Hippolytus (Cont.)The Refutation of All Heresies. (Cont.)

Book VII.


The following are the contents of the seventh book of the Refutation of all Heresies: – 

What the opinion of Basilides is, and that, being struck with the doctrines of Aristotle, he out of these framed his heresy.1

And what are the statements of Saturnilus,2 who flourished much about the time of Basilides.

And how Menander advanced the assertion that the world was made by angels.

What is the folly of Marcion, and that his tenet is not new, nor (taken) out of the Holy Scriptures, but that he obtains it from Empedocles.

How Carpocrates acts sillily, in himself also alleging that existing things were made by angels.

That Cerinthus, in no wise indebted to the Scriptures, formed his opinion (not out of them), but from the tenets of the Egyptians.3

What are the opinions propounded by the Ebionaeans, and that they in preference adhere to Jewish customs.

How Theodotus has been a victim of error, deriving contributions to his system partly from the Ebionaeans, (partly from Cerinthus.)4

And what were the opinions of Cerdon,5 who both enunciated the doctrines of Empedocles, and who wickedly induced Marcion to step forward.

And how Lucian, when he had become a disciple of Marcion,6 having divested himself of all shame, blasphemed God from time to time.

And Apelles also, having become a disciple of this (heretic), was not in the habit of advancing the same opinions with his preceptor; but being actuated (in the formation of his system) from the tenets of natural philosophers, assumed the substance of the universe as the fundamental principle of things.7


Chap. I. – Heresy Compared to (1) the Stormy Ocean, (2) the Rocks of the Sirens; Moral from Ulysses and the Sirens.

The pupils of these men, when they perceive the doctrines of the heretics to be like unto the ocean when tossed into waves by violence of the winds, ought to sail past in quest of the tranquil haven. For a sea of this description is both infested with wild beasts and difficult of navigation, like, as we may say, the Sicilian (Sea), in which the legend reports were Cyclops, and Charybdis, and Scylla, and the rock8 of the Sirens. Now, the poets of the Greeks allege that Ulysses sailed through (this channel), adroitly using (to his own purpose) the terribleness of these strange monsters.9 For the savage cruelty (in the aspect) of these towards those who were sailing through was remarkable. The Sirens, however, singing sweetly and harmoniously, beguiled the voyagers, luring, by reason of their melodious voice, those who heard it, to steer their vessels towards (the promontory). The (poets) report that Ulysses, on ascertaining this, smeared with wax the ears of his companions, and, lashing himself to the mast, sailed, free of danger, past the Sirens, hearing their chant distinctly. And my advice to my readers is to adopt a similar expedient, viz., either on account of their infirmity to smear their ears with wax, and sail (straight on) through the tenets of the heretics, not even listening to (doctrines) that are easily capable of enticing them into pleasure, like the luscious lay of the Sirens, or, by binding one’s self to the Cross10 of Christ, (and) hearkening with fidelity (to His words), not to be distracted, inasmuch as he has reposed his trust in Him to whom ere this he has been firmly knit, and (I admonish that man) to continue stedfastly (in this faith).


Chap. II. – The System of Basilides Derived from Aristotle.

Since, therefore, in the six books preceding this, we have explained previous (heretical opinions), it now seems proper not to be silent respecting the (doctrines) of Basilides,11 which are the tenets of Aristotle the Stagyrite, not (those) of Christ. But even though on a former occasion the opinions propounded by Aristotle have been elucidated, we shall not even now scruple to set them down beforehand in a sort of synopsis, for the purpose of enabling my readers, by means of a nearer comparison of the two systems, to perceive with facility that the doctrines advanced by Basilides are (in reality) the clever quibbles of Aristotle.


Chap. III. – Sketch of Aristotle’s Philosophy.

Aristotle, then, makes a threefold division of substance. For one portion of it is a certain genus, and another a certain species, as that (philosopher) expresses it, and a third a certain individual. What is individual, however, (is so) not through any minuteness of body, but because by nature it cannot admit of any division whatsoever. The genus, on the other hand, is a sort of aggregate, made up of many and different germs. And from this genus, just as (from) a certain heap, all the species of existent things derive their distinctions.12 And the genus constitutes a competent cause for (the production of) all generated entities. In order, however, that the foregoing statement may be clear, I shall prove (my position) through an example. And by means of this it will be possible for us to retrace our steps over the entire speculation of the Peripatetic (sage).


Chap. IV. – Aristotle’s General Idea.

We affirm the existence of animal absolutely, not some animal. And this animal is neither ox, nor horse, nor man, nor god; nor is it significant of any of these at all, but is animal absolutely. From this animal the species of all particular animals derive their subsistence. And this animality, itself the summum genus,13 constitutes (the originating principle) for all animals produced in those (particular) species, and (yet is) not (itself any one) of the things generated. For man is an animal deriving the principle (of existence) from that animality, and horse is an animal deriving the principle of existence from that animality. The horse, and ox, and dog, and each of the rest of the animals, derive the principle (of existence) from the absolute animal, while animality itself is not any of these.


Chap. V. – Nonentity as a Cause.

If, however, this animality is not any of these (species), the subsistence, according to Aristotle, of the things that are generated, derived its reality from non-existent entities. For animality, from whence these singly have been derived, is not any one (of them); and though it is not any one of them, it has yet become some one originating principle of existing things. But who it is that has established this substance as an originating cause of what is subsequently produced, we shall declare when we arrive at the proper place for entertaining a discussion of this sort.


Chap. VI. – Substance, According to Aristotle; He Predicates.

Since, however, as I have stated, substance is threefold, viz., genus, species, (and) individual; and (since) we have set down animality as being the genus, and man the species, as being already distinct from the majority of animals, but notwithstanding still to be identified (with animals of his own kind), inasmuch as not being yet moulded into a species of realized substance, – (therefore it is, that) when I impart form under a name to a man derived from the genus, I style him Socrates or Diogenes, or some one of the many denominations (in use). And since (in this way, I repeat,) I comprehend under a name the man who constitutes a species that is generated from the genus, I denominate a substance of this description individual. For genus has been divided into species, and species into individual. But (as regards) the individual, since it has been comprehended under a name, it is not possible that, according to its own nature, it could be divided into anything else, as we have divided each of the fore-mentioned (genus and species).14

Aristotle primarily, and especially, and preeminently entitles this – substance, inasmuch as it cannot either be predicated of any Subject, or exist in a Subject. He, however, predicates of the Subject, just as with the genus, what I said constituted animality, (and which is) predicated by means of a common name of all particular animals, such as ox, horse, and the rest that are placed under (this genus). For it is true to say that man is an animal, and horse an animal, and that ox is an animal, and each of the rest. Now the meaning of the expression “predicated of a Subject” is this, that inasmuch as it is one, it can be predicated in like manner of many (particulars), even though these happen to be diversified in species. For neither does horse nor ox differ from man so far forth as he is an animal, for the definition of animal is said to suit all animals alike. For what is an animal? If we define it, a general definition will comprehend all animals. For animal is an animated Substance, endued with Sensation. Such are ox, man, horse, and each of the rest (of the animal kingdom). But the meaning of the expression “in a Subject” is this, that what is inherent in anything, not as a part, it is impossible should exist separately from that in which it is. But this constitutes each of the accidents (resident) in Substance, and is what is termed Quality. Now, according to this, we say that certain persons are of such a quality; for instance, white, grey, black, just, unjust, temperate, and other (characteristics) similar to these. But it is impossible for any one of these to subsist itself by itself; but it must inhere in something else. If, however, neither animal which I predicate of all individual animals, nor accidents which are discoverable in all things of which they are nonessential qualities, can subsist themselves by themselves, and (yet if) individuals are formed out of these, (it follows, therefore, that) the triply divided Substance, which is not made up out of other things, consists of nonentities. If, then, what is primarily, and pre-eminently, and particularly denominated Substance consists of these, it derives existence from nonentities, according to Aristotle.

Chap. VII. – Aristotle’s Cosmogony; His “Psychology;” His “Entelecheia;” His Theology; His Ethics; Basilides Follows Ar


But concerning Substance, the statements now made will suffice. But not only is Substance denominated genus, species, (and) individual, but also matter, and form, and privation. There is, however, (as regards the substance,) in these no difference, even though the division be allowed to stand. Now, inasmuch as Substance is of this description, the arrangement of the world has taken place according to some such plan as the following. The world is divided, according to Aristotle, into very numerous and diversified parts. Now the portion of the world which extends from the earth to the moon is devoid of foresight, guideless, and is under the sway15 of that nature alone which belongs to itself. But another (part of the world which lies) beyond the moon, and extends to the surface of heaven, is arranged in the midst of all order and foresight and governance. Now, the (celestial) superficies constitutes a certain fifth substance, and is remote from all those natural elements out of which the cosmical system derives consistence. And this is a certain fifth Substance, according to Aristotle, – as it were, a certain super-mundane essence. And (this essence) has become (a logical necessity) in his system, in order to accord with the (Peripatetic) division of the world. And (the topic of this fifth nature) constitutes a distinct investigation in philosophy. For there is extant a certain disquisition, styled A Lecture on Physical (Phenomena), in which he has elaborately treated16 concerning the operations which are conducted by nature and not providence, (in the quarter of space extending) from the earth as far as the moon. And there is also extant by him a certain other peculiar treatise on the principles of things (in the region) beyond the moon, and it bears the following inscription: Metaphysics.17 And another peculiar dissertation has been (written) by him, entitled Concerning a Fifth Substance, and in this work Aristotle unfolds his theological opinions.

There exists some such division of the universe as we have now attempted to delineate in outline, and (corresponding with it is the division) of the Aristotelian philosophy. His work, however, (styled) Concerning the Soul, is obscure. For in the entire three books (where he treats of this subject) it is not possible to say clearly what is Aristotle’s opinion concerning the soul. For, as regards the definition which he furnishes of soul, it is easy (enough) to declare this; but what it is that is signified by the definition18 is difficult to discover. For soul, he says, is an entelecheia of a natural organic body; (but to explain) what this is at all, would require a very great number of arguments and a lengthened investigation. As regards, however, the Deity, the Originator of all those glorious objects in creation, (the nature of) this (First Cause) – even to one conducting his speculations by a more prolonged inquiry than that concerning (the soul) – is more difficult to know than the soul itself. The definition, however, which Aristotle furnishes of the Deity is, I admit, not difficult to ascertain, but it is impossible to comprehend the meaning of it. For, he says, (the Deity) is a “conception of conception;” but this is altogether a non-existent (entity). The world, however, is incorruptible (and) eternal, according to Aristotle. For it has in itself nothing faulty,19 inasmuch as it is directed by Providence and Nature. And Aristotle has laid down doctrines not only concerning Nature and a cosmical system, and Providence, and God,20 but he has written (more than this); for there is extant by him likewise a certain treatise on ethical subjects, and these he inscribes Books of Ethics.21 But throughout these he aims at rendering the habits of his hearers excellent from being worthless. When, therefore, Basilides has been discovered, not in spirit alone, but also in the actual expressions and names, transferring the tenets of Aristotle into our evangelical and saving doctrine, what remains, but that, by restoring what he has appropriated from others, we should prove to the disciples of this (heretic) that Christ will in no wise profit them, inasmuch as they are heathenish?


Chap. VIII. – Basilides and Isidorus Allege Apostolic Sanction for Their Systems; They Really Follow Aristotle.

Basilides, therefore, and Isidorus, the true son and disciple of Basilides, say that Matthias22 communicated to them secret discourses, which, I being specially instructed, he heard from the Saviour. Let us, then, see how clearly Basilides, simultaneously with Isidorus, and the entire band of these (heretics), not only absolutely belies Matthias, but even the Saviour Himself. (Time) was, says (Basilides), when there was nothing. Not even, however, did that nothing constitute anything of existent things; but, to express myself undisguisedly and candidly, and without any quibbling, it is altogether nothing. But when, he says, I employ the expression “was,” I do not say that it was; but (I speak in this way) in order to signify the meaning of what I wish to elucidate. I affirm then, he says, that it was “altogether nothing.” For, he says, that is not absolutely ineffable which is named (so), – although undoubtedly we call this ineffable, – but that which is “non-ineffable.” For that which is “non-ineffable” is not denominated ineffable, but is, he says, above every name that is named. For, he says, by no means for the world are these names sufficient, but so manifold are its divisions that there is a deficiency (of names). And I do not take it upon myself to discover, he says, proper denominations for all things. Undoubtedly, however, one ought mentally, not by means of names, to conceive, after an ineffable manner, the peculiarities (of things) denominated. For an equivocal terminology, (when employed by teachers,) has created for their pupils confusion and a source of error concerning objects. (The Basilidians), in the first instance, laying hold on this borrowed and furtively derived tenet from the Peripatetic (sage), play upon the folly of those who herd together with them. For Aristotle, born many generations before Basilides, first lays down a system in The Categories concerning homonymous words. And these heretics bring this (system) to light as if it were peculiarly their own, and as if it were some novel (doctrine), and some secret disclosure from the discourses of Matthias.23


Chap. IX. – Basilides Adopts the Aristotelian Doctrine of “Nonentity.”

Since, therefore, “nothing” existed, – (I mean) not matter, nor substance, nor what is insubstantial, nor is absolute, nor composite,24 (nor conceivable, nor inconceivable, (nor what is sensible,) nor devoid of senses, nor man, nor angel, nor a god, nor, in short, any of those objects that have names, or are apprehended by sense, or that are cognised by intellect, but (are) thus (cognised), even with greater minuteness, still, when all things are absolutely removed, – (since, I say, “nothing” existed,) God, “non-existent,” – whom Aristotle styles “conception of conception,” but these (Basilidians) “non-existent,” – inconceivably, insensibly, indeterminately, involuntarily, impassively, (and) unactuated by desire, willed to create a world. Now I employ, he says, the expression “willed” for the purpose of signifying (that he did so) involuntarily, and inconceivably, and insensibly. And by the expression “world” I do not mean that which was subsequently formed according to breadth and division, and which stood apart; nay, (far from this,) for (I mean) the germ of a world. The germ, however, of the world had all things in itself. Just as the grain of mustard comprises all things simultaneously, holding them (collected) together within the very smallest (compass), viz. roots, stem, branches, leaves, and innumerable gains which are produced from the plant, (as) seeds again of other plants, and frequently of others (still), that are produced (from them). In this way,” non-existent” God made the world out of nonentities, casting and depositing some one Seed that contained in itself a conglomeration of the germs of the world. But in order that I may render more clear what it is those (heretics) affirm, (I shall mention the following illustration of theirs.) As an egg of some variegated and parti-colored bird, – for instance the peacock, or some other (bird) still more manifold and parti-colored, – being one in reality, contains in itself numerous forms of manifold, and parti-colored, and much compounded substances; so, he says, the nonexistent seed of the world, which has been deposited by the non-existent God, constitutes at the same time the germ of a multitude of forms and a multitude of substances.


Chap. X. – Origin of the World; Basilides’ Account of the “Sonship.”

All things, therefore whatsoever it is possible to declare, and whatever, being not as yet discovered, one must omit, were likely to receive adaptation to the world which was about to be generated from the Seed. And this (Seed), at the requisite seasons, increases in bulk in a peculiar manner, according to accession, as through the instrumentality of a Deity so great, and of this description. (But this Deity) the creature can neither express nor grasp by perception. (Now, all these things) were inherent, treasured in the Seed, as we afterwards observe in a new-born child the growth of teeth, and paternal substance, and intellect, and everything which, though previously having no existence, accrues unto a man, growing little by little, from a youthful period of life. But since it would be absurd to say that any projection of a non-existent God became anything non-existent (for Basilides altogether sirens and dreads the Substances of things generated in the way of projection for, (he asks,) of what sort of projection is there a necessity, or of what sort of matter25 must we assume the previous existence, in order that God should construct a world, as the spider his web; or (as) a mortal man, for the purpose of working it, takes a (piece of) brass or of wood, or some other of the parts of matter?), – (projection, I say, being out of the question,) certainly, says (Basilides), God spoke the word, and it was carried into effect. And this, as these men assert, is that which has been stated by Moses: “Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen_1:3) Whence he says, came the light? From nothing. For it has not been written, he says, whence, but this only, (that it came) from the voice of him who speaks the word. And he who speaks the word, he says, was non-existent; nor was that existent which was being produced.26 The seed of the cosmical system was generated, he says, from nonentities; (and I mean by the seed,) the word which was spoken, “Let there be light.” And this, he says, is that which has been stated in the Gospels: “He was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (Joh_1:9)27 He derives his originating principles from that Seed, and obtains from the same source his illuminating power. This is that seed which has in itself the entire conglomeration of germs. And Aristotle affirms this to be genius, and it is distributed by him into infinite species; just as from animal, which is non-existent, we sever ox, horse, (and) man. When, therefore, the cosmical Seed becomes the basis (for a subsequent development), those (heretics) assert, (to quote Basilides’ own words:) “Whatsoever I affirm,” he says, “to have been made after these, ask no question as to whence. For (the Seed) had all seeds treasured and reposing in itself, just as non-existent entities, and which were designed to be produced by a non-existent Deity.”

Let us see, therefore, what they say is first, or what second, or what third, (in the development of) what is generated from the cosmical Seed. There existed, he says, in the Seed itself, a Sonship, threefold, in every respect of the same Substance with the non-existent God, (and) begotten from nonentities, Of this Sonship (thus) involving a threefold division, one part was refined, (another gross,) and another requiring purification. The refined portion, therefore, in the first place, simultaneously with the earliest deposition of the Seed by the non-existent one, immediately burst forth28 and went upwards and hurried above from below, employing a sort of velocity described in poetry, – 

“… As wing or thought,”29 – 

and attained, he says, unto him that is nonexistent. For every nature desires that (nonexistent one), on account of a superabundance of beauty and bloom. Each (nature desires this), however, after a different mode. The more gross portion, however, (of the Sonship) continuing still in the Seed, (and) being a certain imitative (principle), was not able to hurry upwards. For (this portion) was much more deficient in the refinement that the Sonship possessed, which through itself hurried upwards, (and so the more gross portion) was left behind. Therefore the more gross Sonship equipped itself with some such wing as Plato, the Preceptor of Aristotle, fastens on the soul in (his) Phoedrus.30 And Basilides styles such, not a wing, but Holy Spirit; and Sonship invested in this (Spirit) confers benefits, and receives them in turn. He confers benefits, because, as a wing of a bird, when removed from the bird, would not of itself soar high up and aloft; nor, again, would a bird, when disengaged from its pinion, at any time soar high up and aloft; (so, in like manner,) the Sonship involved some such relation in reference to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit in reference to the Sonship. For the Sonship, carried upwards by the Spirit as by a wing, bears aloft (in turn) its pinion, that is, the Spirit. And it approaches the refined Sonship, and the non-existent God,31 even Him who fabricated the world out of nonentities. He was not, (however,) able to have this (spirit) with (the Sonship) itself; for it was not of the same substance (with God), nor has it (any) nature (in common) with the Sonship. But as pure and dry air is contrary to (their) nature, and destructive to fishes; so, in contrariety to the nature of the Holy Spirit, was that place simultaneously of non-existent Deity and Sonship, – (a place) more ineffable than ineffable (entities), and higher up than all names.

Sonship, therefore, left this (spirit) near that Blessed Place, which cannot be conceived or represented by any expression. (He left the spirit) not altogether deserted or separated from the Sonship; nay, (far from it,) for it is just as when a most fragrant ointment is put into a vessel, that, even though (the vessel) be emptied (of it) with ever so much care, nevertheless some odour of the ointment still remains, and is left behind, even after (the ointment) is separated from the vessel; and the vessel retains an odour of ointment, though (it contain) not the ointment (itself). So the Holy Spirit has continued without any share in the Sonship, and separated (from it), and has in itself, similarly with ointment, its own power, a savour of Sonship. And this is what has been declared: “As the ointment upon the head which descended to the beard of Aaron.” (Psa_133:2) This is the savour from the Holy Spirit borne down from above, as far as formlessness, and the interval (of space) in the vicinity of our world. And from this the Son began to ascend, sustained as it were, says (Basilides), upon eagles’ wings, and upon the back. For, he says, all (entities) hasten upwards from below, from things inferior to those that are superior. For not one of those things that are among things superior, is so silly as to descend beneath. The third Sonship, however, that which requires purification, has continued, he says, in the vast conglomeration of all germs conferring benefits and receiving them. But in what manner it is that (the third Sonship) receives benefits and confers them, we shall afterwards declare when we come to the proper place for discussing this question.


Chap. XI. – The “Great Archon” of Basilides.

When, therefore, a first and second ascension of the Sonship took place, and the Holy Spirit itself also remained after the mode mentioned, the firmament was placed between the super-mundane (spaces) and the world. For existing things were distributed by Basilides into two continuous and primary divisions, and are, according to him, denominated partly in a certain (respect) world, and partly in a certain (respect) super-mundane (spaces). But the spirit, a line of demarcation between the world and super-mundane (spaces), is that which is both holy, and has abiding in itself the savour of Sonship. While, therefore, the firmament which is above the heaven is coming into existence, there burst forth, and was begotten from the cosmical Seed, and the conglomeration of all germs, the Great Archon (and) Head of the world, (who constitutes) a certain (species of) beauty, and magnitude, and indissoluble power.32 For, says he, he is more ineffable than ineffable entities, and more potent than potent ones, and more wise than wise ones, and superior to all the beautiful ones whatever you could mention. This (Archon), when begotten, raised Himself up and soared aloft, and was carried up entire as far as the firmament. And there He paused, supposing the firmament to be the termination of His ascension and elevation, and considering that there existed nothing at all beyond these. And than all the subjacent (entities) whatsoever there were among them which remained mundane, He became more wise, more powerful, more comely, more lustrous, (in fact,) pre-eminent for beauty above any entities you could mention with the exception of the Sonship alone, which is still left in the (conglomeration of) all germs. For he was not aware that there is (a Sonship) wiser and more powerful, and better than Himself. Therefore imagining Himself to be Lord, and Governor, and a wise Master Builder, He turns Himself to (the work of) the creation of every object in the cosmical system. And first, he deemed it proper not to be alone, but made unto Himself, and generated from adjacent (entities), a Son far superior to Himself, and wiser. For all these things had the non-existent Deity previously determined upon, when He cast down the (conglomeration of) all germs. Beholding, therefore, the Son, He was seized with astonishment, and loved (Him), and was struck with amazement. For some beauty of this description appeared33 to the Great Archon to belong to the Son, and the Archon caused Him to sit on his right (hand). This is, according to these (heretics), what is denominated the Ogdoad, where the Great Archon has his throne. The entire celestial creation, then, that is, the Aether, He Himself, the Great Wise Demiurge formed. The Son, however, begotten of this (Archon), operates in Him, and offered Him suggestions, being endued with far greater wisdom than the Demiurge Himself.


Chap. XII. – Basilides Adopts the “Entelecheia” of Aristotle.

This, then, constitutes the entelecheia of the natural organic body, according to Aristotle, (viz.,) a soul operating in the body, without which the body is able to accomplish nothing; (I mean nothing) that is greater, and more illustrious, and more powerful, and more wise than the body.34 The account, therefore, which Aristotle has previously rendered concerning the soul and the body, Basilides elucidates as applied to the Great Archon and his Son. For the Archon has generated, according to Basilides, a son; and the soul as an operation and completion, Aristotle asserts to be an entelecheia of a natural organic hotly. As, therefore, the entelecheia controls the body, so the Son, according to Basilides, controls the God that is more ineffable than ineffable (entities). All things, therefore, have been provided for, and managed by the majesty35 of the Great Archon; (I mean) whatever objects exist in the ethereal region of space as far as the moon, for from that quarter onwards air is separated from aether. When all objects in the ethereal regions, then, were arranged, again from (the conglomeration of) all germs another Archon ascended, greater, of course, than all subjacent (entities) with the exception, however, of the Sonship that had been left behind, but far inferior to the First Archon. And this (second Archon) is called by them Rhetus.36 And this Topos is styled Hebdomad, and this (Archon) is the manager and fabricator of all subjacent (entities). And He has likewise made unto Himself out (of the conglomeration of) all germs, a son who is more prudent and wise than Himself, similarly to what has been stated to have taken place in the case of the First Archon. That which exists in this quarter (of the universe) constitutes, he says, the actual conglomeration and collection of all seeds; and the things which are generated are produced according to nature, as has been declared already by Him who calculates on things future, when they ought37 (to be), and what sort they ought (to be), and how they ought (to be). And of these no one is Chief, or Guardian, or Creator. For (a) sufficient (cause of existence) for them is that calculation which the Non-Existent One formed when He exercised the function of creation.


Chap. XIII. – Further Explanation of the “Sonship.”

When, therefore, according to these (heretics), the entire world and super-mundane entities were finished, and (when) nothing exists labouring under deficiency, there still remains in the (conglomeration of) all germs the third Sonship, which had been left behind in the Seed to confer benefits and receive them. And it must needs be that the Sonship which had been left behind ought likewise to be revealed and reinstated above. And His place should be above the Conterminous Spirit, near the refined and imitative Sonship and the Non-Existent One. But this would be in accordance with what has been written, he says: “And the creation itself groaneth together, and travaileth in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Rom_8:19, Rom_8:22) Now, we who are spiritual are sons, he says, who have been left here to arrange, and mould, and rectify, and complete the souls which, according to nature, are so constituted as to continue in this quarter of the universe. “Sin, then, reigned from Adam unto Moses,” (Rom_5:14) as it has been written. For the Great Archon exercised dominion and possesses an empire with limits extending as far as the firmament. And He imagines Himself alone to be God, and that there exists nothing above Him, for (the reason that) all things have been guarded by unrevealed Siope. This, he says, is the mystery which has not been made known to former generations; but in those days the Great Archon, the Ogdoad, was King and Lord, as it seemed, of the universe. But (in reality) the Hebdomad was king and lord of this quarter of the universe, and the Ogdoad is Arrhetus, whereas the Hebdomad is Rhetus. This, he says, is the Archon of the Hebdomad, who has spoken to Moses, and says: “I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and I have not manifested unto them the name of God” (Exo_6:2, Exo_6:3) (for so they wish that it had been written) – that is, the God, Arrhetus, Archon of the Ogdoad. All the prophets, therefore, who were before the Saviour uttered their predictions, he says, from this source (of inspiration). Since, therefore, it was requisite, he says, that we should be revealed as the children of God, in expectation of whose manifestation, he says, the creation habitually groans and travails in pain, the Gospel came into the world, and passed through every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and every Name that is named. (Eph_1:21) And (the Gospel) came in reality, though nothing descended from above; nor did the blessed Sonship retire from that Inconceivable, and Blessed, (and) Non-Existent God. Nay, (far from it;) for as Indian naphtha, when lighted merely38 from a considerably long distance, nevertheless attracts fire (towards it), so from below, from the formlessness of the conglomeration (of all germs), the powers pass upwards as far as the Sonship. For, according to the illustration of the Indian naphtha, the Son of the Great Archon of the Ogdoad, as if he were some (sort of) naphtha, apprehends and seizes conceptions from the Blessed Sonship, whose place of habitation is situated after that of the Conterminous (Spirit). For the power of the Sonship which is in the midst of the Holy Spirit, (that is,) in, the midst of the (Conterminous) Spirit, shares the flowing and rushing thoughts of the Sonship with the Son of the Great Archon.


Chap. XIV. – Whence Came the Gospel; the Number of Heavens According to Basilides; Explanation of Christ’s Miraculous Conception.

The Gospel then came, says (Basilides), first from the Sonship through the Son, that was seated beside the Archon, to the Archon, and the Archon learned that He was not God of the universe, but was begotten. But (ascertaining that) He has above Himself the deposited treasure of that Ineffable and Unnameable (and) Non-existent One, and of the Sonship, He was both converted and filled with terror, when He was brought to understand in what ignorance He was (involved). This, he says, is what has been declared: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pro_1:7) For, being orally instructed by Christ, who was seated near, he began to acquire wisdom, (inasmuch as he thereby) learns who is the Non-Existent One, what the Sonship (is), what the Holy Spirit (is), what the apparatus of the universe (is), and what is likely to be the consummation of things. This is the wisdom spoken in a mystery, concerning which, says (Basilides), Scripture uses the following expressions: “Not in words taught of human wisdom, but in (those) taught of the Spirit.” (1Co_2:13) The Archon, then, being orally instructed, and taught, and being (thereby) filled with fear, proceeded to make confession concerning the sin which He had committed in magnifying Himself. This, he says, is what is declared: “I have recognised my sin, and I know my transgression, (and) about this I shall confess for ever.” (Psa_32:5, Psa_51:3) When, then, the Great Archon had been orally instructed, and every creature of the Ogdoad had been orally instructed and taught, and (after) the mystery became known to the celestial (powers), it was also necessary that afterwards the Gospel should come to the Hebdomad, in order likewise that the Archon of the Hebdomad might be similarly instructed and indoctrinated into the Gospel. The Son of the Great Archon (therefore) kindled in the Son of the Archon of the Hebdomad the light which Himself possessed and had kindled from above from the Sonship. And the Son of the Archon of the Hebdomad had radiance imparted to Him, and He proclaimed the Gospel to the Archon of the Hebdomad. And in like manner, according to the previous account, He Himself was both terrified and induced to make confession. When, therefore, all (beings) in the Hebdomad had been likewise enlightened, and had the Gospel announced to them (for in these regions of the universe there exist, according to these heretics, creatures infinite (in number), viz., Principalities and Powers and Rulers, in regard of which there is extant among the (Basilidians)39 a very prolix and verbose treatise, where they allege that there are three hundred and sixty-five heavens, and that the great Archon of these is Abrasax,40 from the fact that his name comprises the computed number 365, so that, of course, the calculation of the title includes all (existing) things, and that for these reasons the year consists of so many days); – but when, he says, these (two events, viz., the illumination of the Hebdomad and the manifestation of the Gospel) had thus taken place, it was necessary, likewise, that afterwards the Formlessness existent in our quarter of creation should have radiance imparted to it, and that the mystery should be revealed to the Sonship, which had been left behind in Formlessness, just like an abortion.

Now this (mystery) was not made known to previous generations, as he says, it has been written, “By revelation was made known unto me the mystery;” (Eph_3:3-5) and, “I have heard inexpressible words which it is not possible for man to declare.” (2Co_12:4) The light, (therefore,) which came down from the Ogdoad above to the Son of the Hebdomad, descended from the Hebdomad upon Jesus the son of Mary, and he had radiance imparted to him by being illuminated with the light that shone upon him. This, he says, is that which has been declared: “The Holy Spirit will come upon thee,” (Luk_1:35) (meaning) that which proceeded from the Sonship through the conterminous spirit upon the Ogdoad and Hebdomad, as far as Mary; “and the power of the Highest will overshadow thee,” (meaning) the power of the anointing,41 (which streamed) from the (celestial) height above (through) the Demiurge, as far as the creation, which is (as far as) the Son. And as far as that (Son) he says the world consisted thus. And as far as this, the entire Sonship, which is left behind for benefiting the souls in Formlessness, and for being the recipient in turn of benefits, – (this Sonship, I say,) when it is transformed, followed Jesus, and hastened upwards, and came forth purified. And it becomes most refined, so that it could, as the first (Sonship), hasten upwards through its own instrumentality. For it possesses all the power that, according to nature, is firmly connected with the light which from above shone down (upon earth).


Chap. XV. – God’s Dealings with the Creature; Basilides’ Notion of (1) the Inner Man, (2) the Gospel; His Interpretation of the Life and Sufferings of Our Lord.

When, therefore, he says, the entire Sonship shall have come, and shall be above the conterminous spirit, then the creature will become the object of mercy. For (the creature) groans until now, (Rom_8:19-22) and is tormented, and waits for the manifestation of the sons of God, in order that all who are men of the Sonship may ascend from thence. When this takes place, God, he says, will bring upon the whole world enormous ignorance, that all things may continue according to nature, and that nothing may inordinately desire anything of the things that are contrary to nature. But (far from it); for all the souls of this quarter of creation, as many as possess the nature of remaining immortal in this (region) only, continue (in it), aware of nothing superior or better (than their present state). And there will not prevail any rumour or knowledge in regions below, concerning beings whose dwelling is placed above, lest subjacent souls should be wrung with torture from longing after impossibilities. (It would be) just as if a fish were to crave to feed on the mountains along with sheep. (For) a wish of this description would, he says, be their destruction. All things, therefore, that abide in (this) quarter42 are incorruptible, but corruptible if they are disposed to wander and cross over from the things that are according to nature. In this way the Archon of the Hebdomad will know nothing of superjacent entities. For enormous ignorance will lay hold on this one likewise, in order that sorrow, and grief, and groaning may depart from him; for he will not desire aught of impossible things, nor will he be visited with anguish. In like manner, however, the same ignorance will lay hold also on the Great Archon of the Ogdoad, and similarly on all the creatures that are subject unto him, in order that in no respect anything may desire aught of those things that are contrary to nature, and may not (thus) be overwhelmed with sorrow. And so there will be the restitution of all things which, in conformity with nature, have from the beginning a foundation in the seed of the universe, but will be restored at (their own) proper periods. And that each thing, says (Basilides), has its own particular times, the Saviour is a sufficient (witness43) when He observes, “Mine hour is not yet come.” (Joh_2:4) And the Magi (afford similar testimony) when they gaze wistfully upon the (Saviour’s) star. (Mat_2:1-2) For (Jesus) Himself was, he says, mentally preconceived at the time of the generation of the stars, and of the complete return to their starting-point of the seasons in the vast conglomeration (of all germs). This is, according to these (Basilidians), he who has been conceived as the inner spiritual man in what is natural (now this is the Sonship which left there the soul, not (that it might be) mortal, but that it might abide here according to nature, just as the first Sonship left above in its proper locality the Holy Spirit, (that is, the spirit) which is conterminous), – (this, I say, is he who has been conceived as the inner spiritual man, and) has then been arrayed in his own peculiar soul.

In order, however, that we may not omit any of the doctrines of this (Basilides), I shall likewise explain whatever statements they put forward respecting a gospel. For gospel with them, as has been elucidated, is of super-mundane entities the knowledge which the Great Archon did not understand. As, then, it was manifested unto him that there are likewise the Holy Spirit – that is, the conterminous (spirit) – and the Sonship, and the Non-Existent God, the cause of all these, he rejoiced at the communications made to him, and was filled with exultation. According to them, this constitutes the gospel. Jesus, however, was born, according to these (heretics), as we have already declared. And when the generation which has been previously explained took place, all the events in our Lord’s life occurred, according to them, in the same manner as they have been described in the Gospels. And these things happened, he says, in order that Jesus might become the first-fruits of a distinction of the different orders (of created objects) that had been confused together.44 For when the world had been divided into an Ogdoad, which is the head of the entire world, – now the great Archon is head of the entire world, – and into a Hebdomad, – which is the head of the Hebdomad, the Demiurge of subjacent entities, – and into this order of creatures (that prevails) amongst us, where exists Formlessness, it was requisite that the various orders of created objects that had been confounded together should be distinguished by a separating process performed by Jesus. (Now this separation) that which was his corporeal part suffered, and this was (the part) of Formlessness and reverted into Formlessness. And that was resuscitated which was his psychical part, and this was (part) of the Hebdomad, and reverted into the Hebdomad. And he revived that (element in his nature) which was the peculiar property of the elevated region where dwells the Great Archon, and (that element) remained beside the Great Archon. And he carried upwards as far as (that which is) above that which was (the peculiar property) of the conterminous spirit, and he remained in the conterminous spirit. And through him there was purified the third Sonship, which had been left for conferring benefits, and receiving them. And (through Jesus) it ascended towards the blessed Sonship, and passed through all these. For the entire purpose of these was the blending together of, as it were, the conglomeration of all germs, and the distinction of the various orders of created objects, and the restoration into their proper component parts of things that had been blended together. Jesus, therefore, became the first-fruits of the distinction of the various orders of created objects, and his Passion took place for not any other reason than the distinction which was thereby brought about in the various orders of created objects that had been confounded together. For in this manner (Basilides) says that the entire Sonship, which had been left in Formlessness for the purpose of conferring benefits and receiving them, was divided into its component elements, according to the manner in which also the distinction of natures had taken place in Jesus. These, then, are the legends which likewise Basilides details after his sojourn in Egypt;45 and being instructed by the (sages of this country) in so great a system of wisdom, (the heretic) produced fruits of this description.


Chap. XVI. – The System of Saturnilus.

But one Saturnilus,46 who flourished about the same period with Basilides,47 but spent his time in Antioch, (a city) of Syria, propounded opinions akin to whatever (tenets) Menander (advanced). He asserts that there is one Father, unknown to all – He who had made angels, archangels, principalities, (and) powers; and that by certain angels, seven (in number), the world was made, and all things that are in it. And (Saturnilus affirms) that man was a work of angels. There had appeared above from (the Being of) absolute sway, a brilliant48 image; and when (the angels) were not able to detain this, on account of its immediately, he says, returning with rapidity upwards, they exhorted one another, saying, “Let us make man in our likeness and image.” (Gen_1:26) And when the figure was formed, and was not, he says, able, owing to the impotence of the angels, to lift up itself, but continued writhing as a worm, the Power above, compassionating him on account of his having been born in its own image, sent forth a scintillation of life, which raised man up, and caused him to have vitality. (Saturnilus) asserts that this scintillation of life rapidly returns after death to those things that are of the same order of existence; and that the rest, from which they have been generated, are resolved into those. And the Saviour49 he supposed to be unbegotten and incorporeal, and devoid of figure. (Saturnilus,) however, (maintained that Jesus) was manifested as man in appearance only. And he says that the God of the Jews is one of the angels, and, on account of the Father’s wishing to deprive of sovereignty all the Archons, that Christ came for the overthrow of the God of the Jews, and for the salvation of those that believe upon Him; and that these have in them the scintillation of life. For he asserted that two kinds of men had been formed by the angels, – one wicked, but the other good. And, since demons from time to time assisted wicked (men, Saturnilus affirms) that the Saviour came for the overthrow of worthless men and demons, but for the salvation of good men. And he affirms that marriage and procreation are from Satan. The majority, however, of those who belong to this (heretic’s school) abstain from animal food likewise, (and) by this affectation of asceticism (make many their dupes). And (they maintain) that the prophecies have been uttered, partly by the world-making angels, and partly by Satan, who is also the very angel whom they suppose to act in antagonism to the cosmical50 (angels), and especially to the God of the Jews. These, then, are in truth the tenets of Saturnilus.





1 [Here our author’s theory concerning the origin of heresy is heathen philosophy to be elaborated.]

2 Satronilus (Miller).

3 Or, “in no respect formed his system from the Scriptures, but the tenets propounded by the Egyptians.”

4 Cruice would prefer, “from the Gnostics,” on account of Cerinthus being coupled with the Gnostics and Ebionaeans by Hippolytus, when he afterwards indicates the source from which Theodotus derived his heretical notions of Christ.

5 Miller has “Sacerdon.”

6 The word μόνος occurs in Miller’s text, but ought obviously to be expunged. It has probably, as Cruice conjectures, crept into the ms. from the termination of γενόμενος. Duncker suggests ὁμοίως.

7 This rendering would ascribe Pantheism to Appelles. The passage might also be construed, “supposed there to exist an essence (that formed the basis) of the universe.”

8 A hiatus here has given rise to conjecture. Cruice suggests χορός (band) instead of ὄρος.

9 Or, “practices of the monsters,” or “inhospitable beasts.” Abbe Cruice suggests παροξέων, and Roeper ἐμπλάστων.

10 Literally, the (accursed) tree.

11 What Hippolytus now states in regard to the opinions of Basilides, is quite new (compare Irenaeus, i. 24; Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom., iii. and vii.; Tertullian, Praescript., xlvi.; Epiphanius, Haer., xxiv.; Theodoret, i. 4; Eusebius, Ecclesiast. Hist., iv. 7; and Philastrius, c. xxxii.). Abbe Cruice refers us to basilidis philosophi Gnostici Sententiae, by Jacobi (Berlin, 1852), and to Das Basilidianische System, etc., by Ulhorn (Gottingen, 1855).

12 Or, “dispositions.”

13 Compare Porphyry’s Isagoge, c. ii. and Aristotle’s Categ., c. v.

14 Aristotle’s Categ., c. v.

15 Or, “is sufficient.”

16 Or, “the question is discussed.”

17 [This word, not yet technical, as with us, is thus noted as curious. Of its force see Professor Caird, Encyc. Britannic., sub voce “Metaphysic.”]

18 See Aristotle, De Anim., ii. 1.

19 Literally, “out of tune.”

20 These works must be among Aristotle’s lost writings (see Fabricus’ Bibl. Graec., t. iii. pp. 232, 404). We have no work of Aristotle’s expressly treating “of God.” However, the Stagyrite’s theology, such as it is, is unfolded in his Metaphysics. See Macmahon’s analysis prefixed to his translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Bohn’s Classical Library.

21 Aristotle composed three treatises on ethical subjects: (1) Ethics to Nicomachus; (2) Great Morals; (3) Morals to Eudemus.

22 Miller erroneously reads “Matthew.”

23 [See Bunsen, i. v. 86. A fabulous reference may convey a truth. This implies that Matthias was supposed to have preached and left results of his teachings.]

24 This emendation is made by Abbe Cruice. The ms. has “incomposite,” an obviously untenable reading.

25 Or, “of what sort of material substance,” etc.

26 Or, “being declared.”

27 [See translator’s important ( note (11), p. 7, supra.]

28 Literally, “throbbed.”

29 Odyssey, vii. 36.

30 See Plato, vol. i. p. 75 et seq., ed. Bekker. Miller has “Phoedo;” an obvious mistake.

31 [Foretaste of Cent. IV.] Miller’s text has, instead of τοῦ οὐκ ὄντος (non-existent), οικοῦντος (who dwells above).

32 Or, “unspeakable power.”

33 Or, “was produced unto.”

34 Miller’s text has “the soul,” which Duncker and Cruice properly correct into “body.”

35 Μεγαλειότητος, a correction from μεγάλης.

36 A correction from “Arrhetus.”

37 This passage is very obscure, and is variously rendered by the commentators.

38 Or, “seen merely.”

39 κατ ̓ αὐτοὺς. Ulhorn fills up the ellipsis thus: “And in reference to these localities of the Arehons,” etc.

40 This is a more correct form than that occasionally given, viz., Abraxas. See Beausobre, Hist. Manich., lib. ii. p. 51.

41 Miller’s text has “judgment,” which yields no meaning. Roeper suggests “Ogdoad.”

42 Or, “their own peculiar locality” (Bunsen).

43 This word is added by Bunsen.

44 See Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom., ii. p. 375, ed. Sylburg. [Comp, cap. viii. vol. 2. p. 355, this series.]

45 Bernays and Bunsen read τὸν Περίπατον, which Abbe Cruice and Duncker consider erroneous, referring us to Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiast., iv. 7.

46 See [where it is Saturninus] Irenaeus, i. 24; Tertullian, Praescript., xlvi.; Epiphanius, Haer., xxiii.; Theodoret, Haer. Fab., i. 3; St. Augustine, Haer., iii. Eusebius styles this heretic Saturninus.

47 Epiphanius makes Basilides and Saturnilus belong to the same school.

48 φαεινῆς; Miller reads φωνῆς.

49 Miller reads “the Father.”

50 Or, “world-making.”