Quotes about Simon Magus, the Samaritan Magician, from the Writings of the Early Christians

The early church fathers had much to say about what happened to Simon Magus, the Samaritan magician. They considered him the founder of the gnostics!

Justin Martyr, c. AD 150

There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honored by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: "Simoni Deo Sancto," [which means] "To Simon the holy God." And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Menander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetaea, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they  should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his. (First Apology 26)

But the evil spirits were not satisfied with saying, before Christ’s appearance, that those who were said to be sons of Jupiter were born of him; but after [Jesus] had appeared, and been born among men, and when they learned how he had been foretold by the prophets, and knew that he should be believed on and looked for by every nation, they again, as was said above, put forward other men, the Samaritans Simon and Menander, who did many mighty works by magic, and deceived many, and still keep them deceived. For even among yourselves, as we said before, Simon was in the royal city Rome in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and so greatly astonished the sacred senate and people of the Romans, that he was considered a god, and honored, like the others whom you honor as gods, with a statue. Therefore we pray that the sacred senate and your people may, along with yourselves, be arbiters of this our memorial, in order that if any one be entangled by that man’s doctrines, he may learn the truth, and so be able to escape error; and as for the statue, if you please, destroy it. (First Apology 56)

And I despised the wicked and deceitful doctrine of Simon of my own nation. And if you give this book your authority, we will expose him before all, that, if possible, they may be converted. (Second Apology 15)

For I gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Caesar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and might. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 120)

Irenaeus, c. AD 185

Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries" [Acts 8:9-11].

This Simon feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God. And in regard to [the apostles] filling those that believed in God through the One who was preached by them with the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands, he suspected that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic. He offered money to the apostles [because he] thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would. Peter addressed him in these words: "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" [Acts 8:20,21,23]

He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles. In order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, he applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art so that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men.

Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honored with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god. He taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers; that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him. 

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials:

Having redeemed a certain woman named Helena from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him. He declared that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Ennoea [i.e., mental act] leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions, and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this world was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Ennoea was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of insulting behavior from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken ... Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep [Matt. 18:12]. For this purpose, then, he had come that he might win her first, and free her from slavery, while he conferred salvation upon men, by making himself known to them.

For since the angels ruled the world badly because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man. Thus, he was thought to have suffered in Judea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded [the prophets], but, as being free, live as they please. For men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practice magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations; love-potions, too; and charms, as well as those beings who are called "Paredri" (familiars) and "Oniropompi" (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In conclusion, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them "knowledge [Gr. gnosis], falsely so called" [1 Tim. 6:20] received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions. (Against Heresies, Bk. I, ch. 23, par. 1-4)

spacer

Google Search Privacy Statement

Christian-history.org does not receive any personally identifiable information from the Google search bar below. Google does run ads on the result page. If you click on those ads, we get a small commission, but we do not get any identifiable information.

You've seen these people who have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

The Early Church History Newsletter

Delivered monthly.

Back issues available.

When you sign up for our Church history newsletter, your private information will not be shared, and we will only use it to send the newsletter.

Email

Name


Don't worry—your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you the Early Church History Newsletter.