« PreviousContinue »
bishop of Brescia in Italy, a writer of the lowest order. It is full of almost pitiable weaknesses.
in the Dialogue de rectâ Fide, has been little attended to. Mosheim (Comment. de Rebus Christian. p. 27. not.) refers to the Dialogue as a work of Origen, and to the passage in question, as a genuine fragment of Valentinus; but takes no notice of either in his long account of the Valentinian system. Beausobre, also, views the passage as genuine, and quotes it to prove that Valentinus regarded matter as coeternal with the Deity; and that the ancient fathers had misrepresented his doctrine concerning its origin. (Hist. du Manichéisme, Tom. II. pp. 159, 160.) In his earnestness to establish these points, he does not suffer his attention to rest on the fact, that the supposed fragment of Valentinus is irreconcilable with all our best established knowledge respecting the Gnostics. No Gnostic sect regarded the Supreme Being as the immediate architect of the material universe. As regards the coëternity of primitive matter with the Deity, it was, in all probability, a doctrine held by Valentinus and by all the other Gnostics, nor do I conceive that the early fathers assert any thing contradictory to the supposition.
Notwithstanding the length of this note, I would here make a few remarks on the work just quoted, the Histoire du Manichée et du Manichéisme, by Beausobre. It is one to which I have been much indebted, and with which I must often disagree, where I shall not think it necessary to direct attention to the fact. It is, in many respects, a model of the manner in which ecclesiastical history should be critically studied; using the word critically in contradistinction to regarding the study under a moral, religious, or philosophical aspect. Though the Manichæans alone are its professed subject, it is one of the most important works in modern times, perhaps the most important, on the subject of the Gnostics also. It is free from bigotry. The author has no prejudices against the heretics, and none in favor of their catholic opponents. His prejudices are of an opposite kind. His learning is various and abundant; his style lively and
His reputation, for some reputation he had, serves to show how low the human intellect had sunk in his age within the limits of the Western Empire.*
clear; and in the examination of details he is quicksighted, acute, and ingenious, often detecting error and falsehood. But his vivacity and originality sometimes betray him into merely specious hypotheses and expositions, in support of which he brings together far-sought and unsound authorities, and over-subtile arguments. His great deficiency, however, as it seems to me, consists in the want of a distinct and correct conception of the general character either of the Manichæans or of the Gnostics. Thus, he has no sufficient standard to guide him in judging of particulars concerning them. There is also in his work a want of lucid arrangement; the parts which precede serve but little to prepare the way for those that follow. The space assigned to different topics is disproportioned to their relative importance; and there is too much matter that is merely incidental to the main subjects of discussion. Thus we may close the book with a feeling, that it contains a great amount of information, that it suggests and facilitates many inquiries; but, at the same time, with no very well-defined notions of the ancient heretics of whom it treats. Yet it would be ungrateful in one, who has been engaged in the same investigations, not to express his obligations to Beausobre, as by far the most instructive and agreeable of his companions, distinguished for his good sense and acuteness, his fertility of reference and readiness of combination, and for an alacrity of mind and an abundance of resources, which are never exhausted by the difficulties of his subject.
It may not be uninstructive to notice a few passages of Philaster; but I have no copy of his work at hand, except that published by De la Bigne, in the fifth volume of his "Bibliotheca Patrum" (Paris, 1575), to the columns of which I shall refer.
He says that the Samaritans derived their name from a king,
His work is, however, quoted as a main source of information on the subject by Au
Samarus; or, as others said, from a son of Canaan of that name (col. 7.); and that the Pagans and Greeks were so called after two kings, Paganus and Græcus, sons of Deucalion; for which he appeals to the authority of Hesiod (coll. 37, 38). He makes it a heresy to maintain that the number of years since the creation is uncertain (col. 38); but he was himself so ignorant of chronology as to affirm, that at the time when he wrote more than four hundred years had elapsed since the birth of Christ (col. 34), though he died before the conclusion of the fourth century. He reckons twenty-eight heresies of the Jews before Christ; and among them, worshippers of frogs, that is, the frogs which were one of the plagues of Egypt (col. 8);-worshippers of mice; the mice which devastated the land of Ashdod (1 Sam. v. 6, vi. 1, according to the Septuagint, and vi. 5), when the ark was taken by the Philistines (col. 8);-and worshippers of wells (Puteorite, qui puteos colunt), which heresy is founded by him on the passage of Jeremiah (ii. 13), "Me have they forsaken, the fountain of living water, and they have hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." (col. 9.) Among these Jewish heretics he likewise reckons the Herodians, who, he says, expect Herod, the king of the Jews, who was smitten by an angel (Acts xii. 23), as the Messiah (col. 12). In this story one may suspect that he confounded the Herod of whom he speaks with his grandfather Herod the Great; for Epiphanius (Hæres. XX. Opp. I. 45), with no more truth, but with a little less absurdity, than Philaster, pretends that the Herodians believed that Herod the Great was the Messiah.
It is to be observed, that in enumerating his heresies, of which he reckons one hundred and twenty since Christ, he uses the word "heresy" in two senses, in the one to denote an heretical sect, and in the other an heretical opinion. It is a heresy, according to him, to hold that earthquakes are produced by natural causes and not by the wrath of God (col. 32); - to maintain
gustine, who has left a name indelibly impressed on the history of the world; and who, in the first half of the fifth century, likewise wrote on heretics. But his " Catalogue of
that Christians were posterior to Jews and Pagans, there having been Christians in faith and life, who were believers in the Trinity, from Adam to Moses (col. 36); to deny that all the Psalms were written by David (col. 46); — and not to interpret allegorically the account of Solomon's wives and concubines (col. 57).
"It is a heresy," he says, "to believe that the stars are fixed in heaven, and do not every evening suddenly come forth from hidden treasure-houses disposed by God, at his command " (col. 48). One might here question whether he had not mistaken the meaning of Philaster, did he not proceed to enlarge upon his conception, so as to leave no doubt concerning it.
Others of his heresies are curious, as giving a view of the opinions and practices of his time; but on these it would be foreign from our purpose to dwell. I will only mention, that one is of those who used water instead of wine in the sacrament (col. 23); — another of those who ascribed the Epistle to the Hebrews to any author but St. Paul (col. 27); — and a third of the followers of a certain Rhetorius (col. 28), who, he says, praised all heresies, and said that they were all true ("qui omnes laudabat hæreses, dicens omnes bene sentire, et neminem errare ex eis "). This, Augustine, who quotes the account in his own "Catalogue of Heresies," says is so absurd, that it appears to him incredible. A like doctrine, however, has found favor in other times than those of Philaster. Even in our own age it has been taught, that in all systems of philosophy or religion, there is a foundation or nucleus of essential truth. Thus for example, Baur, in his work which I have formerly mentioned, says, "All religions agree in the Idea of religion. To that they have the relation of the appearance and form to the substance, of the concrete to the abstract, of the derived to the immediate." (p. 21.)
Heresies," * as it is entitled, is merely a synopsis, apparently a hasty production, composed without any critical inquiry. It is of no authority, containing little which is not taken from Epiphanius or Philaster; and it even appears that he was ignorant of the existence of the whole work of Epiphanius. His description of the book which he used is applicable only to an epitome of it.† He probably consulted some manuscript which contained in a Latin translation (for he was ignorant of Greek) only the synopses that Epiphanius has prefixed to the different divisions of his work. It is evident that he did not write from any personal knowledge of Gnostics as existing in his time.
In the fifth century likewise, Theodoret, who holds a high rank among the later Greek fathers, composed a treatise on the heretics in five books; the first three of which relate to those whom he calls ancient heretics, the Gnostics and the Manichæans; the Ebionites, and those
* It is contained in the sixth volume of the Basil edition of his works, published in 1569.
† Ibid. col. 10.
Hæreticarum Fabularum Compendium, in the fourth volume of Sirmond's edition of his works.