“It is a self-evident fact that the serpent of the Genesis, who appears suddenly and without any preliminary introduction, must have been the antitype of the Persian Arch-Devs, whose head is Ash-Mogh, the “two-footed serpent of lies.” If the Bible-serpent had been deprived of his limbs before he had tempted woman unto sin, why should God specify as a punishment that he should go “upon his belly”? Nobody supposes that he walked upon the extremity of his tail. This controversy about the supremacy of Jehovah, between the Presbyters and Fathers on the one hand, and the Gnostics, the Nazarenes, and all the sects declared heterodox, as a last resort, on the other, lasted till the days of Constantine, and later.
That the peculiar ideas of the Gnostics about the genealogy of Jehovah, or the proper place that had to be assigned, in the Christian-Gnostic Pantheon, to the God of the Jews, were at first deemed neither blasphemous nor heterodox is evident in the difference of opinions held on this question by Clemens of Alexandria, for instance, and Tertullian. The former, who seems to have known of Basilides better than anybody else, saw nothing heterodox or blamable in the mystical and transcendental views of the new Reformer.
“In his eyes”, remarks the author of The Gnostics, speaking of Clemens, “Basilides was not a heretic, i.e., an innovator as regards the doctrines of the Christian Church, but a mere theosophic philosopher, who sought to express ancient truths under new forms, and perhaps to combine them with the new faith, the truth of which he could admit without necessarily renouncing the old, exactly as is the case with the learned Hindus of our day.”
Not so with Irenaeus and Tertullian. The principle works of the latter against the Heretics, were written after his separation from the Catholic Church, when he had ranged himself among zealous followers of Montanus; and teem with unfairness and bigoted prejudice. He has exaggerated every Gnostic opinion to a monstrous absurdity, and his arguments are not based on coercive reasoning but, simply on the blind stubbornness of a partisan fanatic.”
H. P. Blavatsky