College Notes
Church History
Lecture 5

Gnosticism/Simon Magus/Cerinthus

A. Little is said about its beginning
B. It was centered in Samaria, which was famous for blending various concepts together (syncretism)
C. Gnosticism predates Christianity
    1. It comes from the word "gnosis" to know
    2. It originated from the Grecian times
    3. Alexandria had a major influence in its spread
D. Gnosticism held a great variety of opinions:
    1. Orientalism with Hellenism
    2. Egyptianism and Judaism
    3. Blended the Pentateuch in with the others
    4. It was brought into Christianity by Simon Magus and Cerinthus
    5. Eventually it developed into at least 5O sects

A. Gnosis in the Greek = immediate knowledge of spiritual truth attainable by faith alone. This was the basis.
B. Gnosticism = the thought and practice of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and emancipation comes through gnosis.
C. Dualism = Reality is two. Usually these realities are antithetical, as spirit and matter, good and evil.  Commonly, the antithesis is weighted so that one of the two is considered more important and more enduring than the other.
D. Demiurge = a Gnostic subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world. God to good to have created world!
E. Docetism = The thought that Christ entered Jesus. Jesus was not considered God and Christ never really came in the flesh. Christ was thought to have left Jesus when He endured His suffering.
F. Antinomianism = the law was done away. To get more grace, we should sin the more.
G. Asceticism = The practicing of strict self-denial as a measure of personal and spiritual discipline.

A. II Thess 2:7-1O, by 5O-52 A.D. the church was 2O yrs old and the "...the mystery of iniquity doth already work..."
    1. This refers to Simon Magus or Cerinthus at that time
    2. It also is a type of the false prophet at the end
B. Gal 1:7 by 53 A.D. another teaching at work
    1. It was (removing) them from the true gospel
    2. A different "Christianity" began to preach a gospel about Christ instead of what Christ taught.
C. The whole book of Colossians was probably devoted to dispelling the teachings this movement.
    1. Col 1:13-22, repudiates the ideas of the Gnostics that the world created by a lesser, evil deity or an angel
    2. Col 2:2O-22 ordinances, the commands of men and their philosophy sounded interesting to people
    3. This could be dealing more with Cerinthus who was more ascetic in his beliefs
    4. This was in the 6O's and Paul was in Prison at Rome
D. I Tim 6:2O-21 "...oppositions of science..." was gnostic

A. By 62 A.D. Gnosticism was affecting the Church
B. For this reason, most if not all of the N.T. books were written to combat various forms of their teaching
C. III John 9-1O, Diotrephes had embraced a type of gnosticism
D. I John 4:1-3 Try the spirits, if say Christ not come in flesh then it is not of God
E. Jude 3-4 Certain men crept in unawares who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness

A. Simon Magus was the first
B. Read the hand out on Simon - test questions on this
C. He was born about the same time as Christ
D. Born in Samaria
E. Educated in Alexandria
F. Was a high priest in Samarian religion
G. Embraced Gnosticism because of Syncretism
H. Started preaching in mid 3O's went to Rome in mid 4O's
I. Blended pagan religion with Christianity
    1. He even influenced people in the Church
    2. He was also a magician and worked false miracles
J. Impressed people so much they made a statue of him on the Tiber River.
    1. Many dispute Justin's writings on this
    2. In the 15O's Justin Martyr wrote "this statue was still there."

A. God was very remote believed creation was by angelic beings
B. Dualistic in beliefs
C. Emphasis on female gods and sexual promiscuity
D. Rejected Mosaic law

A. Married a prostitute and made her a goddess.  The Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines by Smith and Wace explains:

"Helen was a prostitute whom he had redeemed at Tyre, and led about with him, saying that she was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom he had in the beginning conceived the making of angels and archangels. Knowing thus his will, she had leaped away from him, descended to the lower regions, and generated angels and powers by whom this world was made. But this 'Ennoea' was detained in these lower regions by her offspring, and not suffered to return to the Father of whom they were ignorant. Thus she suffered all manner of contumely, so far as to be included in a human body, and to pass by transmigration from one female body to another.  She was for example, the Helen for whose sake the Trojan was fought; and afterwards fell lower and lower, until at last she was found in a brothel. She was the lost sheep. In order to redeem her, the Supreme Power descended to the lower world; he passed through the regions ruled by the principalities and powers and angels, in each region making himself like to those who dwelt there; and so among men he seemed to be man though not really so, and seemed to suffer though he really did not. His object was to bring to men the knowledge of himself, and so to give them salvation from the sway of those powers who, through their mutual jealousies, had misgoverned the world...This 'Jezebel' can be equated with the 'Female Principle' which Simon introduced into his 'Christianity.' None other than Simon's Helen -- the reclaimed temple prostitute -- what better type of person is there who could so expertly 'teach' and 'seduce my servants to commit fornication,' literally as well as spiritually?" (p. 682)

B. This could have been the beginnings of "Mary worship." Together they made up a story that she was the spirit of Helen of Troy wandering through the spirits waiting for him to be born
C. Many believed this story and were caught up in his sensual religion

A. Stories vary, but there are two main ones
    1. He tried to prove he was a god by rising from the dead Smith and Wace relate:

"...Hippolytus'...relation is, that after the scene recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Simon traveled to Rome and there encountered the Apostles, and that when he was deceiving many by his magic arts he was especially resisted by Peter. And when he was near being thoroughly exposed, he bid his disciple dig a trench and bury him, promising that he would rise again on the third day. They did as he bade them; but he never rose." (p. 684)

    2. He tried to prove he was a god by flying " give the emperor a crowning proof of his magical skill, he had attempted to fly through the air, but that through the efficacy of the Apostle's prayers the demon who bore him were compelled to let him go, whereupon he perished miserably." (p. 684)
    3. He was given a heroic burial in the famous Roman cemetery, now called the Vatican.  Assuming that Simon Magus was Peter, Werner Keller writes in his The Bible as History:

"On the night of his death on the cross Peter's (Simon Magus') followers buried his body. As in the case of Jesus on the hill of Calvary it was wrapped in linen and secretly taken to a Pagan burial-ground on the Via Cornelia behind the stone structure of the arena. This Pagan cemetery lay on a knoll called Vaticanus: the Latin word 'vatis' means a 'prophet' or soothsayer.' In days gone by there had been a Etruscan oracle on this spot." 

B. Justin Martyr writes in The First Apology that Simon was eventually honored as a god by a statue. This is found in Saint Justin Martyr by Thomas B. Falls, Vol. VI:

"After the ascension of Christ into Heaven, the demons produced certain men who claimed to be gods, who were not only not molested by you, (the Romans) but even showered with honors. There was a certain Simon, a Samaritan, from the village called Gitta, who in the time of Emperor Claudius through the force of the demons working in him, performed mighty acts of magic in your royal city of Rome and was reputed to be a god. And as a god he was honored by you with a statue, which was erected (on an island) in the Tiber River, between the two bridges, with this Roman inscription: 'To Simon, the holy God.' Almost every Samaritan, and even a few from other regions, worship him and call him the first God." (p. 62)

A. He was educated in Egypt, probably Alexandria
B. He appeared in about 88 A.D.
C. He was contemporary with Simon
D. He resided in Ephesus where John resided
E. John considered him a supreme enemy

The Encyclopedia Of Religion and Ethics recounts a meeting of John and Cerinthus:

"Irenaeus says, referring to Polycarp: 'And there are some who heard him say that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus within, leapt out of the bath without bathing, but saying "Let us flee, lest the bath fall in while Cerinthus the enemy of the truth is within."'" (p. 318)

A. Irenaeus relates the most trustworthy information about his teaching.

"A certain Cerinthus in Asia taught that the world was not made by the Supreme God, but by a certain power entirely separate and distinct from that authority which is above the universe, and ignorant of that God who is over all things. He submitted that Jesus was not born of a virgin (for this seemed to him impossible), but was the son of Joseph and Mary, born as all other men, yet excelling all mankind in righteousness, prudence, and wisdom. And that after His baptism there had descended on Him, from that authority which is above all things, Christ in the form of a dove; and that then He had announced the unknown Father and had worked miracles but that at the end Christ had flown back again from Jesus, and that Jesus suffered and rose again, but that Christ remained impassible, since He was a spiritual being." (I, XXVI, I)

B. Cerinthus had a perverted teaching about the millennium.  The
     Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics states:

Cerinthus taught that angels had shown him that "...after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ is an earthly kingdom, and again that men shall live in Jerusalem in the flesh and be the slaves of lusts and pleasures. And being an enemy of the Scriptures of God, he would fain deceive, and says that a tale of a thousand years is to be spent in marriage festivities." Cited by Eusebius HE III.28 [quoted from Lightfoot, Clement of Rome,189O, II. 381]

C. His teaching influenced the Ebionites:
     Irenaeus connects Cerinthus with Carpocrates and the

He says: "Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the Law." (I. XXVI. 2)

D. Some of these teachings affected the church.

A. Barclay writes in his commentary, Letters Of John and Jude:

"By A.D. 1OO certain things had almost inevitably happened within the Church,...The thrill of the first days had, to some extent at least, passed away. In the first days of Christianity there was a glory and a splendour, but now Christianity had become a thing of habit...  Many were now second or even third generation Christians ... the first thrill was gone and the flame of devotion had died to a flicker. Christianity involved an ethical demand. It demanded a new standard of moral purity, a new kindness, a new service, a new forgiveness --and it was difficult. And once the first thrill and enthusiasm were gone it became harder and harder to stand out against the world and to refuse to conform to the generally accepted standards and practices of the age." (p. 3-4)

B. These people brought in Gnostic thought ignorantly. Barclay Continues:

"The trouble which John (and others) sought to combat did not come from men out to destroy the Christian faith but from men who thought they were improving it. It come from men whose aim was to make Christianity intellectually respectable. They knew the intellectual tendencies and currents of the day and felt that the time had come for Christianity to come to terms with secular philosophy and contemporary thought. What then was this contemporary thought and philosophy with which the false prophets and mistaken teachers wished to align the Christian faith?  Throughout the Greek world there was a tendency of thought to which the general name of Gnosticism is given." (p. 5)

A. In the 7O's the liberal era
    1. These men were not evil
    2. They wanted to improve God's Church
    3. They wanted to popularize it to make it intellectually acceptable
B. We made the S.T.P. project
    1. We just wanted to define the doctrines of the Church of God so that all could understand it.
    2. We wanted to make it palatable
    3. It was not filled with heresy, 9O% ok.
        a. It watered down interracial marriage
        b. It watered down healing
        c. It was the start of a departure from God's truth

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