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(1,719 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
The Naassenes were adherents of a 2nd-century Gnostic sect that is only known through an extensive report by Hippolytus, Refutatio, V, 6-11. The greater part of this report consists of an extract from a Naassene document, which is usually called the “Naassene Sermon” (V, 7, 2-9, 9). It is preceded by an introduction (V, 6, 1-7, 1) and followed by a concluding section (V, 9, 10-11, 1), in which Hippolytus provides further information about their beliefs. The whole section is part of Hippolytus' so-called “Sondergut”, which is, inter alia, characterized by the ascription of similar i…


(1,708 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
The Borborites or Borborians were adherents of a Gnostic sect that flourished in the 4th century and reportedly continued its existence at least until the 6th century. Epiphanius of Salamis, who has left us an extensive report on the Borborites ( Panarion, 26), says that they were influenced by the teachings of the → Nicolaitans ( Pan., 26, 1, 3), who are discussed in Pan., 25. They called themselves “Gnostics”, but were also known as Phibionites, Stratiotics, Levitics, Secundians, Sokratites, Zachaeuses, Coddians and Barbelites ( Pan., 25, 2, 1; 26, 3, 7; also Anacephlaleiosis, 26). Si…


(714 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Menander, ca. 80 According to the Christian heresiologists, Menander was an early Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] magician and teacher, a pupil of → Simon Magus. He came from Capparetaea in Samaria and worked in Antioch, where he, ‘inspired by the demons, deceived many by his tricks of magic’. Justin Martyr (ca. 150), our first source about Menander, to whom we owe this information, adds that ‘he even convinced his followers that they would never die, and there are some alive today who, inspired by him, still believe this’ ( Apology, I, 26). Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 180), Adversus Haereses, I, 23, 5, …


(715 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Satornilus, ca. 120 Satornilus (Gr. Satorneilos, in Lat. sources Saturninus) was a Christian Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] active in Antioch. Our knowledge of Satornilus derives almost exclusively from the information provided by Irenaeus of Lyons in his Adversus Haereses I, 24, 1-2 (ca.180). According to Irenaeus and other anti-Gnostic writers Satornilus was a pupil of → Menander, but this view is based more on the assumption of a Gnostic “genealogy” than on a correspondence between their essential doctrines. He taught that there existed…

Clement of Alexandria

(1,372 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), † before 215 Clement was a Christian teacher who worked in Alexandria and left us some important writings, but about whose life only little is known. He was born in a pagan family, probably in Athens. After his conversion he studied with Christian teachers in Greece, Southern Italy, Syria and Palestine, and finally settled in Alexandria (ca. 180), where he became a pupil of Pantaenus, a non-Gnostic Christian teacher. According to Eusebius, Church History, VI, 6, Clement became Pantaenus' successor as head of the so-called Cate…


(957 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Prodicus, 2nd cent. Prodicus was a Gnostic teacher [→ Gnosticism] of whose life nothing is known. → Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, who are our primary sources (both about 200 A.D.), almost exclusively speak about the ‘followers of Prodicus’, and when they mention his name it is only as the representative of the movement that was called after him. This might be an indication that Prodicus was not their contemporary but that he had lived earlier in the 2nd century. According to Clement, Stromateis, III, 30, 1 and VII, 41, 3, the followers of Prodicus called themselves “Gn…


(848 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Monoimus,, 2nd cent. Monoimus was a Gnostic teacher [→ Gnosticism] of whose life and career nothing is known. Hippolytus (ca. 230), who has left us a summary of his teachings, including a fragment of one of his letters ( Refutatio, VIII, 12-15; X, 17, 5) calls him ‘the Arab’, which means that he came from the Roman province of Arabia. According to Monoimus, there is a twofold principle of the All, Man and the Son of Man, of whom the former is unborn and immortal and the latter born, albeit independently of time, will or plan. For just as a fire and the l…


(1,806 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Elchasai/Elxai, ca. 100 According to Early Christian and Manichaean sources, Elchasai or Elxai was the founder of the sect of the Elkesaites and the recipient of a book of revelation. The main Christian sources about Elchasai are Hippolytus of Rome, who speaks of “Elchasai”, and, independently, Epiphanius of Salamis, who always calls him “Elxai”. Additional information comes from the Cologne Mani Codex and the Arabic writer Ibn an-Nadim. According to Epiphanius, Panarion 19, 2, 2, the name Elchasai means “Hidden Power” (Aramaic: ḥail kesai), which is generally accepted by mode…


(24,815 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Gnosticism I: Gnostic Religion 1. The Problem of Definition The term “Gnosticism” is a scholarly invention, coined by the Cambridge Platonist → Henry More (1614-1687), who used it in a pejorative sense (Layton 1995). In Antiquity, the religious phenomenon it designates was simply called “Gnosis” (Gr. gnōsis, “knowledge”) or, by its opponents, “the Gnosis falsely so called” (already in 1 Timothy 6:20). In this connection, the word Gnosis does not refer to rational, philosophical knowledge, but to religious, spiritual insight, based on revela…

Justin the Gnostic

(1,442 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Justin the Gnostic, 2nd cent. Justin was a 2nd-century Gnostic of whose life nothing is known, but whose ideas have been preserved in a rather extensive report by Hippolytus, Refutatio V, 23-27 (summary in X, 15, 1-7). Hippolytus' report was based on Justin's most famous book, called Baruch, but it cannot be decided with certainty whether he knew the work directly or only though an intermediary source. According to Justin, there are three eternal principles of the universe, called the Good One, Elohim and Edem. The first two are male, the third one is female. O…


(1,189 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Cerdo, before 150 Cerdo was a Christian teacher who worked in Rome during the episcopate of Hyginus (ca. 136-142). The main sources for his life and teaching are the anti-heretical works of Irenaeus (ca. 180) and some later authors, who might be dependent on Hippolytus (ca. 220). Their information possibly derives from local Roman traditions but is very problematic. According to Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 4, 3, Cerdo came under Hyginus ‘repeatedly back to the church as a penitent: now teaching in secret, then doing penance, then again being convicted…


(10,432 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
1. The Unity of the Universe The term “Hermetism” is used here to indicate the specific religious worldview of the so-called philosophical Hermetica [→ Hermetic Literature I]. Its most characteristic feature is the idea of an indissoluble interrelationship between God, the cosmos and man, which implies the unity of the universe. Its final aim is to lead its adepts to the worship of the supreme God as the source of being and eventually to union with him. However, the hermetic writings show a great dive…


(1,402 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Cerinthus, ca. 100 Cerinthus was a Christian teacher who lived in Asia Minor at the end of the first or the beginning of the 2nd century. The reports about his teaching are contradictory, and as a result modern scholars have described him either as an early Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] or as a primitive Christian who had been strongly influenced by Judaeo-Christian ideas. Cerinthus appears as an arch-heretic in the first document that mentions his name, the so-called Epistula apostolorum, which was written ca. 150, most probably in Asia Minor. It claims to have been composed ‘b…

Simon Magus

(3,418 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Magus, Simon, ca. 50 1. Introduction Simon was a Samaritan magician who lived in the first half of the 1st century A.D. and is first mentioned in the biblical book of Acts (8:9-25). The early Christian anti-heretical writers considered him the founding father of → Gnosticism, the arch-heretic, ‘from whom all heresies derived’ (Irenaeus, Adversus haereses I, 23, 2). The various and sometimes contradictory traditions about his vicissitudes and teachings make him an elusive and legendary figure. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries there were Gnostics who call…


(1,343 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
The Archontics were adherents of a Christian Gnostic sect [→ Gnosticism] of the 4th century, named after the archons, the rulers of the seven heavens, who played an important role in their system. The sect is only known through the refutation by its staunch opponent from the beginning, bishop Epiphanius of Salamis ( Panarion, 40, to which the references below refer), from whom all information in later authors derives. Since it is not likely that these Gnostics called themselves after the evil planetary rulers they abhorred, their name may have bee…


(355 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
[German Version] (“the philosopher,” 2nd cent. ce, from Athens) was the author of a Christian apology, reckoned by Eusebius ( Hist. eccl. IV 3.3) to be among the oldest. The structure and contents of the work must be reconstructed from a Syriac translation (S; 4th cent.), two Greek papyrus fragments (4th cent.), Greek excerpts in chs. 26f. of the early-Byzantine novella “Barlaam and Ioasaph (Josaphat)” (GB…

Hermes Trismegistus

(9,853 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den | Lucentini, Paolo | Faivre, Antoine
Hermes Trismegistus I: Antiquity 1. Thot and Hermes In the later Graeco-Roman world Hermes Trismegistus was seen as an Egyptian sage of remote antiquity whose knowledge of both the material and the spiritual world and their interrelationship were of great help to get some control of the vicissitudes of life and to bring the soul into harmony with its divine origin. Though his name shows that the Greeks saw some correspondences between this sage and their own god Hermes, the figure of Hermes Trismegistus…

Hermetic Literature

(48,072 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den | Lucentini, Paolo | Compagni, Vittoria Perrone | Lory, Pierre | Faivre, Antoine
Hermetic Literature I: Antiquity 1. Introduction The literary works attributed to → Hermes Trismegistus reflect the various activities he was thought to have deployed. In accordance with his function as a teacher of → magic, → astrology, → alchemy and philosophically coloured religious knowledge, there are under his name magical spells, astrological and alchemical treatises and religious-philosophical discourses. In recent scholarship, there has been much discussion about the relationship between the …

Intermediary Beings

(12,281 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den | Fanger, Claire | Brach, Jean-Pierre | Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Intermediary Beings I: Antiquity 1. Introduction The belief in angels, demons and other intermediary beings has become an important aspect of Western religious thought and imagination, in mainstream Christianity as well as in esoteric currents. Its emergence was mainly the result of the combination of Greek and Jewish ideas about good and evil spirits that have a direct influence on human life. Sometimes these beings are individually distinguished by name, but often they are thought to operate as name…