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says, that he visited Rome, and there displayed his pretended magical powers.* Irenæus relates, that he was honored by many as a god; and that images of him and Helena, the former fashioned as Jupiter, and the latter as Minerva, were worshipped by his followers; † and Justin says, that there was, at Rome, a statue dedicated to him as a god.‡
The history of Simon is an object of interest from the mention of him by St. Luke, and from his early connexion with Christianity. The accounts of him, however, afford no means of
"Qui se magnam dicebat esse Dei virtutem; hæc quoque inter cætera in suis voluminibus scripta dimittens; Ego sum sermo Dei; ego sum speciosus, ego Paracletus, ego omnipotens, ego omnia Dei.'" Except as a mystical expression of Pantheism, the passage is somewhat too blasphemous for one readily to believe it to have been written by any man in his senses. In regard to books ascribed to Simon, if such really existed in Jerome's time, he is far too late an authority to afford any proof of their genuineness; and such books are mentioned by no preceding writer. Beausobre (Histoire du Manichéisme, I. 259, 260.) maintains, what I doubt not is true, that Jerome did not take his pretended quotation from any work of Simon, nor any work which had been commonly believed to be Simon's; though in doing so, he has destroyed the only evidence for the opinion, which he himself expresses, that Simon wrote books explanatory of his doctrine. (Ibid., p. 259.)
* I. Apolog. p. 39.
† Cont. Hæres. Lib. I. c. 23. §§ 1, 4. pp. 99, 100. See Additional Note, A.
determining, with any particularity and assurance, what opinions he put forward. But, whatever he taught or affirmed, he did not rest his doctrine on the authority of Christ. Him he emulated; he was not his disciple. The only ground on which his followers might be confounded with Christians, is indicated in an account of Irenæus, that Simon "taught, that it was he himself who had appeared among the Jews as the Son, had descended as the Father in Samaria, and had visited other nations as the Holy Spirit."* Conformably to what has been before remarked, that the later opinions of a sect were often ascribed to its founder, I suppose this, or something like this, to have been said, not by Simon, but by some of his. followers. Representing him as the Great Power of God, manifested in all divine communications to men, and reckoning Christianity among these communications, they thus brought themselves into some relation to it. But I imagine them to have been held together as a sect, rather by the admiration of his supposed powers, by the worship of him as a divinity, or the Divinity, and by the study and practice of magical arts, than by the profession of any
*Cont. Hæres. Lib. I. c. 23. § 1. p. 99.
system of doctrines. However numerous they may at one time have been, they soon dwindled away. Origen charges Celsus with error for speaking of the Simonians as a Christian That writer" was not aware," he says, "that they are far from acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God; but affirm that Simon was the Power of God. They relate various marvels of their master, who thought, that, if he could acquire such powers as he believed Jesus to possess, he should have as great influence over men.' In another place, he expresses the opinion, that in his time there were not more than thirty Simonians in the world; he says, that a very few were living in Palestine (the successors, we may presume, of his first Samaritan followers), but that generally, wherever the name of Simon was known, it was through the mention of him in the Acts of the Apostles. Elsewhere, he speaks of the sect as having ceased to exist. "There are no Simonians," he says, "remaining in the world; though Simon, in order to draw after him a greater number of followers, relieved them from the danger of death, to which Christians were
* Cont. Cels. Lib. V. n. 62. Opp. I. 625, 626.
+ Ibid. Lib. I. n. 57. pp. 372, 373.
taught to expose themselves, by teaching them to regard the worship of idols, as a matter of indifference." They worshipped, as we have seen, images of Simon and Helena. Irenæus says, what is altogether probable, that they were men of loose lives, devoted to the study of magic; and their magical discipline was connected, according to Tertullian,‡ with paying religious service to angels,
Such, I believe, is the amount of all that can be known, or probably conjectured, concerning Simon and his followers. But, beside the historical notices of him, he is introduced as a principal personage into a work formerly mentioned as an ancient work of fiction, called the Clementine Homilies. This work throws some light on the history and character of Gnosticism; and I have given some account of it, in a note at the end of this volume. But no one would pretend, that it is of any authority as regards the history of Simon; and I have there endeavoured to show, that it is of no authority as regards any doctrines he may have held.
*Cont. Cels. Lib. VI. n. 11. p. 638. Cont. Hæres. Lib. I. c. 23. § 4. p. 100.
De Præscript. Hæret. c. 33. p. 214. § Vol. I. p. ccxliv.
See Additional Note, B.
OUR information being so imperfect and uncertain concerning Simon, the most noted among all, either antichristians, or heretics, of the first century, we may be prepared for the obscurity and doubt, which cloud over the history of other individuals, and of supposed heretical sects, during the same period. Menander, another Samaritan, is said to have been the successor of Simon, and to have claimed, like him, to be one of the Powers of God, manifested for the salvation of men; * and some stories remain of an individual, called Dositheus, who, Origen says, pretended to be the Jewish Messiah. We may conclude, perhaps, from these ( accounts, that, about the time of Simon, there were other less noted impostors of a similar character. These, together with him, may be considered as antichristian, not heretical.
AMONG the reputed heretics of the first century, using the word heretic in its modern
Irenæus, Lib. I. c. 23. § 5. p. 100.
† Cont. Cels. Lib. I. n. 57. Opp. I. 372. Dositheus is elsewhere spoken of by Origen, in several places; but is not mentioned by Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, or Tertullian. It may here be observed, that the short account of heresies published in the editions of Tertullian, at the end of his book, De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, is not the work of that father. In this account, Dositheus is spoken of.