Some Christians refer to Simon Magus as the first Gnostic, and/or the Father of All Heresies, but was he? I highly doubt that. But what did he say / teach that would be in the “Gnostic” school of thought? I decided to browse around on some texts that involve him and wanted to give some examples of his sayings. For this particular post, I am pulling these from The Recognitions of Clement: Book 2. In this volume, it has Simon and Peter going back and forth. I’m not going to include Peter’s responses as I just want to keep this post to Simon. As far as I know, there is not a book that collects Simon’s sayings (if there is, I’ll update this), so I wanted to make posts regarding them. Without further ado, here are some sayings of Simon Magus.
"I say that there are many gods; but that there is one incomprehensible and unknown to all, and that He is the God of all these gods."
"But that there are many gods, the law itself informs me. For, in the first place, it says this in the passage where one in the figure of a serpent speaks to Eve, the first woman, 'On the day ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall be as gods, that is, as those who made man; and after they have tasted of the tree, God Himself testifies, saying to the rest of the gods, 'Behold, Adam is become as one of us; thus, therefore, it is manifest that there were many gods engaged in the making of man. Also, whereas at the first God said to the other gods, 'Let us make man after our image and likeness; also His saying, 'Let us drive him out; and again, 'Come, let us go down, and confound their language; all these things indicate that there are many gods. But this also is written, 'Thou shalt not curse the gods, nor curse the chief of thy people; and again this writing, 'God alone led them, and there was no strange god with them, shows that there are many gods. There are also many other testimonies which might be adduced from the law, not only obscure, but plain, by which it is taught that there are many gods. One of these was chosen by lot, that he might be the god of the Jews. But it is not of him that I speak, but of that God who is also his God, whom even the Jews themselves did not know. For he is not their God, but the God of those who know him."
"From the words of your master I shall refute you, because even he introduces to all men a certain God who was known. For although both Adam knew the God who was his creator, and the maker of the world; and Enoch knew him, inasmuch as he was translated by him; and Noah, since he was ordered by him to construct the ark; and although Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and all, even every people and all nations, know the maker of the world, and confess him to be a God, yet your Jesus, who appeared long after the patriarchs, says: 'No one knows the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any one the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son has been pleased to reveal Him. Thus, therefore, even your Jesus confesses that there is another God, incomprehensible and unknown to all."
"When, therefore, I had ascertained that the God who created the world, according to what the law teaches, is in many respects weak, whereas weakness is utterly incompatible with a perfect God, and I saw that he is not perfect, I necessarily concluded that there is another God who is perfect."
"For this God, as I have said, according to what the writing of the law teaches, is shown to be weak in many things. In the first place, because the man whom he formed was not able to remain such as be had intended him to be; and because he cannot be good who gave a law to the first man, that he should eat of all the trees of paradise, but that he should not touch the tree of knowledge; and if he should eat of it, he should die. For why should he forbid him to eat, and to know what is good and what evil, that, knowing, he might shun the evil and choose the good? But this he did not permit; and because he did eat in violation of the commandment, and discovered what is good, and learned for the sake of honour to cover his nakedness (for he perceived it to be unseemly to stand naked before his Creator), he condemns to death him who had learned to do honour to God, and curses the serpent who had shown him these things. But truly, if man was to be injured by this means, why did he place the cause of injury in paradise at all? But if that which he placed in paradise was good, it is not the part of one that is good to restrain another from good."
"Thus then, since he who made man and the world is, according to what the law relates, imperfect, we are given to understand, without doubt, that there is another who is perfect. For it is of necessity that there be one most excellent of all, on whose account also every creature keeps its rank. Whence also I, knowing that it is every way necessary that there be some one more benignant and more powerful than that imperfect God who gave the law, understanding what is perfect from comparison of the imperfect, understood even from the Scripture that God who is not mentioned there. And in this way I was able, O Peter, to learn from the law what the law did not know. But even if the law had not given indications from which it might be gathered that the God who made the world is imperfect, it was still possible for me to infer from those evils which are done in this world, and are not corrected, either that its creator is powerless, if he cannot correct what is done amiss; or else, if he does not wish to remove the evils, that he is himself evil; but if he neither can nor will, that he is neither powerful nor good. And from this it cannot but be concluded that there is another God more excellent and more powerful than all. If you have aught to say to this, say on."
"Do you not then think it better that we should follow our Creator God, as a Father who trains us and endows us as He knows how? But if, as you say, there be some God more benignant than all, it is certain that he will not be angry with us; or if he be angry, he is evil. For if our God is angry and punishes, He is not evil, but righteous, for He corrects and amends His own sons. But he who has no concern with us, if he shall punish us, how should he be good? Inflicting punishments upon us because we have not been drawn by vain imaginations to forsake our own Father and follow him, how can you assert that he is so good, when he cannot be regarded as even just?"
"Apply your mind to those things which I am going to say, and cause it, walking in peaceable paths, to attain to those things which I shall demonstrate. Listen now, therefore. Did you never in thought reach forth your mind into regions or islands situated far away, and remain so fixed in them, that you could not even see the people that were before you, or know where yourself were sitting, by reason of the delightfulness of those things on which yon were gazing? In this way now reach forth your sense into heaven, yea above the heaven, and behold that there must be some place beyond the world, or outside the world, in which there is neither heaven nor earth, and where no shadow of these things produces darkness; and consequently, since there are neither bodies in it, nor darkness occasioned by bodies, there must of necessity be immense light; and consider of what sort that light must be, which is never succeeded by darkness. For if the light of this sun fills this whole world, how great do you suppose that bodiless and infinite light to be? So great, doubtless, that this light of the sun would seem to be darkness and not light, in comparison."
"It seems to me to be better to believe simply that God is, and that that heaven which we see is the only heaven in the whole universe. That these things are so, as you say, may appear to those who believe them; but to him who seeks for reasons of these things, it is impossible that they can be produced from the law, and especially concerning the immensity of light."
Sometime in the future, I’ll do more posts like this.