Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Pseudo-Clementine Literature.: Chapter XIX
Chapter XIX.—Disputation Begun.
And Niceta answered: “When he perceived that we had found him out, having spoken to one another concerning his crimes, we left him, and came to Zacchæus, telling him those same things which we have now told to you. But he, receiving us most kindly, and instructing us concerning the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, enrolled us in the number of the faithful.” When Niceta had done speaking, Zacchæus, who had gone out a little before, entered, saying, “It is time, O Peter, that you proceed to the disputation; for a great crowd, collected in the court of the house, is awaiting you, in the midst of whom stands Simon, supported by many attendants.” Then Peter, when he heard this, ordering me to withdraw for the sake of prayer (for I had not yet been washed from the sins which I had committed in ignorance), said to the rest, “Brethren, let us pray that God, for His unspeakable mercy through His Christ, would help me going out on behalf of the salvation of men who have been created by Him.” Having said this, and having prayed, he went forth to the court of the house, in which a great multitude of people were assembled; and when he saw them all looking intently on him in profound silence, and Simon the magician standing in the midst of them like a standard-bearer, he began in manner following. 613
[Three discussions with Simon Magus are detailed in the pseudo-Clementine literature,—one in the Recognitions, ii. 20–iii. 48; two in the Homilies, iii. 30–58 and xvi.–xix. The differences between these are quite remarkable.
I. External Differences.—That in the Recognitions is assigned to Cæsarea and is represented as lasting three days, details of each days discussion being given. The earlier one in the Homilies is given the same place and time, but it is very brief. The details of the first day alone are mentioned; and it resembles that in the Recognitions less than does the later one. This is represented as taking place at Laodicea, and as occupying four days. The account is the longest of the three. In its historical setting this discussion has no parallel in the Recognitions. Faustus, the father of Clement, is made the umpire; and this discussion before him takes the place of the discussions with him which occupy so large a part of Recognitions, viii.–x.
II. Internal Differences.—Of course there are many thoughts common to the discussions; but the treatment is so varied as to form one of the most perplexing points in the literary problem. All are somewhat irregular in arrangement, hence an analysis is difficult.
The discussion in the Recognitions seems to be more ethical and philosophical than those in the Homilies; the latter contain more theosophical views. Both of them emphasize the falsehoods of Scripture and abound more in sophistries and verbal sword-play. In the Recognitions against Simons polytheism and theory of an unknown God, Peter opposes the righteousness of God, emphasizing the freedom of the will, discussing the existence and origin of evil, reverting to the righteousness of God as proving the immortality of the soul. The defeat of Simon is narrated in a peculiar way.
The Cæsarean discussion in the Homilies is very briefly narrated. After the preliminary parley, Simon attacks the God of the Scriptures attributing defects to Him. Peters reply, while explaining many passages correctly, is largely taken up with a statement of the view of the Scripture peculiar to the Homilies. This is really the weapon with which Simon is defeated. The discussion, therefore, presents few points of resemblance to that in the Recognitions.
The Laodicean discussion in the Homilies, covering four days, is of a higher character than the preceding. It is not strictly parallel to that in the Recognitions. The opening argument is concerning polytheism. To Peters monotheism Simon opposes the contradictions of Scripture: these Peter explains, including some christological statements which lead to a declaration of the nature, name and character of God. On the second day, after some personal discussion, Simon asserts that Christs teaching differs from that of Peter; the argument reverts to the shape and figure of God. The evidence of the senses is urged against fancied revelations, which are attributed to demons. On the third day the question of God the Framer of the world is introduced, and His moral character. Peter explains the nature of revelation, with some sharp personal thrusts at Simon, but soon reverts to the usual explanation of Scripture.
On the fourth day the existence of the evil one becomes the prominent topic: the existence of sin is pressed; and the discussion closes with a justification of the inequalities of human life, and an expression of judgment against Simon by Faustus.
Throughout these portions footnotes have been added, to indicate the correspondences of thought in the several accounts—R.]
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