The following are the contents of the tenth book of the Refutation of all Heresies:—
An Epitome of all Philosophers.
An Epitome of all Heresies.
And, in conclusion to all, what the Doctrine of the Truth is.
After we have, not with violence, burst through the labyrinth of heresies, but have unravelled (their intricacies) through a refutation merely, or, in other words, by the force of truth, we approach the demonstration of the truth itself. For then the artificial sophisms of error will be exposed in all their inconsistency, when we shall succeed in establishing whence it is that the definition of the truth has been derived. The truth has not taken its principles from the wisdom of the Greeks, nor borrowed its doctrines, as secret mysteries, from the tenets of the Egyptians, which, albeit silly, are regarded among them with religious veneration as worthy of reliance. Nor has it been formed out of the fallacies which enunciate the incoherent (conclusions arrived at through the) curiosity of the Chaldeans. Nor does the truth owe its existence to astonishment, through the operations of demons, for the irrational frenzy of the Babylonians. But its definition is constituted after the manner in which every true definition is, viz., as simple and unadorned. A definition such as this, provided it is made manifest, will of itself refute error. And although we have very frequently propounded demonstrations, and with sufficient fullness elucidated for those willing (to learn) the rule of the truth; yet even now, after having discussed all the opinions put forward by the Greeks and heretics, we have decided it not to be, at all events, unreasonable to introduce, as a sort of finishing stroke to the (nine) books preceding, this demonstration throughout the tenth book.
Having, therefore, embraced (a consideration of) the tenets of all the wise men among the Greeks in four books, and the doctrines propounded by the heresiarchs in five, we shall now exhibit the doctrine concerning the truth in one, having first presented in a summary the suppositions entertained severally by all. For the dogmatists of the Greeks, dividing philosophy into three parts, in this manner devised from time to time their speculative systems; some denominating their system Natural, and others Moral, but others Dialectical Philosophy. And the ancient thinkers who called their science Natural Philosophy, were those mentioned in book i. And the account which they furnished was after this mode: Some of them derived all things from one, whereas others from more things than one. And of those who derived all things from one, some derived them from what was devoid of quality, whereas others from what was endued with quality. And among those who derived all things from quality, some derived them from fire, and some from air, and some from water, and some from earth. And among those who derived the universe from more things than one, some derived it from numerable, but others from infinite quantities. And among those who derived all things from numerable quantities, some derived them from two, and others from four, and others from five, and others from six. And among those who derived the universe from infinite quantities, some derived entities from things similar to those generated, whereas others from things dissimilar. And among these some derived entities from things incapable of, whereas others from things capable of, passion. From a body devoid of quality and endued with unity, the Stoics, then, accounted for the generation of the universe. For, according to them, matter devoid of quality, and in all its parts susceptible of change, constitutes an originating principle of the universe. For, when an alteration of this ensues, there is generated fire, air, water, earth. The followers, however, of Hippasus, and Anaximander, and Thales the Milesian, are disposed to think that all things have been generated from one (an entity), endued with quality. Hippasus of Metapontum and Heraclitus the Ephesian declared the origin of things to be from fire, whereas Anaximander from air, but Thales from water, and Xenophanes from earth.
For from earth, says he,
are all things, and all things terminate in the earth.
But among those who derive all entities from more things than one, and from numerable quantities, the poet Homer asserts that the universe consists of two substances, namely earth and water; at one time expressing himself thus:—
The source of gods was Sea and Mother Earth.
And on another occasion thus:—
But indeed you all might become water and earth.
And Xenophanes of Colophon seems to coincide with him, for he says:—
We all are sprung from water and from earth.
Euripides, however, (derives the universe) from earth and air, as one may ascertain from the following assertion of his:—
Mother of all, air and earth, I sing.
But Empedocles derives the universe from four principles, expressing himself thus:—
Four roots of all things hear you first
Brilliant Jove, and life-giving Juno and Aidoneus,
And Nestis, that with tears bedews the Mortal Font.
Ocellus, however, the Lucanian, and Aristotle, derive the universe from five principles; for, along with the four elements, they have assumed the existence of a fifth, and (that this is) a body with a circular motion; and they say that from this, things celestial have their being. But the disciples of Empedocles supposed the generation of the universe to have proceeded from six principles. For in the passage where he says,
Four roots of all things hear you first, he produces generation out of four principles. When, however, he subjoins—
Ruinous Strife apart from these, equal in every point,
And with them Friendship equal in length and breadth, —
he also delivers six principles of the universe, four of them material— earth, water, fire, and air; but two of them formative— Friendship and Discord. The followers, however, of Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, and of Democritus, and of Epicurus, and multitudes of others, have given it as their opinion that the generation of the universe proceeds from infinite numbers of atoms; and we have previously made partial mention of these philosophers. But Anaxagoras derives the universe from things similar to those that are being produced; whereas the followers of Democritus and Epicurus derived the universe from things both dissimilar (to the entities produced), and devoid of passion, that is, from atoms. But the followers of Heraclides of Pontus, and of Asclepiades, derived the universe from things dissimilar (to the entities produced), and capable of passion, as if from incongruous corpuscles. But the disciples of Plato affirm that these entities are from three principles— God, and Matter, and Exemplar. He divides matter, however, into four principles— fire, water, earth, and air. And (he says) that God is the Creator of this (matter), and that Mind is its exemplar.
Persuaded, then, that the principle of physiology is confessedly discovered to be encumbered with difficulties for all these philosophers, we ourselves also shall fearlessly declare concerning the examples of the truth, as to how they are, and as we have felt confident that they are. But we shall previously furnish an explanation, in the way of epitome, of the tenets of the heresiarchs, in order that, by our having set before our readers the tenets of all made well known by this (plan of treatment), we may exhibit the truth in a plain and familiar (form).
But since it so appears expedient, let us begin first from the public worshippers of the serpent. The Naasseni call the first principle of the universe a Man, and that the same also is a Son of Man; and they divide this man into three portions. For they say one part of him is rational, and another psychical, but a third earthly. And they style him Adamas, and suppose that the knowledge appertaining to him is the originating cause of the capacity of knowing God. And the Naassene asserts that all these rational, and psychical, and earthly qualities have retired into Jesus, and that through Him these three substances simultaneously have spoken unto the three genera of the universe. These allege that there are three kinds of existence— angelic, psychical, and earthly; and that there are three churches— angelic, psychical, and earthly; and that the names for these are— chosen, called, and captive. These are the heads of doctrine advanced by them, as far as one may briefly comprehend them. They affirm that James, the brother of the Lord, delivered these tenets to Mariamne, by such a statement belying both.
The Peratae, however, viz., Ademes the Carystian, and Euphrates the Peratic, say that there is some one world—this is the denomination they use—and affirming that it is divided into three parts. But of the threefold division, according to them, there is one principle, just like an immense fountain, capable of being by reason divided into infinite segments. And the first segment, and the one of more proximity, according to them, is the triad, and is called a perfect good, and a paternal magnitude. But the second portion of the triad is a certain multitude of, as it were, infinite powers. The third part, however, is formal. And the first is unbegotten; whence they expressly affirm that there are three Gods, three Logoi, three minds, (and) three men. For when the division has been accomplished, to each part of the world they assign both Gods, and Logoi, and men, and the rest. But from above, from uncreatedness and the first segment of the world, when afterwards the world had attained to its consummation, the Peratic affirms that there came down, in the times of Herod, a certain man with a threefold nature, and a threefold body, and a threefold power, named Christ, and that He possesses from the three parts of the world in Himself all the concretions and capacities of the world. And they are disposed to think that this is what has been declared,
in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9 And they assert that from the two worlds situated above— namely, both the unbegotten one and self-begotten one— there were borne down into this world in which we are, germs of all sorts of powers. And (they say) that Christ came down from above from uncreatedness, in order that, by His descent, all things that have been divided into three parts may be saved. For, says the Peratic, the things that have been borne down from above will ascend through Him; and the things that have plotted against those that have been borne down are heedlessly rejected, and sent away to be punished. And the Peratic states that there are two parts which are saved— that is, those that are situated above— by having been separated from corruption, and that the third is destroyed, which he calls a formal world. These also are the tenets of the Peratae.
But to the Sethians it seems that there exist three principles, which have been precisely defined. And each of the principles is fitted by nature for being able to be generated, as in a human soul every art whatsoever is developed which is capable of being learned. The result is the same as when a child, by being long conversant with a musical instrument, becomes a musician; or with geometry a geometrician, or with any other art, with a similar result. And the essences of the principles, the Sethians say, are light and darkness. And in the midst of these is pure spirit; and the spirit, they say, is that which is placed intermediate between darkness, which is below, and light, which is above. It is not spirit, as a current of wind or a certain gentle breeze which may be felt, but just as if some fragrance of ointment or incense made out of a refined mixture—a power diffusing itself by some impulse of fragrance which is inconceivable and superior to what one can express. Since, therefore, the light is above and the darkness below, and the spirit is intermediate between these, the light, also, as a ray of sun, shines from above on the underlying darkness. And the fragrance of the spirit is wafted onwards, occupying an intermediate position, and proceeds forth, just as is diffused the odour of incense-offerings (laid) upon the fire. Now the power of the things divided threefold being of this description, the power simultaneously of the spirit and of the light is below, in the darkness that is situated beneath. The darkness, however, they say, is a horrible water, into which the light along with the spirit is absorbed, and thus translated into a nature of this description. The darkness being then endued with intelligence, and knowing that when the light has been removed from it the darkness continues desolate, devoid of radiance and splendour, power and efficiency, as well as impotent, (therefore,) by every effort of reflection and of reason, this makes an exertion to comprise in itself brilliancy, and a scintillation of light, along with the fragrance of the spirit. And of this they introduce the following image, expressing themselves thus: Just as the pupil of the eye appears dark beneath the underlying humours, but is illuminated by the spirit, so the darkness earnestly strives after the spirit, and has with itself all the powers which wish to retire and return. Now these are indefinitely infinite, from which, when commingled, all things are figured and generated like seals. For just as a seal, when brought into contact with wax, produces a figure, (and yet the seal) itself remains of itself what it was, so also the powers, by coming into communion (one with the other), form all the infinite kinds of animals. The Sethians assert that, therefore, from the primary concourse of the three principles was generated an image of the great seal, namely heaven and earth, having a form like a womb, possessing a navel in the midst. And so that the rest of the figures of all things were, like heaven and earth, fashioned similar to a womb.
And the Sethians say that from the water was produced a first-begotten principle, namely a vehement and boisterous wind, and that it is a cause of all generation, which creates a sort of heat and motion in the world from the motion of the waters. And they maintain that this wind is fashioned like the hissing of a serpent into a perfect image. And on this the world gazes and hurries into generation, being inflamed as a womb; and from thence they are disposed to think that the generation of the universe has arisen. And they say that this wind constitutes a spirit, and that a perfect God has arisen from the fragrance of the waters, and that of the spirit, and from the brilliant light. And they affirm that mind exists after the mode of generation from a female— (meaning by mind) the supernal spark— and that, having been mingled beneath with the compounds of body, it earnestly desires to flee away, that escaping it may depart and not find dissolution on account of the deficiency in the waters. Wherefore it is in the habit of crying aloud from the mixture of the waters, according to the Psalmist, as they say,
For the entire anxiety of the light above is, that it may deliver the spark which is below from the Father beneath, that is, from wind. And the Father creates heat and disturbance, and produces for Himself a Son, namely mind, which, as they allege, is not the peculiar offspring of Himself. And these heretics affirm that the Son, on beholding the perfect Logos of the supernal light, underwent a transformation, and in the shape of a serpent entered into a womb, in order that he might be able to recover that Mind which is the scintillation from the light. And that this is what has been declared,
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant. Philippians 2:6-7 And the wretched and baneful Sethians are disposed to think that this constitutes the servile form alluded to by the Apostle. These, then, are the assertions which likewise these Sethians advance.
But that very sapient fellow Simon makes his statement thus, that there is an indefinite power, and that this is the root of the universe. And this indefinite power, he says, which is fire, is in itself not anything which is simple, as the gross bulk of speculators maintain, when they assert that there are four incomposite elements, and have supposed fire, as one of these, to be uncompounded. Simon, on the other hand, alleges that the nature of fire is twofold; and one portion of this twofold (nature) he calls a something secret, and another (a something) manifest. And he asserts that the secret is concealed in the manifest parts of the fire, and that the manifest parts of the fire have been produced from the secret. And he says that all the parts of the fire, visible and invisible, have been supposed to be in possession of a capacity of perception. The world, therefore, he says, that is begotten, has been produced from the unbegotten fire. And it commenced, he says, to exist thus: The Unbegotten One took six primal roots of the principle of generation from the principle of that fire. For he maintains that these roots have been generated in pairs from the fire; and these he denominates Mind and Intelligence, Voice and Name, Ratiocination and Reflection. And he asserts that in the six roots, at the same time, resides the indefinite power, which he affirms to be Him that stood, stands, and will stand. And when this one has been formed into a figure, He will, according to this heretic, exist in the six powers substantially and potentially. And He will be in magnitude and perfection one and the same with that unbegotten and indefinite power, possessing no attribute in any respect more deficient than that unbegotten, and unalterable, and indefinite power. If, however, He who stood, stands, and will stand, continues to exist only potentially in the six powers, and has not assumed any definite figure, He becomes, says Simon, utterly evanescent, and perishes. And this takes place in the same manner as the grammatical or geometrical capacity, which, though it has been implanted in man's soul, suffers extinction when it does not obtain (the assistance of) a master of either of these arts, who would indoctrinate that soul into its principles. Now Simon affirms that he himself is He who stood, stands, and will stand, and that He is a power that is above all things. So far, then, for the opinions of Simon likewise.
Valentinus, however, and the adherents of this school, though they agree in asserting that the originating principle of the universe is the Father, still they are impelled into the adoption of a contrary opinion respecting Him. For some of them maintain that (the Father) is solitary and generative; whereas others hold the impossibility, (in His as in other cases,) of procreation without a female. They therefore add Sige as the spouse of this Father, and style the Father Himself Bythus. From this Father and His spouse some allege that there have been six projections,— viz., Nous and Aletheia, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia—and that this constitutes the procreative Ogdoad. And the Valentinians maintain that those are the first projections which have taken place within the limit, and have been again denominated
those within the Pleroma; and the second are
those without the Pleroma; and the third,
those without the Limit. Now the generation of these constitutes the Hysterema Acamoth. And he asserts that what has been generated from an Aeon, that exists in the Hysterema and has been projected (beyond the Limit), is the Creator. But Valentinus is not disposed to affirm what is thus generated to be primal Deity, but speaks in detractive terms both of Him and the things made by Him. And (he asserts) that Christ came down from within the Pleroma for the salvation of the spirit who had erred. This spirit, (according to the Valentinians,) resides in our inner man; and they say that this inner man obtains salvation on account of this indwelling spirit. Valentinus, however, (to uphold the doctrine,) determines that the flesh is not saved, and styles it
a leathern tunic, and the perishable portion of man. I have (already) declared these tenets in the way of an epitome, inasmuch as in their systems there exists enlarged matter for discussion, and a variety of opinions. In this manner, then, it seems proper also to the school of Valentinus to propound their opinions.
But Basilides also himself affirms that there is a non-existent God, who, being non-existent, has made the non-existent world, that has been formed out of things that are not, by casting down a certain seed, as it were a grain of mustard-seed, having in itself stem, leaves, branches, and fruit. Or this seed is as a peacock's egg, comprising in itself the varied multitude of colours. And this, say the Basilidians, constitutes the seed of the world, from which all things have been produced. For they maintain that it comprises in itself all things, as it were those that as yet are non-existent, and which it has been predetermined to be brought into existence by the non-existent Deity. There was, then, he says, in the seed itself a threefold Sonship, in all respects of the same substance with the nonexistent God, which has been begotten from things that are not. And of this Sonship, divided into three parts, one portion of it was refined, and another gross, and another requiring purification. The refined portion, when first the earliest putting down of the seed was accomplished by the non-existent God, immediately burst forth, and ascended upwards, and proceeded towards the non-existent Deity. For every nature yearns after that God on account of the excess of His beauty, but different (creatures desire Him) from different causes. The more gross portion, however, still continues in the seed; and inasmuch as it is a certain imitative nature, it was not able to soar upwards, for it was more gross than the subtle part. The more gross portion, however, equipped itself with the Holy Spirit, as it were with wings; for the Sonship, thus arrayed, shows kindness to this Spirit, and in turn receives kindness. The third Sonship, however, requires purification, and therefore this continued in the conglomeration of all germs, and this displays and receives kindness. And (Basilides asserts) that there is something which is called
world, and something else (which is called) supra-mundane; for entities are distributed by him into two primary divisions. And what is intermediate between these he calls
Conterminous Holy Spirit, and (this Spirit) has in itself the fragrance of the Sonship.
From the conglomeration of all germs of the cosmical seed burnt forth and was begotten the Great Archon, the head of the world, an Aeon of inexpressible beauty and size. This (Archon) having raised Himself as far as the firmament, supposed that there was not another above Himself. And accordingly He became more brilliant and powerful than all the underlying Aeons, with the exception of the Sonship that had been left beneath, but which He was not aware was more wise than Himself. This one having His attention turned to the creation of the world, first begot a son unto Himself, superior to Himself; and this son He caused to sit on His own right hand, and this these Basilidians allege is the Ogdoad. The Great Archon Himself, then, produces the entire celestial creation. And other Archon ascended from (the conglomeration of) all the germs, who was greater than all the underlying Aeon, except the Sonship that had been left behind, yet far inferior to the former one. And they style this second Archon a Hebdomad. He is Maker, and Creator, and Controller of all things that are beneath Him, and this Archon produced for Himself a Son more prudent and wiser than Himself. Now they assert that all these things exist according to the predetermination of that non-existent God, and that there exist also worlds and intervals that are infinite. And the Basilidians affirm that upon Jesus, who was born of Mary, came the power of the Gospel, which descended and illuminated the Son both of the Ogdoad and of the Hebdomad. And this took place for the purpose of enlightening and distinguishing from the different orders of beings, and purifying the Sonship that had been left behind for conferring benefits on souls, and the receiving benefits in turn. And they say that themselves are sons, who are in the world for this cause, that by teaching they may purify souls, and along with the Sonship may ascend to the Father above, from whom proceeded the first Sonship. And they allege that the world endures until the period when all souls may have repaired there along with the Sonship. These, however, are the opinions which Basilides, who detailed them as prodigies, is not ashamed to advance.
But Justinus also himself attempted to establish similar opinions with these, and expresses himself thus: That there are three unbegotten principles of the universe, two males and one female. And of the males one principle is denominated
Good. Now this alone is called after this mode, and is endued with a foreknowledge of the universe. And the other is Father of all generated entities, and is devoid of foreknowledge, and unknown, and invisible, and is called Elohim. The female principle is devoid of foreknowledge, passionate, with two minds, and with two booties, as we have minutely detailed in the previous discourses concerning this heretic's system. This female principle, in her upper parts, as far as the groin, is, the Justinians say, a virgin, whereas from the groin downwards a snake. And such is denominated Edem and Israel. This heretic alleges that these are the principles of the universe, from which all things have been produced. And he asserts that Elohim, without foreknowledge, passed into inordinate desire for the half virgin, and that having had intercourse with her, he begot twelve angels; and the names of these he states to be those already given. And of these the paternal ones are connected with the father, and the maternal with the mother. And Justinus maintains that these are (the trees of Paradise), concerning which Moses has spoken in an allegorical sense the things written in the law. And Justinus affirms that all things were made by Elohim and Edem. And (he says) that animals, with a the rest of the creatures of this kind, are from the a part resembling a beast, whereas man from the parts above the groin. And Edem (is supposed by Justinus) to have deposited in man himself the soul, which was her own power, (but Elohim the spirit.) And Justinus alleges that this Elohim, after having learned his origin, ascended to the Good Being, and deserted Edem. And this heretic asserts that Edem, enraged on account of such (treatment), concocted all this plot against the spirit of Elohim which he deposited in man. And (Justinus informs us) that for this reason the Father sent Baruch, and issued directions to the prophets, in order that the spirit of Elohim might be delivered, and that all might be seduced away from Edem. But (this heretic) alleges that even Hercules was a prophet, and that he was worsted by Omphale, that is, by Babel; and the Justinians call the latter Venus. And (they say) that afterwards, in the days of Herod, Jesus was born son of Mary and Joseph, to whom he alleges Baruch had spoken. And (Justinus asserts) that Edem plotted against this (Jesus), but could not deceive him; and for this reason, that she caused him to be crucified. And the spirit of Jesus, (says Justinus,) ascended to the Good Being. And (the Justinians maintain) that the spirits of all who thus obey those silly and futile discourses will be saved, and that the body and soul of Edem have been left behind. But the foolish Justinus calls this (Edem) Earth.
Now the Docetae advance assertions of this description: that the primal Deity is as a seed of the fig-tree; and that from this proceeded three Aeons as the stem, and the leaves and the fruit; and that these projected thirty Aeons, each (of them) ten; and that they were all united in decades, but differed only in positions, as some were before others. And (the Docetae assert) that infinite Aeons were indefinitely projected, and that all these were hermaphrodites. And (they say) that these Aeons formed a design of simultaneously going together into one Aeon, and that from this the intermediate Aeon and from the Virgin Mary they begot a Saviour of all. And this Redeemer was like in every respect to the first seed of the fig-tree, but inferior in this respect, from the fact of His having been begotten; for the seed whence the fig-tree springs is unbegotten. This, then, was the great light of the Aeons— it was entirely radiance— which receives no adornment, and comprises in itself the forms of all animals. And the Docetae maintain that this light, on proceeding into the underlying chaos, afforded a cause (of existence) to the things that were produced, and those actually existing, and that on coming down from above it impressed on chaos beneath the forms of everlasting species. For the third Aeon, which had tripled itself, when he perceives that all his characteristic attributes were forcibly drawn off into the nether darkness, and not being ignorant both of the terror of darkness and the simplicity of light, proceeded to create heaven; and after having rendered firm what intervened, He separated the darkness from the light. As all the species of the third Aeon were, he says, overcome by the darkness, the figure even of this Aeon became a living fire, having been generated by light. And from this (source), they allege, was generated the Great Archon, regarding whom Moses converses, saying that He is a fiery Deity and Demiurge, who also continually alters the forms of all (Aeons) into bodies. And the (Docetae) allege that these are the souls for whose sake the Saviour was begotten, and that He points out the way through which the souls will escape that are (now) overpowered (by darkness). And (the Docetae maintain) that Jesus arrayed Himself in that only-begotten power, and that for this reason He could not be seen by any, on account of the excessive magnitude of His glory. And they say that all the occurrences took place with Him as it has been written in the Gospels.
But the followers of Monoïmus the Arabian assert that the originating principle of the universe is a primal man and son of man; and that, as Moses states, the things that have been produced were produced not by the primal man, but by the Son of that primal man, yet not by the entire Son, but by part of Him. And (Monoïmus asserts) that the Son of man is iota, which stands for ten, the principal number in which is (inherent) the subsistence of all number (in general, and) through which every number (in particular) consists, as well as the generation of the universe, fire, air, water, and earth. But inasmuch as this is one iota and one tittle, and what is perfect (emanates) from what is perfect, or, in other words, a tittle flows down from above, containing all things in itself; (therefore,) whatsoever things also the man possesses, the Father of the Son of man possesses likewise. Moses, therefore, says that the world was made in six days, that is, by six powers, out of which the world was made by the one tittle. For cubes, and octahedrons, and pyramids, and all figures similar to these, having equal superficies, out of which consist fire, air, water, and earth, have been produced from numbers comprehended in that simple tittle of the iota, which is Son of man. When, therefore, says (Monoïmus), Moses mentions the rod's being brandished for the purpose of bringing the plagues upon Egypt, he alludes allegorically to the (alterations of the) world of iota; nor did he frame more than ten plagues. If, however, says he, you wish to become acquainted with the universe, search within yourself who is it that says,
Tatian, however, similarly with Valentinus and the others, says that there are certain invisible Aeons, and that by some one of these the world below has been created, and the things existing in it. And he habituates himself to a very cynical mode of life, and almost in nothing differs from Marcion, as appertaining both to his slanders, and the regulations enacted concerning marriage.
But Marcion, of Pontus, and Cerdon, his preceptor, themselves also lay down that there are three principles of the universe— good, just, and matter. Some disciples, however, of these add a fourth, saying, good, just, evil, and matter. But they all affirm that the good (Being) has made nothing at all, though some denominate the just one likewise evil, whereas others that his only title is that of just. And they allege that (the just Being) made all things out of subjacent matter, for that he made them not well, but irrationally. For it is requisite that the things made should be similar to the maker; wherefore also they thus employ the evangelical parables, saying,
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, Matthew 7:18 and the rest of the passage. Now Marcion alleges that the conceptions badly devised by the (just one) himself constituted the allusion in this passage. And (he says) that Christ is the Son of the good Being, and was sent for the salvation of souls by him whom he styles the inner than. And he asserts that he appeared as a man though not being a man, and as incarnate though not being incarnate. And he maintains that his manifestation was only phantastic, and that he underwent neither generation nor passion except in appearance. And he will not allow that flesh rises again; but in affirming marriage to be destruction, he leads his disciples towards a very cynical life. And by these means he imagines that he annoys the Creator, if he should abstain from the things that are made or appointed by Him.
But Apelles, a disciple of this heretic, was displeased at the statements advanced by his preceptor, as we have previously declared, and by another theory supposed that there are four gods. And the first of these he alleges to be the
Good Being, whom the prophets did not know, and Christ to be His Son. And the second God, he affirms to be the Creator of the universe, and Him he does not wish to be a God. And the third God, he states to be the fiery one that was manifested; and the fourth to be an evil one. And Apelles calls these angels; and by adding (to their number) Christ likewise, he will assert Him to be a fifth God. But this heretic is in the habit of devoting his attention to a book which he calls
Revelations of a certain Philumene, whom he considers a prophetess. And he affirms that Christ did not receive his flesh from the Virgin, but from the adjacent substance of the world. In this manner he composed his treatises against the law and the prophets, and attempts to abolish them as if they had spoken falsehoods, and had not known God. And Apelles, similarly with Marcion, affirms that the different sorts of flesh are destroyed.
Cerinthus, however, himself having been trained in Egypt, determined that the world was not made by the first God, but by a certain angelic power. And this power was far separated and distant from that sovereignty which is above the entire circle of existence, and it knows not the God (that is) above all things. And he says that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but that He sprang from Joseph and Mary as their son, similar to the rest of men; and that He excelled in justice, and prudence, and understanding above all the rest of mankind. And Cerinthus maintains that, after Jesus' baptism, Christ came down in the form of a dove upon Him from the sovereignty that is above the whole circle of existence, and that then He proceeded to preach the unknown Father, and to work miracles. And he asserts that, at the conclusion of the passion, Christ flew away from Jesus, but that Jesus suffered, and that Christ remained incapable of suffering, being a spirit of the Lord.
But the Ebionaeans assert that the world is made by the true God, and they speak of Christ in a similar manner with Cerinthus. They live, however, in all respects according to the law of Moses, alleging that they are thus justified.
But Theodotus of Byzantium introduced a heresy of the following description, alleging that all things were created by the true God; whereas that Christ, he states, in a manner similar to that advocated by the Gnostics already mentioned, made His appearance according to some mode of this description. And Theodotus affirms that Christ is a man of a kindred nature with all men, but that He surpasses them in this respect, that, according to the counsel of God, He had been born of a virgin, and the Holy Ghost had overshadowed His mother. This heretic, however, maintained that Jesus had not assumed flesh in the womb of the Virgin, but that afterwards Christ descended upon Jesus at His baptism in form of a dove. And from this circumstance, the followers of Theodotus affirm that at first miraculous powers did not acquire operating energy in Saviour Himself. Theodotus, however, determines to deny the divinity of Christ. Now, opinions of this description were advaned by Theodotus.
And others also make all their assertions similarly with those which have been already specified, introducing one only alteration, viz., in respect of regarding Melchisedec as a certain power. But they allege that Melchisedec himself is superior to all powers; and according to his image, they are desirous of maintaining that Christ likewise is generated.
The Phrygians, however, derive the principles of their heresy from a certain Montanus, and Priscilla, and Maximilla, and regard these wretched women as prophetesses, and Montanus as a prophet. In respect, however, of what appertains to the origin and creation of the universe, the Phrygians are supposed to express themselves correctly; while in the tenets which they enunciate respecting Christ, they have not irrelevantly formed their opinions. But they are seduced into error in common with the heretics previously alluded to, and devote their attention to the discourses of these above the Gospels, thus laying down regulations concerning novel and strange fasts.
But others of them, being attached to the heresy of the Noetians, entertain similar opinions to those relating to the silly women of the Phrygians, and to Montanus. As regards, however, the truths appertaining to the Father of the entire of existing things, they are guilty of blasphemy, because they assert that He is Son and Father, visible and invisible, begotten and unbegotten, mortal and immortal. These have taken occasion from a certain Noetus to put forward their heresy.
But in like manner, also, Noetus, being by birth a native of Smyrna, and a fellow addicted to reckless babbling, as well as crafty withal, introduced (among us) this heresy which originated from one Epigonus. It reached Rome, and was adopted by Cleomenes, and so has continued to this day among his successors. Noetus asserts that there is one Father and God of the universe, and that He made all things, and was imperceptible to those that exist when He might so desire. Noetus maintained that the Father then appeared when He wished; and He is invisible when He is not seen, but visible when He is seen. And this heretic also alleges that the Father is unbegotten when He is not generated, but begotten when He is born of a virgin; as also that He is not subject to suffering, and is immortal when He does not suffer or die. When, however, His passion came upon Him, Noetus allows that the Father suffers and dies. And the Noetians suppose that this Father Himself is called Son, (and vice versa,) in reference to the events which at their own proper periods happen to them severally.
Callistus corroborated the heresy of these Noetians, but we have already carefully explained the details of his life. And Callistus himself produced likewise a heresy, and derived its starting-points from these Noetians—namely, so far as he acknowledges that there is one Father and God, viz., the Creator of the universe, and that this (God) is spoken of, and called by the name of Son, yet that in substance He is one Spirit. For Spirit, as the Deity, is, he says, not any being different from the Logos, or the Logos from the Deity; therefore this one person, (according to Callistus,) is divided nominally, but substantially not so. He supposes this one Logos to be God, and affirms that there was in the case of the Word an incarnation. And he is disposed (to maintain), that He who was seen in the flesh and was crucified is Son, but that the Father it is who dwells in Him. Callistus thus at one time branches off into the opinion of Noetus, but at another into that of Theodotus, and holds no sure doctrine. These, then, are the opinions of Callistus.
But one Hermogenes himself also being desirous of saying something, asserted that God made all things out of matter coeval with Himself, and subject to His design. For Hermogenes held it to be an impossibility that God should make the things that were made, except out of existent things.
But certain others, introducing as it were some novel tenet, appropriated parts of their system from all heresies, and procured a strange volume, which bore on the title page the name of one Elchasai. These, in like manner, acknowledge that the principles of the universe were originated by the Deity. They do not, however, confess that there is but one Christ, but that there is one that is superior to the rest, and that He is transfused into many bodies frequently, and was now in Jesus. And, in like manner, these heretics maintain that at one time Christ was begotten of God, and at another time became the Spirit, and at another time was born of a virgin, and at another time not so. And they affirm that likewise this Jesus afterwards was continually being transfused into bodies, and was manifested in many (different bodies) at different times. And they resort to incantations and baptisms in their confession of elements. And they occupy themselves with bustling activity in regard of astrological and mathematical science, and of the arts of sorcery. But also they allege themselves to have powers of prescience.
... From Haran, a city of Mesopotamia, (Abraham, by the command) of God, transfers his residence into the country which is now called Palestine and Judea, but then the region of Canaan. Now, concerning this territory, we have in part, but still not negligently, rendered an account in other discourses. From the circumstance, then, (of this migration) is traceable the beginning of an increase (of population) in Judea, which obtained its name from Judah, fourth son of Jacob, whose name was also called Israel, from the fact that a race of kings would be descended from him. Abraham removes from Mesopotamia (when 75 years, and) when 100 years old he begot Isaac. But Isaac, when 60 years of age, begot Jacob. And Jacob, when 86 years old, begot Levi; and Levi, at 40 years of age, begot; and Caath was four years of age when he went down with Jacob into Egypt. Therefore the entire period during which Abraham sojourned, and the entire family descended from him by Isaac, in the country then called Canaanitis, was 215 years. But the father of this Abraham is Thare, and of this Thare the father is Nachor, and of this Nachor the father is Serag, and of this Serag the father is Reu, and of this Reu the father is Peleg, and of this Peleg Genesis 11:16 the father is Heber. And so it comes to pass that the Jews are denominated by the name of Hebrews. In the time of Phaleg, however, arose the dispersion of nations. Now these nations were 72, corresponding with the number of Abraham's children. And the names of these nations we have likewise set down in other books, not even omitting this point in its own proper place. And the reason of our particularity is our desire to manifest to those who are of a studious disposition the love which we cherish towards the Divinity, and the indubitable knowledge respecting the Truth, which in the course of our labours we have acquired possession of. But of this Heber the father is Salah; and of this Salah the father is Caïnan; and of this Caïnan the father is Arphaxad, whose father is Shem; and of this Shem the father is Noah. And in Noah's time there occurred a flood throughout the entire world, which neither Egyptians, nor Chaldeans, nor Greeks recollect; for the inundations which took place in the age of Ogyges and Deucalion prevailed only in the localities where these dwelt. There are, then, in the case of these (patriarchs— that is, from Noah to Heber inclusive)— 5 generations, and 495 years. This Noah, inasmuch as he was a most religious and God-loving man, alone, with wife and children, and the three wives of these, escaped the flood that ensued. And he owed his preservation to an ark; and both the dimensions and relics of this ark are, as we have explained, shown to this day in the mountains called Ararat, which are situated in the direction of the country of the Adiabeni. It is then possible for those who are disposed to investigate the subject industriously, to perceive how clearly has been demonstrated the existence of a nation of worshippers of the true God, more ancient than all the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Greeks. What necessity, however, is there at present to specify those who, anterior to Noah, were both devout men, and permitted to hold converse with the true God, inasmuch as, so far as the subject taken in hand is concerned, this testimony in regard of the antiquity of the people of God is sufficient?
But since it does not seem irrational to prove that these nations that had their attention engrossed with the speculations of philosophy are of more modern date than those that had habitually worshipped the true God, it is reasonable that we should state both whence the family of these latter originated; and that when they took up their abode in these countries, they did not receive a name from the actual localities, but claimed for themselves names from those who were primarily born, and had inhabited these. Noah had three sons— Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From these the entire family of man was multiplied, and every quarter of the earth owes its inhabitants in the first instance to these. For the word of God to them prevailed, when the Lord said,
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. So great efficacy had that one word that from the three sons of Noah are begotten in the family 72 children—(viz.,) from Shem, 25; from Japheth, 15; and from Ham, 32. Unto Ham, however, these 32 children are born in accordance with previous declarations. And among Ham's children are: Canaan, from whom came the Canaanites; Mizraim, from whom the Egyptians; Cush, from whom the Ethiopians; and Phut, from whom the Libyans. These, according to the language prevalent among them, are up to the present day styled by the appellation of their ancestors; nay, even in the Greek tongue they are called by the names by which they have been now denominated. But even supposing that neither these localities had been previously inhabited, nor that it could be proved that a race of men from the beginning existed there, nevertheless these sons of Noah, a worshipper of God, are quite sufficient to prove the point at issue. For it is evident that Noah himself must have been a disciple of devout people, for which reason he escaped the tremendous, though transient, threat of water.
How, then, should not the worshippers of the true God be of greater antiquity than all Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Greeks, for we must bear in mind that the father of these Gentiles was born from this Japheth, and received the name Javan, and became the progenitor of Greeks and Ionians? Now, if the nations that devoted themselves to questions concerning philosophy are shown to belong to a period altogether more recent than the race of the worshippers of God as well as the time of the deluge, how would not the nations of the barbarians, and as many tribes as in the world are known and unknown, appear to belong to a more modern epoch than these? Therefore you Greeks, Egyptians, Chaldeans, and the entire race of men, become adepts in this doctrine, and learn from us, who are the friends of God, what the nature of God is, and what His well-arranged creation. And we have cultivated this system, not expressing ourselves in mere pompous language, but executing our treatises in terms that prove our knowledge of truth and our practice of good sense, our object being the demonstration of His Truth.
The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, had nothing coeval with Himself; not infinite chaos, nor measureless water, nor solid earth, nor dense air, not warm fire, nor refined spirit, nor the azure canopy of the stupendous firmament. But He was One, alone in Himself. By an exercise of His will He created things that are, which antecedently had no existence, except that He willed to make them. For He is fully acquainted with whatever is about to take place, for foreknowledge also is present to Him. The different principles, however, of what will come into existence, He first fabricated, viz., fire and spirit, water and earth, from which diverse elements He proceeded to form His own creation. And some objects He formed of one essence, but others He compounded from two, and others from three, and others from four. And those formed of one substance were immortal, for in their case dissolution does not follow, for what is one will never be dissolved. Those, on the other hand, which are formed out of two, or three, or four substances, are dissoluble; wherefore also are they named mortal. For this has been denominated death; namely, the dissolution of substances connected. I now therefore think that I have sufficiently answered those endued with a sound mind, who, if they are desirous of additional instruction, and are disposed accurately to investigate the substances of these things, and the causes of the entire creation, will become acquainted with these points should they peruse a work of ours comprised (under the title), Concerning the Substance of the Universe. I consider, however, that at present it is enough to elucidate those causes of which the Greeks, not being aware, glorified, in pompous phraseology, the parts of creation, while they remained ignorant of the Creator. And from these the heresiarchs have taken occasion, and have transformed the statements previously made by those Greeks into similar doctrines, and thus have framed ridiculous heresies.
Therefore this solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first; not the word in the sense of being articulated by voice, but as a ratiocination of the universe, conceived and residing in the divine mind. Him alone He produced from existing things; for the Father Himself constituted existence, and the being born from Him was the cause of all things that are produced. The Logos was in the Father Himself, bearing the will of His progenitor, and not being unacquainted with the mind of the Father. For simultaneously with His procession from His Progenitor, inasmuch as He is this Progenitor's first-born, He has, as a voice in Himself, the ideas conceived in the Father. And so it was, that when the Father ordered the world to come into existence, the Logos one by one completed each object of creation, thus pleasing God. And some things which multiply by generation He formed male and female; but whatsoever beings were designed for service and ministration He made either male, or not requiring females, or neither male nor female. For even the primary substances of these, which were formed out of nonentities, viz., fire and spirit, water and earth, are neither male nor female; nor could male or female proceed from any one of these, were it not that God, who is the source of all authority, wished that the Logos might render assistance in accomplishing a production of this kind. I confess that angels are of fire, and I maintain that female spirits are not present with them. And I am of opinion that sun and moon and stars, in like manner, are produced from fire and spirit, and are neither male nor female. And the will of the Creator is, that swimming and winged animals are from water, male and female. For so God, whose will it was, ordered that there should exist a moist substance, endued with productive power. And in like manner God commanded, that from earth should arise reptiles and beasts, as well males and females of all sorts of animals; for so the nature of the things produced admitted. For as many things as He willed, God made from time to time. These things He created through the Logos, it not being possible for things to be generated otherwise than as they were produced. But when, according as He willed, He also formed (objects), He called them by names, and thus notified His creative effort. And making these, He formed the ruler of all, and fashioned him out of all composite substances. The Creator did not wish to make him a god, and failed in His aim; nor an angel—be not deceived,— but a man. For if He had willed to make you a god, He could have done so. You have the example of the Logos. His will, however, was, that you should be a man, and He has made you a man. But if you are desirous of also becoming a god, obey Him that has created you, and resist not now, in order that, being found faithful in that which is small, you may be enabled to have entrusted to you also that which is great.
The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; wherefore it is not God; as also because this world admits of dissolution whenever the Creator so wishes it. But God, who created it, did not, nor does not, make evil. He makes what is glorious and excellent; for He who makes it is good. Now man, that was brought into existence, was a creature endued with a capacity of self-determination, yet not possessing a sovereign intellect, nor holding sway over all things by reflection, and authority, and power, but a slave to his passions, and comprising all sorts of contrarieties in himself. But man, from the fact of his possessing a capacity of self-determination, brings forth what is evil, that is, accidentally; which evil is not consummated unless you actually commit some piece of wickedness. For it is in regard of our desiring anything that is wicked, or our meditating upon it, that what is evil is so denominated. Evil had no existence from the beginning, but came into being subsequently. Since man has free will, a law has been defined for his guidance by the Deity, not without answering a good purpose. For if man did not possess the power to will and not to will, why should a law be established? For a law will not be laid down for an animal devoid of reason, but a bridle and a whip; whereas to man has been given a precept and penalty to perform, or for not carrying into execution what has been enjoined. For man thus constituted has a law been enacted by just men in primitive ages. Nearer our own day was there established a law, full of gravity and justice, by Moses, to whom allusion has been already made, a devout man, and one beloved of God.
Now the Logos of God controls all these; the first begotten Child of the Father, the voice of the Dawn antecedent to the Morning Star. Afterwards just men were born, friends of God; and these have been styled prophets, on account of their foreshowing future events. And the word of prophecy was committed unto them, not for one age only; but also the utterances of events predicted throughout all generations, were vouchsafed in perfect clearness. And this, too, not at the time merely when seers furnished a reply to those present; but also events that would happen throughout all ages, have been manifested beforehand; because, in speaking of incidents gone by, the prophets brought them back to the recollection of humanity; whereas, in showing forth present occurrences, they endeavoured to persuade men not to be remiss; while, by foretelling future events, they have rendered each one of us terrified on beholding events that had been predicted long before, and on expecting likewise those events predicted as still future. Such is our faith, O all you men,— ours, I say, who are not persuaded by empty expressions, nor caught away by sudden impulses of the heart, nor beguiled by the plausibility of eloquent discourses, yet who do not refuse to obey words that have been uttered by divine power. And these injunctions has God given to the Word. But the Word, by declaring them, promulgated the divine commandments, thereby turning man from disobedience, not bringing him into servitude by force of necessity, but summoning him to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity.
This Logos the Father in the latter days sent forth, no longer to speak by a prophet, and not wishing that the Word, being obscurely proclaimed, should be made the subject of mere conjecture, but that He should be manifested, so that we could see Him with our own eyes. This Logos, I say, the Father sent forth, in order that the world, on beholding Him, might reverence Him who was delivering precepts not by the person of prophets, nor terrifying the soul by an angel, but who was Himself— He that had spoken— corporally present among us. This Logos we know to have received a body from a virgin, and to have remodelled the old man by a new creation. And we believe the Logos to have passed through every period in this life, in order that He Himself might serve as a law for every age, and that, by being present (among) us, He might exhibit His own manhood as an aim for all men. And that by Himself in person He might prove that God made nothing evil, and that man possesses the capacity of self-determination, inasmuch as he is able to will and not to will, and is endued with power to do both. This Man we know to have been made out of the compound of our humanity. For if He were not of the same nature with ourselves, in vain does He ordain that we should imitate the Teacher. For if that Man happened to be of a different substance from us, why does He lay injunctions similar to those He has received on myself, who am born weak; and how is this the act of one that is good and just? In order, however, that He might not be supposed to be different from us, He even underwent toil, and was willing to endure hunger, and did not refuse to feel thirst, and sunk into the quietude of slumber. He did not protest against His Passion, but became obedient unto death, and manifested His resurrection. Now in all these acts He offered up, as the first-fruits, His own manhood, in order that you, when you are in tribulation, may not be disheartened, but, confessing yourself to be a man (of like nature with the Redeemer), may dwell in expectation of also receiving what the Father has granted unto this Son.
Such is the true doctrine in regard of the divine nature, O you men, Greeks and Barbarians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, Egyptians and Libyans, Indians and Ethiopians, Celts, and you Latins, who lead armies, and all you that inhabit Europe, and Asia, and Libya. And to you I have become an adviser, inasmuch as I am a disciple of the benevolent Logos, and hence humane, in order that you may hasten and by us may be taught who the true God is, and what is His well-ordered creation. Do not devote your attention to the fallacies of artificial discourses, nor the vain promises of plagiarizing heretics, but to the venerable simplicity of unassuming truth. And by means of this knowledge you shall escape the approaching threat of the fire of judgment, and the rayless scenery of gloomy Tartarus, where never shines a beam from the irradiating voice of the Word!
You shall escape the boiling flood of hell's eternal lake of fire and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of fallen angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins; and you shall escape the worm that ceaselessly coils for food around the body whose scum has bred it. Now such (torments) as these shall you avoid by being instructed in a knowledge of the true God. And you shall possess an immortal body, even one placed beyond the possibility of corruption, just like the soul. And you shall receive the kingdom of heaven, you who, while you sojourned in this life, knew the Celestial King. And you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For you have become God: for whatever sufferings you underwent while being a man, these He gave to you, because you were of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon you, because you have been deified, and begotten unto immortality. This constitutes the import of the proverb,
Know yourself; i.e., discover God within yourself, for He has formed you after His own image. For with the knowledge of self is conjoined the being an object of God's knowledge, for you are called by the Deity Himself. Be not therefore inflamed, O you men, with enmity one towards another, nor hesitate to retrace with all speed your steps. For Christ is the God above all, and He has arranged to wash away sin from human beings, rendering regenerate the old man. And God called man His likeness from the beginning, and has evinced in a figure His love towards you. And provided you obey His solemn injunctions, and becomest a faithful follower of Him who is good, you shall resemble Him, inasmuch as you shall have honour conferred upon you by Him. For the Deity, (by condescension,) does not diminish anything of the divinity of His divine perfection; having made you even God unto His glory!
Source. Translated by J.H. MacMahon. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050110.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.