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relate to those numerous generations of Æons, which the Gnostic philosophy interposed between the supreme God and the Demiurgus : and, if so, we might feel still less doubt concerning another passage, where these genealogies are called endless. St. Paul says to Timothy, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith—from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain ! jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. (1 Tim. i. 4-7.) In both passages, beside these genealogies, mention is made of contentions about the law: from whence some have inferred, that the Jewish genealogies, rather than the Gnostic Æons, were the subject of the apostle's vituperation. We know, that the Jews were particular in preserving their genealogies : but it is difficult to see what mischief could arise from this cause to St. Paul's Christian converts at Ephesus. Beside which he says, that these teachers of the law understood neither what they said, nor whereof they affirmed; which could hardly be the case with any Jews, if they were so attached to their religion, as to be careful : in keeping their genealogies. Neither would St. i Paul be likely to speak of these genealogies as foolish questions, when it is plain from two of the gospels, that the Jewish genealogy of Jesus Christ and his descent from Abraham were considered important pointsh. On the other hand, we know that the Jewish Cabbala was filled with fables about
h The descent of Christ from preaching. 2 Tim. ii. 8. Acts David, and therefore from A. xii. 23. Rom. i. 3. ix. 5. Heb. braham, appears to have been vii. 13, 14. an important point in St. Paul's
successive emanations from God: and these fables, together with the corrupted philosophy of Plato, contributed to the growth of Gnosticism. The Gnostics therefore, according as the case required, would endeavour to support their doctrines by appealing to Plato or to the Jewish scriptures : they would try to pervert both to suit their purpose ; and these may have been the persons, who St. Paul speaks of as desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. The Epistle to Timothy contains some other passages, which allude very plainly to the Gnostic doctrines; and I should therefore conclude, that what is here said of endless genealogies may very probably relate to their successive generations of Æons 51.
I am only aware of one other place in the New Testament where the word Æon can be thought to be personified, and used for one of the Angels or Spirits of the Gňostic creed. It is in the Epistle to the Ephesians (ii. 2.) where St. Paul speaks of their having walked in time past according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. What is here translated the course of this world is the Æon of this world, tòn αιώνα του κόσμου τούτου, and if this member of the sentence is to be explained by the one which follows, according to the prince of the power of the air, it might certainly seem to be inferred, that the Æon of this world, and the prince of the power of the air were one and the same i. It is plain from other
Buddeus confesses that no about this text. Beausobre preinterpreter ever satisfied him fers taking alwa in a personal
expressions of St. Paul, that the Almighty does allow evil spirits to have some power in injuring his creaturesk: but when the apostle said, that the Ephesians had walked formerly according to the course, or Æon, of this world, he may have used the term in its proper sense, and have meant to say, that they had walked according to those evil habits which had prevailed in the world from the commencement of that period, which marks its duration. (Compare Col. iii. 6, 7. Rom. xii. 2.) The Æon of this world would thus be the period of time allotted to the existence of this present scene of things: and St. Paul seems to use it in this sense, when he speaks of our wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world, or Æon, (Eph. vi. 12.) and of the God of this world, or Æon, haring blinded the minds of them which believe not. (2 Cor. iv. 4.) In both these passages St. Paul is evidently speaking of evil spirits: and the term Æon can only be used with reference to that period of time, in which these fallen beings are allowed to exercise their malignant power. The Gnostic philosophy was filled with superstitious and mystical notions concerning Angels or Æons. The speculations of Plato would furnish an ample foundation for such a superstructure; and the Cabbalistic Jews would load it with several orders of good and evil Angels, the names of which were brought with them from Babylon!. Hence sense, “ selon l'Eon, ou le quæ in sæculo versantur, ac“ Prince de ce Monde." vol. I. cipitur: ut in Gal. i. 4: Eph. p. 575. I should mention that
“ ü. 7." vol. VII. p. 594. Jerom interprets aióvwv in Eph. * Eph. iv. 27. vi. 12. Col. i. iii. 9. of “omnes spirituales et 13. 1 Pet. v. 8. James iv. 7. “ rationabiles creaturæ quæ in I may refer to notes 24, “ sæculis fuerunt. Sæculum and 28, where I have spoken " quippe frequenter pro his of the belief in Angels as held
every leader of the Gnostics had some peculiar notion concerning Angels; and it has been thought that St. Paul alluded to some of them, or to Simon Magus in particular, when he said to the Colossians, Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of Angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (ii. 18, 19.) It is said by Tertullianm, that Simon Magus worshipped Angels, and that he was rebuked for this by St. Peter, as for a species of idolatry. He evidently means, that Simon worked his pretended miracles by invoking the agency of spirits : and we have abundant proof, that great power was attributed to the spiritual world in the time of our Saviour, and for many ages after. Clement of Alexandria" informs us, that those who practised magic offered worship to Angels and dæmons; and he appears to have had in his mind this passage of the Epistle to the Colossians. Epiphanius also says, that Simon invented certain names for principalities and powerso: all which may incline us to think that St. Paul may have alluded to the Gnostics, and particularly to the Jewish Gnostics, who intruded into things which they had not seen, when they speculated upon the creation and government of the world by Angels; who were vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind,
by the Platonists and the Cab. m De Præscript. Hæret. 33. balists: and from these two p. 214. quarters the Gnostic notion of
n Strom. III. 6. p. 533. Angels was derived.
o Hær. XXI. 4. p. 58.
when they boasted of having arrived at the perfection of knowledge in these matters; and who did not hold the head, from which all the body by joints and bands is knit together; when instead of making God and Christ P the head of all things in heaven and in earth, they only gave to Christ a place among the other Æons, and taught that the world was created by an Angel or Angels, who in so doing acted in opposition to God.
With the examination of these passages. I shall close the present Lecture, reserving for the next some other points of the Gnostic doctrines, which appear to be alluded to in the apostolic writings. We have perhaps been considering the history of a man, who caused a greater portion of evil, than ever proceeded from the mere aberrations of a speculating mind. If Simon Magus was the first who profaned the name of Christ to his philosophical ravings and his unholy mysteries, he is a proof to what an extent delusion and credulity may be carried; but he is also a proof that mere human philosophy alone may play around the ear, and exercise the head, but it does not touch the heart. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world ? the foolishness of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
p Compare Eph. iv. 15, 16,