Sunday, May 05, 2019
Eusebius, EH.2.13-15: Simon the Sorcerer, Peter, and Mark
A new installment has been posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapters 13-15 (listen here).
Notes and Commentary:
Eusebius here focuses on a tradition of Simon the Samaritan sorcerer, a false convert from Acts 8:9-25 as an arch-heretic who eventually settled in Rome.
He describes Simon as a demon-possessed magician who was fancied a god by his followers. He suggests that a statue to him was raised in Rome. Lake notes that Eusebius is likely in error here, suggesting that the statue, discovered in 1574, was inscribed not “to Simon a holy god” but “to the god Semo Sanctus” [Semo Sanctus being a Sabine deity].
Simon’s companion was a woman named Helena, whom Eusebius suggests was a former prostitute and whom Simon called the “First Idea” from him [a pseudo-Platonic or Gnostic concept].
Eusebius cites Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons as his sources for these traditions of Simon as “the first author of all heresy.”
He notes that the false practices of Simon and Helena includes being “thrown into marvel” [ecstatic spiritual experiences] and indecent sexual conduct.
If Simon was the arch-villain, the hero was Peter, the leader of the Apostles, who came to Rome “like a noble captain of God” to preach the gospel and refute heresy.
He suggests that the Romans encouraged Mark, “Peter’s follower,” to compose the Gospel of Mark, written in Rome and commended by the Apostle. He also cites Papias for the tradition of Mark being written in Rome and his reference to Mark in 1 Peter 5:13, as well as the reference there to “Babylon” as a code term for Rome.