Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

By G.R.S. Mead


OF the life of Heracleon, whom Clement of Alexandria (Strom., iv. 9) calls the "most esteemed of the His Commentary on the Fourth of Valentinus," we again know nothing except that he wrote certain Memoirs (?πομν?ματα), containing a commentary on the fourth Gospel. The date of this commentary, the first on any book of the New Testament collection, is generally ascribed to the decade 170-180 A.D. The Gnostic Heracleon is thus the first commentator of canonical Christianity, and considerable fragments of his work have been preserved by Origen in his own Commentary on the so-called Johannine Gospel. These fragments were first collected by Grabe in his Spicilegium, reprinted by Massuet and Stieren in their editions of Irenæus, and by Hilgenfeld in his Ketzergeschichte (1884), and finally in 1891 re-edited from a new collation of all the eight known (only three having previously been collated) MSS. by Brooke in Texts and Studies, i. 4.

In these fragments Heracleon assumes the "Valentinian" system as a basis; but it is kept in the background, and his exegesis is often endorsed by Origen.

The Gnostics were still in the Christian ranks, they were still members of the General Christian body, and desired to remain members; but bigotry finally drove them out because they dared to say that the teaching of the Christ contained a wisdom which transcended the comprehension of the majority.

The commentary of Heracleon, however, need not detain us, for it is, so to say, outside the circle of distinct Gnostic exegesis; it stands midway between it and General Christianity, and in almost the same position as the views of Clement and Origen.



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