Prélude to ApJohn

The myth presented in ApJohn very well could have been derived from the teachings of Simon the Magician. According to Riemer Roukema in Gnosis and Faith in Early Christianity, and I’m paraphrasing, he was recognized and worshiped by the Samaritans as the highest, literally first, God. He adds that his consort Helen, a former prostitute, had accompanied him, and that she had been called his First Thought. According to lore, Simon had redeemed the prostitute Helen in the Phoenician city of Tyre. Simon himself was said to be an incarnation of the highest God, who thought that in Helen he could recognize his First Thought or the “Mother of all things.”

The myth of Simon goes as follows: in the beginning, the highest God, the Father, had the thought of creating angels and archangels. This First Thought sprang from him, descended to the lower regions, and then brought for angels and powers. These angels and powers then created the world. However, they could not accept that they were descended from someone else. Out of envy of the First Thought which had brought them forth, they took her prisoner and shut her up in a human body. She was doomed century after century to move from one woman’s body to another. In all her reincarnations the First Thought of the Father was humiliated and shamed. She represented the “lost sheep” of the Gospel. In the meantime, these angels and powers who governed the world had no idea of the existence of the highest God, the Father.

The highest God himself came to free the First Thought from this world. He descended, but did not want to redeem her alone. Because the angels had governed the world badly, all humans had to suffer under them, and therefore the highest God also came to offer redemption to human beings generally, thereby improving their state. Redemption consisted of the knowledge of the highest God himself.

The Old Testament prophets had not been inspired by the highest God, but by the angels who had created the world. These angels had led humankind into slavery with all kinds of arbitrary commandments. However, Simon had promised to destroy this world and to free his believers from the power of the angels. People would not be redeemed by doing righteous works, but only Simon’s grace.

In the next few sections, we’ll see how Simon’s story influenced the drafters of ApJohn, and by extension TriProt.