THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
Compiled by me from the works of Clement, Tertulian, Josephus, and Philo - Eusebius
TIBERIUS TO NERO: THE WORK OF THE APOSTLES
FROM THE CHOICE OF MATTHIAS TO THE
DEATHS OF PAUL AND PETER #1
Those facts about the story of the Church that needed to be explained by way of preface - the divinity of the saving Word, the early history of our teaching, the antiquity of the Christian way of life in accordance with the gospel, and especially the details of Christ's recent advent, the events before His Passion, and the choice of the apostles. I discussed in the previous book, outlining the arguments. Let us now in the present book inquire into the events following His Ascension, drawing on Holy Writ for some, and deriving others from outside sources which I shall name as occasion demands.
How the apostles lived after the Ascension
1. The first, then, to be chosen by lot for the apostleship in place of the traitor Judas was Matthias,1 who, as has been mentioned,2 had been one of the Lord's disciples. By prayer and the laying-on of the apostles' hands there were appointed to the diaconate for the service of the community men of proved worth to the number of seven.3 These were headed by Stephen, who was the first after the Lord - almost as soon as he was ordained, as if this was the real purpose of his advancement - to be put to death, stoned by the Lord's
1. Acts i. 15-26.
2. p. 64.
3. Acts vi. 1-6.
murderers.1 Thus he was the first to win the crown called by the same name as he,2 and reserved for Christ's worthily victorious martyrs.
Then there was James, who was known as the brother of the Lord; for he, too, was called Joseph's son, and Joseph Christ's father, though in fact the Virgin was his betrothed, and before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Ghost, as the inspired gospel narrative tells us.3 This James, whom the early Christians surnamed the Righteous because of his outstanding virtue, was the first, as the records tell us, to be elected to the episcopal throne of the Jerusalem church. Clement, in Outlines Book vi, puts it thus:
Peter, James, and John, after the Ascension of the Saviour, did not claim pre-eminence because the Saviour had specially honoured them, but chose James the Righteous as Bishop of Jerusalem.
In Book viii of the same work the writer makes this further statement about him:
James the Righteous, John, and Peter were entrusted by the Lord after his resurrection with the higher knowledge. They imparted it other apostles, and the other apostles to the Seventy, one of Whom was Barnabas. There were two Jameses, one the Righteous, who was thrown down from the parapet and beaten to death with a fuller's club, the other the James who was beheaded.4
James the Righteous is also mentioned by Paul when he writes:
Of the other apostles I saw no one except James the Lord's brother.3
It was at this time that our Saviour's promise to the king of the Osrhoenes6 was receiving its fulfilment. Thomas was
1. Acts vii. 59.
2. In Greek ‘Stephen’ and 'crown' are identical. So in the medieval hymn:
Glitters now the crown above thee, Figured in thy sacred name.
3. Matt. i. 18.
4. Acts xii. 2.
5. Gal. i. 19.
6. Osrhoene was the district round Edessa.
moved by inspiration to send Thaddaeus to Edessa as preacher and evangelist of the teaching about Christ, as I showed a little way back from the document found there. When he arrived in the country Thaddaeus restored Abgar to health by the word of Christ, and amazed all the inhabitants by his wonderful miracles. By his actions he exerted such an influence on them that he led them to reverence the power of Christ, and made disciples of the saving doctrine. From that day to this the whole city of Edessa has been devoted to the name of Christ, providing most convincing proof of our Saviour's goodness to them also.
After this excursion into early history let us return once more to the inspired record.
Stephen’s martyrdom was followed by the first and greatest persecution by the Jews themselves of the Jerusalem church. All the disciples except the Twelve alone were dispersed about Judaea and Samaria.1 Some, as the inspired record says, travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch; but they could not yet venture to share the message of the Faith with Gentiles, and proclaimed it to Jews alone.2 At that time also Paul was still raging against the Church, entering the houses of the faithful, dragging off men and women, and handing them over for imprisonment.3 But Philip, one of the men already ordained with Stephen to the diaconate, was among the dispersed. He went down into Samaria,4 and filled with divine power was the first to preach the word there. So great was the divine grace working with him that even Simon the Magus with very many others was won over by his words. Such a name had Simon obtained at that time by the sorceries with which he got his dupes into his power that he was believed to be the Great Power of God, but now even he was struck dumb by the miracles that Philip performed by divine
1. Acts viii. i.
2. Acts xi. 19.
3. Acts viii. 3.
4. In the O.T. Samaria is a city, in the N.T. a district. The city (Sebaste) is nowhere named in the N.T.
power, and slipped in: he actually received baptism, in his hypocritical pretence of belief in Christ. It is an astonishing fact that this is still the practice of those who to the present day belong to his disgusting sect. Following in their progenitor's footsteps they slip into the Church like a pestilential and scabby disease, and do the utmost damage to all whom they succeed in smearing with the horrible, deadly poison concealed on them. By now, however, most of these have been expelled - just as Simon himself, when his real character had been exposed by Peter, paid the appropriate penalty.1
While every day the saving message spread farther afield, some providence brought from Ethiopia, a country traditionally ruled by a woman, one of the queen's principal officers. The first Gentile to receive from Philip by revelation the mysteries of the divine word, and the first-fruits of the faithful throughout the world, he is believed to have been the first to go back to his native land and preach the gospel of the knowledge of the God of the universe2 and the life-giving sojourn of our Saviour among men. Through him came the actual fulfilment of the prophecy:
Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand to God.3
The next stage began when Paul, the chosen vessel - neither from men nor through men, but through revelation of Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father who raised Him from the dead - was appointed an apostle, receiving his call through a vision and the heavenly voice that accompanied the revelation.4
1. Summarized from Acts viii. 5-23.
2. A favourite phrase with Eusebius, who appreciated the gulf separating Christianity from the cult of local and numerous deities; see Paul's speeches at Lystra and Athens.
3. Ps. lxvii. 3.1.
4. Acts ix. 3-4 and Gal. i. 1.
Tiberius’s reaction on learning Christ's story\ which soon sped to every part of the world
2. Our Saviour's marvellous resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now everywhere famous, and it had long been customary for provincial governors to report to the holder of the imperial office any change in the local situation, so that he might be aware of all that was going on. The story of the resurrection from the dead of our Saviour Jesus, already the subject of general discussion all over Palestine, was accordingly communicated by Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius.1 For Pilate knew all about Christ's supernatural deeds, and especially how after death He had risen from the dead and was now generally believed to be a god. It is said that Tiberius referred the report to the senate, which rejected it. The apparent reason was that they had not gone into the matter before, for the old law still held good that no one could be regarded by the Romans as a god unless by vote and decree of the senate; the real reason was that no human decision or commendation was required for the saving teaching of the divine message. In this way the Roman council rejected the report sent to it about our Saviour, but Tiberius made no change in his attitude and formed no evil designs against the teaching of Christ.
These facts were noted by Tertullian, an expert in Roman law and famous on other grounds - in fact one of the most brilliant men in Rome. In his Defence of the Christians, written in Latin and translated into Greek, he has this to say:
To go back to the origin of such laws, there was an old decree that no one should be consecrated a god by an emperor till he had been approved by the senate. Marcus Aemilius followed this procedure in the case of a false god, Alburnus. This reinforces my argument that among you godhead is conferred by human approval. If a
1. It can hardly be doubted that Pilate sent such a report, but none of the various extant versions is regarded as genuine.
god does not satisfy man, he does not become a god; so according to this it is for man to show favour to God. Tiberius then, in whose time the name of Christian came into the world, when a report of this doctrine reached him from Palestine where it originated, communicated it to the senate, making it clear to them that he favoured the doctrine. The senate however, because they had not examined the doctrine for themselves, rejected it; but Tiberius stuck to his own view, and threatened to execute any who accused the Christians.1
Heavenly providence had purposefully put this in the emperor's mind, in order that the gospel message should get off to a good start and speed to every part of the world.
3. Thus with the powerful cooperation of Heaven the whole world was suddenly lit by the sunshine of the saving word. At once, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, the voice of its inspired evangelists and apostles went forth into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.2 In every town and village, like a well-filled threshing-floor, churches shot up bursting with eager members. Men who through the error they had inherited from generations of ancestors were in the grip of the old spiritual sickness of idol-worship, by the power of Christ and through the teaching of His followers and the miracles they wrought were freed, as it were, from cruel masters and found release from galling fetters. They turned their backs on devilish polytheism in all its forms, and acknowledged that there was one God only, the Fashioner of all things. Him they honoured with the ordinances of true religion through that divine, reasonable worship of which our Saviour sowed the seed in the life of men.
The divine grace was now being poured on the other nations too. First, at Palestinian Caesarea, Cornelius with his entire household, through divine revelation and the agency of Peter, embraced the Christian faith.3 He was followed by many other Gentiles at Antioch, who had heard the preaching
1. Defence v.
2. Ps. xix. 4.
3. Acts x.
of those dispersed by the persecution of Stephen's time. The Antioch church was now flourishing and growing rapidly, and a large number of the prophets from Jerusalem were there, accompanied by Barnabas and Paul and another group of brethren as well. It was at that time and in that city that the name of Christian first appeared, as if from a copious and life-giving fountain. Agabus again, one of the prophets staying with them, foretold the coming famine, and Paul and Barnabas were sent to do everything possible for the relief of the brethren.1
Agrippa appointed king and Herod banished: sufferings of the Jews: suicide of Pilate
4. After a reign of about twenty-two years2 Tiberius died, and the principate passed to Gaius,2 who at once had Agrippa' crowned ruler of the Jews.4 He made him king of the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias, to which a little later he added the tetrarchy of Herod, having sentenced that monarch - the Herod of our Saviour's Passion - to banishment for life, along with his wife Herodias, because of a long list of offences! The details will be found in Josephus.2
In Gaius's reign Philo became widely known as one of the greatest scholars, not only among our own people but also among those brought up as pagans. By descent a Hebrew, he could hold his own with any of the eminent occupants of official positions in Alexandria. The constant and conscientious labour that he bestowed on theological and traditional studies is plain for all to see, while of his proficiency in the philosophical and liberal thought of the pagan world there is no need to speak, since it is on record that in his enthusiasm for the systems of Plato and Pythagoras he surpassed all his contemporaries.
1. Acts xi. 19-30.
2, August A.D. 14 to March A.D. 37.
4. His subjects were certainly not Jews.
5. Jewish War, pp. 127-8.
What happened to the Jews in Gaius's reign Philo has related in five books.1 In these he describes the emperor's insanity and how he proclaimed himself a god and over and over again abused his position; the sufferings of the Jews in his time; the mission to Rome that Philo undertook on behalf of his compatriots in Alexandria;2 his appearance before Gaiuss, when his defence of their ancestral laws met with nothing but derisive laughter and well nigh cost him his life These facts are mentioned also by Josephus, who in Antiquities Book xviii writes as follows:
When a clash took place in Alexandria between the Jewish colony and the Greeks, three men were chosen by each faction to represent them before Gaius. One of the Alexandrian representatives was Apion, who brought many damaging accusations against the Jews, alleging in particular that they neglected the honours due to Caesar - all the subjects of the Roman government raised altars and temples to Gains, and m every other respect accepted him as they did the gods: the Jews alone thought it improper to honour him with statues and swear by his name. When Apion had brought many serious charges, by which he hoped with good reason that Gaius would be roused Philo, the leading Jewish representative, rose to reply: A man highly esteemed on every ground, brother of Alexander the alabarch3, and a skilled philosopher, he was quite capable of rebutting the charges; but he was cut short by Gaius, who ordered him to clear out, being so infuriated that he was obviously on the point of taking drastic action against them. Out went Philo, grossly insulted, and told his Jewish colleagues they need have no fear - Gaius might be furious with them, but in reality he was already taking the field against God.4
So much we learn from Josephus. Philo himself, in his historical work The Mission, gives us a detailed and precise
1. Evidently a much larger work than the pamphlet The Mission that we possess
2. A.D. 40.
3. Originally a commander of Arabs, later a controller of customs
4. Antiquities xviii, viii, 1.
account of his actions at that time. I shall omit the greater part, quoting only those points that will make abundantly clear to my readers the calamities which befell the Jews so promptly and after so short an interval, in consequence of their crimes against Christ.
In the first place he relates that in Tiberius's reign, at Rome, Sejanus, then most influential at the emperor's court, took energetic steps to exterminate the entire race. Meanwhile, in Judaea, Pilate, in whose period of office the crime against our Saviour was committed, made an attempt on the temple (then still standing) at Jerusalem in defiance of Jewish privileges, goading the people to absolute frenzy.
6. After the death of Tiberius, he continues, Gaius ascended the throne, and among the many victims of his numerous outrages the whole Jewish race suffered to a peculiar and extreme degree. This we may learn in brief from his own words, which I reproduce exactly as written:
So incalculable was the behaviour of Gaius towards everyone, especially the Jewish race. He hated them so bitterly that in city after city, beginning with Alexandria, he seized the synagogues and filled them with images and statues of himself - for as he gave permission for them to be erected, it was really he who put them there - and in the Holy City he tried to change the sanctuary, which was still untouched and regarded as inviolable, and transform it into a temple of his own, to be called the Temple of Jupiter the Glorious, the Younger Gaius.1
Countless other atrocities that beggar description, inflicted on the Jews at Alexandria in the same reign, are related by Philo in a second short work, entitled The Virtues. His statements are confirmed by Josephus, who similarly points out that the calamities which overtook the whole nation began with the time of Pilate and the crimes against the Saviour.
1. The elder Gaius being Julius Caesar.
Listen to what he has to say in The Jewish War Book 11. Here are his actual words:
As procurator of Judaea Tiberius sent Pilate, who during the night, secretly and under cover, conveyed to Jerusalem the images of Caesar known as signa. When day dawned this put the Jews into a frenzy; for those who were near were amazed at the sight, which meant that their laws had been trampled on - they do not permit any portrait-image to be set up in the city.1
If you compare this with the gospel account, you will see that it was not long before they paid the penalty for the cry they uttered before Pilate himself, when they shouted that they had no other king than Caesar alone.2 Josephus goes on to relate a second calamity that overtook them soon after:
After this he stirred up further trouble by expending the sacred treasure known as Corban3 on an aqueduct thirty-five miles long. This roused the populace to fury, and when Pilate visited Jerusalem they surrounded the tribunal and shouted him down. But he had foreseen this disturbance, and had made the soldiers mix with the mob, wearing civilian clothing over their armour, and with orders not to draw their swords but to use clubs on the obstreperous. He now gave the signal from the tribunal and the Jews were cudgelled, so that many died from the blows, and many as they fled were trampled to death by their friends. The fate of those who perished horrified the crowd into silence.4
Besides this, the same writer shows that in Jerusalem itself a great many other revolts broke out, making it clear that from then on the city and all Judaea were in the grip of faction, war, and an endless succession of criminal plots, until the final hour overtook them - the siege under Vespasian. Such was the penalty laid upon the Jews by divine justice for their crimes against Christ.
1. Jewish War, p. 126.
2. John xix. 15, reworded.
3. See Mark vii. 11, where 'Corban' is retained in English Bibles, and Matt, xxvii. 6, where it is translated 'treasury' or 'temple fund'.
4. Jewish War, p. 127.
7. It is worthy of note that, as the records show, in the reign of Gaius, whose times I am describing, Pilate himself, the governor of our Saviour's day, was involved in such calamities that he was forced to become his own executioner and to punish himself with his own hand: divine justice, it seems, was not slow to overtake him. The facts are recorded by those Greeks who have chronicled the Olympiads1 together with the events occurring in each.
The famine in Claudius's time: martyrdom of James: punishment of Agrippa
8. The reign of Gaius had not yet lasted four years when he was succeeded as emperor by Claudius. In his time famine descended on the whole world, a fact which writers whose point of view is very different from ours have recorded in their histories.2 Thus, the prediction of Agabus in the Acts of the Apostles about the famine that was to occur all over the world received its fulfilment. The famine in Claudius's time is indicated in the Acts by Luke, who relates how by Paul and Barnabas the Christians in Antioch, each according to his means, sent help to those in Judaea.3 He continues:
9. At that time [obviously that of Claudius] King Herod made a determined attack on certain members of the Church, killing James the brother of John with the headsman's sword.
Referring to this James, Clement in Outlines Book VII tells an interesting story, on the strength of an authentic tradition. It appears that the man who brought him into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian:
So they were both taken away together, and on the way he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment; then he said,
1. Four-year periods, the basis of Greek chronology.
2. Tacitus and Dio Cassius.
3. Acts xi. 28-9.
'I wish you peace', and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time.
Then, as we read in the sacred record, Herod, seeing that his action in putting James to death had given satisfaction to the Jews, laid hands on Peter as well, clapped him in prison, and was on the very point of perpetrating his murder too, but for divine intervention: in the night an angel stood by him, and he was miraculously released from his fetters and set free for the ministry of preaching. It was in this way that Peter's life was ordained by heaven.1
10. The king's attempt on the apostles brought swift retribution: the avenging minister of divine justice overtook him at once, immediately after his action against the apostles, as the narrative of the Acts records. He had set out for Caesarea, and there on an important feast day, adorned with magnificent royal robes, he mounted on a dais, and standing in front of his throne delivered a harangue which the entire audience received with thunderous applause, as the utterance of a god, not a man; and the inspired record tells us that instanly he was struck by an angel of the Lord, was eaten by worms, and
It is remarkable how in the case of this miracle also the sacred record is borne out by the account in Josephus, who clearly testifies to the truth in Antiquities Book xix, where he tells us the amazing story in these words:
He had reached the end of his third year as king of all Judaea;3 and he came to the city of Caesaiea, formerly known as Strata's Tower. There he was celebrating public games in Caesar's honour, knowing that this was a festival for his safety.4 It was attended by a great number of provincial officials and other leading men. On the
1. Condensed from Acts xii. 3-10.
2. Compressed from Acts xii. 19-23.
3. Agrippa became king of Judaea in A.D. 41.
4- The four-yearly festival pro salute Caesaris was due to be celebrated in
second day of the games he put on a robe made entirely of silver, remarkable in texture, and at daybreak entered the theatre. There the silver was lit up by the first glint of the sun's rays, and shone dazzlingly, glittering in such a way that those who gazed at it trembled with fear. At once his flatterers shouted aloud from every side - little good did it do him - and hailed him as a god, adding: ‘Be gracious! Hitherto we have reverenced you as a man; henceforth we acknowledge you as of more than mortal nature.’ The king did not rebuke these people or repudiate their blasphemous flattery.
A moment later he looked up, and sitting over his head he saw an angel. This, as he at once realized, was the bringer of evil, as he had once been of good. He felt a pang in his breast, and all at once a violent pain gripped his belly, agonizing from the start. So looking hard at his friends, he murmured: ‘I, your god, am now commanded to depart this life, for fate has instantly disproved the lies you have just told about me. You called me immortal, and now I am being taken away to die. I must bow to destiny, as God has willed it. Anyway my life has not been a poor one, but has reached the length that people envy.'
As he said this, the severity of his pain got the better of him; so no time was lost in carrying him into the palace, and soon the news reached all ears that he was bound to die in a matter of hours. By ancestral custom the crowd at once sat down, women and children as well, on sackcloth, and began to supplicate God for the king, and wailing and lamentation resounded everywhere. Lying in a top-floor room and looking down at them as they fell on their faces, the king could not restrain his own tears. For five days without intermission he was tortured by the pain in his belly; then he passed away in the fifty-fourth year of his life and the seventh of his reign.1 He had reigned four years in the time of Gaius Caesar, ruling Philip's tetrarchy for three years, and in the fourth receiving Herod's too, and three more while Claudius Caesar was emperor.2
1. He had become tetrarch in A.D. 37.
2. Antiquities xix, viii, 2. The quotation presents us with a baffling problem. According to the extant MSS of Josephus, Agrippa saw not an angel (angelos), the bringer of evil, but an owl, a messenger (angelos) of evil. Eusebius is so accurate in his quotations that we have no right to suspect him of altering the text to bring it into line with Acts. If the text had been altered before it reached Eusebius, this need not be due to deliberate falsification; Dr Lawlor ingeniously suggests that a copyist, puzzled by the author's use of the Latin word for owl, omitted it, and to make sense inserted 'bringer'. The point of Josephus's account is that he has already told us that when in prison Agrippa had seen an owl, and a German soldier had told him that though this time it indicated coming prosperity, the next time it appeared he would have but five days to live. That prophecy is now fulfilled. This story, so unconvincing to us, would delight the heart of Josephus. Apart from the owl, his account, with its emphasis on Agrippa's failure to repudiate the blasphemy, is so like Luke's that we can hardly doubt that both drew on the same written source, which certainly laid stress on the ‘angelos.’ It should be remembered that Josephus wrote fifty years after the event, Luke perhaps only twenty.
1. No difficulty here: Luke calls him 'Herod', Josephus 'Agrippa': both are right.
2. Compressed from Acts v. 34-6.
On these and other matters Josephus confirms the truth of Holy Scripture in a way that surprises me. If regarding the king's name some consider that there is a discrepancy, the answer is that the date and the facts prove that he is the same: either the name has been changed by a copyist's error, or else, like many others, the same man had two names.1
Theudas the impostor: Queen Helen of Adiahene
11. In the Acts, again, Luke introduces Gamaliel as saying at the examination of the apostles that at the time referred to Theudas rose in revolt, claiming to be somebody, and that he was killed and his entire following dispersed.2 Well now, let us compare this with what Josephus writes about him. Here is his account, quoted verbatim from the work just referred to:
When Fadus was procurator of Judaea, an impostor called Theudas persuaded a vast crowd to take their belongings and follow him to the River Jordan; for he claimed to be a prophet, and promised to divide the river by his command and provide them with an easy crossing. A great many people were deceived by this talk. Fadus however did not allow them to enjoy their folly, but sent a troop of cavalry against them. These attacked them without warning, killed many, and took many alive, capturing Theudas himself, whose head they cut off and conveyed to Jerusalem.1
Immediately after this he mentions the famine that took place in Claudius's time:
12. It was just after this that the great famine took place in Judaea, in which Queen Helen at great expense bought corn from Egypt and distributed it among those in want.
You will find that this too agrees with the account in the Acts of the Apostles, which tells how the disciples at Antioch, each in proportion to his means, resolved to send relief to those living in Judaea. This they did, sending to the presbyters by Barnabas and Paul.2 To this day splendid monuments of the Helen referred to by the historian are pointed out in the suburbs of what is now called Aelia.3 She was said to have been Queen of Adiabene.4
Simon the Magus and Peter at Rome
As faith in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ was now spreading in all directions, the enemy of man's salvation, in a wily attempt to capture the imperial city in time, brought there Simon who was mentioned earlier,5 and by lending his own weight to the man’s artful impostures took possession
Antiquities xx, v, 1. Eusebius evidently did not realize that, as Fadus was not procurator till A.D. 44, the events recorded by Josephus could not have been known to Gamaliel a dozen years before. The difficulty has led many to believe that Luke put an impossible speech into Gamaliel's mouth and is therefore not to be trusted. But there is no evidence that the two writers are referring to the same Theudas; the two accounts bear little resemblance to each other; Luke expressly puts Theudas before Judas, who revolted as early as A.D. 6; and Josephus himself tells us that in the period before Judas there were innumerable disorders in Judaea, and that every rebel leader was at once created a king.
2. Acts xi. 29-30.
3. See p. 158.
4. Beyond the Tigris near the site of Nineveh.
5. p. 73.
of nany people in Rome and led them astray. This we learn from Justin an ornament of our Faith soon after the apostles' time. I shall state the essential facts about him in due course. In his first Defence of our doctrines to Antoninus he writes:
After the Lord was taken up into heaven the demons put forward a number of men who claimed to be gods. These not only escaped , being persecuted by you, but were actually the objects of worship - for example Simom a Samaritan from a village called Gittho, who in Claudius Caesars time, thanks to the art of the demons who possessed him, worked wonders of magic, and in your imperial city of Rome was regarded as a god, and like a god was honoured by you with a statue in the River Tiber between the two bridges. It bears this inscription in Latin, ‘simoni deo sancto.’ Almost all Samaritans, and a few from other nations too, acknowledge him as their principal god, and worship him. And a woman named Helen, who travelled around with him at that time and had previously lived in a brothel they call the First Emanation from him.2
This is Justin's version, and it is, supported by Irenaeus, who in Book 1 o hid Heresies Answered gives a brief account of the man and his unholy, sordid teaching. To reproduce the latter in the present work would be superfluous: those who wish can learn all about the origins and lives of the heresiarchs who followed him, the bases of their false doctrines and the practices they introduced, for they are most carefully described in the work of Irenaeus mentioned above.
Simon, we are given to understand, was the prime author of every heresy. From his time to our own those who follow his lead while pretending to accept that sober Christian philosophy which through purity of life has won universal fame, are as devoted as ever to the idolatrous superstition
1. i.e. 'to Simon the Holy God'.
2. Defence 1. 26: it is generally thought that Justin misread the inscription SEMONI SANCO DEO, Semo Sancus being a Sabine deity. But as he lived only six miles from Simon's village, his other statements may well be correct. It is of course, not he but Eusebius who identifies this impostor with the Son of Acts.
from which they seemed to have escaped: they prostrate themselves before pictures and images of Simon himself and his companion, the Helen already mentioned, and give themselves to worshipping them with incense, sacrifices, and libations. Their more secret rites, which they claim will so amaze a man when he first hears them that, in their official jargon, he will be wonderstruck, are indeed something to wonder at, brim-full of frenzy and lunacy, and of such a kind that not only can they not be put down in writing; they involve such appalling degradation, such unspeakable conduct, that no decent man would let a mention of them pass his lips. For whatever could be imagined more disgusting than the foulest crime known has been outstripped by the utterly revolting heresy of these men, who make sport of wretched women, burdened indeed with vices of every kind.1
14. Of such vices was Simon the father and contriver, raised up at that time by the evil power which hates all that is good and plots against the salvation of mankind, to be a great opponent of great men, our Saviour's inspired apostles. Nevertheless, divine and celestial grace worked with ministers, by their advent and presence speedily extinguishing the flames of the Evil One before they could spread, and through them humbling and pulling down every lofty barrier raised against the knowledge of God2. Consequently, neither Simon nor any of his contemporaries managed to form an organized body in those apostolic days, for every attempt was defeated and overpowered by the light of the truth and by the divine Word Himself who had so recently shone from God on men, active in the world and immanent in His own apostles.
The impostor of whom we have been speaking, as though his mind's eye had been struck by a divine miraculous flash of light when earlier, in Judaea, his mischievous practices had
1. A reminiscence of 2 Tim. iii. 6.
2. 2 Cor. x. 5.
been exposed by the apostle Peter,1 promptly undertook a very long journey overseas from east to west, and fled precipitately, thinking that only so could he live according to his inclinations. He arrived in Rome, where he was greatly helped by the power that awaited its opportunity there, and in a short time his efforts met with such success that the citizens actually set up a statue of him and honoured him as a god. However, this success of his was short-lived. Close on his heels, in the same reign of Claudius, the all-gracious and kindly providence of the universe brought to Rome to deal with this terrible threat to the world, the strong and great apostle, chosen for his merits to be spokesman for all the others, Peter himself. Clad in the divine armour2, like a noble captain of God he brought the precious merchandise of the spiritual light from the East to those in the West, preaching the good news of light itself and the soul-saving word, the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven.
15. Thus, when the divine word had made its home among them, Simon's power was extinguished and destroyed at once with the man himself. So brightly shone the light of true religion on the minds of Peter’s hearers that, not satisfied with a single hearing or with the oral teaching of the divine message, they resorted to appeals of every kind to induce Mark (whose gospel we have) as he was a follower of Peter, to leave them in writing a summary of the instruction they had received by word of mouth, nor did they let him go till they had persuaded him, and thus became responsible for the writing of what is known as the Gospel according to Mark. It is said that, on learning by revelation of the spirit what had happened, the apostle was delighted at their enthusiasm and authorized the reading of the book in the churches. Clement quotes the story in Outlines Book vi, and his statement is, confirmed by Bishop Papias of Hierapolis, who also points out that Mark is
1. Acts viii. 8-23: Samaria formed part of the Roman providence of Judea.
2. A loose reference to Eph. vi. 11.
mentioned by Peter in his first epistle, which he is said to have composed in Rome itself, as he himself indicates when he speaks of the city figuratively as Babylon:
The church in Babylon, chosen like yourselves, sends you greeting, and so does my son Mark.1
16. Mark is said to have been the first man to set out for Egypt and preach there the gospel which he had himself written down, and the first to establish churches in Alexandria itself. So large was the body of believers, men and women alike, built up there at the first attempt, with an extremely severe rule of life, that Philo decided that he must record in writing their activities, gatherings, meals, and everything else about their way of living.
Phiilo’s account of the Egyptian ascetics
17. It is also recorded that under Claudius, Philo came to Rome to have conversations with Peter, then preaching to the people there. This would not be improbable, as the short work to which I am referring, and which he produced at a considerably later date, clearly contains the rules of the Church still observed in our own day. And again, when he describes the life of our ascetics with the greatest precision, it is plain enough that he not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day, who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in the Jewish manner, still retained most of their ancient customs. In the work that he entitled The Contemplative Life, or The Suppliants, he first assures us that he will add nothing that goes beyond the truth, nothing of his own invention, to the account he is about to give. Then he says that they are called Therapeutae
1. 1 Peter v. 13.
TO BE CONTINUED