Although the Bible warns about various false teachers, in the New Testament there is more about one of them than the others during that time. And that was Simon the Magician, now generally called Simon Magus.
This article mainly consists of quotes from the Bible and early writers about Simon.
From the Bible
The Book of Acts shows that Simon was an apparent, but not true, convert from the preaching of Philip:
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God." 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."
24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. (Acts 8:5-25, NKJV).
Hence, Simon Magus only gave the appearance of conversion. Simon was actually interested in more power and thought that through getting baptized and paying money, he could have more influence. Notice that Peter noted that Simon, even though he professed Christ and was baptized, still had need for repentance.
The old Radio Church of God published the following:
Notice the points Luke places clearly before us.
1) Simon was a Samaritan, not a Jew — (Acts 8:9). Remember that the Bible tells us salvation was of the Jews — not of the Samaritans (John 4:22).
2) Simon Magus greatly used demonistic powers to do miracles and wonders (Acts 8:9).
3) The whole population of Samaria (both small and great) gave heed to him (Verse 10). He was looked on as the greatest prophet — all Samaritans BELIEVED IN HIM!
4) The Samaritans WORSHIPPED him as "the Great One" — a god. "This man is that power of God called Great [that is the Almighty]" (RSV. Verse 10). Imagine it! They called him god in the flesh!
5) Luke is also careful to inform us that Simon had become firmly established in Samaria as "the Great One" and had practiced his powers "for a long time" (Verse 11).
6) Luke wants us to understand that he nominally became a Christian ("Simon himself believed") and was baptized — that is, he physically, outwardly "entered" the Christian Church (Verse 13).
7) Simon even recognized that Christ's power was greater than his but wanted to be associated with that great name (Verse 13).
8) Simon, seeing the potential of the Christian religion waited until the authorities, Peter and John, came to Samaria and then offered to pay them money to OBTAIN AN APOSTLESHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Verses 18-21). ...
9) Peter perceived that Simon was in the "gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity [lawlessness]" (Verse 23).
NOTE: This verse has been misunderstood because the King James Version fails to give the full force of Peter's accusation. This verse when understood in the manner Peter intended, is one of the most important of the whole chapter. IT IS A PROPHECY! Peter knew the mind of this man and what this man was to become.
This is made plain by Sir William Ramsay in his Pictures of the Apostolic Church, p. 60. He says: "Peter rebuked him in strong and PROPHETIC TERMS. The PROPHECY is concealed in the ordinary translation: the Greek means 'thou art FOR a gall of bitterness and a fetter of unrighteousness [lawlessness]', i.e., a cause of bitterness and corruption to others."
This makes it plain. Peter was uttering a prophecy by the Holy Spirit. He was telling what this Simon was to become; Lange's Commentary says: "Peter's words, literally, mean: 'I regard you as a man whose influence WILL BE like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness], or, as a man who has reached such a state'." (Vol. 9, p. 148). Not only was Simon, in Peter's time, a great antagonist to the Church, but he would be the adversary of the future. ...
10) Even after Peter's strong rebuke, Simon DID NOT REPENT! (Martin E. SIMON MAGUS SERIES - More About SIMON MAGUS. Good News, March 1964)
If Acts 8:23 was a prophecy for Simon Magus' influence, it was fulfilled according to writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries.
Although I consider that Justin Martyr was a heretic, he was one of the first post-biblical writers who recorded clear statements about Simon Magus (though sometimes in apparent error).
Justin mentions him twice. First, in his First Apology:
And, thirdly, because after Christ's ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were gods; and they were not only not persecuted by you, but even deemed worthy of honours. There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome:--
"Simoni Deo Sancto,"
"To Simon the holy God." And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Meander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetaea, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his. And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds--the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh--we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a treatise against all the heresies that have existed already composed, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you (Justin. First Apology, Chapter XXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Note: The term "these men" from Justin refers to Simon Magus, Meander, and Marcion. Simon Magus' influence affected many.
Notice further that Justin taught that the followers of Simon Magus claimed to be Christian, Justin claims that Simon came to Rome, and Justin claimed his followers erected a statue to him in Rome. It is possible that Justin is also saying that the followers of Simon's descendants claimed that they had an immortal soul, a concept that the Bible and early Christian writers did not hold. An article of related interest may be Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?
Regarding the statue and the visit to Rome The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
Justin says further that Simon came to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Claudius and by his magic arts won many followers so that these erected on the island in the Tiber a statue to him as a divinity with the inscription "Simon the Holy God". The statue, however, that Justin took for one dedicated to Simon was undoubtedly one of the old Sabine divinity Semo Sancus. Statues of this early god with similar inscriptions have been found on the island in the Tiber and elsewhere in Rome. It is plain that the interchange of e and i in the Roman characters led Justin or the Roman Christians before him, to look upon the statue of the early Sabine deity, of whom they knew nothing, as a statue of the magician. Whether Justin's opinion that Simon Magus came to Rome rests only on the fact that he believed Roman followers had erected this statue to him, or whether he had other information on this point, cannot now be positively determined. His testimony cannot, therefore, be verified and so remains doubtful. The later anti-heretical writers who report Simon's residence at Rome, take Justin and the apocryphal Acts of Peter as their authority, so that their testimony is of no value… Simon plays an important part in the "Pseudo-Clementines". He appears here as the chief antagonist of the apostle Peter, by whom he is everywhere followed and opposed. The alleged magical arts of the magician and Peter's efforts against him are described in a way that is absolutely imaginary. The entire account lacks all historical basis (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Joseph E. O'Connor. Simon Magus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
The second mention from Justin was in his Dialogue with Trypho:
For I gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Caesar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and might (Justin. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 120. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
In other words, according to Justin, part of the heresy of Simon Magus was teaching that a human leader is "God above all power, and authority, and might". Another way of saying this may be by teaching that a man is God on earth or is on earth in place of Christ.
From the Roman Clement?
There are writings from one referred to as the Roman Clement that mention Simon. These writings, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, were not written by the Clement that the Roman Catholics consider to have been the fourth bishop of Rome. Instead, the true author is not clear, and they probably were written in the late second century. Anyway, here is what they say about Simon Magus:
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. And he uses this name as implying that he can never be dissolved, asserting that his flesh is so compacted by the power of his divinity, that it can endure to eternity. Hence, therefore, he is called the Standing One, as though he cannot fall by any corruption (Roman Clement. Recognitions, Book II, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Simon grew pale; but after a little, recollecting himself, he thus answered: 'Do not think that I am a man of your race. I am neither magician, nor lover of Luna, nor son of Antonius. For before my mother Rachel and he came together, she, still a virgin, conceived me, while it was in my power to be either small or great, and to appear as a man among men. Therefore I have chosen you first as my friends, for the purpose of trying you, that I may place you first in my heavenly and unspeakable places when I shall have proved you. Therefore I have pretended to be a man, that I might more clearly ascertain if you cherish entire affection towards me.' But when I heard that, judging him indeed to be a wretch, yet wondering at his impudence; and blushing for him, and at the same thee fearing lest he should attempt some evil against us, I beckoned to Niceta to feign for a little along with me, and said to him: 'Be not angry with us, corruptible men, O thou incorruptible God, but rather accept our affection, and our mind willing to know who God is; for we did not till now know who thou art, nor did we perceive that thou art he whom we were seeking' (ibid. Chapter XIV).
So according to the above writings, Simon wanted to be considered above all regular humans and to be thought of as Christ.
Others, sadly, built upon this.
In the fourth century, Marcellus of Ancyra wrote:
Again those of Simon's school, called 'gnostics,' Menander and Saturninius, Basiledes, Marcus and Colorbasus and the rest, invented newer ideas than each other and passed them on to those taken in by them. This is why they call themselve 'gnostics'. ... Nichoaus, or Marcion and Lucian from Cerdo. From these the Manichees took their starting points and transmitted new ideas. Now all of these derived the starting points of their impiety from the philosophers Hermes, Plato and Aristotle. Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'. For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato. (Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9. Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, pp.94-95).
Simon Magus affected many, and others added their own false teachings, often based upon pagan philosophy.
It was not just Rome, where Simon Magus eventually went to that was affected by him. He influenced people in Alexandria and elsewhere--including in Jerusalem.
The historian Eusebius also recorded that Hegesippus claimed that there was one who introduced corruption into the Church of God in Jerusalem, named Thebuthis. Basically Thebuthis was considered to be the father of various heresies, including even Marcionism, which was a form of lawlessness:
1. Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. ...
4. The same author also describes the beginnings of the heresies which arose in his time, in the following words: And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord's uncle, Clopas, was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord. Therefore, they called the Church a virgin, for it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses. 5. But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects among the people, like Simon, from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, from whom came the Goratheni, and Masbotheus, from whom came the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, and Marcionists, and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ. (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 22, verses 1, 4-5).
Apparently in time, that corruption affected many in Jerusalem and ultimately led to a confederation of those who were influenced, directly or indirectly, by certain of Simon Magus' teachings (see also The Smyrna Church Era). Simon had a major impact and many follow parts of his unbiblical teachings and practices to this day.
It is likely partially related to Simon Magus that the Apostle Paul wrote:
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; (2 Thessalonians 2:7a)
Since various early writers claim that many of the heretics sprung from Simon Magus, it may well be that Paul was at least partially pointing to how Satan and his demons affected Simon Magus and his followers when he wrote the above (see also Mystery of Iniquity).
We do not have information on groups some of those that are claimed to have descended from Simon Magus. Philip Carrington noted:
We know little or nothing about the sects which are mentioned by Hegesippus, the Simonians, Cleobians, Dositheans, Goratheni and Masbothaeans; Carrington P. The Early Christian Church: Volume 1, The First Christian Church, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press, 2011 [originally written c. 1957], p. 411)
But we do have information on some of them. The historian Adolf von Harnack wrote:
Dositheus, Simon Magus, Cleobius, and Menander appeared as Messiahs or bearers of the Godhead, and proclaimed a doctrine in which the Jewish faith was strangely and grotesquely mixed with Babylonian myths, together with some Greek additions. .. syncretism (Harnack A. History of Dogma, Volume 1, 2nd edition. Translated by Neil Buchanan. Williams & Norgate, 1905. Original from Columbia University, Digitized Aug 18, 2009, p. 245)
So the blending of biblical truth with the ancient Babylonian mystery religion and Greek philosophy. This is some that the Church of Rome has officially found to be acceptable, to a major degree.
Here is some information on the Simonians and the Menandrians from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
A Gnostic, Antinomian sect of the second century which regarded Simon Magus as its founder and which traced its doctrines back to him. The Simonians are mentioned by Hegesippus (in Eusebius, Church History IV.22); their doctrines are quoted and opposed in connection with Simon Magus by Irenaeus (Against Heresies I.23), by the "Philosophumena" (VI, ix-xx; X, xii), and later by Epiphanius ("Haer.", xxii). In the "Philosophumena" Simon's doctrine is described according to his reputed work, "The Great Declaration"; it is evident that we have here the doctrinal opinions of the Simonians as they had developed in the second century. ...
The Simonians venerated and worshiped Simon under the image of Zeus, and Helena under that of Athene. The sect flourished in Syria, in various districts of Asia Minor and at Rome. In the third century remnants of it still existed (Origen, Against Celsus I.57 and VI.11), which survived until the fourth century. Eusebius (Church History II.13) calls the Simonians the most immoral and depraved of mankind. Closely connected with them were the Dositheans and Menandrians, who should be regarded probably as branches of the Simonians. Their names came from Dositheus and Meander, of whom the first, a Samaritan, was originally the teacher and then the pupil of Simon Magus, while Menander was a pupil and, after Simon's death, his most important successor. Dositheus is said to have opposed antinomianism, that is, the rejection of Old Testament law. As late as the beginning of the seventh century Eulogius of Alexandria (in Photius, "Bibliotheca cod.", 230) opposed Dositheans who regarded Dositheus as the great prophet foretold by Moses. Dositheus died a tragic death from starvation ("Pseudo-Clemen. Recognitions," I, 57, 72; II, 11; Origen, Against Celsus I.57 and VI.11; De Principiis IV.17; "In Matth. Comm.", XXXII, P.L., XIII, 1643; "In Luc. Hom.", XXV, ibid., 1866; Epiphanius, "Haer.", XX). Like Simon, Menander also proclaimed himself to be the one sent of God, the Messias. In the same way he taught the creation of the world by angels who were sent by the Ennoia. He asserted that men received immortality and the resurrection by his baptism and practiced magical arts. The sect named after him, the Menandrians, continued to exist for a considerable length of time. (Simonians. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)
It may be of interest to note that Zeus had long hair. BBC reported that the images of 'Jesus' we often see are based upon artists attempting to make Him look like a younger image of Zeus (Taylor J. What did Jesus really look like? BBC, December 24, 2015; see also BBC asserts that Jesus probably did not have long hair)--it may be that this, then, traces back to Simon Magus.
Now the mention that Dositheus is said to have opposed antinomianism is interesting as groups like the Church of Rome, while rejecting much of the Old Testament, do not take as an official position against the Ten Commandments as some Protestant leaders do.
As far as Menander goes, he was believed to be Simon's successor and also practiced sorcery. It has been written:
Menander's tenets followed a meandering trail away from the truth. ... Most of the church fathers accused Menander of being possessed by a demon ... He actually convinced others that a great invisible power from above sent him. ... Like other Gnostics, he taught that wicked angels ... created the world. (Stebnow DK. Books on Google Play churchfails: 100 Blunders in Church History (& What We Can Learn from Them). B&H Publishing Group, 2016)
Here is some information on the Cleobians:
In a fragment of Hegesippus preserved by Eusebius (H. E. 4:22), we have an enumeration of some of the earliest heretics: "Simon, whence arc the Simonians; Cleobius, whence the Cleobians (Κλεοβιηνοί ,) etc." Cleobius is rarely mentioned by ecclesiastical writers. He, together with Simon, is accused of the forgery of apocryphal books (Ap. Coast. 6:16). Pseudo-Chrysostom, in the 48th homily on St. Matthew (vol. vi, p. cxcix), names Dositheus, Simon, and Cleobius among the false teachers who came in the name of Christ in fulfilment of our Lord's prophecy (Matthew 24:5). Cleobians. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 11. Harper & Brothers, 1894, pp. 981-982)
Cleobius may have been one involved in the writing of some of false 'gospels' we hear about from time to time. We know that the faithful (those who kept the Sabbath, avoided unclean meats, had the true gospel writings, etc.) condemned the group that was not faithful in Jerusalem and said that they wrote false literature (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 14-15; see also The Ephesus Church Era).
Marcion was a more famous heretic (see Marcion: The First Protestant?). He was opposed to the Ten Commandments, and the millennial teaching, the Sabbath. Even though he was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, the Church of Rome tolerated him for decades, before it later put him out. While the Church of Rome officially endorses the Ten Commandments, it still goes along with Marcion related to the Sabbath. And the Church of Rome also teaches against the millennium like Marcion did.
Here is some information about the Carpocratians:
OUR main source of information is Irenæus; Tertullian, Hippolytus and Epiphanius simply copy their predecessor. Carpocrates, or Carpocras, was (according to Eusebius) a Platonic philosopher who taught at Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138); he was also the head of a Gnostic circle, whom the Church fathers call Carpocratians, but who called themselves simply Gnostics. ...
Their Idea of Jesus
The sensible world was made by the fabricating powers, or builders, far inferior to the ineffable power of the unknown ingenerable Father. Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, and was born like all other men; he differed from the rest in that his soul, being strong and pure, remembered what it saw in its orbit round (or conversation with) the ineffable Father. This is also the idea (lying behind the Pythagorean, Platonic and Hermetic traditions) of the orderly course of the soul in harmonious circuit round the Spiritual Sun, in the Plain of Truth, when it is in its own nature. In consequence of this reminiscence (which is the source of all wisdom and virtue) the Father clothed him with powers, whereby he might escape from the dominion of the rulers of the world, and passing through all their spheres, and being freed from each, finally ascend to the Father. In like manner all souls of a like nature who put forth similar efforts, shall ascend to the Father. Though the soul of Jesus was brought up in the ordinary Jewish views, he soared above them, and thus by the powers he received from above, he triumphed over human passions.
Believing, then, that all souls which rise above the constraints of the world-building rulers, will receive similar powers and perform like wonders, these Gnostics still further claimed that some of their number had actually attained to the same degree of perfection as Jesus, if not to a higher degree, and were stronger than Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles who had attained similar powers.
In fact they boldly taught that men could reach higher degrees of illumination than Jesus ...
The circle of the Carpocratians is said to have established a branch at Rome, about 150, under acertain Marcellina. They had pictures and statues of many great teachers who were held in honour by their school, such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and also a portrait of Jesus. (Mead GRS. Fragments of a Faith Forgotten: Some Short Sketches Among the Gnostics, Mainly of the First Two Centuries. A Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins Based on the Most Recently Recovered Materials. Theosophical Publishing Society, 1906, p. 229-233)
So, they thought that in the flesh they could be better than Jesus, and were among those using statues and pictures of Jesus.
As far as the Valentinians go, Valentinus was the first person, according to the Greco-Roman bishop Marcellus of Ancyra, who came up with the heretical idea that God existed as three hypostases (which the Greco-Roman faiths now basically accept (see Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?). Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, the Church of Rome tolerated him for decades, before it later put him out (see Valentinus: The Gnostic Trinitarian Heretic). Valentinus also wrote the falsely named "Gospel of Truth."
The Valentinians relied on tradition instead of the Bible:
1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions (Irenaeus. Book 1, Chapter 8, Verse 1).
A major problem today among most who profess Christ is that they rely on non-biblical sources for much of their doctrine (two articles of possible interest may be The Bible and Tradition and Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?
Here is some information about Basilides and the Basilidians from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
The earliest of the Alexandrian Gnostics; he was a native of Alexandria and flourished under the Emperors Adrian and Antoninus Pius, about 120-140. ...
Seen from the viewpoint of Irenaeus, Basilides taught that Nous (Mind) was the first to be born from the Unborn Father; from Nous was born Logos (Reason); from Logos, Phronesis (Prudence); from Phronesis, Sophia (Wisdom) and Dynamis (Strength) and from Phronesis and Dynamis the Virtues, Principalities, and Archangels. By these angelic hosts the highest heaven was made, by their descendants the second heaven, and by the descendants again of these the third, and so on till they reached the number 365. Hence the year has as many days as there are heavens. The angels, who hold the last or visible heaven, brought about all things that are in the world and shared amongst themselves the earth and the nations upon it. The highest of these angels is the one who is thought to be the God of the Jews. And as he wished to make the other nations subject to that which was especially his own, the other angelic principalities withstood him to the utmost. Hence the aversion of all other peoples for this race. The Unborn and Nameless Father seeing their miserable plight, sent his First-born, Nous (and this is the one who is called Christ) to deliver those who should believe in him from the power of the angelic agencies who had built the world. And to men Christ seemed to be a man and to have performed miracles. It was not, however, Christ who suffered, but rather Simon of Cyrene, who was constrained to carry the cross for him, and mistakenly crucified in Christ's stead. Simon having received Jesus' form, Jesus assumed Simon's and thus stood by and laughed at them. Simon was crucified and Jesus returned to His Father. Through the Gnosis (Knowledge) of Christ the souls of men are saved, but their bodies perish. ...
(a) A Gospel. Origin in his Homily on Luke, I, states that Basilides had dared to write a Gospel according to Basilides. St. Jerome and St. Ambrose adopt this state of Origen; and St. Jerome, in the Prologue of his Commentary on St. Matthew, again speaks of an "Evangelium Basilidis". In all likelihood this "Gospel" was compiled out of our canonical Gospels, the text being curtailed and altered to suit his Gnostic tenets, a diatessaron on Gnostic lines.
(b) A Gospel Commentary in twenty-four books. (Clement of Alexandria calls it "Exegetica"; the Acta Archelai et Manetis, "Tractatus".) Fragments of this Commentary have come down to us (in Stromata, IV, 12-81, sqq.; Acta Arch., lv; probably also in Origen, Commentary on Romans V, i).
(c) Hymns. Origen in a note on Job 21:1 sqq., speaks of "Odes" of Basilides; and the so-called Muratorian Fragment, containing a list of canonical and non-canonical books (170 or thereabouts) ends with the words: "etiam novu psalmorum librum marcioni conscripserunt una cum Basilide assianum catafrycum constitutorem". This sentence, notwithstanding its obscurity, supports Origen's statement. For a collection of Basilidian fragments see Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergeschichte des Urchrist" (Leipzig, 1884), 207, 213. ("Basilides." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York)
So, Basilides did not believe God created and Basilides created his own books and traditions.
As far as the Saturnilians go, Epiphanius wrote:
Part 20 1:5 Satornilians, who lent support to the Simonians' pornography throughout Syria, but preached differently from the Simonians in order to create a further sensation. Their founder was Satornilus.
1:6 He too, like Menander, said that the world was made by angels—but only by seven—against the wishes of the Father on high.
Part 22 1:1 One Menander follows next after this sect. ...
Part 23 1:1 A Satornilus arose after him taking his own cue from those people, I mean from Menander and his predecessors. Satornilus lived near Syria—that is, near Antioch by Daphne—and brought lots of the theory and practice of deceit into the world.
1:2 For these two, Basilides and Satornilus, were fellow students. Basilides went to Egypt, and preached the dark recesses of the depth of his imposture there. But Satornilus spent his life in the place I have just mentioned, and like Menander declared that the world was made by angels.
1:3 He said that there is one unknowable Father, and that he has made powers, principalities and authorities. But the angels are at odds with4 the power on high, and a certain seven of them have made the world and everything in it. The world, however, has been parcelled out by lot to each of the angels.
1:4 These angels met and deliberated, and created the man together, in the form of the luminous image that had peeped down from on high—for, not being able to detain it when it peeped down because it withdrew suddenly, they wanted to make a reproduction of it.
1:5 And the man was fashioned by them, for no other reason but this one. For since this light had somehow stimulated these angels when it peeped down from on high, from longing for the likeness on high they undertook to fashion the man.
1:6 For since they had fallen in love with the light from on high, and were held spellbound with desire for it and enjoyment of it when it appeared and (then) disappeared from them—being in love with it and yet unable to sate themselves with its loveliness, because of the immediate withdrawal of this light—this charlatan represents the angels in his skit as having said, 'Let us make man in the image and after the likeness.'
1:7 To lend plausibility to his imposture he has excised the word, 'our' which was used in Genesis by the holy God, but retained 'in the image,' as though, if you please, some persons were making an image of someone else, and showing this by saying, 'Let us make a man in an image and after a likeness.'
1:8 But once the man was made, he says, they could not finish him because of their weakness. He lay quivering, flat on the ground like a worm with no legs, unable to stand up or do anything else, until the power on high peeped down, had compassion because of its own image and semblance, and out of pity sent a spark of its power, raised the man up with this, and so brought him to life; Satornilus claims, if you please, that the spark is the human soul.
1:9 And thus the spark is sure to be preserved, but the whole of the man must perish. What has come down from on high will sooner or later be received back on high, but what is from below, everything the angels have fashioned, is left here for them.
1:10 The charlatan claims that Christ himself has come only in the form and semblance of man, and has done everything in appearance—being born, living a human life, being visible, suffering.
2:1 From him 'knowledge,' as it is falsely called, begins again to add to the depth of its wickedness. It found its origin and occasion in Simon, but (now) it is augmented with other, further nonsense, whose refutation I shall give later.
2:2 For Satornilus claims when speaking of the angels that the God of the Jews is one of them too, and that he and they are at odds with the power on high. But the Saviour has been sent from the Father against the power's wishes, for the destruction of the God of the Jews and the salvation of those who trust in him. And they, the members of this sect, are the ones who have the spark of the Father on high.
2:3 For Satornilus claims that two men were fashioned at the first, one good and one evil. Descended from these are two breeds of men in the world, the good and the evil.
2:4 But since the demons were assisting the evil, for this reason the Saviour came, as I said, in the last days, to the aid of the good men and for the destruction of the evil and the demons.
2:5 This tramp also says that marriage and procreation are of Satan, so that the majority of them abstain from meat, to attract certain persons to their deceit, if you please, with this pretended asceticism.
2:6 Again, the charlatan claims that some of the prophecies were delivered by the angels who made the world, but some by Satan. For Satan too is an angel, he claims, who acts in opposition to the angels who made the world, but especially to the God of the Jews.
3:1 But whenever the oaf makes these claims he himself will surely be shown to be confessing one God, and tracing all things to one monarchy. For if the angels have made the man, but angels in turn have as the cause of their being the power on high, then they are not the causes of the fashioning of the man. This must be the power on high which made the angels by whom the fashioning of the man was done.
3:2 For the tool is not the cause of the products it makes, but the person who, with the tool, performs the operation by which the product is made. As scripture says, 'Shall the axe boast itself without him who wieldeth it?' and so on.
3:3 Thus we see that the sword is not the cause of the murder, but the person who undertook the murder with the sword. And the mould cannot make the vessels itself, but the one who made the mould and the vessels can.
3:4Hence the angels are not the cause, but the angels' maker is the cause, even though it did not order them to make a man.
3:5 It may be that Satornilus is accusing the power on high of ignorance, and unawareness of the things that were going to be done against its will. Or else he is saying that it was with its consent, for a useful purpose, that the angels prepared the man, even though it did not order them to finish the project—that is, the model of the man, as we learn from Satornilus' mythological construct.
4:1 Or why not reply to the myth-maker with the question, 'Did the power on high know what they would do?'
'Yes,' he says.
'Very well, if it knew, then it, not they, made the man. And if it knew but didn't want it done, and they still undertook the project themselves against its wishes, why didn't it stop them?
4:2 But if it had no way of stopping them, this is its first fault. It created the angels it has made to its own disadvantage, in opposition to itself and for its own provocation; and in the second place, it could have stopped them but didn't, and instead lent its assistance to the evil work that was done by the angels.
4:3 'But if it didn't assist in the work, and couldn't stop it even though it wanted to, there is a great deal of weakness in this power that wanted to prevent the work but couldn't. And the band of the angels that the power made must be more powerful than the power, even though it is the cause of the angels it made.' In every respect, then, the sect’s thesis is caught out, and incurs (a verdict of ) untenability, not of truth.
4:4 'But if it knew, and yet it had to make these angels who would do something wrong against its will, it will find itself with one more fault.' To hear Satornilus tell it, nothing in the power on high will turn out right.
4:5 But let’s go on questioning him. 'Hey you, tell us, since you squinted through a window—my way of making fun of your nonsense—and took a peek at the way the angels were created, and then saw how they went about making the clay figure of the man, and spied on the supreme power's industry! Did the angels know what they were going to create, or were they unaware of it? But if they were unaware of it, was anyone forcing them to finish the thing they had done in ignorance?'
'No,' he says, 'they were not unaware. They knew what they were going to do.'
4:6 'Well, did the power on high know that they would undertake this, or was it unaware?'
'It was not unaware.'
'Then did it, or didn't it, make them for the purpose of doing this?'
'No,' he says, 'it just made them, but they undertook to fashion a model against the wishes of the power on high.'
4:7 'Then, you supreme fool, according to what you say the angels knew but it was unaware. And the preparation of men must be their origin, and the angels who are the causes of this are privy to it, but the power that made the angels is in ignorance!
4:8 But this would be foolish and absurd—that the work is more perfect than the workman, and the workman weaker than the angels he made, since they are the causes of the origin of man. Hence for every reason you must admit that one has to trace the universe to the same creator, the One, and to the one monarchy.'
5:1 For in fact God the Father made man, and all things, of his own good pleasure—not the angels, nor has anything been made with the counsel of the angels. For in saying, 'Let us make man,' God said, 'in our image,' not merely 'in an image.'
5:2 He was inviting his Word and Only-begotten into his act of creation as co-creator—as is the opinion, based on truth, of the faithful, and as is the exact truth. In many other works on the subject I have confessed, distinctly and at length, that the Father invited the Son, through whom he made all other things as well, to join him in making the man.
5:3 And I would say that he invited not only the Son, but the Holy Spirit as well: 'By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the host of them by the Spirit of his mouth.'
5:4 Willingly or even unwillingly—I mean Satornilus, the founder of this sect—he will be forced for every reason to confess that God is one, God and Lord, creator and maker of all that is, along with man.
5:5 And he will be exposed as a slanderer for every reason, both in what he says about prophets, and his cheap accusation of lawful wedlock. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself makes an express pronouncement in the Gospel and says, in agreement with the prophet, 'Lo here am I, that speak in the prophets'—and again, 'My Father worketh hitherto, I too am at work.'
5:6 But to show which work his Father and he are doing, he declared it by saying to those who asked him if one may divorce a wife for every cause, 'How is it written? When God made man, he made them male and female,' and again, later in the passage, 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall become one flesh'; and he added immediately, 'That which God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.Thus Saviour teaches in every way that the God of all is the maker of men, and is his Father.'
5:7 And as to marriage’s not being of Satan, but of God, in the first place the Lord says, 'That which God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.'Then the holy apostle: 'Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled.' And he gives a similar commandment to the true widows, and says through Timothy, 'Younger widows refuse; for after they have waxed wanton against Christ, they will marry.' And later, 'Let them marry, bear children, guide the house'—making a law which may not be transgressed, since it is from God and has been solemnly granted to men.
6:1 And there are any number of things to say about the unfounded suspicions he has raised against God's prophecies, as though they are not from God. As the Only-begotten himself says when he makes his proclamation that the world is his, first, 'Our father Abraham desired to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.' And again he says, 'Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me.'
6:2 And who is there, of sound mind and with God-given understanding, who can fail to show the cheat Satornilus up—knowing that, when the Saviour was revealed in glory in support of the truth, he showed his glory in no other way than between Elijah and Moses, who themselves appeared with him in their own glory?
6:3 But there are any number of other things like these, said by the Lord himself and throughout the New Testament, which unite the Law, the prophets and the whole Old Testament with the New—since they are both Testaments of one God, as he says, 'They shall come and recline on the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, and shall find rest from the east and west,' and so on.
6:4 And again, the prophecy concerning him which is given as David's, 'The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand.' And again, the words he himself says to the Pharisees, 'Did ye never read, the stone which the builders rejected?'
6:5 And Luke affirms that the Saviour himself appeared on the road to Nathanael and Cleopas after his resurrection from the dead, and admonished them from the psalms and the prophets that 'Thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.' And there is no discrepancy whatever between Christ's incarnation and the oracles of the prophets.
7:1 But this will do for Satornilus' sect—not to waste time by becoming involved in his foolish disputations and the refutations of them.
7:2 Next, moving on from this one, I shall describe the sect of Basilides, Satornilus' fellow-student and companion in error. For these men share the same material as though they had borrowed their poison from each other, as in the familiar proverb of 'an asp borrowing poison from a viper.' For they each belong to the other’s school and council, though each stands by himself as founder of his own sect. And they borrowed the wickedness from each other, but were the authors of the discrepancy between them.
7:3 So whether, like a viper, Satornilus got his venom from the ancients and has imparted it to Basilides, or whether Basilides imparted it to Satornilus, let us leave their poison behind us, deadly as it is, and coming from such serpents as these, (but) weakened and deprived of its strength with the Lord's teaching as with an antidote. Let us, however, call on God, beloved, and go on to the next. (Epiphanius. PanarionThe Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis A Treatise Against Eighty Sects in Three Books, Book I (Sects 1-46) Based on the translation by Frank Williams (Published 1987-2009)
All of that was included about Satornilus to attempt people from confusing his followers with the Saturnalians. (The Saturnalians did affect Greco-Romans according to Tertullian--see What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?).
An although Irenaeus held some wrong views on many matters, in the second century, he also reported about Simon Magus:
1. Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, "But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries." This Simon, then -- who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus -- suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would -- was addressed in these words by Peter: "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 fight in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." 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. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honoured with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.
2. Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: -- Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Ennoea leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions [of space], and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this word was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Ennoea was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus was struck blind, because he had cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep.
3. For this purpose, then, he had come that he might win her first, and free her from slavery, while he conferred salvation upon men, by making himself known to them. For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he 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.
4. Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called "Paredri" (familiars) and "Oniropompi" (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them "knowledge, falsely so called," received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions.
5. The successor of this man was Menander, also a Samaritan by birth, and he, too, was a perfect adept in the practice of magic. He affirms that the primary Power continues unknown to all, but that he himself is the person who has been sent forth from the presence of the invisible beings as a saviour, for the deliverance of men. The world was made by angels, whom, like Simon, he maintains to have been produced by Ennoea. He gives, too, as he affirms, by means of that magic which he teaches, knowledge to this effect, that one may overcome those very angels that made the world; for his disciples obtain the resurrection by being baptized into him, and can die no more, but remain in the possession of immortal youth (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book 1, Chapter 23, Verses 1-5. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Notice that Simon was worshipped as if he were a god (note: Jupiter is essentially the Roman name for the Greek god Zeus). Notice also that Simon had "mystic priests." This is a concept NOT found within the true Church of God ever, and not even originally in the Roman Church.
And Irenaeus immediately continued with:
1. Arising among these men, Saturninus (who was of that Antioch which is near Daphne) and Basilides laid hold of some favourable opportunities, and promulgated different systems of doctrine -- the one in Syria, the other at Alexandria. Saturninus, like Menander, set forth one father unknown to all, who made angels, archangels, powers, and potentates. The world, again, and all things therein, were made by a certain company of seven angels. Man, too, was the workmanship of angels, a shining image bursting forth below from the presence of the supreme power; and when they could not, he says, keep hold of this, because it immediately darted upwards again, they exhorted each other, saying, "Let us make man after our image and likeness." He was accordingly formed, yet was unable to stand erect, through the inability of the angels to convey to him that power, but wriggled [on the ground] like a worm. Then the power above taking pity upon him, since he was made after his likeness, sent forth a spark of life, which gave man an erect posture, compacted his joints, and made him live. He declares, therefore, that this spark of life, after the death of a man, returns to those things which are of the same nature with itself, and the rest of the body is decomposed into its original elements ...
5. Salvation belongs to the soul alone, for the body is by nature subject to corruption. He declares, too, that the prophecies were derived from those powers who were the makers of the world, but the law was specially given by their chief, who led the people out of the land of Egypt. He attaches no importance to [the question regarding] meats offered in sacrifice to idols, thinks them of no consequence, and makes use of them without any hesitation; he holds also the use of other things, and the practice of every kind of lust, a matter of perfect indifference. These men, moreover, practise magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau. (Book 1, Chapter 24, Verses 1,5).
Notice in the following passage Irenaeus condemns Simon Magus and those who followed them for their mysteries:
1. In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself...I have also related how they think and teach that creation at large was formed after the image of their invisible Pleroma, and what they hold respecting the Demiurge, declaring at the same time the doctrine of Simon Magus of Samaria, their progenitor, and of all those who succeeded him. I mentioned, too, the multitude of those Gnostics who are sprung from him, and noticed the points of difference between them, their several doctrines, and the order of their succession, while I set forth all those heresies which have been originated by them. I showed, moreover, that all these heretics, taking their rise from Simon, have introduced impious and irreligious doctrines into this life; and I explained the nature of their "redemption," and their method of initiating those who are rendered "perfect," along with their invocations and their mysteries (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Preface, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Thus it appears that the ideas of mysteries was probably introduced by this Simon the magician.
Irenaeus also wrote:
11...But if any one, "doting about questions," do imagine that what the apostles have declared about God should be allegorized, let him consider my previous statements, in which I set forth one God as the Founder and Maker of all things, and destroyed and laid bare their allegations; and he shall find them agreeable to the doctrine of the apostles, and so to maintain what they used to teach, and were persuaded of, that there is one God, the Maker of all things. And when he shall have divested his mind of such error, and of that blasphemy against God which it implies, he will of himself find reason to acknowledge that both the Mosaic law and the grace of the new covenant, as both fitted for the times [at which they were given], were bestowed by one and the same God for the benefit of the human race.
12. For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another god; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine], and more intelligent, than the apostles. Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, they assert that these are alone authentic, which they have themselves thus shortened.(Book III, Chapter 12, Verses 11-12).
Notice that Irenaeus is teaching that the idea that the Old Testament laws are dissimilar and contrary to the Gospel came from followers of Simon Magus. Irenaeus is teaching that Simon and his followers practiced lawlessness (see article on 2 Thesalonnians 2:7). Also, notice that he is claiming that it was from Simon's followers that the idea came forth that being under less Jewish influence is better form of Christianity. Is this not essentially a belief of most Protestants?
Irenaeus wrote about two descendants of Simon: Cerdo and Marcion:
1. Cerdo was one who took his system from the followers of Simon, and came to live at Rome in the time of Hyginus, who held the ninth place in the episcopal succession from the apostles downwards. He taught that the God proclaimed by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the former was known, but the latter unknown; while the one also was righteous, but the other benevolent.
2. Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and developed his doctrine. In so doing, he advanced the most daring blasphemy against Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets, declaring Him to be the author of evils, to take delight in war, to be infirm of purpose, and even to be contrary to Himself. But Jesus being derived from that father who is above the God that made the world, and coming into Judaea in the times of Pontius Pilate the governor, who was the procurator of Tiberius Caesar, was manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judaea, abolishing the prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world, whom also he calls Cosmocrator. Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord.
3. Salvation will be the attainment only of those souls which had learned his doctrine; while the body, as having been taken from the earth, is incapable of sharing in salvation. In addition to his blasphemy against God Himself, he advanced this also, truly speaking as with the mouth of the devil, and saying all things in direct opposition to the truth -- that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom. But the serpent which was in Marcion declared that Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and those other righteous men who sprang from the patriarch Abraham, with all the prophets, and those who were pleasing to God, did not partake in salvation. For since these men, he says, knew that their God was constantly tempting them, so now they suspected that He was tempting them, and did not run to Jesus, or believe His announcement: and for this reason he declared that their souls remained in Hades.
4. But since this man is the only one who has dared openly to mutilate the Scriptures, and unblushingly above all others to inveigh against God, I purpose specially to refute him, convicting him out of his own writings; and, with the help of God, I shall overthrow him out of those discourses of the Lord and the apostles, which are of authority with him, and of which he makes use. At present, however, I have simply been led to mention him, that thou mightest know that all those who in any way corrupt the truth, and injuriously affect the preaching of the Church, are the disciples and successors of Simon Magus of Samaria. Although they do not confess the name of their master, in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines. They set forth, indeed, the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure, but in various ways they introduce the impieties of Simon; and thus they destroy multitudes, wickedly disseminating their own doctrines by the use of a good name, and, through means of its sweetness and beauty, extending to their hearers the bitter and malignant poison of the serpent, the great author of apostasy? (Book 1, Chapter 27, Verses 1-4).
Hence Irenaeus is teaching that among the descendants of Simon Magus are those who openly mutilate the scriptures--essentially by saying that their teachings supercede what the Bible says (those who put their own Traditions above the Bible) and by teaching that salvation is only attained by learning their doctrine (which is theirs and not the Bible). Furthermore, it is interesting to note that he believes that Marcion was the one to get 'Christians' to accept being part of carnal warfare--as real Christians would not do this (see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?).
Irenaeus, in the late 2nd century, claimed that the Valentinians came from Simon Magus:
Thou hast indeed enjoined upon me, my very dear friend, that I should bring to light the Valentinian doctrines, concealed, as their votaries imagine; that I should exhibit their diversity, and compose a treatise in refutation of them. therefore have undertaken -- showing that they spring from Simon, the father of all heretics -- to exhibit both their doctrines and successions, and to set forth arguments against them all (Book III, Preface, Verse 1).
Irenaeus also wrote:
Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.
But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles... John, the disciple of the Lord…exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." 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" (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).
Valentinus, Cerinthus, and Marcion are considered by Catholics and others to have been Gnostic heretics, while Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus were claimed bishops of Rome. It took Polycarp of Smyrna to deal with apostates who flourished during the time various Roman Catholic bishops.
Notice also something that Polycarp wrote:
“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist,” and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VII).
The vanity of MANY seems to have been impacted by Simon Magus.
Notice the following:
Polycarp in his letter To the Philippians . . . invites his recipients to abandon the vanity of the multitude and their false doctrines (τάς ψευδιδασκαλίας), to return to the word that was transmitted from the beginning … (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015)
Many of these false doctrines were promoted by Simon Magus and others who were influenced by him.
Tertullian was a late second century, early third century apologist.
The following is from Tertullian:
Deity is struck off and farmed out to the highest bidder...when you instal in your Pantheon Simon Magus, giving him a statue and the title of Holy God; when you make an infamous court page a god of the sacred synod, although your ancient deities are in reality no better, they will still think themselves affronted by you, that the privilege antiquity conferred on them alone, has been allowed to others (Tertullian. Apology, Chapter 13. Translated by S. Thelwall. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Tertullian is teaching that some use statues of Simon and that is no better than how the ancient pagan gods were worshiped. Tertullian is also condemning the use of finances for religious favor and applying to a man a title that only belongs to God.
Tertullian also wrote:
There is the (infamous) Simon of Samaria in the Acts of the Apostles, who chaffered for the Holy Ghost: after his condemnation by Him, and a vain remorse that he and his money must perish together, he applied his energies to the destruction of the truth, as if to console himself with revenge. Besides the support with which his own magic arts furnished him, he had recourse to imposture, and purchased a Tyrian woman of the name of Helen out of a brothel, with the same money which he had offered for the Holy Spirit,--a traffic worthy of the wretched man. He actually reigned himself to be the Supreme Father, and further pretended that the woman was his own primary conception, wherewith he had purposed the creation of the angels and the archangels; that after she was possessed of this purpose she sprang forth from the Father and descended to the lower spaces, and there anticipating the Father's design had produced the angelic powers, which knew nothing of the Father, the Creator of this world; that she was detained a prisoner by these from a (rebellious) motive very like her own, lest after her departure from them they should appear to be the offspring of another being; and that, after being on this account exposed to every insult, to prevent her leaving them anywhere after her dishonour, she was degraded even to the form of man, to be confined, as it were, in the bonds of the flesh. Having during many ages wallowed about in one female shape and another, she became the notorious Helen who was so ruinous to Priam, and afterwards to the eyes of Stesichorus, whom, she blinded in revenge for his lampoons, and then restored to sight to reward him for his eulogies. After wandering about in this way from body to body, she, in her final disgrace, turned out a viler Helen still as a professional prostitute. This wench, therefore, was the lost sheep, upon whom the Supreme Father, even Simon, descended, who, after he had recovered her and brought her back--whether on his shoulders or loins I cannot tell--cast an eye on the salvation of man, in order to gratify his spleen by liberating them from the angelic powers.
Moreover, to deceive these he also himself assumed a visible shape; and reigning the appearance of a man amongst men, he acted the part of the Son in Judea, and of the Father in Samaria. O hapless Helen, what a hard fate is yours between the poets and the heretics, who have blackened your fame sometimes with adultery, sometimes with prostitution! Only her rescue from Troy is a more glorious affair than her extrication from the brothel. There were a thousand ships to remove her from Troy; a thousand pence were probably more than enough to withdraw her from the stews. Fie on you, Simon, to be so tardy in seeking her out, and so inconstant in ransoming her! How different from Menelaus! As soon as he has lost her, he goes in pursuit of her; she is no sooner ravished than he begins his search; after a ten years' conflict he boldly rescues her: there is no lurking, no deceiving, no cavilling. I am really afraid that he was a much better "Father," who laboured so much more vigilantly, bravely, and perseveringly, about the recovery of his Helen.
The opinions of Carpocrates, another offset from the Pythagorean dogmas, stated and confuted.
However, it is not for you alone, (Simon), that the transmigration philosophy has fabricated this story (Tertullian. Translated by Peter Holmes. A Treatise on the Soul, Chapters 34-35. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Tertullian appears to be condemning the transmigration of souls doctrine that most who now profess Christianity accept. He may also be saying that it is from Simon that this false concept out an immortal soul entered any form of Christianity (Tertullian himself actually taught that humans do not now possess immortality, see the article Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?, but Tertullian's own statements were sometimes contradictory).
Hippolytus, who also appeared to be a Roman supporter, in the early third century, wrote:
It seems, then, expedient likewise to explain now the opinions of Simon, a native of Gitta, a village of Samaria; and we shall also prove that his successors, taking a starting-point from him, have endeavoured (to establish) similar opinions under a change of name. This Simon being an adept in sorceries, both making a mockery of many, partly according to the art of Thrasymedes, in the manner in which we have explained above, and partly also by the assistance of demons perpetrating his villany, attempted to deify himself. (But) the man was a (mere) cheat, and full of folly, and the Apostles reproved him in the Acts. With much greater wisdom and moderation than Simon, did Apsethus the Libyan, inflamed with a similar wish, endeavour to have himself considered a god in Libya, And inasmuch as his legendary system does not present any wide divergence from the inordinate desire of that silly Simon, it seems expedient to furnish an explanation of it, as one worthy of the attempt made by this man. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book VI, Chapter II ). Translated by J. H. Machmahon. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Now Simon, both foolishly and knavishly paraphrasing the law of Moses, makes his statements (in the manner following): For when Moses asserts that "God is a burning and consuming fire," taking what is said by Moses not in its correct sense, he affirms that fire is the originating principle of the universe. (But Simon) does not consider what the statement is which is made, namely, that it is not that God is a fire, but a burning and consuming fire, (thereby) not only putting a violent sense upon the actual law of Moses, but even plagiarizing from Heraclitus the Obscure. And Simon denominates the originating principle of the universe an indefinite power, expressing himself thus: "This is the treatise of a revelation of (the) voice and name (recognisable) by means of intellectual apprehension of the Great Indefinite Power. Wherefore it will be sealed, (and) kept secret, (and) hid, (and) will repose in the habitation, at the foundation of which lies the root of all things." And he asserts that this man who is born of blood is (the aforesaid) habitation, and that in him resides an indefinite power, which he affirms to be the root of the universe. (ibid chapter IV).
Simon became confessedly a god to his silly followers (ibid Chapter XIII).
Simon then, after inventing these (tenets), not only by evil devices interpreted the writings of Moses in whatever way he wished, but even the (works) of the poets. For also he fastens an allegorical meaning on (the story of) the wooden horse and Helen with the torch, and on very many other (accounts), which he transfers to what relates to himself and to Intelligence, and (thus) furnishes a fictitious explanation of them. (ibid Chapter XIV).
Hence Hippolytus is teaching that Simon felt that allegorical interpretations were preferred to literal interpretations of the Bible. And that in his Simon's religion he was a god.
Hippolytus also wrote:
The disciples, then, of this (Magus), celebrate magical rites, and resort to incantations. And (they profess to) transmit both love-spells and charms, and the demons said to be senders of dreams, for the purpose of distracting whomsoever they please. But they also employ those denominated Paredroi. "And they have an image of Simon (fashioned) into the figure of Jupiter, and (an image) of Helen in the form of Minerva; and they pay adoration to these." But they call the one Lord and the other Lady. And if any one amongst them, on seeing the images of either Simon or Helen, would call them by name, he is cast off, as being ignorant of the mysteries. This Simon, deceiving many in Samaria by his sorceries, was reproved by the Apostles, and was laid under a curse, as it has been written in the Acts. But he afterwards abjured the faith, and attempted these (aforesaid practices). And journeying as far as Rome, he fell in with the Apostles; and to him, deceiving many by his sorceries, Peter offered repeated opposition. 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. This constitutes the legendary system advanced by Simon, and from this Valentinus derived a starting-point (for his own doctrine. This doctrine, in point of fact, was the same with the it Simonian, though Valentinus) denominated under different titles: for "Nous," and "Aletheia," and "Logos," and "Zoe," and "Anthropos," and "Ecclesia," and Aeons of Valentinus, are confessedly the six roots of Simon, viz., "Mind" and "Intelligence," "Voice" and "Name," "Ratiocination" and "Reflection." But since it seems to us that we have sufficiently explained Simon's tissue of legends, let us see what also Valentinus asserts. (ibid Chapter XV)
Notice that the religion of Simon and his followers included various incantations. And that this religion had a Lord and an important Lady. Neither incantations nor images were part of true early Christianity.
According to Hippolytus, both Simon and Valentinus kept use of the number seven, which although that number has biblical application, those heretics came up with their own seven stones, seven principles, upon which their beliefs were based:
Wherefore all the numbers are seven; so that the generation of things produced may be from the hebdomad--which is number, monad, power, cube, biquadratic, product of quadratic multiplied by cube, product of cube multiplied by cube.
Of this hebdomad Simon and Valentinus, having altered the names, detailed marvellous stories, from thence hastily adopting a system for themselves. For Simon employs his denominations thus: Mind, Intelligence, Name, Voice, Ratiocination, Reflection; and He who stood, stands, will stand. And Valentinus (enumerates them thus): Mind, Truth, Word, Life, Man, Church, and the Father, reckoned along with these, according to the same principles as those advanced by the cultivators of arithmetical philosophy. And (heresiarchs) admiring, as if unknown to the multitude, (this philosophy, and) following it, have framed heterodox doctrines devised by themselves. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book IV). Translated by J. H. Machmahon. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Hippolytus teaches that Simon teaches that there is some infinite power that is at the root of the universe (essentially a true statement), but that he (Simon) believes that he was a power above all apparently on the earth. Hippolytus reported that fire was also related to at least six of the seven stones mentioned above:
But that very sapient fellow Simon makes his statement thus, that there is an indefinite power, and that this is the root of the universe. And this indefinite power, he says, which is fire, is in itself not anything which is simple, as the gross bulk of speculators maintain, when they assert that there are four incomposite elements, and have supposed fire, as one of these, to be uncompounded. Simon, on the other hand, alleges that the nature of fire is twofold; and one portion of this twofold (nature) he calls a something secret, and another (a something) manifest. And he asserts that the secret is concealed in the manifest parts of the fire, and that the manifest parts of the fire have been produced from the secret. And he says that all the parts of the fire, visible and invisible, have been supposed to be in possession of a capacity of perception. The world, therefore, he says, that is begotten, has been produced from the unbegotten fire. And it commenced, he says, to exist thus: The Unbegotten One took six primal roots of the principle of generation from the principle of that fire. For he maintains that these roots have been generated in pairs from the fire; and these he denominates Mind and Intelligence, Voice and Name, Ratiocination and Reflection. Anti he asserts that in the six roots, at the same time, resides the indefinite power, which he affirms to be Him that stood, stands, and will stand. And when this one has been formed into a figure, He will, according to this heretic, exist in the six powers substantially and potentially. And He will be in magnitude and perfection one and the same with that unbegotten and indefinite power, possessing no attribute in any respect more deficient than that unbegotten, and unalterable, and indefinite power. If, however, He who stood, stands, and will stand, continues to exist only potentially in the six powers, and has not assumed any definite figure, He becomes, says Simon, utterly evanescent, and perishes. And this takes place in the same manner as the grammatical or geometrical capacity, which, though it has been implanted in man's soul, suffers extinction when it does not obtain (the assistance of) a master of either of these arts, who would indoctrinate that soul into its principles.
Now Simon affirms that he himself is He who stood, stands, and will stand, and that He is a power that is above all things. So far, then, for the opinions of Simon likewise. (Ibid Book X, Chapter VIII ).
More from Hippolytus:
Now after He was taken up again to the Father, there arose some, saying, "I am Christ," like Simon Magus and the rest, whose names we have not time at present to mention (Hippolytus. On the End of the World, Chapter IX. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Rome and Later Statements
Rome itself was influenced by Simon Magus according to Eusebius, via Justin, Simon Magus “led many people of the inhabitants of Rome astray” (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book II, Chapter XIII, Verses 1-2, pp. 31-32).
Sadly, over time, Rome did adopt many practices that Simon Magus advocated.
Most of the non-biblical sources cited so far are essentially considered to be from Roman Catholic supporters. The Paulicians were not supportive of the Roman Church nor were they supporters of Simon Magus. Here is something from the Paulicians of 1782:
But Simon himself believed and was baptized and rose up against Philip in trickery and charlanatry, in order to obtain the power of the holy spirit by deceit (Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, p. 92)
The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912 contained these statements:
By his magic arts, because of which he was called "Magus", and by his teachings in which he announced himself as the "great power of God", he had made a name for himself and had won adherents. He listened to Philip's sermons, was impressed by them, and like many of his countrymen was baptized and united with the community of believers in Christ. But, as was evident later, his conversion was not the result of the inner conviction of faith in Christ as the Redeemer, but rather from selfish motives, for he hoped to gain greater magical power and thus to increase his influence...Under the influence of Peter's rebuke Simon begged the Apostles to pray for him (Acts 8:9-29). However, according to the unanimous report of the authorities of the second century, he persisted in his false views. The ecclesiastical writers of the early Church universally represent him as the first heretic, the "Father of Heresies". Simon is not mentioned again in the writings of the New Testament...All these narratives belong naturally to the domain of legend. It is evident from them, however, that, according to the tradition of the second century, Simon Magus appeared as an opponent of Christian doctrine and of the Apostles, and as a heretic or rather as a false Messias of the Apostolic age...In morals Simon was probably Antinomian, an enemy of Old Testament law. Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Joseph E. O'Connor. Simon Magus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Thus even Roman Catholic authorities recognized that Simon was a false Christian and held false views.
Here are statements from the late Church of God leader Herbert W. Armstrong:
To the Thessalonians, about A.D. 54, Paul wrote, "For the Mystery of iniquity doth already work . . ." (II Thes. 2:7). It was the Babylonian mystery religion, started by Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), a religion of iniquity - lawlessness - a religion rejecting the law of God...
During the time of Paul's ministry, these same Simon Magus ministers were troubling the Corinthians. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ [the true Church, in the resurrection, is to be married to Christ, spiritually]. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he [a minister of Simon Magus] that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit [of rebellion and disobedience] which ye have not received, or another gospel . . .” (11 Cor. 11:2-4).(More, later, about the connection with the deception of the first woman, Eve.) But notice, they were proclaiming another Jesus - as well as another gospel - and they followed another spirit - of rebellion and not obedience. That deception has continued through the centuries and is the state today. They took the NAME of Christ. They called their Babylonian religion "Christianity." But they not only presented a counterfeit gospel but a counterfeit spirit of self centeredness and a counterfeit Jesus, completely different to the Jesus of the Bible.
Of these false ministers, Paul wrote further to the Corinthians: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers. Transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness . . ." (II Cor. II: 13-15). (Armstrong HW. The Incredible Human Potential, 1978, Chapter 1)
It is Eusebius who is the first to make any attempt to date Peter's activities at Rome. Interestingly, he gives us both a beginning and ending date in general terms. The first, he tells us, was a result of Simon Magus' activities in Rome. Speaking first of Simon, Eusebius writes:And coming to the city of Rome, by the mighty co-operation of that power which was lying in wait there, he was in a short time so successful in his undertaking that those who dwelt there honored him as a god by the erection of a statue. [Eusebius, Church History, trans. by Arthur C. McGiffert (Vol. I, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952; p. 115), II, 14, 5.]He then introduces Peter:But this did not last long. For immediately, during the reign of Claudius, the all-good and gracious Providence, which watches over all things, led Peter, that strongest and greatest of the Apostles, and the one who on account of his virtue was the speaker for all the others, to Rome against this great corrupter of life. He, like a noble commander of God, clad in divine armor, carried the costly merchandise of the light of the understanding from the East to those who dwelt in the West, proclaiming the light itself, and the word which brings salvation to souls, and preaching the kingdom of heaven. [Ibid.]It is upon this statement that the twenty-five year episcopate of Peter is based. Jerome refines this, as we shall see, to be the second year of Claudius until the fourteenth and last of Nero — that is, from 42 to 67 A.D.
The dating of the Apostle Peter's coming to Rome has now been utterly abandoned by all scholars including even modern Catholics. Duchesne's cautious criticism earned him the censure of the Church at the turn of the century, but O'Connor's exhaustive work of 1968 clearly states that Eusebius confused Peter with Simon Magus, who no doubt did come in that year. [Daniel William O'Connor, Peter in Rome (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 10.]
Zahn is equally emphatic that it was Simon the Magician, not Simon Peter, who came at that early date:Eusebius was not the only writer — perhaps he was not the first one — who was led by the Acts of Peter, through the combination of the tradition of Simon Magus' residence in Rome under Claudius with the tradition of Peter's martyrdom in Rome under Nero, to assume a long Roman Episcopate of Peter. Once it had arisen and become current, the story lost all connection with its source. [Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1953), Vol. II., p. 169.]It is sufficient to say that no modern author would attempt to maintain Eusebius' claim as to Peter's coming to Rome in the reign of Claudius. It stems clearly from confusion with Simon Magus and cannot be justified in the light of Biblical truth or modern scholarship. (Albert D. Peter in Rome? Ambassador College Thesis, June 1973, pp. 23-24)
The late Herbert Armstrong taught the following in a sermon on July 19, 1980:
Simon Magus Mystery Religion
Now, two years after the Church was founded... so the Church was founded on the day of Pentecost on 31 A.D. In 33 A.D., Simon the Magician started a new church. He tried to buy an apostleship of Peter and John. He of course was turned down and firmly rebuked by Peter. But he went out, and he had been baptized along with all of the others up at Samaria, and he was the religious head of the Babylonian Mystery Religion. And you'll find that in the eighth chapter of Acts if you can read everything that's there and understand it.
They looked on him, both small and great, as the voice of God. So he wanted to accept Christ, he wanted to accept grace, but he wanted to turn grace into license to disobey. In other words, he wanted to do away with law. He didn't want any of God's law, he didn't want the Ten Commandments, he didn't want the Spiritual law, he just didn't want law at all.
Now, that came along a little later, but the opposition to the Church, as it started out, was a Jewish opposition of Jews who wanted to... some of them were willing to accept Christ, although the overwhelming majority, of course, never would accept Christ, never did.
But of those who did, and came into the Church, there were those who were teaching Judaism, a takeover from the Judaism of the days after Ezra and Nehemiah, but also, by that time, what this Simon the Magician had started, who was the first Pope, by the way. And the Roman Catholic Church is merely the Babylonian Mystery Religion continued, but it took the name of Christ, appropriated it, and called itself falsely, Christian. It is not Christian, never was, never could be. But they had never believed in law at all. And so the Protestants never had believed in law. They just simply were against it.
As far as Simon Magus goes, even those now considered to be early supporters of the Roman Catholic Church condemned him. Yet, those who claim Christ really should look into whether or not they have adopted the non-biblical heresies that Simon Magus and his later followers adopted. Those wanting to learn more should also consider studying the articles at the The History of Early Christianity page.
We do not know how or when Simon Magus died (there are various legends). Some early reports indicate he was buried in Samaria or in Rome. Some suspect that burial was in Vatican hill.
Notice the following:
Elevating his personal teachings above the Bible, and preaching a "no-works" doctrine of salvation, Simon Magus soon had a universal, popular following. Deified by the Romans, he was buried on Vatican Hill. ...
The records regarding Simon's death vary widely. Many of the stories try to incorporate some fiction from the Greek and Egyptian myths to enhance the reader's interest in this fascinating character. But the earliest records say that he was buried in Rome after a long period of great honour and deification.
It is not clearly known where Simon Magus alias Simon Pater or Simon Jupiter was buried. But this much is known. The place of burial for ALL prophets and holy men of the Romans was in the sacred cemetery on Vatican Hill. This much is certain.
Notice what Werner Keller in his The Bible as History says about the so-called burial of the Catholics' Peter. (Before reading Keller's statement, let us remember that he is a thorough-going Catholic and firmly, himself, believed that the Apostle Peter was buried in Rome. However, the Bible shows nothing of the kind. Now, let's read Keller's comment — the official comment of the Roman Catholic Church):
"On the night of his death on the cross Peter's followers BURIED his body. As in the case of Jesus on the hill of Calvary it was wrapped in linen and secretly taken to a PAGAN BURIAL GROUND on the Via Cornelia, behind the stone structure of the arena. This PAGAN CEMETERY lay on a knoll called VATICANUS: the Latin word 'vatis' means a 'prophet' or 'SOOTHSAYER'. In days gone by there had been an Etruscan oracle on this spot" (p. 368).
What an admission!
Keller ought to have better sense to know that this Peter buried in this cemetery, of all places, could NOT be the Apostle Peter. In the first place, Peter was a Jew, and they had to be buried in their own cemeteries. And even if by a happen-chance a Jew could be buried in a Roman cemetery, it is most unlikely that a Jew — especially one who attacked the Roman religion as the Apostle Peter did — would ever have been allowed into the most holy of pagan cemeteries! This cemetery was reserved for prophets, soothsayers and the great ones of pagan Rome. (Martin E. SIMON MAGUS SERIES - Simonites Establish UNIVERSAL Church. Good News, August 1964)
When Vatican hill has been excavated, they have found pagan graves and one or more in costly apparel. Perhaps, one in costly apparel was Simon Magus.
Simon Magus, the Church of Rome, and Sunday
So, what about Simon Magus and the Church of Rome?
This is a little complicated, but basically I do NOT believe that the elders that are listed in the first century as bishops/popes that allegedly succeeded the Apostle Peter were followers of Simon Magus. What little actual evidence there is seems to suggest leaders such as Linus, Cletus, Clement, and Evaristus were probably actual Christians and were not appointed by Simon Magus to continue his work. That being said, the late Dr. Herman Hoeh had a different view in which the 'Peter' he mentions was supposed to be Simon Magus:
And the birthday of Nimrod — December 25 — was called the Saturnalia by the Romans.
Saturnia fell into decay. A new city, Rome, was later built on the same site — named after Romulus, according to Latin writers. But how is it that the Peter of Babylon came to be associated with the city named Rome? ...
Many people began to look for new leaders and a new headquarters. But they did not look to Christ, the head of the Church!
At this moment in history, the centuries-old tradition was revived and widely circulated that "Peter" had been in Rome. The heathen had never heard of the apostle Peter. But everyone at Rome had heard that there was a shrine of a Peter on Vatican hill and that that Peter or Nimrod had come from Babylon. Anacletus an elder or bishop in the apostate Church at Rome, dedicated the ancient shrine of the pagan Peter (or Nimrod) to the apostle Peter around 80 A.D., according to a record in the Liber Pontificalis (i, p. 125).
It was now an easy task for Anacletus to convince the drifting, unemployed pagan population of Rome — which was becoming interested in the mysteries — that the shrine at Rome was the site of burial of the apostle Peter — for had not the apostle Peter been at Babylon! And to cement his authority, he claimed to have been ordained by Peter.
Anacletus claimed to be the sole successor to Peter. He claimed that the two men who ruled in the Church before him were Peter and Linus. (See the Catholic list of bishops in any World Almanac.) Now it so happens that in ancient tradition, the son of Nimrod (the pagan Peter) was named Linus! (See Smith's Classical Dictionary.)
It ought to be plain by now that the pagan Babylonian Mystery had taken root in the local church at Rome. The bishop at Rome had the great advantage of being in the chief city of the Roman Empire.
The heathen did not mind Anacletus' use of the name of Christ so long as they could keep their old customs. Anacletus cleverly used the name of Peter — a name familiar to initiates in the pagan mysteries — to sanction these very customs, claiming that "Peter" approved those heathen abominations. The bishop of Rome never preached: "Learn NOT the way of the heathen"! Instead, he phrased it in practice: "Learn NOW the way of the heathen"! (Hoeh H. How ROME Counterfeited Gods Holy Days! Good News, April 1958)
The Liber Pontificalis, that Dr. Hoeh referred to, is now discredited. The Church of Rome no longer teaches that it tells the truth about the early men on their list of popes (though it allows its members to believe otherwise as a book I book in Vatican City proves). One of the reasons I do not believe Linus was a Babylonian is that since Irenaeus knew Polycarp and denounced several practices associated with Simon Magus, I do not believe that the Church of Rome Irenaeus encountered was as Babylonian as it later became or Irenaeus would not have been loyal to it while strongly denouncing Simon Magus and his followers. The bishops of Rome did not adopt their dress, etc. until AFTER they were associated with the 4th century Roman Emperor Constantine, which is also when they adopted December 25th. (Furthermore, Dr. Hoeh did not mention this Linus or Anacletus tie to Simon Magus in any of the later articles he wrote mentioning Simon Magus that I have been able to find--nor did others writing for the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God.) It should also be noted that Hegesippus, who warned against the Simonians was perhaps the earliest one to write a list that even named Linus (some claim the list in Epiphanius Hegesippus. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I (Sects 1-46). Section 27, Verses 6:2-7. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 2009, pp. 113-114 Note: The Catholic Encyclopedia cites this as Haer., xxvii, 6) and Hegesippus would not have included Linus, etc. if he felt that they were Simonian.
The old Worldwide Church of God taught:
Easter came from pagan sun-worship, not from Jesus Christ or the apostles. It is one of those Babylonian customs brought to Samaria after Israel's overthrow (721-718 B.C.) by the colonists from Babylonia. Later it was transplanted to Rome by Simon Magus. Simon Magus, who was the "Great Interpreter" or "Peter" of the pagan mystery, palmed off Easter as if it were Christian. (Anon. Where is "Easter" mentioned in the Bible? Plain Truth, April 1964).
Easter did come from paganism (see Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?). It is possible that Simon Magus brought it to Rome and wanted it on a Sunday. As far as Sunday goes, we know that the King of Assyria brought peoples from other areas, including Babylon, to Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). We also know that the Assyrians honored the sun god, as the following was on an ancient Assyrian tablet:
"And may the Sun, greatest of the gods, receive the saved soul into his holy hands!" (Bunson CCJB. Egypt's Place in Universal History. The London Quarterly Review, Volume XLIII, October 1874, p. 6)
But as many Samaritans claimed to be Jewish, those that did tended to observe Saturday and not Sunday--however we do not know for a fact what Simon Magus did originally, or if he changed by the time he got to Rome (Sunday had significant acceptance among the non-Christians in Rome then).
Some have called Simon Magus the first pope. Mainly because he claimed Christ, allowed himself to be worshiped, and held to a lot of doctrines that the Church of Rome currently holds. For example, notice:
“The pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ himself, hidden under a veil of flesh.” The Catholic National, July 1895 (as cited in Erue JO. The Church and Apostacy: The Anti-christ, a Christian Or a Muslim?, 2nd edition. Obaroh & Ogbinaka Publishers, 1997. Original from Indiana University, Digitized Sep 9, 2008, p. 85)
We in the Continuing Church of God would not accept that about any human leader, but the Church of Rome does.
Another apostate who is believed to also have arisen in the first century and who was also believed to have been directly denounced by one of the original 12 apostles was Cerinthus (see Cerinthus: An early heretic). Other apostates and heretics, some with similarities to Simon Magus, also arose in the second and later centuries.
The work of Simon Magus and his followers did affect Rome, and sometime during the second century, claimed 'bishops of Rome' were clearly departing from 'the faith once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude 3). In the second century, the faithful Polycarp of Smyrna visited Rome and condemned various apostates there including Marcion and Valentinus.
Polycarp also and told the Roman Bishop Anicetus to go back to original Church of God practices. Sadly, Anicetus would not do so, but instead continued in a non-biblical practice. Furthermore Anicetus and/or his successors allowed condemned apostates, like Marcion and Valentinus to influence them for decades according to Tertullian (see articles on Marcion and Valentinus).
Sometime after his confrontation with Peter, history records that Simon Magus traveled and spread his teachings.
Since most of the statements written about Simon come from those who were his opponents, it is difficult to know for certain much about him or his teachings (it would be easiest if we had any actual writings from him). However, since Simon is clearly condemned in scripture, it would appear to be a wise decision to not participate in practices that apparently he or his followers introduced to their false brand of Christianity.
As this paper illustrates, even those now considered to be early supporters of the Roman Catholic Church condemned Simon and his followers for doctrines such as statues, revering a woman, the doctrine of the immortal soul, incantations, mysteries, mystic priests, claiming divine titles for leaders, accepting money for religious favors, preferring allegory and tradition over many aspects of scripture, having a leader who wanted to be thought of as God/Christ on earth, and divorcing themselves from Christian biblical practices considered to be Jewish. And, even according to Roman Catholic recognized sources, Simon Magus directly influenced many in Rome.
Simon Magus may well have endorsed Sunday, but this not certain. It may be that because people like the apostate Justin Martyr kept Sunday, that they did not see any reason to mention that in their condemnations of Simon Magus, but this is currently speculation.
The religion of Mithraism also had some of the same practices that Simon Magus advocated. Rome was also highly influenced by the followers of Mithras, which accelerated under the fourth century Emperor Constantine (Do You Practice Mithraism?).
Sadly, most of the groups that now profess Christianity and condemn Simon and his followers have many of the same practices and doctrines that early writers objected to as false and heretical.
Of course, the Church of God has none of those practices, and thus is truly the Church that is most faithful to the original teachings of the Bible.
Back to early Christianity page Back to COGwriter home page
B. Thiel, Ph.D. Simon Magus, What Did He Teach? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2011/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2019 0108