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Chapter XVII.—The Tradition of the Church Prior to that of the Heresies.

Those, then, that adhere to impious words, and dictate them to others, inasmuch as they do not make a right but a perverse use of the divine words, neither themselves enter into the kingdom of heaven, nor permit those whom they have deluded to attain the truth. But not having the key of entrance, but a false (and as the common phrase expresses it), a counterfeit key (ἀντικλεῖς), by which they do not enter in as we enter in, through the tradition of the Lord, by drawing aside the curtain; but bursting through the side-door, and digging clandestinely through the wall of the Church, and stepping over the truth, they constitute themselves the Mystagogues36873687    Those who initiate into the mysteries. of the soul of the impious.

For that the human assemblies which they held were posterior to the Catholic Church36883688    [See the quotation from Milman, p. 166, supra.] requires not many words to show.

For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius.36893689    Ἡ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ Κυρίου κατὰ τὴν παρουσίαν διδασκαλία, ἀπὸ Αὐγούστου καὶ Τιβερίου Καίσαρος, ἀρξαμένη, μεσούντων τῶν Αὐγούστου χρόνων τελειοῦται. In the translation, the change recommended, on high authority, of Αὐγούστου into Τιβερίου in the last clause, is adopted, as on the whole the best way of solving the unquestionable difficulty here. If we retain Αὐγούστου, the clause must then be made parenthetical, and the sense would be: “For the teaching of the Lord on His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius (in the middle of the times of Augustus), was completed.” The objection to this (not by any means conclusive) is, that it does not specify the end of the period.
   The first 15 years of the life of our Lord were the last 15 of the reign of Augustus; and in the 15th year of the reign of his successor Tiberius our Lord was baptized. Clement elsewhere broaches the singular opinion, that our Lord’s ministry lasted only a year, and, consequently that He died in the year in which He was baptized. As Augustus reigned, according to one of the chronologies of Clement, 43, and according to the other 46 years 4 months 1 day, and Tiberius 22 or 26 years 6 months 19 days, the period of the teacing of the Gospel specified above began during the reign of Augustus, and ended during the reign of Tiberius.


And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Adrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims (as they boast) for his master, Glaucias, the interpreter of Peter.

Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas.36903690    Θεοδάδι ἀκηκοέναι is the reading, which eminent authorities (Bentley, Grabe, etc.) have changed into Θεοδᾶ (or Θευδᾶ) διακηκοέναι. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger36913691    Much learning and ingenuity have been expended on this sentence, which, read as it stands in the text, appears to state that Marcion was an old man while Baslides and Valentinus were young men; and that Simon (Magus) was posterior to them in time. Marcion was certainly not an old man when Valentinus and Basilides were young men, as they flourished in the first half of the second century, and he was born about the beginning of it. The difficulty in regard to Simon is really best got over by supposing the Clement, speaking of these heresiarchs in ascending order, describes Marcion as further back in time; which sense μεθ᾽ ὄν of course will bear, although it does seem somewhat harsh, as “after” thus means “before.” [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.

Such being the case, it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].

From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God’s purpose are just, are enrolled.36923692    [This chapter illustrates what the Nicene Fathers understood by their language about the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”] For from the very reason that God is one, and the Lord one, that which is in the highest degree honourable is lauded in consequence of its singleness, being an imitation of the one first principle. In the nature of the One, then, is associated in a joint heritage the one Church, which they strive to cut asunder into many sects.

Therefore in substance and idea, in origin, in pre-eminence, we say that the ancient and Catholic36933693    [I restore this important word of the Greek text, enfeebled by the translator, who renders it by the word “universal”, which, though not wrong, disguises the force of the argument.] Church is alone, collecting as it does into the unity of the one faith—which results from the peculiar Testaments, or rather the one Testament in different times by the will of the one God, through one Lord—those already ordained, whom God predestinated, knowing before the foundation of the world that they would be righteous.

But the pre-eminence of the Church, as the principle of union, is, in its oneness, in this surpassing all things else, and having nothing like or equal to itself. But of this afterwards.

Of the heresies, some receive their appellation from a [person’s] name, as that which is called after Valentinus, and that after Marcion, and that after Basilides, although they boast of adducing the opinion of Matthew [without truth]; for as the teaching, so also the tradition of the apostles was one. Some take their designation from a place, as the Peratici; some from a nation, as the [heresy] of the Phrygians; some from an action, as that of the Encratites; and some from peculiar dogmas, as that of the Docetæ, and that of the Hærmatites; and some from suppositions, and from individuals they have honoured, as those called Cainists, and the Ophians; and some from nefarious practices and enormities, as those of the Simonians called Entychites.

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