In my first article, I explored how the Church Father theologians like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, evaluated pagan gods like Aesculapius and Dionysus as well as heretics like Simon Magus, Carpocrates, Mani and of course, the “Sethian” Gnostics themselves and their associations with healings, miracles, charlatanism, demonic fabrications and sorcery. And as it turns out, the many heresiarchs’ magical practices painfully described by the Catholic heresiologists, actually match up well and are virtually identical with Jesus’ own practices and identification as “Son of God” described in the Gospels and by his multiple detractors being the Pharisees and pagan philosophers like Celsus. Yet, there are even more fascinating details regarding these troublesome heretics, saucy saviors and pagan rapscallion demigods.
According to Acts, Simon Magus was a fraud and trickster who feigned his Christian faith. Simon also supposedly assumed that the apostles themselves performed their healing by the art of sorcery, and not by the power of God (despite the fact that he is called the “power of God”), through the imposition of hands. Simon suspected that such miracles were done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, while offering money to the apostles. By this offering of money, he thought, he too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit. Peter rebukes this attempt to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, when he says in Acts viii. 20, 21, 23:
“Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God can be purchased with money: thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
Harsh words from the Rock, himself against the humble magician. Simon whimpers away by saying:
“Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
In this instance, Simon was behaving in true Hellenic tradition, whereby it was considered common practice to offer money in return for sharing ideas and secrets. Before this encounter, Simon was impressed by the apostle Philip’s cures and exorcisms. He decided to be baptized, but saw Christianity more like a magical system than a new religion. He probably didn’t care much about the distinction, being of a practical theurgist that he was. His intention to buy the apostle’s secret of “laying on of hands” for healing for Simon was basically a great magic trick.
Unfortunately, it offended the apostle Peter, who hated on Simon Magus immediately. Simon, who considered all of them professional magicians, could not see what was wrong in buying a perfectly good trade secret for a fair price. He probably thought Peter behaved like a pompous hypocritical douche-bag, but being a particularly pleasant man, Simon took the rebuke with good grace.
Not surprisingly, this event of Simon Magus offering the Jerusalem group money for his endorsement, mirrors almost exactly with Paul in the epistles such as: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, Romans 15:25-31. In Galations 2:1-10, we see a clear theological dispute between Paul and Peter, with the Jewish community breaking with Paul over it.
“But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles)…”
All of this has lead some to theorize that the whole lot of the Clementine literature is nothing more than a romantic satire of the tumultuous events that transpired between Paul and Peter, with Simon Magus being a caricature of Paul the Apostle as well as his docetic savior, Jesus Christ. Early New Testament critics like F.C. Baur theorized Paul and Simon were based on the same historical figure, Paul representing a positive evaluation of this figure while Simon represents a very tainted, negative one. In one sense, Simon could very well be seen as the “evil twin” or “doppelganger” of Paul because of their similar biographical cues and doctrines they taught to their disciples. This seems like a mirror effect, playing off the dichotomy of Paul/Christ and Simon/the Anti-Christ.
This generous patronage to churches doesn’t stop with Paul and Simon. Marcion of Pontus was also said to show up in Rome to buy the papacy 200,000 sesterces. However, the church turned Marcion’s money down flat because they disagreed with him theologically. In particular they were not willing incorporate Marcion’s radically dualistic notion of a creator God (YHWH) separate and distinct from the New Testament God of Jesus Christ (the foreign God). Perhaps it is this episode where the term “Simony” became associated with paying for office which isn’t even what Simon does in the Acts 8 story.
- Paul arrives in Jerusalem with the collection and wants endorsement for his position and his gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The Jerusalem group rejects his position and rejects his money.
- Paul heads to Rome and the Jerusalem church and Paul break and are never reconciled.
- Paul develops a theology that scripture and not ecclesiastical institutions as authoritative.
- The 2nd century church downplays the degree of the split.
The writer of Acts goes to great lengths to Paul’s collection was a different beast, and Paul was accepted as an apostle before any money was involved. The rejection story involving Simon, probably never happened, as this is a morality play about what the church’s defense of rejecting Marcion’s money, distancing Paul from Simony and the figure of Simon Magus. However, by doing this, they inadvertently may have provided some proof that such figures were actually one and the same. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul mentions the very same spiritual gifts that Simon was seeking to obtain from the Apostle Philip in 1 Corinthians 12: 7-10:
“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”
Much like miracle workings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, Paul in Acts also exhibits characteristics of a miracle worker and a *gasp* magician! Paul’s miracles forms the basis of his apostleship. Paul also heals a crippled man’s feet but we will examine this episode in the next installment. He made a blind man see again (Acts 13:6-12), raised a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-2), much like Jesus did in John 11:38-44 with the raising of dead Lazarus, essentially resurrecting an Egyptian-like mummy back to life. The rest of the Gospel of John also has plenty of other Egyptian parallels and motifs starting with the mysteries of Osiris.
Paul’s miraculous powers also enabled him to survive stoning unscathed unlike Simon (Acts 14:19-20) and to survive what would have been a lethal snakebite (Acts 28:3-6). Of course, there is no mention of any of these events in the Epistles just as there is no mention of a murderous Christian-hunting Saul or any of the events ascribed to his conversion, as many scholars have pointed out Acts follows the Epistles much later, just like the four Gospels. Paul in Acts in actually, takes on many of the magical characteristics of Simon Magus, as an illusionist, and healing magician.
However, Paul in Acts 19:19, convinces many Ephesians to bring out their magical books so they can be burned, foreshadowing the great purge of esoteric and magical texts that would befall upon the Hellenistic world under the Theodosian Code, which enforced Christianity to be the state religion in Rome. This is no surprise since Acts was very likely written much later, in the 4th century.
“A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.”
In the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul travels around with a virgin woman, who founds a string of churches and who also conducts water baptisms, much like the Samaritans like John the Baptist. According to the Church Fathers, Simon and his consort, Helena (Greek for “light”), also goes around and finds a bunch of churches as well as a large religious following. There is also some secular evidence that shows that not only did Simon Magus exist in reality and not a figment of some Church Father smoking dope somewhere, he was also conflated with none other than Paul.
In Antiquities 20.7.2, the Jewish historian Josephus, makes a semi-explicit identification. Paulus is Latin for small. Josephus uses either “Atomos” (Greek for small) or Simon depending on the manuscript in this line, “and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon/Atomos.” In other words, “Atomos” was a nickname for Simon, being Simon-Paul!
Another “secular” instance exists in the episode of the expelling of the Jews from Rome by Caesar Claudius is recorded by a Roman historian named Suetonius. In A Historical Introduction to the New Testament (p. 293), Robert M. Grant states:
“Finally, Suetonius…says that in the reign of Claudius the emperor ‘expelled from Rome the Jews who were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus (impulsore Chresto) (Claudius, 25).”
Thus, Suetonius understood, the Jews rioted in Rome at the instigation of someone named Chrestus. Almost certainly, this is someone claiming to be the Christ. Many scholars take this to mean that the rioting among the Jews involved Christians: for Christians proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ. If they are right, then there was a sizable body of Christian Jews at Rome by 49 CE. Also, note that Suetonius puts the blame for rioting on Chrestus himself rather than on his followers. This suggests that in 49 CE, there was someone in Rome claiming to be the Christ. Could this be Simon Magus?
Even more intriguing is that supposedly Marcionites preferred to call Jesus Chrestos, rather than Christos, because they believed Chrestos was a designation that he was the good god, rather than the evil god. Paul uses “Christ” more like a surname rather than a title.
The connections between Simon and Paul may also be found in the anti-Gnostic and Valentinian works by the Catholic Church Father Irenaeus (Against Heresies I.23.3), Simon based his sect on the following teaching:
Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: … men are saved through grace, and not on account of their own righteous works. 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.
What’s curious is that this is almost exactly the same gospel that Paul teaches in Galatians, particularly in chapters 2–4.
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (2.21)
Why then the law? … it was ordained through angels by a mediator. (3.19)
But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin… before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. (3.22-23)
…while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. (4.3)
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental powers? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? (4.8-9)
This is very likely not the way Paul’s gospel was explained to you in church, but there it is, in black and white, in Galatians. Also, what is interesting to note is that Irenaeus occasionally quotes passages from Paul’s letters, including Galatians, but not the specific verses that describe Paul’s doctrine about the bondage of the law, angels, and elemental powers. So what is Irenaeus trying to hide here?
The radical German New Testament critic Hermann Detering goes into much greater detail on the connections between Simon, Paul and Jesus, in his fascinating book, The Fabricated Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight. He goes to great lengths to show how not only are the Catholic pastorals (Acts of the Apostles, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, etc.) featuring Paul and his antics non-historical but all of Paul’s epistles are actually Catholic forgeries, redacted from original Marcionite texts, which appear to be a Gnosticism at an earlier stage (although late in comparison to Simon’s time). This also implies Paul himself never actually existed. And neither did Peter as they are likely reworked personas from other figures in Simon, John the Baptist and even Dositheos.
The Pastorals themselves, are plainly anti-Gnostic religious documents who were more concerned about the organization of the Catholic Church. That being said then understand that the earliest Christians are Gnostic and the First New Testament of Marcion is Gnostic in teaching a non-human allegorical Christ or Savior. It is only through the heavily redacted and forged “Second New Testament” given to us by the later Roman forgery “factory” whereby Rome completely re-worked the first New Testament of Marcion and altered the original, spiritual understanding of “the Christ” into a Galilean Torah-observant Jew. The rest is history.
If Paul was so unequivocally anti-Gnostic as he is made to look in the Pastorals, then how would these earliest Gnostic Christians claim him as their great Pneumatic teacher? Paul distinguished between the god of this world and the supreme god (for him, Jesus Christ), as did the so-called Gnostics. He also attributed the law to inferior angelic powers, as did the Gnostics. And he also denied the humanity of Christ, as did most Gnostics. He even denied a carnal resurrection, just like the Gnostics. So aside from all the weird mythological stuff, which is all just conjecture anyway, what difference is there really? I don’t see much.
There are 13 letters attributed to Paul, along with the Acts of the Apostles devoted to the fantastic adventures of Paul. This Roman picture of Paul falls under scrutiny very quickly as a poorly fabricated lie, when cross referencing the epistles and Acts as well as the Nag Hammadi Library, which incorporates Paul’s name in its texts such as The Apocalypse of Paul, the Prayer of Paul, the Hypostasis of the Archons (which begins with Paul’s famous Colossians 1:13 on the “authorities of darkness,”), the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and many more.
Of course, Marcion’s pro-Gentile, anti-Judiac beliefs naturally coincides with the dualism of Simon’s teaching found in the much reviled Clementine literature, that there were two Gods: the first God being good, while the second god being far inferior creator, who in turn forms the wicked cosmos from the tears of Sophia. This first God is mentioned by the Gnostic text Eugnostos the Blessed, which tells us tells us: “No one rules over him. He has no name; for whoever has a name is the creation of another. He is unnameable.”
The Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus dismisses all this in his report against the heretics (Against Heresies 4:34.1):
Now I shall simply say, in opposition to all the heretics, and principally against the followers of Marcion, and against those who are like to these, in maintaining that the prophets were from another God [than He who is announced in the Gospel], read with earnest care that Gospel which has been conveyed to us by the apostles, and read with earnest care the prophets, and you will find that the whole conduct, and all the doctrine, and all the sufferings of our Lord, were predicted through them.
Whether or not Detering is ultimately correct in all his arguments, the notable differences between Acts and Paul’s Epistles could fill up several books. For one, the author of Acts recharacterized Paul as convert to Catholicized Judeo-Christianity. The conversion story on the road to Damascus, isn’t mentioned even ONCE in his epistles—not once. Acts doesn’t even present Paul as an apostle. He’s just an evangelist under the ministerial authority of the twelve. Acts and the actual epistles are in complete contradiction. In the epistles, Paul and the Jewish apostles (i.e., the twelve) are bitter enemies. In Acts, they’re pals.
In Galatians, Paul forbids any Gentile convert to be circumcised. He also resists the Jewish apostles’ (Peter, James, and John) desire for Titus, a Gentile, to be circumcised. But in Acts, Paul circumcises Timothy to comply with Jewish law. Paul had some sort of conversion experience that he mentions in Galatians, but it had nothing to do with the road to Damascus. And going blind. That was all an invention of Acts. One would need to read a reconstruction of the Marcionite Galatians. It was very different than the canonical form.
The same thing occurs in the Acts of Paul of Thecla, written to combat the error of Simon Magus. Here is the rebuttal placed in Paul’s mouth which is contrary at many points with what Paul wrote:
“For I delivered unto you in the beginning the things which I received of the HOLY apostles which were before me, who were at all times with Jesus Christ: 5 namely, that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of Mary WHICH IS of the seed of David ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, the Holy Ghost being sent forth from heaven from the Father unto her BY THE ANGEL GABRIEL, 6 that he (JESUS) might come down into this world and redeem all flesh by his flesh, and raise us up from the dead in the flesh, like as he hath shown to us in himself for an ensample. 7 And because man was formed by his Father, 8 therefore was he sought when he was lost, that he might be quickened by adoption. 9 For to this end did God Almighty who made heaven and earth first send the prophets unto the Jews, that they might be drawn away from their sins. 10 For he designed to save the house of Israel: therefore he conferred a portion of the spirit of Christ upon the prophets and sent them unto the Jews first (or unto the first Jews), and they proclaimed the true worship of God for a long space of time. 11 But the prince of iniquity, desiring to be God, laid hands on them and slew them (banished them from God, Laon MS.), and bound all flesh by evil lusts (AND THE END OF THE WORLD BY JUDGEMENT DREW NEAR).”
For one, Paul does not state in his letters that his teaching and authority are from the Apostles. He states the opposite in Galatians. Two, Paul does not affirm a resurrection of the flesh, or that Jesus was a fleshly being (Romans 8:8, Philippians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:44-50).
Throughout Paul’s epistles, are there chock full of Gnostic buzzwords and concepts. The term aeons are used for elements, pleroma for fullness, Sophia for the female side of divinity, apocryphon for hidden or secret mysteries, and terms to describe various heavenly beings in the cosmos, like archons and cosmocrators. These are the blundering foolish angels who created the universe, out of arrogance and stupidity, to keep fallen mankind from the knowledge of the primoridal aeons. This is the primary reason why Christ, being the embodiment of the pleroma, reached down into hellish matter to ransom man from the clutches of Satan (Jehovah) and the spiritual resurrection. Paul’s epistles, when left un-translated in the Greek, often seem to take for granted the truth of these terribly heretical ideas.
“When we were children, we were in bondage under the elements of the cosmos. But when the pleroma of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” – Galatians 4:3
“To bring the pleroma of God’s word, a mysterious hidden secret from generations of aeons, now made known to the saints”. – Colossians 1:25 b-26
“We preach that Jesus Christ is the revelation of a mystery, who was hidden in Sige since the times of the aeons.” – Romans 16:25
“We tell of Sophia, of those who are perfect, yet not the Sophia of this aeon, nor the archons of this aeon who amount to nothing. We tell of the Sophia of God, in a mysterious apocryphon, whom God determined from before the aeons, for our glory, and the archons of this aeon were ignorant of her.” – 1st Corinthians 2:6-8
“You walked in the way of the aeon of this cosmos, in the way of the powerful archon of the air.” – Ephesians 2:2
“Generations of aeons and aeons.” – Ephesians 3:21
“In him (Christ) is contained the pleroma of divinity in bodily form… who is over all archons and authorities… and having neutralized the archons and authorities, he exposed and defeated them.” – Colossians 2:9-10, 2:15
“The pleroma was happy to live within him, and to redeem everything to him.” – Colossians 1:19-20
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the archons (authorities), against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
“…to his own master he doth stand or fall; and he shall be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14)
“…that you may stand perfect and made full in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4)
The last two quotes indicates that Paul was very much familiar with the adage “he who stands”, much like Simon, the Standing One. In his epistles he is constantly using the word “stand” to refer to the possession of grace of faith.
In in Paul’s talk of the Cross, do we find a mystical or mysterious sensibility. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 that he withheld the true interpretation of the crucifixion when he first preached to the Corinthian community because they weren’t yet receptive to the secret wisdom of the cross taught only to the perfected telestai or theletai of the mysteries (initiates). One can say Paul was an initiator of the Jesus Mysteries! Paul, here wasn’t talking about blood atonement. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t even a human being nor did he believe that Jesus ever came to earth. He says that God gave Christ the name Jesus AFTER he resurrected. How does that work if Paul’s Jesus was a first-century Galilean Jew?
That being said, in the Gospels, Jesus also exhibits some Gnostic traits. The Jesus of the gospels taught “secret meaning” (Thomas 1; Mark 4:11; Matthew 13:35), a secret, hidden Father (Matthew 6:6), and a kingdom which is “not of this world” (John 18:36).
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory….
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.”
Paul is very plainly saying that the crucifixion is spiritual, not literal, and the Corinthians were only given the exoteric interpretation because they weren’t yet properly initiated into the mysteries, like a true mystagoge of an esoteric mystery school, reserved for the few. Paul’s Christ was a being he encountered in visions. He wasn’t some dude walking and talking with people on earth as depicted in the much later Gospels. Paul probably only know of a perfect Savior and not any guy named Jesus Christ, a name which was added in his letters, well after Paul’s death.
There is a reason Paul never says anything substantial about Jesus’ ministry, because the gospel narrative was completely unessential to his interpretation of the crucifixion. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t a Jewish messiah who had come to liberate the Jewish state from Roman oppression. Paul’s Jesus didn’t preach any Sermon on the Mount. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t an expiatory sin offering to a vengeful god, either. He was a purely spiritual being who overthrew unseen forces (the archons) through a cosmic crucifixion. Paul even goes as far as to warn his followers against other Gospels, which were more than likely Judaizing Christian ones:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.” (Galations. 1:6)
When Paul says he’s crucified with Christ, he doesn’t say it as allegory. He speaks it literally. When he says that Christ lives in him, he says it literally. When he writes to the Galatians that they first accepted him as Christ Jesus himself, he says it literally. For Paul, there is no distinction between the figurative and literal nature of the individual’s participation with Christ’s death on the cross.
The individual dies with Christ, in a spiritual sense and is reborn a new creature in Christ. Paul clearly taught that salvation was found only with a divine and Gnostic, experiential encounter with the Living Christ. This divine encounter or vision with Christ is also spoken repeatedly in the Gospel of John (Ex. 6:39-40). This divine encounter changes the inner man, who is thought of as “dead,” carnal, anti-Christ or unregenerate soul, into new life, with a new law written in the spiritual heart of man. Ezekiel 36 and even Jeremiah 31 in the Old Testament speaks about this internal rebirth. Thus the did the Gnostics refer to those who had not been awakened as “the dead” – for their soul dwells in Hades even as they go about their daily business as the puppets of their animal natures and fleshy desires. They were seen as animal men, ignorant, blind, naked and dead. Paul shared the same belief. As did Jesus:
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)
The cross of Christ isn’t some historical cross trapped in 33 AD for Paul. It’s a cosmic cross that everyone can partake in. Nobody saved anybody by getting nailed to a cross. Either the crucifixion means something deeper, or the Western world has been in denial for two thousand years. Paul’s encounter with the heavenly Christ is nothing short of a radical transformation, where Paul, in essence is possessed by Christ. Paul becomes enthusiastic in saying:
“For I did not receive it (the gospel) from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galations 1:12).
Perhaps the human Jesus was Paul, while the spiritual or docetic Christ was never intended to be human, or even incarnate on earth. That would explain all the odd conflation of Paul, Simon, and Jesus in the Church Fathers. And why Simon claimed to be the “Standing One” and a manifestation of the “Great Power of God,” while Paul claimed to be “crucified with Christ, and that Christ lived in him.” Paul pretty much makes the claim that he’s an avatar of Christ all throughout Galatians.
“I am crucified with Christ.” “When God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.” “I bear on my body the marks of Christ.” “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”
His message is true in that it came from nowhere else but from Christ. Does this automatically rule out a historical Jesus? There is a reference to such a person when in 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul speaks of Jesus instituting the Eucharist and that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, much like in the Gospel of John and in Luke. As I have stated elsewhere in this blog, John may very well have been originally a Simonian or Gnostic gospel, so this would still fit my proposed scenario. The Gnostics were certainly the first ones to read from it and latch on to it as authoritative scripture. Yet even there, Paul claims to have received this teaching from Christ, not any one man. And again, it seems Paul is actually the human side of Christ. This would explain Paul’s complaint of certain people within the Corinthian church who “cursed Jesus”.
You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:2-3)
According to Origen (Contra Celsum VI, 28), the Gnostic-ish sect, the Ophites, would “admit no one to their fellowship who has not first cursed Jesus.” Could Paul be referring to these serpent-worshipers? One can only guess…However, neither Irenaeus nor Hippolytus mention this in their reports on the Ophites, so who knows for sure?
Now, let’s cross compare the above passage from 1 Corinthians with a text I’ve been working for some time, the Simonian Great Declaration, only preserved in Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies:
This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless. Thus it shall be sealed up, hidden, concealed, placed in the dwelling which rests upon the Universal Root. To you, then, I say what I have to say, and I write what I to write. And this is the writing thereof.
And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming, the female Thought was set upon and defiled by the angels and lower powers who made this world of matter. And they used the fiery power within her to give life to their creations.
Clearly both Paul and Simon talk about “hidden” and “secret” things as well as hostile angelic powers who rule the world. It also seems as though the Pauline writer also employs a very similar manner of writing when compared to the Great Declaration, which also seems like a weak imitation.
Could it be? Was Simon simply a placeholder for the old anti-Pauline literature from Peter’s school? Could the Latin Church Father Tertullian’s “apostle to the heretics,” (Paul) and Irenaeus’ “father of all heresies,” being Simon were one and the same? Could this identity crisis between Paul and Simon explain the mystical and even Gnostic nature of Paul’s epistles? Could it all be just a big coincidence? If so, then why do the early second century Gnostic heretics identify themselves as followers of “Paul,” while their proto-Orthodox Church critics identify them as followers of “Simon”?
Even if we are looking at two men and not one, if their histories are this intermixed, then why was there such a drastic movement by the Orthodox to separate the two? Let’s not forget that both arch-heretics, Marcion and Valentinus, were indirectly connected with Paul in some way, with mysterious teacher of Theodas who was said to be a pupil of Paul. According to Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.17, he records the Gnostic claim that Theudas received secret teachings from Paul or the “deeper mysteries” that Paul reserved from his public teaching and taught only to a few disciples in secret.
Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.
Such being the case, it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].
It’s interesting in how Clement of Alexandria places Simon after Valentinus and Marcion. What’s really going on here? One can only guess. Perhaps the Church Fathers really were smoking crack after all. Or it was just a scribal error. Robert M. Price writes in Introduction to Scroll of Thoth, p. xx:
In reality the formation of the many diverse types of early Christian faith was highly complex and confusing, and there was no place in the emerging sanitized version of church history for the earlier radical Paul.
To be given any place at all, Paul, “the heretics’ apostle”, had to be split into two literary figures: the Apostle Paul and Simon the Sorcerer. The point was to strip from Paul, whoever he may have been, the interpretations of Marcionites and Gnostics, and to consign these to a scapegoat double, the evil twin of Paul, Simon Magus.
Sounds a lot like Superman fighting the evil distortion of himself as Bizarro. Simon Peter fights the “anti-Simon,” Simon Magus, as well. So, is the matter settled? Stuff like this is never straight-forward or cut and dry. However, the similarities between the Paul of Acts and other assorted apocrypha and Josephus, the Paul of the Epistles and what is said by the Church Fathers about Paul, the parallels still exist with what is known about Simon the Magician by his enemies in the Christian Church.
Jesus Paul/Simon Christ Superstar
As I have pointed out, Paul in Acts even takes on the magical persona of Simon and Jesus as well, lending itself to my argument laid out before. It’s as if the author(s) of these texts, tried their best to separate the unfavorable elements of Paul in the eyes of Simon-Peter’s camp into the magical figure of Simon and unwittingly contrasted interpretations of the same character. The other possibility is that an Orthodox scribe went very far to create wholly fabricated personas to “cover up” the truly Gnostic foundation of Christianity.
Not only do Paul and Simon share some very curious parallels but also with Jesus as well. They are far too many to list all, here, but it seems as though the codices found at Nag Hammadi preserve what is probably the earliest and primordial version of Jesus and his secret doctrine of the Bridal Chamber as well as the idea of “christening” or “anointing”.
Many mythicists’ central talking point is that the Jesus of the Gospels is a myth, pure and simple, based on previous, dying and rising savior gods (Tummaz, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, etc.) which are themselves based on the cycles of vegetation as well as the zodiac, the planetary spheres in our solar system and star systems. There is much truth to this. Even the Clementine literature admits to this. While the similarities of this symbolism are obvious and undeniable, there is not a great deal of Christian doctrine that would identify it as having originated from a solar cult. However, the real question is did the characters Jesus is based on exist in reality? Yes. He is based on two men: John the Baptist and Simon Magus, a combination of both. The two becoming one. Jesus seems also to be very much a verbal composite taken directly from the Gospel of Thomas, and we will investigate this more in another post.
One major key to the mystery of who Jesus of Nazareth was lies in the figure of Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the resurrection, his close companion according in all accounts (much like Simon and Helena as well as Paul with Thecla), and the one who officiated at what would have been considered a royal anointing in Mark 14:3 with the pouring of a large amount of oil upon the head of Jesus. This “christening” or “chrism” corresponds to what should have been the ceremony initiating Jesus as the successor of John, the Baptist. Even the term “Nazareth” has its roots in pre-Christian gnosis and will also explore this at another time…
The Clementine Homilies/Recognitions also indicate that Simon Magus was a disciple of John the Baptist, much like Jesus in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, Luke and John. The Clementine literature also indicate that Simon was studying in Egypt when John was beheaded, Simon came “out of Egypt” to become the figure head of John’s disciples, from Dositheos’ feigned leadership.
What is intriguing about this is how well it lines up with the Jesus of the Gospels. He is esteemed so much by John that a dove lands on his head during baptism and the voice of God speaks from heaven. However, in John 1:29-33, it states that John bore witness to the spirit descending like a dove, into Jesus, indicating that the Holy Spirit, in fact, possessed him. The other Gospels were uncomfortable with the idea of spirit possession of Jesus.
Of course, the term “Christ” and even “Jesus” both mean the same thing, attached to the original meaning of being christened as the legitimate successor of the Baptist. The title of “Christ” most obviously comes from Simon being “christened” as the successor of John the Baptist. As much as the Orthodox reviled the Simonians and Simon Magus himself, the doctrines of the Roman Catholics such as the Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth successively throughout the ages are actually based on ancient Simonian beliefs and practices with each successive student that takes on his teacher’s role, starting with John the Baptist, Simon Magus, Menander, Marcion, Basilides, Saturnilus, so on and so forth.
This was the biggest propaganda point of the earliest Christians to claim to be the successor of the immensely popular John. However, it also had the in-group meaning of referring to the great being channeled by Simon and Jesus called “the Son of Man”, a mysterious entity also mentioned by Jesus in Matthew in a true apocalyptic Rabbi fashion. (That’s already one too many Jesus’s). The “Son of Man” which is, literally, “Son of Adam” which would be Seth in the Samaritan religious mindset was the great disembodied psychopomp, like Hermes or Eros, who assisted the initiates in their pnuematic travel, stripping of layers of materiality, past the planetary spheres as the spirit ascends into the heavenly abode being the pleroma of light, outside of space and time as we know.
Interestingly enough, in the Gospel of the Egyptians, the text explicitly states that Seth, the Logos, shape-shifted to take on the form of Jesus!
…and established through her the holy baptism that surpasses the heaven, through the incorruptible, Logos-begotten one, even Jesus the living one, even he whom the great Seth has put on.
This sounds a lot like Simon who taught the Trinity doctrine, and claim to come in the form of all three of these hypostatizations of the divine, 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.”
In the Trimorphic Protennoia, Seth is identified with Christ, and in the Apocalypse of Adam, he is the third manifestation of the “Illuminator”. So in essence, the “Son of Man” is also identified with Jesus. These highly esoteric Sethian texts could very well be preserving the Samaritan tradition and important spiritual lineage that starts back all the way with Adam and Eve, continuing on with Seth, and many more in between and finally culminating with Simon-Jesus.
The “holy baptism” was an important sacramental symbol for the ancient Gnostics, especially the Mandaeans and the Samaritans. The reflecting waters of the baptismal pool symbolized the illusory surface-existence of life. Those who are baptized, penetrates the shimmering mask of matter and submerged into the hyper-reality of the Pleroma, a hidden, all-enveloping, ever-present and eternal paradise of which the cosmos is but a fragile, fleeting parody ruled over by foolish demons who think they are gods. The Gospel of Philip tells us:
And as soon as Christ went down into the water, he came out laughing at everything of this world, not because he considers it a trifle, but because he is full of contempt for it. He who wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven will attain it. If he despises everything of this world and scorns it as a trifle, he will come out laughing.
The idea of ascending light-body is not unknown to the Greeks either. The Dionysiac Mystery ecstasy was centered on this idea. In ancient Greek culture, a god was thought to enter the human form in a garment of light that philosophers referred to as a “chiton”. During an oracle’s invocation, a god overtook the physical body, “inspired” it by entering the pneuma in order to use the body as a tool through which to speak. The pythia or priestess, herself was not conscious of the god’s presence, since her pnuema or spirit was possessed by a god, similar to the idea of how Paul was possessed by the spirit of Christ. This notion of a god enveloped in a garment of light is also found in the Hermetic Poimandres, the Mithriac Liturgy, and the Corpus Hermeticum Libellus XIII, all of which employ very similar language and concepts found in Jesus’ teaching to the Pharisee, Nicodemus in John 3: 3-7:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
In the ancient Mystery schools, initiatory and theurgical practices often involved the initiate to undergo a rite of rebirth (renatio) which is made possible following a ritualized form of the second death. This death is a spiritual one, where the soul undergoes a kind of night descent and the nous (divine intellect or mind) is revealed in the resurrected (anastasis) spirit body into direct contact with the gods. If one ascends to the gods, one becomes deified or divinized.
In Plutarch’s Fragment 178 relays a similar experience in a mystery school rite of initiation and spiritual alchemy:
“Thus we say that the soul that has passed thither is dead (ololenai), having regard to its complete (eis to holon) change and conversion. In this world it is without knowledge, except when it is already at the point of death ; but when that time comes, it has an experience like that of men who are undergoing initiation into great mysteries; and so the verbs teleutdn (die) and teleisthai (be initiated), and the actions they denote, have a similarity.
In the beginning there is straying and wandering, the weariness of running this way and that, and nervous journeys through darkness that reach no goal, and then immediately before the consummation every possible terror, shivering and trembling and sweating and amazement. But after this a marvellous light meets the wanderer, and open country and meadow lands welcome him and in that place there are voices and dancing and the solemn majesty of sacred music and holy visions. And amidst these, he walks at large in new freedom, now perfect and fully initiated, celebrating the sacred rites, a garland upon his head, and converses with pure and holy men; he surveys the uninitiated, unpurified mob here on earth, the mob of living men who, herded together in mirk and deep mire, trample one another down and in their fear of death cling to their ills, since they disbelieve in the blessings of the other world. For the soul’s entanglement with the body and confinement in it are against nature, as you may discern from this.”
Initiation rites were not unknown to the Gnostics. Theurgical texts like Allogenes, Trimorphic Protennoia and Marsanes speak about the divine vision and resurrection that would be experienced by the Gnostic initiate in methodical and great detail. The Gnostics looked to Paul’s claim that he experienced this resurrection in his lifetime, and that he had traveled to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), much like how Jesus is resurrected and returns to heaven in Luke and Mark. In the Gospel of John, Jesus hangs around with his disciples in a new spiritual body. In Revelations 19:8, it speaks of “white robes” being distributed by Christ to his “Bride”, so this also fits into this spiritual body theme.
The title “Son of God” is not a Jewish messianic one and occurs in the gospels in connection with Jesus’ miracles. This is because “son of God” implies a supernatural being in human form who performs miracles by his own divine power. It also denotes doceticism.
The Mithras Liturgy depicts the adept being deified by the spirit, becoming the sun, and accomplishing the miracle of ascending into heaven. This parallels the career of Jesus. In the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, appears “I am the son of the living god”. PGM 4.142-221 concludes with union with the deity in form, a gift of power in the deity’s name, and the believer achieving a nature like the god.
Even the Pyramid Texts and the Book of the Dead present evidence that the ancient Egyptians believed that humans can become gods through theurgy. These gods were seen as possessing a form of magic, or original creative power that formed and co-created the cosmos. This idea carries on even into the Torah, in Genesis 1 (along with Isaiah and Psalms), where creation can be seen as a magical act, a miracle—as the word of God has the power of creation. The formation of Adam and Eve from dust and flesh by God was seen as similar to golem-making in Jewish Kabbalistic rituals employed by Rabbi magicians as seen in the Babylonian Talmud. The PGM V. 106-110 even declares Moses himself as a magician and the author of several magical books and charms.
“I am Moses your prophet, to whom you committed your mysteries which are celebrated by Israel [sic]…Listen to me, I am the messenger of Phapro Osoronnophris. This is the authentic name which was committed to the prophets of Israel.”
The PGM, or the Greek Magical Papryi, shares a great deal of parallels with both ancient Egyptian texts and the Christian Gospels, as they both involve miracle and healing stories. They also include details on baptism, magical spells, being declared a god, experiencing mystical phenomena in the wilderness like a shaman, exorcisms and cures, calling disciples while traveling as a master or holy man, initiation to learn the master’s magical secrets and true meaning of the parables, the reception of supernatural visions or divine revelations, etc.
The Bridal Chamber ritual could also very well been a mystery initiation rite, explaining the reunification of the masculine and feminine sides of the soul depicted in the Adam and Eve division when the one soul incarnated in matter, requiring a bifurcated experience into two genders. This is discussed at length in the Gospel of Philip. The fragmented Dialogue of the Savior found in the Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of some of these spirit travel experiences from those closest to the Savior that records encounters with the Son of Man and a series of spiritual initiations which match perfectly well with that of a pagan mystery school:
Whoever does not know the work of perfection, knows nothing. If one does not stand in the darkness, he will not be able to see the light. If one does not understand how fire came into existence, he will burn in it, because he does not know the root of it. If one does not first understand water, he knows nothing. For what use is there for him to be baptized in it?
The same text even employs some Simonian language, by saying those who stand (the Standing One) will “rest forever”:
“The Savior said to his disciples, “Already the time has come, brothers, for us to abandon our labor and stand at rest. For whoever stands at rest will rest forever.”
Nag Hammadi texts such as the Gospel of Philip and Dialogue of the Savior also record the idea that Jesus Christ was a magician as well as a mystery school initiate. In Philip, there are several separated references to dyes such as “the Son of Man has come as a dyer”. It refers to looking into dyed water until the eye tires and visual images come forth. Later, there are references to “the mirrored bridal chamber” and “none can see himself either in water or in a mirror without light. Nor again can you see in light without water or mirror”.
The last sentence of Philip a little defensively sums up the argument for their practices of scrying secretively in the dark (much like John Dee did in the 15th century) before a mirror to experience the higher self: “This is the way it is: it is revealed to him alone, not hidden in the darkness and the night, but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light.”
One description of this process is in the Magical Papyri from Egypt (1, 180-V:4-5, 44-46):
“Divination by means of a bowl and a lamp: the boy sits holding the bowl in his lap, scrying by the aid of lamplight reflected in the surface of the water. A spell pronounced over the boy induces a trance…”
The Gospel of Philip also records Jesus Christ performing initiation rites that sound much like that one of the Hermetic mystery schools of Egypt.
The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. […] he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in the place.”
Gee wiz, where else have we heard this before? Even the Eucharist itself has its origins in magical rites associated with Egypt and can be found in early Samaritan texts like Joseph and Asenath. As we will see in the next two parts, this is enlightened, Sage-like, perfected picture of Jesus, more than likely is the original version, which has its golden thread rooted in Greek and ancient Egyptian-Hermetic wisdom.
In future posts, we will explore further connections with Simon Magus/Paul, Apollos and Apollonius with the great Greek pantheon of Olympian and demi-gods, more tantalizing details from the Greek Magical Papryi, and delve deep into the shimmering pools of the Hermetic and Neoplatonic mysteries. See you next time, truth seekers.