Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 7.30Celsus' Description of the Ophite Diagrams (according to Origen)
[Short excerpts of text from Origen Contra Celsus Book 6, Chapter 24 to 38:] Celsus says there is a diagram consisting of ten [or seven] separate circles, circumscribed by one circle which is said to be the world-soul and is called Leviathan. The diagram is divided by a thick black line, which is called Gehenna, or in Greek Tartarus. The "seal" is that of the one who imposes it, who is called Father, the one sealed is called Youth and Son, and he responds, "I have been anointed with the white chrism from the tree of life".
There are seven angels, who delivered the seal; they stand on both sides of the soul set it free from the body; and there are other angels of light who are called Archontics. The Archon of the so-called Archontics is the accursed god of the Jews, who makes rain and thunder.
He is the Demiurge of this world, the God of Moses described in his creation narrative. Of the Seven archontic demons, the first is lion-shaped; the second is a bull; the third is amphibious and hisses horribly; the fourth is in the form of an eagle ; the fifth has the appearance of a bear, the sixth, that of a dog ; and the seventh, that of an ass named Thaphabaoth or Onoel.
Some persons return to the archontic forms so they become lions or bulls or serpents or eagles or bears or dogs. There is a square, and there are words said at the gates of Paradise.
They add still further matters; the sayings of prophets, and circles upon circles, and emanations of the earthly church and of circumcision, and the power emanating from a certain virgin Prunikos, and a living soul, and a Heaven slain that it may live, and earth slain with a sword, and many slain that they might live, and death stopped in Heaven, when the world's sin dies, and a narrow way back, and doors opening automatically. Everywhere there is the Tree of Life and a resurrection of flesh of the tree.
They say that some things are written within the two super-heavenly circles, the greater and the lesser, those of the Son and the Father.
Origen's Description of the Ophite Diagrams
[Short excerpts of text from Origen Contra Celsus Book 6, Chapter 24 to 38:] In this diagram are the greater and the smaller circle. On their diameters is inscribed "Father" and "Son." Between the greater, in which the smaller lies, and another circle, consisting of two circles, the outer yellow and the inner dark blue, is the barrier, shaped like a two-edged axe. Above it is a small circle, smaller than the larger of those already mentioned, with "love" written on it.
Below it is another with the word "Life" [Zoe] . In the second circle, combining and circumscribing the other two circles as well as another rhomboid shape, is written "Foreknowledge of Wisdom" [Pronoia Sophia] , and above their common intersection is a circle which is written "Knowledge" [Gnosis], and below, another in which is written "Understanding"....
Irenaeus, Adv Haer, book 1, chapter 30Of the heresies, some receive their appellation from a [person's] name, as that which is called after Valentinus, and that after Marcion, and that after Basilides, although they boast of adducing the opinion of Matthew [without truth]; for as the teaching, so also the tradition of the apostles was one. Some take their designation from a place, as the Peratici; some from a nation, as the [heresy] of the Phrygians; some from an action, as that of the Encratites; and some from peculiar dogmas, as that of the Docetae, and that of the Harmatites; and some from suppositions, and from individuals they have honoured, as those called Cainists, and the Ophians; and some from nefarious practices and enormities, as those of the Simonians called Entychites.
Pseudo Tertullian, Haer. 2.1-41. Others, again, portentously declare that there exists, in the power of Bythus, a certain primary light, blessed, incorruptible, and infinite: this is the Father of all, and is styled the first man. They also maintain that his Ennoea, going forth from him, produced a son, and that this is the son of man-the second man. Below these, again, is the Holy Spirit, and under this superior spirit the elements were separated from each other, viz., water, darkness, the abyss, chaos, above which they declare the Spirit was borne, calling him the first woman. Afterwards, they maintain, the first man, with his son, delighting over the beauty of the Spirit-that is, of the woman-and shedding light upon her, begat by her an incorruptible light, the third male, whom they call Christ,-the son of the first and second man, and of the Holy Spirit, the first woman.
2. The father and son thus both had intercourse with the woman (whom they also call the mother of the living). When, however, she could not bear nor receive into herself the greatness of the lights, they declare that she was filled to repletion, and became ebullient on the left side; and that thus their only son Christ, as belonging to the right side, and ever tending to what was higher, was immediately caught up with his mother to form an incorruptible Aeon. This constitutes the true and holy Church, which has become the appellation, the meeting together, and the union of the father of all, of the first man, of the son, of the second man, of Christ their son, and of the woman who has been mentioned.
3. They teach, however, that the power which proceeded from the woman by ebullition, being besprinkled with light, fell downward from the place occupied by its progenitors, yet possessing by its own will that besprinkling of light; and it they call Sinistra, Prunicus, and Sophia, as well as masculo-feminine. This being, in its simplicity, descended into the waters while they were yet in a state of immobility, and imparted motion to them also, wantonly acting upon them even to their lowest depths, and assumed from them a body. For they affirm that all things rushed towards and clung to that sprinkling of light, and begin it all round. Unless it had possessed that, it would perhaps have been totally absorbed in, and overwhelmed by, material substance. Being therefore bound down by a body which was composed of matter, and greatly burdened by it, this power regretted the course it had followed, and made an attempt to escape from the waters and ascend to its mother: it could not effect this, however, on account of the weight of the body lying over and around it. But feeling very ill at ease, it endeavoured at least to conceal that light which came from above, fearing lest it too might be injured by the inferior elements, as had happened to itself. And when it had received power from that besprinkling of light which it possessed, it sprang back again, and was borne aloft; and being on high, it extended itself, covered [a portion of space], and formed this visible heaven out of its body; yet remained under the heaven which it made, as still possessing the form of a watery body. But when it had conceived a desire for the light above, and had received power by all things, it laid down this body, and was freed from it. This body which they speak of that power as having thrown off, they call a female from a female.
4. They declare, moreover, that her son had also himself a certain breath of incorruption left him by his mother, and that through means of it he works; and becoming powerful, he himself, as they affirm, also sent forth from the waters a son without a mother; for they do not allow him either to have known a mother. His son, again, after the example of his father, sent forth another son. This third one, too, generated a fourth; the fourth also generated a son: they maintain that again a son was generated by the fifth; and the sixth, too, generated a seventh. Thus was the Hebdomad, according to them, completed, the mother possessing the eighth place; and as in the case of their generations, so also in regard to dignities and powers, they precede each other in turn.
5. They have also given names to [the several persons] in their system of falsehood, such as the following: he who was the first descendant of the mother is called Ialdabaoth; he, again, descended from him, is named Iao; he, from this one, is called Sabaoth; the fourth is named Adoneus; the fifth, Eloeus; the sixth, Oreus; and the seventh and last of all, Astanphaeus. Moreover, they represent these heavens, potentates, powers, angels, and creators, as sitting in their proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and as invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial. The first of them, namely Ialdabaoth, holds his mother in contempt, inasmuch as he produced sons and grandsons without the permission of any one, yea, even angels, archangels, powers, potentates, and dominions. After these things had been done, his sons turned to strive and quarrel with him about the supreme power,-conduct which deeply grieved Ialdabaoth, and drove him to despair. In these circumstances, he cast his eyes upon the subjacent dregs of matter, and fixed his desire upon it, to which they declare his son owes his origin. This son is Nous himself, twisted into the form of a serpent; and hence were derived the spirit, the soul, and all mundane things: from this too were generated all oblivion, wickedness, emulation, envy, and death. They declare that the father imparted still greater crookedness to this serpent-like and contorted Nous of theirs, when he was with their father in heaven and Paradise.
6. On this account, Ialdabaoth, becoming uplifted in spirit, boasted himself over all those things that were below him, and exclaimed, "I am father, and God, and above me there is no one." But his mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, "Do not lie, Ialdabaoth: for the father of all, the first Anthropos (man), is above thee; and so is Anthropos the son of Anthropos." Then, as all were disturbed by this new voice, and by the unexpected proclamation, and as they were inquiring whence the noise proceeded, in order to lead them away and attract them to himself, they affirm that Ialdabaoth exclaimed, "Come, let us make man after our image." The six powers, on hearing this, and their mother furnishing them with the idea of a man (in order that by means of him she might empty them of their original power), jointly formed a man of immense size, both in regard to breadth and length. But as he could merely writhe along the ground, they carried him to their father; Sophia so labouring in this matter, that she might empty him (Ialdabaoth) of the light with which he had been sprinkled, so that he might no longer, though still powerful, be able to lift up himself against the powers above. They declare, then, that by breathing into man the spirit of life, he was secretly emptied of his power; that hence man became a possessor of nous (intelligence) and enthymesis (thought); and they affirm that these are the faculties which partake in salvation. He [they further assert] at once gave thanks to the first Anthropos (man), forsaking those who had created him.
7. But Ialdabaoth, feeling envious at this, was pleased to form the design of again emptying man by means of woman, and produced a woman from his own enthymesis, whom that Prunicus [above mentioned] laying hold of, imperceptibly emptied her of power. But the others coming and admiring her beauty, named her Eve, and falling in love with her, begat sons by her, whom they also declare to be the angels. But their mother (Sophia) cunningly devised a scheme to seduce Eve and Adam, by means of the serpent, to transgress the command of Ialdabaoth. Eve listened to this as if it had proceeded from a son of God, and yielded an easy belief. She also persuaded Adam to eat of the tree regarding which God had said that they should not eat of it. They then declare that, on their thus eating, they attained to the knowledge of that power which is above all, and departed from those who had created them. When Prunicus perceived that the powers were thus baffled by their own creature, she greatly rejoiced, and again cried out, that since the father was incorruptible, he (Ialdabaoth) who formerly called himself the father was a liar; and that, while Anthropos and the first woman (the Spirit) existed previously, this one (Eve) sinned by committing adultery.
8. Ialdabaoth, however, through that oblivion in which he was involved, and not paying any regard to these things, cast Adam and Eve out of Paradise, because they had transgressed his commandment. For he had a desire to beget sons by Eve, but did not accomplish his wish, because his mother opposed him in every point, and secretly emptied Adam and Eve of the light with which they had been sprinkled, in order that that spirit which proceeded from the supreme power might participate neither in the curse nor opprobrium [caused by transgression]. They also teach that, thus being emptied of the divine substance, they were cursed by him, and cast down from heaven to this world. But the serpent also, who was acting against the father, was cast down by him into this lower world; he reduced, however, under his power the angels here, and begat six sons, he himself forming the seventh person, after the example of that Hebdomad which surrounds the father. They further declare that these are the seven mundane demons, who always oppose and resist the human race, because it was on their account that their father was cast down to this lower world.
9. Adam and Eve previously had light, and clear, and as it were spiritual bodies, such as they were at their creation; but when they came to this world, these changed into bodies more opaque, and gross, and sluggish. Their soul also was feeble and languid, inasmuch as they had received from their creator a merely mundane inspiration. This continued until Prunicus, moved with compassion towards them, restored to them the sweet savour of the besprinkling of light, by means of which they came to a remembrance of themselves, and knew that they were naked, as well as that the body was a material substance, and thus recognised that they bore death about with them. They thereupon became patient, knowing that only for a time they would be enveloped in the body. They also found out food, through the guidance of Sophia; and when they were satisfied, they had carnal knowledge of each other, and begat Cain, whom the serpent, that had been cast down along with his sons, immediately laid hold of and destroyed by filling him with mundane oblivion, and urging into folly and audacity, so that, by slaying his brother Abel, he was the first to bring to light envy and death. After these, they affirm that, by the forethought of Prunicus, Seth was begotten, and then Norea, from whom they represent all the rest of mankind as being descended. They were urged on to all kinds of wickedness by the inferior Hebdomad, and to apostasy, idolatry, and a general contempt for everything by the superior holy Hebdomad, since the mother was always secretly opposed to them, and carefully preserved what was peculiarly her own, that is, the besprinkling of light. They maintain, moreover, that the holy Hebdomad is the seven stars which they call planets; and they affirm that the serpent cast down has two names, Michael and Samael.
10. Ialdabaoth, again, being incensed with men, because they did not worship or honour him as father and God, sent forth a deluge upon them, that he might at once destroy them all. But Sophia opposed him in this point also, and Noah and his family were saved in the ark by means of the besprinkling of that light which proceeded from her, and through it the world was again filled with mankind. Ialdabaoth himself chose a certain man named Abraham from among these, and made a covenant with him, to the effect that, if his seed continued to serve him, he would give to them the earth for an inheritance. Afterwards, by means of Moses, he brought forth Abraham's descendants from Egypt, and gave them the law, and made them the Jews. Among that people he chose seven days, which they also call the holy Hebdomad. Each of these receives his own herald for the purpose of glorifying and proclaiming God; so that, when the rest hear these praises, they too may serve those who are announced as gods try the prophets.
11. Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adohai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphaeus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ. The [other] powers being terrified by these things, and marvelling at the novelty of those things which were announced by the prophets, Prunicus brought it about by means of Ialdabaoth (who knew not what he did), that emissions of two men took place, the one from the barren Elizabeth, and the other from the Virgin Mary.
12. And since she herself had no rest either in heaven or on earth, she invoked her mother to assist her in her distress. Upon this, her mother, the first woman, was moved with compassion towards her daughter, on her repentance, and begged from the first man that Christ should be sent to her assistance, who, being sent forth, descended to his sister, and to the besprinkling of light. When he recognised her (that is, the Sophia below), her brother descended to her, and announced his advent through means of John, and prepared the baptism of repentance, and adopted Jesus beforehand, in order that on Christ descending he might find a pure vessel, and that by the son of that Ialdabaoth the woman might be announced by Christ. They further declare that he descended through the seven heavens, having assumed the likeness of their sons, and gradually emptied them of their power. For they maintain that the whole besprinkling of light rushed to him, and that Christ, descending to this world, first clothed his sister Sophia [with it], and that then both exulted in the mutual refreshment they felt in each other's society: this scene they describe as relating to bridegroom and bride. But Jesus, inasmuch as he was begotten of the Virgin through the agency of God, was wiser, purer, and more righteous than all other men: Christ united to Sophia descended into him, and thus Jesus Christ was produced.
13. They affirm that many of his disciples were not aware of the descent of Christ into him; but that, when Christ did descend on Jesus, he then began to work miracles, and heal, and announce the unknown Father, and openly to confess himself the son of the first man. The powers and the father of Jesus were angry at these proceedings, and laboured to destroy him; and when he was being led away for this purpose, they say that Christ himself, along with Sophia, departed from him into the state of an incorruptible Aeon, while Jesus was crucified. Christ, however, was not forgetful of his Jesus, but sent down a certain energy into him from above, which raised him up again in the body, which they call both animal and spiritual; for he sent the mundane parts back again into the world. When his disciples saw that he had risen, they did not recognise him-no, not even Jesus himself, by whom he rose again from the dead. And they assert that this very great error prevailed among his disciples, that they imagined he had risen in a mundane body, not knowing that "flesh and blood do not attain to the kingdom of God."
14. They strove to establish the descent and ascent of Christ, by the fact that neither before his baptism, nor after his resurrection from the dead, do his disciples state that he did any mighty works, not being aware that Jesus was united to Christ, and the incorruptible Aeon to the Hebdomad; and they declare his mundane body to be of the same nature as that of animals. But after his resurrection he tarried [on earth] eighteen months; and knowledge descending into him from above, he taught what was clear. He instructed a few of his disciples, whom he knew to be capable of understanding so great mysteries, in these things, and was then received up into heaven, Christ sitting down at the right hand of his father Ialdabaoth, that he may receive to himself the souls of those who have known them, after they have laid aside their mundane flesh, thus enriching himself without the knowledge or perception of his father; so that, in proportion as Jesus enriches himself with holy souls, to such an extent does his father suffer loss and is diminished, being emptied of his own power by these souls. For he will not now possess holy souls to send them down again into the world, except those only which are of his substance, that is, those into which he has breathed. But the consummation [of all things] will take place, when the whole besprinkling of the spirit of light is gathered together, and is carried off to form an incorruptible Aeon.
15. Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernaean hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus. For some of them assert that Sophia herself became the serpent; on which account she was hostile to the creator of Adam, and implanted knowledge in men, for which reason the serpent was called wiser than all others. Moreover, by the position of our intestines, through which the food is conveyed, and by the fact that they possess such a figure, our internal configuration in the form of a serpent reveals our hidden generatrix.
Epiphanius, Panarion 37Christ did not exist in the flesh (Christum autem non in substantia carnis fuisse; 2.4); that they extolled the serpent and preferred it to Christ (serpentem magnificant in tantum, ut ilium etiam ipsi Christo praeferant; 2.1); and that Christ imitated (imitor) Moses' serpent's sacred power (Num 21:6-9) saying, "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up (John 3:14)" (Haer. 2:1). In addition, Eve is said to have believed the serpent, as if it had been God the Son (Eua quasi filio deo crediredat; 2.4).
Philastrius1,1 As I promised by the power of God, with God’s help I shall also
describe the Ophite sect, which follows next after the last stupidities. In
some ways it takes the same course but in others, the customs and gestures
of its members, it is different—so that everyone can see from the erratic
wandering of the disagreement between them that these sects are guided
by error, not truth. The Ophites will now be detected by the treatise, and
their sort of stupidity refuted.
1,2 As I said, the Ophites took their cue from the sects of Nicolaus and
the Gnostics and the ones before those. But they are called Ophites because
of the serpent which they magnify. For they too disgorge strange things as
though they were stuffed with the stinking food we mentioned before; and
in their error, as I said, they glorify the serpent as a new divinity.
1,3 And see how far the serpent, the deceiver of the Ophites, has gone
in mischief! Just as he deceived Eve and Adam at the beginning so even
he does now by concealing himself—both now and in the Jewish period
up until Christ’s coming. (4) Then, even in later times, he seduces greedy
humanity further with the food they got through him by disobedience; and
he provokes them to further treachery and makes them rebels against the
true God. He always promises big things, as he did also at the beginning.
Even then he cheated them by saying, “Ye shall be as gods”;2
time, he completed the multiform, monstrous illusion for them. (5) For he
had spawned the blasphemous nonsense of idolatry and polytheism long
before, by detaching them from the one true God. They were not gods
(then), just as they are not (now); < only > God is God. But he was spawning
polytheism, the madness for idols, and a deceitful doctrine beforehand.
1,6 But the snake which was visible at that time was not the only cause
of this. It was the snake who spoke in the snake—I mean < the > devil—and
disturbed the man’s hearing through the woman. (7) And the tree was not
sin either—God plants nothing evil—but the tree gave them knowledge so
that they would know good and evil.
1,8 And death did not come because of knowledge, but because of
disobedience. Indeed the adversary’s whole plot at that time was laid, not
for the sake of food but to make them disobedient. (9) Hence they disobeyed
then, and as an entirely just punishment were expelled from Paradise—not
from God’s hatred of them but from his care. For the Lord tells them,
“Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return.”3
(10) Like a potter the
true Craftsman has charge of his own handiwork and vessel, and if this is
later rendered defective by disobedience he must not leave it in that condition—when
the vessel is still clay, as we might say, and has been rendered
unuseable, as though by a crack. (11) Instead he must change the vessel
into the original lump, to restore it to its pristine splendor and better still
in the regeneration at the resurrection—(12) that is, < renew > the bodies
of those who have committed the most grievous sins, and have repented,
renounced their errors and been perfected in the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ, so that the resurrection of the body from the earth may take
place as though the lump, softened by the Craftsman, were being restored
to its original form and even better.
2,1 Such was the serpent’s scheme against Eve. For the human race
is greedy from the fi rst, and always open to seduction by absurd doctrines
and empty professions. (2) And in ancient times the serpent remained in
hiding and did not disclose the full extent of its poison. But later, after
Christ’s incarnation, it coughed up and spat out the entire poisonous, wicked
invention of its malice, for it proposed itself in the minds of its dupes for
glorifi cation and worship as God.
2,3 But the same serpent is recognizable as the author of the deception,
both from this school of its followers and from the visible snake. Indeed,
sacred scripture calls the devil a serpent; certainly not because he looks like
one, but because he appears extremely crooked to men, and because of the
treacherous fraud which was at the fi rst perpetrated through a snake.
2,4 In the eyes, then, of those who recognize the truth, this doctrine is
a ridiculous thing and so are its adherents who honor the serpent as God.
No longer able to deceive the masculine reason which has received the
power of the truth from the Lord, the devil turns to the feminine—that is,
to men’s ignorance—and convinces the ignorant, since he cannot deceive
sound reason. (5) He always makes his approach to feminine whims, pleasure
and lust—in other words, to the womanish ignorance in men, not to
the fi rm reason which understands everything logically and recognizes God
by the law of nature. (6) For their snake says it is Christ. Or rather, it does
not—it cannot talk—but the devil does, who has prepared their minds to
think in this way.
2,7 Thus, on seeing the snake, who will not recognize the adversary
and fl ee? This is why the Lord assigned enmity against the human race to
this particular snake—since, being his pet, it was wholly the devil’s instrument,
and through it he deceived the man in Paradise—so that, because
they had seen the enmity of this visible snake they would fl ee the plot of
its treachery and practically hate even the sight of it.
3,1 These so-called Ophites too ascribe all knowledge to this snake,
saying that it became the beginning of men’s knowledge,4
mythology they slip the things in that they think are mysteries,5
they are mimes, full of absurdity and nonsense.
3,2 For these are certainly myths: They claim that Aeons were emitted
from the Aeon on high, and that Ialdabaoth came into being on a lower
But he was emitted in accordance with the weakness and ignorance
of his own mother, that is, the supernal Prunicus.7
(3) For they say this
Prunicus had come down into the waters and become mingled with them,
but could not go back up because of being mingled with the weight of
matter. For she has been intermingled with the waters and matter, and
can no longer withdraw. (4) But she heaved herself up with an effort and
stretched herself out, and thus < the > upper heaven was formed. And as
she was fi xed in place, no longer able either to go up or to come down
but fi xed and stretched out in the middle, there she remained. (5) For she
could not sink down because she had no affi nity (with what was below her);
but she could not go up because she was heavy from the matter which she
had taken on.8
3,6 But when Ialdabaoth9
had been emitted in her ignorance he went
to the very bottom and begot seven sons,10 who begot seven heavens.11 And
he closed off the space above him and hid it from view, so that the seven
sons he had emitted, being lower down than he, would not know what was
above him, but no one at all but him.12 And he, they say, is the God of the
Jews, Ialdabaoth. (7) But this is not so, of course not! God the Almighty
will judge them, for he is God both of Jews and Christians, and everyone,
and not any Ialdabaoth, as their silly story has it.
4,113 Then, they say, when the heights had been closed off by Ialdabaoth’s
design, these seven sons he had begotten—whether they were aeons,
or gods, or angels, they use various terms for them—fashioned the man in
the image of their father Ialdabaoth. Not easily or quickly, however, but
in the same way in which the earlier sects had made it out in their drivel.
For these people too say, “The man was a creeping thing like a worm, not
able either to look up or get to his feet.’”14 (2) But as a scheme against
Ialdabaoth the supernal Mother, the one called Prunicus15—wishing to
empty Ialdabaoth of his power16 which he had gotten from her by participation17—worked
in him on the man his sons had formed,18 intending to
drain his power and send a spark19 from him, the soul supposedly,20 upon
the man. (3) And then, they say, the man stood on his feet, rose in mind
above the eight heavens, and recognized and praised the Father on high
who is above Ialdabaoth.21
4,4 And then, distressed because the things high up above him had
been recognized, Ialdabaoth stared bitterly down at the dung of matter
and sired a power with a snake-like appearance,22 which they also call his
son. (5) And so, they say, this son was sent on his mission and deceived Eve.
And she listened to him, believed him as a son of God,23 and because of
her belief ate from the tree of knowledge.24
5,1 Then, whenever they are describing this foolishness and the absurdity
of this practice25—now that they have composed the tragic piece, as
we might say, and this comic opera—they begin to point certain things
out to us in support of their false so-called “gods.” They say, “Are not our
intestines also, by which we live and are nourished, shaped like a serpent?”26
(2) And in support of their imposture and silly opinion they introduce any
number of further points for their dupes. “We glorify the serpent for this
reason,” they say; “because it has been a cause if their knowledge for the
5,3 Ialdabaoth, they say, did not want the Mother on high, or the
Father, remembered by men. But the serpent convinced them and brought
them knowledge, and taught the man and the woman the whole of the
knowledge of the mysteries on high. (4) Hence his father—Ialdabaoth, that
is—was angry because of the knowledge he had given men, and threw him
down from heaven. (5) And therefore these people who possess the serpent’s
portion and nothing else, call the serpent a king from heaven. And so, they
say, they glorify him for such knowledge and offer him bread.
5,6 For they have a real snake and keep it in a basket of some sort.
When it is time for their mysteries they bring it out of the den, spread
loaves around on a table, and call the snake to come; and when the den
is opened it comes out. And then the snake—which comes up of its own
accord and by its villainy—already knowing their foolishness, crawls onto
the table and coils up on the loaves. And this they call a perfect sacrifi ce.
5,7 And so, as I have heard from someone, not only do they break the
loaves the snake has coiled on and distribute them to the communicants,
but each one kisses the snake on the mouth besides—whether the snake has
been charmed into tameness by some sort of sorcery, or coaxed by some
other act of the devil for their deception. (8) But they worship an animal
of that sort and call what has been consecrated by its coiling around it the
eucharistic element.28 And they offer a hymn to the Father on high—again,
as they say, through the snake—and so conclude their mysteries.
6,1 But anyone would call < this > foolishness and sheer nonsense.
And it will not require refutation by research in sacred scripture; to anyone
with godly soundness of mind its absurdity will be self-evident. For all their
drivel will at once appear as something silly. (2) If they say hat there is
a “Prunicus,” as I have already remarked, how can one fail to detect the
unsoundness of their notion from the very name? Anything called “seductive”
is unseemly. But if it is unseemly it cannot be ranked among things
to be preferred. And how can an unseemly thing be praiseworthy?
6,3 And how can it be anything but mythology to say that Prunicus
drained Ialdabaoth, and that the spark went down below from him when
he was drained; but that once it had lodged in the man, it recognized the
person above the person who had been drained? (4) What a very great
surprise that the man, with the tiniest of sparks in him, recognizes more
than the angels who fashioned him! For the angels, or sons of Ialdabaoth,
did not recognize the things above Ialdabaoth; but the man they had made
did, by means of the spark!
6,5 Ophites refute themselves with their own doctrines by glorifying the
snake at one moment, but at the next making him a deceiver who came to
Eve when they say, “he deceived Eve.”29 (6) And they sometimes proclaim
him Christ, but sometimes a son of the higher Ialdabaoth, who wronged
his sons by shutting off the knowledge of < the > realms on high from them
and despised both the Mother and the Father on high, in order to keep the
sons he had sired from honoring the Father above him.
6,7 How can the serpent be a heavenly king if he has rebelled against
the Father? And if he gives knowledge, why is he denounced as having fooled
Eve with a deception? Someone who instills knowledge through deceit is
no longer giving knowledge, but ignorance instead of knowledge; and one
can truly see that, among them, this is the case. For they have ignorance
and think it is knowledge—though when they call their own “knowledge”
deceit and ignorance, in this they are telling the truth!
7,1 They cite other texts as well, and say that Moses too lifted the
bronze serpent up in the wilderness and exhibited it for the healing of
persons who had been bitten by a snake.30 For they say that that sort of
thing serves as the cure for the bite. (2) But once more, they are making
these declarations against themselves. For if the bites were snake’s bites,
and these were harmful, then the serpent is not good. The thing Moses
held up in those days effected healing by the sight of it—not because of
the nature of the snake but by the good pleasure of God who, by means
of the snake, was making a sort of antidote for those who were bitten at
that time. (3) It is no surprise if a person is cured through the things by
which he was injured. And let no one speak ill of God’s creation—as other
erring persons do in their turn.
7,4 However, this served the people in the wilderness as a type, for
the reason the Lord gives in the Gospel when he comes, “as Moses lifted
up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted
up”31—which indeed has been done. (5) For dishonoring the Savior like
a serpent they were injured by the serpent’s scheme, I mean the devil’s.
And as healing came to those who had been bitten by the lifting up of the
serpent, so, at Christ’s crucifi xion, deliverance has come to our souls from
the bites of sin which we have gotten.
7,6 But the same people cite this very text as evidence and say, “Do you
not see how the Savior said, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up?’32 And on this account,”
they say, “he also says in another passage, ‘Be ye wise as the serpent and
harmless as the dove.’ ”33 And what God has rightly ordained for us as
symbols of teaching they cite in their own deluded sense.
8,1 For our Lord, the divine Word Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father
before all ages without beginning and not in time, is not a serpent—heaven
forbid!—but came himself to combat the serpent. (2) If he says, “Be ye wise
as the serpent and harmless as the dove,”34 we must inquire and learn why
he introduced these two fi gures, of the serpent and of the dove, for our
instruction. (3) There is nothing wise about a snake except for < the > two
following things. When it is being hunted it knows that its whole life is in
its head, and it is afraid of the order once given about it by God for the
man’s sake, “Thou shalt guard against its head, and it shall guard against
thy heel.”35 So it coils its whole body over its head and hides its skull, but
with extreme villainy surrenders the rest of its body. (4) In the same way
the only-begotten God, who came forth from the Father, wills that in a
time of persecution and a time of temptation we surrender our whole
selves to fi re and sword, but that we guard our “head”—in other words,
that we do not deny Christ, since “The head of every man is Christ, and
the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God,”36 as
the apostle says.
8,5 Again, as the naturalists say of this beast, the snake has another
kind of wisdom. When it is thirsty and goes from its den to water to drink,
it does not bring its poison with it but leaves it in its den, and then goes
and takes its drink from the water. (6) Let us imitate this ourselves so that,
when we go to God’s holy church for prayer or God’s mysteries, we do not
bring evil, pleasure, passion, enmity or anything else in our thoughts.
8,7 For that matter, how can we imitate the dove either without keeping
clear of evil—though certainly, in many ways doves are not praiseworthy.
(8) Doves are insatiable and incessantly promiscuous, lecherous, given to
the pleasure of the moment, and weak and small besides. (9) But because
of the harmlessness, patience and forbearance of doves—and even more,
because of the Holy Spirit’s appearance in the form of a dove—the divine
Word would have us imitate the will of the Holy Spirit and the harmlessness
of the harmless dove and be wise in good but innocent in evil.
And their entire dramatic piece has been demolished. (10) For straight off,
by saying, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through
his villainy, so your minds should be corrupted from the sincerity and
simplicity of Christ, and from righteousness,”37 the apostle assigns villainy
and treachery to none more than to the devil and the serpent. (11) You
see how the apostle pronounced the serpent’s dealings with Eve seduction,
frightful villainy and deceit, and made it clear that nothing praiseworthy
had been done by it.
9,1 Hence their stupidity is discernible and obvious in all respects to
anyone who is willing to know the teaching of the truth and the knowledge
of the Holy Spirit. (2) But not to waste time, now that I have sailed through
this fi erce, hazardous storm at sea as well, I shall ready my barque for its
other sea voyages, carefully guarding my tongue by God’s power and the
prayers of saints, (3) so as to espy the tossing of the wild waves as I sail by,
and the forms of the poisonous beasts in the seas, but be able to cross and
reach the fair haven of the truth by prayer and supplication, untouched
by the poison of sea eel, stingray, dragon, shark and scorpaena. (4) In my
case too, the text, “They that go down to the sea shall tell the virtues of
the Lord,”38 will prove applicable. So I shall make my way to another sect
after this, for its description.
Text not readily available to me just now - anyone have any relevant quotes?
There may also be relevant material in the NHL - some suggest looking at Hypostasis of the Archons, On the Origin of the World, and/or the Apocryphon of John.
Other primary sources? More from these sources? (I didn't look long.)
Some secondary sources:
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic ... 20-ophites
http://www.paulkiritsis.net/_blog/Down_ ... e_Serpent/