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§ 130. Carpocrates.


Iren. I. 25 (24). Hippol. VII. 32 (D. & Schn. p. 398 sqq.). Clem. Alex. Strom. III. 511. Epihianius, Haer. XXV.


Carpocrates also lived under Hadrian, probably at Alexandria, and founded a Gnostic sect, called by his own name, which put Christ on a level with heathen philosophers, prided itself on its elevation above all the popular religions, and sank into unbridled immorality. The world is created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. Jesus was the son of Joseph, and just like other men, except that his soul was steadfast and pure, and that he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God. For this reason a power descended upon him from the Father, that by means of it he might escape from the creators of the world. After passing through them all, and remaining in all points free, he ascended again to the Father. We may rise to an equality with Jesus by despising in like manner the creators of the world.

The Carpocratians, say Irenaeus and Hippolytus, practiced also magical arts, incantations, and love-potions, and had recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over the princes and framers of this world. But they led a licentious life, and abused the name of Christ as a means of hiding their wickedness. They were the first known sect that used pictures of Christ, and they derived them from a pretended original of Pontius Pilate.908908    Hippol. Philos. VII. 32: εἰκόνας κατασκευάζουσι τοῦ Χριστοῦ λέγοντες ὑπὸ Πιλάτου τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ γενέσθαι.08

Epiphanes, a son of Carpocrates, who died at the age of seventeen, was the founder of "monadic "Gnosticism, which in opposition to dualism seems to have denied the independent existence of evil, and resolved it into a fiction of human laws. He wrote a book on "Justice," and defined it to be equality. He taught that God gave his benefits to all men alike and in common, and thence derived the community of goods, and even of women. He was worshipped by his adherents after his death as a god, at Same in Cephalonia, by sacrifices, libations, banquets, and singing of hymns. Here we have the worship of genius in league with the emancipation of the flesh, which has been revived in modern times. But it is not impossible that Clement of Alexandria, who relates this fact, may have made a similar mistake as Justin Martyr in the case of Simon Magus, and confounded a local heathen festival of the moon known as τὰ Ἐπιφάνεια or ὁ Ἐπιφανής with a festival in honor of Epiphanes.909909    This was the conjecture of Mosheim, which has been worked out and modified by Volkmar in a monthly periodical of the Wissenschaftl. Verein at Zürich. He maintains that the deity worshipped at Same was the new appearing moon, ὁ Ἐπιφανής.09



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