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the term knowledge, as applied to the Deity and the essence of things, was used in a peculiar sense. Some philosophers denied that any thing could be known : others boasted to have this knowledge. The Platonists always maintained their claim to a more perfect knowledge of divine truths 34: and it was in the Platonic schools of Alexandria, that Clement and other of the Fathers learnt to apply the term grãoss to a full and perfect knowledge of the Christian doctrine. Clement uses the term in a good sense : in the same manner that our Saviour often speaks of wisdom and knowledge with reference to the gospel : but Clement tells us expressly, that there were others, who, puffed up with their own conceit, boasted of being perfect and possessing exclusive knowledges. These were evidently the Gnostics, and they would learn to arrogate the title, not only from the Platonists, but also from the Jews of Alexandria, who soon came to use the term Wisdom with a mystical signification. It is well known that Wisdom, as it is used in the Book of Proverbs, was understood by the Fathers in a personal sense ; and they referred it to the first or second Persons of the Trinity. Their personification of the term was probably learnt from the Platonizing Jews : and the idea was carried to a greater length in the Apocryphal book of Wisdom, which, as I have already observed, was written in the second century before Christ. Philo Judæus also has many expressions, which shew the mystical sense, in which Knowledge and Wisdom were used by some of his countrymens. We may assume it therefore as a point sufficiently established, that before and after our Saviour's birth there were Jewish and heathen phi
losophers, who professed that to know God was the only Wisdom, and who boasted themselves to possess that knowledge.
Such notions might have passed off, like other philosophical errors, without being noticed by the apostles, if the Gnostics had not proceeded, in pursuance of their eclectic system, to draw Christianity also into the vortex of their philosophy. Then it was, I conceive, that St. Paul thought fit to say to the Colossians, Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. (ii. 8.) But he had already spoken more plainly to Timothy in those emphatic words which I have chosen for my text, O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called : which some professing have erred concerning the faith. The oppositions of science falsely so called, ávtiDÉGEIS TWS ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, seem to point s0 directly at the pretensions of the Gnostics, that we can hardly doubt as to the meaning of St. Paul. The Fathers with one consent apply the expression to the Gnostics; and Irenæus evidently alluded to these words, when he entitled his great work, An Exposition and Refutation of Knowledge falsely so called 37. It has been disputed, whether by the antitheses of Gnosticism we are merely to understand the opposition which false teachers offered to the gospel; or whether allusion was intended to Light and Darkness, God and Matter, the Good and Evil Principle, and other such oppositions, which formed part of the Gnostic system'. The latter interpretation is more
This interpretation was pre- ante Const. Introd. I. 24: Budferred by Mosheim, de Rebus deus, Eccles. Apost. p. 347.
recondite, and might be more satisfactory for our present purpose : but it is safer perhaps to adopt the former; and the vain babblings, to which the apostle alludes, may well be referred to that mystical jargon in which the Gnostics explained their notions of the Creation.
If we are right in our application of this passage, there is also another, which may be referred to Gnosticism, in which the same expression of vain babblingsis repeated. St. Paul saysin his second Epistle to Timothy, Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord, that they strire not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth". But shun profane and vain babblings ; for they will increase unto more ungodliness; and their word will
Ittigius, de Hæresiarchis, p. 38. Buddeus thought, that St. Paul and Thomasius, Schediasm. alluded to the óvópara BapBapıkà, Hist. §. 35. p. 25. It was op- which according to Epiphanius posed by Wolfius, Manichæis- (Hær. XXI. 4. p. 58.) were inmus ante Manichæos, II. 41. p. vented by Simon Magus, (Ec178. and Calovius ad I. cles. Apost. p. 348.) The same
* I should mention, that Ire was thought by Ittigius, de Henæus in i Tim. vi. 20. read resiarchis, p. 38. and that St. καινοφωνίας for κενοφωνίας at Paul alluded to Simon, is said least his translator wrote vocum also by Estius, and Espencæus noritates. (II. 14. 7. p. 135.) ad 1. and by Magalianus, Op. Irenæus also refers kaivodovias, Hierarch. vol. I. p. 764. as well as αντιθέσεις το ψευδωνύ The metaphor in ορθοτομούντα uru grónews, which the position is taken from the art of cutting of the article requires us to do. or forming a road : and so it is Most Latin authorities support coupled with odòr in Prov. iii. 6. the reading of kalvobovias ; and xi. 5. St. Paul therefore exbeside the Greek Fathers men horts Timothy to follow the tioned by Griesbach, we may straight and undeviating line of add Epiphanius, Hær. LXXIII. truth in preaching the gospel, 11. p. 858. (See Thomasius neither turning to the right nor Schediasm. Hist. §. 35. p. 26.) to the left. See Suicer in voc.
eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenæus and Philetus : who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (2 Tim. ii. 14–18.) I shall have occasion to notice these words again, when I consider that tenet of the Gnostics, to which I have already alluded, that they did not believe in the resurrection. For the present I shall only observe, that this is an additional argument for applying the passage to the Gnostics m: and we may therefore conclude that Hymenæus and Philetus had distinguished themselves as leaders of that sect.
There are other passages in which St. Paul alludes to profane babblings and strifes about words : but I would particularly notice what he says in the chapter from which the text is taken: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness : from such withdraw thyself. (1 Tim. vi. 3.) What is here said of questions and strifes of words, might be applied to any of the sects, which were at that time numerous in Asia Minor: but from the expression, he is proud, knowing nothing, I should infer that an allusion was intended to the vain pretensions of the Gnostics : and if so, there were either persons among them, like the sophists of
m It is so applied by Tertul. lian, de Prescript. 7. p. 204.
1 Tim. i. 4. iv. 7. 2 Tim. ii. 23. Tit. i. 14. iii. 9.
old", who taught their doctrines for money ; or the pretended Christians sought to make a gain by a show of miraculous powerp.
There is perhaps more direct allusion to the pretended knowledge of the Gnostics in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the apostle prays, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God; (iii. 18,19.) and again, Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (iv. 13.) The fulness of God and the fulness of Christ in these two places may be thought, as I shall observe hereafter, to relate to the Gnostic doctrine concerning the pleroma : and the knowledge of the Son of God, is said to bring us unto a perfect man; which is a direct application of a Gnostic sentiment. In the first of these two passages we read, that the love of Christ passeth knowledge, i. e. it passeth the knowledge or wisdom of the world : and I have little doubt, that when St. Paul spoke of comprehending the breadth and length and depth and height, he had in his mind some mystical notions of the Gnostics, which he here turned, as he did upon other occasions, to a higher and holier sense 9.
For the crowds which at tives of gain in Acts xx. 29. tended the sophists, I would Rom. xvi. 18.
2 Cor. ii. 17. refer to Plato, Protag. p. 314, i Thess. ii. 5. Tit. i. 11. Jude 315. and for the sums of money 16. which they collected, to Hipp. 4 We find some traces of a Maj. p. 282.
notion of this kind in NumeAllusion is made to false nius, a Platonist of the second teachers being actuated by mo century, who, in an inquiry