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power to become the sons of God, even to them that be- A.D. 97. lieve on his name:
Ephesus. ing his former union with the man Jesus, will reign in Palestine, a thousand right, or pri. years, during which period his disciples will enjoy the most exquisite sensual vüege. delights.
Bearing these dogmas in mind, we shall find that St. John's Gospel is divided into three parts, viz.
Part I. contains doctrines laid down in opposition to those of Cerinthus, (John i. 1-18.)
Part II. delivers the proofs of those doctrines in an historical manaer, (i. 19. XX. 29.)
Part III. is a conclusion, or appendix, giving an account of the person of the writer, and of his design in writing his Gospel, (xx. 30, 31. xxi.)
Besides refuting the errors of Cerinthus and his followers, Michaelis is of opinion that St. John had also in view to confute the erroneous tenets of the Sabeans, a sect which acknowledged John the Baptist for its founder. He has adduced a variety of terms and phrases, which he has applied to the explanation of the first fourteen verses of St. John's Gospel, in such a manner as renders his conjecture not improbable. Perhaps we shall not greatly err if we conclude with Rosenmüller, that St. John had both these classes of heretics in view, and that he wrote to confute their respective tenets (t).
The Docétæ (u) taught that Christ was a man in appearance only, and not in reality. In opposition to these, St. John says in his Epistles, which were published before his Gospel, “ Every spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God;" and, in his Gospel, “the Word was made flesh." From this sect originated the Ebionites, whom Bishop Horsley has proved to have a great affinity to the Simonians : observing, with equal force and truth, “that as the ancient Ebionæan doctrine påsses by a single step, the dismission of the superangelic Being, into the modern Unitarianism, that too is traced to its source in the chimæras of the Samaritan sorcerer. And thus both the Ebionites of antiquity, and the Unitarians of our own time, are the offspring of the ancient Gnosticism" (x).
The general prevalence of these erroneous notions concerning the Logos, and the frequent mistakes of the primitive converts, who united their own philosophical opinions with the inferences deducible from Revelation, produced an ample stock of other heresies; many of which did not obtain celebrity till the Church became so extended, that the greater number of any particular sect attracted public attention: and frequently the heresiarchs, or leaders themselves, were not generally distinguished till their opinions had been widely disseminated. Thus we often find the several errors they adopted had been long in existence before even the names of their principal supporters were known. Those, for instance, embraced by Cerinthus, Saturninus, the Docetæ, and Basilides, may
(t) Mosheim's Commentaries, vol. i. p. 337–347. Dr. Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. ix. p. 325-327. 4to. vol. iv. p. 567-569. Michaelis, vol. iii. p. 285 -302. Apud Horne’s Critical Introduction, vol. ii. 1st edit. p. 466-468. (u) Lardner's Works, 4to. vol. v. p. 375. (2) Tracts in controversy with Dr. Priestley, 3rd Supplemental Disquisition, p. 495.
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the Aesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Written at Ephesus.
be traced to the perversions of Jewish tradition, the reveries of Platonism, and the fancies of the half converted and speculative (y).
The Gnostics (2), among many errors on the origin and continuance of evil, anticipated with eagerness the arrival of an eminent personage, who should deliver the souls of men from the bondage of the flesh, and rescue them from the evil Genii who governed the world. Some of these, being struck with the miracles of Christ, conceived Him to be the Being they expected. Many of his doctrines, therefore, they willingly embraced ; while they refused to believe in the reality of his apparently material body. To these, or to such as these, that passage might have been addressed, “ the Word was made flesh.” He, who descended from an invisible state to deliver man from evil, was made flesh. Whether the Evangelist alluded to the Gnostics or Docetæ, we cannot positively decide.
Saturninus (a) was another philosophizing heretic, who believed in the existence of an independent, eternal, evil principle. He supposed the world to have been created by seven angels, which were the same as the people of the East believed to reside in the seven planets. One of these angels he supposed to be the ruler of the Hebrew nation, the Being that brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and whom the Jews, not having knowledge of the Supreme Being, ignorantly worshipped as God. His other reveries may be found in Mosheim.
Upon his conversion to Christianity, (if we may so denominate that monstrous combination of his own absurd, and, falsely called, philosophical opinions with Christianity,) he endeavoured to reconcile bis former efforts to account for that baffling mystery, the origin and continuance of evil, with his new creed. In consequence, he supposed that there was a rebellion of these seven angels and their dependents against the Supreme Being, and that, on their involving mankind in their revolt, the Son of God descended from above, and took upon him a body, not indeed composed of depraved matter, but merely the shadow or resemblance of a body. He came to overthrow all evil, its authors, and agents, and to restore man, in whom existed a divine soul, to the Supreme Being. His notions on this point, therefore, might likewise have been alluded to by St. John in the Preface to his Gospel : He who came from God, the true Logos, was made flesh, and they beheld his glory.
Carpocrates, an Alexandrian, was also a contemporary of St. John. Baronius speaks of his followers as distinguished for their opinions in the year 120Basnage 122— Tillemont 130—Dodwell 140. He taught that the world was made by angels, much inferior to the eternal Father; that Jesus was the real son of Joseph and Mary; and he consequently denied his divinity, though he considered Christ as superhuman. In opposition to Carpocrates, St. John taught that the world was created, not by angels, but, by the Logos, who was revealed to man, as the Christ, the divine personage promised by the prophets, and expected by the world.
(y) Vidal's Translation of Mosheim, cent. i. $ 60.
(z) Mosheim, vol. i.
(a) Mosheim, vol. ii. p. 211.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, A. D. 97.
Ephesus. I omit much more, that might be made applicable to this argument, concern- & Matt. i. 16. ing the Elcesaites, Valentinians, and other heretics, enumerated by Irenæus, and Epiphanius, and discussed by Mosheim and Lardner, as well as the arguments of Michaelis respecting the Sabians, which is too long to extract, and too condensed to be further abridged.—Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. part 2. p. 288, &c.
Neither is it necessary to enter here upon the question, so warmly discussed by Bishop Horsley and Dr. Priestley, concerning the ancient Ebionites.
The sentiments of Basilides of Alexandria (b), may, in the same way, be traced to the perversion of the doctrine of the Logos. He is supposed to have forsaken the communion of the Church about the time of Trajan, or Adrian. Basnage speaks of him at the year 121. Mill says that he flourished 123—Cave 112. Clement of Alexandria tells us, that Basilides was accustomed to boast that he had been taught by a disciple of St. Peter.
Irenæus observes, that Basilides, in order to appear to have a more sublime and probable scheme than others, outstepped them all; and taught, that from the self-existent Father was born Nous, or Understanding; of Nous, Logos ; of Logos, Phronesis; of Phronesis, Sophia and Dunamis; of Dunamis and Sophia, powers, principalities, and angels, that is, the superior angels, by whom the first heavens were made; from these proceeded other angels, which made all things. The first of these angels he represents as the God of the Jews, who, desiring to bring other nations under the dominion of his people, was so effectually opposed, that the Jewish nation was in danger of being totally ruined, when the self-existent and ineffable Father sent his first begotten Nous, who is also said to be Christ, for the salvation of those who believed in him. He appeared in the world as a man- taught-worked miracles—but did not sufferfor Simon of Cyrene was transformed into his likeness, and was crucified: after which Christ ascended into heaven. Basilides taught also, that men ought not to confess him who was in reality crucified, but him who came in the form of man, and was supposed to be crucified. Any reader of St. John's Gospel, who acknowledges the authority of that Evangelist, must be convinced of the errors of Basilides, as this inspired writer plainly declares, that the Logos itself was made flesh, had become a teacher of the Jews, had dwelt among them, and, as a man among men, was crucified.
Basilides taught, says Vitringa (c), according to the testimony of Irenæus, (Adv. Hæres. c. 23.) and Epiphanius (Hær. 24. s. 1.) that Nous was first born from the self-existent Father-then succeeded the Logos—from the Logos, Phronesis—from Phronesis, Sophia and Dunamis-from Dunamis and Sophia, or from Power and Wisdom, proceeded Virtues, Princes, and Archangels who made the heavens.
(6) Lardner, vol. iv. p. 534.
(c) Vitringæ Observationes Sacræ, vol. ii.
A.D.97. (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Written at Ephesus.
Vitringa gives the following scheme of the opinions or theory of Basilides.
ΔΥΝΑΜΙΣ και ΣΟΦΙΑ
ΑΡΧΑΙ, ΕΞΟΥΣΙΑΙ, ΑΓΓΕΛΟΙ,
ο 'Ανώτερος και πρώτος ΟΥΡΑΝΟΣ,
Summum et primum COELUM:
Και οι εξής.
ΣΙΓΗ. PROFUNDUM, SILENTIUM. sive
sive Προαρχή, "Έννοια,
6 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This A.D. 97.
Written at Vitringa concludes his dissertation (d) by summing up the precise objects for Ephesus. which each verse of St. John's Introduction might have been more especially written, in allusion to the heresies prevalent at the time of the writing of his Gospel. They will be found, he concludes, to overthrow all the subtilties of each of the Gnostic heresies.
I. There was one true God, without cause, or origin, or birth, or procession. In opposition to the doctrine that He sprung from Σιγή and Βύθος. .
II. The Son existed with the Father in the essence of the same real divinity, the second úrósaous of Deity, which, in the language of the Scriptures, is justly called ó lóyos. Ratio, Sapientia, vel oraculum Divinitatis.
III. That this Logos was the first offspring of procession from the Father, "primam processionem patris," truly and personally existing; the Logos évu ósaTov, the only begotten Son of the Father, who was in the beginning with the Father: in opposition to the opinion of the Gnostics, who placed between the Father and the Logos, Nôs and ’AXñdeia, and called the former, both only begotten, and first begotten.
IV. That the Logos was very God, and partaker of the perfection of the divine nature : in opposition to the sentiments of the Platonists, who represent the Logos as inferior to the most high God, and produced by him at his pleasure.
V. That all things were made by the Logos, and that he is the Anjulepyös of all things. Here St. John condemns the notion which distinguishes between the Demiurgus, the maker of this world, and the Logos; and which deniés also that the world was made by the Logos.
VI. Without the Logos nothing was made that was made : that is, the Patriarchal and Levitical dispensations, which were enacted before the incarnation, were appointed by the Logos, the Son and Ambassador of God. This clause was written to confute that error of the Gnostics, which distinguishes between God, or the Angel, the author of the old covenant, who came from God the Father of Christ, and from his son Christ, by whom the new or Christian dispensation was instituted.
VII. The Logos was the Life of Man, Against the subtilty which, in the Gnostic system of divine emanations, distinguished between Zwi), Life, and the Logos, and made the latter inferior to the former.
VIII. That the Logos was always in the world, and from the very beginning of all things, and from the fall of man had frequently manifested himself in the Church which he had in the world ; that he was the true light; that as such he had illumined his own, the members of that Church, although by the greater part of the world, and by the carnal minded Jews, he was not acknowledged. The Evangelist here wrote against those who would assert, that the Son of God before his incarnation had not manifested himslf, nor was known, to the world.
IX. That the Logos (which had thus manifested itself occasionally as the Angel Jehovah) became flesh: that is, assumed from his mother a human nature similar to our own, sin only excepted. Refuting those who deny that Christ, the Logos, put on real flesh; or who separate Christ from Jesus the person of the Man, the Mediator. (d) De occasione et scopo Prologi Evang. Joannis Apost.
See page 28.