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GNOSTIC = from Hebrew word for serpent/snake

Naassenes - Wikipedia

The Naassenes (Greek Naasseni, possibly from Hebrew נָחָשׁ naḥaš, snake) were a Christian Gnostic sect known only through the writings of Hippolytus of Rome.
The Naassenes claimed to have been taught their doctrines by Mariamne, a disciple of James the Just. The retention of the Hebrew form shows that their beliefs may represent the earliest stages of Gnosticism. Hippolytus regards them as among the first to be called simply "Gnostics", alleging that they alone have sounded the depths of knowledge.

Naassene Sermon

The Naassenes had one or more books out of which Hippolytus of Rome largely quotes in the Philosophumena, which professed to contain heads of discourses communicated by James, the brother of Jesus, to Mariamne. They contained treatises of a mystical, philosophic, devotional, and exegetical character, rather than a cosmological exposition. A very interesting feature of the book seems to have been the specimens it gave of Ophite hymnology.
The writer (or writers) is possibly Greek. He does indeed use the Hebrew words Naas and Caulacau, but these words had already passed into the common Gnostic vocabulary so as to become known to many unacquainted with Hebrew. He shows a great knowledge of the religious mysteries of various nations. For instance, he dilates much on the Phrygian rites, and the whole section seems to be a commentary on a hymn to the Phrygian Attis.


The Naassene Fragment is a fragmentary text that survives in no document except a quotation in the early third century encyclopedia of heresies by Hippolytus of Rome called Refutation of All Heresies (5.7.2-9). It may be considered part of the New Testament apocryphal tradition. The Naassenes (from Hebrew nachash, snake) were a Gnostic Ophite sect. The fragmentary quotation is given by Hippolytus as expressing the fundamental ideas of the Naassene Ophites, and possibly of all Gnostics.


G.R.S. Mead

Translation by G.R.S. Mead:

First [was there] Mind the Generative Law of All;
Second to the Firstborn was Liquid Chaos;
Third Soul through toil received the Law.
Wherefore, with a deer's form surrounding her,
She labours at her task beneath Death's rule.
Now, holding sway, she sees the Light;
And now, cast into piteous plight, she weeps;
Now she weeps, and now rejoices;
Now she weeps, and now is judged;
Now is judged, and now she dieth;
Now is born, with no way out for her; in misery
She enters in her wandering the labyrinth of ills.
And Jesus said: O Father, see!
[Behold] the struggle still of ills on earth!
Far from Thy Breath away she wanders!
She seeks to flee the bitter Chaos,
And knows not how she shall pass through.
Wherefore, send me, O Father!
Seals in my hands, I will descend;
Through Æons universal will I make a Path;
Through Mysteries all I'll open up a Way!
And Forms of Gods will I display;
The secrets of the Holy Path I will hand on,
And call them Gnosis.

Adolf von Harnack

The following is Adolf von Harnack's paraphrase (SBA, 1902, pp. 542 sqq.):
The generating principle of the universe, the first in order, was 'reason'; but the second principle was the firstbom's emitted 'chaos'; and the third principle was received by the soul, which descends from both. Therefore, fashioned like a trembling deer, the soul wrests herself free from the grip of death (strengthening itself by such exertions). Now she wins the mastery and sees the light; now plunged into wo, she weeps; again, in the depths of evil, the unhappy one becomes ensnared in a maze. Then spake Jesus: "behold, O Father! this being, pursued by ills, roams astray upon earth, far from thy breath. It seeks to escape bitter chaos, and knows not whither to find escape. Therefore, send me, O Father, with the seals in my hand will I descend: all eons will I traverse, all mysteries reveal, and show the forms of the gods. I will deliver the secret of the holy way, and call it Gnosis."


Here, reason and chaos, the intelligent and the material world, stand opposed; and between them is the human soul, belonging to both spheres, yet striving toward the higher and the spiritual. The soul is unable to ascend by its own power; therefore, a heavenly being, concordant with the will of the supreme principle, descends into the human world and redeems the soul by showing it the way through the spheres which sunder it from the world divine. It is not mere thirst for knowledge that impels the Gnostics, but essentially a concern of salvation; because the Gnostic's salvation depends on the possession of the Gnosis respecting these things.
Like Gnosis at large, the Ophites teach the existence of a Supreme Being, standing infinitely high above the visible world; qualified as purely spiritual, the primal basis of all things, the starting-point of the cosmic process. His names are, Father of the Universe, First Man, the "Uncreated," the "Unspeakable," the "Unapproachable God." He is self-evolving, and thus becomes the source of all being. The first products of this spontaneous evolution still belong to the purely spiritual spheres. The Ophitic theology tends to separate this supreme God into an ever-increasing number of separate entities. In the aforesaid Hymn, only the Son is mentioned beside the Father; but a tetrad occurs among the Ophites of Irenaeus and the Naassenes; an entire decad among the Gnostici Barbelo; while the Nag Hammadi writings disclose a countless host of higher beings. The Supreme Being's mode of evolution is set forth, now as a generative, again as a psychologic process; and frequently the two ideas are combined. Some pagan mythology lies obviously at the root of the matter; which accounts also for their syzygial views; for, in part at least, the Ophites aimed to interpret the ancient myths as psychologic processes. Over against the Supreme Being stands chaos, the material principle. Yet there is not here a sharp dualism. In the Hymn, the phrase "the firstborn's emitted chaos" implies that it is derived from a higher being. In only very few instances is chaos an evil power, an active principle. It is not the existence of chaos which contradicts perfection; but rather the mixture of luminous parts with material elements. This mixture, in a word, is the great calamity, the loss that must be retrieved through redemption. How did this mixture come to pass? The Hymn designates the soul, the principle of this compound, as the common product of mind and chaos. Such is also the theory of the Perates and Sethians, mentioned by Hippolytus. These sects most nearly approach the dualistic scheme, yet the latter is not distinctly defined. In Justin, also, dualism is diminished.


The following are the contents of the fifth book of the Refutation of all Heresies: —
What the assertions are of the Naasseni, who style themselves Gnostics, and that they advance those opinions which the Philosophers of the Greeks previously propounded, as well as those who have handed down mystical (rites), from (both of) whom the Naasseni taking occasion, have constructed their heresies.
And what are the tenets of the Peratae, and that their system is not framed by them out of the holy Scriptures, but from astrological art.
What is the doctrine of the Sethians, and that, purloining their theories from the wise men among the Greeks, they have patched together their own system out of shreds of opinion taken from Musaeus, and Linus, and Orpheus.
What are the tenets of Justinus, and that his system is framed by him, not out of the holy Scriptures, but from the detail of marvels furnished by Herodotus the historian.

Chapter 1. Recapitulation; Characteristics of Heresy; Origin of the Name Naasseni; The System of the Naasseni.

I think that in the four preceding books I have very elaborately explained the opinions propounded by all the speculators among both Greeks and Barbarians, respecting the Divine Nature and the creation of the world; and not even have I omitted the consideration of their systems of magic. So that I have for my readers undergone no ordinary amount of toil, in my anxiety to urge many forward into a desire of learning, and into steadfastness of knowledge in regard of the truth. It remains, therefore, to hasten on to the refutation of the heresies; but it is for the purpose of furnishing this (refutation) that we have put forward the statements already made by us. For from philosophers the heresiarchs deriving starting-points, (and) like cobblers patching together, according to their own particular interpretation, the blunders of the ancients, have advanced them as novelties to those that are capable of being deceived, as we shall prove in the following books. In the remainder (of our work), the opportunity invites us to approach the treatment of our proposed subjects, and to begin from those who have presumed to celebrate a serpent, the originator of the error (in question), through certain expressions devised by the energy of his own (ingenuity). The priests, then, and champions of the system, have been first those who have been called Naasseni, being so denominated from the Hebrew language, for the serpent is called naas (in Hebrew). Subsequently, however, they have styled themselves Gnostics, alleging that they alone have sounded the depths of knowledge. Now, from the system of these (speculators), many, detaching parts, have constructed a heresy which, though with several subdivisions, is essentially one, and they explain precisely the same (tenets); though conveyed under the guise of different opinions, as the following discussion, according as it progresses, will prove.These (Naasseni), then, according to the system advanced by them, magnify, (as the originating cause) of all things else, a man and a son of man. And this man is a hermaphrodite, and is denominated among them Adam; and hymns many and various are made to him. The hymns however — to be brief — are couched among them in some such form as this: From you (comes) father, and through you (comes) mother, two names immortal, progenitors of Aeons, O denizen of heaven, you illustrious man. But they divide him as Geryon into three parts. For, say they, of this man one part is rational, another psychical, another earthly. And they suppose that the knowledge of him is the originating principle of the capacity for a knowledge of God, expressing themselves thus: The originating principle of perfection is the knowledge of man, while the knowledge of God is absolute perfection. All these qualities, however — rational, and psychical, and earthly — have, (the Naassene) says, retired and descended into one man simultaneously — Jesus, who was born of(the Naassene) says, are in the habit of speaking (through Jesus) at the same time together, each from their own proper substances to those peculiarly their own. For, according to these, there are three kinds of all existent things — angelic, psychical, earthly; and there are three churches — angelic, psychical, earthly; and the names of these are elect