Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter XIV.—Description of the Gnostic Furnished by an Exposition of 1 Cor. vi. 1, Etc.

Now, of what I may call the passionlessness which we attribute to the Gnostic (in which the perfection of the believer, “advancing by love, comes to a perfect man, to the measure of full stature,” 3645 by being assimilated to God, and by becoming truly angelic), many other testimonies from the Scripture, occur to me to adduce. But I think it better, on account of the length of the discourse, that such an honour should be devolved on those who wish to take pains, and leave it to them to elaborate the dogmas by the selection of Scriptures.

One passage, accordingly, I shall in the briefest terms advert to, so as not to leave the topic unexplained.

For in the first Epistle to the Corinthians the divine apostle says: “Dare any of you, having a matter against the other, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?” 3646 and so on.

The section being very long, we shall exhibit the meaning of the apostle’s utterance by employing p. 548 such of the apostolic expressions as are most pertinent, and in the briefest language, and in a sort of cursory way, interpreting the discourse in which he describes the perfection of the Gnostic. For he does not merely instance the Gnostic as characterized by suffering wrong rather than do wrong; but he teaches that he is not mindful of injuries, and does not allow him even to pray against the man who has done him wrong. For he knows that the Lord expressly enjoined “to pray for enemies.” 3647

To say, then, that the man who has been injured goes to law before the unrighteous, is nothing else than to say that he shows a wish to retaliate, and a desire to injure the second in return, which is also to do wrong likewise himself.

And his saying, that he wishes “some to go to law before the saints,” points out those who ask by prayer that those who have done wrong should suffer retaliation for their injustice, and intimates that the second are better than the former; but they are not yet obedient, 3648 if they do not, having become entirely free of resentment, pray even for their enemies.

It is well, then, for them to receive right dispositions from repentance, which results in faith. For if the truth seems to get enemies who entertain bad feeling, yet it is not hostile to any one. “For God makes His sun to shine on the just and on the unjust,” 3649 and sent the Lord Himself to the just and the unjust. And he that earnestly strives to be assimilated to God, in the exercise of great absence of resentment, forgives seventy times seven times, as it were all his life through, and in all his course in this world (that being indicated by the enumeration of sevens) shows clemency to each and any one; if any during the whole time of his life in the flesh do the Gnostic wrong. For he not only deems it right that the good man should resign his property alone to others, being of the number of those who have done him wrong; but also wishes that the righteous man should ask of those judges forgiveness for the offences of those who have done him wrong. And with reason, if indeed it is only in that which is external and concerns the body, though it go to the extent of death even, that those who attempt to wrong him take advantage of him; none of which truly belong to the Gnostic.

And how shall one “judge” the apostate “angels,” who has become himself an apostate from that forgetfulness of injuries, which is according to the Gospel? “Why do ye not rather suffer wrong?” he says; “why are ye not rather defrauded? Yea, ye do wrong and defraud,” 3650 manifestly by praying against those who transgress in ignorance, and deprive of the philanthropy and goodness of God, as far as in you lies, those against whom you pray, “and these your brethren,”—not meaning those in the faith only, but also the proselytes. For whether he who now is hostile shall afterwards believe, we know not as yet. From which the conclusion follows clearly, if all are not yet brethren to us, they ought to be regarded in that light. And now it is only the man of knowledge who recognises all men to be the work of one God, and invested with one image in one nature, although some may be more turbid than others; and in the creatures he recognises the operation, by which again he adores the will of God.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” 3651 He acts unrighteously who retaliates, whether by deed or word, or by the conception of a wish, which, after the training of the Law, the Gospel rejects.

“And such were some of you”—such manifestly as those still are whom you do not forgive; “but ye are washed,” 3652 not simply as the rest, but with knowledge; ye have cast off the passions of the soul, in order to become assimilated, as far as possible, to the goodness of God’s providence by long-suffering, and by forgiveness “towards the just and the unjust,” casting on them the gleam of benignity in word and deeds, as the sun.

The Gnostic will achieve this either by greatness of mind, or by imitation of what is better. And that is a third cause. “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you;” the commandment, as it were, compelling to salvation through superabundance of goodness.

“But ye are sanctified.” For he who has come to this state is in a condition to be holy, falling into none of the passions in any way, but as it were already disembodied and already grown holy without 3653 this earth.

“Wherefore,” he says, “ye are justified in the name of the Lord.” Ye are made, so to speak, by Him to be righteous as He is, and are blended as far as possible with the Holy Spirit. For “are not all things lawful to me? yet I will not be brought under the power of any,” 3654 so as to do, or think, or speak aught contrary to the Gospel. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, which God shall destroy,” 3655 —that is, such as think and live as if they were made for eating, and do not eat that they may live as a consequence, and apply to knowledge as the primary end. And does he not say that these are, as it were, the fleshy parts of the holy body? As a p. 549 body, the Church of the Lord, the spiritual and holy choir, is symbolized. 3656 Whence those, who are merely called, but do not live in accordance with the word, are the fleshy parts. “Now” this spiritual “body,” the holy Church, “is not for fornication.” Nor are those things which belong to heathen life to be adopted by apostasy from the Gospel. For he who conducts himself heathenishly in the Church, whether in deed, or word, or even in thought, commits fornication with reference to the Church and his own body. He who in this way “is joined to the harlot,” that is, to conduct contrary to the Covenant becomes another “body,” not holy, “and one flesh,” and has a heathenish life and another hope. “But he that is joined to the Lord in spirit” becomes a spiritual body by a different kind of conjunction.

Such an one is wholly a son, an holy man, passionless, gnostic, perfect, formed by the teaching of the Lord; in order that in deed, in word, and in spirit itself, being brought close to the Lord, he may receive the mansion that is due to him who has reached manhood thus.

Let the specimen suffice to those who have ears. For it is not required to unfold the mystery, but only to indicate what is sufficient for those who are partakers in knowledge to bring it to mind; who also will comprehend how it was said by the Lord, “Be ye perfect as your father, perfectly,” 3657 by forgiving sins, and forgetting injuries, and living in the habit of passionlessness. For as we call a physician perfect, and a philosopher perfect, so also, in my view, do we call a Gnostic perfect. But not one of those points, although of the greatest importance, is assumed in order to the likeness of God. For we do not say, as the Stoics do most impiously, that virtue in man and God is the same. Ought we not then to be perfect, as the Father wills? For it is utterly impossible for any one to become perfect as God is. Now the Father wishes us to be perfect by living blamelessly, according to the obedience of the Gospel.

If, then, the statement being elliptical, we understand what is wanting, in order to complete the section for those who are incapable of understanding what is left out, we shall both know the will of God, and shall walk at once piously and magnanimously, as befits the dignity of the commandment.



Eph. iv. 13.


1 Cor. 6:1, 2.


Matt. v. 44.


εὐπειθεῖς here substituted by Sylburgius for ἀπειθσῖς. May not the true reading be ἀπαθείς, as the topic is ἀπαθεια?


Matt. v. 45.


1 Cor. 6:7, 8.


1 Cor. vi. 9.


1 Cor. vi. 11.


ἄνευ: or above, ἄνω.


1 Cor. vi. 12.


1 Cor. vi. 13.


[Ps. lxxiii. 1. The “Israelite indeed” is thus recognised as the wheat, although tares grow with it in the Militant Church. See cap xv., infra.]


Matt. v.; sic. τέλειοι, τελείως.

Next: Chapter XV.—The Objection to Join the Church on Account of the Diversity of Heresies Answered.