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Chapter III.—Christ Undoes the Work of the Demiurge; Docetic Account of the Baptism and Death of Jesus; Why He Lived for Thirty Years on Earth.

This fiery deity, then, after he became fire from light, proceeded to create the world in the manner which Moses describes. He himself, however, as devoid of subsistence, employs the darkness as (his) substance, and perpetually insults those eternal attributes of light which, (being) from above, had been laid hold on by (the darkness) beneath. Up to the time, therefore, of the appearance of the Saviour, there prevailed, by reason of the Deity of fiery light, (that is,) the Demiurge, a certain extensive delusion of souls. For the species are styled souls, because they are refrigerations919919    The Greek word for soul is derived from the same root as that for refrigeration. from the (Æons) above, and continue in darkness. But when (the souls) are altered from bodies to bodies, they remain under the guardianship of the Demiurge. And that these things are so, says (the Docetic), it is possible also to perceive from Job, when he uses the following words: “And I am a wanderer, changing both place after place, and house after house.”920920    These words are spoken of the wife of Job, as the feminine form, πλανῆτις and λάτρις, proves. They have been added from apocryphal sources to the Greek version (ii. 9), but are absent from the English translation. The passage stands thus: καὶ ἐγὼ πλανῆτις καὶ λάτρις τόπον ἐκ τόπου περιερχομένη καὶ οἰκίαν ἐξ οἰκίας. The Abbe Cruice refers to St. Chrysostom’s Hom. de Statuis [vol. ii. p. 139, opp. ed. Migne, not textually quoted.] And (we may learn, according to the Docetæ, the same) from the expressions of the Saviour, “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias that was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”921921    Matt. xi. 14, 15. But by the instrumentality of the Saviour this transference of souls from body to body was made to cease, and faith is preached for remission of sins. After some such manner, that only begotten Son, when He gazes upon the forms of the supernal Æons, which were transferred from above into darkish bodies, coming down, wished to descend and deliver them. When (the Son), however, became aware that the Æons, those (that subsist) collectively, are unable to behold the Pleroma of all the Æons, but that in a state of consternation they fear lest they may undergo corruption as being themselves perishable, and that they are overwhelmed by the magnitude and splendour of power;—(when the Son, I say, perceived this,) He contracted Himself—as it were a very great flash in a very small body, nay, rather as a ray of vision condensed beneath the eyelids, and (in this condition) He advances forth as far as heaven and the effulgent stars. And in this quarter of creation He again collects himself beneath the lids of vision according as He wishes it. Now the light of vision accomplishes the same effect; for though it is everywhere, and (renders visible) all things, it is yet imperceptible to us. We, however, merely see lids of vision, while corners (of the eye), a tissue which is broad, tortuous,922922    Or, “a fleshly membrane.” (and) exceedingly fibrous, a membrane of the cornea; and underneath this, the pupil, which is shaped as a berry, is net-like and round. (And we observe) whatever other membranes there are that belong to the light of the eye, and enveloped in which it lies concealed.

Thus, says (the Docetic), the only-begotten (and) eternal Child from above arrayed Himself in a form to correspond with each individual Æon of the three Æons;923923    Miller reads, “of the third Æon.” and while he was within the triacontad of Æons, He entered into this world924924    The Abbe Cruice considers that the mention of the period of our Lord’s birth has accidentally dropt out of the ms. here. See book vii. chap. xix. just as we have described Him, un120noticed, unknown, obscure, and disbelieved. In order, therefore, say the Docetæ, that He may be clad in the darkness that is prevalent in more distant quarters of creation—(now by darkness he means) flesh—an angel journeyed with Him from above, and announced the glad tidings to Mary, says (the Docetic), as it has been written.  And the (child) from her was born, as it has been written. And He who came from above put on that which was born; and so did He all things, as it has been written (of Him) in the Gospels. He washed in Jordan, and when He was baptized He received a figure and a seal in the water of (another spiritual body beside) the body born of the Virgin. (And the object of this was,) when the Archon condemned his own peculiar figment (of flesh) to death, (that is,) to the cross, that that soul which had been nourished in the body (born of the Virgin) might strip off that body and nail it to the (accursed) tree. (In this way the soul) would triumph by means of this (body) over principalities and powers,925925    Col. ii. 11, 14, 15. and would not be found naked, but would, instead of that flesh, assume the (other) body, which had been represented in the water when he was being baptized. This is, says (the Docetic), what the Saviour affirms: “Except a man be born of water and spirit, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, because that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”926926    John iii. 5, 6. From the thirty Æons, therefore, (the Son) assumed thirty forms. And for this reason that eternal One existed for thirty years on the earth, because each Æon was in a peculiar manner manifested during (his own) year. And the souls are all those forms that have been laid hold on by each of the thirty Æons; and each of these is so constituted as to discern Jesus, who is of a nature (similar to their own). (And it was the nature of this Jesus) which that only-begotten and eternal One assumed from everlasting places.  These (places), however, are diverse. Consequently, a proportionate number of heresies, with the utmost emulation, seek Jesus. Now all these heresies have their own peculiar Jesus; but he is seen differently according as the place927927    Miller’s text has “type.” is different towards which, he says, each soul is borne and hastens. (Now each soul) supposes that (the Jesus seen from its particular place) is alone that (Jesus) who is its own peculiar kinsman and fellow-citizen. And on first beholding (this Jesus, that soul) recognises Him as its own peculiar brother, but the rest as bastards. Those, then, that derive their nature from the places below, are not able to see the forms of the Saviour which are above them. Those, however, he says, who are from above, from the intermediate decade and the most excellent ogdoad—whence, say (the Docetæ), we are—have themselves known not in part, but entirely, Jesus the Saviour. And those, who are from above, are alone perfect, but all the rest are only partially so.


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