Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVI.—Menander the Sorcerer.
1. Menander, 813 who succeeded Simon Magus, 814 showed himself in his conduct another inp. 158 strument of diabolical power, 815 not inferior to the former. He also was a Samaritan and carried his sorceries to no less an extent than his teacher had done, and at the same time reveled in still more marvelous tales than he.
2. For he said that he was himself the Saviour, who had been sent down from invisible æons for the salvation of men; 816 and he taught that no one could gain the mastery over the world-creating angels themselves 817 unless he had first gone through the magical discipline imparted by him and had received baptism from him. Those who were deemed worthy of this would partake even in the present life of perpetual immortality, and would never die, but would remain here forever, and without growing old become immortal. 818 These facts can be easily learned from the works of Irenæus. 819
3. And Justin, in the passage in which he mentions Simon, gives an account of this man also, in the following words: 820 “And we know that a certain Menander, who was also a Samaritan, from the village of Capparattea, 821 was a disciple of Simon, and that he also, being driven by the demons, came to Antioch 822 and deceived many by his magical art. And he persuaded his followers that they should not die. And there are still some of them that assert this.”
4. And it was indeed an artifice of the devil to endeavor, by means of such sorcerers, who assumed the name of Christians, to defame the great mystery of godliness by magic art, and through them to make ridiculous the doctrines of the Church concerning the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the dead. 823 But they that have chosen these men as their saviours have fallen away from the true hope.
Justin, in the passage quoted just below, is the first one to tell us about Menander. According to him, he was a Samaritan and a disciple of Simon Magus, and, like him, deceived many by the practice of magic arts. Irenæus (Adv. Hær. I. 23) gives a somewhat fuller account of him, very likely based upon Justins work against heresies which the latter mentions in his Apol. I. 26, and from which Irenæus quotes in IV. 6. 2 (at least he quotes from a Contra Marcionem, which was in all probability a part of the same work; see Bk. IV. chap. 11, note 22), and perhaps in V. 26. 2. From this account of Irenæus that of Eusebius is drawn, and no new particulars are added. Tertullian also mentions Menander (De Anima, 23, 50) and his resurrection doctrine, but evidently knows only what Irenæus has already told; and so the accounts of all the early Fathers rest wholly upon Justin and Irenæus, and probably ultimately upon Justin alone. See Salmons article Menander in the Dict. of Christ. Biog.157:814
Upon Simon Magus, see above, Bk. II. chap. 13, note 3.158:815
“Instrument of diabolical power,” is an embellishment of Eusebius own, quite in keeping with his usual treatment of heretics. It is evident, however, that neither Justin nor Irenæus looked upon Menander with any greater degree of allowance.158:816
Simon (Irenæus, I. 23. 1) taught that he himself was the Supreme Power; but Menander, according to Irenæus (ibid. §5), taught that the Supreme Power continues unknown to all, but that he himself (as Eusebius here says) was sent forth as a saviour for the deliverance of men.158:817
He agreed with Simon in teaching that the world was formed by angels who had taken their origin from the Ennœa of the Supreme Power, and that the magical power which he imparted enabled his followers to overcome these creative angels, as Simon had taught of himself before him.158:818
This baptism (according to Irenæus “into his own name”), and the promise of the resurrection as a result, seem to have been an original addition of Menanders. The exemption from death taught by Menander was evidently understood by Irenæus, Tertullian (De Anima, 50), and Eusebius in its physical, literal sense; but the followers of Menander must of course have put a spiritual meaning upon it, or the sect could not have continued in existence for any length of time. It is certain that it was flourishing at the time of Justin; how much longer we do not know. Justin himself does not emphasize the physical element, and he undoubtedly understood that the immortality taught was spiritual simply. Hegesippus (quoted below, in Bk. IV. chap. 22) mentions the Menandrianists, but this does not imply that he was himself acquainted with them, for he draws his information largely from Justin Martyr.158:819
Irenæus, Adv. Hær. I. 23. 5. In III. 4. 3 he mentions Menander again, making him the father of all the Gnostics.158:820
Justin, Apol. I. 26.158:821
The situation of the village of Capparattea is uncertain. See Harnacks Quellen-Kritik des Gnosticismus, p. 84.158:822
Menanders Antiochene activity is reported only by Justin. It is probable, therefore, that Tertullian used Irenæus alone in writing his account of Menander, for it is unlikely that both of them would have omitted the same fact if they drew independently from Justin.158:823
Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. XVIII. 1) says that the denial of the resurrection of the body was a peculiarly Samaritan heresy, and it would seem therefore that the heresy of these Menandrianists was in that direction, i.e. that they taught rather a spiritual immortality and denied a bodily resurrection (as suggested in note 6); evidently, however, this was not Eusebius idea. He probably looked upon them as discrediting the Christian doctrine of a resurrection by teaching a physical immortality, which of course was soon proved contrary to truth, and which thus, being confounded by the masses with the doctrines of the Christians, brought the latter also into contempt, and threw discredit upon immortality and resurrection of every kind.
Next: Chapter XXVII
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