The Sins Of Our Forefathers, Part 4.
Simon Magus And Nero
Simon Magus was the first Gnostic and he had many followers. These people pretended to be believers in Messiah, but they embraced the superstition of idolatry. We first find him in Acts 8:9-13, 18-24
“Now a man named Simon had previously been practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and all the people, from small to great, were paying attention to him, saying, “This man is the Power of God that is called Great.” And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip as he was preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Messiah Yeshua, both men and women were being baptized. Now even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was repeatedly amazed.”
“Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart will be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of unrighteousness.” But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
In 62CE, no sooner did Paul leave Rome, Simon Magus arrived. Magus now in Rome could reach many believers and deceived them back into their original thinking and lifestyle. Simon Magus came to Rome to spread his heresies and found success among the God fearing Gentile believers. He turned them from the true faith and impressed the people of Rome with his Satanic miracles. He was a powerful sorcerer and a master in illusions which won over many people.
Those who followed Magus, the magician or should we say false teacher, taught his followers, who Paul just converted, to fall down before his image and worship with incense, sacrifices and libations. He used philosophical dualism of the Greeks and he retold the stories of the Torah. He even took the teachings of Yeshua and turned it into something completely different. In the new enlightened world of Simon Magus, the God of the Jews, became an evil angel and Yeshua was not the Son of the God, of the Jews, but the son of a higher god. He was the first to teach the cancellation of the Torah. This laid the foundation for Christian Gnosticism. It used the Scriptures in reverse to prove the exact opposite of what they were saying. Isaiah speaks of this in
Isaiah 5:18-20, “Woe to those who drag their sins behind them like a bullock on a rope. They even mock the Holy One of Israel and dare the Lord to punish them.“Hurry up and punish us, O Lord,” they say. “We want to see what you can do!” They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”
Paul writes to the believers to refute such lies in 2 Timothy 3:13-15, “ But evil people and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua.”
The early church writers traced all the Gnostic Christians from the 2-4 Centuries back to Simon Magus. These false Christians slipped into the church like a contagious and leperous disease teaching gnosticism in the manner of their forefather Simon Magus.
Justin Martyr once said, “Simon Magus established a cult of followers who worshiped him like a god.” Even Peter confronted Simon Magus when he was in Rome. After the death of James, Peter went back to Jerusalem, but legend has it that Yeshua spoke to Peter in Jerusalem and told him to immediately leave and go to Rome to fight the enemy, the adversary of the Master and the brethren.
In Rome Peter would have connected with Silas, and Clement, John Mark and Aquila and Priscilla. He would have encouraged those who had fallen away to repent and come back into the fold. Legend has it that Simon Magus summoned Peter to meet with him on the Sabbath. Simon promoted the event, and many of the population in Rome came out just to see Simon’s powers. Peter also had powers, the power of the Holy Spirit, and he challenged Simon Magus to the point that many of Simon’s converts turned away.
At the time when Peter was in Rome, Nero was the fifth Emperor of Rome. He most likely heard about Peter and Simon Magus’s meeting. Nero loved theater, entertainment, and spectacles. Legend has it that Peter and Paul were imprisoned at the Mamertine Prison and it was from here that Peter and Paul were led to their deaths. Parts of this prison still stand today. Nero had his Maximus Circus where he made sport in killing many Chrisitans. It was here that Peter was crucified. An eighty foot Egyptian obelisk of red granite was in the center, and a gilded ball sat atop of the monument. This obelisk still stands today at the Basilica of Saint Peter. The Maximus Circus is now Vatican Hill.
The followers of Messiah grew in the First Century, but not without darkness, and sorrow, and persecutions that led to the separation of Jew and Gentile, but also martyrdoms of the Apostles, and many believers, Jew and Gentile, and yet, the true teachings of Messiah, and the Torah continued.
Yeshua told His followers what it would require of them as Believers, even persecution.
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”
Next we will continue on our journey through history and look at our ante-Nicene Forefathers.