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The Mark of Simon

29 Jul

Tradition has it that the first Christian heretic was Simon of Gitta in Samaria, known to most as Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer. He appears only once in the canon of Scripture, in Acts 8:9:24, where he is said to be a sorcerer who hears the Gospel and repents, only to beg Deacon Philip the Evangelist to sell him the power to heal and to perform miracles. The Blessed Saint rebukes him and Simon asks that he pray for his soul. However, Simon, we are told elsewhere, did not repent of his error. His not inconsiderable knowledge of the occult warped his understanding and he created a Gnostic heresy. Surviving traditions about Simon appear in anti-heretical texts, such as those of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresies. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuse him of lawlessness. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter. In apocryphal works including the Acts of Peter, Pseudo-Clementines, and the Epistle of the Apostles, Simon also appears as a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will. All of this inevitably leads to the question: who was the real Simon of Gitta? The truth is perhaps stranger than any legend.

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