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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 649 IX.


Against all Heresies. 8330

[Translated by Rev. S. Thelwall.]


Chapter I.—Earliest Heretics: 8331 Simon Magus, Menander, Saturninus, Basilides, Nicolaus. [The Work Begins as a Fragment.]

Of which heretics I will (to pass by a good deal) summarize some few particulars. For of Judaism’s heretics I am silent—Dositheus the Samaritan, I mean, who was the first who had the hardihood to repudiate the prophets, on the ground that they had not spoken under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Of the Sadducees I am silent, who, springing from the root of this error, had the hardihood to adjoin to this heresy the denial likewise of the resurrection of the flesh. 8332 The Pharisees I pretermit, who were “divided” from the Jews by their superimposing of certain additaments to the law, which fact likewise made them worthy of receiving this very name; 8333 and, together with them, the Herodians likewise, who said that Herod was Christ. To those I betake myself who have chosen to make the gospel the starting-point of their heresies.

Of these the first of all is Simon Magus, who in the Acts of the Apostles earned a condign and just sentence from the Apostle Peter. 8334 He had the hardihood to call himself the Supreme Virtue, 8335 that is, the Supreme God; and moreover, (to assert) that the universe 8336 had been originated by his angels; that he had descended in quest of an erring dæmon, 8337 which was Wisdom; that, in a phantasmal semblance of God, he had not suffered among the Jews, but was as if he had suffered8338

After him Menander, his disciple (likewise a magician 8339 ), saying the same as Simon. Whatever Simon had affirmed himself to be, this did Menander equally affirm himself to be, asserting that none could possibly have salvation without being baptized in his name.

Afterwards, again, followed Saturninus: he, too, affirming that the innascible 8340 Virtue, that is God, abides in the highest regions, and that those regions are infinite, and in the regions immediately above us; but that angels far removed from Him made the lower world; 8341 and that, because light from above had flashed refulgently in the lower regions, the angels had carefully tried to form man after the similitude of that light; that man lay crawling on the surface of the earth; that this light and this higher virtue was, thanks to mercy, the salvable spark in man, while all the rest of him perishes; 8342 that Christ had not existed in a bodily substance, and had endured a quasi-passion in a phantasmal shape merely; that a resurrection of the flesh there will by no means be.

Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. He affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, 8343 by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Νοῦς; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, 8344 and Wisdom; that out of p. 650 these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, 8345 and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, 8346 in honour of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, 8347 he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood.  Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, 8348 but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh:  that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon 8349 was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.

A brother heretic 8350 emerged in Nicolaus. He was one of the seven deacons who were appointed in the Acts of the Apostles. 8351 He affirms that Darkness was seized with a concupiscence—and, indeed, a foul and obscene one—after Light: out of this permixture it is a shame to say what fetid and unclean (combinations arose).  The rest (of his tenets), too, are obscene. For he tells of certain Æons, sons of turpitude, and of conjunctions of execrable and obscene embraces and permixtures, 8352 and certain yet baser outcomes of these.  He teaches that there were born, moreover, dæmons, and gods, and spirits seven, and other things sufficiently sacrilegious. alike and foul, which we blush to recount, and at once pass them by.  Enough it is for us that this heresy of the Nicolaitans has been condemned by the Apocalypse of the Lord with the weightiest authority attaching to a sentence, in saying “Because this thou holdest, thou hatest the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which I too hate.” 8353



[On p. 14, this volume, see nearly all that need be said, of this spurious treatise. I add a few references to Routh, Opuscula, Vol. 1. p. 160 etc. His honouring it with a place in his work must be my apology for not relegating it to the collection of spurious Tertulliana, sub fine.]


[Routh says he inadvertently changed his title to read Advs. Hæreticos, but that it is better after all, in view of the opening sentence.]


See Acts xxiii. 8, and the references there.


Pharisees = Separatists.


See Acts viii. 9-24.


I use Virtue in this and similar cases in its Miltonic sense.




Or, “intelligence.”


Or, “but had undergone a quasi-passion.”




Innascibilem;” but Fr. Junius’ conjecture, “innoscibilem,” is agreeable to the Greek “ἄγνωστος.”




The text here is partially conjectural, and if correct, clumsy.  For the sense, see de Anima, c. xxiii. ad init.


Or, Abraxes, or Abrasax.


Or, Power.










i.e. probably “Simon the Cyrenian.” See Matt. 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26.


Alter hæreticus. But Fr. Junius suggests “aliter.”


See Acts vi. 1-6. [But the identity is doubtful.]


So Oehler gives in his text. But his suggestion, given in a note, is perhaps preferable: “and of execrable embraces and permixtures, and obscene conjunctions.”


See Rev. ii. 6.

Next: Ophites, Cainites, Sethites.

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