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studied the doctrines of Plato, he entered into the questions which were then so commonly agitated, concerning the eternity of Matter, and the origin of Evil 4. Hence we find him embracing the opinion, that the world was created by Angels who were themselves produced from God. This, as we have seen, was a corrupted Platonism *. Plato imagined, that the Ideas which were in the mind of the Deity created intellectual beings: Simon taught that the supreme God by an operation of his own mind produced the Angels. The first Intelligences of Plato were employed by God to create the world : Simon also taught that the Angels, or Æons, created the world : but in one respect, as I have observed before, the Gnostics had totally changed the philosophy of Plato; for they taught that the Angel, or Angels, who created the world, acted contrary to the wishes of the supreme God y. We will now see whether the New Testament contains any allusions to this leading tenet of the Gnostics, that the world was not created by God, but by Angels or Æons.
• The Recognitions speak of ion of the later Gnostics, though Simon as “ particularly well Simon himself appears to have “ versed in Greek literature.” departed less abruptly from the (II. 7.) That he wrote books, doctrine of Plato. The author is said by Jerom, (in Matt. of the Recognitions makes him XXIV. 5. vol. VII. p. 193.) the say, “ Ipse (bonus Deus) misit Apostolical Constitutions, (VI. “ creatorem Deum, ut conderet 16.) and Dionysius Areop. de “ mundum: sed ille, mundo Divin. Nom. VI. 2. p. 736.) “ condito, semetipsum proHe is also stated to have been “ nunciavit Deum.” II. 57. a distinguished orator and dia Yet Epiphanius represents him lectician, (Recogn. II. 5.) as teaching that the world was
* According to Hyde, the Per not of God; (p. 52.) that he sians also taught, that God or himself created the Angels, who dered the good Angels to create created the world, (p. 56.) Thethe heavens, and the Devil odoret says the same, p. 192. caused darkness, c. 22. p. 293. See Brucker, vol. II. p. 677.
y This was certainly the opin- Mosheim, Instit. p. 414.
The term Æon, is one to which it is very difficult to attach a definite or uniform meaning". It seems however almost demonstrable, that in its primary sense the Greek term was applied to an indefinite period, and that period was relatively a long one a. When philosophers had agreed that the world had a beginning, but that God was without beginning, a word was wanted to express the duration of God's existence. The indefinite term aiày naturally presented itself: and hence we find Aristotle deducing from it, even etymologically, the notion of Eternity”; and Plato expressly opposed it to Xpóvos, or Time. Time began when the Intelligences, which were produced by God, created the world : but God himself, and these Intelligences, had existed before Time. The duration of their existence was therefore measured by Æons. It is obvious however, that the term was applied with different notions to God and to these Intelligences. When applied to God, it properly signified eternity, or unoriginated immensity of duration. But the Intelligences which He formed, had a begin
7 Theodoret says of the Gnos- 153. Suicer v. aióv. Mangey's tics, “ They are not aware that note to Philo Judæus, vol. I. “ Æon is not something which p. 619. Tittman. de Vestigüs “ has a substantial existence, Gnosticismi in N. T. frustra “ but a certain space indicative quæsitis, p. 210. “ of time; of infinite time, Β Και γάρ τούτο τούνομα θείως « when it is applied to God, έφθεγκται παρά των αρχαίων ... “ sometimes of a period com- έστιν από του αεί είναι ειληφώς την “ mensurate with creation, éwvvulav. De Cælo, I. 9. p. 97. “ sometimes with human life.” ed. 1605. Hær. Fab. V. 6. p. 264.
« Εικό δ' επινοεί κινητόν τινα a Aristotle says that aiùy was αιώνος ποιήσαι, και διακοσμών αμα used for the measure of the ουρανόν ποιεί μένοντος αιώνος εν period of human life, de Colo, ενώ κατ' αριθμόν ιούσαν αιώνιον Ι. 9. For the different meanings εικόνα, τούτον ον δή χρόνον ωνοof the term, see Damascen. pákajev. Timæus, p. 37. xpóvos de Orthod. Fid. II. 1. vol. I. p. oủv pet' ovpayoû yeyovev. ib. 38.
ning, though not in Time: and the same term, when applied to their existence, signified a long, but not an eternal duration. We have only to carry on this idea, and we may easily comprehend the Æons of the Gnostics. Philosophers had already personified the Platonic Ideas, and converted them into intellectual beings: the next step was to call them by the name which properly signified the duration of their existence*9. The Æons therefore of the Gnostics were incorporeal beings, who had a beginning, but whose existence commenced before time, or the creation of the world. This however was an esoteric and peculiar sense of the term : in common language it still continued to signify a certain portion of time: and Philo Judæus, though when speaking philosophically he opposes it to time, yet in several places uses it for any period which is relatively long, and even for a portion of human life. The Greek translators of the Bible also used it in both these senses. When applied to God, it generally means eternity; but it frequently signifies merely a long period of time.
The writers of the New Testament evidently used it in this sense: and they often qualify the expression, so as to mark the present state of human existenced. But when we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that God hath spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the worlds, tows alõvas, (i. 2.) we have perhaps here an evident allusion to the Gnostic doctrines : and the apostle may have intended to say, that Christ was not one of the later Æons, as the Gnostics vainly taught, but it was he by whom the Æons themselves were made € Nor
Matt. xii. 32. xii. 22. Luke e Theodoret charges the xvi. 8. 2 Tim. iv. 1o. &c. &c. Gnostics with saying that there
would the apostle by this use of the term countenance the Gnostic doctrine of Æons: he would merely mean to say, that before those periods of time which the Gnostics had personified, or before those angelic beings, out of which the Gnostics had made their imaginary Æons, Christ the Son of God existed; and it was he who made those very beings, which were said by the Gnostics to have made the world. I do not mean to say, that the term airas ought not in this place to be translated the worlds : it probably had obtained that meaning before the time of the Apostle: (see Psalm lv. 19. and Heb. xi. 3.) but I conceive that the Jewish Christians, to whom he was writing, would well know the Gnostic use of the term, and it would convey to their ears the doctrine which was intended by the apostle, that Christ the Son of God was before all timef. It was probably for the same reason, that the act of creation is so often attributed to Christ: and when St. John said, All things were made by him, and with. out him was not any thing made, (i. 3.) he certainly meant to include intellectual beings, such as the Gnostics called Æons, as well as the visible world, which he afterwards calls kóomos. In many other places all things are said to have been made by Christ &; but nowhere is the Gnostic doctrine of Æons and of the creation more fully refuted than in the Epistle to the Colossians: By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in
were many Æons older than N. T. I. p. 710. the Creator. Hær. Fab. V. 6. i Valentinus said that St. p. 264. Fabricius says, that Paul spoke of the Æons. Iren. it would not be absurd to
I. 3, 1. p. 14. “ understand angels in this g See 1 Cor. viii. 6. “place by alôves.” Cod. Apoc.
earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (i. 16, 17.) St. Paul appears to exhaust his vocabulary, and to dive into the arcana of Gnosticism, that he may prove Christ to have existed before all time; not only before the world, though that was made by him; but before every being which the most profound abstraction, or the most inventive fancy, had clothed with an imaginary existence. By these and similar expressions the system of the Gnostics was totally subverted: they held that God and the Creator were two different persons so: but the apostles say in one place that God created the world, in another that Christ created it; in another that God created it by Christ and for Christ: nor is this all : not only was the material world created by Christ, but all angelic beings (one of whom was said by the Gnostics to be the Creator, and another to be Christ) are declared by the apostles to be themselves created by Christ.
If these declarations were so repeatedly made by the apostles for the purpose of refuting the Gnostic doctrines, it is probable that those commentators may be right, who have supposed St. Paul to have had the same object in view, when he said to Titus, But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (iii. 9, 10.) It has been supposed, that the genealogies here mentioned might