Saturday, May 4, 2013


Jacques Callot, St. Justin Martyr, Engraving, 1632-35

   The most ancient traditions of Christendom, preserved by Eusebius and Justin Martyr, assert that one Simon, known as the Magus and who came from the village of Gitton in Samaria, had been proclaimed divine on account of his supreme magical powers.  He came to Rome during the reign of Claudius and having performed some impressive magic rites, was able to persuade the credulous of his divinity.  Eusebius tells us that this Simon had, before leaving Judaea, fallen afoul of another Simon – Simon Peter, who denounced him and, so the tradition asserts, followed him to Rome in order to defuse the effects of his magical influence.  ‘Not for long did his success continue; for on his steps in this same reign of Claudius, the all-good and most beneficent providence of God conducts the mighty and great one of the Apostles, Peter, on account of his virtue the leader of all the rest, to Rome against so great a corruption of life, who like some noble warrior of God with divine weapons, brought the precious merchandise of light that had been manifest from the east to those in the west.’

     Justin Martyr also knew the tradition that Simon Magus was believed to be divine.  Justin proclaimed that the Romans had worshipped Simon Magus as a God, and that there was a statue of him on an island in the Tiber, inscribed Simoni deo Sancto.  In fact, Justin had seen a statue to the Sabine God Semo Sancus and the inscription read Semoni Sanco Deo Fideo.  Perhaps local pride (for like Simon Magus, Justin Martyr was a Samaritan) made him want to believe that one of his own countrymen had ‘made good’ in the capital of the Empire, even though, as a Christian, Justin abominated everything which Simon Magus stood for.  Perhaps, simply, he did not know Latin very well.  It is interesting, however, that these ideas of human incarnations of divinity should begin in Samaria, the probable seed bed for the idea of Christian Incarnation, and the creed of the Fourth Gospel that the Word was made Flesh.

Death of Simon Magus, From The Nuremberg Chronicle, Woodcut, 1493

Do Anything You Wanna Do -- Eddie and the Hot Rods (Link) 

Text from:  A.N. Wilson, Paul – The Mind of the Apostle, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997

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