We have then the same kind of choice set before us as in the case of Justin. Either the Clementine writer quotes our present Gospels, or else he quotes some other composition later than them, and which implies them. In other words, if he does not bear witness to our Gospels at first hand, he does so at second hand, and by the interposition of a further intermediate stage. It is quite possible that he may have had access to such a tertiary document, and that it may be the same which is the source of his apocryphal quotations: that he did draw from apocryphal sources, partly perhaps oral, but probably in the main written, there can, I think, be little doubt. Neither is it easy to draw the line and say exactly what quotations shall be referred to such sources and what shall not. The facts do not permit us to claim the exclusive use of the canonical Gospels. But that they were used, mediately or immediately and to a greater or less degree, is, I believe, beyond question.
BASILIDES AND VALENTINUS.
Still following the order of ‘Supernatural Religion,’ we pass with the critic to another group of heretical writers in the earlier part of the second century. In Basilides the Gnostic we have the first of a chain of writers who, though not holding the orthodox tradition of doctrine, yet called themselves Christians (except under the stress of persecution) and used the Christian books—whether or to what extent the extant documents of Christianity we must now endeavour to determine.
Basilides carries us back to an early date in point of time. He taught at Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian (117-137 A.D.). Hippolytus expounds at some length, and very much in their own words, the doctrines of Basilides and his school. There is a somewhat similar account by Epiphanius, and more incidental allusions in Clement of Alexandria and Origen.
The notices that have come down to us of the writings of Basilides are confusing. Origen says that ’he had the effrontery to compose a Gospel and call it by his own name’ [Endnote 188:1]. Eusebius quotes from Agrippa Castor, a contemporary and opponent from the orthodox side, a statement that ’he wrote four and twenty books (presumably of commentary) upon the Gospel’ [Endnote 189:1]. Clement of Alexandria gives rather copious extracts from the twenty-third of these books, to which he gave the name of ‘Exegetics’ [Endnote 189:2].
Tischendorf assumes, in a manner that is not quite so ’arbitrary and erroneous’ [Endnote 189:3] as his critic seems to suppose, that this Commentary was upon our four Gospels. It is not altogether clear how far Eusebius is using the words of Agrippa Castor and how far his own. If the latter, there can be no doubt that he understood the statement of Agrippa Castor as Tischendorf understands his, i.e. as referring to our present Gospels; but supposing his words to be those of the earlier writer, it is