Simon Magus

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Jack Palance as Simon Magus

It is interesting to note in it the first introduction of Paul on the scene, at least by name. Epiphanius c. It seems that there were some Simonians still in exisstence in his day, but he speaks of them as Epiphanius. Gitta, he says, had sunk from a town into a village. He makes no mention of the Great Declaration, but as in several places he makes Simon speak in the first person, the inference is that he is quoting from it, though perhaps not verbatim.

And again, " And on her account," he says, " did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ' the lost sheep ' " 58 A.

12. Simon Magus: History Versus Tradition

Epiphanius further charges Simon with having tried to wrest the words of St Paul about the armour of God Eph. He tells us also that he gave barbaric names to the " principalities and powers," and that he was the beginning of the Gnostics. The Law, according to him, was not of God, but of " the sinister power. The same was the case with the prophets, and it was death to believe in the Old Testament. Epiphanius clearly has before him the same written source as Hippolytus, which we know to have been the Great Declaration.

The story of Helen is thus definitely shown to belong to the second Simon, and not at all to the first. Dr Salmon pointed out that Simon was known as a writer to the author of the Clementine Recognitions ii. Two points must by this time have become clear: 1 that our knowledge of the original Simon Magus is confined to what we are told in the Acts, and 2 that from the earliest times he has been confused with another Simon. There were, of course, obvious reasons for the confusion.

Both Simons were Samaritans, both were magicians, and the second Simon claimed for himself what was claimed for the earlier Simon by the people, namely, that he was the great power of God. But, if the end in view with the Fathers had been the attainment of truth, instead of the branding of heretics, they could not possibly have accepted the Great Declaration, which contains, as we have seen, the story of Helen, with its references to the Gospels, as the work of Simon Magus.

Simon Magus Research Papers -

As regards the third point, the difficulty is to make clear to the ordinary mind why it should be treated at all. Among the sources of the Simon-legend we have omitted the pseudo-Clementine literature and a number of Apocryphal Martyria, Passiones and Actus. That view is based on these works of fiction, of uncertain date and authorship, which seem to have been worked over by several hands in the interest of diverse forms of belief. The romance of Clement of Rome exists at present in two forms, in Greek under the name of the Clementine Homilies and in a Latin translation by Rufinus, which is known as the Recognitions see Clementine Literature.

It is contended that the common source of these documents may be as early as the 1st century, and must have consisted in a polemic against Paul, emanating from the Jewish side of Christianity. Paul being thus identified with Simon, it was argued that Simon's visit to Rome had no other basis than Paul's presence there, and, further, that the tradition of Peter's residence in Rome rests on the assumed necessity of his resisting the arch-enemy of Judaism there as elsewhere.

Thus the idea of Peter at Rome really originated with the Ebionites, but it was afterwards taken up by the Catholic Church, and then Paul was associated with Peter in opposition -to Simon, who had originally been himself. Now it must be conceded at once that the Clementine Homilies are marked by hostility to Paul. Prefixed to them is a supposed letter from Peter to James, in which Peter is made to write as follows:—.

And this some people have attempted while I am still alive, by various interpretations to transform my words, unto the overthrow of the law; as though I also thought thus, but did not preach it openly: which be far from me! For to do so is to act against the law of God as spoken through Moses, the eternal duration of which is borne witness to by our Lord.

Now this He said that all might be fulfilled. But they, professing somehow to know my mind, attempt to expound the words they heard from me more wisely than I who spoke them, telling those who are instructed by them that this is my meaning, which I never thought of. But if they venture on such falsehoods while I am still alive, how much more when I am gone will those who come after me dare to do so!

It would be futile to maintain that that passage is not aimed at Paul. It does not identify Paul with Simon Magus, but it serves to reveal an animus which would render the identification easy. In the 17th Homily the identification is effected. Simon is there made to maintain that he has a better knowledge of the mind of Jesus than the disciples, who had seen and conversed with Him in person.

Simon Magus: History Versus Tradition

His reason for this strange assertion is that visions are superior to waking reality, as divine is superior to human xvii. Peter has much to say in reply to this, but the passage which mainly concerns us is as follows:—. And if you shall say, ' It is possible,' why did the Teacher remain and converse with waking men for a whole year? And how can we believe you even as to the fact that he appeared to you? And how can he have appeared to you seeing that your sentiments are opposed to his teaching?

But if you were seen and taught by him for a single hour, and so became an apostle, then preach his words, expound his meaning, love his apostles, fight not with me who had converse with him. For it is against a solid rock, the foundation-stone of the Church, that you have opposed yourself in opposing me. If you were not an adversary, you would not be slandering me and reviling the preaching that is given through me, in order that, as I heard myself in person from the Lord, when I speak I may not be believed, as though forsooth it were I who was condemned and I who was reprobate.

Here we have the advantage, rare in ecclesiastical history, of hearing the other side. The above is unmistakably the voice of those early Christians who hated Paul, or at all events an echo of that voice. But how late an echo it would be hazardous to decide. Schmiedel asks, " How should Paul ever come to be in the 2nd, or, as far as the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions are concerned, even in the 3rd or 4th century, the object of so fanatical a hatred? It is a psychological impossibility. There is not the slightest reason why there should not have been people in the 3rd or 4th century who would have been glad to lampoon Paul.

The introduction of Pauline features, however, into the representation of Simon Magus is merely incidental. The portrait as a whole is not in the least like Paul, and could not even have been intended for a caricature of him. There are other features in the portrait which remind us strongly of Marcion. For the first thing which we learn from the Homilies about Simon's opinions is that he denied that God was just ii. By " God " he meant the Creator.

But he undertakes to prove from Scripture that there is a higher God, who really possesses the perfections which are falsely ascribed to the lower iii. If we knew more, we might detect other historical characters concealed under the mask of Simon. Just as whatever Plato approves is put into the mouth of Socrates, so whatever the author of the Homilies condemns is put into the mouth of Simon Magus. But while thus seeking for hidden meanings, are we not in danger of missing what lies on the surface, namely, that the Simon Magus of the Clementine romance is a portrait of Simon of Gitta, after he had been confused with the Simon of Acts?

The mention of Helen in the Clementines stamps them as later than the Great Declaration, in which, to all appearance, her story originates. Indeed, the Clementine romance may most fitly be regarded as an answer to the Great Declaration, the answer of Jewish Gnosticism to the more Hellenized Gnosticism of Samaria.

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Let us look at the Homilies in this light, and see how far what they have to tell us about Simon accords with conclusions which we have already reached. Simon, we are informed, was a Samaritan, and a native of Gitta, a village situated at a distance of 6 axolvoi about 4 m. The name of his father was Antonius, that of his Horn es. He studied Greek literature in Alexandria, and, having in addition to this great power in magic, was so puffed up by his attainments that he wished to be considered a highest power, higher even than the God who created the world. Which name he used to indicate that he would stand for ever, and had no cause in him for bodily decay.

He did not believe that the God who created the world was the highest, nor that the dead would rise. He denied Jerusalem, and introduced Mount Gerizim in its stead. In place of the real Christ of the Christians he proclaimed himself; and the Law he allegorized in accordance with his own preconceptions.

He did indeed preach righteousness and judgment to come: but this was merely a bait for the unwary. So far we have had nothing that is inconsistent with Simon of Gitta, and little but what we are already familiar with in connexion either with him or his disciple Menander.

But in what follows the identification of this Simon with the Simon of Acts has led the novelist to give play to his fancy. It may be well to premise that in the view of the writer of the Homilies, " All things are double one against another. In this way every good thing has its evil forerunner.

According to the Homilies, the manner of his entering on his career of impiety was as follows. There was one John, a Hemerobaptist, who was the forerunner of our Lord Jesus in accordance with the law of parity; [11] and as the Lord had twelve Apostles, bearing the number of the twelve solar months, so had he thirty leading men, making up the monthly tale of the moon. One of these thirty leading men was a woman called Helen.

Now, as a woman is only half a man, in this way the number thirty was left incomplete, as it is in the moon's course. Of these thirty disciples of John the first and most renowned was Simon. But on the death of the master he was away in Egypt for the practice of magic, and one Dositheus, by spreading a false report of Simon's death, succeeded in installing himself as head of the sect.

Simon on coming back thought it better to dissemble, and, pretending friendship for Dositheus, accepted the second place. Soon, however, he began to hint to the thirty that Dositheus was not as well acquainted as he might be with the doctrines of the school.

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  • Dositheus was so enraged at these suggestions, which were calculated to undermine his position as the Standing One, that he struck at Simon with his staff. But the staff went clean through the body of Simon as though it had been vapour.


    Whereat Dositheus was so amazed that he said to him, " Art thou the Standing One? And am I to worship thee? Then he retired into the number of the twenty-nine leaders, and not long afterwards died. The above is doubtless pure fiction. But Dositheus the Samaritan is a real person. He is mentioned by Hegesippus as the founder of a sect Eus. For the narrative goes on to say that Simon took Helen about with him, saying that she had come down into the world from the highest heavens, and was mistress, inasmuch as she was the allmother being and wisdom.

    It was for her sake, he said, that the Greeks and Barbarians fought, deluding themselves with an image of truth, for the real being was then present with the First God. A description is given of how he made a familiar spirit for himself by conjuring the soul out of a boy and keeping his image in his bedroom, and many instances of his feats of magic are given.

    The Samaritans were evidently strong in magic. In all the accounts given us of Simon of Gitta magic is a marked feature, as also in the case of his pupil Menander. We cannot, therefore, agree with Dr Salmon's remark that the only reason why Justin attributed magic to Simon of Gitta was because of his identifying him with Simon Magus.