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the Council of Nice. From that time his system, called the Manichean, was the most predominant.
It should seem, however, that the preceding Gnostic systems had been in some measure repressed before the Council of Nice, but that they revived about the same time that Manes appeared. For Theodoret speaks of the heresies of Marcion, Valentinus, Manes, and other Docete, as being revived in his time. * 'Theodoret speaks of “about a thousand Marcionites converted in his diocese;” and “ the great number of books published” against them in the second century, shews, as Dr. Lardner observes, “ the prevalence of this doctrine ” +
Gnosticism prevailed most in the East; for the principles of it were more agreeable to those of the oriental philosophy, which was, in several respects, different from that of Plato, which prevailed more in the West; though Egypt, where Platonism prevailed as much as in any place whatever, was likewise distinguished by giving rise to some very eminent Gnostics. Rome, it is observed, was more free from Gnosticism than most other places. It is said, however, by Epiphanius, to have been introduced there in the time of Anicetus. I
The principles of this system, whatever we may think of it at present, must have been exceedingly captivating at the time of their publication, as many excellent men were much taken with them. This was the case with Epiphanius, with the father of Gregory Nazianzen,ll and the famous Austin who is well known to have been a Manichean. I shall now proceed to mark the distinguishing features of the Gnostics; and this is so uniformly done by all the writers who mention them, that there is no danger of mistaking them for those of any other sect whatever.
* Οι γαρ την Μαρκιανος, και Βαλεντινα, και Μανητος, και των αλλων Δοκιτων αιρεσιν επι τα παροντος ανανεομενοι, δυσχεραίνοντες ότι την αιρεσιν αυτων αντικρυς σηλιτευομεν. Ep. Ixxxii. Opera, Ul. p. 955. (P.) † History of Heretics, p. 210. (P.) Works, IX.
367. Η Εν χρονους Ανικητε η τροδεδηλωμενη Μαρκελλινα εν Ρωμη γενομενη, την λυμην της Καρποκρα διδασκαλιας εξεμεσασα πολλες των εκεισε λυμηναμενη ηφανισε και εηθεν γεγονεν η αρχη Γνως ικων των καλομενων. Ηer. xxvii. Ι. p. 107. (Ρ.)
Hær. xxvi. I. p. 99. (P.) # Orat. xix. Opera, p. 297. (P.)
Of the Pride of the Gnostics. As the Gnostics were generally persons of education, and addicted to the study of philosophy, the most conspicuous feature in their general character, was their pride, their contempt of the vulgar, and of their opinions, boasting of their own knowledge, and being proud of their superiority to others. They represented their institution as more refined than that of other Christians, and pretended to a degree of perfection which other Christians did not claim. This feature is equally marked by the christian fathers, and the apostles ; and it will be seen, in its proper place, that, in opposition to them, the Unitarian Christians were considered as weak and simple people, in all respects the very reverse of the Gnostics.
Irenæus says, that the Gnostics pretended to perfection, and called themselves spiritual ; * and he says, that they called the orthodox fuxixos, carnal.t Clemens Alexandrinus also speaks of the Gnostics “as pretending to perfection, boasting of more knowledge than the apostles; whereas Paul himself says, that he had not yet attained, nor was already perfect.” I But I have no occasjon to quote many authorities for a circumstance which marks the Gnostics whereever they appear; and it is equally evident, that there were teachers of Christianity pretending to the same superiority of knowledge and perfection in the time of the apostles.
The first certain evidence of the existence of the Gnostic doctrine in the Christian church is at the time of Paul's writing his first epistle to the Corinthians, which was probably in the year 56; and the false teachers of that place are distinctly marked by the apostles for their pride, conceit, and high pretensions to wisdom. In opposition to their pretended deep knowledge, the apostle says, 1 Cor. i. 18, “ The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.”. Ch. iii. 18: « Let no man deceive himself. If any man
Plurimi autem et contemptores facti, quasi jam perfecti, sine reverentiâ, et in contemptu viventes, semetipsos spiritales vocant, et se nosse jam dicunt eum qui sit intra pleroma ipsorum refrigerii lorum." L. iii. C. xv. p. 237. (P.)
† ALL TYTO sv quas prixonos ovom Br. L. i. C. i. p. 32. (P.)
1 Εμοι δε και θαυμαζειν επεισιν όπως σφας τελειας τινες τολμωσι καλειν και γνωρικες υπερ τον Αποσολον φρονεντες, φυσιεμενοι τε και φρυαττομενοι • αυτα ομολογαντος το Παυλο περι εαυτο, εχ' ότι ηδη ελαβον, η ηδη τετελειωμαι. Ped. L. 1. C. vi. p. 107. (Ρ.)
among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” He seems to allude to their pretended spirituality and refinement, when he says, ver. 1, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” He likewise speaks ironically of their pretensions to wisdom: iv. 10,
* We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ;" and x. 15, “I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say." That they were Gnostics who corrupted the gospel at Corinth, is evident from the fifteenth chapter of this epistle, where it appears, that they explained away the doctrine of the resurrection.
These teachers are distinguished by the same features at Ephesus not long after this, as we find, 1 Tim. vi. 3, 4: “ If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, know. ing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, &c. In the epistle to the Colossians, ji. 18, the apostle cautions the Christians against those who intruded into things which they had not seen, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds, which could be no other than the same description of men. It is also probable that they were the same persons that the apostle James alluded to, iii. 13:
66 Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge amongst you ; let him shew, out of a good conversation, his works with meekness of wisdom.' Let us now see what kind of knowledge these Gnostics had to be so proud of.
SECTION II. Tenets of the Gnostics.-Of the Origin of Evil, and the
Doctrine of Æons. All the Gnostics were persuaded, that evil had some other cause than the Supreme Being, but, perhaps, none of them before Manes held that it arose from a principle absolutely independent of him. Bardesanes maintained that evil was not made by God." Marcion, Cerdon and Manes, all held that the devil and demons were unbegotten.t Valentjuus held that matter was self-existent, and the cause of evil.*
Ατοπον ηγεμαι το λεγειν υμας το κακον υπο τε Θεο γεγενησθαι. Ο Θεος γαρ κακων avastiu. Origen Contra Marcionitas, pp. 70, 71. (P.)
+ Τον δε διαβολον και της υπ' εκεινω τελεντας δαιμονας, κατα της Μαρκίωνος, και Κερδονος, και τες Μανεντος μιθες, ex αγεννησες είναι φαμε». Theodoret, Ηer. Fab. L. v. C. vii.
p. 268. (P.)
But the great boast of the Gnostics was their profound and intricate doctrine concerning the derivation of various intelligences from the supreme inind, which they thought to be done by emanation or efflux. And as these were equally capable of producing other intelligences in the same manner, and some of them were male and others female, there was room for endless combinations of them ; so that the genealogy of these intelligences, or eons, as they were called, must have been a very intricate business.
Basilides held that the unbegotten produced nous, that logos was produced (or prolated) from nous, that phronesis (that is, thought) came from logos; from phronesis came wisdom and power, and from these, angels and archangels, and that these made the heavens.† Marcion was the first who said that there were three gods ; # meaning, perhaps, the three gods of Simon above-mentioned, viz. the Supreme Being, him that made the world, and him that gave the law. For I do not find that any of those who believed that there was another maker of the world besides the Supreme Being, thought that there was any other evil being, or devil, distinct from hiin; it being imagined that, upon either hypothesis, the origin of evil, which was the problem to be resolved by all these schemes, was sufficiently accounted for.
The Gnostics also held that these superior intelligences might occasionally come in the form of men, to instruct the world. Such they imagined Christ to have been. Simon Magus pretended to be one of these great powers; and, it is said, that Manes maintained that he was the Paraclete promised by Christ. S
The most complicated system of æons is that of Valentinus, of which we have a particular account in Irenæus, from which his editor, Grabe, has drawn out a distinct.table, which he has inserted in his edition of Irenæus.
Διοπερ εδοξεν μοι, συνυπαρχειν τε αυτω, ω τενομα υλη εξης τα οντα εδημιεργησε, τεχνη σοφη διακρινας, και διακοσμησας καλως, εξ ης και τα κακα ειναι δοκει. Origen, Contra Marcionitas, p. 88. (P.)
+ Eφησε γαρ τον αγεννητον νον πρωτον γεννησαι, εκ δε τε νοος προβληθηναι τον λογον, φρονησιν δε απο το λογο, απο δε της φρονησεως σοφιαν και δυναμιν, εκ δε τετων αγγελες και azaryenes. Totes de empreproas TOY spavox. Theodoret, Hær. Fab. L, i. Sect. iv. IV. p. 194. (P.)
1 Πρωτος γαρ Μαρκιων ο αθεωτατος, ο πρωτος τρεις θεος ειπων. Cyrilli. Jer. Cat. xvi. p. 226. (P.)
και ο δε δυσσεβης Μανης, εαυτον ειναι τον υπο Χρις 8 πεμφθεντα ταρακλητον ειπείν ετολμησεν. Ιbid. (Ρ.)
As it is no where said that Valentinus, or Basilides, or, indeed, any of the earlier Gnostics whose names have come down to us, were the original inventors of the system of æons, it may be concluded to be a part of the ancient oriental philosophy, and therefore to have existed long before the age of the apostles. It may be presumed, at least, that, in some form or other, it was held by the Gnostics of their time, and that these were the endless genealogies of which Paul makes such frequent mention, as idle and vain; and, indeed, nothing could be more so than the doctrine of the intricate relations that these æons bore to each other. The genealogies of particular Jewish families could never have furnished any cause of dispute or inquiry to the Gentile Christians at Ephesus, and other places, where we read of there being disturbances on account of these things. But the genealogies of the Gnostic æons made a considerable part of a general system of faith, very capable of deeply interesting those who gave much attention to them.
The passages in the New Testament, in which mention is made of these fabulous genealogies, are the following, 1 Tim. i. 3, 4: “ I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables, and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith.” Ch. iv. 6,7: “ If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrine, where unto thou hast attained ; but refuse profane and old-wives fables." Ch. vi. 20: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babbling, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” 2 Tim. ii. 16--18: « Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; but shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as does a canker, of whom is Hymenæus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying, that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some.'
As the persons here described were most evidently Gnostics, it is almost impossible not to conclude that the profane and vain bubblings, synonymous no doubt to the fables and endless genealogies, were some part of the Gnostic system; and in this there is nothing to which