Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ANF 5: Hippolytus VI.I-XXIII

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

HippolytusThe Refutation of All Heresies

In the sixth book, Hippolytus continues his catalog of heresies, this time picking up with Simon Magus and later copycats of his chicanery. But it does us no good to compare Simon to any of those who followed him, for all must be compared to Christ, who "was man, offspring of the seed of a woman, born of blood and the will of the flesh, as also the rest of humanity." There was, then, no "magic" about the birth of Jesus itself. Simon, however, draws on Greek philosophy (especially Aristotle and Plato) and uses them to interpret the Old Testament as a sort of book of magic and mystery which explains--and gives us power over--the physical world. Hippolytus fills in the Biblical narrative about Simon by saying that after several further confrontations with Peter, Simon declared that he would prove himself by being buried alive and rising again the third day. Simon remains in the grave his followers put him in, "for he was not the Christ." [To be fair to Simon, the Biblical account is unclear as to whether or not he eventually repents.]

Following his description of Simon's heresy, Hippolytus turns to discuss Valentinus, who he claims "is certainly... connected with the Pythagorean and Platonic theory." This is not the "good" Platonic theory that some Christians have embraced, it is the "bad" Plato who describes creation by pagan forces in the Timaeus. (Plato and Pythagoras, in turn, steal their ideas from the Egyptians.)

Hippolytus gives an overview of Pythagorean philosophy, which is based on numbers but which very quickly becomes spiritual in nature. Through numerology, the Pythagoreans break the world down into two basic principles: love and discord. These two principles are at war, with discord trying to divide the world and love trying to tie it back together. This in turn leads to a number of philosophical and theological oddities and sayings that are reflected in very specific practices and beliefs that have the appearances of truth and discipline, but in reality are little better than superstition.

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