hippolytus (Book VI, xxv-xxvi), Sophia is the youngest of the twenty-eight æons. Observing the multitude of æons and the power of begetting them, she hurries back into the depth of the Father, and seeks to emulate him by producing offspring without conjugal intercourse, but only projects an abortion, a formless substance. Upon this she is cast out of Pleroma. According to the Valentinian system as described by Irenaeus (op. cit., I) and Tertullian (Adv. Valent., ix), Sophia conceives a passion for the First Father himself, or rather, under pretext of love she seeks to know him, the Unknowable, and to comprehend his greatness. She should have suffered the consequence of her audacity by ultimate dissolution into the immensity of the Father, but for the Boundary Spirit. According to the Pistis Sophia (ch. xxix) Sophia, daughter of Barbelos, originally dwelt in the highest, or thirteenth heaven, but she is seduced by the demon Authades by means of a ray of light, which she mistook as an emanation from the First Father. Authades thus enticed her into Chaos below the twelve Æons, where she was imprisoned by evil powers. According to these ideas, matter is the fruit of the sin of Sophia; this, however, was but a Valentinian development; in the older speculations the existence of matter is tacitly presupposed as eternal with the Pleroma, and through her sin Sophia falls from the realm of light into Chaos or realm of darkness. This original dualism, however, was overcome by the predominant spirit of Gnosticism, pantheistic emanationism. The Sophia myth is completely absent from the Basilidian and kindred systems. It is suggested, with great verisimilitude, that the Egyptian myth of Isis was the original source of the Gnostic "lower wisdom". In many systems this Kato Sophia is sharply distinguished from the Higher Wisdom mentioned above; as, for instance, in the magic formula for the dead mentioned by Irenaeus (op. cit., I, xxi, 5), in which the departed has to address the hostile archons thus: "I am a vessel more precious than the female who made you. If your mother ignores the source whence she is, I know myself, and I known whence I am and invoke the incorruptible Sophia, whois in the Father, the mother of your mother, who has neither father nor husband. A man-woman, born from a woman, has made you, not knowing her mother, but thinking herself alone. But I invoke her mother." This agrees with the system minutely described by Irenaeus (op. cit., I, iv-v), where Sophia Achamoth, or Lower Wisdom, the daughter of Higher Wisdom, becomes the mother of the Demiurge; she being the Ogdoad, her son the Hebdomad, they form a counterpart of the heavenly Ogdoad in the Pleromata. This is evidently a clumsy attempt to fuse into one two systems radically different, the Basilidian and the Valentinian; the ignorance of the Great Archon, which is the central idea of Basilides, is here transferred to Sophia, and the hybrid system ends in bewildering confusion.
Gnostic salvation is not merely individual redemption of each human soul; it is a cosmic process. It is the return of all things to what they were before the flaw in the sphere of the Æons brought matter into existence and imprisoned some part of the Divine Light into the evil Hyle (Hyle). This setting free of the light sparks is the process of salvation; when all light shall have left Hyle, it will be burnt up, destroyed, or be a sort of everlasting hell for the Hylicoi. In Basilidianism it is the Third Filiation that is captive in matter, and is gradually being saved, now that the knowledge of its existence has been brought to the first Archon and then to the Second Archon, to each by his respective Son; and the news has been spread through the Hebdomad by Jesus the son of Mary, who died to redeem the Third Filiation. In Valentinianism the process is extraordinarily elaborate. When this world has been born from Sophia in consequence of her sin, Nous and Aletheia, two Æons, by command of the Father, produce two new Æons, Christ and the Holy Ghost; these restore order in the Pleroma, and in consequence all Æons together produce a new Æon, Jesus Logos, Soter, or Christ, whom they offer to the Father. Christ, the Son of Nous and Aletheia, has pity on the abortive substance born of Sophia and gives it essence and form. Whereupon Sophia tries to rise again to the Father, but in vain. Now the Æon Jesus-Soter is sent as second Saviour, he unites himself to the man Jesus, the son of Mary, at his baptism, and becomes the Saviour of men. Man is a creature of the Demiurge, a compound of soul, body, and spirit. His salvation consists in the return of his pneuma or spirit to the Pleroma; or if he be only a Psychicist, not a full Gnostic, his soul (psyche) shall return to Achamoth. There is no resurrection of the body. (For further details and differences see VALENTINUS.)
In Marcionism, the most dualistic phase of Gnosticism, salvation consisted in the possession of the knowledge of the Good God and the rejection ofthe Demiurge. The Good God revealed himself in Jesus and appeared as man in Judea; to know him, and to become entirely free from the yoke of the World-Creator or God of the Old Testament, is the end of all salvation. The Gnostic Saviour, therefore, is entirely different from the Christian one. For the Gnostic Saviour does not save. Gnosticism lacks the idea of atonement. There is no sin to be atoned for, except ignorance be that sin. Nor does the Saviour in any sense benefit the human race by vicarious sufferings. Nor, finally, does he immediately and actively affect any individual human soul by the power of grace or draw it to God. He was a teacher, he once brought into the world the truth, which alone can save. As a flame sets naphtha on fire, so the Saviour's light ignites predisposed souls moving down the stream of time. Of a real Saviour who with love human and Divine seeks out sinners to save them, Gnosticism knows nothing.
The Gnostic Saviour has no human nature, he is an æon, not a man; he only seemed a man, as the three Angels who visited Abraham seemed to be men. (For a detailed exposition see DOCETAE.) The Æon Soter is brought into the strangest relation to Sophia: in some systems he is her brother, in others her son, in other again her spouse. He is sometimes identified with Christ, sometimes with Jesus; sometimes Christ and Jesus are the same æon, sometimes they are different; sometimes Christ and the Holy Ghost are identified. Gnosticism did its best to utilize the Christian concept of the Holy Ghost, but never quite succeeded. She made him the Horos, or Methorion Pneuma (Horos, Metherion Pneuma), the Boundary-Spirit, the Sweet Odour of the Second Filiation, a companion æon with Christos, etc., etc. In some systems he is entirely left out.
It is the merit of recent scholarship to have proved that Gnostic eschatology, consisting in the soul's struggle with hostile archons in its attempt to reach the Pleroma, is simply the soul's ascent, in Babylonian astrology, through the realms of the seven planets to Anu. Origen (Contra Celsum, VI, xxxi), referring to the Ophitic system, gives us the names of the seven archons as Jaldabaoth, Jao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Astaphaios, Ailoaios, and Oraios, and tells us that Jaldabaoth is the planet Saturn. Astraphaios is beyond doubt the planet Venus, as there are gnostic gems with a female figure and the legend ASTAPHE, which name is also used in magic spells as the name of a goddess. In the Mandaean system Adonaios represents the Sun. Moreover, St. Irenaeus tells us: "Sanctam Hebdomadem VII stellas, quas dictunt planetas, esse volunt." It is safe, therefore, to take the above seven Gnostic names as designating the seven stars, then considered planets, Jaldabaoth (Child of Chaos? -- Saturn, called "the Lion-faced", leontoeides) is the outermost, and therefore the chief ruler, and later on the Demiurge par excellence. Jao (Iao, perhaps from Jahu, Jahveh, but possibly also from the magic cry iao in the mysteries) is Jupiter. Sabaoth (the Old-Testament title -- God of Hosts) was misunderstood; "of hosts" was thought a proper name, hence Jupiter Sabbas (Jahve Sabaoth) was Mars. Astaphaios (taken from magic tablets) was Venus. Adonaios (from the Hebrew term for "the Lord", used of God; Adonis of the Syrians representing the Winter sun in the cosmic tragedy of Tammuz) was the Sun; Ailoaios, or sometimes Ailoein (Elohim, God), Mercury;
Oraios (Jaroah? or light?), the Moon.
In the hellenized form of Gnosticism either all or some of these names are replaced by personified vices. Authadia (Authades), or Audacity, is the obvious description of Jaldabaoth, the presumptuous Demiurge, who is lion-faced as the Archon Authadia. Of the Archons Kakia, Zelos, Phthonos, Errinnys, Epithymia, the last obviously represents Venus. The number seven is obtained by placing a proarchon or chief archon at the head. That these names areonly a disguise for the Sancta Hebdomas is clear, for Sophia, the mother of them, retains the name of Ogdoas, Octonatio. Occasionally one meets with the Archon Esaldaios, which is evidently the El Shaddai of the Bible, and he is described as the Archon "number four" (harithmo tetartos) and must represent the Sun. In the system of the Gnostics mentioned by Epiphanius we find, as the Seven Archons, Iao, Saklas, Seth, David, Eloiein, Elilaios, and Jaldabaoth (or no. 6 Jaldaboath, no. 7 Sabaoth). Of these, Saklas is the chief demon of Manichaeism; Elilaios is probably connected with En-lil, the Bel of Nippur, the ancient god of Babylonia. In this, as in several other systems, the traces of the planetary seven have been obscured, but hardly in any have they become totally effaced. What tended most to obliterate the sevenfold distinction was the identification of the God of the Jews, the Lawgiver, with Jaldabaoth and his designation as World-creator, whereas formerly the seven planets together ruled the world. This confusion, however, was suggested by the very fact that at least five of the seven archons bore Old-Testament names for God -- El Shaddai, Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah, Sabaoth.
(e) Doctrine of the Primeval Man
The speculations on Primeval Man (Protanthropos, Adam) occupy a prominent place in several Gnostic systems. According to Irenaeus (I, xxix, 3) the Æon Autogenes emits the true and perfect Anthrôpos, also called Adamas; he has a helpmate, "Perfect Knowledge", and receives an irresistible force, so that all things rest in him. Others say (Irenaeus, I, xxx) there is a blessed and incorruptible and endless light in the power of Bythos; this is the Father of all things who is invoked as the First Man, who, with his Ennœa, emits "the Son of Man", or Euteranthrôpos. According to Valentinus, Adam was created in the name of Anthrôpos and overawes the demons by the fear of the pre-existent man (tou proontos anthropou). In the Valentinian syzygies and in the Marcosian system we meet in the fourth (originally the third) place Anthrôpos and Ecclesia. In the Pistis Sophia the Æon Jeu is called the First Man, he is the overseer of the Light, messenger of the First Precept, and constitutes the forces of the Heimarmene. In the Books of the Jeu this "great Man" is the King of the Light-treasure, he is enthroned above all things and is the goal of all souls. According to the Naassenes, the Protanthropos is the first element; the fundamental being before its differentiation into individuals. "The Son of Man" is the same being after it has been individualized into existing things and thus sunk into matter. The Gnostic Anthrôpos, therefore, or Adamas, as it is sometimes called, is a cosmogonic element, pure mind as distinct from matter, mind conceived hypostatically as emanating from God and not yet darkened by contact with matter. This mind is considered as the reason of humanity, or humanity itself, as a personified idea, a category without corporeality, the human reason conceived as the World-Soul. This speculation about the Anthrôpos is completely developed in Manichaeism, where, in fact, it is the basis of the whole system. God, in danger of the power of darkness, creates with the help of the Spirit, the five worlds, the twelve elements, and the Eternal Man, and makes him combat the darkness. But this Man is somehow overcome by evil and swallowed up by darkness. The present universe is in throes to deliver the captive Man from the powers of darkness. In the Clementine Homilies the cosmogonic Anthrôpos is strangely mixed up with the historical figure of the first man, Adam. Adam "was the true prophet, running through all ages, and hastening to rest"; "the Christ, who was from the beginning and is always, who was ever present to every generation in a hidden manner indeed, yet ever present". In fact Adam was, to use Modernist language, the Godhead immanent in the world and ever manifesting itself to the inner consciousness of the elect. The same idea, somewhat modified, occurs in Hermetic literature, especially the "Poimandres". It is elaborated by Philo, makes an ingenious distinction between the human being created first "after God's image and likeness" and the historic figures of Adam and Eve created afterwards. Adam kat eikona is: "Idea, Genus, Character, belonging to the world, of Understanding, without body, neither male nor female; he is the Beginning, the Name of God, the Logos, immortal, incorruptible" (De opif. mund., 134-148; De conf. ling.,146). These ideas in Talmudism, Philonism, Gnosticism, and Trismegistic literature, all come from once source, the late Mazdea development of the Gayomarthians, or worshipper of the Super-Man.
(f) The Barbelo
This Gnostic figure, appearing in a number of systems, the Nicolaites, the "Gnostics" of Epiphanius, the Sethians, the system of the "Evangelium Mariae" and that in Iren., I, xxix, 2 sq., remains to a certain extent an enigma. The name barbelo, barbeloth, barthenos has not been explained with certainty. In any case she represents the supreme female principle, is in fact the highest Godhead in its female aspect. Barbelo has most of the functions of the ano Sophia as described above. So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, Barbelo worshippers of Barbelognostics. She is probably none other than the Light-Maiden of the Pistis Sophia, the thygater tou photos or simply the Maiden, parthenos. In Epiphanius (Haer., xxvi, 1) and Philastrius (Haer., xxxiii) Parthenos (Barbelos) seems identical with Noria, whoplays a great role as wife either of Noe or of Seth. The suggestion, that Noria is "Maiden", parthenos, Istar, Athena, Wisdom, Sophia, or Archamoth, seems worthy of consideration.
We are not so well informed about the practical and ritual side of Gnosticism as we are about its doctrinal and theoretical side. However, St. Irenaeus's account of the Marcosians, Hippolytus's account of the Elcesaites,the liturgical portions of the "Acta Thomae", some passages in the Pseudo-Clementines, and above all Coptic Gnostic and Mandaean literature gives us at least some insight into their liturgical practices.
All Gnostic sects possessed this rite in some way; in Mandaeism daily baptism is one of the great practices of the system. The formulae used by Christian Gnostics seem to have varied widely from that enjoyed by Christ. The Marcosians said: "In [eis] the name of the unknown Father of all, in [eis] the Truth, the Mother of all, in him, who came down on Jesus [eis ton katelthonta eis Iesoun]". The Elcesaites said: "In [en] the name of the great and highest God and in the name of his Son, the great King". In Iren. (I, xxi, 3) we find the formula: "In the name that was hidden from every divinity and lordship and truth, which [name] Jesus the Nazarene has put on in the regions of light" and several other formulae, which were sometimes pronounced in Hebrew or Aramaid. The Mandaeans said: "The name of the Life and the name of the Manda d'Haye is named over thee". In connection with Baptism the Sphragis was of great importance; in what the seal or sign consisted wherewith they were marked is not easy to say. There was also the tradition of a name either by utterance or by handing a tablet with some mystic word on it.
The anointing of the candidate with chrism, or odoriferous ointment, is a Gnostic rite which overshadows the importance of baptism. In the "Acta Thomae", so some scholars maintain, it had completely replaced baptism, and was the sole sacrament of initiation. This however is not yet proven. The Marcosians went so far as to reject Christian baptism and to substitute a mixture of oil and water which they poured over the head of the candidate. By confirmation the Gnostics intended not so much to give the Holy Ghost as to seal the candidates against the attacks of the archons, or to drive them away by the sweet odour which is above all things (tes uter ta hola euodias). The balsam was somehow supposed to have flowed from the Tree of Life, and this tree was again mystically connected with the Cross; for the chrism is in the "Acta Thomae" called "the hidden mystery in which the Cross is shown to us".
(c) The Eucharist
It is remarkable that so little is known of the Gnostic substitute for the Eucharist. In a number of passages we read of the breaking of the bread, but in what this consisted is not easy to determine. The use of salt in this rite seems to have been important (Clem., Hom. xiv), for we read distinctly how St. Peter broke the bread of the Eucharist and "putting salt thereon, he gave first to the mother and then to us". There is furthermore a great likelihood, though no certainty, that the Eucharist referred to in the "Acta "Thomae" was merely a breaking of bread without the use of the cup. This point is strongly controverted, but the contrary can hardly be proven. It is beyond doubt that the Gnostics often substituted water for the wine (Acta Thomae, Baptism of Mygdonia, ch. cxxi). What formula of consecration was used we do not know, but the bread was certainly signed with the Cross. It is to be noted that the Gnostics called the Eucharist by Christian sacrificial terms -- prosphora, "oblation", Thysia (II bk. of Jeû, 45). In the Coptic Books (Pistis Sophia, 142; II Jeû, 45-47) we find a long description of some apparently Eucharistic ceremonies carried out by Jesus Himself. In these fire and incense, two flasks, and also two cups, one with water, the other with wine, and branches of the vine are used. Christ crows the Apostles with olive wreaths, begs Melchisedech to come and change wine into water for baptism, puts herbs in the Apostles' mouths and hands. Whether these actions in some sense reflect the ritual of Gnosticism, or are only imaginations of the author, cannot be decided. The Gnostics seem also to have used oil sacramentally for the healing of the sick, and even the dead were anointed by them to be rendered safe and invisible in their transit through the realms of the archons.
(d) The Nymphôn
They possessed a special Gnostic sacrament of the bridechamber (nymphon) in which, through some symbolical actions, their souls were wedded to their angels in the Pleroma. Details of its rites are not as yet known. Tertullian no doubt alluded to them in the words "Eleusinia fecerunt lenocinia".
(e) The Magic Vowels
An extraordinary prominence is given to the utterance of the vowels: alpha, epsilon, eta, iota, omicron, upsilon, omega. The Saviour and His disciples are supposed in the midst of their sentences to have broken out in an interminable gibberish of only vowels; magic spells have come down to us consisting of vowels by the fourscore; on amulets the seven vowels, repeated according to all sorts of artifices, form a very common inscription. Within the last few years these Gnostic vowels, so long a mystery, have been the object of careful study by Ruelle, Poirée, and Leclercq, and it may be considered proven that each vowel represents one of the seven planets, or archons; that the seven together represent the Universe, but without consonants they represent the Ideal and Infinite not yet imprisoned and limited by matter; that they represent a musical scale, probably like the Gregorian 1 tone re-re, or d, e, f, g, a, b, c, and many a Gnostic sheet of vowels is in fact a sheet of music. But research on this subject has only just begun. Among the Gnostics the Ophites were particularly fond of representing their cosmogonic speculations by diagrams, circles within circles, squares, and parallel lines, and other mathematical figures combined, with names written within them. How far these sacred diagrams were used as symbols in their liturgy, we do not know.
SCHOOLS OF GNOSTICISM
Gnosticism possessed no central authority for either doctrine or discipline; considered as a whole it had no organization similar to the vast organization of the Catholic Church. It was but a large conglomeration of sects, of which Marcionism alone attempted in some way to rival the constitution of the Church, and even Marcionism had no unity. No other classification of these sects is possible than that according to their main trend of thought. We can therefore distinguish: (a) Syrian or Semitic; (b) Hellenistic or Alexandrian; (c) dualistic; (d) antinomian Gnostics.
(a) The Syrian School
This school represents the oldest phase of Gnosticism, as Western Asia was the birthplace of the movement. Dositheus, Simon Magus, Menander, Cerinthus, Cerdo, Saturninus Justin, the Bardesanites, Sevrians, Ebionites, Encratites, Ophites, Naassenes, the Gnostics of the "Acts of Thomas", the Sethians, the Peratae, the Cainites may be said to belong to this school. The more fantastic elements and elaborate genealogies and syzygies of æons of the later Gnosis are still absent in these systems. The terminology is some barbarous form of Semitic; Egypt is the symbolic name for the soul's land of bondage. The opposition between the good God and the World-Creator is not eternal or cosmogonic, though there is strong ethical opposition to Jehovah the God of the Jews. He is the last of the seven angels who fashioned this world out of eternally pre-existent matter. The demiurgic angels, attempting to create man, created but a miserable worm, to which the Good God, however, gave the spark of divine life. The rule of the god of the Jews must pass away, for the good God calls us to his own immediate service through Christ his Son. We obey the Supreme Deity by abstaining from flesh meat and marriage, and by leading an ascetic life. Such was the system of Saturninus of Antioch, who taught during the reign of Hadrian (c. A.D. 120). The Naassenes (from Nahas, the Hebrew for serpent) were worshippers of the serpent as a symbol of wisdom, which the God of the Jews tried to hide from men. The Ophites (ophianoi, from ophis, serpent), who, when transplanted on Alexandrian soil, supplied the main ideas of Valentinianism, become one of the most widely spread sects of Gnosticism. Though not strictly serpent-worshippers, they recognized the serpent as symbol of the supreme emanation, Achamoth or Divine Wisdom. They were styled Gnostics par excellence. The Sethians saw in Seth the father of all spiritual (pneumatikoi) men; in Cain and Abel the father of the psychic (psychikoi) and hylic (hylikoi) men. According to the Peratae there exists a trinity of Father, Son, and Hyle (Matter). The Son is the Cosmic Serpent, who freed Eve from the power of the rule of Hyle. The universe they symbolized by a triangle enclosed in a circle. The number three is the key to all mysteries. There are three supreme principles: the not-generated, the self-generated, the generated. There are three logoi, of gods; the Saviour has a threefold nature, threefold body, threefold power, etc. They are called Peretae (peran) because they have "crossed over" out of Egypt, through the Red Sea of generation. They are the true Hebrews, in fact (the word comes from the Hebrew meaning "to cross over"). The Peratae were founded by Euphrates and Celbes (Acembes?) and Ademes. This Euphrates, whose name is perhaps connected with the name Peratae itself, is said to be the founder of the Ophites mentioned by Celsus about A.D. 175. The Cainites were so called because they venerated Cain, and Esau, and the Sodomites, and Core, and Judas, because they had all resisted the god of the Jews.
(b) The Hellenistic or Alexandrian School
These systems were more abstract, and philosophical, and self-consistent than the Syrian. The Semitic nomenclature was almost entirely replaced by Greek names. The cosmogonic problem had outgrown all proportions, the ethical side was less prominent, asceticism less strictly enforced. The two great thinkers of this school were Basilides and Valentinus. Though born at Antioch, in Syria, Basilides founded his school in Alexandria (c. A.D. 130), and was followed by his son Isidorus. His system was the most consistent and sober emanationism that Gnosticism ever produced. His school never spread so widely as the next to be mentioned, but in Spain it survived for several centuries. Valentinus, who taught first at Alexandria and then at Rome (c. A.D. 160), elaborated a system of sexual duality in the process of emanation; a long series of male and female pairs of personified ideas is employed to bridge over the distance from the unknown God to this present world. His system is more confused than Basilidianism, especially as it is disturbed bythe intrusion of the figure or figures of Sophia in the cosmogonic process. Being Syrian Ophitism in Egyptian guise, it can claim to be the true representative of the Gnostic spirit. The reductio ad absurdum of these unbridled speculations can be seen in the Pitis Sophia, which is light-maidens, paralemptores, spheres, Heimarmene, thirteen æons, light-treasures, realms of the midst, realms of the right and of the left, Jaldabaoth, Adamas, Michael, Gabriel, Christ, the Saviour, and mysteries without number whirl past and return like witches in a dance. The impression created on the same reader can only be fitly described in the words of "Jabberwocky": "gyre and gimble on the wabe". We learn from Hippolytus (Adv. Haer., IV, xxxv), Tertullian (Adv. Valent., iv) and Clemens Alex. (Exc. ex Theod., title) that there were two main schools of Valentinianism, the Italian and the Anatolian or Asiatic. In the Italian school were teachers of note: Secundus, who divided the Ogdoad within the Pleroma into two tetrads, Right and Left; Epiphanes, who described this Tetras as Monotes, Henotes, Monas, and To Hen; and possibly Colorbasus, unless his name be a misreading of Kol Arba "All Four". But the most important were Ptolemy and Heracleon. Ptolemy is especially known to fame by his letter to Flora, a noble lady who had written to him as Prom Presbyter (Texte u. Unters., N.S., XIII, Anal. z. alt. Gesch. d. Chr.) to explain the meaning of the Old Testament. This Ptolemy split up the names and numbers of the æons into personified substances outside the deity, as Tertullian relates. He was given to Biblical studies, and was a man of unbridled imagination. Clemens Alex. (Strom., IV, ix, 73) calls Heracleon the most eminent teacher of the Valentinian school. Origen devotes a large part of his commentary on St. John to combating Heracleon's commentary on the same Evangelist. Heracleon called the source of all being Anthropos, instead of Bythos, and rejected the immortality of the soul -- meaning, probably, the merely psychic element. He apparently stood nearer to the Catholic Church than Ptolemy and was a man of better judgment. Tertullian mentions two other names (Valent., iv), Theotimus and (De Carne Christ, xvii) Alexander. The Anatolian school had as a prominent teacher Axionicus (Tertullian, Adv. Valent., iv; Hipp., Adv. Haer., VI, 30) who had his collegium at Antioch about A.D. 220, "the master's most faithful disciple". Theodotus is only known to us from the fragment of his writings preserved by Clement of Alexandria. Marcus the Conjuror's system, an elaborate speculation with ciphers and numbers, is given by Irenaeus (I, 11-12) and also by Hippolytus (VI, 42). Irenaeus's account of Marcus was repudiated by the Marcosians, but Hippolytus asserts that they did so without reason. Marcus was probably an Egyptian and a contemporary of Irenaeus. A system not unlike that of the Marcosians was worked out by Monoimus the Arabian, to whom Hippolytus devotes chapters 5 to 8 of Book VIII, and who is mentioned only by Theodoret besides him. Hippolytus is right in calling these two Gnostics imitations of Pythagoras rather than Christians. According to the Epistles of Julian the Apostate, Valentinan collegia existed in Asia Minor up to his own times (d. 363).
(c) The Dualistic School
Some dualism was indeed congenital with Gnosticism, yet but rarely did it overcome the main tendency of Gnosticism, i.e. Pantheism. This, however, was certainly the case in the system of Marcion, who distinguished between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament, as between two eternal principles, the first being Good, agathos; the second merely dikaios, or just; yet even Marcion did not carry this system to its ultimate consequences. He may be considered rather as a forerunner of Mani than a pure Gnostic. Three of his disciples, Potitus, Basilicus, and Lucanus, are mentioned by Eusebius as being true to their master's dualism (H.E., V, xiii), but Apelles, his chief disciple, though he went farther than his master in rejecting the Old-Testament Scriptures, returned to monotheism by considering the Inspirer of Old-Testament prophecies to be not a god, but an evil angel. On the other hand, Syneros and Prepon, also his disciples, postulated three different principles. A somewhat different dualism was taught by Hermogenes in the beginning of the second century at Carthage. The opponent of the good God was not the God of the Jews, but Eternal Matter, the source of all evil. This Gnostic was combatted by Theophilus of Antioch and Tertullian.
(d) The Antinomian School
As a moral law was given by the God of the Jews, and opposition to the God of the Jews was a duty, the breaking of the moral law to spite its give was considered a solemn obligation. Such a sect, called the Nicolaites, existed in Apostolic times, their principle, according to Origen, was parachresthai te sarki. Carpocrates, whom Tertullian (De animâ, xxxv) calls a magician and a fornicator, was a contemporary of Basilides. One could only escape the cosmic powers through discharging one's obligations to them by infamous conduct. To disregard all law and sink oneself into the Monad by remembering one's pre-existence in the Cosmic Unit -- such was the Gnosis of Carpocrates. His son Epiphanes followed his father's doctrine so closely that he died in consequence of his sins at the age of seventeen. Antinomian views were further maintained by the Prodicians and Antitactae. No more ghastly instance of insane immorality can be found than the one mentioned Pistis Sophia itself as practised by some Gnostics. St. Justin (Apol., I, xxvi), Irenaeus (I, xxv, 3) and Eusebius (H.E., IV, vii) make it clear that "the reputation of these men brought infamy upon the whole race of Christians".
The Gnostics developed an astounding literary activity, which produced a quantity of writings far surpassing contemporary output of Catholic literature. They were most prolific in the sphere of fiction, as it is safe to say that three-fourths of the early Christians romances about Christ and His disciples emanated from Gnostic circles. Besides these -- often crude and clumsy -- romances they possessed what may be called "theosophic" treatises and revelations of a highly mystical character. These are best described as a stupefying roar of bombast occasionally interrupted by a few words of real sublimity. Traine remarks with justice: "Anyone who reads the teachings of the Gnostics breathes in an atmosphere of fever and fancies himself in a hospital, amongst delirious patients, who are lost in gazing at their own teeming thought and who fix their lustrous eyes on empty space" (Essais de crit. et d'histoire, Paris, 1904). Gnostic literature, therefore, possesses little or no intrinsic value, however great its value for history and psychology. It is of unparalleled importance in the study of the surroundings in which Christianity first arose. The bulk of it is unfortunately no longer extant. With the exception of some Coptic translations and some expurgated or Catholicized Syriac versions, we possess only a number of fragments of what once must have formed a large library. Most of this literature will be found catalogued under the names of Gnostic authors in the articles BASILIDES; BARDESANES; CERINTHUS; MARCION; SIMON MAGUS; PTOLEMY; VALENTINUS. We shall enumerate in the following paragraphs only anonymous Gnostic works and such writings as are not attributed to any of the above authors.
The Nicolaites possessed "some books under the name of Jaldabaoth", a book called "Nôria" (the mythical wife of Noe), prophecy of Barcabbas, who was a soothsayer among the Basilidians, a "Gospel of the Consummation", and a kind of apocalypse called "the Gospel of Eva" (Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxv, xxvi; Philastr., 33). The Ophites possessed "thousands" of apocrypha, as Epiphanius tells us; among these he specially mentions: "Questions of Mary, great and small" (some of these questions are perhaps extant in the Pistis Sophia); also many books under the name of "Seth", "Revelations of Adam", Apocryphal Gospels attributed to Apostles; an Apocalypse of Elias, and a book called "Genna Marias". Of these writings some revelations of Adam and Seth, eight in number, are probably extant in an Armenian translation, published in the Mechitarist collection of the Old-Testament apocrypha (Venice, 1896). See Preuschen "Die apocryph. Gnost. Adamschr." (Giessen, 1900). The Cainites possessed a "Gospel of Judas", an "Ascension of Paul" (anabatikon Paulou) and some other book, of which we do not know the title, but which, according to Epiphanius, was full of wickedness. The Prodicians, according to Clem. Alex., possessed apocrypha under the name of Zoroaster (Strom., I, xv, 69). The Antinomians had an apocryphon "full of audacity and wickedness" (Strom., III, iv, 29; Origen, "In Matth,", xxviii). The Naassenes had a book out of which Hippolytus largely quotes, but of which we do not know the title. It contained a commentary on Bible texts, hymns, and psalms. The Peratae possessed a similar book. The Sethians possessed a "Paraphrasis Seth", consisting of seven books, explanatory of their system, a book called Allogeneis, or "Foreigners", an "Apocalypse of Adam", a book attributed to Moses, and others. The Archontians possessed a large and small book entitled "Symphonia"; this possibly extant in Pitra's "Analecta Sacra" (Paris, 1888). The Gnostics attacked by Plotinus possessed apocrypha attributed to Zoroaster, Zostrian, Nichotheus, Allogenes (the Sethian Book "Allogeneis"?), and others.
In addition to these writings the following apocrypha are evidently of Gnostic authorship:
"The Gospel of the Twelve" -- This is first referred to by Origen (Hom. I, in Luc.), is identical with the Gospel of the Ebionites, and is also called the "Gospel according to Matthew", because in it Christ refers to St. Matthew in the second person, and the author speaks of the other Apostles and himself as "we". This Gospel was written before A.D. 200, and has no connection with the so-called Hebrew St. Matthew or the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
"The Gospel according to the Egyptians", i.e. Christian countryfolk of Egypt, not Alexandrians. It was written about A.D. 150 and referred to by Clem. Alex. (Strom., III, ix, 63; xiii, 93) and Origen (Hom. I, in Luc), and was largely used in non-Catholic circles. Only small fragments are extant in Clem. Alex. (Strom. and Excerp. ex Theod.). Some people have referred the Oxyrhynchus "Logia" and the Strasburg Coptic papyri to this Gospel, but this is a mere guess.
"The Gospel of Peter", written about A.D. 140 in Antioch (see DOCETAE).Another Petrine Gospel, see description of the Ahmin Codex.
A "Gospel of Matthias" written about A.D. 125, used in Basilidian circles (see BASILIDES).
A "Gospel of Philip" and a "Gospel of Thomas". According to the Pistis Sophia, the three Apostles Matthew [read Matthias], Thomas, and Philip received a Divine commission to report all Christ's revelations after His Resurrection. The Gospel of Thomas must have been of considerable length (1300 lines); part of it, in an expurgated recension, is possibly extant in the once popular, but vulgar and foolish, "Stories of the Infancy of Our Lord by Thomas, an Israelite philosopher", of which two Greek, as Latin, a Syriac, and a Slavonic version exist.
"Acts of Peter" (Praxis Petrou), written about A.D. 165. Large fragments of this Gnostic production have been preserved to us in the original Greek and also in a Latin translation under the title of "Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Peter", to which the Latin adds, "a Lino episcopo conscriptum". Greater portions of this apocryphon are translated in the so-called "Actus Petri cum Simone", and likewise in Sahidic and Slavonic, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions. These fragments have been gathered by Lipsius and Bonnet in "Acta apostolorum apocr." (Leipzig, 1891), I. Though these recensions of the "Acts of Peter" have been somewhat Catholicized, their Gnostic character is unmistakable, and they are of value for Gnostic symbolism.
Closely connected with the "Acts of Peter" are the "Acts of Andrew" and the "Acts of John", which three have perhaps one and the same author, a certain Leucius Charinus, and were written before A.D. 200. They have come down to us in a number of Catholic recensions and in different versions. For the Acts of Andrew see Bonnet, "Acta", as above (1898), II, 1, pp. 1-127; for "Acts of John", ibid., pp. 151-216. To find the primitive Gnostic form in the bewildering variety and multiplicity of fragments and modifications is still a task for scholars.
Of paramount importance for the understanding of Gnosticism are the "Acts of Thomas", as they have been preserved in their entirety and contain the earliest Gnostic ritual, poetry, and speculation. They exist in two recensions, the Greek and the Syriac. It seems most likely, though not certain, that the original was Syriac; it is suggested that they were written about A.D. 232, when the relics of St. Thomas were translated to Edessa. Of the greatest value are the two prayers of Consecration, the "Ode to Wisdom" and the "Hymn of the Soul", which are inserted in the Syriac narrative, and which are wanting in the Greek Acts, though independent Greek texts of these passages are extant (Syriac with English translation by W. Wright, "Apocr. Acts of the Apost.", London, 1871). The "Hymn to the Soul" has been translated many times into English, especially, by A. Bevan, "Texts and Studies", Cambridge 1897; cf. F. Burkitt in "Journal of Theological Studies" (Oxford, 1900). The most complete edition of the Greek Acts is by M. Bonnet in "Acta", as above, II, 2 (Leipzig, 1903; see BARDESANES). The Acts, though written in the service of Gnosticism, and full of the weirdest adventures, are not entirely without an historical background.
There are a number of other apocrypha in which scholars have claimed to find traces of Gnostic authorship, but these traces are mostly vague and unsatisfactory. In connection with these undoubtedly Gnostic apocrypha mention must be made of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. It is true that these are more often classed under Judaistic than under strictly Gnostic literature, but their affinity to Gnostic speculations is at least a first sight so close and their connection with the Book of Elxai (cf. ELCESAITES) so generally recognized that they cannot be omitted in a list of Gnostic writings. If the theory maintained by Dom Chapman in "The Date of the Clementines" (Zeitschrift f. N. Test. Wiss., 1908) and in the article CLEMENTINES in the Catholic Encyclopedia be correct, and consequently Pseudo-Clemens be a crypto-Arian who wrote A.D. 330, the "Homilies" might still have at least some value in the study of Gnosticism. But Dom Chapman's theory, though ingenious, is too daring and as yet too unsupported, to justify the omission of the "Homilies" in this place.
A great, if not the greatest, part of Gnostic literature, which has been saved from the general wreck of Gnostic writings, is preserved to us in three Coptic codices, commonly called the Askew, the Bruce, and the Akhmim Codex. The Askew Codex, of the fifth of sixth century, contains the lengthy treatise "Pistis Sophia", i.e. Faith-Wisdom. This is a work in four books, written between A.D. 250 and 300; the fourth book, however, is an adaptation of an earlier work. The first two books describe the fall of the Æon Sophia and her salvation by the Æon Soter; the last two books describe the origin of sin and evil and the need of Gnostic repentance. In fact the whole is a treatise on repentance, as the last two books only applyin practice the example of penance set by Sophia. The work consists of anumber of questions and answers between Christ and His male and female disciples in which five "Ode of Solomon", followed by mystical adaptationsof the same, are inserted. As the questioning is mostly don by Mary, the Pistis Sophia is probably identical with the "Questions of Mary" mentioned above. The codex also contains extracts from the "Book of the Saviour". The dreary monotony of these writings can only be realized by those who have read them. An English translation of the Latin translation of the Coptic, which itself is a translation of the Greek, was made by G.R.S. Mead (London, 1896). The Bruce papyrus is of about the same date as the Askew vellum codex and contains two treatises:
the two books of Jeû, the first speculative and cosmogonic, the second practical, viz., the overcoming of the hostile world powers and the securing of salvation by the practice of certain rites: this latter book is styled "Of the Great Logos according to the mystery".
A treatise with unknown title, as the firstand last pages are lost. This work is of a purely speculative character and of great antiquity, written between A.D. 150 and 200 in Sethian or Archontian circles, and containing a reference to the prophets Marsanes, Nikotheus, and Phosilampes.
No complete English translations of these treatises exist; some passages, however, are translated in the aforesaid G.R.S. Mead's "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten". Both the Bruce and Askew Codices have been translated into German by C. Schmidt (1892) in "Texte u. Unters" and (1901) in the Berlin "Greek Fathers". A Latin translation exists of the "Pistis Sophia" by Schwartze and Petermann (Berlin, 1851) and a French one of the Bruce Codex by Amélineau (Paris, 1890). The Akhmim Codex of the fifth century, found in 1896, and now in the Egyptian Museum at Berlin, contains a "Gospel of Mary", called in the subscriptions "An Apocryphon of John": this Gospel must be of the highest antiquity, as St. Irenaeus, about A.D. 170, made use of it in his description of the Barbelo-Gnostics; a "Sophia Jesu Christi", containing revelations of Christ after His Resurrection; a "Praxis Petri", containing a fantastic relation of the miracle worked on Peter's daughter.
The study of Gnosticism is seriously retarded by the entirely unaccountable delay in the publication of these treatises; for these thirteen years past we possess only the brief account of this codex published in the "Sitzungsber. d. k. preus. Acad." (Berlin, 1896), pp. 839-847.
This account of Gnostic literature would be incomplete without reference to a treatise commonly published amongst the works of Clement of Alexandria and called "Excerpta ex Theodoto". It consists of a number of Gnostic extracts made by Clement for his own use with the idea of future refutation; and, with Clement's notes and remarks on the same, form a very confusing anthology. See O. Bibelius, "Studien zur Gesch. der Valent." in "Zeitschr. f. N. Nest. Wiss." (Giessen, 1908).
Oriental non-Christian Gnosticism has left us the sacred books of the Mandaeans, viz., the "Genzâ rabâ" or "Great Treasure", a large collectionof miscellaneous treatises of different date, some as late, probably, asthe ninth, some as early, perhaps, as the third century. The Genzâ was translated into Latin, by Norberg (Copenhagen, 1817), and the most important treatises into German, by W. Brandt (Leipzig, 1892). Kolasta, Hymns and Instructions on baptism and the journey of the soul, published in Mandaean by J. Euting (Stuttgart, 1867). Drâshê d'Jahya, a biography of John the Baptist "ab utero useque ad tumulum" -- as Abraham Echellensis puts it -- not published. Alexandrian non-Christian Gnosticism is perceptible in Trismegistic literature, published in English translation by G.R.S. Mead (London and Benares, 1902, three volumes). Specifically Jewish Gnosticism left no literature, but Gnostic speculations have an echo in several Jewish works, such as the Book of Enoch, the Zohar the Talmudic treatise Chagiga XV. See Gförer, "Philo", Vol. I, and Karppe, "Etudes sur. ore. nat. d. Zohar" (Paris, 1901).
REFUTATION OF GNOSTICISM
From the first Gnosticism met with the most determined opposition from the Catholic Church. The last words of the aged St. Paul in his First Epistle to Timothy are usually taken as referring to Gnosticism, which is described as "Profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called [antitheseis tes pseudonomou gnoseos -- the antitheses of so-called Gnosis] which some professing have erred concerning the faith". Most probably St. Paul's use of the terms pleroma, the æon of this world, the archon of the power of the air, in Ephesians and Colossians, was suggested by the abuse of these terms by the Gnostics. Other allusions to Gnosticism in the New Testament are possible, but cannot be proven, such as Tit., iii, 9; I Tim., iv, 3; I John, iv, 1-3. The first anti-Gnostic writer was St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165). His "Syntagma" (Syntagma kata pason ton gegenemenon aireseon), long thought lost, is substantially contained in the "Libellus adv. omn. haeres.", usually attached to Tertullian's "De Praescriptione"; such at least is the thesis of J. Kunze (1894) which is largely accepted. Of St. Justin's anti-Gnostic treatise on the Resurrection (Peri anastaseos) considerable fragments are extant in Methodius' "Dialogue on the Resurrection" and in St. John Damascene's "Sacra Parellela". St. Justin's "Comendium against Marcion", quoted by St. Irenaeus (IV, vi, 2; V, xxvi, 2), is possibly identical with his Syntagma". Immediately after St. Justin, Miltiades, a Christian philosopher of Asia Minor, is mentioned by Tertullian and Hippolytus (Adv. Valent., v, and Eus., H.E., V., xxviii, 4) as having combated the Gnostics and especially the Valentinians. His writings are lost. Theophilus of Antioch (d. c. 185) wrote against the heresy of Hermogenes, and also an excellent treatise against Marcion (kata Markionos Logos). The book against Marcion is probably extant in the "Dialogus de rectâ in Deum fide" of Pseudo-Origen. For Agrippa Castor see BASILIDES. Hegesippus, a Palestinian, traveled by way of Corinth to Rome, where he arrived under Anicetus (155-166), to ascertain the sound and orthodox faith from Apostolic tradition. He met many bishops on his way, who all taught the same faith and in Rome he made a list of the popes from Peter to Anicetus. In consequence he wrote five books of Memoirs (Upomnemata) "in a most simple style, giving the true tradition of Apostolic doctrine", becoming "a champion of the truth against the godless heresies" (Eus., H.E., IV, vii sqq., xxi sqq.). Of this work only a few fragments remain, and these are historical rather than theological. Rhodon, a disciple of Tatian, Philip, Bishop of Gortyna in Crete, and a certain Modestus wrote against Marcion, but their writings are lost. Irenaeus (Adv., Haer., I, xv, 6) and Epiphanius (xxxiv, 11) quote a short poem against the Oriental Valentinians and the conjuror Marcus by "an aged" but unknown author; and Zachaeus, Bishop of Caesarea, is said to have written against the Valentinians and especially Ptolemy.
Beyond all comparison most important is the great anti-Gnostic work of St. Irenaeus, Elegchos kai anatrope tes psudonymou gnoseos, usually called "Adversus Haereses". It consists of five books, evidently not written at one time; the first three books about A.D. 180; the last two about a dozen years later. The greater part of the first book has come down to us in the original Greek, the rest in a very ancient and anxiously close Latin translation, and some fragments in Syriac. St. Irenaeus knew the Gnostics from personal intercourse and from their own writings and gives minute descriptions of their systems, especially of the Valentinians and Barbelo-Gnostics. A good test of how St. Irenaeus employed his Gnostic sources can be made by comparing the newly found "Evangelium Mariae" with Adv. Haer., I, xxiv. Numerous attempts to discredit Irenaeus as a witness have proved failures (see SAINT IRENAEUS). Besides his great work, Irenaeus wrote an open letter to the Roman priest Florinus, who thought of joining the Valentinians; and when the unfortunate priest had apostatized, and had become a Gnostic, Irenaeus wrote on his account a treatise "On the Ogdoad", and also a letter to Pope Victor, begging him to use his authority against him. Only a few passages of these writings are extant. Eusebius (H.E., IV, xxiii, 4) mentions a letter of Dionysius of Corinth (c. 170) to the Nicomedians, in which he attacks the heresy of Marcion. The letter is not extant. Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215) only indirectly combated Gnosticism by defending the true Christian Gnosis, especially in "Paedagogos", Bk. I, "Stromateis", Bk. II, III, V, and in the so-called eighth book or "Excerpta ex Theodoto". Origen devoted no work exclusively to the refutation of Gnosticism but his four books "On First Principles" (Peri archon), written about the year 230, and preserved to us only in some Greek fragments and a free Latin translation by Rufinus, is practically a refutation of Gnostic dualism, Doectism, and Emanationism. About the year 300 an unknown Syrian author, sometimes erroneously identified with Origen, and often called by the literary pseudonym Adamantius, or "The Man of Steel", wrote a long dialogue of which the title is lost, but which is usually designated by the words, "De rectâ in Deum fide". This dialogue, usually divided into five books, contains discussions with representatives of two sects of Marcionism, of Valentinianism, and of Bardesanism. The writer plagiarizes extensively from Theophilus of Antioch and Methodius of Olympus, especially the latter's anti-Gnostic dialogue "On Free Will" (Peri tou autexousiou).
The greatest anti-Gnostic controversialist of the early Christian Church is Tertullian (b. 169), who practically devoted his life to combating this dreadful sum of all heresies. We need but mention the titles of his anti-Gnostic works: "De Praescriptione haereticorum"; "Adversus Marcionem"; a book "Adversus Valentinianos"; "Scorpiace"; "De Carne Christi"; "De Resurrectione Carnis"; and finally "Adversus Praxeam". A storehouse of information rather than a refutation is the great work of Hippolytus, written some time after A.D. 234, once called "Philosophoumena" and ascribed to Origen, but since the discovery of Books IV-X, in 1842, known by the name if its true author and its true title, "Refutation of All Heresies" (katapason aireseon elegchos) The publication of the Athos Codex by E. Miller (Oxford, 1851) revolutionized the study of Gnosticism and rendered works published previous to that date antiquated and almost worthless. To students of Gnosticism this work is as indispensable as that of St. Irenaeus. There is an English translation by J. MacMahon in "The Ante-Nicene Library" (Edinburgh, 1868). Hippolytus tried to prove that all Gnosticism was derived from heathen philosophy; his speculations may be disregarded, but, as he was in possession of a great number of Gnostic writings from which he quotes, his information is priceless. As he wrote nearly fifty years after St. Irenaeus, whose disciple he had been, he describes a later development of Gnosis than the Bishop of Lyons. Besides his greater work, Hippolytus wrote, many years previously (before 217), a small compendium against all heresies, giving a list of the same, thirty-two in number, from Dositheus to Noetus; also a treatise against Marcion.
As, from the beginning of the fourth century, Gnosticism was in rapid decline, there was less need of champions of orthodoxy, hence there is a long interval between Adamantius's dialogue and St. Epiphanius's "Panarion", begun in the year 374. St. Epiphanius, who is his youth was brought into closest contact with Gnostic sects in Egypt, and especially the Phibionists, and perhaps even, as some hold, belonged to this sect himself, is still a first-class authority. With marvelous industry he gathered information on all sides, but his injudicious and too credulous acceptance of many details can hardly be excused. Philastrius of Brescia, a few years later (383), gave to the Latin Church what St. Epiphanius had given to the Greek. He counted and described no fewer than one hundred and twenty-eight heresies, but took the word in a somewhat wide and vague sense. Though dependent on the "Syntagma" of Hippolytus, his account is entirely independent of that of Epiphanius. Another Latin writer, who probably lived in the middle of the fifth century in Southern Gaul, and who is probably identical with Arnobius the Younger, left a work, commonly called "Praedestinatus", consisting of three books, in the first of which he describes ninety heresies from Simon Magus to the Praedestinationists. This work unfortunately contains many doubtful and fabulous statements. Some time after the Council of Chalcedon (451) Theodoret wrote a "Compendium of Heretical Fables" which is of considerable value for the history of Gnosticism, because it gives in a very concise and objective way the history of the heresies since the time of Simon Magus. St. Augustine's book "De Haeresibus" (written about 428) is too dependent on Philastrius and Ephiphanius to be of much value. Amongst anti-Gnostic writers we must finally mention the neo-Platonist Plotinus (d. A.D. 270), who wrote a treatise "Against the Gnostics". These were evidently scholars who frequented his collegia, but whose Oriental and fantastic pessimism was irreconcilable with Plotinus's views.
The attempt to picture Gnosticism as a mighty movement of the human mind towards the noblest and highest truth, a movement in some way parallel to that of Christianity, has completely failed. It has been abandoned by recent unprejudiced scholars such as W. Bousset and O. Gruppe, and it is to be regretted that it should have been renewed by an English writer, G.R.S. Mead, in "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten", an unscholarly and misleading work, which in English-speaking countries may retard the sober and true appreciation of Gnosticism as it was in historical fact. Gnosticism was not an advance, it was a retrogression. It was born amidst the last throes of expiring cults and civilizations in Western Asia and Egypt. Though hellenized, these countries remained Oriental and Semitic to the core. This Oriental spirit -- Attis of Asia Minor, Istar of Babylonia, Isis of Egypt, with the astrological and cosmogonic lore of the Asiatic world -- first sore beset by Ahuramazda in the East, and then overwhelmed by the Divine greatness of Jesus Christ in the West, called a truce by the fusion of both Parseeism and Christianity with itself. It tried to do for the East what Neo-Platonism tried to do for the West. During at least two centuries it was a real danger to Christianity, though not so great as some modern writers would make us believe, as if the merest breath might have changed the fortunes of Gnostic, as against orthodox, Christianity. Similar things are said of Mithraism and neo-Platonism as against the religion of Jesus Christ. But these sayings have more piquancy than objective truth. Christianity survived, and not Gnosticism, because the former was the fittest -- immeasurably, nay infinitely, so. Gnosticism died not by chance, but because it lacked vital power within itself; and no amount of theosophistic literature, flooding English and German markets, can give life to that which perished from intrinsic and essential defects. It is striking that the two earliest champions of Christianity against Gnosticism -- Hegesippus and Irenaeus -- brought out so clearly the method of warfare which alone was possible, but which also alone sufficed to secure the victory in the conflict, a method which Tertullian some years later scientifically explained in his "De Praescriptione". Both Hegesippus and Irenaeus proved that Gnostic doctrines did not belong to that deposit of faith which was taught by the true succession of bishops in the primary sees of Christendom; both in triumphant conclusion drew up a list of the Bishops of Rome, from Peter to the Roman bishop of their day; as Gnosticism was not taught by that Church with which the Christians everywhere must agree, it stood self-condemned. A just verdict on the Gnostics is that of O. Gruppe (Ausführungen, p. 162): the circumstances of the period gave them a certain importance. But a living force they never were, either in general history or in the history of Christendom. Gnosticism deserves attention as showing what mention dispositions Christianity found in existence, what obstacles it had to overcome to maintain its own life; but "means of mental progress it never was".
During the second century orthodox Christianity began fighting back against Marcion and the Gnostic leaders such as Valentinus, Basilides and others. These defenders of orthodox Christianity are usually called the Apologists. Bray touches only on a few of these church leaders: Justin Martyr (d. 156), Melito of Sardis (fl. c. 170), Irenaeus (d. c. 200), and Tertullian (fl. c. 196 - c. 212). To this list should be added the names of Quadratus (appx. 123-124), Aristides of Athens (??), Aristo of Pella (c. 140), Tatian the Syrian (c. 172), Miltiades (c. 170), Apollinaris of Hierapolis (c. 170), Theophilus of Antioch (c. 180), Hermias (?), and the epistle to Diognetus (?). Also to be remembered is that these defenders of Christian were frequently speaking out against non-Christian critics such as the satirist Lucian of Samosata, "whose De morte peregrini of 170 A.D. derided the faithful for their brotherly love and contempt of death; the philosopher Fronto of Cirta, teacher of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, in his Oration; and, foremost of all, the Platonist Celsus, who issued his attack, The True Discourse, jAlhqh;" Lovgo", in 178 A.D" (Quasten, Patrology, 1:186).
From 200 to 325
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, relevant sections in this chapter.
Resource Materials to also be studied:
From 325 to 451
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, relevant sections in this chapter.
Resource Materials to also be studied:
From 451 to 604
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, relevant sections in this chapter.
Resource Materials to also be studied:
Assigned Readings for This Topic:
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, relevant sections in this chapter.
Resource Materials to also be studied:
Check Bray's bibliography in appropriate chapter of the textbook.
Check the appropriate Bibliography section in Cranfordville.com
Resource Page for Biblical Studies, "Church Fathers," at http://www.torreys.org/bible/biblia01.html#churchfathers
Helpful gateway to various web sites containing information about the church fathers.
Christian Classics Etheral Library, at http://www.ccel.org/index/classics.html
The most exhaustive source of classical Christian writings available on the internet. Contains the English translation of the Nicean and Anti-Nicean Fathers, almost 60 volumes in print form, and one of the most important translations of the Church Fathers in the English language.
"The Fathers of the Church," Catholic Encyclopedia at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
Alphabetical listing of the church fathers with hyperlinks. Very important source to their writings that are available online and in English translation.
Peter Kirby, Early Christian Writings, at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/
Helpful gateway to both information about and the writings of early Christianity.
Peter Kirby, Early Jewish Writings, at http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/
Helpful gateway to both information about and the writings of early Judaism.
Ancient World Chronology: 1 - 199 CE at http://www.kfu.com/~pharvey/chronology1-199ce
Ancient World Chronology: 200 - 640 CE at http://www.kfu.com/~pharvey/chronology200-640ce
Johannes Quasten, Patrology, 4 vols., Westminster, MD: Christian
Classics, Inc. 1984-1986.
Unquestionably the standard reference tool in the English language for studying the patristic era of Christianity.
to Bradshaw article on Marcion:
(1) G.R.Evans, A.E. McGrath, & A.D. Galloway, The Science of Theology. (Basingstoke: Marshall Pickering, 1986) 43. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church. (London: Penguin, 1967), 39.
(2) Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (London: Penguin, 1988), 47: “Preservation of an ancient writing required positive effort over a long period. Early Christian documents were produced in very small quantities on highly perishable papyrus. Unless they were constantly retranscribed they did not survive at all. There was no need of a censor, unless a heresiarch had followers over successive generations to keep his work alive.”
(3) F.L. Cross, & Livingstone, eds. “Marcion,” The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church (Oxford: OUP, 1990) 870. Christie-Murray, David. A History of Heresy. (Oxford: OUP, 1990), 27.
(4) W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 213.
(5) Tertullian, Against Marcion 1.1.4: “The most barbarous and melancholy thing about Pontus [dismal as the region is of itself] is that Marcion was born there.”
(6) Cross & Livingstone, 870.
(7) Hendrik F. Stander, “Marcion,” Everett Ferguson, ed. Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity. (New York: Garland, 1990), 568. Christie-Murray, 26 notes that he may even have been a bishop himself.
(8) Epiphanius, Against Heresies 43.1. Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines. (London: Banner of Truth, 1978), 52.
(9) J.F. Bethune-Baker, An Introduction To The Early History Of Christian Doctrine. (London: Methuen & Co., 1903), 81. Stander, 568. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, 1910 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 484: “...this does not agree with his asceticism, and Irenaeus and Tertullian bring no charge of youthful incontinence against him.”
(10) 50 000 silver denarii. W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church. (London: SCM, 1991), 55.
(11) Stander, 568.
(12) Stander, 568: “Marcion’s church was organised in a similar way to the Roman church, so much so that Cyril of Jerusalem found it necessary to warn believers lest they enter a Marcionite church by mistake (Catechetical Lectures 4:4).” Christie-Murray, 27: “They have been called the first dissenters.”
(13) Cross & Livingstone, 870.
(14) Frend, Rise, 215.
(15) Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 58.
(16) Cross & Livingstone, 870. Bethune-Baker, 84, claims that there were Marcionite churches still in the 7th century. Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia, “Marcion,” Vol. VI. (London: William Banton, 1974), 605, finds evidence of them, especially in Syrian culture, in the late 10th century. Benjamin Walker, Gnosticism: Its History And Influence. (Wellingborough: Crucible, 1983), 146: argues that the absorption into Manicheism occurred after the 8th century.
(17) Cross & Livingstone, 864.
(18) Frend, Rise, 228. “Marcion divided the sheep of Christ, and Mani despoiled the despoiler. One madman bit another.” Ephraem Syros, Hymn Against Heresies, 22.3, E. Beck, CSCO, Script, Syri. 76-77 (Louvain, 1957), 58.
(19) Stander, 568.
(20) Cross & Livingstone, 573.
(21) Stander, 568; Berkhof, 52. Christie-Murray, 27: “He does not seem to have been an orthodox gnostic.” Chadwick, 38: “Marcion… stands quite apart from the mainstream of Gnosticism.” Philip J. Lee, Against The Protestant Gnostics. (Oxford: OUP, 1987), 16: “Many Christian gnostics made some attempt to avoid an overt dualism, realising that a complete disconnection between God and world could not be accepted by the Church. Their task, therefore, became that of making an indirect connection which would nevertheless exonerate the good God of all guilt in regard to this world. Often the connection was made through a series of archons (semidivine rulers) who ruled over the lower spheres in the absence of God.” Walker, 144: “Marcion made faith and not gnosis the vehicle of redemption. Salvation, he said, was available to all men, and did not involve secrets, secret revelations or knowledge of magical rituals. The saved are ‘believers’ and not ‘knowers’ or ‘doers’. Love and mercy spring spontaneously from the heart of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this, scholars such as Harnack do not regard Marcion as a true Gnostic, and point to the basically Christian characters of many of his beliefs.”
(22) Johnson, 45.
(23) K.S. Latourette, A History Of Christianity. (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode Ltd., 1955), 125.
(24) Latourette, 126. Daniélou, Jean Gospel Message And Hellenistic Culture. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 396: “...the actual dualist systems current were of three different kinds: the Pauline dualism of Sarx-Pnuema; the Platonist dualism of the sensible and intelligible orders of reality; and the Gnostic dualism of the Pleroma, the transcendent world of the Supreme God, and the Kenoma, the material universe made by the Demiurge and dominated by the evil powers.”
(25) Daniélou, 396.
(26) Cross & Livingstone, 141.
(27) John Drane, “Gnosticism In The New Testament,” TSF Bulletin 68 (Leicester, UCCF, Spring 1974): 7.
(28) Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.24.3: “...more and more principalities and angels are formed, and three hundred and sixty-five heavens wherefore the year contains the same number of days in conformity with the number of heavens.” Lee, 16.
(29) Drane, 7.
(30) Walker, 143: “Cerdo (d. 143), a Syrian gnostic, had started his career as a Simonian (follower of Simon Magus) and then branched out on his own. He taught that God the Father was merciful and good. He was the Supreme Being, but unknown, until first made known to man by Jesus. The god proclaimed in the law and the prophets of the Old Testament was the creator of the world, and inferior to the supreme being. He was a god of justice who demanded obedience. Cerdo believed that only the soul and not he the body shared in the resurrection.”
(31) Tertullian, Against Marcion 1.2; Frend, Rise, 213.
(32) Cross & Livingstone, 870. Lee, 17: “Although the Marcionites did not view Israel’s God as the Prince of Darkness, as did some of the more radical gnostic systems, they did regard him as ‘just’ as opposed to the good God who is ‘love’.”
(33) Latourette, 127.
(34) Cross & Livingstone, 870. That is “He denied the reality of Christ’ s body and his physical resurrection.” Christie-Murray, 27.
(35) Bethune-Baker, 82. Walker, 61: “Marcion speaks in brutal terms of the ignominy of man created in loathsome matter, conceived in the filth of sexuality, born among the unclean, excruciating and grotesque convulsions of labour, into a body that is a ‘sack of excrement’, until death turns it into carrion, a nameless corpse, a worm-filled cadaver.”
(36) Latourette, 127. Chadwick, 40, comments that “In Marcion’s evaluation of the Old Testament there lurks a constant overtone of anti-semitism.”
(37) Latourette, 126.
(38) Frend, Rise, 214.
(39) F.F. Bruce, The Canon Of Scripture. (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988), 138-139. “Christ’s earliest apostles proved failures, but he raised up Paul after them.” Edwin C. Blackman, Marcion and his Influence. (London: SPCK, 1948), 48. “Marcion claimed that only Paul understood the true nature of Christ’s mission.” Blackman, 96. “In over-straining the difference between Paul and the other apostles, he was the forerunner of the Tubingen school of critics.” Schaff, 486.
(40) Bruce, Canon, 135.
(41) Bruce, Canon, 138.
(42) Cross & Livingstone, 870. Christie-Murray, 27: “He refused to allow marriage after baptism, dividing his disciples into an elite of baptised or ‘perfect’, who led lives of extreme asceticism and unbaptised, living ordinary lives. The latter supported the Perfect and were baptised at the end of their lives.”
(43) Johnson, 47. Walker, 126: “ Marcion… deemed marriage ‘a filthiness and an obscenity.’ It was a diabolical institution that had upon it the seal of Antichrist and the mark of Satan. It did nothing more than sanction sexual indulgence...”
(44) Tertullian, Apology 1.26.
(45) Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.5.
(46) Cross & Livingstone, 870.
(47) Frend, Rise, 215. Cross, 870: Among his other opponents were Dionysius of Corinth (c.170); Theophilus of Antioch (late 2nd century); Philip of Gortyna; Rhodo of Rome (2nd century); and Bardesanes at Edessa.
(48) F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1964), 252.
(49) Latourette, 134. Walker, 145: “It was to him [Marcion] that we owe the terms Old Testament and New Testament… His suggested emendation of the New Testament constituted the earliest textual criticism of the Bible.” Brackets mine. “According to Von Harnack, Marcion was the real creator of the Catholic Church; “by his organisational and theological ideas and by his activity Marcion gave the decisive impetus to the creation of the early Catholic church and provided it with a model, what is more, he deserves the credit for the first grasping and carrying out a canonical collection of Christian writings, the New Testament.” Von Harnack A. Marcion, das Evangelium vom fremden Gott, 2nd edn. (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs Verlag, 1924), 114-115 cited in Rumscheidht, Martin (Ed.), ‘Adolf Von Harnack: Liberal Theology at its height,’ John de Gruchy, gen. ed., The Making of Modern Theology (London: Collins, 1989), 28:
(50) Latourette, 135-136.
E.H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, 2nd edn. (London: Pickering & Inglis,