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also by a being of a bad disposition. The Gnostics, whom the apostle Paul had to do with, did not hold this principle with respect to the maker of the world. They were Jews, who believed as other Jews did in this respect, and they held the law of Moses in the greatest possible veneration.
It appears to me, that the Gnostics had advanced so many specious arguments to prove that the Supreme Being himself was not the immediate maker of the world, and the author of the Jewish dispensation, that the orthodox Christians were staggered by them, and so far conceded to their adversaries, as to allow that the Being who made the world, and who appeared to the patriarchs and the prophets, was not the Supreme God himself. On this account they might be the more readily induced to adopt the principles of the Platonists, and of Philo, who said that the world was made, and that the law was given, by the divine logos personified. This being the Son of God, they said he must be the same with Christ. In fact, the orthodox used many of the same arguments with the Gnostics, to prove that the Supreme Being was not the person who spake to the patriarchs. Thus they alleged the same texts to prove that he who had intercourse with Abraham, &c. was not the Supreme Being himself, but one different from him.
In some part of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, one might imagine that Justin had been a Gnostic, and Trypho a Unitarian Christian. Trypho says, “ Prove to me first that there is another God besides the maker of all things. Justin answered, " I will endeavour to shew you, from the Scriptures, that there is another God and Lord, and one who is so called, besides the maker of all things.” This is precisely what a Gnostic would have said. But he proceeds to speak of this second god as the messenger of the true God, which the Gnostics would not have done. “ He is also,” says he, “ called an angel, on account of his informing men of what he that made all things, above whom there is no God, wills that he should inform them.”+
Αποκρινε Bν μοι τρολεραν πως έχεις αποδειξαι δει και αλλο, Θεος ταρα τον ποιητης TWY onwy. Dial. p. 238. (P.)
+ Αλεγω πειρασομαι υμας σεισαι, νοησανίας τας γραφας, οι εςι και λεγείαι Θεος και Κυρια» ελερ υπερ τον ποιηλην των ολων, ος και αγελος καλείται, δια το αγελλειν τοις ανθρωποις οσαπες βελειαι αυλους α/γειλαι o των ολων ποιη7ης, υπερον αλλον Θεος Bκ εςι. Ibid. p. 249. See Thirlby's note on the place. (P.) “ Hauc veram lectionem esse non posse, et res ipsa demonstrat, et, nequis mep interpretur præter, quæ mox sequuntur in hâc periodo, nisi credas Jurtinum et esse et non esse alium Deum ÚTEP TOY TOItny twy odwy uno spiritu dicere potuisse. Wolfius itaque legit Ti apa, &c.” Thirlby, Ibid.
The Doctrine of the Gnostics concerning the Person of Christ,
The principles of the Gnostics which I have occasion to consider most particularly, are those which relate to the person of Christ. Their aversion to every thing that bore the name, and had the properties of matter, was such, that they could not think well of any thing that was material. Accordingly, besides supposing that the being who was properly entitled to the appellation of the Christ, or the messenger of God to man, was a super-angelic spirit, who had pre-existed, and was sent to make his appearance among men, all of them would not admit that what he did assume, as necessary to his manifestation, was a proper human body, consisting of real flesh and blood, but something that had only the external appearance of one, and that it was incapable of passion, and of the sufferings and pain of a real human body. This was so much a general opinion among them, that it is commonly ascribed to them all; so that Epiphanius says, “ the Gnostics say that Jesus was not born of Mary, but only exhibited by her, and that he did not take flesh except in appearance.
As it was an opinion of the Gnostics that Christ had no proper human body, of course they could not believe that Mary had a proper child-birth; for they said that, on inspection, she was found to be a virgin after the delivery, which Clemens Alexandrinus observes.t And as they supposed this phantom in the human form could not suffer, or die, Novatian says, that “ both the birth and the death of Christ are confutations of them.”
The opinion, however, that the body of Jesus was only the semblance of a proper human body, was not universal among the Gnostics. For the Cerinthians and Carpocratians believed that Jesus was not only a man, born as other men are, but also the proper offspring of Joseph as well as of Mary, and that he continued to be nothing more than any
Μη ειναι δε αυλον απο Μαριας γεγενημενον, αλλα δια Μαριας δεδειγμενον. Σαρκα δε auloy μη ειληφεναι, αλλ' η μονον δοκησιν ειναι. Hær. xxvi. p. 91. (P.)
+ Αλλ' ως εoικεν τους πολλοις, και μεχρι νυν δοκει η Μαριαμ λεχω ειναι, δια την τα παιδια γενησιν, εκ οσα λεχω και γαρ μεία το τεκειν αυτην μαιωθεισαν, φασι τινες, παρFeysy Eupent nya.. Strom. vii. p. 756.
This notion was afterwards adopted by the Catholics; but Clemens Alexandrinus evidently ascribes it to the Gnostics. (P.)
1 « Omnes enim istos et nativitas Domini et mors ipsa confutat.” C.x. p.31. (P.)
other man till his baptism, when the Cerinthians said that a super-angelic spirit, which alone they called the Christ, came into him.
I shall proceed to mention the opinions of other Gnostics concerning the body of Jesus, which, though various, agree in this, that Jesus was not the Christ, and shew an aversion to do so much honour to any thing that had proper flesh and blood. Bardesanes maintained that Christ had a celestial body.t Cerdo
also denied that Christ was born of Mary. I According to Tertullian, “ Marcion denied the birth of Christ, that he might deny his flesh; Apelles, his scholar, allowed the flesh, but denied the nativity ; and Valentinus both admitted the flesh and nativity, but gave a different interpretation to them.” By denying the birth of Christ, they meant that Jesus derived nothing from his mother, but that whatever his body consisted of, it was something that only passed through her, as water through a pipe. Accord. ingly, Epiphanius says, “ Valentinus held that the body of Christ came from heaven, and took nothing from the Virgin Mary.”|| It is remarkable, that this very opinion was afterwards adopted by Apollinaris, who likewise maintained, with the Arians, that Christ had no human soul.
Christ having no proper human body, could not have the proper functions of one; and, accordingly, Valentinus said that “ Christ ate and drank in a peculiar manner, not voiding excrements.” With respect to the super-angelic nature of Christ, Valentinus held that he was one of the cons; and, according to his genealogies, both Christ and the Holy Spirit were the offspring of Monogenes, which came from Logos and
* Ανωθεν δε εκ το ανω Θεε μετα το αδρυνθηναι Ιησεν τον εκ σπερμαίος Ιωσηφ και Μαριας γεγενημενον καλελήλυθηναι τον Χριςον εις αυλον. Epiphanius, Har. Χxviii. Ι. p. 110.
Βελονlαι μεν Ιησεν οντως ανθρωπον ειναι, ως ειπον, Χριςον δε εν αυλα γεγενησθαι τον εξ σεριςερας καλαβεβηκολα. Ηer. ii. Ι. p. 188. (Ρ.)
+ Περι τε Χριςο εςι το ζηλεμενον. Εγω γνωριζομαι οι ερανιον σωμα ελαβε. Origen, Contra Marcionitas, p. 105. (P.)
1 Μη ειναι δε τον Χριςον γεγεννημενον εκ Μαριας, μηδε εν σαρκι πεφηνεναι, αλλα δοκησει ονία, και δοκησει πεφηνολα, δοκησει δε τα ολα πεποιηκολα. Epiplianius, Her. xli. Ι. p. 300. (P.)
Marcion, ut carnem Christi negaret, negavit etiam nativitatem ; aut ut nativitatem negaret, negavit et carnem. Scilicet ne invicem sibi testimonium redderent et responderent, nativitas et caro : quia nec nativitas sine carne, nec caro sine nativitate: quasi non eadem licentia hæretica et ipse potuisset, admissa carne nativitatem negare, ut A pelles discipulus, et postea desertor ipsius; aut carnem et nativitatem confessus, aliter illas interpretari, ut condiscipulus et condesertor ejus Valentinus." De Carne Christi, Sect. i. p. 307. (P.)
| Φασι δε ανωθεν καλανηνοχεναι το σωμα, και ως δια σωληνος ύδωρ, δια Μαριας της παρθενο διεληλυθηναι μηδεν δε απο της παρθενικης μητρας ειληφεναι, αλλα ανωθεν το o wpa Exery. Hær. xxxi. I. p. 171. (P.)
Η Πανία, φησιν, υπομεινας, εγκρατης ην, θεοληλα Ιησες ειργαζελο ησθιες και επινεν sopwise ox amodidos Ta Bpoopala. Clemens Alex. Strom. L. iii. p. 451. (P.)
Zoe, as these were the offspring of Nous and Veritas, and these of Bythus and Sige.*
It may be proper to observe, in this place, that those of the Gnostics who believed that Christ was the son of Joseph as well as of Mary, must have thought that, antecedent to his baptism, he had a human soul, as well as a human body. Their opinion, therefore, concerning him after his baptism, must have been similar to that of the orthodox Christians, who believed the logos of the Father to be attached to the man Jesus. On the other hand, those. Gnostics who thought that Christ had no proper human body, but only the appearance of one, must have held that he had no intelligent principle within him besides the super-angelic spirit which they called the Christ. These, therefore, resembled the Arians. And as they agreed with them in holding the pre-existence of Christ as a great created spirit, not indeed the maker of the world, but superior to him that made it, and that this great spirit condescended to become incarnate for the salvation of men, they were agreed with respect to every sentiment that could excite reverence and gratitude. Both the schemes had the same object, viz. the exaltation of the personal dignity of Christ, though a created being, and they had the same effect upon the mind.
It is probable that the Gnostics differed much among themselves with respect to their celestial genealogies; and these being altogether the work of imagination, there was room for endless systems on the subject. All that deserves our notice is, that, according to them all, Christ was a preexistent spirit, which had been of high rank before he came into the world.
It appears to me highly probable, that it was in opposition to this doctrine of æons, that John wrote the Introduction to his gospel, in which he explains the only proper sense in which the terms logos, only-begotten, life, &c. of which the Gnostics made such mysteries, ought to be taken; asserting, more especially, that the logos, which is spoken of in the Scriptures, and the only logos that he acknowledged, was the power of God, an attribute of the Father, and therefore not to be distinguished from God himself,
It is possible, however, that John had heard of the doctrine of Philo, who made a second God of the logos; and if that kind of personification had begun to spread among Christians so early as the time of John, it is not impossible
• Irenæus, L. i. C. i. pp. 7, &c. (P.)
but that he might, in his usual indirect manner, allude to it. In any view, the meaning of the apostle seems to be as fol. lows: “ In the beginning, or before all time, was the logos, and the logos was with, or rather belonged to God, as his proper attribute, and therefore was no other than God himself. By this logos, or power of God, all things were made, and without it was not any thing made that was made ; agreeably to what the Psalmist says, “ By the word (logos) of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth ;” God “spake and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast ;” and many other passages of the same import.
The last of the Gnostics, viz. the Manicheans, thought, as others had done before them, that Christ had no real flesh, but only the appearance of it ;* but, according to Theophylact, Manes thought he had a real body till his baptism, when he left it in the river Jordan, and took another, which had only the appearance of one.
Absurd as these notions of the Gnostics are, and dangerous as we shall find their consequences were, it must not be forgotten, that the object of them was to do honour to Christ, as the most illustrious messenger of God to man. For it was thought that he could not have had that perfection of character which was requisite for his high office, if his mind had been subject to the influence of common flesh and blood. Marcion said, that “ he could not have been pure, if he took human flesh.”$
We find that the Gnostics argued in defence of even this part of their system, from the New Testament. For we learn from Origen, that some of the heretics endeavoured to prove, from Paul's saying, We are planted in the likeness of Christ's death, that he did not really die, but only had the appearance of death ; & and the Marcionites said that, according to Paul, Christ was only “ in fashion as a man, and not a man.”||
No writer in the New Testament opposes this very prin
". Τον Χριςον εν σαρκι γεγονεναι ο βελείαι, φανθασμα αυλον λεγων ειναι. Socratis Ηist. L. i. C. xxii. p. 55. (P.)
+ “Οι Μανιχαιοι λεγεσιν δει το σωμα αυ7α απεθείo εν τω Ιορδανη, καλα φαντασιαν δε arão owua edebey. In Matt. C. iv. I. p. 20. (P.)
1 Παλιν Μαρκιων ορα τι φησιν εκ ηδυναθο ο Θεος σαρκα αναλαβων μειναι καθαρος. Chrysostom, In Eph. vi. 10, X. p. 1188. (P.)
$“ Sed hoc non intelligentes quidam hæreticornm, conati sunt ex hoc apostoli loco asserere quod Christus non verè mortuus sit, sed similitudinem mortis habuerit, et visus sit magis mori quam verè mortuus sit.” Origen Ad Rom. Opera, II. p. 542. (P.)
Hl ide, prot, kai oxquals, kas ws and partos. Chrysostom, In Phil. ii. Opera, X. p. 1250. (P.)