JMC : Pre-Scholastic Philosophy / by Albert Stöckl


§ 58.

3. Saturninus, a pupil of Menander, was born at Antioch, and spent his life there. The most brilliant portion of his career corresponds with the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 125). He taught the existence of an unknown God -- the Father. This God created a number of spirits -- archangels, powers, principalities, and angels -- which succeed one another, in descending order. The last seven angels, who close the series, created the world. To them also is due the creation of man, but only the creation of the animal portion of his nature.

4. From the Supreme Power, a luminous image issued, which reached the angels charged with the creation of the world. To retain this image they resolved to create man after its likeness. But the likeness which they succeeded in producing could not be other than imperfect, owing to the imperfection of the beings producing it. It could not lift itself up, it sank to the earth and crawled like a worm. The Supreme Power took pity on its condition, and as man had been created after its likeness, this Power shot a spark of its own spiritual nature into the image. Man then, for the first time, became man in the true sense, became a being at once spiritual and corporeal. That divine spirit returns after death to the source whence it came, all that then remains of man undergoes dissolution.

5. In hostile opposition to the dominion of the unknown Father is the Kingdom of Satan. The evil principle works upon man through sensuality, and endeavours by this means to bring him under its sway. Everything is evil which tends to draw men down towards material or sensible things, and to involve him more deeply in matter. On this ground, Saturninus condemned marriage and the carnal generation of children. Both he held to be derived from Satan. For similar reasons, there can be no resurrection of the body, for the body is derived from the principle of evil -- matter -- and could not, therefore, have any share in the glorified state.

6. Men were at first ruled by the Jewish God -- one of those inferior angels who created the world. But this deity was too weak to shield them from the attacks of Satan, and, besides, it was not fitting that men, in whom a spark of the Divine nature was burning, should be ruled over by a power of such a low order. Therefore, the unknown Father sent His Son Christ into the world, to overthrow the reign of the Jewish God, to save the good and the believing, and to condemn the wicked and the incredulous. But since the flesh is from the principle of evil, the Son did not assume a real body, but only the semblance of a human body. (Docetism.){1}

7. In this teaching on the subject of man's creation we recognise the Platonic notions of Philo; the dualism between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, the rejection of marriage, and other such theories, are clearly borrowed from the East. The more fantastical elements of Gnosticism do not yet appear prominently.

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{1} The prophecies of the Old Testament were declared to have been inspired, partly by the world-creating angels, and partly by Satan, who contended against all those angels, but chiefly against the god of the Jews.