Porphyry’s ‘Cave of the Nymphs’ and the Gnostic Controversy
The teaching of the heretics, styled 'Gnostics' in the editorial title, is a parody of that set forth in Porphyry's 'Cave of the Nymphs': they prefer their own apocrypha to the ancients, condemn the specious beauty of the world, affect religion only as a substitute for rational theology, and profess to derive from Plato views unknown to any Greek. This chapter describes that certain features of his treatise would have found their way there more easily because they had been prominent in his dealings with this sect. It suggests that he meant to write, not only a work of interpretation, but a manual for interpreters, and one that might be construed as a tacit reprimand to teachers who purported, like the Gnostics, to arrive at truth without the aid of other men's endeavours. The 'Cave of the Nymphs' is itself a proof that theological arguments in the third century rested equally on logic and authority.