Month: October 2013

The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 2)

In Part 1, we explored a few shared traits between Simon Magus and the Johannite Jesus. We also explored Simon’s cosmology and how it is rooted in a divine Fire similar to the Orphic Phanes and the cosmological doctrines of Heraclitus and the Stoics. Simonian cosmology also has a deep connection with the doctrines of the Sethians and Valentinians, considering the many similarities between Helena with the fallen Wisdom Mother figure, Sophia Achamoth and even Mary Magdalene. Yet, Helena seems to be more of an embodiment for Sophia for theatrical teaching purposes since the Sophia archetype precedes Helena and can be traced back to the Eros myth of Plato, the Egyptian Sia and Isis as well as the Babylonian Innana. However, the parallels do not end there.

As we are about to see, not only are there parallels and connections between Simon and the Johannite Jesus, but also with other Biblical figures such as Paul the Apostle, Peter, Nathaniel and of course, John the Baptist. The demonized Simon Magus by the Orthodox Church also bare striking resemblances with the figure of Satan and the AntiChrist as does Jesus in Matthew and Mark, strangely enough. Outside of the Bible, in other mystery religions, the connections with Orpheus, Dionysus, Asclepius, Apollinius of Tyana, Apollo, Hercules and even Zeus also exist, which will be explored in greater detail in future installments.

The Bad Samaritan

One thing I do want to point out before I delve into into the last half of the commentary is that of Simon’s status as a “magician”. In Simon’s time, he was not known as “Simon Magus”, which the word Magus is a Latin word for Magi. The term Magi was originally used by the Greek historian, Herodotus in reference to one of the five social classes of the Medes, an ancient Iranian people who at one time were medicine men or shamans who eventually became Zoroastrian priests. This term would become associated with the Greek term for sorcery, “goēteia”, where the Medieval Latin term “Goetia” comes from. Many Magi were present in or about Roman courts as they accompanied high ranking officials and governors. Therefore, they were socially accepted in Roman society.

However, their credibility was questioned by some throughout history such as Philo of Alexandria (Jewish philosopher, 20 BC – 50 AD), for example, who said the Magi perverted the magical arts. This would echo in the accusations of being a “magician”, which eventually came to be meant as a slanderous allegation appended to anyone, especially to Simon in order to scandalize him as the opposite of Peter. He was probably just Simon of Gitta. Or Simon the Samaritan. The Samaritans were an offshoot sect of Judaism and considered themselves the true inheritors of the Mosaic law. So Simon could have considered himself a Jew as a Samaritan, but obviously non-Samaritan Jews would disagree since they were seen as largely schismatics, and other times heretics of the worst kind, much like their Simonian predecessors. This is attested in Matthew 10:1-10 (likely redacted from the Gospel of the Hebrews), where the pro-Judiac/anti-Gentile Jesus advises his disciples to avoid “any town of the Samaritans”. Likewise, the Samaritans would also reject the Davidic Jews as heretical impostors.

Jesus and the Devil

In the Babylonian Talmud, it explains that Jesus was accused of being a sorcerer by the Talmudic Rabbis. In the eyes of them, the practice of sorcery and false prophecy constituted capital crimes worthy of execution, specifically mentioned in Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 and 13: 2-6. Sanhedrin 43a tells us:

On the eve of Passover Jesus was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of Passover. Ulla retorted: Do you suppose he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a mesith (enticer), concerning whom Scripture says, “Neither shall thou spare nor shall thou conceal him?” With Jesus, however, it was different, for he was connected with the government.

Likewise in Mark 3:22 and Matthew 9:34; 12:24, the Scribes and Pharisees accuse Jesus of exorcising demons because he is in league with the prince of demons also known as the “Lord of flies”, Beelzebub, and even go so far as to claim that Jesus is himself Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25)! Even Jesus’ own family accused him of being out of his mind (Mark 3:21). In replying (v. 24) “How can Satan drive out Satan?” Jesus shows that he knew perfectly well who his adversaries took him for: he was possessed by Beelzebub; he was even Satan personified. Jesus was also accused of being Jesus Magus.

Beelzebub

According to the gospels, then, the devil apparently exercised great influence over Jesus! When the Beloved Disciple asked Jesus “Who is it” who would betray him (John 13:25), Jesus replied, “It is he to whom I shall give a morsel when I have dipped it.” Then, dipping a morsel, he gave it to Judas, who is specifically mentioned as the son of “Simon Iscariot”. Immediately after Judas received the morsel, Satan entered him. So in effect, the devil entered Judas through the bread that Jesus provided!  Around the era that Jesus supposedly lived, the belief that the devil took hold of people in various ways, such as by food (especially those consecrated to idols) was a common one. Considering this little detail comes from a text that is entirely canonical, this is rather alarming.

What’s interesting about this is that the account of the Last Supper where Jesus presides with a meal with people of questionable character and values (the pagans), “at the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21), this would also coincide and at the same time, contradict Paul’s allegation regarding meat sacrificed to idols (cf. 1 Cor. 8:8–11; 10:25) because the unholy fate of Judas is actually the fault of his master, Jesus! Poor JudasPeter in Galatians 2:12 would disassociate himself with the same group of people, and also deny Christ three times, and would not be with him during his master’s last hours. The most Jewish of all the Gospels, being Matthew 16:23, clearly associates Satan with Peter:

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

This sort of reflects the idea that Jesus was also an exorcist, despite the strange associations of Jesus with Satan. We see this in the Greek Magical Papyri:

Hail God of Abraham Hail God of Isaac Hail God of Jacob; Jesus Chrestos the Holy Spirit the Son of the Father who is above the Seven who is within the Seven. Bring Iao Sabaoth may your power issue forth from him until you drive away this unclean daimon Satan who is in him.

A  pattern thus begins to emerge in the interconnection between the promotion of Christ’s power over demonic local gods, dramatic exorcist ritual, and widespread thaumaturgical reputation as seen in the Gospel of Mark, which reflects a peculiar emphasis on exorcism and demonology. Jesus was seen as both an exorcist and a demon, simultaneously, by different groups. Interestingly enough, the earliest inscription to Christ is of one who evokes demons. A “goistais” or a necromancer/nigromancer implies someone who calls up infernal spirits rather than an ordinary magician. Following in Jesus’ footsteps (as per Mark, Matthew and John) a similar pattern can also be seen in the Church Fathers, where Simon was conceived as being synonymous with the Devil himself. Irenaeus in Against Heresies (3.3:4) would write about Marcion as being “the first-born of Satan” (Satan being Simon):

And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.”

Furthermore, Irenaeus regarded all heresies as instigated by Satan (Adv. Haer. 1.21.1):

There are as many ceremonies of redemption as there are mystagogues. This kind of person has been infiltrated by Satan with a view to the denial of the baptism of rebirth to God, indeed the renunciation of the whole faith.

So in Irenaeus’ eyes, Satan was the first Gnostic! Indeed, Simon Magus was Satan incarnate, as being a concrete example of being “the devil, who leads astray the world” (Revelations 12:9). In Ambrose’ Epstulam ad Romanos, he spoke of the flight where he compared Simon Magus to Satan. This is likely an allusion where Jesus in Luke’s Gospel said, “Behold, I see Satan falling from heaven”, as his disciples went about casting out demons. Ambrose also likened Simon Magus’ magic to that of Jamnes and Mambres’ abilities, who were the court magicians of the Pharaoh. Augustine also boasted about Peter’s victory at Rome over Simon in De haeresibus, a symbolic statement of the triumph of the Catholic Church over the heretics. In Letter 36, Augustine recalls how Peter, the leader of the apostles, brought Simon down from heaven and defeated him. Augustine also claimed that Simon Magus was indeed, the “devil” and representative of the Evil One. This consistent demonization of Simon is reinforced through Simon’s own magical incantations as being a trait of deception as Irenaeus reports (Adv. Haer. 1.23.1) :

He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men.

The Clementine Homilies 2:26 reflects this by telling us that Simon Magus produced a homunculus or an artificial human, out of air!

“For he even began to commit murder as himself disclosed to us, as a friend to friends, that, having separated the soul of a child from its own body by horrid incantations, as his assistant for the exhibition of anything that he pleased, and having drawn the likeness of the boy, he has it set up in the inner room where he sleeps, saying that he once formed the boy of air, by divine arts, and having painted his likeness, he gave him back again to the air. “And he explains that he did the deed thus. He says that the first soul of man, being turned into the nature of heat, drew to itself, and sucked in the surrounding air, after the fashion of a gourd; and then that he changed it into water, when it was within the form of the spirit; and he said that he changed into the nature of blood the air that was in it, which could not be poured out on account of the consistency of the spirit, and that he made the blood solidified into flesh; then, the flesh being thus consolidated, that he exhibited a man not made from earth, but from air.

“And thus, having persuaded himself that he was able to make a new sort of man, he said that he reversed the changes, and again restored him to the air. And when he told this to others, he was believed; but by us who were present at his ceremonies he was religiously disbelieved. Wherefore we denounced his impieties, and withdrew from him.”

That was a common accusation also raised against Simon Magus by the various accounts of the Church Fathers, supposedly that he performed miracles by the aid of demons as first mentioned in Justin Martyr’s account. The charge of “magic” was part of a rhetorical strategy employed by many groups, like the Romans, Orthodox Christians, Hellenes and Jews alike. Sometimes this was done against one another and sometimes against rival factions or schools within their own religious traditions. Another example can be seen with the Epicurean Celsus as well as the Roman authorities in the first and second centuries who regarded Christians as magicians engaged in secret diabolical rites. It is a well known fact that early Christians refused to participate in the pagan cults of the early Roman empire, thus reinforcing their status to the Empire as fringe or alien. Moreover, the claims of the Christians themselves to heal the sick and exorcise daimons were thought of as evidence of sorcery and diabolism, according to Celsus as recorded by Origen in Contra Celsus 1.68:

Since these men do these wonders, ought we to think them sons of God? Or ought we to say that they are the practices of wicked men possessed by an evil daimon?

Similarly, in the pastorals such as I Timothy, the text stigmatizes Gnostics (those who espouse “what is falsely called knowledge,” or gnosis in 6:20) as “giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (4:1) For the author of I John, docetic Gnostics prophesy by “the spirit of the antichrist” (4:3). This is also explicitly raised in John 8:48-51 as an indictment against Jesus, which he rebuttals:

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.’

The Samaritan that they’re referencing is of course, Simon Magus. Jesus doesn’t deny being a Samaritan (Simon), only having a demon. Jesus would condemn his Pharisaic critics as children of the devil, inferring that the Jewish God was actually Satan in John 8:44!

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Also, the account of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 may be a revised version of Simon Magus and Helena. It is probable to suspect that the Gospel of John was originally a Simonian gospel about Simon Magus that was heavily redacted and Christianized into an orthodox text. Here is the Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus’ account of Simon’s doctrine in Against Heresies 1.23.3:

For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he [Simon] had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

If you substitute Simon with Jesus, what you’re essentially left with is Paul’s gospel. Men are saved by the grace of Simon (Jesus), and not by righteous works. Those who put their faith in him will be saved from the dissolution of the world. He appeared in the likeness of men, although wasn’t a man, and was crucified in Judea, although he did not suffer physical pain. It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Simon’s doctrine is synonymous to Paul’s, aside from Simon being substituted for Jesus. It’s fairly obvious to say that what we have here in Irenaeus is a conflation of Paul’s unperverted Gnostic gospel with his original identity, Simon. So Simon is none other than Paul, and the Church Fathers confused Paul’s theology of Christ for Paul himself, who is known to them as Simon. In other words, Simon, who is also Paul, was mistakenly divided into two separate people, Simon of Samaria and Paul the Apostle.

Once one sifts through all the contradictions and muddled accounts of Simon Magus, it becomes apparent what’s really going on here, or who was who all those years ago. Simon as a Samaritan would also explain all the ambiguity about Paul’s Jewishness. And from there stems the doubt whether Paul was actually a Jew or not because of his repeated association with Simon as a pseudonym for Paul or vice versa. Also, Marcion’s teachings, according to Irenaeus, go back to Simon Magus. Cerdo, Marcion’s forerunner, adopted Simon Magus’ teachings into his own system. But as we know, Marcion’s actual figurehead was Paul. And if Marcion was rumored to have been involved with the origin of John, then that would explain why the Jesus of John is tied to Simon Magus.

“Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 4:13-15)

Obviously, Simon-Paul taught freedom from the “bondage” of Mosaic Law and the tyrannical angels through Grace. In the Pseudo-Clementine literature much like the Acts of Apostles, which pits Simon Peter against Simon Magus, Simon Magus represents the Pauline camp while Simon Peter (or Cephas) represents the Jewish Christian camp. Simon Magus was Simon Peter’s arch-rival, much like Jesus claimed Peter was “Satan” his adversary in Matthew. Simon Magus was indeed a real historical figure and the original inspiration for the Paul persona since Simon associated himself as being megas, which is Greek for “great” while Paulos comes from the Latin parvalus, which basically means pathetic, small or insignificant. This is not coincidental as others have noted and may have to do with Philippians 2:7-8, where Simon Christ the Great Power takes on the likeness of a servant being the title Paulos (small).

And Peter is also a surname rather an actual name, as it is even probable that the apocryphal (i.e. imaginary) Peter is also a satirical caricature based on of Simon through a play on words, the “Great Power” or the “Standing One” since Peter is a latinized form of the Syriac Cephas meaning “rock”. So the “rock” that Christ supposedly built the Roman Catholic Church on is perhaps a fictitious creation based on a Catholic interpolation or addendum of Matthew 16:18 in support for the authoritative spiritual, political and social primacy of “Orthodoxy”. This stands in direct opposition of Paul when he declares in Romans 1:11:

“I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.”

Considering the vast amounts of forgeries, plagiarisms, interpolations and false attributions written by competing proto-Orthodox groups to not only to delegitimize Gnostic and esoteric writings but to also erase them with their own, none of this would come as a surprise. This can be seen as sort of a systematic Buffalo Bill “wearing the skins of his victims” type of scenario.

In Acts of the Apostles 8, Simon Magus answers Peter in a humble manner and requesting the latter to pray for him. However, in patristic writings seen in works in what is purported to be by Pope Clement of Rome, he is represented as boastful, a megalomaniac, calling himself the omnipotent, challenging the apostles of Rome, before Nero. The latter event is mentioned by several of the Fathers of the Church as well as the Acts of Peter. Simon ascends into the air like Superman, in imitation of the physical ascension of Elias and of Christ, but whilst he was doing so the apostles counteracted his activity through the intercession of prayer and he fell to the ground, seriously injuring his legs. As the story goes, the death of Simon was brought about by Peter and the Christians in Rome shortly before 64 AD. Yet, this story given in the Acts of Peter looks so ludicrous that many biblical scholars have dismissed it as sheer invention by an orthodox scribe from much later. The Acts of Peter also portrays Peter performing very important miracles such as resurrecting smoked fish, and making dogs talk…True story!

Petrus and Simon by Paul Troger (1743)

Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies (5:15) tells us another story, where Simon performs a yogic miracle of being buried alive. Simon would tell his followers he would rise on the third day, which again looks like an attempt to imitate Christ, in all too literal fashion:

This man, ultimately repairing to … (and) sitting under a plane tree, continued to give instruction (in his doctrines). And in truth at last, when conviction was imminent, in case he delayed longer, be stated that, if he were buried alive, he would rise the third day. And accordingly, having ordered a trench to be dug by his disciples, he directed himself to be interred there. They, then, executed the injunction given; whereas he remained (in that grave) until this day, for he was not the Christ (R6.15).

In both Hippolytus’ account and in the Acts of Peter, they give us fabricated reasons to make Simon not like Christ. They are basically satirical and polemic in nature, in attempt to discredit Simon’s position as the “Standing One” or the Chrestos by also using the belief in the carnal resurrection as a satirical device, strangely enough, considering it is one of the earliest apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. Simon was also said to be baptized by John the Baptist much like Jesus was in Matthew 3:13-16, however, and then seeing the apostles administering the sacrament of chrism, he asked them to give him the power to do this, offering them money. Peter rebuked him for attempting to purchase sacramental powers, and ever after the offering of money with the aim of obtaining sacerdotal powers has been known as *simony*. Yet, is it any coincidence that the Simon of Acts tries to buy the holy spirit from Peter, just as Paul attempted to win the favor of the Jerusalem Christians by donating to them a large some of money collected from his congregations in 2 Corinthians 8? Or that Marcion, too, supposedly did the exact same thing with the church of Rome?

Simon of Samaria is usually reputed to be the father of Gnosticism, but that only means he was the first well-known leader of a Gnostic movement. Now it certainly would be true to say that Gnosticism emerged from the milieu of Greek philosophy, but it would be good to understand a specific origin to which we can say: that is where Gnosticism came from. Now some think that there were Apostate Jew Gnostics (the so-called “Sethians”) existing in the first and second centuries B.C.E. The Sethians were probably originally a Jewish mystery cult that venerated the patriarch Seth and eventually became Gnosticized after the advent of Christianity, through the influence of Dositheos (a disciple of John the Baptist and spiritual competitor with Simon) since the Three Steles of Seth specifically mentions him as the “father of the living and unshakable race”. So there is no complete doubt in the possibility that Sethianism itself was pre-Christian, just that Gnosticized Sethianism was pre-Christian. That is, if Sethianism predates Christianity, then it most likely wasn’t Gnostic (belief in a Demiurge, fall of Sophia, descent of an immaterial Savior, etc.) prior to being Christianized.

Not to mention the strong influence of Merkabah or Throne mysticism introduced by the prophet Ezekiel who first saw a fiery anthropos figure which he saw as God. From this strange and frightening vision emerged the tradition of chariot mysticism—the chariot representing movement or transport between the divine and the world of flesh. Merkabah mystics saw Ezekiel’s chariot as a prototype for ascending into the world above and for glimpsing the Heavenly Jerusalem. Coincidentally, Simon Magus was also seen as the “Glory of God”, as the term “the Great Power”, a title belonging to Simon could also be transferred to mean Glory, a term used to denote a divine quality of this Anthropos, or a man-like hypostasis of God. In the Visions of Ezekiel, it reads:

When Ezekiel was looking, the Holy One, blessed be He, opened up to him the seven heavens, and he beheld the Power.

In other words, Simon’s other-wordily counter-part could also be synonymous with the Anthropos! We will revisit Ezekiel later… So why believe that this bad-boy magician began Gnosticism or at least was one of the earliest of these naughty, troublesome heretics? Irenaeus writing in his Against All Heresies 1.23.4 in the late second century in regards to Simonians, those who follow Simon, wrote among other things about Simon and his followers:

“They have also an image of Simon made in the likeness of Jupiter, and of Helen in that of Minerva; and they worship the (statues); and they have a designation from their most impiously minded founder, being called Simonians, from whom the Gnosis, falsely so-called, derives its origins, as one can learn from their own assertions.”

We see here, one who investigated heresy carefully for the purpose of arguing well against it claims that Simon Magus began Gnosticism and he even says that the Simonians say this of Simon too. He bases this notion primarily from Justin Martyr’s account which many scholars seem to agree that seems the most trustworthy as it is the earliest and happens to come from a fellow Samaritan (being Justin Martyr). But this is not all for his enemies have preserved a significant amount of his teachings and in them we can find striking parallels to Gnosticism as I have already explained in great detail in Part 1.

Another small reminder that I want to make is that as we can read in the Simonian Great Declaration, which we have preserved by Hippolytus:

“This is He who has stood, stands and will stand, a male-female power like the preëxisting Boundless Power, which has neither beginning nor end, existing in oneness. For it is from this that the Thought in the oneness proceeded and became two.”

Does this not sound like a aeonic syzygy that we see so prominently in Gnostic Aeonic systems? Even strongly esoteric texts like the Books of Jeu (Iao), Paraphrase of Shem, Dialogue of the Savior and the Gospel of the Egyptians share many strong Simonian ideas. While, I will not conclusively say that Simon the sorcerer began Gnosticism and perhaps even Christianity itself, he certainly is a convincing candidate. Let us return to some more commentary on the Great Declaration. From this moment forward, however, I will only be commenting on passages that do not necessarily repeat the same information since the Great Declaration is very repetitious in nature. Also, I will only comment on one part of the writing since I have already devoted a great deal of exegesis to Simon.

In general, one may say concerning all things, the visible and the intelligible, that is the concealed and manifest, that are contained in the fire which overpasses the very heavens, even as the great tree like unto that glimpsed in a vision by Nebuchadnezzar which nourishes all flesh. Of this, the manifested side corresponds to the trunk, limbs, leaves, and encasing bark. All these members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed. But as for the fruit of the tree, if it’s for is perfect and it assumes the true shape, it is gathered into the storehouse, not thrown into the fire. For the fruit is produced in order to be stored away, but the bark of the tree, having served its purpose is destined for the fire, as it was produced for no purpose in its own right but only to protect the fruit.

In the Biblical book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is a Babylonian King who, “has a dream he can’t remember but keeps searching for an answer.” Daniel 4: 4-27 details Nebuchadnezzer’s dream where it presents a tree with the head of a statue. The metaphor of the tree alludes also the king’s presumptuous character, comparing Nebuchadnezzar to Adam in his function as manager of the universe (Gen. 1:28). It also hints at the tree of life (or the tree of knowledge) in its position in the middle of the earth (Gen. 2:9; 3:3). The tree stretches unto the heavens as it clearly is no ordinary tree (Dan. 4:11, 20).

Nebuchadnezzer interprets the tree to be himself and as a haughty King of Babylon, prefers to reply on the astrologers’ explanation. Therefore, when Daniel, acting like a true court magician, enters the scene, Nebuchadnezzer trembles and his first words are full of tact and wishing: “My lord, if only the dream applied to our enemies…!” (Dan. 4:19). But the interpretation that follows slashes like a knife: “You, O king, are that tree!” (verse 22).  What is the significance of this, exactly? Perhaps, Nebuchadnezzer’s dream body represents the mortal flesh that will eventually be dissolved in the conflagration just as the “members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed.”

Statue-of-Nebuchadnezzar-Daniel-Chapter-2-Iron-and-Clay-Hyrbid-Nephilim-Kingdom

This King of Babylon (Isaiah 14) and the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 29) are both said to have declared themselves “god” and to have been punished for their impudence. It would not have been strange or unusual for Jews to have applied the same exegesis where the sin of arrogant claims of divinity was suspected. Certainly similar claims were made by Nebuchadnezzar in Judith (3:8; 6:12); Entiochus Epiphanes in Daniel (11:36f.); Caligula in Philo (Gaium 22, 74-80), 93-97; 118; 162); Nero in the Sibylline Oracles (5:33-35) and the Ascension of Isaiah (4:6-8). In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 the man of lawlessness i.e., the “AntiChrist” is said to proclaim himself to be God as stated in Revelations 13:1, 5-6.

This lawless one, or the AntiChrist, is more than likely, none other than Simon Magus. The primary accusation made against Simon by the Jewish anti-Simonian polemic as well as by Catholic Christian polemic was that he had rejected the Law and was thus a libertine. Paul was accused of the very same thing, and it stands with good reason. It this “lawlessness” that Matthew specifically condemns in many places, which makes sense, considering it is the most Jewish and pro-Mosaic law out of all the Gospels.

For the fruit is produced in order to be stored away, but the bark of the tree, having served its purpose is destined for the fire, as it was produced for no purpose in its own right but only to protect the fruit.

This passage alone has also some very strong, end-times applications. The fire of the Great Declaration is not meant to punish the wicked, but rather to remove all that appears on the outside, all that is perceived by the senses. This corresponds to the Valentinian eschatological belief that all matter will eventually plunge and dissolve into fiery chaos. This also corresponds to how Irenaeus describes Simon’s credo, “He (Simon) again promised that the world would be destroyed (Against Heresies 1, 23, 3).

Isaiah 14 was also used in the Orthodox polemic against Simon Magus and in the Jewish polemic against, you guessed it…Jesus! In the Gospel of John (5:18, 10:33), the crime of Jesus in the eyes of Judaism is not just that he considers himself the messiah but that he seeks to make himself equal with God:

For this reason, the Jews sought all the more to kill him – not only was he breaking the Sabbath; worse still he was speaking of God as his own father, thus making himself God’s equal. We stone you for no good work but for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself a god.

The creator god of Genesis is cast in the role of the arrogant ruler who vainly claims that he is the ultimate God featured in Hypostasis of the Archons: “It is I who am God; there is none apart from me. When he said this, he sinned against the Entirety.” This seems to be centered in the polemic of the Gnostics against the Jewish God in the first instance, but, in the second instance, against those who value the scripture of the Old Testament too highly—namely, the Orthodox Christians. This idea is reflected in the Gospel of John, when Jesus says in John 18:8 that “all who have come before me are thieves and robbers.” Wouldn’t “all” in that context imply the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets? If Johannine Jesus is favorably Judaic, then wouldn’t he want to clarify that he doesn’t include Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. in his criticism? We see another variant of this criticism leveled against the prophets and Old Testament patriarchs in the Basilidean Second Treatise of the Great Seth, as “laughingstocks” including the Old Testament deity also known as the “Archon”:

 The 12 prophets were laughingstocks, since they have come forth as imitations of the true prophets. They came into being as counterfeits through the Hebdomad, as if he had become stronger than I and my brothers. But we are innocent with respect to him, since we have not sinned. Moses, a faithful servant, was a laughingstock, having been named “the Friend,” since they perversely bore witness concerning him who never knew me. Neither he nor those before him, from Adam to Moses and John the Baptist, none of them knew me nor my brothers.

The Clementine Recognitions (2:47) also preserve a similar argument by Simon made against Peter, throwing a Matthew 11:27 quote to his face:

…yet your Jesus, who appeared long after the patriarchs, says: “No one knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows anyone the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son has been pleased to reveal him. ‘ Thus, therefore, even your Jesus confesses that there is another God, incomprehensible and unknown to all.

One of the bigger points between the disputants is the difference between Peter’s view of Adam’s Creator and that of Simon. According to Peter, God the Creator first made the world and all that is in it, and then his creature Adam. Peter is a monotheist and defends his position as such, whereas Simon, according to Peter, is a polytheist who places another Unknown and Unknowable God above the Jewish God the Creator in a typical Gnostic and Marcionite fashion, and thus turns Jehovah into an inferior angelic power. Simon’s actual teachings of course, can be found in the Great Declaration. The Apostle Paul also has a very negative assessment of traditional biblical theology, revealed in the Old Testament in Galatians 3:19, where he reduces the Law and by extension, the Lawgiver as the work by angels:

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.

Again, in Philippians 3:5-9, Paul considers the Jewish Law as worthless and ultimately “garbage”:

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

Later, Marcion would use Luke 6:43-49, to justify his radical dualism:

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Marcion said the two trees represented the two gods and the two covenants. Also, the part in Luke (5:36-39) where Jesus says you can’t put new wine into old wine-skins—Marcion interpreted that as saying that you can’t mix Christianity with Judaism. Therefore, Gnostic interpretation was built on Pauline and Marcionite exegesis, and also took over the claims of uniqueness for Israel’s God, but applied them to Plato’s Demiurge of Timaeus. This Gnostic exegesis split the tradition we find opposed by the Rabbis in two parts: the traditions about a second figure were transmuted into the Gnostic Savior, while the scripture characteristic of the rabbinic polemic against “two powers” associated with the Demiurge who is still the God of Israel but not the “Most High”. Saturnilus of Antioch, a student of Menander (a direct disciple of Simon Magus himself) would later clearly reduce the “God of the Jews” as one of the angels, as testified by Irenaeus in Against Heresies (1,24). This reduction of Jehovah to the level of the angels could very well reflection Paul’s condemnation of Angel-worship:

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18).

Celsus, in the True Doctrine agrees with this sentiment when he states:

The Jews worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor. I will show afterwards how it was through ignorance that the Jews were deceived and led into error.

In Part 3, we will continue on this dark and dangerous voyage into the magical depths of Simonian theology, some more details regarding the heresy of the “two powers”, a possible connection with Philo of Alexandria, more commentary on the Great Declaration and its subsequent influence on not only Gnosis but the foundations of Christianity itself.