Basilides the chief of the Egyptian Gnostics in the second century. The place of his birth is unknown; some call him a Syrian, others a Persian, others an Egyptian. According to Clemens Alex. (Strom. 7:17) he appeared in the reign of Hadrian; Baronius and Pearson suppose him to have begun his heresy in the latter part of the first century. The probable date of his death is A.D. 125-130. He published a book which he called "the Gospel," and wrote also 24 books exegetical of the Gospel, but whether it was a comment upon his own "Gospel" or upon the four evangelists is uncertain. He left a son, Isidorus, who defended his opinions. Fragments of both Basilides and Isidorus are given in Grabe, Spicileg. saec. 2, p. 37, 64. (Burton, Eccles. Hist. Lect. 15; Burton, Bampton Lectures, note 13.) Our knowledge of Basilides is chiefly derived from Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 1:24), Epiphanius (Haer. 24), and the newly discovered Philosophoumena (bk. 7)
of Hippolytus (q.v.). Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 4:7) speaks of a refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor.
He taught that the supreme God, perfect in wisdom and goodness, the unbegotten and nameless Father, produced from his own substance seven aeons of a most excellent nature. According to Irenseus (Adv. Haer. 1:24), from the self-existent Father was born Νοῦς, Intelligence; from Nous, Δόγος, the Word; from Logos, Φρόνησις, Prudence; from Phronesis, Σοφια and Δύναμις, Wisdom and Power; from Dunamis and Sophia, Powers, Principalities, and Angels, by whom the first heaven was made; from these sprung other angels and other heavens to the number of three hundred and sixty-five of each, whence are so many days in the year. The angels which uphold the lower heaven made all things in this world, and then divided it among themselves; the chief of which is the God of the Jews, who wished to bring other nations into subjection to His people, but was opposed. The self-existent Father, seeing their danger, sent his first- begotten Nous, the Christ, for the salvation of such as believed in Him: He appeared on earth as a man, and wrought miracles, but He did not suffer. The man Jesus suffered, but not in any vicarious sense; the divine justice will not allow one being to suffer for another. It seems, therefore, that the modern rationalistic views as to the expiation, of Christ are derived, not from the apostles, but from the Gnostics. (See Shedd, History of Doctrines, 2:205.) Irenaeus charges Basilides with holding-that Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear Christ's cross, and was crucified for Him; that he was transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and Jesus took the form of Simon, and looked on, laughing at the folly and ignorance of the Jews; after which He ascended into heaven. But it is not certain, or even likely, that the charge is well-founded. Basilides farther taught that, men ought not to confess to him who was actually crucified, but to Jesus, who was sent to destroy the works of the makers of this world. The soul only was to be saved, not the body. The prophecies are from the makers of the world; the law was given by the chief of them, who brought the people out of Egypt. It is said that the followers of Basilides partook of things offered to idols without scruple, and all kinds of lewdness were esteemed indifferent, and that they practiced magic and incantations.
One of the most marked features of the system of Basilides was his distribution of the local positions. of the three hundred and sixty-five heavens, according to the theories of mathematicians, the prince of which is called Abraxas, a name having in it the number three hundred and sixty- five. SEE ABRAXAS, The system has been thus briefly stated: "Basilides placed at the head of his system an incomprehensible God, whom he called non-existent (οὐκ ὤν), and the ineffable (ἄῤῥητος), the attributes of whom he made living personified powers, unfolded from his perfection; as the Spirit, Reason; Thought, Wisdom, and Power, who were the executors of his wisdom. To these he added the moral attributes, showing the activity of the Deity's almighty power, namely, Holiness and Peace. The number seven was a holy number with Basilides; besides these seven powers, in accordance with the seven days of the week, he supposed seven similar beings in every stage of the spiritual world, and that there were, like the days of the year, three hundred and sixty-five such stages or regions, which were represented by the mystical number Abraxas, the symbol of his sect. From this emanation world sprung the divine principles of Light, Life, Soul, and Goad; but there was an empire of evil, which assaulted the divine principles, and forced a union of undivine principles opposed to each, namely, Darkness to Light, Death to Life, Matter to Soul, Evil to Good. The Divine Principle, to obtain its original splendor, must undergo a process of purification before it can effect its reunion with its original source; hence arose a kind of metempsychosis, in which the soul passed through various human bodies, and even through animals, according to its desert, and this by way of punishment. Basilides also supposed the passage of the soul, through various living creatures, in order to a gradual development of spiritual life. The Creator of the world he supposed to be an angel acting as an instrument under the supreme God; and to redeem human nature, and to make it fit for communion with Himself and the higher world of spirits, He sent down the highest AEon (Nous) for the fulfillment of the work of redemption, who united himself to the man Jesus at, his baptism in Jordan; but the Nous did not suffer, only the man Jesus." The sect flourished for a long time, and did not become extinct till the fourth century. The newly-discovered MS. of Hippolytus (q.v.) gives quite a thorough account of the doctrines of Basilides, which is set forth by Jacobi, in Basilides Philos. Gnostic, etc. (Berlin. 1852), and Uhlhorn, Das Basilidianische System (Getting. 1855). See also Neander, Genet. Entuickelung d. vorn. Gnostischen Syst. (Berl. 1818); Ch. Hist. 1:413 sq; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. 1:143; Comm. 1:416-424; Lardner, Works, 8:349 sq.; Matter, Hist. du Gnosticisme, 2:63; Schaff, Ch. Hist. 1:227237; Hase,
Church History, p. 694; Dorner, Person of Christ, Per. I, Epoch 1; Gieseler, in Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 403. SEE GNOSTICISM.