Categories: Early Christianity
- There are many different accounts of "Simon" in various ancient documents. Scholars are not certain that they all refer to the same person (although some of the Church Fathers thought this to be the case). Yet, no one has definitely identified others.
- In the canonical accounts, Simon only appears in Acts 8:9ff.
- Scholars have determined that he was born in a little village in Samaria.
- Judean Jews despised the people from Samaria for their unorthodox views.
- Though Simon's childhood is unknown, he appears to have been a student of Tanaim of Samaria, who was a magician and mystic.
- Eusebius connects him with the writer Dositheus, who authored several Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi.
- Still other scholars claim he was a disciple of Dunstan, a great Samaritan teacher.
- This all suggests that he was a learned and accomplished man in many areas before his appearance in the Book of Acts.
- According to the account in Acts, Simon was a renowned sorcerer who amazed all the people of Samaria.
- He boasted about his greatness, and the people acclaimed him as "The Great Power of God."
- He had a very successful following in Samaria.
- Then Philip came to town, and started proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.
- The people who heard Philip were baptized, and this eventually included Simon.
- He began following Philip, and was amazed by what Philip taught and did.
- News of Philip's success reached Jerusalem, and Peter and John came to help.
- Peter and John prayed for the Holy Spirit to come upon the believers. This came to pass after the disciples placed their hands upon them.
- When Simon saw this, he offered to pay good money if they would teach him how to lay his hands on people so that they might also receive the Holy Spirit.
- That led to Peter's retort that his money should perish with Simon for thinking he could buy the gift of God.
- He added that Simon would have no part or share in the ministry because his heart was not right with God, and that he should pray for forgiveness.
- Simon asked them to pray for him so that none of Peter's dire predictions would come to pass.
- Peter and John then leave, and that is the end of Simon in the canonical writings.
- That, however, was not the end of Simon.
- In the Apocryphal book, the Acts of Peter, the story continues in Rome.
- Simon apparently believed that he was God in human form.
- When Peter came to town, Simon was living with Marcellus, a Senator.
- The apostles liked Marcellus, and thought he had been "bewitched" by Simon.
- The story of the talking dog follows, wherein Peter asks the dog to talk sense to Marcellus, who is persuaded by the dog and then asks for forgiveness from Peter.
- Simon, however, instructed the same dog to go back out and tell Peter he wasn't there.
- In relaying this message to Peter, the dog said there would be a great contest between the two of them.
- Eventually, Marcellus had to go back into his house, and he threw Simon out.
- While angry at Peter, Simon still managed to do many miracles (as well as some mischief, like stealing from widows and vulnerable people).
- Apparently, he could match Peter miracle for miracle.
- Hoping for a dramatic event, Simon announced that on a particular day he would fly up to heaven to see his Father.
- Peter prayed that Jesus would decide the matter and that Simon would fall from the heights.
- That is precisely what happened, and Simon, though disabled, survived only to be stoned shortly thereafter.
- The Church Fathers were never able to deny the mighty works that Simon had been able to accomplish (turning stones into bread, moving through locked doors, flying through the air, standing unharmed in fire, etc.), but they attributed all these things to demonic means.
- Nonetheless, they granted him the title of Magnus because he surely was a great magician.
- Simon maintained that Jesus had never said he was the only Son of God.
- Simon believed that anyone who attained divine knowledge and self-discipline was a Son of God and could demonstrate supernatural powers.
- According to Simon, he had appeared as Jesus in Palestine, the Father in Samaria, and the Holy Spirit in other nations.
- The authorities destroyed all of his writings, yet his ideas were profoundly influential.
- He believed in one Power as a universal principle, the root of all that is or can be. Within each person are the elements of what is hidden and what is known. As more is revealed, as more is understood, as this truth is realized, anyone can be called a Son of God. That's what he had done and that's who he believed he was.
- He took a woman named Helena as his mythical consort, whose name is a Greek term meaning "light."
- This, of course, led to his opponents accusing him of licentious conduct.
- They could, then, dismiss his message that people have within themselves the ability to purify and sanctify their thoughts until they are redeemed – without the need for institutions, dogma, or rituals and rites.
- His followers were known as Simonians, and were active through the fourth century.