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Chapter XI.—Why They Call Themselves Peratæ; Their Theory of Generation Supported by an Appeal to Antiquity; Their Interpretation of the Exodus of Israel; Their System of “The Serpent;” Deduced by Them from Scripture; This the Real Import of the Doctrines of the Astrologers.
They denominate themselves, however, Peratæ, imagining that none of those things existing by generation can escape the determined lot for those things that derive their existence from generation. For if, says (the Peratic), anything be altogether begotten, it also perishes, as also is the opinion of the Sibyl.488488 See Oracula Sibyllina Fragm., ii. ver. 1. But we alone, he says, who are conversant with the necessity of generation, and the paths through which man has entered into the world, and who have been accurately instructed (in these matters), we alone are competent to proceed through and pass beyond destruction.489489 περασαι; hence their name Peratics, i.e., Transcendentalists. Bunsen considers, however, that such a derivation as this was not the true one (see note 1, p. 60), but merely an after-thought. The title of one of the Peratic treatises, as altered by Bunsen from Οἱ προάστειοι ἕως αιθέρος into Οἱ Περάται ἕως αἰθέρος, i.e., “the Transcendental Etherians,” would agree with their subsequent assumption of this title. [Bunsen, i. p. 37.] But water, he says, is destruction; nor did the world, he says, perish by any other thing quicker than by water. Water, however, is that which rolls around among the Proastioi, (and) they assert (it to be) Cronus. For such a power, he says, is of the colour of water; and this power, he says—that is, Cronus—none of those things existent by generation can escape. For Cronus is a cause to every generation, in regard of succumbing under destruction, and there could not exist (an instance of) generation in which Cronus does not interfere. This, he says, is what the poets also affirm, and what even appals the gods:—
“For know, he says, this earth and spacious heaven above,
And Styx’ flooded water, which is the oath
That greatest is, and dreaded most by gods of happy life.”
And not only, he says, do the poets make this statement, but already also the very wisest men among the Greeks. And Heraclitus is even one of these, employing the following words: “For to souls water becomes death.” This death, (the Peratic) says, seizes the Egyptians in the Red Sea, along with their chariots. All, however, who are ignorant (of this fact), he says, are Egyptians. And this, they assert, is the departure from Egypt, (that is,) from the body. For they suppose little Egypt to be body, and that it crosses the Red Sea—that is, the water of corruption, which is Cronus—and that it reaches a place beyond the Red Sea, that is, generation; and that it comes into the wilderness, that is, that it attains a condition independent of generation, where there exist promiscuously all the gods of destruction and the God of salvation.
Now, he says, the stars are the gods of destruction, which impose upon existent things the necessity of alterable generation. These, he says, Moses denominated serpents of the wilderness, which gnaw and utterly ruin those who imagined that they had crossed the Red Sea. To those, then, he says, who of the children of Israel were bitten in the wilderness, Moses exhibited the real and perfect serpent; and they who believed on this serpent were not bitten in the wilderness, that is, (were not assailed) by (evil) powers. No one therefore, he says, is there who is able to save and deliver those that come forth from Egypt, that is, from the body and from this world, unless alone the serpent that is perfect and replete with fulness. Upon this (serpent), he says, he who fixes his hope is not destroyed by the snakes of the wilderness, that is, by the gods of generation. (This statement) is written, he says, in a book of Moses. This serpent, he says, is the power that attended Moses,490490 Ex. iv. 2–4, 17; vii. 9–13. the rod that was turned into a serpent. The serpents, however, of the magicians—(that is,) the gods of destruction—withstood the power of Moses in Egypt, but the rod of Moses reduced them all to subjection and slew them. This universal serpent is, he says, the wise discourse of Eve. This, he says, is the mystery of Edem, this the river of Edem; this the mark that was set upon Cain, that any one who findeth him might not kill him. This, he says,491491 Or, “they say.” is Cain,492492 Gen. iv. 15. whose sacrifice493493 Gen. iv. 5. the god of this world did not accept. The gory sacrifice, however, of Abel he 63approved of; for the ruler of this world rejoices in (offerings of) blood. This, he says, is he who appeared in the last days, in form of a man, in the times of Herod, being born after the likeness of Joseph, who was sold by the hand of his brethren, to whom alone belonged the coat of many colours. This, he says, is he who is according to the likeness of Esau, whose garment—he not being himself present—was blessed; who did not receive, he says, the benediction uttered by him of enfeebled vision.494494 Gen. xxvii. 1. He acquired, however, wealth from a source independent of this, receiving nothing from him whose eyes were dim; and Jacob saw his countenance,495495 Gen. xxxiii. 10. as a man beholds the face of God. In regard of this, he says, it has been written that “Nebrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord.”496496 Gen. x. 9. And there are, he says, many who closely imitate this (Nimrod): as numerous are they as the gnawing (serpents) which were seen in the wilderness by the children of Israel, from which that perfect serpent which Moses set up delivered those that were bitten. This, he says, is that which has been declared: “In the same manner as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also must the Son of man be lifted up.”497497 John iii. 14, 15. According to the likeness of this was made in the desert the brazen serpent which Moses set up. Of this alone, he says, the image is in heaven, always conspicuous in light.
This, he says, is the great beginning respecting which Scripture has spoken. Concerning this, he says it has been declared: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God, all things were made by Him, and without Him was not one thing that was made. And what was formed in Him is life.”498498 John i. 1–4. And in Him, he says, has been formed Eve; (now) Eve is life. This, however, he says, is Eve, mother of all living,499499 The Abbe Cruise thinks that Hippolytus is here quoting from the Gospel of Eve (see Epiph., Hær., xxvi. 2).—a common nature, that is, of gods, angels, immortals, mortals, irrational creatures, (and) rational ones. For, he says, the expression “all” he uttered of all (existences). And if the eyes of any, he says, are blessed, this one, looking upward on the firmament, will behold at the mighty summit500500 ἄκρᾳ: this is a conjectural reading instead of ἀρχῇ. of heaven the beauteous image of the serpent, turning itself, and becoming an originating principle of every (species of) motion to all things that are being produced. He will (thereby) know that without him nothing consists, either of things in heaven, or things on earth. or things under the earth. Not night, not moon, not fruits, not generation, not wealth, not sustenance, not anything at all of existent things, is without his guidance. In regard of this, he says, is the great wonder which is beheld in the firmament by those who are able to observe it. For, he says, at this top of his head, a fact which is more incredible than all things to those who are ignorant, “are setting and rising mingled one with other.” This it is in regard of which ignorance is in the habit of affirming: in heaven
And on both sides of him have been placed Corona and Lyra; and above, near the top itself of the head, is visible the piteous man “Engonasis,”
And at the back of Engonasis is an imperfect serpent, with both hands tightly secured by Anguitenens, and being hindered from touching Corona that lies beside the perfect serpent.
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