Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 11. The Heresies of the Ante-Nicene Age” Sections 112-136, Loc. 17655-18757.
§ 124. Basilides.
After a brief and lightly annotated bibliography, Schaff introduces us to Basilides, who was in Alexandria around the third and fourth decades of the second century. Basilides claimed to bea disciple of Matthias, the apostle. His explanation of the Gnosis “was too metaphysical and intricate to be popular” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18206). He also wrote a number of volumes of commentary on the Gospels. His views are commented on by Hyppolytus, who seems to have read Basilides himself, as well as by Irenaeas and Epiphanius (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18215). Basilides derives a philosophical system from Egyptian astronomy and from the numerology of the Pythagoreans. He is monotheistic, at least at first, which set him apart from other Gnostics (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18221). Basilides predicates the world on an ineffable God who, by definition, does not exist, speaking a world into being through a word which brings forth chaos, out of which the world develops. There is a form of sonship by which humans are eventually derived (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18222). Various circles of creation exist in this system of sonship, which, taken all together, is called the “pleroma.” All is ruled over by two archons, also called demiurges (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18230). Each begets a son more powerful than himself, who has a plan for redemption. In this redemptive sonship, which is administered through Christianity, there is a threefold Christ, son of each archon and of Mary (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18238). Through his passion, according to Basilides, the Christ was purified from those elements brought from the more primitive level of creation. As with Jesus, all others must be purified to reach their proper place (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18245). Basilides’ work was continued by his son, Isidore, who was, in Schaff’s estimation, his only important disciple (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18253). His followers replaced Jesus on the cross with Simon of Cyrene, saw Jesus as mocking those who tried to crucify him, and considered it appropriate to deny Christ when expedient due to persecution (Schaff 2014, Loc. 18261).