Thursday, December 11, 2014

ANF 5: Hippolytus V.I-III

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

HippolytusThe Refutation of All Heresies

In book Five, Hippolytus moves on from the magicians and astrologers and pagans in general to deal with heresies that claims to be Christian, specifically the Gnostics. These Gnostics claim that "The originating principle of perfection is the knowledge of man, while the knowledge of God is absolute perfection." We possess this knowledge through rational, psychical (spiritual), and earthly means--all three of which were brought to perfection in Jesus, who had a three-part person (or possibly was three men in one body, I'm not sure). As a result there are three kinds of church and three kinds of existence; angelic, psychical, and earthly.

These Gnostics (called the "Nasseni") claim that they received their teaching from James, the Lord's brother, passed down to our day through their teachers. In reality, we can clearly see they're just copying from the pagan mystery cults (both Greek and barbarian). Hippolytus runs through several creation stories showing their similarities to each  other and to the Gnostic extrapolations of his own day. And although there are some surface similarities between these claims and the claims of Scripture (supported by out of context prooftexts), we see these are really just paganism twisted by wild imagination into a pseudo-Christian form.

As with Book IV, this Book V is perhaps best skimmed. The stuff here is interesting, but not terribly useful outside of arguing that Christianity did not come from ancient mystery cults--as even the ancient Christians understood.

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