Menander, a Samaritan false teacher in the early part of the 2nd cent. Our knowledge of him is probably all derived, either directly or indirectly, from Justin Martyr.
What he tells directly is, that Menander was a native of the Samaritan town Capparatea, and a disciple of Simon, and, like him, had been instigated by the demons to deceive many by his magic arts; that he had had success of this kind at Antioch, where he had taught, and had persuaded his followers that they should not die; and that, when Justin wrote, some of them survived, holding this persuasion.
Justin wrote a special treatise against heresies, and from this, in all probability, was derived the somewhat fuller account given by Irenaeus.
According to this, Menander did not, like Simon, declare himself to be the chief power, but taught that that power was unknown to all. He gave the same account as Simon of the creation of the worldâ€”viz. that “it had been made by angels” who had taken their origin from the Ennoea of the supreme power.
He put himself forward as having been sent by the invisible powers to mankind as a Saviour, enabling men, by the magical power which he taught them, to get the better of these creative angels. He taught that through baptism in his own name his disciples received a resurrection, and should thenceforward abide in immortal youth.
Irenaeus evidently understood this language literally, and the history of heretical sects shows that it is not incredible that such promises may have been made; but the continuance of a belief which the experience of the past must have disproved indicates that a spiritual interpretation must have been found. Cyril of Jerusalem treats the denial of a literal resurrection of the body as a specially Samaritan heresy.
Irenaeus, having spoken of Valentinus and Marcion, says that the other Gnostics, as had been shewn, took their beginnings from Menander, the disciple of Simon; and there is every probability that it was from the “Samaritan” Justin that Irenaeus learned his pedigree of Gnosticism, viz. that it originated with the Samaritan Simon, and was continued by his disciple Menander, who taught at Antioch, and that there Saturninus (and, apparently, Basilides) learned from him.
The name Menandrianists occurs in the list of Hegesippus. Tertullian evidently knows only what he has learned from Irenaeus. The same may be said of all later writers, and it is scarcely worth while to mention the imaginary condemnation of these heretics by Lucius of Rome, invented “by Praedestinatus”.