A Christian Gnostic teacher who was active in Alexandria in the 130s and probably before that. He is reported by Irenaeus to have brought his heresy from Antioch to Alexandria. An elaborate cosmogonic myth is attributed to him by Irenaeus, and a rather different one by Hippolytus. Irenaeus also attributes to him a doctrine of salvation that involves a docetic interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The system reported by Irenaeus comes closest to what is known of his writings as quoted by Clement of Alexandria; the version given by Hippolytus is probably by one of his disciples.

A commentary on scripture in 24 books (Exegetika) is also attributed to him. Fragments of his writings preserved by Clement deal with traditional Christian themes, interpreted with recourse to then-current Greek philosophies—Platonic, Pythagorean, and Stoic. Basilides is the earliest known Christian commentator on scripture. Among his disciples was his son Isidore.

Of Isidore’s writings only short fragments remain. Basilides was also probably known to Valentinus. The Basilidian school did not spread significantly outside of Egypt, but it persisted in Egypt well into the fourth century.


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