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Was Simon the Sorcerer a heretic?


According to the testimony of St. Justin, Simon came from Gitta (in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, II, xxii, called (Getthon) in the country of the Samaritans. At the outbreak of the persecution (c. 37 A.D.) of the early Christian community at Jerusalem that began with the martyrdom of St. Stephen, when Philip the Deacon went from Jerusalem to Samaria, Simon lived in the latter city. By his magic arts, because of which he was called "Magus", and by his teachings in which he announced himself as the "great power of God", he had made a name for himself and had won adherents. He listened to Philip's sermons, was impressed by them, and like many of his countrymen was baptized and united with the community of believers in Christ. But, as was evident later, his conversion was not the result of the inner conviction of faith in Christ as the Redeemer, but rather from selfish motives, for he hoped to gain greater magical power and thus to increase his influence. For when the Apostles Peter and John came to Samaria to bestow on the believers baptized by Philip the outpouring of the Spirit which was accompanied by miraculous manifestations, Simon offered them money, desiring them to grant him what he regarded as magical power, so that he also by the laying on of hands could bestow the Holy Ghost, and thereby produce such miraculous results. Full of indignation at such an offer Peter rebuked him sharply, exhorted him to penance and conversion and warned him of the wickedness of his conduct. Under the influence of Peter's rebuke Simon begged the Apostles to pray for him (Acts 8:9-29). However, according to the unanimous report of the authorities of the second century, he persisted in his false views. The ecclesiastical writers of the early Church universally represent him as the first heretic, the "Father of Heresies".

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Guest TruthSeeker

According to Heracleon John the Baptist was a Levite. His father was Zacharius who officiated as a Priest in the Jewish Temple. His mother was Elizabeth, related to Mary, mother to Jesus. Among his followers were Dositheos, Matthias, Simon Magus, and many other disciples and witnesses to Jesus.


Dositheos (occasionally also known as Nathanael, both meaning "gift of God") was to become a Samaritan religious leader, teacher to Simon Magus, and founder of of Mandaeanism, a Judaic Gnostic sect that continues today.


The Mandeans revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist, but reject Jesus of Nazareth and Christianity. The Portuguese monks of Ormuz called the Mandaeans “Christians of St. John” or Christiani di San Giovanni. Sunday (with the exception of specific religious holidays) is their holy day. There is one Mandaean text, the “Diwan of the great Revelation, called ‘ Inner Haran’” (“Haran Gawaita”) that sheds light on their history.



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Guest Morbonzi



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After Christ's ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were gods; and they were not only not persecuted by you, but even deemed worthy of honours. There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome:


"Simoni Deo Sancto,"


"To Simon the holy God."


And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Meander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetaea, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his.

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Guest Luke 2:25

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him:

26 and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see, death, before he had seen the Lord’s anointed.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus that they might do for him according to the custom of the law,

28 he also took him into his arms, and blessed God and said:

29 Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, 30 for my eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 which thou hast prepared before the face of all the people,

32 a light for a revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And his father and his mother were wondering at the things spoken concerning him.

34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: Behold, this is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be spoken against.

35 And a sword shall pass through thy soul also that thoughts may be revealed out of many hearts.


Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine


Book III


Chapter XI - Symeon rules the Church of Jerusalem after James


1. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James.


2. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

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Guest Act 8 : 5 - 25

5 but Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

6 And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs that he did.

7 For there were many of those that had unclean spirits; these, crying with a loud voice, came out of them; and many paralytics and lame persons were cured;

8 and there arose great joy in that city.

9 But a certain man named Simon before this used magic in the city, and astonished the nation of Samaria, saying that himself was some great one;

10 to whom they gave heed, from small to great, saying: This man is the power of God, which is called great.

11 And they gave heed to him because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.

12 But when they believed Philip, preaching concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

13 And Simon himself also believed, and having been baptized, he continued with Philip, and seeing the mighty deeds and signs that were done, he was astonished.

14 But the apostles that were in Jerusalem, hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, sent to them Peter and John,

15 who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

16 For he had not yet fallen on any one of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

17 Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 But Simon, seeing that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Spirit was given, offered them money,

19 saying: Give me also this authority, that on whomever I shall have laid hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.

20 But Peter said to him: Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought to purchase for thyself with money the gift of God.

21 Thou hast no part, neither lot, in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee;

23 for I perceive that thou art bitter gall and a bundle of unrighteousness.

24 But Simon answered and said: Pray you to the Lord for me, that none of the things that you have spoken may come upon me.

25 They therefore having testified and spoken the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem: they also preached the gospel in many cities of the Samaritans.




Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine


Book II


Chapter XIII - Simon Magus.


1. But faith in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ having now been diffused among all men, the enemy of man’s salvation contrived a plan for seizing the imperial city for himself. He conducted thither the above-mentioned Simon, aided him in his deceitful arts, led many of the inhabitants of Rome astray, and thus brought them into his own power.


2. This is stated by Justin, one of our distinguished writers who lived not long after the time of the apostles. Concerning him I shall speak in the proper place. Take and read the work of this man, who in the first Apology which he addressed to Antonine in behalf of our religion writes as follows:


3. “And after the ascension of the Lord into heaven the demons put forward certain men who said they were gods, and who were not only allowed by you to go unpersecuted, but were even deemed worthy of honors. One of them was Simon, a Samaritan of the village of Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar performed in your imperial city some mighty acts of magic by the art of demons operating in him, and was considered a god, and as a god was honored by you with a statue, which was erected in the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription in the Latin tongue, Simoni Deo Sancto, that is, To Simon the Holy God.


4. And nearly all the Samaritans and a few even of other nations confess and worship him as the first God. And there went around with him at that time a certain Helena who had formerly been a prostitute in Tyre of Phœnicia; and her they call the first idea that proceeded from him.”


5. Justin relates these things, and Irenæus also agrees with him in the first book of his work, Against Heresies, where he gives an account of the man and of his profane and impure teaching. It would be superfluous to quote his account here, for it is possible for those who wish to know the origin and the lives and the false doctrines of each of the heresiarchs that have followed him, as well as the customs practiced by them all, to find them treated at length in the above-mentioned work of Irenæus.


6. We have understood that Simon was the author of all heresy. From his time down to the present those who have followed his heresy have feigned the sober philosophy of the Christians, which is celebrated among all on account of its purity of life. But they nevertheless have embraced again the superstitions of idols, which they seemed to have renounced; and they fall down before pictures and images of Simon himself and of the above-mentioned Helena who was with him; and they venture to worship them with incense and sacrifices and libations.


7. But those matters which they keep more secret than these, in regard to which they say that one upon first hearing them would be astonished, and, to use one of the written phrases in vogue among them, would be confounded, are in truth full of amazing things, and of madness and folly, being of such a sort that it is impossible not only to commit them to writing, but also for modest men even to utter them with the lips on account of their excessive baseness and lewdness.


8. For whatever could be conceived of, viler than the vilest thing—all that has been outdone by this most abominable sect, which is composed of those who make a sport of those miserable females that are literally overwhelmed with all kinds of vices.


Samaria (Arabic: السامرة‎ / as-Samira) (Hebrew: שומרון‎ / Shomron) was an ancient city in the Land of Israel. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BC and 8th century BC. The ruins of the city are located in the Samaria mountains and are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

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Simon Magus


A personage frequently mentioned in the history of primitive Christianity. According to Acts viii. 9-23, he was greatly feared throughout Samaria on account of his magic powers; but he permitted himself to be baptized, and wished to purchase the gift of the Holy Ghost, being cursed by Peter for this presumptuousness. In spite of the definiteness of the statements regarding him, the historicity of Simon has been doubted by many critics, especially by Baur and his school, who held that he was a caricature of the "Apostle of the Gentiles." Such a view must, however, be regarded as a grave critical aberration (Harnack, "Dogmengeschichte," 1st ed., i. 179, note 1).

The early Christian Clementine "Recognitiones" (vii.-x.) represent Simon as a Jewish magician instead of a Samaritan, stating that he was a member of a Jewish household in Cæsarea, and that, when pursued by Peter, he fled to Judea. Mention is made, moreover, of a magician named Simon who lived in this very city of Cæsarea about the year 40 of the common era (Josephus, "Ant." xx. 7, § 2); so that some scholars consider the two to be identical (Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergeschichte," p. 170; Albert, "Die Ersten Fünfzehn Jahre der Christlichen Kirche," p. 114, Münster, 1900; Waitz, in "Zeitschrift für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft," v. 128). This view can hardly be correct, however, although the notice, like other similar ones, serves to show that there were such magicians even among the Jews. The most reliable sources, including Justin Martyr, who was a Samaritan by birth, call Simon a native of Cæsarea; and, in harmony with this statement, the same authorities regard him as a pupil of Dositheus, the Samaritan heresiarch (but see Dositheus). Simon was, furthermore, regarded by all the Church Fathers as the great heretic from whose school and teaching sprang all the later motley heresies of Christianity; and inasmuch as his system contained Gnostic teaching, Gnosticism itself was ascribed to him, and a Gnostic figure was seen in his alleged wife Helena.



Claims Messiahship.


In reality, however, Simon seems at first to have asserted merely that he was a Messiah, though later he claimed that he was a god. The following passage of Irenæus ("Adv. Hæreses," i. 23, § 1) clearly defines his teaching: "He was worshiped by many as a god, and seemed to himself to be one; for among the Jews he appeared as the Son [thus identifying himself with Jesus], in Samaria as the Father, and among other peoples as the Holy Ghost" (comp. "Philosophumena," vi. 19; Tertullian, "De Anima," xxxiv.; Epiphanius, "Panarium." xxi. 1; "Acta Petri et Pauli," in Lipsius, "Apocryphische Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden," ii., part 1, pp. 30,_301). Simon is also said to have commanded that a grave be dug for him, from which he was to arise in three days; but this, it is declared, he did not do ("Philosophumena," quoted as from Hippolytus, vi. 20). These traits characterize him as the Christ of the Samaritans, and at the same time show him as a most striking antithesis to the Christ of the Christians. If, as is stated, besides declaring that God is unknowable and is not the creator of the world, but inexpressible, ineffable, and self-created (αὐτογένεθλον; "Constitutiones Apostolicæ," vi. 10, in Migne, "Patrologia Græca," i. 933), he taught that He is not the father of Christ, his teaching diverges widely from the Christian doctrine, although it must be borne in mind that this statement is at variance with all other accounts.


Favored by the Jews.


In their opposition to Christianity the Jews may have felt a certain sympathy with the teachings of Simon, thus accounting for the legends which term them his disciples. When, in his flight from Peter, Simon went to Rome and wished to prove his divinity by flying through the air, the Jews are said to have been his partizans; and when he fell wounded to the earth, and was taken to Aricia, a small town near Rome where his grave is yet shown, Jews are alleged to have escorted him thither; and their descendants lived there until 1600. A later authority declares that the aerial battle with Peter took place on a Sabbath on which the faithful were holding a "proseuche" (synagogal assembly) and keeping a fast especially on account of their teacher Simon (Glycas, "Annales," ed. Bonn, i. 236,_439). While it is true that the Christians were as yet little differentiated from the Jews, and that the "faithful" might equally well have been Christians, yet the fast (the Romans believed that the Jews fasted on the Sabbath), i.e., the rest from work, is characteristically Jewish. The story of this flight to Rome, whether legendary or historic, must have been well known to the Jews, since the remarkable "Toledot Yeshu" tells of a similar aerial battle that took place between Jesus and the champion of the Jews (Krauss, "Das Leben Jesu nach Jüdischen Quellen," p. 179 et passim); and this same legend shows that the Jews regarded Simon as one of their own number. The fall of Simon Magus was customarily represented by the Byzantines in their illustrations of Psalm li. = Hebr. lii. (Strzygowski, "Bilder des Griechischen Physiologus," p. 89, Leipsic, 1889). Zacuto ("Yuḥasin," ed. London, p. 244) also mentions Simon Magus; and his name occurs in a Samaritan chronicle recently published ("R. E. J." xlv. 230).K. S. Kr.Simon Magus was the founder of a Gnostic sect. In Acts viii. 9-13_he is represented as having been held in awe by the Samaritans as the manifestation of the hidden power of God, and as being called by them "The Great One." He is said to have allowed himself to be baptized by the apostle Philip; but, owing to his greediness, he relapsed into sorcery. While this story is legendary, Justin relates ("Apologia," i. 26,_56) that he was born in Gitta, a Samaritan village, and that he traveled together with a woman named Helena, whom he declared to be the "First Intelligence," he himself claiming to be the first manifestation of the hidden power of God. He went to Rome and performed miracles before the emperor Claudius; and the people erected statues to him. The legendary character of this story has been proved by the fact that the statue said to have been erected to him with the inscription "Semoni Sancto Deo Fidio" has been discovered, and it proves to have been dedicated to an ancient Roman deity.


More authentic facts regarding Simon Magus are contained in Hippolytus' "Refutatio Heresiarum," vi. 7-20, where extracts are given from a work ascribed to Simon and entitled "The Great Revelation." In this work an elaborate Gnostic system of the emanation of the Deity is presented, describing the unfolding of the world in six pairs, male and female, in the upper and lower regions, among which also the sun and the moon ("Selene") play a part and in which he himself is "the standing one; he who stands, has stood, and will stand." His stay at Rome, where he attracted attention by his miracles, and his contest with Peter are mentioned in this work and in all the patristic writings of the early centuries. He is said to have had a celestial chariot upon which he was seen flying through the air. He could not, however, withstand the superior magic powers of Peter, and fell from the chariot, breaking his legs (Syriac "Didascalia," i. 18; Arnobius, "Contra Gentes," ii. 12). He raised the souls of prophets from Hades (Tertullian, "De Anima," xxxiv).

The most elaborate legendary story is told of him, especially with reference to his contest with Peter, in the Clementine writings, where there is an occasional blending of the character and utterances of Simon Magus with those of Paul. Certain characteristic expressions, however, are found there which point to historic facts. He calls himself the manifested power of the great hidden Deity ("Hel Kisai" = "Elkesai" in Gnostic lore; "Recognitiones," i. 72, ii. 37; comp. "the one who will stand [abide] forever"; "Recognitiones," ii. 7, iii. 11; "Homilies," ii. 24); his spouse Helena (or Selene = "the Moon") is the mother Wisdom, one with the highest Deity, who came down to earth under that name ("Recognitiones," ii. 8-9,_39; "Homilies," ii. 23).


The existence of the sect of Simonians called after Simon and related to the other Samaritan sect called after Dositheus, certainly proves the historicity of his existence against the critics who declare him to be a fictitious person and "Simon" to be the pseudonym of Paul. It is remarkable, moreover, that a magician by the name of Simon is mentioned by Josephus as having lived at the very same time as Simon Magus of the Church literature. Felix, appointed governor of Judea by the emperor Claudius between the years 52_and 60, had fallen in love with Drusilla, sister of King Agrippa and wife of King Azizus of Emesa; and he sent Simon, a Jew born in Cyprus and a friend of his who was known for his magical skill, to use incantations (compare the love incantation in Deissman's "Bibelstudien," 1895, p. 21, and Blau, "Das Altjüdische Zauberwesen," 1898, pp. 96-117) to alienate her affection from her husband and to turn it to Felix. In this way the governor succeeded in obtaining Drusilla's consent to marry him ("Ant." xx. 7, § 2). The only difficulty in identifying this Simon with the other lies in the statement of Josephus that the magician was born in Cyprus. The charges brought against the sect of the Simonians are of such a nature as would point to seductions brought about by witchcraft as well as by Gnostic teachings leading to sexual impurity.


Bibliography: Fabricius, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, ii. 411; Hilgenfeld, Ketzergesch. des Urchristenthums, pp. 163-180, Leipsic, 1884; Hastings, Dict. Bible, iv. 520; Lugano, Le Memorie Leggendarie di Simon Mago, in Nuovo Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana, vi. 56, Rome, 1900; H. Waitz, Simon Magus in der Altchristlichen Literatur, in Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1904, v. 121-143; Harnack, Gesch. der Altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius, i. 153 et seq., Leipsic, 1893.K.


The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Simon and Helen


Justin and Irenaeus are the first to recount the tale of Simon and Helen, which became the center of Simonian doctrine. Epiphanius of Salamis also makes Simon speak in the first person in several places in his Panarion, and the inference is that he is quoting from a version of it, though perhaps not verbatim.


In the beginning God had his first thought, his Ennoia, which was female, and that thought was to create the angels. The First Thought then descended into the lower regions and created the angels. But the angels rebelled against her out of jealousy and created the world as her prison, imprisoning her in a female body. Thereafter, she was reincarnated many times, each time being shamed. Her many reincarnations included Helen of Troy; among others, and she finally was reincarnated as Helen, a slave and prostitute in the Phoenician city of Tyre. God then descended in the form of Simon Magus, to rescue his Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself.


"And on her account," he says, "did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel 'the lost sheep'."


For as the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, he had come to set things straight, and had descended under a changed form, likening himself to the Principalities and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man, and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, though he had not suffered.



"But in each heaven I changed my form," says he, "in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men."


But the prophets had delivered their prophecies under the inspiration of the world-creating angels: wherefore those who had their hope in him and in Helen minded them no more, and, as being free, did what they pleased; for men were saved according to his grace, but not according to just works. For works were not just by nature, but only by convention, in accordance with the enactments of the world-creating angels, who by precepts of this kind sought to bring men into slavery. Wherefore he promised that the world should be dissolved, and that those who were his should be freed from the dominion of the world-creators.


In this account of Simon there is a large portion common to almost all forms of Gnostic myths, together with something special to this form. They have in common the place in the work of creation assigned to the female principle, the conception of the Deity; the ignorance of the rulers of this lower world with regard to the Supreme Power; the descent of the female (Sophia) into the lower regions, and her inability to return. Special to the Simonian tale is the identification of Simon himself with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle.



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According to Heracleon John the Baptist was a Levite. His father was Zacharius who officiated as a Priest in the Jewish Temple. His mother was Elizabeth, related to Mary, mother to Jesus. Among his followers were Dositheos, Matthias, Simon Magus, and many other disciples and witnesses to Jesus.


Dositheos (occasionally also known as Nathanael, both meaning "gift of God") was to become a Samaritan religious leader, teacher to Simon Magus, and founder of of Mandaeanism, a Judaic Gnostic sect that continues today.


The Mandeans revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist, but reject Jesus of Nazareth and Christianity. The Portuguese monks of Ormuz called the Mandaeans “Christians of St. John” or Christiani di San Giovanni. Sunday (with the exception of specific religious holidays) is their holy day. There is one Mandaean text, the “Diwan of the great Revelation, called ‘ Inner Haran’” (“Haran Gawaita”) that sheds light on their history.




In a desire to be the leader of his own sect, Dositheos rejected Jesus after his crucifixion and set up his own school from whence came Simon Magus and the later Mandaeans who were known as Dositheans by certain Arab historians several centuries later. This explains why the Mandaeans of Mohammed's time redacted the older Nazorean texts and interpolated into them certain criticisms of Jesus and Mohammed like their founder Dositheos had done.

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