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"Basilides" redirects here. For the 17th century Ethiopian Emperor, see Fasilides of Ethiopia. For the martyr, see Basilides and Potamiana.

Basilides (Βασιλείδης) was an early Gnostic religious teacher in Alexandria, Egypt[1] who taught from 117-138 AD[* 1], and was a pupil of either Menander[2], or an alleged interpreter of St. Peter named Glaucias[3]. The Acts of the Disputation with Manes state that for a time he taught among the Persians[4]. He is believed to have written over two dozen books of commentary on the Christian Gospel (now all lost) entitled Exegetica [5] making him one of the earliest Gospel commentators. Only fragments of his works are preserved that supplement the knowledge furnished by his opponents.

The followers of Basilides, the Basilidians, formed a movement that persisted for at least two centuries after him—St. Epiphanius of Salamis, at the end of the fourth century, recognized a persistent Basilidian Gnosis in Egypt. It is probable, however, that the school melded into the main stream of Gnosticism by the latter half of the second century.[6]




Church Fathers

Historians know of Basilides and his teachings mainly through the writings of his detractors, and it is impossible to determine how reliable these accounts are. The oldest refutation of the teachings of Basilides, by Agrippa Castor, is lost, and we are dependent upon the later accounts of:

  • St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book I, Chapter xxi; Book II, Chapters vi, viii, and xx; Book IV, Chapters xi, xii, and xxv; Book V, Chapter I, etc., written between 208-210, and the so-called Excerpta ex Theodoto perhaps from the same hand.
  • St. Hippolytus of Rome, Philosophumena, Book VII, written about 225.
  • Pseudo-Tertullian, Against All Heresies, a little treatise usually attached to Tertullian's De Praescriptionibus, but really by another hand, perhaps by Victorinus of Pettau, written about 240 and based upon a non-extant "Compendium" of St. Hippolytus.
  • St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, Book I, Sect xxiv.
  • Theodoret of Cyrus, Compendium of Heretical Accounts, Book I, Chapter iv.

Writings of Basilides

Nearly all the writings of Basilides have perished, but the names of three of his works and some fragments have come down to us.

  • Fragments of the Exegetica have come down to us from St. Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata, Book IV, Chapter 12, and from Archelaus in his Acts of the Disputation with Manes, Chapter 55, and probably also from Origen in his Commentary on Romans V, Book I.
  • Origen states that "Basilides had even the audacity to write a Gospel according to Basilides"[7], and both St. Jerome[8] and St. Ambrose[9] repeat Origen. Yet no trace of a Gospel by Basilides exists elsewhere; and it is possible either that Origen misunderstood the nature of the Exegetica, or that the Gospel was known under another name[10].
  • Origen in a note on Job, xxi, 1 sqq., speaks of "Odes" of Basilides.

Other fragments

Some fragments are known through the work of Clement of Alexandria:

  • The Octet of Subsistent Entities (Fragment A)
  • The Uniqueness of the World (Fragment B)
  • Election Naturally Entails Faith and Virtue (Fragment C)
  • The State of Virtue (Fragment D)
  • The Elect Transcend the World (Fragment E)
  • Reincarnation (Fragment F)
  • Human Suffering and the Goodness of Providence (Fragment G)
  • Forgivable Sins (Fragment H)


  • Artistic remains of Gnosticism such as Abrasax gems, and literary remains like the Pistis Sophia, the latter part of which probably dates back to the end of the second century and, though not strictly Basilidian, yet illustrates early Alexandrian Gnosticism.



The descriptions of the Basilidian system given by our chief informants, St. Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses) and St. Hippolytus (Philosophumena), are so strongly divergent that they seem to many quite irreconcilable. According to Hippolytus, Basilides was apparently a pantheistic evolutionist; and according to Irenaeus, a dualist and an emanationist.

Historians, such as Philip Shaff, have the opinion that: "Irenaeus described a form of Basilideanism which was not the original, but a later corruption of the system. On the other hand, Clement of Alexandria surely, and Hippolytus, in the fuller account of his Philosophumena, probably drew their knowledge of the system directly from Basilides' own work, the Exegetica, and hence represent the form of doctrine taught by Basilides himself"[11].

Faith and Election

Basilides believed faith was merely "an assent of the soul to any of the things which do not excite sensation, because they are not present". He also believed faith was a matter of "nature," not of responsible choice, so that men would "discover doctrines without demonstration by an intellective apprehension"[12]. Basilides also appears to have accumulated forms of dignity in accordance with ones' faith[13].

Because Basilides believed faith was a matter of nature, doubtlessly he pushed election so far as to sever a portion of mankind from the rest, as alone entitled by Divine decree to receive a higher enlightenment. In this sense it must have been that he called "the election a stranger to the world, as being by nature supermundane"[14]. It is hardly necessary to point out how closely the limitation of spheres agrees with the doctrine on which the Great Ignorance is founded, and the supermundane election with that of the Third Sonship.

A like fatalistic view of Providence is implied in the language held by Basilides[15] in reference to the sufferings of Christian martyrs. In this instance we have the benefit of verbal extracts, though unfortunately their sense is in parts obscure. So far as they go, they do not bear out the allegations of Agrippa Castor[16] that Basilides taught that the partaking of food offered to idols, and the heedless abjuration of the faith in time of persecution was a thing indifferent; and of Origen,[17] that he depreciated the martyrs, and treated lightly the sacrificing to heathen deities. The impression seems to have arisen partly from a misunderstanding of the purpose of his argument, partly from the actual doctrine and practices of later Basilidians; but it may also have had some justification in incidental words which have not been preserved. Basilides is evidently contesting the assumption, probably urged in controversy against his conception of the justice of Providence, that the sufferers in "what are called tribulations" are to be regarded as innocent, simply because they suffer for their Christianity. He suggests that some are in fact undergoing punishment for previous unknown sins, while "by the goodness of Him Who brings events to pass" they are allowed the comfort of suffering as Christians, "not subject to the rebuke as the adulterer or the murderer" (apparently with reference to 1 Peter 3:17, 1 Peter 4:15-19); and if there be any who suffers without previous sin, it will not be "by the design of an [adverse] power", but as suffers the babe who appears to have committed no sin. The next quotation attempts at some length an exposition of this comparison with the babe. The obvious distinction is drawn between sin committed in act and the capacity for sin; the infant is said to receive a benefit when it is subjected to suffering, "gaining" many hardships. So it is, he says, with the suffering of a perfect man, for his not having sinned must not be set down to himself; though he has done no evil, he must have willed evil; "for I will say anything rather than call Providence evil." He did not shrink, Clement says, and the language seems too conclusive, from applying his principle even to the Lord. "If, leaving all these arguments, you go on to press me with certain persons, saying, for instance, 'Such an one sinned therefore, for such an one suffered,' if you will allow me I will say, 'He did not sin, but he is like the suffering babe'; but if you force the argument with greater violence, I will say that any man whom you may choose to name is a man, and that God is righteous; for 'no one,' as it has been said, 'is clear of defilement'".

What more Basilides taught about Providence as exemplified in martyrdoms is not easily brought together from Clement's rather confused account. He said that one part of what is called the will of God (i.e. evidently His own mind towards lower beings, not what He would have their mind to be) is to love (or rather perhaps be satisfied with) all things because all things preserve a relation to the universe, and another to despise nothing, and a third to hate no single thing.[18] In the same spirit pain and fear were described as natural accidents of things, as rust of iron.[19] In another sentence[20] Providence seems to be spoken of as set in motion by the Archon; by which perhaps was meant[21] that the Archon was the unconscious agent who carried into execution (within his own "stage") the long dormant original counsels of the not-being God. The view of the harmony of the universe just referred to finds expression, with a reminiscence of a famous sentence of Plato,[22] in a saying[23] that Moses "set up one temple of God and an only-begotten world."[* 2]


He likewise brought in the notion of sin in a past stage of existence suffering its penalty here, "the elect soul" suffering "honourably through martyrdom, and the soul of another kind being cleansed by an appropriate punishment." To this doctrine of metempsychosis the Basilidians are likewise said to have referred the language of the Lord about requital to the third and fourth generations;[24] Origen states that Basilides himself interpreted Romans 7:9 in this sense,

The Apostle said, 'I lived without a law once,' that is, before I came into this body, I lived in such a form of body as was not under a law, that of a beast namely, or a bird.[25]

And elsewhere Origen complains that he deprived men of a salutary fear by teaching that transmigrations are the only punishments after death[26].


We have a curious piece of psychological theory in the account of the passions attributed to the Basilidians. They are accustomed, Clement says,[27] to call the passions Appendages, stating that these are certain spirits which have a substantial existence, having been appended[* 3] to the rational soul in a certain primitive turmoil and confusion, and that again other bastard and alien natures of spirits grow upon these, as of a wolf, an ape, a lion, a goat, whose characteristics, becoming perceptible in the region of the soul, assimilate the desires of the son to the animals; for they imitate the actions of those whose characteristics they wear, and not only acquire intimacy with the impulses and impressions of the irrational animals, but even imitate the movements and beauties of plants, because they likewise wear the characteristics of plants appended to them; and [the passions] have also characteristics of habit [derived from stones], as the hardness of adamant.[28] In the absence of the context it is impossible to determine the precise meaning and origin of this singular theory. It was probably connected with the doctrine of metempsychosis, which seemed to find support in Plato's Timaeus,[29] and was cherished by some neo-Pythagoreans later in the 2nd cent.;[30] while the plurality of souls is derided by Clement as making the body a Trojan horse, with apparent reference[31] to a similar criticism of Plato in the Theaetetus.[32] And again Plutarch[33] ridicules the Stoics (i.e. apparently Chrysippus) for a "strange and outlandish" notion that all virtues and vices, arts and memories, impressions and passions and impulses and assents (he adds further down even "acts," ἐνεργείας, such as "walking, dancing, supposing, addressing, reviling") are not merely "bodies" (of course in the familiar Stoic sense) but living creatures or animals, crowded apparently round the central point within the heart where "the ruling principle" is located: by this "swarm," he says, of hostile animals they turn each one of us into "a paddock or a stable, or a Trojan horse." Such a theory might seem to Basilides an easy deduction from his fatalistic doctrine of Providence, and of the consequent immutability of all natures.



The only specimen which we have of the practical ethics of Basilides is of a favourable kind, though grossly misunderstood and misapplied by Epiphanius.[34] Reciting the views of different heretics on Marriage, Clement[35] mentions first its approval by the Valentinians, and then gives specimens of the teaching of Basilides and his son Isidore, by way of rebuke to the immorality of the later Basilidians, before proceeding to the sects which favoured licence, and to those which treated marriage as unholy. He first reports the exposition of Matthew 19:11 (or a similar evangelic passage), in which there is nothing specially to note except the interpretation of the last class of eunuchs as those who remain in celibacy to avoid the distracting cares of providing a livelihood. He goes on to the paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 7:9, interposing in the midst an illustrative sentence from Isidore, and transcribes the language used about the class above mentioned.

But suppose a young man either poor or (?) depressed [κατηφής seems at least less unlikely than κατωφερής], and in accordance with the word [in the Gospel] unwilling to marry, let him not separate from his brother; let him say 'I have entered into the holy place [τὰ ἅγια, probably the communion of the church], nothing can befall me'; but if he have a suspicion [? self-distrust, ὑπονοίαν ἔχῃ], let him say, 'Brother, lay thy hand on me, that I may sin not,' and he shall receive help both to mind and to senses (νοητὴν καὶ αἰσθητήν); let him only have the will to carry out completely what is good, and he shall succeed. But sometimes we say with the lips, 'We will not sin,' while our thoughts are turned towards sinning: such an one abstains by reason of fear from doing what he wills, lest the punishment be reckoned to his account. But the estate of mankind has only certain things at once necessary and natural, clothing being necessary and natural, but sexual intercourse (τὸ τῶν ἀφροδισίων) natural, yet not necessary.[36]


Although we have no evidence that Basilides, like some others, regarded Jesus's Baptism as the time when a Divine being first was joined to Jesus of Nazareth, it seems clear that he attached some unusual significance to the event. "They of Basilides (οἱ ἀπὸ Β.)," says Clement,[37] "celebrate the day of His Baptism by a preliminary night-service of [Scripture] readings (προδιανυκτερεύοντες ἀναγνώσεσι); and they say that the 'fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar' (Luke 3:1) is (or means) the fifteenth day of the [Egyptian] month Tybi, while some [make the day] the eleventh of the same month." Again it is briefly stated in the Excerpta[38] that the dove of the Baptism is said by the Basilidians (οἱ ἀπὸ Β.) to be the Minister (ὁ διάκονος). And the same association is implied in what Clement urges elsewhere:[39]

If ignorance belongs to the class of good things, why is it brought to an end by amazement [i.e. the amazement of the Archon], and [so] the Minister that they speak of [αὐτοῖς] is superfluous, and the Proclamation, and the Baptism: if ignorance had not previously existed, the Minister would not have descended, nor would amazement have seized the Archon, as they themselves say.

This language, taken in conjunction with passages already cited from Hippolytus,[40] implies that Basilides regarded the Baptism as the occasion when Jesus received "the Gospel" by a Divine illumination. The supposed descent of "Christ" for union with "Jesus," though constantly assumed by Hilgenfeld, is as destitute of ancient attestation as it is inconsistent with the tenor of Basilidian doctrine recorded by Clement, to say nothing of Hippolytus. It has been argued from Clement's language by Gieseler,[41] that the Basilidians were the first to celebrate Jesus's Baptism. The early history of the Epiphany is too obscure to allow a definite conclusion on this point; but the statement about the Basilidian services of the preceding night receives some illustration from a passage of Epiphanius, lately published from the Venice MS.[42] in which we hear of the night before the Epiphany as spent in singing and flute-playing in a heathen temple at Alexandria: so that probably the Basilidian rite was a modification of an old local custom.


Basilides "in Pythagorean fashion" prescribed a silence of five years to his disciples.[43]


Basilides "invented prophets for himself named Barcabbas and Barcoph, and others that had no existence"[44] The alleged prophecies apparently belonged to the apocryphal Zoroastrian literature popular with various Gnostics[citation needed].

Traditions of Matthias

From Hippolytus we hear nothing about these prophecies, which will meet us again presently with reference to Basilides's son Isidore, but he tells us[45] that, according to Basilides and Isidore, Matthias spoke to them mystical doctrines (λόγους ἀποκρύφους) which he heard in private teaching from the Saviour: and in like manner Clement[46] speaks of the sect of Basilides as boasting that they took to themselves the glory of Matthias. Origen also[47] and after him Eusebius refer to a "Gospel" of or according to Matthias.[48] The true name was apparently the Traditions of Matthias: three interesting and by no means heretical extracts are given by Clement.[49] In the last extract the responsibility laid on "the elect" for the sin of a neighbour recalls a passage already cited from Basilides.

Acta Archelai

Near the end of the anonymous Acts of the Disputation between Archelaus and Mani (Acta Archelai), written towards the close of the 3rd cent. or a little later, Archelaus disputes the originality of Mani's teaching, on the ground that it took rise a long time before with "a certain barbarian."[50]

There was also a preacher among the Persians, a certain Basilides of great [or 'greater,' antiuqior] antiquity, not long after the times of our Apostles, who being himself also a crafty man, and perceiving that at that time everything was preoccupied, decided to maintain that dualism which was likewise in favour with Scythianus [named shortly before[51] as a contemporary of the Apostles, who had introduced dualism from a Pythagorean source]. Finally, as he had no assertion to make of his own, he adopted the sayings of others [the last words are corrupt, but this must be nearly the sense]. And all his books contain things difficult and rugged.

The writer then cites the beginning of the thirteenth book of his treatises (tractatuum), in which it was said that "the saving word" (the Gospel) by means of the parable of the rich man and the poor man pointed out the source from which nature (or a nature) without a root and without a place germinated and extended itself over things (rebus supervenientem, unde pullulaverit). He breaks off a few words later and adds that after some 500 lines Basilides invites his reader to abandon idle and curious elaborateness (varietate), and to investigate rather the studies and opinions of barbarians on good and evil. Certain of them, Basilides states, said that there are two beginnings of all things, light and darkness; and he subjoins some particulars of doctrine of a Persian cast. Only one set of views, however, is mentioned, and the Acts end abruptly here in the two known MSS. of the Latin version in which alone this part of them is extant.


It is generally assumed that we have here unimpeachable evidence for the strict dualism of Basilides. It seems certain that the writer of the Acts held his Basilides responsible for the barbarian opinions quoted, which are clearly dualistic, and he had the whole book before him. Yet his language on this point is loose, as if he were not sure of his ground; and the quotation which he gives by no means bears him out: while it is quite conceivable that he may have had some acquaintance with dualistic Basilidians of a later day, such as certainly existed, and have thus given a wrong interpretation to genuine words of their master.[52] It assuredly requires considerable straining to draw the brief interpretation given of the parable to a Manichean position, and there is nothing to show that the author of it himself adopted the first set of "barbarian" opinions which he reported. Indeed the description of evil (for evil doubtless is intended) as a supervenient nature, without root and without place, reads almost as if it were directed against Persian doctrine, and may be fairly interpreted by Basilides's comparison of pain and fear to the rust of iron as natural accidents (ἐπισυμβαίνει). The identity of the Basilides of the Acts with the Alexandrian has been denied by Gieseler with some show of reason. It is at least strange that our Basilides should be described simply as a "preacher among the Persians," a character in which he is otherwise unknown; and all the more since he has been previously mentioned with Marcion and Valentinus as a heretic of familiar name.[53] On the other hand, it has been justly urged that the two passages are addressed to different persons. The correspondence is likewise remarkable between the "treatises" in at least thirteen books, with an interpretation of a parable among their contents, and the "twenty-four books on the Gospel" mentioned by Agrippa Castor, called Exegetica by Clement. Thus the evidence for the identity of the two writers may on the whole be treated as preponderating. But the ambiguity of interpretation remains; and it would be impossible to rank Basilides confidently among dualists, even if the passage in the Acts stood alone: much more to use it as a standard by which to force a dualistic interpretation upon other clearer statements of his doctrine.


Hippolytus[54] couples with Basilides "his true child and disciple" Isidore. He is there referring to the use which they made of the Traditions of Matthias; but in the next sentence he treats them as jointly responsible for the doctrines which he recites. Our only other authority respecting Isidore is Clement (copied by Theodoret), who calls him in like manner "at once son and disciple" of Basilides.[55]

Expositions of the Prophet Parchor

In this place he gives three extracts from the first and second books of Isidore's Expositions (Ἐξηγητικά) of the Prophet Parchor. They are all parts of a plea, like so many put forward after the example of Josephus against Apion, that the higher thoughts of heathen philosophers and mythologers were derived from a Jewish source. The last reference given is to Pherecydes, who had probably a peculiar interest for Isidore as the earliest promulgator of the doctrine of metempsychosis known to tradition.[56] His allegation that Pherecydes followed "the prophecy of Ham" has been perversely urged as a sign that he set up the prophets of a hated race against the prophets of Israel. The truth is rather that the identification of Zoroaster with Ham or Ham's son, whatever may have been its origin, rendered it easy to claim for the apocryphal Zoroastrian books a quasi-biblical sanctity as proceeding from a son of Noah, and that Isidore gladly accepted the theory as evidence for his argument. "The prophets" from whom "some of the philosophers" appropriated a wisdom not their own can be no other than the Jewish prophets.

On an Adherent Soul

Again Clement quotes his book On an Adherent Soul (Περὶ προσφυοῦς ψυχῆς) in correction of his preceding quotation from Basilides on the passions as "appendages".[57] If the eight lines transcribed are a fair sample of the treatise, Isidore would certainly appear to have argued here against his father's teaching. He insists on the unity μονομερής of the soul, and maintains that bad men will find "no common excuse" in the violence of the "appendages" for pleading that their evil acts were involuntary: our duty is, he says, "by overcoming the inferior creation within us (τῆς ἐλάττονος ἐν ἡμῖν κτίσεως) through the reasoning faculty (τῷ λογιστικῷ), to show ourselves to have the mastery."


A third passage from Isidore's Ethics[58] is intercalated into his father's argument on 1 Corinthians 7:9, to the same purport but in a coarser strain.

In his Ethics, Isidore says in these very words: "Abstain, then, from a quarrelsome woman lest you are distracted from the grace of God. But when you have rejected the fire of the seed, then pray with an undisturbed conscience. And when your prayer of thanksgiving," he says, "descends to a prayer of request, and your request is not that in future you may do right, but that you may do no wrong, then marry...."

Its apparent difficulty arises partly from a corrupt reading (ἀντέχου μαχίμης γυναικος, where γαμετῆς must doubtless be substituted for μαχίμης, ἀντέχου meaning not "resist," which would be ἀντέχε, as in the preceding line, but "have recourse to"); partly from the assumption that the following words ὅταν δὲ κ.τ.λ. are likewise by Isidore, whereas the sense shows them to be a continuation of the exposition of Basilides himself.


Gnosticism was throughout eclectic, and Basilides superadded an eclecticism of his own. Antecedent Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, and the Christian faith and Scriptures all exercised a powerful and immediate influence over his mind. It is evident at a glance that his system is far removed from any known form of Syrian or original Gnosticism. Like that of Valentinus, it has been remoulded in a Greek spirit, but much more completely. Historical records fail us almost entirely as to the personal relations of the great heresiarchs; yet internal evidence furnishes some indications which it can hardly be rash to trust. Ancient writers usually name Basilides before Valentinus; but there is little doubt that they were at least approximately contemporaries, and it is not unlikely that Valentinus was best known personally from his sojourn at Rome, which was probably[59] the last of the recorded stages of his life. There is at all events no serious chronological difficulty in supposing that the Valentinian system was the starting-point from which Basilides proceeded to construct by contrast his own theory, and this is the view which a comparison of doctrines suggests. In no point, unless it be the retention of the widely spread term archon, is Basilides nearer than Valentinus to the older Gnosticism, while several leading Gnostic forms or ideas which he discards or even repudiates are held fast by Valentinus. Such are descent from above,[60] putting forth or pullulation,[* 4] syzygies of male and female powers, and the deposition of faith to a lower level than knowledge. Further, the unique name given by Basilides to the Holy Spirit, "the Limitary (μεθόριον) Spirit," together with the place assigned to it, can hardly be anything else than a transformation of the strange Valentinian "Limit" (ὅρος), which in like manner divides the Pleroma from the lower world; though, in conformity with the unifying purpose of Basilides, the Limitary Spirit is conceived as connecting as well as parting the two worlds.[61]

The same softening of oppositions which retain much of their force even with Valentinus shows itself in other instances, as of matter and spirit, creation and redemption, the Jewish age and the Christian age, the earthly and the heavenly elements in the Person of Jesus. The strongest impulse in this direction probably came from Christian ideas and the power of a true though disguised Christian faith. But Greek speculative Stoicism tended likewise to break down the inherited dualism, while at the same time its own inherent limitations brought faith into captivity. An antecedent matter was expressly repudiated, the words of Genesis 1:3 eagerly appropriated, and a Divine counsel represented as foreordaining all future growths and processes; yet the chaotic nullity out of which the developed universe was to spring was attributed with equal boldness to its Maker: Creator and creation were not confused, but they melted away in the distance together. Nature was accepted not only as prescribing the conditions of the lower life, but as practically the supreme and permanent arbiter of destiny. Thus though faith regained its rights, it remained an energy of the understanding, confined to those who had the requisite inborn capacity; while the dealings of God with man were shut up within the lines of mechanical justice.


Basilides had to all appearance no eminent disciple except his own son. Although Basilides is mentioned by all the Church Fathers as one of the chiefs of Gnosticism, the system of Valentinus seems to have been much more popular and wider spread, as was also Marcionism. Hence, though anti-Gnostic literature is abundant, we know of only one patristic work, which had for its express purpose the refutation of Basilides, and this work is no longer extant. Eusebius[62] says: "There has come down to us a most powerful refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor, one of the most renowned writers of that day, which shows the terrible imposture of the man." With the exception of a few phrases given by Eusebius we know nothing of this Agrippa and his work.


Twentieth-century psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote his Seven Sermons to the Dead and attributed them to Basilides. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was interested in Irenaeus' account of Basilides' Gnostic doctrine and wrote an essay on the subject: "A Vindication of the False Basilides" (1932). Basilides is also mentioned in Borges's short story "Three Versions of Judas" (1944), which opens with the striking passage "In Asia Minor or in Alexandria, in the second century of our faith, when Basilides published that the Cosmos was a reckless or evil improvisation by deficient angels..."

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  1. ^ To prove that the heretical sects were "later than the catholic Church," Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, vii. 17) marks out early Christian history into different periods: he assigns Christ's own teaching to the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius; that of the apostles, of St. Paul at least, ends, he says, in the time of Nero; whereas "the authors of the sects arose later, about the times of the emperor Hadrian (κάτω δὲ περὶ τοὺς κ.τ.λ. γεγόνασι), and continued quite as late as the age of the elder Antoninus." He gives as examples Basilides, Valentinus, and (if the text is sound) Marcion, taking occasion by the way to throw doubts on the claims set up for the two former as having been instructed by younger contemporaries of St. Peter and St. Paul respectively, by pointing out that about half a century lay between the death of Nero and the accession of Hadrian. Again Eusebius places Saturnilus and Basilides under Hadrian. Yet his language about Carpocrates a few lines further on suggests a doubt whether he had any better evidence than a fallacious inference from their order in Irenaeus. He was acquainted with the refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor; but it is not clear, as is sometimes assumed, that he meant to assign both writers to the same reign. His chronicle (Armenian) at the year 17 of Hadrian (a.d.133) has the note "The heresiarch Basilides appeared at these times"; which Jerome, as usual, expresses rather more definitely. A similar statement without the year is repeated by Jerome, de Vir. Ill. 21, where an old corrupt reading (mortuus for moratus) led some of the earlier critics to suppose they had found a limit for the date of Basilides's death. Theodoret evidently follows Eusebius. Earliest of all, but vaguest, is the testimony of Justin Martyr. Writing in or soon after a.d.145, he refers briefly (Ap. i. 26) to the founders of heretical sects, naming first the earliest, Simon and Menander, followers of whom were still alive; and then apparently the latest, Marcion, himself still alive. The probable inference that the other great heresiarchs, including Basilides, were by this time dead receives some confirmation from a passage in his Dialogue against Trypho (c. 35), a later but probably not much later book, where the "Marcians," Valentinians, Basilidians, Saturnilians, "and others," are enumerated, apparently in inverse chronological order: the growth of distinct and recognized sects implies at least the lapse of some time since the promulgation of their several creeds.
  2. ^ μονογενῆ τε κόσμον: cf. Plut. ii. 423 A, ἕνα τοῦτον [τὸν κόσμον] εἶναι μονογενῆ τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἀγαπητόν.
  3. ^ Or "attached," or "adherent," various kinds of close external contact being expressed by προσηρτημένα, cf. M. Aur. xii. 3, with Gataker's note, and also Tertullian's ceteris appendicibus, sensibus et affectibus, Adv. Marc. i. 25, cited by Gieseler.
  4. ^ Imperfect renderings of προβολή.


  1. ^ Iren. p. 100 Mass.; followed by Eus. H. E. iv. 7; Epiph. Haer. xxiv. 1, p. 68 c; cf. xxiii. 1, p. 62 B; Theod. Haer. Fab. i. 2.
  2. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Book iv. Chapter vii.
  3. ^ St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata Book vii. Chapter xvii.
  4. ^ Archelaus, Acts of the Disputation with Manes Chapter lv.
  5. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Book iv. Chapter vii.
  6. ^ Mead, G.R.S. (1900). "The Basilidian Gnosis". Fragments of Faith Forgotten. p. 253 f. 
  7. ^ Origen, Homilies on Luke 1.1.
  8. ^ St. Jerome, Comentary on the Gospel of Matthew Prologue
  9. ^ Ambrose, Expositio, Euangelii, Lucae i.2.
  10. ^ Cf. Hilgenfeld, Clem. Rec. u. Hom. 123 ff.
  11. ^ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series page 178, note 7.
  12. ^ St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata Book ii. Chapter iii.
  13. ^ St. Clement of Alexandria Strommata. Book v. Chapter i.
  14. ^ St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata Book iv. Chapter xxvi.
  15. ^ In the 23rd book of his Exegetica, as quoted by Clement, Strom. iv. pp. 599-603.
  16. ^ Ap. Eus. H. E. iv. 7, § 7.
  17. ^ Com. in Matt. iii. 856 Ru.
  18. ^ Strom. iv. p. 601.
  19. ^ Strom. iv. p. 603.
  20. ^ Strom. iv. p. 602.
  21. ^ See Hipp. Philosophumena vii 24, p. 272 A.
  22. ^ Tim. 31 B
  23. ^ Strom. v. p. 690
  24. ^ Exc. Theod. 976.
  25. ^ Com. in Rom. iv. 549, Ru.
  26. ^ Com. in Matt. l.c.
  27. ^ Strom. ii. p. 488.
  28. ^ Cf. Strom. p. 487 med.
  29. ^ Timaeus 42, 90 f.
  30. ^ Cf. Zeller, Philos. d. Gr. v. 198 f.
  31. ^ As Saumaise points out, on Simplic. Epict. 164.
  32. ^ Theaetetus 184 D.
  33. ^ De Comm. Not. 45, p. 1084.
  34. ^ Epiphanius i. 211 f.
  35. ^ Strom. iii. 508 ff.
  36. ^ Cf. Plut. Mor. 989.
  37. ^ Strom. i. 146, p. 408.
  38. ^ Excerpta 16, p. 972
  39. ^ Strom. ii. p. 449.
  40. ^ Hipp. Philosophumena vii. 26.
  41. ^ In the Halle A. L. Z. for 1823, i. 836 f.; cf. K.G. i. 1. 186.
  42. ^ Venice MS. ii. 483 Dind.: iii. 632 Oehler.
  43. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Book iv. Chapter vii.
  44. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Book iv. Chapter vii.
  45. ^ Philosophumena vii. 20
  46. ^ Strom. vii. 900.
  47. ^ Hom. in Luc. i. t. iii p. 933.
  48. ^ H. E. iii. 25, 6.
  49. ^ Strom. ii. 452; iii. 523 [copied by Eusebius, H. E. iii. 29. 4]; vii. 882.
  50. ^ C. 55, in Routh, Rell. Sac. v. 196 ff.
  51. ^ Routh, Rell. Sac. c. 51, p. 186.
  52. ^ Cf. Uhlhorn, 52 f.
  53. ^ Routh, Rell. Sac. c. 38, p. 138.
  54. ^ Philosophumena vii. 20
  55. ^ Strom. vi. 767.
  56. ^ Cf. Zeller, Philos. d. Griechen, i. 55 f. ed. 3.
  57. ^ Strom. ii. 488.
  58. ^ Strom. iii. 510.
  59. ^ Lipsius, Quellen d. ält. Ketzergeschichte, 256.
  60. ^ See a passage at the end of Hippolytus, Philos. vii. 22.
  61. ^ Cf. Baur in Theol. Jahrb. for 1856, 156 f.
  62. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iv, 7, 6-8.


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