Simon Magus

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John2
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Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

As a proponent of the idea that Josephus mentions several figures from the NT (like James, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and Philip), I'm starting to wonder why the magician Atomus/Simon that Josephus mentions in Ant. 20 couldn't be Simon Magus. As the Wikipedia page for Simon Magus notes:
Josephus mentions a magician named Atomus (Simon in Latin manuscripts) as being involved with the procurator Felix, King Agrippa II and his sister Drusilla, where Felix has Simon convince Drusilla to marry him instead of the man she was engaged to. Some scholars have considered the two to be identical, although this is not generally accepted, as the Simon of Josephus is a Jew rather than a Samaritan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus#Josephus
So I took another look at Acts, and now I'm wondering what it is that makes people think Simon Magus was a Samaritan. All I can see in Acts 8 is that he is said to have preached in Samaria, and I don't see why that means he was a Samaritan any more than Philip, Peter and John, who are also said to have preached there. The key part seems to be Acts 8:9-11:
Prior to that time, a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and astounded the people of Samaria. He claimed to be someone great, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, heeded his words and said, “This man is the divine power called the Great Power.” They paid close attention to him because he had astounded them for a long time with his sorcery.
If I wasn't aware of the idea that Simon was a Samaritan, this passage wouldn't necessarily make me think that he was one, because it doesn't seem any different than what 8:5-8 and 12-13 say about Philip:
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. The crowds gave their undivided attention to Philip’s message and the signs they saw him perform. With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, and many of the paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city ... But when they believed Philip as he preached the gospel of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. He followed Philip closely and was astounded by the great signs and miracles he observed.


Or any different than what 8:14-17 says about Peter and John:
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. On their arrival, they prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Am I missing something? What makes people think Simon Magus was a Samaritan?
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Justin Martyr, First Apology 26, claims Simon's birthplace is Gitto, a Samaritan place name. The pseudo-Clementines (Homilies 2.22, I think, searchable anyway) render the placename Getthon.

If you're looking for a Cypriot conenction, then Josephus attests a Cypriot placename Kittim (searchable). There is at least the possibility of phonetic confusion, although that's not a slam dunk.

Hope some of that helps.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:50 pm Justin Martyr, First Apology 26, claims Simon's birthplace is Gitto, a Samaritan place name. The pseudo-Clementines (Homilies 2.22, I think, searchable anyway) render the placename Getthon.

If you're looking for a Cypriot conenction, then Josephus attests a Cypriot placename Kittim (searchable). There is at least the possibility of phonetic confusion, although that's not a slam dunk.

Hope some of that helps.
Right, but I was wondering if I was missing something in Acts (or elsewhere in the NT). I used to try to wade through the secondary sources you mention, but as far as they go, I'm starting to think it could all be nothing more than an assumption that was based (however reasonably) on Acts 8. Maybe these secondary sources are right, maybe they are wrong, but if it all rides on Acts 8, I would not rule out the possibility that Simon Magus was Jewish and not a Samaritan, and thus he could then be the magician Atomus/Simon in Josephus.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

it doesn't look like it would add much to the biography of the "historical Simon Magus," but going with the possibility that he could be the magician that Josephus mentions in Ant. 20.7.2, I thought I'd put the passage here for examination in that light. If there's anything to it, it would be yet another figure mentioned in the NT (particularly in Acts) who I think is also mentioned by Josephus, and which would make a lot of sense to me given my view that Acts used Josephus. And the fact that he is mentioned near the James passage is interesting, at least chronologically speaking (and the same goes for Josephus' Saul, who I think could be Paul).
While Felix was procurator of Judea, he saw this Drusilla, and fell in love with her; for she did indeed exceed all other women in beauty; and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon one of his friends; a Jew he was, and by birth a Cypriot, and one who pretended to be a magician, and endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry him [Felix]; and promised, that if she would not refuse him, he would make her a happy woman. Accordingly she acted ill, and because she was desirous to avoid her sister Bernice's envy, for she was very ill treated by her on account of her beauty, was prevailed upon to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and to marry Felix; and when he had had a son by her, he named him Agrippa. But after what manner that young man, with his wife, perished at the conflagration of the mountain Vesuvius, in the days of Titus Caesar, shall be related hereafter.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

And now that I think about it, Felix, Drusilla and Bernice (who are also mentioned in the passage above) are also mentioned in Acts, which I think makes Josephus' passage even more relevant (particularly when you factor in the idea that Acts used Josephus). If Josephus' Simon is Simon Magus, it would simply be in keeping with everyone else Acts mentions who are mentioned by Josephus (like Felix, Festus, Drusilla, Bernice, King Agrippa, Judas the Galilean, Theudas, James -and Jesus!- and in my view also Paul, Peter and perhaps even Philip). In other words, it would be par for the course for Acts. In fact, given all the same people mentioned by Josephus and Acts, it would be unusual if Josephus' Simon wasn't Simon Magus.
Last edited by John2 on Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Hi again John2

Justin self-described as Samaritan (although the truth of that claim is unclear), and if so he would be a primary source for the existence of a Simonian movement in the early second century, independent of Josephus or Acts for that much. Similarly, Celsus apparently encountered a Helen-centric sect somewhere sometime in the second century, which corresponds with the supposed founding story of the Simonian movement, and would also be independent of Josephus or Acts. Helen is not a feature of either the Acts story of Simon nor of Atomus' story in Josephus.

I am not claiming that there was a historical Simon, but the existence of a movement focused on him might partially explain how the movement's stories and characters might find their way into our sources, apart from them talking to each other.

Again, I hope somewhere in that thought-ball is something helpful to you. Happy Easter.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

I'm thinking that the reason why Josephus and Acts mention so many of the same people and (Luke-) Acts arguably emulates Josephus (as per Mason) is that (Luke-) Acts was written by Josephus' patron Epaphroditus, who I think could be the same Epaphroditus Paul mentions in Philippians in the context of sending special greetings from "those of Caesar's household" (and was thus arguably the Epaphroditus who was Nero's secretary at that time and who is said to have died around the time Domitian was persecuting Christians c. 95 CE).

It would make sense if this Epaphroditus wrote (Luke-) Acts (and arguably emulated Josephus) given that he had access to Josephus -like the author of Luke-Acts seemed to- and was a pro-Roman writer (since he was an imperial secretary) -like the author of Luke-Acts appears to be- and Josephus describes him as "a man who is a lover of all kind of learning, but is principally delighted with the knowledge of history." And what Josephus says about him is in keeping with what Paul says about his Epaphroditus in Philippians:
... and this on account of his having been himself concerned in great affairs, and many turns of fortune, and having shown a wonderful rigor of an excellent nature, and an immovable virtuous resolution in them all.


Php. 2:25-30:
... Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my needs. For he has been longing for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. He was sick indeed, nearly unto death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.

Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less anxious. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for your deficit of service to me.
Last edited by John2 on Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:11 pm Hi again John2

Justin self-described as Samaritan (although the truth of that claim is unclear), and if so he would be a primary source for the existence of a Simonian movement in the early second century, independent of Josephus or Acts for that much. Similarly, Celsus apparently encountered a Helen-centric sect somewhere sometime in the second century, which corresponds with the supposed founding story of the Simonian movement, and would also be independent of Josephus or Acts. Helen is not a feature of either the Acts story of Simon nor of Atomus' story in Josephus.

I am not claiming that there was a historical Simon, but the existence of a movement focused on him might partially explain how the movement's stories and characters might find their way into our sources, apart from them talking to each other.

Again, I hope somewhere in that thought-ball is something helpful to you. Happy Easter.
Whether or not Justin was a Samaritan, he is relatively late and post-Acts, leaving plenty of time for Simonians to have developed whatever additional doctrines Justin and Celsus encountered and to have assumed that Simon Magus was a Samaritan because of Acts (whether he was real or not). And since my guess is that Justin and Simonians are dependent on Acts (or in Justin's case that he was at least writing after the existence of Acts as were whoever he may have gotten other information from), I view them as secondary sources. But now I want to take a fresh look at what Justin says about Simon Magus, which is in First Apology 26:
There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: — “Simoni Deo Sancto,” “To Simon the holy God.” And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Menander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetæa, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his.


If I recall correctly (though I intend to double check), the "holy God" statue is mentioned in the Clementine writings (which may have existed in some form in Justin's time but which I view as also being post-Acts and thus as a secondary source). And Menander's existence (who've I've never investigated until now) seems kind of fuzzy (and even uncertain), which would make sense given how much time had passed between when he supposedly lived and the mid second century CE when Justin was writing. But I will take another look at everything and keep an open mind.

Regarding Justin, Crown writes something interesting in The Samaritans (pg. 46-47):
In neither of these passages [FA 26 and Trypho 120] is the term "Samaritan" used to designate members of the Samaritan ethnic group, but in both of them it is almost certainly used in the sense of "a native/inhabitant of Samaria" ... we have no good grounds for believing that Justin was well acquainted with any members of the Samaritan ethnic group. He was ... a Gentile born at Flavia Neopolis in Samaria. He may have left Samaria at a relatively early age to further his studies in Greek philosophy ... and whether he did so or not, his contacts while living in Samaria were probably, at least largely, with members of the Gentile population in that region.

https://books.google.com/books?id=pzo6K ... ns&f=false
So Justin' information is post-Acts (whether he knew Acts or not) and arguably derived from non-ethnic Samaritans (e.g., other Gentile Christians from Samaria -and/or Rome- who were living post-Acts if not also dependent on it and whatever traditions about Simon Magus that had developed post-Acts).
Last edited by John2 on Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:35 pm, edited 11 times in total.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

And here is what Justin says about Simon Magus in Trypho 120 (which appears to support what Crown wrote above):
For I gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Cæsar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and might.
Justin Martyr was born around AD 100 at Flavia Neapolis (today Nablus) in Samaria into a pagan family, and defined himself as a Gentile. His grandfather, Bacchius, had a Greek name, while his father, Priscus, bore a Latin name, which has led to speculations that his ancestors may have settled in Neapolis soon after its establishment or that they were descended from a Roman "diplomatic" community that had been sent there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Martyr
So Justin arguably isn't evidence for Simon Magus being an ethnic Samaritan, only for him being from Samaria (like Justin). And he thus could have been Jewish, like Josephus' Simon.
Last edited by John2 on Fri Apr 19, 2019 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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John2
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Re: Simon Magus

Post by John2 »

And it looks like the information that Justin provides about Simon Magus is also in Christian writings that are dateable to his time (the Acts of Peter and perhaps an early form of the Clementine writings), which he could have had access to or heard about from other Christians rather than from ethnic Samaritans or Simonians.

Justin:
There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: — “Simoni Deo Sancto,” “To Simon the holy God.” And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him.
Acts of Peter:
... Simon the sorcerer whom thou didst cast out of Judaea ... hath again come before thee at Rome ... I set up a statue to him with this inscription: 'To Simon the new (young) God' ...


Recognitions of Clement 2.7 and 9:
This Simon's father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation he is a Samaritan, from a village of the Gettones ... But not long after he fell in love with that woman whom they call Luna; and he confided all things to us as his friends: how he was a magician, and how he loved Luna
So to me this all looks at best like post-Acts speculation that is ultimately Acts-based at least as far as Simon being thought of as an ethnic Samaritan.
Last edited by John2 on Fri Apr 19, 2019 7:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.
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