2011-11-22

Pre-Christian Christ Gnosticism: 2

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by Neil Godfrey

Continued from post 1.

To sum up the significant themes I will sometimes paraphrase and sometimes repeat the words of Walter Schmithals on pages 39 to 40 of Gnosticism in Corinth.

The Gnostic system described in the previous post is attributed to Simon (i.e. the Simon Magus of Acts 8:9ff).

Hippolytus tells us that all of this was written out in a work attributed to Simon, the “Apophasis Megale” or Great Revelation.

In this Revelation Simon speaks with divine authority: “To you then I speak what I speak and write what I write. The writing is this.”

“His authority is of the great power in general, which he himself is as well.”

Now we know from Acts and other early sources that Simon is infamous for having claimed to be the great power. Schmithals’ comment is:

In the framework of the system of the Apophasis, of course, this claim cannot be meant in an exclusive sense. Nevertheless one must describe the Simon of the [Apophasis], using the traditional concepts, as redeemer or, better, as revealer, even if his self-consciousness is not different from that of men in general who have stamped their [power] into an [image/εικων].

The highest being of all is the Power, δύναμις [Dynamis] — and this same δύναμις is also found in all mankind “as potentiality” — and so in Simon, too.

If a man by virtue of his Dynamis leads other men to the actualization of their Dynamis-Self, this one man is thus the typically Gnostic “redeemed redeemer” who, in that he “redeems” the δύναμις of which he also is a part, is himself “redeemed.” Thus it is also said of the δύναμις that it “seeks itself, finds itself.”

For this reason Simon always appears in the traditions with a circle of pupils, with these pupils being able to make the same claim without at the same time competing with Simon.

Thus is the essence of Schmithals’ account of Simon’s Gnosticism.

Next post in this series will begin to look at the arguments for this Gnosticism being pre-Christian.

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Neil Godfrey

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