October 24, 2017

So that's where it comes from

The heretic Basilides came out after [Simon Magus and the gnostic teachers Menander and Saturninus], saying that the high god - the creator of Mind (Greek nous), whenceforth the Word - was called ABRAXAS. In him [said Basilides] do providence, virtue and knowledge have their origin, out of which the principalities and powers and angels were made - infinite processions of angels, who streamed forth and set up the world and its 365 heavens in honor of ABRAXAS (this number being contained in the alphanumeric computation of the name). Among the last of these angels, now made makers of the world, he ranked the god of the Jews (God, that is, of the Law and the Prophets) as a latecomer, saying he was no god at all but an angel who was dealt the seed of Abraham as his portion, and spirited the children of Israel to Canaan out of Egypt land. This angel [Basilides said] was of a more violent temper than the others, and frequently engaged in stirring up wars and rebellions, even spilling human blood. Albeit a creator of the world, he was not the engenderer of Christ, who was sent by ABRAXAS in the form of a phantom without carnal substance. [Phantom Jesus] underwent no passion before the Jews, but Simon [of Cyrene] was crucified in his place. There was therefore to be no religious belief in a crucified figure, lest that belief be placed in Simon. Martyrdom was a disqualifying circumstance. The doctrine of resurrection of the flesh he rejected in the gravest terms, denying that salvation was ever promised to corpses.

Pseudo-Tertullian, Against all heresies I.5

October 12, 2017

The Terror of the Coming of the Lord

    I pray that my impieties go unindicted by Your wrath
    when there goes before the Lord a timely fire,
    and all at once the ground is seized and burns in darkness,
    and a brilliant, fiery wind parts the high canopies
    of the forests of a world gripped by general cremation.
    The shallows of the ocean are driven up in steam by the
           all-parching storm,
    and its whirling depths feed [gasses to] the flame
    belched at the ocean's surface to fuel the living pyre.
    Brimstone rivers pipe with vapors whippped to the quick
    by a boiling blast whose strength is unabating.
    The sea, the earth, the pole of heaven all make one furnace,
    and the high ground melts away, and the chained mountains
           are torched
    into titanic embers. The flocks of beasts and birds and men,
    and whatever else the eons have to show as they slip away,
    in one instant heaven's flaming summit takes into its folds.
    With fiery coals, the sweltering inferno pelts the cities,
    immolating the apartmented quarters together with
    the royal palaces. Lofty roofs with panes of metal
           high upraised
    are smelted, their upright piles oppressed by [drifting] ash.
    The lightning teems in crossed bolts of lightning
    as huge crags are brought to earth with their tops blazing.
    The sky is red, and strobes with glaring beams,
    and the winds themselves catch fire and blow brightly.
    Hard Aetna, long unmoved by its own flames,
    melts away. Its masses unmade, hard Aetna
    dissolves and runs liquid, wet as wax.
    Then all the elements will be one furnace,
    and the world will be a funeral mound heaped over
           its own cadaver.
    Yet no matter how dire the guts of the fire's raging
    with acute terrors menacing the population,
    we still persist in behaviors that are depraved.
    As when lightning erupts from the sky's eastern reaches
    and makes its way to the western quarter in one easy bolt,
    such will be the coming of the Lord when He comes to earth.

Verecundus of Junca, Of Penitential Satisfaction, 152-86.