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ciple of the Gnostics concerning the person of Christ, as well as their general doctrine that Jesus was not the Christ, more plainly, or more earnestly, than John ; and yet we find that Valentinus interpreted the Introduction to John's gospel in his favour,* making apxon to be a principle different from the Father and the same with the monogenes; and the logos different from the apxn.t
That the gospels, however, and especially that of John, are unfavourable to this principle of the Gnostics, is very evident; and Chrysostom represents it as “ the first and principal reason why Christ is exhibited with all the weaknesses and infirmities of human nature, to prove that he had real flesh, and that he meant that all persons who then lived, and all who should come after him, should believe that he was no apparition, or mere visible appearance, but the truth of nature,” ie. a real man.
ist being so frequently called a man in the gospel history, is, on this account, very properly urged by the christian fathers, as an argument against this doctrine of the Gnostics. Thus, in answer to Valentinus, who held that Christ had a kind of spiritual flesh, Tertullian observes, that then he would not have been called a man, as he repeatedly is, or have been so denominated by himself; as when he said, “ye seek to kill me, a man, that has told you the truth.” This argument of Tertullian makes equally against any doctrine that supposes Christ to have been, in any respect, different from, or more than, another man, and therefore would have carried him farther than he intended. Basil says, “ there was no occasion for his being born of a virgin, if the flesh which was to contain God was not to be of the mass of Adam.”ll
But the most serious objection to this part of the Gnostic system is, that if Christ had not proper flesh and blood, and therefore was not properly a man, he had not the feelings of a man, and therefore he is no proper example to us, especially in his sufferings and death, with respect to which his example is more particularly proposed to us; and in time of persecution this consideration was of the greatest consequence. As Origen says, “ If Christ suffered nothing in his death, how can his example be of any use to those who suffer for righteousness' sake, if he only seemed to suffer, but really felt nothing ?"*
Ειι τε Ιωαννην τον μαθηγην τε Κυρια διδασκοσι την πρωην. Ογδοαδα μεμηνυκεναι αυλαις λεξεσι, λεγονίες ελως Ιωαννης, ο μαθη7ης το Κυρια, βελομεν ειπειν την των ολων γενεσιν, καθ' ην τα πιανία προεβαλεν ο πατηρ αρχην τινα προτίθεται το πρωτον γεννηθεν υπο τε Θεε, ον δε και υιον μονογενη και θεον, κεκληκεν, εν φτα παντα ο παθηρ προεβαλε σπερμαίικως, υπο δε τele φησι τον λογον προβεβλησθαι, &c. Ireneus, L. i. C. i. p. 39. (P.)
+ Ibid. See also Epiphanius, Hær. xxxi. I. p. 196. (P.) 1 Πρωτη μεν εν αίλια και μεγιση, το σαρκα αυτον περιβεβλησθαι, και βελεσθαι και της το7ε, και τες μεία ταυλα πιςωσασθαι πανlας, δλι σκια τις εςιν, εδε σχημα απλως, το ορωμενον, αλλ' αληθεια φυσεως. Ηom. Xxxii. Ι. p. 408. (Ρ.)
$" Licuit et Valentino ex privilegio hæretico, carnem Christi spiritalem comminisci. Quidvis eam fingere potuit, quisquis humanam credere noluit; quando (quod ad omnes dictum est) si humana non fuit, nec ex homine; non video ex qua substantia ipse se Christus hominem et filium hominis pronunciarit. Nunc autem vultis occidere hominem, veritatem ad vos loquutum.'" De Carne Christi, Sect. xiv. Opera, p. 319. (P.)
| Τις δε χρεια της αγιας παρθενε, ει μη εκ τε φυραμαλος τα Αδαμ εμελεν η θεοφορος cao trochaubaycan' Ep. lxv. Opera, III. p. 104. (P.)
Sometimes, therefore, the whole scheme of Christianity is spoken .of as defeated by this doctrine of the Gnostics, so that they are ranked with unbelievers, merely in consequence of not believing the reality of Christ's sufferings and death. Thus, in the epistles ascribed to Ignatius, he says, “ If, as some atheists, that is, unbelievers, say, he suffered in appearance only, it being only an appearance, why am I bound, why do I glory in fighting with beasts? I die in vain." + Alluding to the same doctrine, he likewise says, “ I endure all things, he who is a perfect man strengthening me;"# meaning, probably, that he strengthened himself by the example of Christ. Accordingly, we find that, in general, the Gnostics avoided persecution. But before I consider their maxims and conduct in this respect, I shall cite what we find in the New Testament against the opinion of Christ's not having a real human body.
In whatever light the apostles saw this doctrine, it is evi. dent, that they were much alarmed at it. This is particularly clear with respect to the apostle John; but Paul seems to allude to this tenet of the Gnostics in 2 Cor. xi. 4, where he speaks of the false teachers as preaching another Jesus than him that he had preached. For in this sense the same phrase is used by some of the early christian writers, and indeed it does not appear that he could have any other meaning; as in no other sense did any persons ever preach what could be called another Jesus. But a Jesus not consisting of flesh and blood, or a Jesus whose soul had been a super-angelic spirit, was indeed a very different Jesus from
Αλλα και ει, ως φησιν ο Κελσο» μητ' αλγεινον τι μητ' αναιρον τω Ιησε καλα τον καιρον τε7ον εγιγνείο, πως αν δι μεία ταύτα παραδειγματι το υπομενειν τα δι ευσεβειαν επιπονα εδυνανθο χρησασθαι Ιησε, μη παθογλε μεν τα ανθρωπινα, μονον δε δοξανλι πεπονJevas; Ad. Cels. L. ii. p. 77. (P.)
1 Ει δε ωσπερ τινες αθεοι ονλες, τελεσιν απιςοι, λεγεσιν το δοκειν σεπονθεναι αυλον, αυλοι ονες το δοκειν εγω τι δεδεμαι τι δε ευχομαι θηριομαχησαι; δωρεαν 8ν αποθνησκω. Αd. Trall. Sect. x. p. 24. (P.) Wake, Gen. Ep. p. 90.
1 Πανία υπομενω, αυ7e με ενδυναμανλο, το τελειο ανθρωπο γενομενο. Αd. Smyrn. Sect. iv. p. 36. (P.). “ I undergo all, to suffer together with him; he who was made a perfect man strengthening me.' Wake, pp. 115, 116.
him that Paul had preached, viz. a man like himself, and only distinguished by the peculiar presence and power of God accompanying him.* Also, what could Peter mean by those who ' shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them,” 2 Pet. ii. 1, but the same that Paul meant by preaching another Jesus, which implied a denial of the true Jesus? If these persons had been apostates from Christianity, they would not have been classed with heretics, or have been mentioned as intermixed with Christians.
There can be no doubt, however, with respect to the meaning of the apostle John, as the bare recital of the passages from his writings will evince. The doctrine of the Gnostics concerning the person of Christ was so offensive to him, and it was so much upon his mind, that he begins his first expistle, seemingly in a very abrupt manner, with the strongest allusions to it. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon," i.e. have closely inspected and examined, “and our hands have handled, of the word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you,” &c.
What could he mean by speaking of Jesus under the figure of life, as a person who had been heard, seen, and even handled, so that they had the evidence of all their senses, but that he was really a man, had a real human body, and not merely the appearance of one; which, it is universally allowed, was an opinion that was entertained by many persons in his time? I shall proceed to give other extracts from the writings of John, in which he alludes to this doctrine of the Gnostics, and strongly expresses his disapprobation of it.
1 John iv. 1-3: “ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God. Because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (or, as it might be rendered, that Jesus is Christ, come in the flesh) “ is of God. And spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. And this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now
See, at the close of this Section, (p. 100,) Remarks on the former part of this paragraph, by a friend of the author.
already is it in the world.”. Coming in the flesh, can have no other meaning than having real flesh, which many of the Gnostics said Christ had not; and coming, cannot here imply any pre-existent state, for then the flesh in which he came must have pre-existed.
2 John 7: “ For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an Antichrist." The importance of holding the true doctrine concerning the person of Christ, in opposition to these deceivers, he urges with great emphasis in the following verses : “ Look to yourselves, that
lose not those things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, nor bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed, is a partaker of bis evil deeds."
Though I do not propose, in this work, to enter into a critical examination of the meaning of particular texts of Scripture, yet, as it has of late been strongly urged that the phrase coming in the flesh, used by John in these passages, has a reference to a pre-existent state of Christ, I shall en. deavour to shew that such a construction is ill-founded.
It has been said that, by this phrase, “ the opinion that Christ was truly a man is very awkwardly and unnaturally expressed. The turn of the expression seems to lead to the notion of a being who had his choice of different ways of coming, and therefore is levelled against the Ebionites as well as the Gnostics.”
On the contrary, I think the expression sufficiently similar to other Jewish phrases, of which we find various examples in the Scriptures, and that it may be explained by the phrase “ partakers of flesh and blood, Heb. ii. 14. If the word coming, must necessarily mean coming from heaven, and imply a pre-existent state, John the Baptist must have preexisted: for our Saviour uses that expression concerning him, as well as concerning himself, Matt. xi. 18, 19: “ John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say he hath a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking," &c. It may also be asserted, with more certainty still, concerning all the apostles, that they pre-existed; for our Saviour, in his prayer for them, respecting their mission, makes use of the term world, which is not found in 1 John iv. 2, where he
says, John xvii. 18, “ As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”
The phrase coming in the flesh, in my opinion, refers very naturally to the doctrine of the Gnostics, who supposed Christ to be a super-angelic spirit, which descended from heaven, and entered into the body of Jesus. The phrase he that shall come, or who was to come (his coming having been foretold by the prophets), appears to have been familiar to the Jews, to denote the Messiah : but with them it certainly did not imply any coming down from heaven, because they had no such idea concerning their Messiah.
Besides, there is no trace in the epistle of John of any more than one heresy. He neither expressly says, nor hints, that there were two; and part of his description of this one heresy evidently points to that of the Gnostics; and this heresy was as different as possible from that of the Ebionites. The early writers who speak of them mention them as two opposite heresies, existing in the same early period; so that it is very improbable, à priori, that “ the same expression should be equally levelled at them both.” Gnosticism, therefore, being certainly condemned by the apostle, and not the doctrine of the Ebionites, I conclude, that in the latter, which is allowed to have existed in his time, he saw nothing worthy of censure, but that it was the doctrine which he himself had taught. If this apostle had thought otherwise, why did he not censure it unequivocally, as those who are called orthodox now do, and with as much severity ?
Tertullian maintained, that, by those who denied that Christ was come in the flesh, John meant the Gnostics, though he says that by those who denied that Jesus was the Son of God, he meant the Ebionites.* He had no idea that the former expression only could include both. But as the Gnostics maintained that Jesus and the Christ were different persons, the latter having come from heaven, and being the Son of God, whereas Jesus was the son of man only, the expression of Jesus being the Son of God is as directly opposed to the doctrine of the Gnostics as that of Christ coming in the flesh.
As a proof has been required that the phrase coming in the flesh is descriptive of the Gnostic heresy only, and not of the Unitarian doctrine also, I would observe, that it is so used in the epistle of Polycarp, the disciple of John. In a passage in this epistle, in which the writer evidently alludes
* De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, Sect. xxxiii. p. 214. (P.)