Simon Magus is a figure briefly mentioned in the Bible (Acts 8:9-24). The word simony (paying for influence in the church) is named after him. In the apocryphal Acts of Peter, he’s a powerful sorcerer with the ability to fly. Early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Epiphanius considered him to be the father of all heresies. However, some biblical scholars from the 1800s to today think Simon Magus may have actually been the historical epistle writer Paul.
In The Acts of Simon Magus in the First Century AD: Book I – A Search in Secret Egypt, we’re given a lively account of Simon’s early life in a small farming community, his voyage to Alexandria, and his early education into the occult.
It’s written in the form of a journal, oftentimes very stream of conscious, with numerous flashbacks. At times humorous, vulgar, and tragic. Although taking place two thousand years ago, it’s written using modern slang, which took me a moment to get used to, but I ultimately think the slang makes it more accessible to the modern reader and provides plenty of moments for humor.
There are references to Biblical stories as you’d expect. At one point, Simon plays the part of the Good Samaritan to a figure I suspect is Jesus, who also doubles as the prodigal son.
The historical figure Philo of Alexandria appears in this novel as a long winded professor who goes on and on in endless digressions. Simon serves as his scribe and lives in the tombs (called Ghost Town) with the other people who can’t afford housing. Philo’s attempt to synthesize all religions together featuring a divine figure called The Word sounds a lot like Christianity at times (an idea many biblical scholars would agree with).
I had a lot of fun reading this book, especially the peyote vision which took the form of Super Mario Brothers. Can’t wait for Book 2.