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doubt that the cabbalistic doctrine concerning such beings had a strong tincture of orientalism. Accordingly Josephus states of the Essenes, that they observed the names of angels. The Alexandrine Jews approved of the sentiment that angels were internuncii between God and good men-a sentiment which would easily prepare the way for the adoration of these beings. Still more directly to our purpose is a passage in the xńcuyua Ilét gou, in which it is stated, that the Jews adored angels and archangels -and it is supposed by Grabe that this treatise belongs to the first century.* These Jewish theosophists may have paid a superstitious reverence to angels not only because angels were present in great numbers at the giving of the law, but because from them were supposed to proceed mysterious powers, which raised the initiated far above the multitude. Their acquaintance with the superior natures of the invisible world was supposed to give them a certain relation to the Supreme Deity. In that Judaizing sect,' says the excellent Neander, which here came into conflict with the simple, apostolic doctrine, we see the germ of the Judaizing gnosticism. Though the account given by Epiphanius of the conflict between Cerinthus and the Apostle Paul is not worthy of credit, yet at least between the tendency which Paul here combats, and the tendency of Cerinthus the greatest agreement is found to exist; and, judging by internal marks, we may consider the sect here spoken of to be allied to the Cerinthian. It is remarkable that to a late period traces of such a Judaizing angelological tendency were to be found in those parts; for at the council of Laodicea, canons were framed against a Judaizing observance of the sabbath, and a species of angelolatry; and even in the ninth century we find a kindred sect, the Athinganians.'t
In order that we may arrive at the particular opinions of these heretics, let us consider the passage in which they are described. The apostle warns the Colossians against that theosophy which he denominates vain and deceitful, because the superior wisdom of which it boasted was nothing but a delusion, stating at the same time that it was based on human traditions and Jewish-rabbinic rites, without proceeding from Christ or being in unison with his doctrine. In opposition to it, he sets forth the cardinal truth of the New Testament that the entire fulness of the divine perfections and the divine wisdom dwelt in Christ bodily—that He is superior to all angels and spirits—and that christians, by communion with him alone, receive everything in regard to the divine life and spiritual
• Spicilegium Patrum, Tom. I. p. 64.
† History of the planting and training of the christian church, translated by Ryland. — Vol. 1. pp. 381, 2.
knowledge, which is needed for their complete happiness. United to, and engrafted in him, they require no other me diator. After affirming the spiritual circumcision of the Colossian believers, from which it may be inferred, that the errorists insisted upon the outward rite as necessary to Gentile christians, he reminds them that their sins were forgiven, that they had been delivered from the bondage of the law as a system of legal observances, and that Christ triumphed over all evil spirits-all the opposing powers of the universe—by means of his cross, publicly shewing that he was their conqueror. In consequence of this description of Christ's perfection on the one hand, and the completeness belonging to his people in union with him, on the other — because he is the head of the entire church and of all spirits—the Colossians are exhorted not to allow any man to condemn them in regard to the non-observance of ceremonial ordinances and Jewish rites pertaining to meats and drinks, new-moon feasts, holy days, or Jewish sabbaths, all which externals were only a shadow of futurities, Christ himself being the substance. They are farther admonished not to allow themselves to be beguiled, so as that they should lose the reward attached to faith in Christ, by a pretended humility and by the worship of angels, on the part of those who impertinently pryed into things hidden from human vision, and were vainly puffed up with carnal conceit, These persons did not hold fast the Head, from whom alone all growth and nutriment are communicated to the united members of the body. If, says the apostle, ye be dead with Christ to legal observances and superstitious rites, how can ye adopt, as if ye belonged to the world, maxims of human invention enjoining abstinence from meats and drinks; since all such material things are perishable and decaying. These false teachers viewed matter as the principle of evil, avoiding as much as possible contact with external things, especially with flesh and strong drink, because by these they were thought to expose themselves to the malignant influence of evil spirits who were connected with matter. Such ascetic practices have the appearance of superior wisdom in an arbitrarily invented worship, an affected humility which can only approach the Deity through the medium of angels, and in maceration of the body; but yet they have nothing excellent in themselves, or becoming to the body: they only serve to gratify the unrenewed mind by ministering to its pride and self-conceit.
It has been disputed, whether these heretics abstained from marriage, and entertained the docetic view of Christ's nature. In support of the former, Col. ii. 21 is adduced, particularly the expression un abon, which is similarly applied in 1 Cor. vii. 1. Reference is also made to 1 Tim. iv. 3, where it is implied that teachers of erroneous doctrine, similar to these at Colosse, enjoined celibacy at Ephesus. In favour of the latter, their notion in regard to matter, and the prevailing belief of most heretics afterwards called gnostics, appear to speak. But at the commencement, heresies were not developed in all their consequences; and the ascetics at Rome whom Paul mentions, were not docetic, (Rom. xiv.) Perhaps they did not hold these forms of asceticism. Certainly the data on which such peculiarities are assigned to them are indefinite and doubtful. The tendency of mind described is indeed one that would consistently lead to these manifestations of superstition; but the contents of the epistle scarcely justify the assumption.
Thus the whole passage justifies the idea, that the false philosophy combated by the apostle need not be derived in part from a source foreign to Judaism. It was the product of Jewish mind speculating upon divine things, and prying into curious questions, beyond the reach of human research. The traditions which the Judaists had received from their fathers, the cabbala with its complexity and its orders of beings, together with their own investigation of unseen things, sufficiently account for the opinions in question. These heretics did not adopt their peculiar creed directly from any other quarter. They found it in their own books; or rather, it had been already excogitated, and was then current. We need not, therefore, have recourse, with Kleuker, Hug, and Stuart, to the Chaldee or oriental philosophy, of which a full exhibition is given by Jamblichus. The legal rites of the Mosaic economy, in conjunction with those rabbinic-traditional observances which Jewish superstition had superadded, had been brought into the domain of Christianity. Thus the great doctrine of justification by faith alone was virtually impugned. Judaism was idealised; and a rigid asceticism founded upon the inherent evil of matter was practised. The errorists, whose principles we have been considering, indulged in philosophic and theosophic theories based upon ancient traditions ; and were reluctant to renounce their pretensions to higher wisdom or their connexion with spirits, for the humbling doctrine of the gospel. Their pride could not deign to bow itself before the cross. They sought to cast christianity into the mould of their own theosophy.
But although it is superfluous to go beyond Judaism for the theosophy of the false teachers, yet there is reason for the opinions of such as find the source and exposition of the philosophy condemned by the apostle in the magian or emanationphilosphy. Were it expedient to trace the causes of the Jewish notions then so prevalent in Asia Minor, it might appear, that
the traditional belief of the Jews had been affected by that peculiar offspring of the oriental mind. Ever since the Hebrews resided in Babylon, they were, more or less, influenced by the religion of their Chaldean conquerors. Doubtless, that religion contributed to enlarge or to modify the previous articles of their faith. The Jewish people were ever inclined to engraft foreign superstitions on their national worship. The mixed race, afterwards called Samaritan, the majority of whom came from beyond the Euphrates, would probably vitiate the creed of their neighbours by a tincture of idolatry; for on the return from captivity, many of the restored exiles became intimately associated with that people. There was also a constant communication between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the myriads of Jews who continued to reside beyond the Euphrates. The latter attended the festivals, and carefully observed other customs peculiar to their native land. Hence it is natural to supposé, that several features of the Magian religion would be communicated to the national belief. But this oriental philosophy was not the principal source from which the gnosticism of the errorists in question emanated. It had only an indirect and distant bearing upon their sentiments. There is also ground for the opinions of such as recognize in these false teachers ChristianPlatonists, or Platonising-Judaists. There is little doubt that the influences arising from the new Platonism current in Alexandria, affected Cabbalistic Judaism. But it is not consistent with our present purpose to trace the history of Jewish opinions and traditions, else we should investigate with minuteness the Alexandrian tendencies as they contributed to form and change the speculations of the Jews residing in Egypt.
It might be shewn, in like manner, that such as find a condemnation of the Pythagorean philosophy in the present epistle, are not wholly in error. Plato adopted many of Pythagoras's opinions, especially his doctrines of ideas, and of the transmigration of souls. In the time of the Ptolemies, several philosophers of this sect fled from Italy to Alexandria, where Platonism was prevalent.
Still, however, it is not expedient to travel beyond the Judaism of the period for explanation of the passage in which the tenets of the false teachers are alluded to, since Magianism, Platonism, the philosophy of Greece, and Cabbalism as far as it was the genuine product of the Jewish mind itself, had previously imparted a considerable tincture to the creed of the Jewish people. Whatever portions of these systems were incorporated with Judaism, had been so intimately associated with it before the advent of Christ, as to form a part of its nature. They had been already wrought up into its component elements; and, unless we go backward, to trace the history of philosophy, the intermingling of different systems, the points of contact they presented to traditional Judaism, and the localities where they were found by the ancient people of God, it is sufficient to take the current belief as it was.
Nor should the attention be confined to Jewish opinions and tendencies. The direction of the cultivated heathen mind of Phrygia and Asia Minor generally should also be marked, as affected by the combined elements of different philosophical systems blending together.
After this illustration of the peculiar tenets propagated by the errorists at Colosse, it may be useful to state other opinions.
Some think that philosophy in general, all philosophy, is forbidden. So Tertullian, Euthalius, and Calixtus. Others restrict the warning given by the apostle to certain classes of philosophers, to the Epicureans, as Clement of Alexandria ; the Pythagoreans, as Grotius; or to such as joined together the Platonic and Stoic doctrines, as Heumann imagines. None of these opinions can claim to be regarded with approval. Heathen philosophy the apostle cannot mean by ciascopia, because it is spoken of as an emanation of Judaism, or, at least, as standing in close connection with it. Schoettgen, Schmidt, and Schult- . hess, refer the description to the Pharisees. But the mental tendency described, is the opposite of the Pharisaic. The Pharisaic Jews were far removed from gnostic speculation and false asceticism. They were occupied with the outward and visible, to the neglect of that spiritual, world in which the imagination of the contemplative finds its congenial aliment. Others think, that the false teachers were Sabians or followers of John the Baptist. So Heinrichs. But this sect lessened the dignity of Christ, and unduly exalted the Baptist. They cannot, therefore, be the individuals here designated. Denying, as they did, the true Messiahship of Jesus, they excluded themselves from the pale of christianity. Besides, there is no trace of their worshiping angels.
Much nearer the truth are those who find the Essenes in this epistle. So Chemnitz, Zachariae, Storr, Flatt, Venturini, Mi. chaelis, Credner, and Bertholdt. Many of the features drawn by Paul agree with the character of this sect as described by Josephus. Their asceticism is quite similar to that of the heretics who endeavoured to seduce the Colossian converts. The objection stated against this view, viz., that the Essenes were only to be found in Palestine and Syria, is of no force, as is shewn by Credner. Neither does their disinclination to proselytism form a valid objection; since other influences may have modified their original character. Perhaps, too, it is not conclusive to urge against it, the virtuous principles ascribed by