What were the origins of Catholic-Babylonian Christianity? What was Simon's religion before he met Peter? Where did that religion originate? Read in this series of articles the detailed and documented account of Simon Magus and his great COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANITY!
THE FALSE religious system began very early — almost with Pentecost in 31 A.D. Even in the earliest of Paul's epistles, he informs us that "the mystery of iniquity DOTH ALREADY WORK" (II Thess. 2:7). Paul wrote this in 50 or 51 A.D. The plot to supplant the Truth had already begun. In the later epistles of Paul and in those of the other Apostles, we find it gaining considerable momentum. However, even though the Apostles discuss the diabolical system which was arising, THEY NOWHERE MENTION HOW IT STARTED. They had no need in mentioning its beginning — that had already been done! The book of Acts is the KEY to the understanding of Christian beginnings. Not only does it show the commencement of the TRUE Church, but it equally reveals the origins of the False Church masquerading as Christianity. Indeed, you would think it odd if the book of Acts did not discuss this vital subject.
The Book of Acts — the Key
First, let us recall two points of necessary understanding. 1) The book of Acts was written by Luke about 62 A.D.— some 31 years after the True Church began. Acts recalls ALL events which affected, in a major way, the True Church. It especially tells us about the beginnings of matters relating to Church history. 2) Acts does NOT record every single event relative to the Church, important as one might think them to be. For example, Luke doesn't mention a single thing about the activities of ten of the original twelve Apostles of Christ. Yet are we to assume that they did nothing important in the history of the Church? Absolutely NOT! They must have done many mighty works. But we can see from this omission that Luke recorded ONLY THOSE EVENTS WHICH WERE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for God's Church of the future to know. Notice that Luke's geography leads him towards the Northwest and West of Palestine. He discusses Church history in Asia Minor, Greece and ROME. He wanted to leave us with the truth of what was going on in the West and North because the prophecies showed the false system arising in these localities. All other activities of God's Church — all about the other ten Apostles, etc. — fall into relative unimportance because the trouble wasn't going to come from Palestine itself. It was to come from ROME and adjacent areas. It is no wonder that Luke spares no pains to tell us the truth of what was really going on in these critical areas, and that is the reason Acts concerns itself primarily with Paul. These are well-known principles that help us understand the overall viewpoint of Acts. With the foregoing in mind, read the incident recorded by Luke, of the first encounter of God's Apostles with a heretic. This encounter was not with an ordinary run-of-the-mill individual, but with one of the greatest men in the East at that time — Simon the Magus! The reason Luke describes the intentions of this man so thoroughly is the profound effect this man, and his followers, had on God's Church in Asia Minor, Greece, and ESPECIALLY ROME. Actually, this man by 62 A.D., (when Luke composed the book of Acts) had caused the True Church so much trouble that Luke had to show the people that he was NOT, as he claimed to be, a part of the Christian Church. All scholars realize that Luke tells about Simon's beginning because of his later notoriety and danger to the Church. In this regard, notice the comment of Hasting's Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Vol. 2, p. 496: "It seems beyond question that Luke KNEW THE REPUTATION which Simon acquired, and that he regarded the subsequent history of Simon as the natural result of what occurred in the beginning of his connection with the Christians." If we assume that Luke recorded this encounter of the Apostles with Simon Magus simply to show that "simony" was wrong, we miss the point completely. There is a score of places in other parts of the Bible to show the error of buying ecclesiastical gifts. Luke was exposing SIMON MAGUS HIMSELF. This IS the important point!! Luke was clearly showing that Simon was NEVER a part of God's Church, even though by 62 A.D., many people were being taught that Simon was truly a Christian — taught that he was the HEAD of the only TRUE Christians; the Apostle to the Gentiles!
What Luke Tells Us About Simon Magus
Notice the points Luke places clearly before us. 1) Simon was a Samaritan, not a Jew — (Acts 8:9). Remember that the Bible tells us salvation was of the Jews — not of the Samaritans (John 4:22). 2) Simon Magus greatly used demonistic powers to do miracles and wonders (Acts 8:9). 3) The whole population of Samaria (both small and great) gave heed to him (Verse 10). He was looked on as the greatest prophet — all Samaritans BELIEVED IN HIM! 4) The Samaritans WORSHIPPED him as "the Great One" — a god. "This man is that power of God called Great [that is the Almighty]" (RSV. Verse 10). Imagine it! They called him god in the flesh! 5) Luke is also careful to inform us that Simon had become firmly established in Samaria as "the Great One" and had practiced his powers "for a long time" (Verse 11). 6) Luke wants us to understand that he nominally became a Christian ("Simon himself believed") and was baptized — that is, he physically, outwardly "entered" the Christian Church (Verse 13). 7) Simon even recognized that Christ's power was greater than his but wanted to be associated with that great name (Verse 13). 8) Simon, seeing the potential of the Christian religion waited until the authorities, Peter and John, came to Samaria and then offered to pay them money to OBTAIN AN APOSTLESHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Verses 18-21).
Simon Coveted Apostle's Office
Those who carelessly read this section of Scripture may get the mistaken notion that Simon wanted only to buy the Holy Spirit. Yes, he wanted that — but his main intention went far beyond. He had eyes on becoming an APOSTLE! Peter immediately perceived his intention and said "You have neither PART nor LOT in this matter" (Verse 21). The true Apostles had been chosen after Christ's death to take PART in the apostleship by LOT (Acts 1:25, 26). Peter was telling Simon he couldn't buy an APOSTLESHIP. Luke is showing that Simon wanted to be one of the APOSTLES — a top man in the Christian Church. He was after that office. After all Simon imagined himself to be fully qualified to be an APOSTLE, especially over the Samaritans since they already looked to him as the greatest religious leader of the age. However, Peter rebuked him sternly. 9) Peter perceived that Simon was in the "gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity [lawlessness]" (Verse 23). NOTE: This verse has been misunderstood because the King James Version fails to give the full force of Peter's accusation. This verse when understood in the manner Peter intended, is one of the most important of the whole chapter. IT IS A PROPHECY! Peter knew the mind of this man and what this man was to become. This is made plain by Sir William Ramsay in his Pictures of the Apostolic Church, p. 60. He says: "Peter rebuked him in strong and PROPHETIC TERMS. The PROPHECY is concealed in the ordinary translation: the Greek means 'thou art FOR a gall of bitterness and a fetter of unrighteousness [lawlessness]', i.e., a cause of bitterness and corruption to others." This makes it plain. Peter was uttering a prophecy by the Holy Spirit. He was telling what this Simon was to become; Lange's Commentary says: "Peter's words, literally, mean: 'I regard you as a man whose influence WILL BE like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness], or, as a man who has reached such a state'." (Vol. 9, p. 148). Not only was Simon, in Peter's time, a great antagonist to the Church, but he would be the adversary of the future. This prophecy is the KEY that opens to our understanding the ORIGINS of the heresies mentioned in the letters of the Apostles. Peter clearly knew Simon wouldn't repent. Verse 22 shows that in the original.
Gall of Bitterness Defined
It is also interesting to note Peter's statement that Simon was to become a "gall of bitterness." People today may not realize the exact meaning of such a phrase, but no Jew in the First Century was in any doubt as to its meaning. It was a figure of speech adopted from the Old Testament which denoted going over to the idols and abominations of the heathen. Read Deuteronomy 29:16-18 and see how plainly this figure of speech is used. When the Apostle Peter applied to Simon Magus the phrase "gall of bitterness," he meant that Simon would be the responsible party for the introduction of heathen beliefs and idols into Christianity. The prophecy takes on a new and important scope when we realize this real meaning of Peter's prophecy. No wonder Jude later says, speaking about the very men who followed Simon Magus (including Simon himself): "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ORDAINED to this condemnation" (Verse 4). We can be confident that Peter recognized that Satan was going to use this Simon Magus as the GREAT PROTAGONIST OF FALSE CHRISTIANITY. The later history of Simon Magus shows that Peter's prophecy came true in a most remarkable way.
Simon Magus Unrepentant
10) Even after Peter's strong rebuke, Simon DID NOT REPENT! And Peter knew that he wouldn't! Conclusion: This means that Simon thought he deserved to be an Apostle — if not the chief Apostle — in the Christian Church. He became baptized which, in a physical way, made him ostentatiously a "member." It is important to remember that he DID NOT REPENT of his error. There is not the slightest hint that he gave up believing that he had divine right to be an Apostle. He deliberately continued in this error, with his later followers — calling himself "Christian"! It is because of the later deceptive activities of this would-be Apostle that Luke was compelled to show his ignominious beginning and to reveal what Peter prophesied about him. It is by identifying the real beginning of the great false church system with this Simon that opens up a whole new vista of understanding in regard to the counterfeit Christianity which began even in the infancy of the Church.
What Did Simon and the Samaritans Believe?
One of the most scholarly of early church historians was Harnack, who wrote an extensive seven-volume work titled The History of Dogma. This man is recognized as one of the top authorities in the world on this subject. He states: "Long before the appearance of Christianity, combinations of religion had taken place in Syria and Palestine, ESPECIALLY IN SAMARIA, insofar as the ASSYRIAN and BABYLONIAN religious philosophy . . . with its manifold interpretations, had penetrated as far as the eastern shore of the Mediterranean" (Vol. 1, pp. 243, 244). Notice he says the Babylonian religion had come ESPECIALLY TO SAMARIA! ! And why not? The Samaritans were largely Babylonian by race. The Bible tells us in II Kings 17:24 that most of the Samaritans had been taken to Samaria from Babylon and adjacent areas. Later on, Ezra informs us that others who were mainly of Babylonian stock came to Samaria (Ezra 4:9-10). These people amalgamated their Babylonian religious beliefs with some of the teachings from the Old Testament. But they NEVER DEPARTED basically from their own Babylonian-Chaldean religious teachings. If anyone doubts that these Samaritans practiced outright paganism under the guise of YHVH worship, let him read the extraordinarily clear indictments recorded in the inspired Word of God (II Kings 17:24-41).
A Brief History of the Samaritans
There were originally five Babylonian tribes who had been transported to the area where Northern Israel once lived before Israel's inglorious defeat and captivity by the Assyrians. When these five tribes moved INTO the vacant land of Samaria, they brought their Babylonian and Assyrian gods with them. After a short while in their new country, they were ravaged by lions. They interpreted this punishment as coming upon them because they failed to honor the god of the new land — not realizing that there is only One Great GOD, who is not confined to any one land. These Samaritans didn't have sense enough to realize that the True God of the land had sent Israel into captivity because of their calf-worship and their introduction of Phoenician religion. They asked the Assyrian king to send back one of the priests of Israel to teach them the former religion in order that the plague of lions would be stayed. The Israelitish priest who was sent to them taught the religion of Northern Israel. Remember that the priests of Northern Israel were NOT Levites. At the time of Jeroboam, the true priests of God were forced to flee to Jerusalem and Judea (II Chron. 11:14). Jeroboam set up his own form of religion with the calves at Dan and Bethel (I Kings 12:28- 30). He moved the Holy Days from the seventh to the eighth month. He made priests of the lowest of the people, those who were NOT of Levi (I Kings 12:31). All of these acts of Jeroboam were outright violations of God's law. It was from the time of Jeroboam down to the time of Israel's captivity, that the majority of Israel was NOT worshipping the True God at all! Jerusalem and God's temple had been repudiated, and paganism had been introduced on a grand scale. When these transplanted Babylonians who were being afflicted by lions in Samaria asked for a priest of the former people — THEY GOT ONE! But that priest was one of the former calf-worshipping priests of the rebel Israelites. He was almost as pagan as the Babylonians themselves! This priest of Israel taught the Babylonians (now called Samaritans) to adopt the former worship of the Northern Israelites. The priest taught them to revere YHVH as the "God of the Land." Thus, these Samaritans finally took upon themselves the NAME: The People of YHVH; but their religion was outright paganism — a mixture of Israelitish calf-worship and Babylonianism — just as Simon Magus later was eager to appropriate Christ's NAME, but continue his pagan abominations! Notice what God says about the final condition of these Samaritans. "So these nations feared the Lord [calling themselves God's people], AND served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers [the Babylonians], so do they unto this day" (II Kings 17:41). These people called themselves the worshippers of the True God, but were actually Babylonian idolaters.
What Deities Did the Samaritans Worship?
It will pay us to notice the gods and goddesses that these forefathers of Simon Magus brought with them to Samaria. The people from the City of Babylon adored SUCCOTHBENOTH; the Cuthites: NERGAL; the Hamathites: ASHIMA; the Avites: NIBHAZ and TARTAK; the Sepharvites: ADRAM-MELECH and ANAM-MELECH. The first deity is SUCCOTH-BENOTH, a goddess. It was Semiramis in the form of Venus. Listen to Jones in his Proper Names of the O.T., p. 348. He says the name signifies "Tabernacles of daughters." It means: "Chapels made of green boughs, which the men of Babylon, who had been transported into Samaria, erected in honor to Venus, and where their daughters were PROSTITUTED by the devotees of that abominable goddess. It was the custom of Babylon, the mother of harlots, and therefore HER SONS DID THE SAME THING IN SAMARIA." What about the god NERGAL of Cuth? We are informed by McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia that the name signifies "the great man," "the great hero" or "the god of the chase," i.e., the Hunter. In other words, as the Encyclopedia further points out, he was a form of NIMROD. This Hunter-god was honored by the people of CUTH for Arabian tradition tells us that CUTH was the special city of NIMROD (vol. VI, p. 950). The next god was that of Hamath: ASHIMA. Jones shows us that he was the great pagan god of propitiation, i.e., the god who bore the guilt of his worshippers (p. 42). This god was the pagan REDEEMER — the OSIRIS of Egyptian fame or the dying NIMROD. The Avites worshipped NIBHAZ (masc. — the god of HADES) and TAR-TAK, "the mother of the gods". This last-mentioned goddess was supposedly the mother of the Assyrian race, or, as Jones says, she was SEMIRAMIS (see p. 354). The fifth Babylonian tribe worshiped pre-eminently two gods. ADRAM-MELECH and ANAM-MELECH. The first was the "god of fire," the Sun or the Phoenician Baal (Jones, p. 14); the second was "the god of the flocks" or the Greek HERMES, the Good Shepherd (p. 32). (It is self-evident that these gods and goddesses were the major Babylonian deities, and at the same time, the very gods and goddesses which the Roman Catholic Church deifies today as Christ, Mary, etc.) Simon Magus grew up in this mixed-up society. The Samaritans called themselves the people of the True God, but religiously were practicing Babylonians. Simon himself was a priest of these people (the word "Magus" is the Chaldean/Persian word for "priest"). Thus, in the encounter of Peter with Simon Magus, we find the first real connection of true Christianity with the Chaldean priest who was prophesied to bring in its false counterpart. Next month we will see how Simon Magus managed to startle the Roman world with his plan to bring in one universal religion under the guise of Christianity.