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from issue no. 04 - 2003

The beliefs of the Ophites

They prefer the Serpent to Christ himself

by Lorenzo Bianchi

“To these heretics are also added those who are called Ophites. In fact these glorify the Serpent to such an extent that they prefer it to Christ himself. It was it, in fact, they say, who gave us the origin of the knowledge of good and evil. They affirm that Moses, aware of its power and majesty, had a serpent of bronze made, and whoever looked on it was healed. Christ himself, again they say, represents its sacred power in his gospel when he says: “Just as Moses raised the serpent in the desert, so must the son of Man be raised up”. They bring it [the serpent] to bless their eucharist.
But all the fraud and the theory of this error springs from what follows. They say that from the first supreme Eon were born many other inferior ones; and that nevertheless one Eon, whose name is Jaldabaoth, is superior to all of these. They say that he was conceived by another Eon in the midst of the inferior ones: later, wishing to rise up among the superior things, he was unable to succeed because of the weight of the matter mixed with him, and abandoned in the middle [between the inferior and the superior things] he spread himself completely and thus made the sky.
Jaldabaoth nevertheless descended to the lower world and generated seven children, from whom he blocked, by [his] expansion, the higher things, in such a way that the angels, being unable to know the higher things, think that he is the only god. They say therefore that those powers and the lower angels generated man; and he, because formed from the weakest and most mediocre powers, lies almost like a slithering worm; but that Eon from which Jaldabaoth comes, stirred by envy, introduced a spark as it were into man, driven by which he may know by experience and can understand the higher things.
So, conversely, this Jaldabaoth, become indignant, emanated from himself the power and the image of the serpent: and this power was in paradise, that is it was that serpent that Eve believed as if it was the son of God. It plucked, they say, the fruit of the tree and thereby gave in addition to the human race the knowledge of good and evil. They further say that Christ was not of the substance of the flesh, and that one must absolutely not hope in the salvation of the flesh”.

(Ps. Tertullian, Libellus adversus omnes haereses II, 1-4. Our translation from the Italian translation
of Lorenzo Bianchi)

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