My ultimate contention is that Simon Magus is Chrestus and Simon identifies himself with the Logos and the Samaritan Messiah. While some believe this is a misspelling of Christos (it is not so) Chrestus and his followers and Peter and his followers were at odds as illustrated in part’s 2 and 3. Literature like the Clementines, although summarily dismissed by many scholars a pseudo works (pretended to be the actual words of Pope Clement) and place it all the way to the fourth century, when it is actually much closer to the second century. Many apocryphal texts use this method of pretending to be the words of another, such as Jesus, which is more of a style of exposition and not meant to deceive. The Gnostic Gospels use this very method to convey their spiritual messages.
While the Clementines do in fact treat Simon Magus in an unfavorable light to the point where he is vilified, but the Clementines do show him as a major opponent to Peter (Dositheos). Although Simon appears to use tricks and magic, Peter also appears not to be without these himself. What is most disturbing to Church authorities is that Clementines say that Simon Magus took over the organization of John the Baptist after his death and not Jesus. This would clearly give him the stature to be on an equal footing as Peter in their debates. However, in Acts 8, Simon is depicted as being converted to Peter’s faith as well, much like how Paul is type-casted as a devout Pharisaic convert to Judeo-Christianity in true propaganda form, in the same text.
Simon (like many Gnostics after him) are very slippery in his debate against the Orthodox Peter. Or subtle, depending on your loyalty. The rest of the debate is quite interesting, and very complex, very rhetorically brilliant on both sides (another reason I think the letter is genuine). It also prefigures the great Gnostic-Christian divide of those early centuries quite well; this encounter may have symbolically actuated the great divide between the two camps.
There is also evidence of a possible Philonic (Philo of Alexandria) confluence with Simonian thought because both parties focus on the first five books of the Old Testament in esoteric ways. It was Philo who represents the apex of Jewish-Hellenistic syncretism. His work attempts to combine Platonism and Old Testament theology into one philosophical system as testified by his multitude of writings.
It is probable to suspect Simon Magus played a much more important role in the evolution of early Christianity than most biblical scholars are willing to acknowledge. The vast body of patristic writings, (especially the much reviled Clementine literature) about him suggest that the figure of Simon loomed far larger in the early church fathers than in the minds of today. What I’ve been suggesting in the last three entries is not new as other scholars in their own way such as Robert M. Price, Robert Eisenman, Simone Petrement, Hermann Detering, G.R.S. Mead, etc have also expressed similar sentiments. Without being said, what I am also suggesting also ruffles the feathers of many people out there with Orthodox/Catholic sympathies but alas I am not here to placate the rabble or any ecclesiastical authority. Again, we will also tackle commentary on the Great Declaration.
The Samaritans (the “Guardians” or “Watchers” of the Law), are a Hebrew tribe, who only observe the Samaritan Pentateuch, which is basically the first five books of the Torah. Samaritians claimed that their worship was true to the faith while the Jews or the Judeans had an altered faith because of the Babylonian Captivity influence. The Samaritians claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manesseh, and still inhabit their lands to this day, between Judea and Galilee. Moses’ successor and conqueror of the Promises Land, Joshua, was from Ephraim and the tribe also happened to he given the honor of being the custodians of the Ark of the Covenant in its sanctuary at Shiloh. There are historians who claim that Ephraim, Manesseh and Benjamin were the only three tribes that came out of Egypt, while the others were Canaanites who were converts to Moses’ religion. This connection between Ephraim and Egypt and its Heliopolis religion makes sense considering Moses’ strong connection with Egypt, Aton worship and even the figures of Thoth/Hermes.
Many scholars and archaeologists have shown that the Israelites’ original religion was far from monotheistic and even patriarchal that it was to become, and that is owed its existence to the native paganism of Canaan and Egypt. In Part 3, we saw that the Gnostics believed that each nation of Israel and her prophets was ruled over by the seven angels or the Archons. Moses is listed as belonging to Ialdabaoth. Curiously enough, Ephraim is not listed…
After Israel developed itself into a nation, a power struggle also developed quickly after, between Ephraim and Judah. As the story goes, King David usurped Ephraim’s status by taking the Ark of the Covenant to Jersualem, being the new religious center in Judah’s territory. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom split in two, with Ephraim heading the ten tribes in the north and Judah in the south. Thus, a new sanctuary and temple which rivaled Jerusalem, was built in Ephraim’s land on Mount Gerizim.
Soon after this, the more powerful Assyrian empire invaded Northern Israel and underwent a very traumatic invasion and mass enslavement through the Babylonian Captivity, two centuries later. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after their seventy-year exile, they set about codifying and reforming their religion, incorporating concepts from that of Babylon. Both camps believed that their own religion was the “pure” version while they viewed each other’s versions as heretical. Victors’ history decided that the Jews were superior over the Samaritians, but the Samaritans could have been right…
This rivalry reached a climax when Judea conquered Samaria and destroyed their temple. This was the icing on the cake for the Samaritan resentment and even hatred of the Jews. It was only the advent of Roman rule that Samaria was freed from Jewish subjugation. The Jewish and Samaritan rivalry even affected their eschatology or end-time speculations: each tribe saw their own as coming out on top. The Judeans would have likely hated the idea of bringing in the Samaritans back into the fold; while the Samaritians held their own views on Judah being overthrown by their own Messiah, being the Taheb. The woman at the well in John 4 could very well have recognized Jesus (Simon) as the Taheb.
In the Samaritian tradition, there is a messianic figure or title known as the “Taheb” or the “restorer” or prophet like Moses, who would come and restore the true worship on Mount Gerizim. Instead of the Davidic Messiah that the Jews were expecting, the Samaritans looked forward to the coming of this chosen one, “the restorer” which is centered on Deuteronomy 18:18, a herald of the last day–a day of final judgment, of vengeance and reward, when the temple of Gerizim would be restored, Jerusalem destroyed (!) the sacrifices reinstated and the heathen converted. Deuteronomy 18:18 says:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.
It is notable that the Samaritan Taheb goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the Davidic Warrior-King Messiah. Jesus of John is often portrayed as being entirely hostile to Judaism and the Pharisees as noted in Part 2. John and Jesus refer to the Jews as a “brood of vipers”, sort of a case of inverting the traditional hermenuetic of the serpent causing the fall of Adam and Eve and applying it to the Jews.
It is reasonable to conclude that much of the Old and New Testament feuds and tensions between Jesus, Paul, Stephen, Simon, John the Baptist with the lapdog Judean Pharisees and their Roman elite rulers of the day reflect this mutual hatred. The Samaritans only recognized an archaic form of YHWH, one that was still close to El, the Father, and to the angelic or even contained in his Elohim form (the Gods). Holding that the sanctuary at Sichem on Mount Gerizim was the only true Temple, Samaritanism only recognized the Torah or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) as sacred texts- as mentioned earlier. They also recognized the Book of Joshua, being the sixth book of the Pentateuch, but not for good reasons. The Babylonian Talmud was also readily rejected.
The Book of Joshua as well as Numbers 31:13-18 recounts the Hebrew conquest of Canaan as a war of extermination and death, including that of women and children. The Church Father Origen was well aware that such texts like Joshua provided critics like Marcion evidence that the God of the Old Testament was morally obtuse if not outright evil. Origen had a different solution to this dilemma by allegorizing the tribal warfare, cruelty and extreme violence that is brimming in the Old Testament as the soul struggling against sin and temptation and the enemies of the Church. This is all laid out in his Homilies on Joshua. Thus, any sort of objectionable and disturbing behavior exhibited by Yahweh was successfully explained away. The Land of Canaan was allegorized as the soul to be brought under the rule of “Jesus” or Joshua. In Numbers 25:4, it is clear that Yahweh is an incredibly blood-thirty warrior-god:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.
The arch-heretic Marcion would have likely rejected Origen’s usage of allegory. In fact, Marcion felt that the Old Testament was so fundamentally flawed and of no consequence for the Christian Church. Moreover, for the Marcionite church, it was better to cast away the Old Testament aside than to tarnish the image of the Father of Jesus Christ by the mixing in traces of the war-like God, who even commanded that every first-born of Egypt to be killed by the Destroying Angel (Exodus 11:5) indicating that he was no better than the supposed myth that Herod was involved in the “massacre of the innocents” as per Matthew 2: 16-18.
In 144 A.D., appeared a ship-builder from Sinope named Marcion. He founded a church system that rivaled in numbers and influence that of the orthodox Christian church. By 150 A.D., Justin Martyr wrote that Marcionites had expanded “to the uttermost bounds of the earth.” (Justin, Apology 1.26.) It required three hundred years for the orthodox church to eventually rout out the heresy of Marcion.
Marcion was not battling the Roman Catholic church. It did not yet exist. Instead, there was a large orthodox church led from Jerusalem. The Roman bishop was just one bishop among many throughout the Mediterranean. Even if Peter (who is really based on Dositheos) was in Rome at one point, there was no effort to exercise superiority from Rome until many centuries later.
What happened is that Marcion declared in 144 A.D. that Paul alone was the true apostle for the era of grace; the twelve apostles, in particular their gospel of Matthew, were tainted by legalism; the Jesus of the twelve belonged to the God of the Old Testament; and the Jesus of Paul represented the son of a loving Father who now accepted us by faith alone. As Adolf Harnack, the Marcionite sympathizing scholar (d. 1930) expressed it:
According to Marcion, Christ saved us from the world and its god in order to make us children of a new and alien God.
Marcion’s primary threat to the church is that, unlike the Gnostics, his teachings were rooted in part of the same set of scriptures used by the orthodox, although an earlier variant, and his was an organized religious movement, not an esoteric cult. It had the potential to become the so-called orthodoxy. And in many regions, such as Syria, it WAS
considered the orthodox form of Christianity. Of course, history readily shown this brand of Christianity was only destined to fall by the way side and eventually buried by the Roman Catholic Church. See Antithesis
for more on Marcion’s train of thought on the division between the Old and New Testament. Marcion could very well be seen as the forerunner of the Protestant reformation movement later on in the 15th century, starting with Martin Luther…
As noted by scholars, Marcion’s gospel
is a lot older than one would assume, and Mark isn’t quite as early as most contemporary New Testament critics think it is. The earliest records of Jesus were most likely collections of his sayings, like the Gospel of Thomas
, and by the latter half of the first century, these were eventually put into narrative form. This is when we see gospel authors trying to link Jesus to messianic prophecies in the OT, such as using Psalm 22 as the basis for the crucifixion events, among other things. But there are a number of sayings attributed to Jesus that indicate he never intended to be the Jewish messiah, and even denied being so, but his Jewish followers, who were intent on making him such, wrote mythological narratives like Matthew and Mark that present him that way.
“And he said unto them, How say they that the Christ is David’s son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. David therefore calleth him Lord, and how is he then his son?” Luke 20:42
“His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you.’ He said to them, ‘You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead.'” Gospel of Thomas, Logion 52.
These two passages clearly call into question the Jewishness of Jesus, indicating that he may have been originally a Samaritan. The Gospel of John also reflects that it may have been written by a Samaritan community, considering its very pro-Samaritan sentiments. This would contradict other very pro-Law statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:17. However, Jesus Christ (which is ultimately a title and not an actual name at all) was all things to all people, and in his statement “I am” implies a totality of Messiah, Christ and Taheb. This is directly stated in the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 13:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like.”
Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a righteous angel.”
Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.”
Thomas said to him, “Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like.”
Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.”
And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”
Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.”
Again, we see this idea repeated in 1 Corinthians 9:20, when Paul states:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
This is very much comparable to how Simon describes himself in the Great Declaration:
“I was manifested to the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and among the gentiles as the Holy Spirit, and I permitted them to call me by whatever name they pleased.”
These ideas all touch on the idea of doceticism but I will save this for the finale of this commentary.
The Two Powers Revisited
In the Clementine literature, Simon Magus in his seminal debate with Peter argued that Yahweh was one of the sons of God, being their chief, but was distinct from God the Most High or the Unknowable God. Peter’s position, however, is not so clear. Peter basically claims that the God of the Jews is called the “God of gods”, implying there is no power higher than YHWH. However, Peter later adds that the God of gods is actually Christ. So, Peter, in actuality contradicts himself or conflates YHWH with Christ. Simon in the Recognition’s II.39, argues by using Jewish scripture that there were many gods, like Jesus did in the Gospel of John.
Then Simon said: “I shall make use of assertions from the law of the Jews only. For it is manifest to all who take interest in religion, that this law is of universal authority, yet that every one receives the understanding of this law according to his own judgment. For it has so been written by Him who created the world, that the faith of things is made to depend upon it. Whence, whether any one wishes to bring forward truth, or any one to bring forward falsehood, no assertion will be received without this law. Inasmuch, therefore, as my knowledge is most fully in accordance with the law, I rightly declared that there are many gods, of whom one is more eminent than the rest, and incomprehensible, even He who is God of gods.
But that there are many gods, the law itself informs me. For, in the first place, it says this in the passage where one in the figure of a serpent speaks to Eve, the first woman, `On the day ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall be as gods, ‘ that is, as those who made man; and after they have tasted of the tree, God Himself testifies, saying to the rest of the gods, `Behold, Adam is become as one of us; ‘ thus, therefore, it is manifest that there were many gods engaged in the making of man…
As mentioned in Part 3, the heresy of the “two powers of Heaven” (a crime against the unique God in the eyes of Jewish orthodoxy) probably started in heretical Jewish circles such as the Sethians (or really Dosithaeans), although condemned by the Books of Enoch, was inadvertently slipped into its ideas of the confrontation between the good angels (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel) and the fallen angels, being the Watchers, in the same text.
The two powers doctrine even influenced Philo of Alexandria, where he separates Theos, the Good God from the Kyrios, or Adonai, being the same being as the Tetragrammaton YHWH. However, Philo does not devalue YHWH as an inferior creator or angelic power as Simon and his followers did and probably would have considered them as evil heretics. The term “Kyrios” is ascribed to Paul’s Christ multiple times throughout his letters, although not as much in the gospels, especially the Gospel of John. Even more significantly, according to Hippolytus, Simon was called “Lord” by his followers, at least by his later ones (Refutation of All Heresies, 6,15).
Philo also identifies the Logos as “a second God” and even “God,” and his association of the Logos with the “two powers” as two potentcies in one God (See: Questions and Answers on Exodus. 2.68.) It is also surely significant that Philo nowhere seeks to defend these beliefs against a charge of heresy. The fact that Philo gives no indication that he was departing from an already-existing Jewish “orthodoxy,” or that his teaching on the Logos was met with objections, suggests that his views were not objectionable to his contemporaries. Perhaps this can be a form of argument of silence?
Both Philo and the Gnostics testify to the belief of a second God, the creator, the Logos, the Man. The Gnostics, however, identified the second God with the God of the Jews in a way that Philo does not. Philo, along with the Samaritians, would have naturally rejected the Gnostics as well as Marcion’s separation of the God of the Jews, being the Lawgiver and creator of the world from the Good God of Jesus Christ as many of his much later Orthodox enemies in the ever-growing minority Catholic Church.
Speaking of the Catholic Church, Eusebius, the infamous propaganda minister of the burgeoning Orthodoxy had this to say about the Two Powers, in Preparation for the Gospel, Book XI, Chapter XIV:
First then Moses expressly speaks of two divine Lords in the passage where he says, ‘Then the LORD rained from the LORD fire and brimstone upon the city of the ungodly: where he applied to both the like combination of Hebrew letters in the usual way; and this combination is the mention of God expressed in the four letters, which is with them unutterable.
In accordance with him David also, another Prophet as well as king of the Hebrews, says, ‘The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand,’ indicating the Most High God by the first LORD, and the second to Him by the second title. For to what other is it right to suppose that the right hand of the Unbegotten God is conceded, than to Him alone of whom we are speaking?
This is He whom the same prophet in other places more clearly distinguishes as the Word of the Father, supposing Him whose deity we are considering to be the Creator of the universe, in the passage where he says, ‘By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made firm.’
The Fingerprints of Dositheos
The famous Theosophist G.R.S Mead speaks of the Taheb of the Samaritan’s in the following excerpt from John the Baptizer and Christian Origins:
“Now in Samaritan tradition, and it will be remembered that the Samaritans rejected all the Jewish scriptures save the Five Fifths of the Law, their future Redeemer was to be called Joshua. This Deliverer they called the Ta’eb, the Returner, and they believed he would be a reborn or returned Joshuah. The Ta’eb is the Samaritan ‘Messiah.’ In this connection a recently translated Samaritan Midrash (B.M. Samaritan MS. Or. 33931) is especially instructive.
It understands the title Ta’eb as signifying ‘he who repents’ or even ‘he who makes to repent,’ not so much the Returner as the Turner-back of others. It is brought into close connection also with Noḫam, meaning Repenting, and is thus by word-play associated with Noah. Our Samaritan Midrash accordingly brings Noah on to the scene of expected redemption, and becomes a spiritualized version of the Deluge-story,abounding in mystical word-plays. One or two specimens (p. 22) of them may now be given, as the ideas behind them are reminiscent of the John-circle of ideas.
Whereas in the old story Yahveh orders Noah: “Make thee an ark (tebah),” the Midrash makes God say unto the Ta’eb: “Make thee a conversion”—or repentance (Aram. shuba, tubah). And so it continues in many details glossing the original parts of the ark by means of word-play, introducing notions of propitiation, expiation and atonement. A single passage from the original will make this clear, and in reading it we should remember that Samaria was a hot-bed of mystic and gnostic movements of all sorts.
In many ways G.R.S. Mead is correct about Samaria being the well-spring in which Gnostic thought may very well stem from, which explains the murky Jewish origins of Sethianism and its possible ties with Dositheos. It should also be noted that the Catholic heresiologists’ talking point that Simon was the originator of Gnosticism, however does not reflect Samaritan theology, since they do not speak of any distinctive Gnostic ideas such as a Demiurge, an Unknowable God above the creator, an immaterial Savior, or fallen Wisdom.
This kind of theology is reflective only later, especially in Simon Magus’s debates with Simon Peter in the Clementines. The most that can be said on that subject is that Simon may have included some elements of a particular Samaritian tradition in the development of his system. Of course, Dositheos understood himself and applied the title of the Standing One and if Dositheos understood himself as a neo-Moses, there was a sufficient amount of mythological language in the Samaritan Moses tradition upon which Simon could have drawn in the development of his distinctive system from Dositheos.
Dositheos, according to the Clementine tradition was the founder of a Samaritan sect. According to Josepheus, he is dated in the second century B.C.E., the 1st century C.E by Origen and the Clementine Recognition’s, and the fourth century C.E., under the Arabic-Muslim transliterated name of “Dusis” in the Samaritan Chronicles 3,6,7. According to Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History iv. 22, his sect believed that he was Christ as foretold by Moses. This is a very important fact, in light of how Moses is betrayed in the Great Declaration, in a highly favorable status. This, however, seems to fly in the face of the Apostle Paul’s views on Moses, the Lawgiver and the Law. One example can be seen in 2 Corinthians 3:12-14:
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolish: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament…
Even the fact that Simon was considered to be synonymous with the semi-human god of Rome, Semoni Sanco Deo, the god of contracts, is worth noting because such a god sounded very similiar to that of the Lawgiver, the God of the Old Testament. Contracts and oaths were also said to be important to the Greek God Zeus. The connection between Simon and Zeus (as well as Helena with Athena/Minerva) has already been well-established in this series as testified by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus. It is also worth noting that Zeus was also seen as a Savior figure, much like Jesus while YHWH was often associated with the Titan-Cronus or Saturn, as I have well established in other posts on this blog. Let’s move further onward..
The Standing Ones
According to Hippolytus who begins his Book of Heresies with the Dositheans, makes Dositheos as the root of the Samaritian heresy. Tertullian does the same thing in Adversus omnes hareses, 1- thus indicating that the long list of heretics may have their root in the heretical cult of Dositheos. Like Simon, Dositheos rejected the prophets accepted by the Jewish canon, called for the reform of Mosaic law, and even advocated the abolition of religious duties. The Church Father Origen also mentions Dositheos in Contra Celsus, 1, 57.
And after the times of Jesus, Dositheus the Samaritan also wished to persuade the Samaritans that he was the Christ predicted by Moses; and he appears to have gained over some to his views. But it is not absurd, in quoting the extremely wise observation of that Gamaliel named in the book of Acts, to show how those persons above mentioned were strangers to the promise, being neither
sons of God nor
powers of God, whereas Christ Jesus was truly the Son of God.
So here, Origen assigns him to the 1st Century, after the time of Christ, and claims that he made himself out to be the Messiah promised by Moses. Of the Dositheans, Origen reports that only thirty remained in his day. This Dosithean and Simonian rejection of the Prophets, more or less also reflects Paul’s distinction between his Christ Jesus and Mosiac Law in 2 Corinthians 3:6-8:
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his appearance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministry of the spirit be more glorious?”
Paul’s comments on Moses’ radiant continence reflect Exodus 34:27-35, where Moses spends 40 days in the company of YHWH. This also reflects the supposed erroneous translation in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate on Moses being depicted as a horned god in Exodus 34: 29-30:
“And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord. And Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned, were afraid to come near.”
But, we will save this controversy for others to discuss. Interestingly in John 5:45, Jesus calls Moses, quite literally Satan!
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.”
Paul in Romans 7 also maintains that the Law of Moses, as well as the God of Sinai, were condemned to death when Jesus died and dissolved on the cross! Humanity is delivered from the crushing weight that is the curse of the Law and into the “living spirit” of Christ.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Obviously, there is a big contradiction in that Paul and the Johannite Jesus both reject Moses while Dositheos (Peter) and to a lesser extent, Simon, embrace and identify with him! In the Clementine Homilies, 2.24, Simon and Dositheos have a confrontation after Simon discovers that Dositheos did not correctly teach community doctrines to the Samaritans. During Simon’s absence during John the Baptist’s untimely death, Dositheos assumed leadership of the Baptist community and when Simon returned, he initially did not oppose him. It is only when Simon discovers his errors, is when Simon confronts Dositheos:
And on one occasion, Dositheus, perceiving that this artful accusation of Simon was dissipating the opinion of him with respect to many, so that they did not think that he was the Standing One, came in a rage to the usual place of meeting, and finding Simon, struck him with a staff. But it seemed to pass through the body of Simon as if he had been smoke. Thereupon Dositheus, being confounded, said to him, ‘If you are the Standing One, I also will worship you.’ Then Simon said that he was; and Dositheus, knowing that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped; and associating himself with the twenty-nine chiefs, he raised Simon to his own place of repute; and thus, not many days after, Dositheus himself, while he (Simon) stood, fell down and died.
The significance of this passage is important because the Standing One term is used to denote that the person who holds such a title has authority, power and above all divinity. There is also a reference to the staff, which is an allusion to Moses as an authority figure. There are numerous Samaritan texts which identify Moses as a near-Divine figure- the embodiment of the Eternal Light or a Logos-like figure as Philo of Alexandria would hold. Moses, being the author of the Torah, “had reached the very summit of philosophy” and “had learnt from the oracles of God the most numerous and important of the principles of nature” (Op. 8).
The Moses theology was clearly a major part of Dositheanism and would have passed into Simon’s Gnostic system if the tradition of the teacher/student relationship is accurate as mentioned in the Clementine literature and not contrived. This is evidenced in the following passages of the Great Declaration. This is not the only source of Simon’s theology, but one need not look further than Samaritan locale for the remaining sources. As mentioned earlier, the region had been extensively Hellenized during the pre-Roman period. Simon appears to have drawn not only on the intellectual traditions of the Israelitic Gerizim-based Samaritan community but also on Hellenistic mythologies and religions.
We can see that Simon clearly lived in Samaria and was a Samaritan by race according to the Clementine Homilies (Homily II, Chapter XXII), where Aquila is pictured as stating:
“This Simon is the son of Antonius and Rachel, a Samaritan by race, of the village of Gitthae, which is six schoeni distant from the city (of Samaria). He having disciplined himself greatly in Alexandria, and being very powerful in magic, and being ambitious, wishes to be accounted a certain supreme power, greater even than the God who created the world. And sometimes intimating that he is Christ, he styles himself the Standing One.”
A closely related passage is found in the Recognition’s of Clement (Book II, Chapt. VII):
“This Simon’s father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation he is a Samaritan, from a village of the Gettones; by profession a magician, yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be the Christ, and to be called the Standing One.”
The two accounts agree that his parents’ names were Antonius and Rachel and that he was a Samaritan. They disagree over whether he came from a village called Gitthae or from a village populated by the Gettones. My judgment is that the more primitive tradition is that he came from a village called Gitthae. They agree he was a magician. According to one, he spent a part of his life in Alexandria. According to the other, he knew Greek literature. Together, they suggest he was educated at Alexandria–which education would have included the reading of important Greek literature like Homer, Plato, Heraclitus, etc.
They agree that, he taught, the universe was created by an inferior god–with the phraseology in one of them of “God the Creator” suggesting that “God” is a title of this inferior god, much like Marcion did much later after Simon and Paul. They agree that Simon believed himself to be a power, greater than the god who created the universe and to be, as this greater power, the Christ and the Standing One. They disagree over whether Simon believed himself to be the “supreme” power or an “exalted” power. My judgment is that the correct version is that he believed himself to be an “exalted” power. This is because, elsewhere in the Clementine literature, he is pictured as claiming that there is a supreme and unknowable power above even the Standing One.
The epithet “Standing One” appears in several religious traditions in the Near East from Late Antiquity until the rise of Islam. The Standing One would denote one who “stands firm” in “existence” or “continuance” as a god-like quality. Philo of Alexandria identifies those who are lovers of God as those who manage to penetrate the divine world, to approach God as “Standing Ones” like Moses and Abraham who are the archetypal “Standing Ones” since they communed with God face to face or intimately. Those who do so also share in God’s nature as immutable and changeless. The “Standing One” isn’t just limited to Simon, Dositheos or even Moses, but its an endearing term applied to God in Samaritan texts. The Tetragrammaton YHWH, if correctly translated, means “That which was, that which is, that which shall be.” This is much like the saying as found in the Great Declaration, “He stood, stand, is to stand”, as a reference of the divine spark or consciousness of being ever-present and eternal.
Jarl E. Fossum writes in The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Inter-mediation and the Origin of Gnosticism:
When Moses ascended to heaven in order to receive the Law, he was invested with the Divine Name, which signifies the nature of the divine, and made into a divine or angelic being … In Memar Marqa, it is said that Moses “dwelt among the Standing Ones” (IV, 6). This position of Moses no doubt images him as the chief among the angels, God’s messengers. The hymn goes on to describe Moses as “the Elohim who is from mankind” (55,5). The divine names “Standing One” and “Elohim” were shared by the angels; and, since Moses is given the self-name names he obviously is elevated to the position of an angelic being, even the principal angel of God.
This description of Moses also sounds terribly close to how Enoch is transfigured into the Angel of the Lord, Metatron in Enochian literature. Of course, it goes without saying that this also matches in line with how Jesus achieves the resurrection in the Gospels. However, In Deuteronomy 34:5-6 the exact text reads:
“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.
This alone does not suggest a bodily resurrection, and the Jews would probably have had little reason other than not finding his grave to suspect so. But then in Jude 9:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
This revelation probably shed great light for the Jewish faithful on why no one found his body, which also foreshadows the empty tomb of Jesus in John 20. It is clear that the Samaritans held to a very strong tradition of Moses’ assumption and being snatched away at death which directly contradicts Deuteronomy. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the next part of the Great Declaration:
Such is the law laid down by Moses, and it was on the pattern of that he wrote each of his books, as the titles tell. The first of them is Genesis, and this title in and of itself bespeaks the whole matter. For this Genesis denotes vision, one of the divisions of the river. For it is through sight that one perceives the creation. The second book has the title Exodus, for everyone who is born must travel through the Red Sea and across the wilderness, the red denoting blood, and taste the bitter water at Marah. This bitterness is that of the water beyond the Red Sea, referring to the painful, bitter path of learning we walk through life. But when it is transformed by Moses, really by the word, what was bitter becomes sweet. This is attested even by secular source, as witness the poet: “Its root was black, but the flower was like unto milk. Moly, the immortals name it. How hard for mortal to dig up, but the for the gods all is child’s play.” What the gentiles say here is enough to give knowledge of the whole thing as long as one has ears to hear. Whoever tasted of this fruit had the power to restore those so cursed. Regaining their proper shape, they were like a defaced coin melted down again and struck again according to the type. By the use of this fruit, as white as milk, one discovered the true man, beloved of the wizardress.
In the same way, the third book, Leviticus, concerns smelling or breathing since the entire context of the book is taken up with sacrifices and offerings. And inseparable from sacrificing is the ascending odor of the incense accompanying the sacrifice, and it is the olfactory sense that determines the propriety of the scent. Numbers, the fourth book, refers to taste, which is activated by speaking. The book receives its name from the listing of everything in numerical order. But Deuteronomy, he says, is written in reference to the (sense of) touch possessed by the child that is being formed. For as touch, by seizing the things that are seen by the other senses, sums them up and ratifies them, testing what is rough, or warm, or clammy, (or cold); so the fifth book of the law constitutes a summary of the four books preceding this.
The Simonian author clearly has great respect for the first five books of the Torah, as this confirms G.R.S. Mead’s account of the Samaritians. There is also the application of the five physical senses with, again, the first five books of the Torah. Genesis is likened to vision, Exodus to taste, Leviticus to scent, Numbers to taste, while Deuteronomy refers to touch. As we’ve already seen, Eden was also taught as an allegory for the womb. This application of the Torah to the physiology to the human body isn’t exactly a unique invention.
According to the Church Father Hippolytus, the source of which we get the Great Declaration, another Gnostic sect, called the Naaseenes, also strongly emphasized the usage of allegory and symbolism, much like Simon. Accordingly, in Refutations of All Heresies V, IV, Hippolytus reports that in the Naaseene system, the Garden of Eden is actually the brain, and Paradise is the human head. The four rivers flowing out form Eden- Pishon applies to the eyes or vision, Gihon to hearing, Tigris to breathing and the Euphrates to the mouth. Hippolytus also claimed that the serpent who gave knowledge to Eve corresponded with the brain:
The form, however, of the brain is like the head of a serpent, respecting which a lengthened discussion is maintained by the professors of knowledge, falsely so named, as we shall prove.
This is comparable to Irenaeus’ report in Against Heresies (1.30) that the Valentinians believed that the serpent was “within us” in the form of the intestine!
Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernæan hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus. For some of them assert that Sophia herself became the serpent; on which account she was hostile to the creator of Adam, and implanted knowledge inmen, for which reason the serpent was called wiser than all others. Moreover, by the position of our intestines, through which the food is conveyed, and by the fact that they possess such a figure, our internal configuration in the form of a serpent reveals our hidden generatrix.
Moreover, Hippolytus reported that the Valentinians believed that the spirit was immobile inside the cranium, and spread to the spinal cord through the pineal body. By the same path, semen reached the genital organs. Plato’s Timeaus also describes the shape and function of the brain, the medulla and sperm, as intended by the creator, who placed the divine man in the encephalon and the mortal soul in the medulla.
Plato taught that the rational soul or souls were split up in the brain, the spinal marrow and in the heart and liver (Timaeus, 44 D; 69 C-77B). The Red Sea in this passage also reflects on how the Naaseenes viewed it. Hippolytus reports that the Red Sea represented the work of generation or sexual desire between man and woman, while Egypt represented the human body as a whole:
This, he says, is ocean, “generation of gods and generation of men” ever whirled round by the eddies of water, at one time upwards, at another time downwards. But he says there ensues a generation of men when the ocean flows downwards; but when upwards to the wall and fortress and the cliff of Luecas, a generation of gods takes place. This, he asserts, is that which has been written: “I said, Ye are gods, and all children of the highest;” “If ye hasten to fly out of Egypt, and repair beyond the Red Sea into the wilderness,” that is, from earthly intercourse to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living; “If, moreover, again you return into Egypt,” that is, into earthly intercourse, “ye shall die as men.” For mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he says, what is written. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” This, according to them, is the spiritual generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan which, flowing on (here) below, and preventing the children of Israel from departing out of Egypt–I mean from terrestrial intercourse, for Egypt is with them the body,–Jesus drove back, and made it flow upwards.
The Red Sea is not only representative of the lust of the flesh and procreation but for also the daily life on Planet Earth in bodily flesh, in all its toils and hardships, “by the sweat of your brow” as ordered through a curse by the creator god against Adam (Genesis 3:19). We’ve already covered the meaning of the River Jordan in Part 3, which is very similar, holding that John the Baptist was actually symbolic of the Demiurge, the womb and procreation. Of course, neither Simon or the Naasenes were the only ones to apply philosophy and allegory to the Old Testament. Philo of Alexandria dedicated several volumes of writings to this exegetic function alone, although Philo arrived to fundamentally different conclusions…
Philo of Alexandria made great pains to show the metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings of the Torah. His application of Platonic and Pythagorean concepts to Samaritian and Jewish scriptures would know doubt titillate other writers of that era, including Justin Martyr, who believed that Moses and the Israelites anticipated Egyptian mystery religion, as well as Plato and the Greek philosophers! It is debatable that Philo came before the New Testament and Gnostic literature as this seems more like an Orthodox fabrication.
In Part 5, we will get into Simon’s role as the docetic savior, his connection with with surrounding mystery traditions of Greece and Egypt, further evidence that links Dositheos and Simon Magus with the Sethian Gnostics and the possible Samaritan origin of the Eucharist. Until next time!