Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ANF 5: Hippolytus VI.XXIV-L

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

HippolytusThe Refutation of All Heresies

Having roughly outlined the teachings of Pythagoras, Hippolytus now comes to his main point: "And from this system, not from the Gospels, Valentinus, as we have proved, has collected the materials of heresy... and may therefore justly be reckoned a Pythagorean and Platonist, not a Christian."
The father of a major stream of Gnosticism builds his theology not from the Bible but from pagan philosophy, which shows in the stream of oddities Hippolytus walks us through. Valentinius imagines existence as a series of spiritual emanations flowing forth from the Monad--the "Father"--one such emanation being (among many, many others) Sophia (wisdom), another Christ, another the Logos, another the Holy Spirit. Physical creation comes through the evil of these emanations--the Demiurge, the God of the Old Testament who is really sort of stupid but thinks he is alone in the universe, and not himself a derived being.
The basic idea is that in all of existence--both spiritual and physical--Valentinius teaches that different spiritual powers are at work. All of these powers ultimately flow from the One source of existence, but are at odds with each other. Our responsibility is to be able to see behind the appearances and understand these powers and side with the One against the wicked powers and on the side of the good powers. This is why Jesus and the Holy Spirit came, to teach us the truth and the way to the One. (Though different sects of Gnostics disagree as to which way and truth Jesus actually taught--not that Christians can necessarily throw stones there!)

Again, Hippolytus emphasizes that these are not taken from Scripture, but are instead Platonic and Pythagorean ideas wrapped up in the (very loose) language of Christianity. At times, Hippolytus points out, Valentinus doesn't even both rewording his material, he just lifts it directly from Plato.

Valentinius of course is not the only heretic. Hippoltyus introduces us to Secundus, who gets even more creative with his powers and emanations. The same is true of Marcus as well, who (if possible) upped the ante by mixing in sorcery and charlatanism. He tried to prove his power by working "miracles" during the Lord's Supper:
And very often, taking the Cup, as if offering up the Eucharistic prayer, and prolonging to a greater length than usual the word of invocation, he would cause the appearance of a purple, and sometimes of a red mixture, so that his dupes imagined that a certain Grace descended and communicated to the potion a blood-red potency.
However, it was revealed that Marcus was mixing in food coloring in a timed-delay device of admittedly clever design. This was just one of his wicked practices--which pale in comparison to his false teachings. Irenaeus did the hard work of exposing these falsehoods, so Hippolytus announces that he is merely going to skim the necessary high points so that no one else will be deceived. He focuses specially on Marcus' attempt to find mystical meaning in the alphabet, including in the letters of Christ's name. This section once again gets fairly tedious, the main point is that clearly Marcus is simply lifting from Pythagoras, and has no true Biblical foundation to stand on--as had been proven by Irenaeus.

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