Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 14 January 2019

Heracleon on the Devil

Heracleon on the Devil

John 8:44 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Heracleon: Fragments from his
Commentary on the Gospel of John

Fragment 20, on John 4:21 (In John it says, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.’”) The mountain represents the Devil, or his world, since the Devil was one part of the whole of matter, but the world is the total mountain of evil, a deserted dwelling place of beasts, to which all who lived before the law and all Gentiles render worship. But Jerusalem represents the creation or the Creator whom the Jews worship. . . The mountain is the creation which the Gentiles worship, but Jerusalem is the creator whom the Jews serve. You then who are spiritual should worship neither the creation nor the Craftsman, but the Father of Truth. And he (Jesus) accepts her (the Samaritan woman) as one of the already faithful, and to be counted with those who worship in truth. 

In the Bible mountains represent kingdoms or empires

For Heracleon the mountain represents the totality of the material order of things (the devil and the world) worshipped by those who existed before the introduction of the Law of Moses in particular the gentiles

Fragment 44, on John 8:43-44a (In John 8:43-44a, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your wish is to do your father's desires.”) The reason why they were unable to hear Jesus’ words and understand what he said is provided in the words, “You are of your father the Devil.” He says, ‘Why are you unable to hear my word? Because you are of your father the Devil’ meaning you are of the substance of the Devil. Thus he makes clear their nature, after convincing them in advance that they are neither the children of Abraham otherwise they would not have hated him, nor children of God because they did not love him.

For Heracleon the inability of the pharisees to hear the divine word of Christ john 8:43 is rooted in their possession of the diabolic nature children of the devil neither the children of Abraham nor the children of God but rather the children of the devil possess a nature that is utterly different than the "psychics" and "pneumatics"

the Hylics hylics, also called somatics (from Gk σώμα (sōma) "body"), this refers to the thinking of the flesh or the carnal mind "
it represents that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh "which has the power of death" and it is called sin, because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled "sinful flesh," that is, "flesh full of sin"; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. In human flesh "dwells no good thing" (Rom. 7:17,18); and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him. Operating upon the brain, it excites the "propensities", and these set the "intellect" and "sentiments" to work. The propensities are blind, and so are the intellect and sentiments in a purely natural state; when therefore, the latter operate under the sole impulse of the propensities, "the understanding is darkened through ignorance, because of the blindness of the heart" (Eph. 4:18). The nature of the lower animals is as full of this physical evil principle as the nature of man; though it cannot be styled sin with the same expressiveness; because it does not possess them as the result of their own transgression; the name, however, does not alter the nature of the thing. Elpis Israel

Fragment 45, on John 8:44a Those to whom the word came were of the substance of the Devil. 

Heracleon makes an important distinction between those who are children of the devil by nature and substance and those who make themselves the devil's servants by choice. 

Origen As if the substance of the devil were different than the substance of other rational beings 

So what is the devil's nature or substance?

The diabolical nature is flesh:

Man in his physical constitution is imperfect; and this imperfection is traceable to the physical organization of his flesh, being based on the principle of decay and reproduction from the blood; which, acted upon by the air, becomes the life of his flesh. All the phenomena which pertain to this arrangement of things are summed up in the simple word sin; which is, therefore, not an individual abstraction, but a concretion of relations in all animal bodies; and the source of all their physical infirmities. Now, the apostle says, that the flesh thinks, that is, the brain, as all who think are well assured from their own consciousness. If, then, this thinking organ be commanded not to do what is natural for it to do under blind impulse, will it not naturally disobey? Now this disobedience is wrong, because what God commands to be done is right, and only right; so that "by his law is the knowledge of sin"; and this law requiring an obedience which is not natural, flesh is sure to think in opposition to it. The philosophy of superstition is -- religion in harmony with the thinking of the flesh; while true religion is religion in accordance with the thoughts of God as expressed in His law. Hence, it need excite no astonishment that religion and superstition are so hostile and that all the world should uphold the latter; while so few are to be found who are identified with the religion of God. They are as opposite as flesh and spirit.

Sin in the flesh is hereditary; and entailed upon mankind as the consequence of Adam's violation of the Eden law. The "original sin" was such as I have shown in previous pages. Adam and Eve committed it; and their posterity are suffering the consequence of it.

Fragment 46, on John 8:44a The verse “You are of your father the Devil” is to be understood as meaning ‘of the same substance as the Devil.’ On “and your wish is to do your father’s desires”: The Devil has no will, but only desires. . . This was said not to those who are by nature children of the Devil, but to the animate people who have become children of the Devil by intent. Some who are of this nature may also be called children of God by intent. Because they have loved the desires of the Devil and performed them, they become children of the Devil, though they were not such by nature. The word “children” may be understood in three ways: first, by nature; secondly, by inclination; thirdly, by merit. (A child) by nature means (the child) is begotten by someone who is himself begotten, and is properly called “child.” (A child) by inclination is when one who does the will of another person by his own inclination is called the child of the one whose will he does. (A child) by merit is when some are known as children of hell, or of darkness and lawlessness, and the offspring of snakes and vipers. For these do no produce anything by their own nature; they are destructive and consume those that are cast into them; but, since they did their works, they are called their children. . . He now calls them children of the Devil, not because the Devil produces any of them, but because by doing the works of the Devil they became like him.

Heraccleon suggests that individuals can become children of the devil and possess the diabolical nature in three ways by natural birth (we are all hylics by nature) 
by will that is after being enlightened those who choose to follow the desires of the devil 

by worth that is the enemies of God those described in the bible as children of gehenna or offspring of serpents 

The 2nd and 3rd are sons of the devil by adoption

the error and ignorance of the devil is rooted in his inherent nature which is the opposite of the truth

Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, and DeConick consider that the Evangelist shows that he embraced the opinion of the Valentinians and some earlier Gnostic sects that the father of the devil was the Demiurge or God of the Jews. But this idea was unknown to Heracleon, who here interprets the father of the devil as his essentially evil nature; to which Origen objects that if the devil be evil by the necessity of his nature, he ought rather to be pitied than blamed

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