The genesis of Mandaeis.m and the older gnosis from the old and elaborate BabylonioChaldaean religion is clearly seen also in the fact that the names of the old pantheon (as for example those of the planetary divinities) are retained, but their holders degraded to the position of demons - a conclusion confirmed by the fact that the Mandaeans, like the allied Ophites, Peratae and Manichaeans, certainly have their original seat in Mesopotamia and Babylonia.
OPHITES, or Ophians (Gr.
"Ophites" in Dict.
Among the Tertiary volcanic rocks those of acid types (granites, granulites) were the first to appear and are developed latitudinally; rocks of intermediate type (dacites, andesites) characterize the Miocene and early Pliocene periods; while the basic rocks (ophites, elaeolite syenites and basalts) attained their maximum in later Pliocene and Quaternary times.
The exposition of the system of the Ophites given by Celsus (in Origen vi.
Ahamoth) among the Gnostics (Ophites) in the narrower sense of the word, the Simoniani (the figure of Helena), the Barbelognostics, and in the system of the PistisSophia or the Primal Man, among the Naasseni and the sect, related to them, as described by Hippolytus.'
At an early period, and notably in the older systems of the Ophites (a fairly exact account of which has been preserved for us by Epiphanius and Hippolytus), among the Gnostics in the narrower sense of the word, the Archontici, the Sethites (there are also traces among the Naasseni, cf.
Among these probably belong the Ophites of Celsus (in Origen), the many little sects included by Epiphanius under the name of Nicolaitans and Gnostics (Haer.
On the one hand we have sects with a strongly ascetic tendency, on the other we find some characterized by unbridled libertinism; in some the most abandoned prostitution has come to be the most sacred mystery; in others again appears the worship of serpents, which here appears to be connected in various and often very loose ways with the other ideas of these Gnostics - hence the names of the " Ophites," " Naasseni."
Tradition says that one of the Gnostic sects known as the Ophites caused a tame serpent to coil round the sacramental bread and worshipped it as the representative of the Saviour.
The Ophites are said to have not only used myths but forbidden marriage and held that the resurrection was purely spiritual (Lightfoot); this, however, is probably no more than an interesting coincidence, and all attempts to identify the errorists definitely must be abandoned.'
The Ophites actually identified the serpent with Sophia (" Wisdom "); the old sage Garga, one of the fathers of Indian astronomy, owed his learning to the serpent-god Sesha Naga; and the Phoenician 14pwv 'Ocbiwv wrote the seven tablets of fate which were guarded by Harmonia.
This river, which was otherwise called Drakon, Typhon or Ophites, is known at the present day as the " river of the rebel " (Nahr El-`Asi; Baudissin ii.
To this class belonged Dositheus, Saturninus, Cerdo, Marcion and their followers, the Ophites, Manichaeans and others.
28, § 5) in his refutation of the Kabbalistic heresy of the Ophites, we find Tobias figuring as a prophet, on the same level as Haggai.
The symbol of the Bacchic orgies was a consecrated serpent, and the snakes kept in the sacred cistae of the cult of Dionysus find a parallel among the sect of the Ophites where, at the sacramental rites, bread was offered to the living serpent and afterwards distributed among the worshippers.