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Chapter I.—Recapitulation; Characteristics of Heresy; Origin of the Name Naasseni; The System of the Naasseni.

I think that in the four preceding books I have very elaborately explained the opinions propounded by all the speculators among both Greeks and Barbarians, respecting the Divine Nature and the creation of the world; and not even have I omitted316316    Miller has ἀποκαλύψας for παραλείψας.  This, however, can bear no intelligible meaning, except we add some other word, as thus: “not even have I failed to disclose.” Schneidewin’s correction of ἀποκαλύψας into παραλείψας is obviously an improvement. the consideration of their systems of magic. So that I have for my readers undergone no ordinary amount of toil, in my anxiety to urge many forward into a desire of learning, and into stedfastness of knowledge in regard of the truth. It remains, therefore, to hasten on to the refutation of the heresies; but it is for the purpose of furnishing this (refutation) that we have put forward the statements already made by us. For from philosophers the heresiarchs deriving317317    Μεταλαβόντες; some read μετασχόντες, which it is presumed might be rendered, “sharing in the opinions which gave occasion to these heterodox doctrines.” starting-points, (and) like cobblers patching together, according to their own particular interpretation, the blunders of the ancients, have advanced them as novelties to those that are capable of being deceived, as we shall prove in the following books. In the remainder (of our work), the opportunity invites us to approach the treatment of our proposed subjects, and to begin from those who have presumed to celebrate a serpent,318318    i.e., ὄφις. This term has created the title “Ophites,” which may be regarded as the generic denomination for all the advocates of this phase of Gnosticism. the originator of the error (in question), through certain expressions devised by the energy of his own (ingenuity). The priests, then, and champions of the system, have been first those who have been called Naasseni,319319    The heresy of the Naasseni is adverted to by the other leading writers on heresy in the early age of the Church. See St. Irenæus, i. 34; Origen, Contr. Cels., vi. 28 (p. 291 et seq. ed. Spenc.); Tertullian, Præscr., c. 47; Theodoret, Hæretic. Fabul., i. 14; Epiphanius, Advers. Hæreses., xxv. and xxxvii.; St. Augustine, De Hæres., xvii.; Jerome, Comment. Epist. ad Galat., lib. ii. The Abbe Cruice reminds his readers that the Naasseni carried their doctrines into India, and refers to the Asiatic Researches (vol. x. p. 39). being so denominated from the Hebrew language, for the serpent is called naas320320    The Hebrew word is נָחָשׁ (nachash). (in Hebrew). Subsequently, however, they have styled themselves Gnostics, alleging that they alone have sounded the depths of knowledge. Now, from the system of these (speculators), many, detaching parts, have constructed a heresy which, though with several subdivisions, is essentially one, and they explain precisely the same (tenets); though conveyed under the guise of different opinions, as the following discussion, according as it progresses, will prove.

48These (Naasseni), then, according to the system321321    παρὰ τὸν αὐτῶν λόγον. Bernaysius suggests for these words, πατέρα τῷ αὐτῷ λόγῳ.  Schneidewin regards the emendation as an error, and Bunsen partly so. The latter would read, πατέρα τὸν αὐτῶν Λόγον, i.e., “The Naasseni honour the Father of all existent things, the Logos, as man and the Son of Man.” advanced by them, magnify, (as the originating cause) of all things else, a man and a son of man.  And this man is a hermaphrodite, and is denominated among them Adam; and hymns many and various are made to him. The hymns322322    See Irenæus, Hær., i. 1. however—to be brief—are couched among them in some such form as this: “From thee (comes) father, and through thee (comes) mother, two names immortal, progenitors of Æons, O denizen of heaven, thou illustrious man.” But they divide him as Geryon323323    Geryon (see note, chap. iii.) is afterwards mentioned as a synonyme with Jordan, i.e., “flowing from earth” (γῆ ῥύων). into three parts. For, say they, of this man one part is rational, another psychical, another earthly. And they suppose that the knowledge of him is the originating principle of the capacity for a knowledge of God, expressing themselves thus: “The originating principle of perfection is the knowledge324324    γνῶσις,—a term often alluded to by St. John, and which gives its name “Gnosticism” to the various forms of the Ophitic heresy. The aphorism in the text is one that embodies a grand principle which lies at the root of all correct philosophy. In this and other instances it will be found that the system, however wild and incoherent in its theology, of the Naaseni and of some of the other Gnostic sects, was one which was constructed by a subtle analysis of thought, and by observation of nature. of man, while the knowledge of God is absolute perfection.”  All these qualities, however—rational, and psychical, and earthly—have, (the Naassene) says, retired and descended into one man simultaneously—Jesus,325325    The Abbe Cruice remarks on this passage, that, as the statement here as regards Jesus Christ does not correspond with Origen’s remarks on the opinions of the Naasseni in reference to our Lord, the Philosophumena cannot be the work of Origen. who was born of Mary. And these three men (the Naassene) says, are in the habit of speaking (through Jesus) at the same time together, each from their own proper substances to those peculiarly their own. For, according to these, there are three kinds of all existent things—angelic, psychical, earthly; and there are three churches—angelic, psychical, earthly; and the names of these are elect, called, captive.


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