This is a continuation of a previous post. My source document is here, and I have already noted the problems with dates – it is part of the Clementine literature, involving at least two Clements, but its contents are noteworthy.
Simon Magus is an under-appreciated character, even though modern sensibilities have tried to paint him as someone who fights poverty or performs tricks as good deeds – instead, he is a pivotal figure in the history of the Church.
To continue, Peter (Simon Kefa) is recounting the Apostles’ arguments with certain Jews, in which Matthew and Phillip both speak, along with James the Just:
Then a certain Prush, hearing this, chided Philippos because he put Yshua on a level with Moshe. To whom Natanyahu bar Talmai,answering, boldly declared that we do not only say that Yshua is equal to Moshe, but that He is greater than he, because Moshe was indeed a navi, as Yshua is also, but that Moshe was not the Moshiach, as Yeshua is, and therefore He is doubtless greater who is both a navi and the Moshiach, than he who is only a navi. After following out this train of argument, he stopped.
Here we see (early on) the Christian claim to primacy which caused such trouble within the religion of Judaism (and in Rome). However, it was also more complex than this, as Peter will explain. James the Just actually argues that Jesus ratifies the angels, rather than the other way around, and Mathias (in place of Judas), claims that (in any case) the Messiah is worthy of great love, no matter what one thinks. Each apostle makes a uniquely personal and uniquely intelligent argument:
After him Yosef bar Naba, who also is called Mattityahu, who was substituted as a Shliach in the place of Yahudah of Keriot, began to exhort the people that they should not regard Yshua with hatred, nor speak evil of Him. For it were far more proper, even for one who might be in ignorance or in doubt concerning Yshua, to love than to hate Him. For YHWH has affixed a reward for loving and a penalty for hating. For the very fact, said he, that He assumed a Yahudai body, and was born among the Yahudaïm, how has not this incited us all to love Him? When he had spoken this, and more to the same effect, he stopped…
The apostles argue that the Messiah is heaven-born, otherwise, John the Baptist would truly be the greatest born of women, and thus Messiah, rather than Jesus. It’s a very interesting look inside the “sects” of Judaism at that time. Indeed, Gamaliel is said to secretly be a follower of Christ, who remained within Jewish ranks in order to moderate their fury, which he does, giving his famously pragmatic speech “If these things be of God…?”. James proceeds, and has almost convinced everyone to receive baptism when Saul intervenes with agitation and violence, and James is cast down the temple steps and left for dead.
Peter says he fled to Jericho, then Caesarea, and intends on going to Rome following the debate with Shimon Magus. No women are present at the debate, and Peter opens by explaining his practice of night-time meditation, which Clement approves of:
I believe, therefore, that you also have acquired the habit of wakefulness, as you state; and you have wished at a fitting time to explain this to us, that we also may not grudge to throw off and dispense with some portion of our sleep, that we maybe able to take in the precepts of the living halakah. For when the food is digested, and the mind is under the influence of the silence of night, those things which are seasonably taught abide in it.
Peter wants to know what character Shimon is, that he might know how to argue without casting pearls before swine. Niceta warns them (he was once a co-worker with Shimon):
but because I well know the impieties of this man, I think of your reputation, and at the same time the inner-beings of the hearers, and above all, the interests of the truth itself. For this magician is vehement towards all things that he wishes, and wicked above measure.
The description sounds like a high ranking initiate:
This Shimons father was Antonius and his mother Rachel. By tribe he is a Shomroni from a village of the Get tones; by profession amagician yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature;desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above YHWH the Creator, and to be thought to be the Moshiach, and to be called the Standing One. And he uses this name as implying that he can never be dissolved, asserting that his flesh is so compacted by the power of his divinity, that it can endure to eternity. Hence,therefore, he is called the Standing One, as though he cannot fall by any corruption…
But, in truth, he is deluded by demons…
For every tribe has a malach, to whom YHWH has committed the government of that tribe; and when one of these appears, although he be thought and called elohim by those over whom he presides, yet, being asked, he does not give such testimony to himself.
But even if Torah had not given indications from which it might be gathered that the Elohim who made the world is imperfect, it was still possible for me to infer from those evils which are done in this world, and are not corrected,either that its creator is powerless, if he cannot correct what is done amiss; or else, if he does not wish to remove the evils, that he is himself evil; but if he neither can nor will, that he is neither powerful nor good. And from this it cannot but be concluded that there is another elohim more excellent and more powerful than all. If you have aught to say to this, say on….
O Shimon, they are liable to conceive such absurdities against YHWH who do not read Torah with the instruction of masters, but account themselves teachers, and think that they can understand Torah, though he has not explained it to them who have learned of the Master.
Whence that new power of yours is not only found liable to a similar charge, but even to a worse one, if, in addition to all these things, it is believed to be, when it is not. For He who created the world, His existence is manifest by His very operation in creating the world, as you yourself also confess. But this power which you say that you alone know affords no indication of itself, by which we might perceive, at least, that it is, and subsists.
More to come later, about the continued journey of Clement with Peter, and the initiation of Clement, which Peter says he did “moved by certain unknown motions of the heart”. Also, the notes of Tomberg on Cyprian the Mage are worth reading – the magic that was being done was not a “joke”.