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Simon Magus (ca. 67 C.E.)

Simon Magus (ca. 67 C.E.)

Founder of the heterodox sect of Simonites, often identified with the sorcerer mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 8) who was said to have bewitched the people of Samaria and made them believe that he was possessed of divine power.

He was born in Samaria or Cyprus and was among the number of Samaritans who came to Philip for baptism after hearing him preach. Later, when Peter and John laid their hands on the new converts, so that they received the Holy Ghost, Simon offered the disciples money to procure a similar power. But Peter sternly rebuked him for seeking to buy the gift of God with money (a practice afterward called simony) and bade him pray that his evil thought might be forgiven, whereupon the already repentant Simon said, "Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."

Though we are not told in detail the sorceries with which Simon was supposed to have bewitched the people of Samaria, certain early ecclesiastical writers have left a record of his doings. They claimed that he could make himself invisible when he pleased, assume the appearance of another person or of one of the lower animals, pass unharmed through fire, cause statues to come alive, make furniture move without any visible means of imparting motion, and perform many other miracles. In explanation of his desire to possess the apostles' power of working miracles, he is said to have affirmed that his sorceries took a great deal of time and trouble to perform, owing to the necessity for a multitude of magical rites and incantations, while the miracles of the apostles were accomplished easily and successfully by the mere utterance of a few words.

The adept from whom Simon was supposed to have learned the art of magic was Dositheus, who pretended to be the Messiah foretold by the prophets and who was contemporary with Christ. From this person Simon was said to have acquired a great store of occult erudition, and owed his power chiefly to the hysterical conditions into which he was capable of throwing himself. Through these, he was able to make himself look either old or young, returning at will to childhood or old age.

It seems that he had not been initiated into transcendental magic, but was merely consumed by a thirst for power over humanity and the mysteries of nature. Repulsed by the apostles, he is said to have undertaken pilgrimages, like them, in which he permitted himself to be worshiped by the mob. He declared that he himself was the manifestation of the Splendor of God, and that Helena, his Greek slave, was its reflection. Thus he imitated Christianity in the reverse sense, affirmed the eternal reign of evil and revolt, and was, in fact, an antichrist.

After a while, according to popular legend, he went to Rome, where he appeared before the Emperor Nero. He is said to have been decapitated by him; however, his head returned to his shoulders, and he was instituted by the tyrant as court sorcerer. Legend also states that St. Peter, alarmed at the spread of the doctrine of Simon in Rome, hurried there to combat it. When Nero was made aware of Peter's arrival, he imagined Peter to be a rival sorcerer and resolved to bring Simon and Peter together for his amusement.

An account ascribed to St. Clement states that upon the arrival of Peter, Simon flew gracefully through a window into the outside air. The apostle made a vehement prayer, whereupon the magician, with a loud cry, crashed to the earth and broke both his legs. Nero, greatly annoyed, immediately imprisoned the saint, and it is related that Simon died of his fall. He had, however, founded a distinct school, headed by Merrander, that promised immortality of soul and body to its followers.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a sect existed in France and the United States that credited the principles of this magician.

French scholar Jacques Lacarrière viewed Simon Magus as one of the precursors of Gnosticism.

Sources:

Lacarrière, Jacques. The Gnostics. London: Owen, 1977. Reprint, San Francisco: City Lights, 1989.

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Simon Magus

Simon Magus. An opponent of St Peter, later identified as a heresiarch (see HERESY). According to Acts 8. 9–24 he was a sorcerer known as ‘that Power of God which is called Great’, who practised in Samaria. His career is elaborated in the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, and also in other legends from which, perhaps, that of Faust evolved.

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"Simon Magus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Simon Magus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/simon-magus

"Simon Magus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/simon-magus

Simon Magus

Simon Magus (mā´gəs), Samaritan sorcerer who attempted to buy spiritual power from the apostles. From this comes the term simony. He is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. He was said to have founded a Gnostic sect.

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"Simon Magus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Simon Magus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/simon-magus