Disputes between Gnostics and Church Fathers

in the foregoing lies the foundation of the fierce hatred of the Christians toward the "Pagans" and the theurgists. Too much had been borrowed; the ancient religions and the Neo-platonists had been laid by them under contribution sufficiently to perplex the world for several thousand years. Had not the ancient creeds been speedily obliterated, it would have been found impossible to preach the Christian religion as a New Dispensation, or the direct Revelation from God the Father, through God the Son, and under the influence of God the Holy Ghost. As a political exigence the Fathers had — to gratify the wishes of their rich converts — instituted even the festivals of Pan. They went so far as to accept the ceremonies hitherto celebrated by the Pagan world in honor of the God of the gardens, in all their primitive sincerity.X It was time to sever the connection. Either the Pagan worship and the Neo-platonic theurgy, with all ceremonial of magic, must be crushed out forever, or the Christians become Neo-platonists.

The fierce polemics and single-handed battles between Iren^us and the Gnostics are too well known to need repetition. They were carried on for over two centuries after the unscrupulous Bishop of Lyons had uttered his last religious paradox. Celsus, the Neo-platonist, and a disciple of the school of Ammonius Saccas, had thrown the Christians into perturbation, and even had arrested for a time the progress of proselytism by successfully proving that the original and purer forms of the most important dogmas of Christianity were to be found only in the teachings of Plato. Celsus accused them of accepting the worst superstitions of Paganism, and of interpolating passages from the books of the Sybils, without rightly understanding their meaning. The accusations were so plausible, and the facts so patent, that for a long time no Christian writer had ventured to answer the challenge. Origen, at the fervent request of his friend, Ambrosius, was the first to take the defense in hand, for, having belonged to the same Platonic school of Ammonius, he was considered the most competent man to refute the well-founded charges. But his eloquence failed, and the only remedy that could be found was to destroy the writings of Celsus themselves.* This could be achieved only in the fifth century, when copies had been taken from this work, and many were those who had read and studied them. If no copy of it has descended to our present generation of scientists, it is not because there is none extant at present, but for the simple reason that the monks of a certain Oriental church on Mount Athos will neither show nor confess they have one in their

* The Celsus above mentioned, who lived between the second and third centuries, is not Celsus the Epicurean. The latter wrote several works against Magic, and lived earlier, during the reign of Hadrian.

possession.+ Perhaps they do not even know themselves the f We have the facts from a trustworthy witness, having no interest to invent such a story. Having injured his leg in a fall from the steamer into the boat in which he was to land at the Mount, he was taken care of by these monks, and during his convalescence, through gifts of money and presents, became their greatest friend, and finally won their entire confidence. Having asked for the loan of some books, he was taken by the Superior to a large cellar in which they keep their sacred vessels and other property. Opening a great trunk, full of old musty manuscripts and rolls, he was invited by the Superior to "amuse himself." The gentleman was a scholar, and well versed in Greek and Latin text. "I was amazed," he says, in a private letter, "and had my breath taken away, on finding among these old parchments, so unceremoniously treated, some of the most valuable relics of the first centuries, hitherto believed to have been lost." Among others he found a half-destroyed manuscript, which he is perfectly sure must be a copy of the "True Doctrine," the Aoyog dAr^c; of Celsus, out of which Origen quoted whole pages. The traveller took as many notes as he could on that day, but when he came to offer to the Superior to purchase some of these writings he found, to his great surprise, that no amount of money would tempt the monks. They did not know what the manuscripts contained, nor "did they care," they said. But the "heap of writing," they added, was transmitted to them from one generation to another, and there was a tradition among them that these papers would one day become the means of crushing the "Great Beast of the Apocalypse," their hereditary enemy, the Church of Rome. They were constantly quarrelling and fighting with the Catholic monks, and among the whole "heap" they knew that there was a "holy" relic which protected them. They did not know which, and so in their doubt abstained. It appears that the Superior, a shrewd Greek, understood his bevue and repented of his kindness, for first of all he made the traveller give him his most sacred word of honor, strengthened by an oath he made him take on the value of the contents of their manuscripts, on account of their great ignorance.

The dispersion of the Eclectic school had become the fondest hope of the Christians. It had been looked for and contemplated with intense anxiety. It was finally achieved. The members were scattered by the hand of the monsters Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, and his nephew Cyril — the murderer of the young, the learned, and the innocent Hypatia!*

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