« Justinus Martyr, philosopher Justinus Justinus I »

Justinus

Justinus (3), a Gnostic writer, author of several books, only known to us by the abstract which Hippolytus (Ref. Haer. v. 23, p. 148) has given of one of them, called the book of Baruch. The account which that book gives of the origin and history of the universe makes it to have sprung from three underived principles, two male, one female. The first of these is the Good Being, and has no other name; He is perfect in knowledge, and is remote from all contact with the created world, of which, however, He is afterwards described as the Ultimate Cause. It is the knowledge of this Good Being which alone deserves the name, and it is from the possession of it that these heretics claimed the title of Gnostics. The second principle is called Elohim, the Father of the creation, deficient in knowledge, but not represented as subject to evil passion. The third, or female principle, identified with the earth, is called Eden and Israel, destitute of knowledge and subject to anger, of a double form, a woman above the middle, a snake below. Of her, Elohim becomes enamoured, and from their intercourse spring 24 angels—12 paternal, who co-operate with their father and do his will, and 12 maternal, who do the mother's will. The principal part is played by the third paternal angel, Baruch, the chief minister of good, and the third maternal, Naas, or the serpent, the chief author of evil.

Lipsius regards this work of Justinus as probably written later than the middle of 2nd cent., representing in its fundamental ideas one of the oldest, perhaps the very oldest, form of Gnosticism, and as exhibiting the passage of Jewish Christianity into Gnosis. We cannot share this view. On comparing the system of Justinus with that of the Ophite sect described by Irenaeus (i. 30), the points of contact are found to be too numerous to be all accidental. In the system of these Ophites the commencement is made with two male principles, and one female. On the whole, we feel bound to refer the system of Justinus to the latest stage of Gnosticism, when a philosophy, in which any unproved assumption was regarded as sufficiently justified by any remote analogy, had reached its exhaustion, and when its teachers were forced to seek for novelty by wilder and more audacious combinations; and we are not disposed to quarrel with the verdict of Hippolytus that he had met with many heretics, but never a worse one than Justinus.

[G.S.]

« Justinus Martyr, philosopher Justinus Justinus I »





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