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Studies in Christianity and Judaism / Etudes sur le christianisme et le judaïsme : 1

Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius Gérard Vallée

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
Vallée» Gérard, 1933A study in anti-Gnostic polemics {Studies in Christianity and Judaism = Etudes sur le christianisme et le judaïsme, ISSN 0711-5903 ; 1} Bibliography: p. ISBN 0-919812-14-7 1. Irenaeus, Saint, Bishop of Lyons. Ad versus haereses. 2. Hippolytus, Saint, fl. 217-235. Refutatio omnium haeresium. 3. Epiphanius, Saint. Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus. Panarion. 4. Heresies and heretics-Early literature-History and. criticism. I. Title. II. Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism ; 1. BT1390.V34 273'.2 C82-094052-6

€> 1 9 8 1 C o r p o r a t i o n C a n a d i e n n e d e s S c i e n c e s R e l i g i e u s e s / C a n a d i a n C o r p o r a t i o n for Studies in Religion 8 1 8 2 83 8 4 8 5 4 3 2 1 No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system, transJated or reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm, microfiche, or any other means, without written permission from the publisher.

C o v e r d e s i g n by M i c h a e l B a l d w i n , MSIAD

O r d e r from: Wilfrid Laurier University Press Wilfrid L a u r i e r U n i v e r s i t y W a t e r l o o , Ontario, C a n a d a N 2 L 3 C 5



vii ix 1 9 12 16 24 34 41

IRENAEUS'S REFUTATION OF THE GNOSTICS 1. 2. 3. Philosophical Arguments . Theological Arguments Socio-political Motives . . . . Irenaeus and the Montanists. . . . . .

Excursus: II.


Hippolytus's Three Ways of Refuting Heresies. 4 7 The Basic Disagreement with the Gnostics. . . 56 63 69 75 ... 83 88 92 .105


EPIPHANIUS ' Sv PANARION 1. 2. 3. Epiphanius's Objective and Method The Gnostic Heresies The Core of the Refutation The Style of Argumentation in Pan.haer. 27. .



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corporate effort.

It was prepared

at McMaster University

under the auspices of a research project on Normative SelfDefinition in Judaism and Christianity funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Counci1 of Canada. thankful in (ed. read to S CM and Press for permission to publish Vol. are I am as The to here I, due

chapter I a revised version of an essay that appeared first Jewish E.P. Christian 1980. Self-Definition, Special thanks Shaping of Christianity Sanders) in the Second and Third Centuries

Professor Frederik Wisse (McGi11 University), who carefully my manuscript and made numerous stimulating comments to which I have tried to live up; Professor Alan Mendelson (McMaster University) and Dr. Tamar Frank, who contributed editorial advice; his seminar Brox on Professor Pierre Nautin Epiphanius have in 1978-1979; (Ecole pratique and Professor des Hautes Etudes, Paris), who allowed me to participate in Norbert friendly (Universität Regensburg), whose writings and these years


inspired me throughout

of research.

But, as usual, none beside myself should be been published with the help of a grant funds Science and Humanities Research

held responsible for the shortcomings of this work. This book has provided from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities using by the Social Council of Canada.

McMaster University Hamilton November 1980

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ABBREVIATIONS AC ' A Adv. haer. Adv. Val. AHC ANF BCNH BKV CCL CH CSCO CSEL D Ancient Christian Writers Irenaeus, Adversus haereses (see chapter I, note 1) l'ertullian, Adversus Valentinianos Annuarium historiae cone i1îorurn. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Bibl iothc-que copte de Nag Hammadi. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter. Quebec Amsterdam


Corpus ehristianorum, series Latina Church History. Chicago

Corpus scriptorum ehristianorum orientalium Corpus scriptorum eccles iast icorum latinorum Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et déclarâtionum de rebus fidei et morum Dictionnaire d'histoire ecclésiastiques. Paris et de Paris géographie


Dictionnaire de spiritualité. Fathers of the ChurchDie griechischen christlichen der ersten Jahrhunderte


Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica Harv ard Theological Review. Origen, Commentary on John Oriqen, Commentary on Matthew Journal of Ecclesiastical History. The Journal of Religion. Chicago Oxford München London Cambridge (Mass.)

Journal of Theological Studies.

M'ünchener theologische Zeitschrift.



Nag H arrima d i S t u d i e s . Novum Testamentum. Epiphanius, Panarion Patrologia graeca Patrologia latina Patrologia orientalis


Leiden (see chapter III, note 8)

Peallexikon für Antike und Christentum. Stuttgart nippolytus, Refutatio omnium haeresium (or f'lenchos ) (see chapter 11, notes 1 and 2 ) Revue d 1 histoire ecclésiastique. Louvain




Revue de l'histoire des religions. Revue des sciences philosophiques et théolog iques. Paris Recherches de science religieuse. Revue des sciences religieuses.



Paris Strasbourg

Revue de théologie ancienne et mediévale. Louvain Revue de théologie et de philosophie. Sources chrétiennes Clement of Alexandria, Stromate is Studia theologica. Oslo Berlin Lausanne


Theologische Literaturzeitung. Theologische Revue. Münster

Trierer theologische Zeitschrift.


Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur Theologische Zeitschrift. Vigiliae christianae. Basel


Amsterdam Stuttgart

Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte.

Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. Berlin Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche. Tübingen


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The Christian Lyons, of and the

study who

presented his

here and

is devoted their


three around

early of 18 0;

heres ioloqists wrote

works :




Hippolytus of Rome, who is generally held to be the author the Elenchos Against All Heresies, written Epiphanius question of Salamis, that it will may be about whose Panarion 374 and 377. be in the at the of order study to after 2 22; eighty of a our few in in against

heres ies was wr i t.ten between investigation, preliminary general and particular. 1. of

Before posing offer



heresiology works




Why study heres iology ? those Do most we not

What truth can we hope to to 'satanize ' far more their

wring from the most tradition, adversaries?

intransigent authors of the Christian inclined now possess reliable

and the ensuing revival of gnostic studies? This answer is a reasonable the question, but

Can we not now satisfactory important been

dispense with the 'biased' witness of the Church Fathers? any is bound to be complex. resulting Although the Nag Hammadi

discoveries—and period, the

scholarship—are have they to by no the

for our knowledge of the religious history of the patristic hercsiologists On the contrary, of data source means a supplanted. independent inquiry. represent largely than, And if these of (Of


historian's other

The heresiologists

drew on sources

though sometimes similar to, the Nag Hammadi texts. the patristic by the writings offer to evidence must be complemented evidence too of permit, the of by heterodox and themselves, they scattered and a d i rec t writings, a

corrected fund



sat isfactory




3 0 course, of the patristic evidence

Anti-Gnostic Polemics itself ought to be this the one-

complemented by the new sources, thereby ridding it of some its one-sidedness; but we do not have to belabor to recall is the that, that the than context that of for provided the all to the Nag by

important texts;

heresiologists that sidedness, gnos is ; and writings

broader us


heresiologists, valuable these for



attempts reasons, for the

conceptualize heresiological of




these new sources.-^ In fact, Nag Hammadi studies frequently refer to the evidence of the Church Fathers in the attempt to assess the meaning of the newly discovered texts. look for parallel and information, H ippolytus, In any heresy from Epiphanius, Scholars regularly in that of Irenaeus, the new especially


sources have not superseded the heresiologists. effort the to gain a better knowledge heresiologists, however, a ancient preliminary

condition has to be borne in mind. heresies which interest us here,

Information on heresies is embedded in an anti-

found in heresiological works, particularly on the gnostic heretical argument. This mode of argument always reflects

provided, quot ing the a

especially source, of the

when it is



is to

not be as

explicitly clear to as the

necessary they

possible about the concerns of the heres iologists and about nature arguments wish to oppose heretics. Although a better knowledge of heres iology undoubtedly improves the quality of our knowledge of ancient heresies,

•'•The same point is forcefully emphasized by H.-M. S c h e n k e , 'Die R e l e v a n z der Kirchenväter für die Erschliessung der Nag-Hammadi Texte', Das Korpus der griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller. Historie, Gegenwart, Zukunft, eds. J. Irmscher and K. Treu, TU 12 0, Berlin 1977, pp. 209-218.

Introduction the study of heresiology as a literary field. et genre etudes les

3 is, sur

surprisingly has already les procédés qu 1 elle present

enough, a rather neglected remarked: ordinaires pour de not close it rien does pay de tel

P. Nautin risques n'avons The of implied the same

'S'il existe de bonnes l'hagiographie exacte, to in answer to the own pour l'h istoi re pretend echoes

comporte study to

nous the way

malheureusement i nv itat ion invitation.

1 1 hérésiologie 1 .2 methods


heresio]ogy ; rather,


The question of 'heretics' has an ominous relevance to our day.3 'Heresy' is no longer used in an exclusively heretics for survival is too The struggle over battles in If Christian ideologica1 less bitter re l igious sense, but striking meaning between antiquity the analogy between ancient

and contemporary minorities struggling to be overlooked or dismissed. in our the are world and the hardly the orthodox and




conflict today is a life-and-death

issue, so was the issue

of religious truth for early Christianity. We also wish to ernp h a s i z e the relevance of heresiology to the question of what people for 4 . We must not expect thought Christianity to find in stood heresiological

2p. Nautin, 'Histoire des dogmes et des sacrements chrétiens ' , Problèmes et méthodes d'histoire des religions (Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes, Section Sciences religieuses), Paris 1968, pp. 177-191, here p. 183. In Mélanges d'histoire des relig ions offerts à H.-C. Puech, Paris 19 7 4, pp. 393-403 ('Les fragments de Basilide sur la souffrance'), Nautin remarks again th a t our be t te r knowledge of G n o s t i c i s m d e p e n d s not only on the

3 See G. HasenhUttl and J. Nolte, Formen Ketzerbewältigung, Düsseldorf 1976, p. 11.


^Origen, Contra Celsum 3, 13 (H. Chadwick, ed., Cambridge 1953, p. 136) said something similar about the heresies themselves when he saw in the necessary development of sects a fortunate expression of the richness of Christianity and of its essential features: 'I would



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

writings 'the truthj about the Gnostics'? too often in these writings within an the information argument is tainted by passion it. or woven can we alien as that obscures Nor

expect to draw 'h istory ever, the

from such wri tings a ready-made account of happened'; decisively for here, more placed within than an are

it actually data


scheme that colours them.

But we can hope

to find in those writings what certain influential authors in the emergence of catholic Christianity considered to be the pivotal and point how on wh ich acted Christianity to secure would stand or Each f all, they that point.

heresiologist, to be sure, had his own view of 'the essence of Christianity'. and political in Collectively, worth ou r It may have reflected social, cultural, preferences any to and case, ask these what and idiosyncracies . had a momentous views of views the there

impact on the shaping of tradition. wh i 1 e were heresiologists between them. Let these reflections the study of the question arises: who wrote the a during Ad versus is whether

In this context it is diverse was any conti nuity

suff ice as a justification in general. A


heresiolc ji t the


out of th< larjc number of heresiologists first centuries, why concentrate on of Irenaeus, works the Elenchos of are The answer, in

haereses that

Hippolytus, and the Panarion of Epiphanius? nutshell, these typical ; own day. They are avai 1 able - that H ippolytus. reconstruct them back to

are available ; they

and they each took on "all the heresies' of their is, they survived. Justin

wrote a Syntagma dealing also with all heres ies and so did Unfortunately, both are lost, and efforts to them us have in obviously their not succeeded At best in we giving might entirety.

say that a man who looks carefully into the sects of Judaism and Christianity becomes a very wise Christiar. ' (OOtJjÜTaTOV) .

Introduction identify history gain generically the heresies they refuted and

5 infer to

something of the influence of these now lost works on the of heresiology. idea of the It is not possible, however, arguments they used a clear to counter

their opponents. Second, called

For that reason these works fall beyond

the scope of our interests in the present study. the Adversus haereses, the Elenchos, and the These works offer us excellent successive



of what heresiology was

in three

centuries, and they allow us to follow the development of heres iology in that period. and lasting influence on Their Christian polemics. Moreover, they had a decisive the fixing of the style or of respect ive sources their

interdependence are of their

not of primary

concern here, although is in the authors

at times it will be useful to indicate the probable source ideas,* but our main interest themselves. Each is seen as representing one major moment

in the heres iolog ical tradition. Third, knew, not all three did battle with all heresies they This

only them

with from


heresies. like




Theoph i lus of Antioch, or Or igen After energies. primarily Filastrius knowledge and of Epiphanius heres iology

who took betrays

aim at one or a depletion of of

another chosen target (Marcion or the Valentinians). Pseudo-Tertu11ian, for their and Filastrius Brescia,

Theodoret of Cyrus, also writing against all heres ies, rely information on Hippolytus1 s Syntagma. do not The directly same may depend be said on of Th eodore t



it is on them that he based his information in his De After Epiphanius no fresh knowledge of ancient be expected. 5 New methods of dealing with can

haeresibus. heresies

venture Hilgenfeld and

the following chart, based on Lipsius, others, showing the 'genealogy' of

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

heret ies will methods study. 2. study of our that three study our would Reformation,

indeed which

be deve loped. medieval beyond the is

But a study of these up the to the scope of present



We are interested here in understanding the methods The scope of our study has now emerged. these three authors, all the rich has new nor a detailed information relevance considered on to in We do not

of dealing with ancient heresies. intend, in such a limited space, to present a comprehensive analysis of into the Nag Gnostics Hammadi some specific passages of their works ; produced studies. nor to bring

in the wake of Nag Hammadi, although we do think discussion We intend some to address works a precise question to the themselves.


heres iologists and the central position of the three authors we study here. 'Q' would be a reworking of Justin's Syntagma (according to Lipsius); • indicates that the contact is well attested ; indicates that the contact is probable. Further explanations will be provided by the following chapters. Justin's Syntagma i Q? ^,Heges ippus

i , ,. Irenaeus (c. 18 0) Clement of Alex'. H ippolytus s Syntagma (c.210) Origen (Eusebius) Epiphanius^ (374-377) Filastrius Augustine (428) Theodoret (c.453) (c.380/90)

Tertullian's Adv.valent. Elenchos (after 222) (before 250)


Introduction Beyond all literary in these devices, writings, we rhetorical wish or

7 other, the


to determine

substance of the arguments forged by each heresiologist to counter the Gnostics. reaching sects, the a clear kind of We are not primarily picture arguments of the interested in each them opponents against

heresiologist is attacking; 1 ike the actual descriptions of marshalled sometimes indeed betrays who the heres iologist thought his Nevertheless we want to probe elsewhere in order to overthrow heresy. Thereby we

opponents were. has devi sed in

an effort to uncover the central argument that each writer assume that the many arguments encountered in each work are i nformed isolate by a preva i1ing argument ; it is our objective to such an argument. connected find most In order to find an answer to question: offensive in what the did each

our question, it is also implied that we have to answer the essentially heresiologist positions? heretical

will have gained a deeper knowledge of the development of the Also style the of Christian polemics and in the first of centuries. polemics essential content mot ive such

might emerge in a fuller light; for what each heresiologist sadly misses stand close Christianity. The present study was undertaken research and project on Normative The project Christianity. was in the context of a in the Judaism Social funded by Self-Definition in the combat ted doctrines to what he holds to be is very likely to the backbone of

Sc iences and Humanities Research Counci . 1 of Canada and was based mind study to do in the Department The been part and reader one in of Religious Studies is therefore by invited at McMaster to keep of in the and in will University. has my

that the heuristic and control 1 ing framework of this determined the question I have intended in it to understand developed The Conclusion

emergence of orthodox Christianity. a corporate normat ive in which expia in how why




the way

it did.

3 reconsider th is

0 broader question

Anti-Gnostic Polemics in the light of the

results of the preceding chapters.



Irenaeus of Lyons heresies,1 as

(c.130-20 2) wrote his refutation of gnostic heresies, at a time

principally presence,

(beginning c. 180) when gnostic groups were still perceived a dangerous was, the if not as a threat gnostic knew other to the very above all he had existence still f rom of of the Church. the place Church. writings. The Rhone valley had been, and activists, them


Marcosian Gnostics, had made headway and won many converts Irenaeus Gn the personally ; Irenaeus supposedly had 'conversations' with them, and had read some their hand, predecessors in the task of overthrowing heretics and it is generally assumed that he knew the lost Syntagma of Justin, among other heresiological sources. Thus, on account of the 'Gnosis of his knowledge of both heresy and heres iology, he seemed to have been well equipped falsely funct ion

to speak out against gave h im the

so-called , the more so if one considers that his as a bishop respons ibi1i ty

speaking a word of warning and speaking it with authority.

l'EXévxou Kai dvaxporrns " r i f e iJjeuôojvtfuou yvtibeue ßißPud Ttévxe ( a ccord i ng to Eusebius, HE V, 7 ) - Detec t i on i s et eversionis falso cognominatae agnitionis seu contra omnes haereses libri quinque ( = Adv. haer.). We quote the work in the following way : for the text we follow W.W. Harvey's edition (Cambridge 1857) and SC 263-264, 210-211, 100 ( 2 vols.), 152-153 (eds. A. Rousseau, J. Doutreleau, C. Mercier, B. Hemmerdinger, Paris 1979, 1974, 1965, 1969) for Books I, III, IV and V. (Book II is forthcoming in SC series. ) - For the divisions of the text we follow P. Massuet (PG 7), whose divisions are reproduced by A. Stieren (Leipzig 18 53) and SC, wh i1e they can be found in the margins of Harvey ' s edition. Our translation takes account of those found in ANF I (Edinburgh 1867} and SC. A new English translation is expected to appear in "Fathers of the Church" (Washington ) by A.C. Way and in "Ancient Christian Writers" (Washington) by D. Unger.

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics Throughout ( Adv. haer. ) and Irenaeus all the refers know more about successfully. doomed another to bishop. the to a five Books of Adversus haereses Book, to


in the Prefaces expressed how to

to each

'friend' who of and at to

the wish oppose that he

the heretics Attempts

the time

(i.e. first of them was 'friend ' are 'lettre

Valentinians}, failure.


identifying nothing




i'e might even

not have been the

influent' Doutreleau th inks he was, 3 for philosophical considerations. The

if that were the might be

case, Irenaeus might have given more weight than he did to 'friend*

fictitious, or stand for a segment of Irenaeus's community which was disturbed by gnostic agitations and wished to be in a better position to discern among those teachings and defend real itself. addressee Thus officially danger But even granted and an that the person, 'friend' was a he does as saw not an the influential not

appear to have had any official status in the Church. Adv.haer. does present Rather itself commiss ioned work. Irenaeus

represented by the act ivity of gnostic teachers in Without being asked by his peers to ./rite a

his entourage and stood up as a pastor concerned with true teaching.4 tractate against. the 'Gnosis falsely so-called ' , he took it

O n the use of the term 'Gnostics ' by early heresiologists, see M, Brox, ' FVÙÛCJTIKGC als häresiologischer Terminus', ZNW 57, 1966, pp. 105-114. On selfdesignations of the Gnostics, see K. Rudolph, Die Gnosis. Wesen und Geschichte einer spatantiken Religion, Göttingen 1977, pp. 220-221. On the use of the term in Adv. haer. I, see A. Rousseau, Iréne'e de Lyon. Contre les hérésies, Livre I (SC 263), Paris 1979, pp. 299-300. 3L. Doutreleau, 'Irenée de Lyon', DS ViI, Paris 1971, 19 33. A. Rousseau ( SC 263, p. 115 n. 1 ) sugges ts, on the basis of Adv. haer. I. praef. 2 and 1.31.4 ('omnibus his qui sunt tecum*): 'Peut-être s'agit-il du chef d ' une communauté chrétienne.. . ' . ^Irenaeus would be among the first writers in the West who tried to unite the authority of a bishop with that of a teacher. See W. Bousset, Jüdisch-christlicher Schulbetrieb in Alexandria und Rom, Gott ingen 1915, p " I 317. Look ing


Irenaeus upon himself to an 'The true to show to his people wider is audience) the view ing gnosis

11 (naturally with an eye is of in right the line and true. the own apostles' with his


what himself to


(IV.33.8) . fact and,

Irenaeus, at the

apostles and the primitive Church, writes to establish this same time, vindicate authority. But there was something more constructive and creative in Irenaeus ' s speaking out. heretic/orthodox clear. a

He wrote at a time when the does not seem to have been


The tractates written by Theophilus of Antioch and line of demarcation could these between contend i ng written, but the parties; even in

Justin aqainst divergent teachings would not have effected clear gnostic many Rome. not teachers after the still move freely tractates were achieved, at least refutation, among Christians in the West, was lasting

years only

What Irenaeus


polarization of Christian fronts. How did Irenaeus achieve this? to speak out? What gave him Why did he feel he had that he was

the assurance

What was the character of the arguments he used in order to 'compel wild th e animal

to break

cove r,...not only



beast to view, but inflict wounds upon it from every finally slay that destructive brute' (1.31.4)?

side', and

back at the second century, Danielou, Origène (Paris 1948, p. 37), says concern i ng 0 r i g e n ' s difficulties with the b ishop Demetrius : 'Nous re trouvons là cette dist inct ion du courant hiérarchique et du courant des didascales qui s'était rencontrée au lie siècle. Les rapports entre les deux n'étaient pas encore bien définis dans l'Eglise'. The emerging of orthodoxy will be the triumph of the bishops and, wi. th them, assuredly of the 'majority ' .
5 This can be said without contradicting, among others, H. J. Carpenter ('Popular Christianity and the Theologians in the Early Centuries ' , JTS 14, 1963, pp. 294-310), who holds that '...Irenaeus and Tertullian and H ippolytus dealt with Marcion and the Gnos ti cs when the great church had demonstrably survived the impact of these movements for half a century or more * (p. 297).

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics Such questions An groups analysis of and will of guide our inquiry work himself into Irenaeus 's shows a two as less th i rd

motives for writing his refutation. Irenaeus's wh ich he clearly But arguments characterizes



group, which we shall call socio-political, although have given the initial stimulus to Irenaeus's

explicitly put forward, is nevertheless operative and might enterprise. The first two groups of arguments have already been studied by many authors ; my intention in present ing them here is to offer as comprehensive a view of Irenaeus's group. refutation as possible, and to provide necessary background for the third


Philosophical Arguments The refutation proper of the gnostic system (of their

régula : Irenaeus's order should of be

Il.praef. the

2) begins with arguments

Book are in

II where most of found. Book of I. the Here of But the the it

philosophical 'headings' of noted the th a t

corresponds tenets the

to the order





'hypothesis' in Book I was itself intended to show its lack of internal cohesion. Irenaeus ' s We wh ich refutation not Th is constituted the first stage of (1.31.3: step 'Simply by step gnost ic to the exh i bi t their

sentiments, is to obtain a victory over them. '). shall at follow argumentation does not with the aims showing that the system

harmonize (II.25.1), common make some

'with what actually exists or with right reason1 nor with general human experience 1.16.3). on here and (11.27,1) , nor We the shall, character of (11.2 6.3 ; see arguments however,


observât ions found

philosophical Adv.haer.

in other parts of

Throughout his refutation, Irenaeus shows acquaintance with secular learning and especially with the rhetorical arguments and techniques of the Hellenistic schools of the

Irenaeus second c e n t u r y . T h e rhetorical weaker technique first. his

13 very order of the arguments in Books to hold back the decisive this arguments by the

II to V betrays such an acquaintance, for it was a common for the later parts of the development and to present the ones Irenaeus follows pattern against presenting arguments. More precisely, Irenaeus ' s rhetorical training uses almost and is all the also methods question. the one of argumentation The who principles makes 1 ; (except he uses (which the are he might have received in Rome) is seen in the fact that he syllogism, as Reynders noted),7 with a predilection for the d i lemma conceives effect'; He excels s impie, almost commonplaces. For example : 'The one who contains retort, f irst philosophica1 arguments

Gnostics and then by offering the more decisive scriptural


'what is prior contains what is posterior'; etc.8 in the use of irony and the ad hominem

thus showing a certain talent and training.9 Irenaeus's somewhat seems to acquaintance with He part philosophy can from itself 'is an superficial'. 10 be for the most

surely drawn


c i itcjuntont f but whâ t i s pirop6t*ly ph 1 losoph i câ 1 x n his work doxographical

6 S ee W. R. Schoedel, ' Philosophy and Rhetoric in the Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus', VC 13, 19 59, pp. 22-32, esp. 27-32. R. M. Grant, 'Irenaeus and Hellenistic Culture', HTR 42, 1949, pp. 41-51, esp. 47-51. P. Perkins, 'Irenaeus and the Gnostics. Rhetoric and Composition in Adversus Haereses Book One ' , VC 30, 1976, pp. 193-200. ^D. B. Reynders, * La polémique de saint Irénée. Methode et principes', RTAM 7, 1935, pp. 5-27, here p. 8. ^See Reynders, 'Polémiqué ' . ^See R. M. Grant, ' Irenaeus ' , p. 51 : 'Too often we are content with a picture of Irenaeus as orthodox but rather stupid. The camera needs to be refocussed...He represents the confluence of Hellenism and Christianity no less distinctly than the apologists do...He should not be neglected simply because his results survived '. lOschoedel, 31. 'Philosophy and Rhetoric ', p. 22 ; see p.



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

rest seems



thought Th is with





popular Irenaeus that is

philosophy." harmonizes arguments point. Irenaeus's sense; they well of

is precisely the praise belong

the area where of simple faith

to be most at ease.

At least that type of wisdom The most typical and frequent

found throughout Adv.haer. Irenaeus philosophy.

to this category

of popular

Some examples migh t suffice to illustrate th . i s favourite into a refrain fit of is : the Gnostics are

talking nonsense, folly ; their discourse departs from good 'fall frenzy ' , they propound 'fictitious doctrines'; they are seriously sick and foolish (see 1.16.3). arbitrary The disqualify good There Their teaching is absurd and their exegesis, that gnost ic teach ings are borrowed is not a for a is doctrines. commends Plato (II.24.1-6). accusation them.

from philosophy (11.14.2-7; see IV.33.3) is itself meant to Plagiarizing in the philosophers matters, Irenaeus recommendation is only one Christian in which since,

Irenaeus, philosophy

is at the source of wrong passage it is only to say that

philosopher—Plato—but more religious not But amount Valentinian

than Marcion speculation it is

(III.25.5). is not only

This surely does philosophy. from the describes taken

in Irenaeus's eyes

to a praise of Gnos is

ph ilosophers: real entities

ph ilosophy.

philosophical or psychological processes wh ich it takes for (11.14.6 and 8; 11.13.10; II.28.6)? 13 making

• ' • • ' • O n e source is probably the Pseud o-Plut arch. See Schoedel, 'Philosophy and Rhetoric', pp. 23-4 ; Grant, 'Irenaeus', pp. 43-7: 'Irenaeus cannot be classified among philosophical schools. His interest...is more rhetorical 1 than philosophical (p. 47), l^see, for instance, his use of proverbs ( 11.19 .8 ) ; his appeal to the authority of the past, e.g. Plato; his appeal to universal opinion; the sceptical use he makes of the doxographical material. l^see F.-M.-M. Sagnard, La gnose valentinienne et le

Irenaeus dangerous accusations or right and a excessive series their of use of human In analogies, to of the

15 it





these 'gnosis


falsely so-called' is found. reason;

Gnostics contradict the facts are recent, less originating respectable without and,

teachings are

from S imon who is not only despicable, but also a nova tor (II.28.8 than 'recens' ) ; they teachings; therefore are between ancient they subtle,

simplicity;Gnostics cowardice. 15



lack ing practical knowledge and vi rtue, they display only

témoignage de saint Irénëe, Paris 1947, pp. 281ff. , 321 n. 1, 410. 14 S ee M. Widmann, Väter', ZTK 54, 1957, 1967, 9 pp. 265-91. H. C. Frend states that the Gnost ies ' faded out a t the time of the Great P e r s e c u t ion, and their place is immediately taken by the Manichees', in Africa at least : Frend, ' The Gnost ic-Manichaean Tradition in Roman North Africa ' , JEH 4, 1953, pp. 13-26, here p. 15. In another article, Frend writes that Gnostics, because of their readiness to syncretism and to compromise with the Greco-Roman civilization, 'were not generally molested '. ( 'The Gnostic Sects and the Roman Empire ' , JEH 5, 1954, pp. 2 5-37, here p. 28.) The fact that Gnostics least resembled the synagogue both in its ethic and in its outlook towards the Gentiles (p. 26) and did not show the form of religious exclusiveness characteristic of the synagogue and the church accounts for the relative peace Gnostics enjoyed. Frend is led to the conclus ion that ' in the first two centuries the persecutions were confined to one type of Christian who might reasonably be called "the new Israel"' (p. 35) : those men and women had been schooled to regard persecution as their lot. It is to this view that W. U1Imann ('Gnostische und poli t ische Häresie bei Celsus', Theologische Versuche 11 [eds. J. Rogge und G. Schille], Berlin 197 0, pp. 153-58) seems to take exception when he suggests that we should investigate more carefully ' [nach] möglichen Zusammenhängen zwischen gnostischer Lehre und einem Bild des Christentums bei seinen Gegnern.. . , das Verfolgung provozieren musste'. We shall return to this point below.

Irenaus und seine theologischen pp. 156-73, esp. 17 2f. On the

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics Only a few of these assertions have real philosophical significance. Plotinus found We find many agreements between Irenaeus and is in the critique of the Gnostics ; but nothing

in Irenaeus that has the philosophical character of Vita Plotini at as not, 16 ) . th is in If one persists point philosophy in or calling they the that popular

the argumentâtion put forward by Plotinus in Enn. II.9 (see Porphyry, Irenaeus s should be

arguments qualified do

ph ilosophical, constitute are not


wisdom.They to agree that

themselves, arguments

overthrow of Gnosis that has been promised. h is philosophical

Irenaeus seems

decisive; otherwise Irenaeus the rhetorician would not have presented them at the outset, thus conceding their relative


Theological Arguments The dec i s ive from the his many the arguments predecessors theological Gnostics must and be theological an that few or

scriptura1. to him contribution. Among mounts constantly

Here Irenaeus uses all the resources available adds orig inal Irenaeus that are

arguments are a



repeated. aga i ns t

These can obviously the to Gnostics ordinary the

lead us to what accusation of

Irenaeus thought was at stake in the debate. Turn i ng ignorance accuses they address Christians, Irenaeus

them of of

ignoring God's dispensation, truth, pointed substance out how of

the rule of faith. of

faith, scripture and tradition. 'hypothesis' P. Hefner has

In a word, they ignore the the Christian this crucial concept

'hypothes is' is to Irenaeus's réfutât i o n . ^

It designates


See P. Perkins,


Irenaeus and the Gnostics'.

1?P. Hefner, 'Theological Methodology and St. Irenaeus', JR 44, 1964, pp. 294-309. According to Hefner 1 (p. 295) ' the one highest authority that stands out in Irenaeus's work 'is the system, framework, or "hypothesis"

Irenaeus the 'organic system or framework which constitutes

17 the

shape and meaning of God's revelation'. all other norms : Lord, delivered

In a formal sense,

it functions as the ultimate norm of truth and encompasses it includes God's economy of redempt ion, by of the apostles; and it is derived the f rom is rooted in God, announced by the prophets, taught by the scripture and also serves to expound scripture; it resides in the community the Church reaches community through tradition ; it is summarized in creedlike statements and can be expounded by reason. the and ultimate to which authority all applied by which other The hypothesis of truth is guides to Irenaeus's are meet the crit icism gnost ic

au thorit ies Irenaeus

s u b o r d i n a t e d .


assertions, it is in practice equivalent to the 'rule' that there is one God, creator of the world, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and author of the economy (1.10.1).

of the Faith whose substance is comprised in God ' s redemptive dispensation on man's behalf'. Th i s is the authority wh ich holds together all others and to wh ich all others are subordinated : scripture, tradition, church, b ishop, creed and revelation. Hefner's study of the not ion of 'hypothesis' of truth as essential for the enucleation of Irenaeus 1 s theological methodology ends with the suggestion that 'closer attention be paid to the concept of regula fidei' (p. 302), Reynders ('Polémique', pp. 16-7) h ad already seen the ultimate norm of authority for Irenaeus as being that ' synthèse doctrinale' which is ' le corps de vérité ' . On the meaning of 'hypothesis ' see recently W. C. van Unnik, 'An Interesting Document of the 196-228, C Tsp U , rY 206-208? 91Cal

' —







l g The question of legitimate authority is crucial to Irenaeus's refutation; the emphasis he puts on authority gives his theology its specific character. However, after Hefner's contribution it should have become impossible to pit the authorit ies whom Irenaeus cons iders normative against each other. l^The proximi ty of the not ion of 'hypothesis' to that of the ' rule of fai th' appears in N. Brox's description of the rule as 'Inbegriff dessen, was er [Irenaus] für heilsnotwendig, für tatsächlich geschehen, von Gott geoffenbart und darum für unüberbietbar hält'. Offenbarung, Gnosis und Gnostischer Mythos bei Irenaus von Lyon, Salzbürg/München 19 66, p. 113. See also B. Hägglund,



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

For this hypothes is of faith, the Gnostics substitute their own hypothes is Obviously which they "dreamt into existence ' (1.9.3). subverted Thus faith acts mental develops a nd its of by the hypothes is of faith is conceived they beyond and God's Thereby revelation is radically the Creator. destroy real and the salvific jugglings which Pleroma

if another God distort pious. own the

Gnostics their


inventions, an


processes into an aeons

into and

atemporal speculation to an

framework20 about the utterly




theologia gloriae. the apostolic and ultimately not saved, Thus hypothesis opposed to

In so doing, they not only deceive the they do not possess. Th i s

simple believers, but also show that they do not care about tradition which leads men to despair about their salvation to deny salvation. of man is salvation does not nothing V.20.1). Gnostics of freely subtract This from and and his add is to not the on ly truth. 22 arbitrariness (IV.praef.4)21

For the gnostic view of saved (II.29.3; V.6-7;

include the flesh; but if the flesh is

Irenaeus1 s


oos it ivi st

"Die B e d e u t u n g der "régula fidei" als Grundlage theologischer Aussagen", StTh 12, 1958, pp. 1-44 ; A. Rousseau and J. Doutreleau, eds., Irénee de Lyon. Contre les heresies, Livre III (SC 210), Paris 1974, pp. 220-21.

See Sagnard, Gnose valentinienne, pp. 259, 571.

2iSee Reynders, 'Optimisme et théocentrisme chez saint Irénée', RTAM 8, 1936, pp. 225-52, esp. 252.
22 Reynders ("Optimisme1, pp. 229-30} has collected the expressions used by Irenaeus to describe how casually the G n o s t i c s deal with truth: adaptare, assimilare, adulterare, calumniantes, transvertentes, abutentes, transferunt, auferentes, trans f ingunt, transf igurant, transformantes, solvens, compingentes, conf ingentes, figmentum, transfictio, f ictio, in captivitatem ducunt a veritate, falsi tes tes, frustrantur speciem evangeli i, circumcidentes evangelium, eligentes, decurtantes, intercidentes deminoraverunt. See N. Brox, Offenbarung, p. 197, on th is 'heillose Automonie" of the Gnostics.



emphasis on the clear and real facts of the economy, 23 it is also blasphemous. With objections, what he the for accusation this about in of 'blasphemy'cast in its context, they and at the Gnostics by Irenaeus we come to the core of his theological accusation, own sums up men th inks the Va lent i nians : salvation, render




against God who shaped them' (IV.praef.4}. faith? splits real. etc. their the very thinking and breaks about God

They are guilty is blasphemous it 8). the

(IV.praei.3) because it introduces divisions into God ; divine its uni ty God (II.28.2 and throughout the and Moreover Gnostics They introduce such divisions between



between Christ and Christ, between different Irenaeus most ; 2 ^ it is above all

'economies', in the

The division of the divine is the point which upsets expressed

2 ^On the positivist character of the 'true gnosis' (and also of the rule of faith), see N. Brox, Offenbarung, pp. 179-89, 196-99; HSgglund, 'Bedeutung'. 2 ^'l'his view is widespread in antiquity: adding to or subtracting from a received tradit ion is cons ide red to be blasphemous. See W. C. van Unnik, ' De la règle MTITC Trpoaee~ivct i ynxe â<j>eAe\v dans l'histoire du canon', VC 3, 1949, pp. 1-3 6, esp. pp. 32-5. This 'rule* is found above all in texts coming from Asia Minor, Irenaeus's place of orig in : see ibid., pp. 9, 36. Irenaeus (1.10.2-3) strongly emphasizes that faith is one and -_he same; it cannot be augmented by those who have a greater degree of intelligence, nor diminished by those who are less g ifted.





% e e R. A. Markus, ' Pleroma and Fulfilment. The Significance of H is tory in St. Irenaeus' Opposition to Gnosticism', VC 8, 1954, pp. 193-224, esp. p. 212. Against the breaking up of the divine Irenaeus makes the case of unity, wh ich is the main theme of Adv. haer. See A. Benoit, Saint Irénée. Introduction" ä 1 'étude de sa r théologie^ Paris 19 60, pp. 203-205 : Le thème que la lecture de l'ouvrage Contre les hére'sies accentue avec le plus de force est celu i de 1'unité... Par cette affirmation de l'unité, Irénée relève le défi que lui lance la gnose. Car l'essence de cette dernière, c'est le morcellement, la

3 denigrating repeatedly Testament of

0 the by God the of the on Old the

Anti-Gnostic Polemics Testament. of God unity of Irenaeus the and Old the

counters God

gnost ic



Creator and by affirming Testament God.

the truth and reality of the Old

This 'Ringen um den Status des AT Gottes' 27

is to Irenaeus of utmost importance. The blasphemous split of the divine introduced by the Gnostics is the starting point for Irenaeus's attack against their dualistic teach ing. dualism. attack. I renaeus, making a case for the unity wh i ch is truth and which lies in the Church goes through all the forms of dualism, rejecting each one. 'morcellement dualism: du divin

From that point Irenaeus the target of his

will investigate the many facets and expressions of gnostic Dualism will thus become

First of all, he attacks the we may God call and theological demiurge, between the



the split

wh ich is the central poi nt of his attack. d i vi s ion of the divine in the Plerorna

He also attacks expressed by the

the divis ion between the good God and the just God and the doctrine of Aeons. one : 'Such divisions cannot be ascribed to God is

God ' ( II. 28.4); they suppress the deity (III.25.3).

the identity of God the Creator and God the Father is (see II.31.1, where he summarizes his

the central art icle of Irenaeus's creed and the sum of his argument argument).

division, le dualisme... Il y a vu l'hérésie '.



réponse à

Brox, Offenbarung, pp. 48-9. See W. Ullmann ('Gnostische und politische Häresie', p. 155), for whom the central difference between the Great Church and Gnos is resides in their 'gegensätzliche Stellung zu dem Gott der Juden'.
2 ®Irenaeus is among those who cannot tolerate the idea that creation and universe could be the work of an ignorant or imperfect demiurge (improvident, negligent, incapable, indifferent, powerless, capricious or jealous ), or the result of a downfall or of a deficiency; he cannot bear the idea that human life could be a prey to a 'mauvais génie' .



articles are derived: sees Jesus Logos the Christological the

one Christ, one economy. dualism, (111.9.3 ; separating III.16.2;

Irenaeus from the


(IV.praef.3 ; IV.2.4; from Saviour above

III.17.4; etc.), 111.16 . 8 ;

IV.praef.3; (111.11.1 ;

etc. ), the Christ b lasphemy as well

from the Christ be 1ow

III.17.4; etc.), as a typical gnostic affirmation and as a ( IV. praef. 3 ) . Th is he attacks, as well There is as the soteriological dualism, whereby the universality of God 1 s economy and will for salvation is denied. 2 9 only one economy, which We may enumerate which Christ will recapitulate all things. 30 other forms of dualism to wh ich Irenaeus objects : Scriptural dualism, which separates the the God of the OT from the of the two convenants . is universal, and on the basis of

NT from the OT and ultimately the unity and 'harmony '

God announced by the Savior, against which Irenaeus affirms Ecclesiastical dualism, accord i ng to wh ich a distinction is made between simple believers and pneumaties, thus breaking the unity of the Church. [The spiritual disciple] shall also judge those who give rise to sch isms... and who for

Th is would ru in the idea of providence and that of human freedom, ideas central to religious thought in the 2nd and 3rd century. Gnostic dualism introduces into these ideas an element which creates anxiety since it implies that 'Gott als König herrscht, aber nicht regiert ', and that therefore 'die Herrschaft Got tes zwar gut, aber die Regierung des Demiurgen...schlecht ist ' (E. Peterson, Der Monotheismus als politisches Problem, Leipzig 1935, pp. 201). Irenaeus's parti-pris for optimism, which is not based on philosophy and which represents a form of instinctive humanism, leads him to counter all that threatens order in universe and life. See Reynders, 'Optimisme'. It should be noted here that, while Irenaeus finds comfort in the idea that the Creator is close to the world, Gnostics despise the Creator precisely because of h is proximi ty to the world.

See Brox, Offenbarung, p. 178. See Benoit, Saint Irénée, pp. 219-27.


3 trif1ing which divide

0 reasons, to great the or them, and any cut

Anti-Gnostic Polemics kind in of reason and of


pieces body


Christ, and so far as in them lies, destroy importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the some mischief are said which arising


their schism (IV.33.7; see IV.26.2). Social dualism, whereby evil, by nature contradicting (IV.37 .2 ) ,

to be good, others Irenaeus sees as

the equality of all men before God's offer 3 2

and as threatening the unity of the church and its peace. Practical dualism, according to which some recommend, over against the common by discipline, or be the either the of rigorism the from sothe attainable attacked by only a few can libertinism as

called superior men. Irenaeus, fundamental

These forms of dualism, detected and seen derived

theological dualism dividing the divine or as

d iverse expressions of a metaphysical dual ism opposing the world above to the world below, spirit to matter. 33 11 may be surprising that the focus of Irenaeus 's It understood

charge against the Gnostics is their dualistic outlook. is not my intention to decide whether Irenaeus

3 isee Sagnard, Gnose valentinienne, p. 506 and pass im. C on t ra ry to th G C1 me n t of Str. VI and VII (e.g. Str. VI 1. 2 and 16) and to Origen (In Jo. II.3.27-31; In Matth. 12.30) Irenaeus does not see room in the church for classes, distinctions, and levels due to degrees of perfection and understanding. 32

See Brox, Offenbarung, p. 178.

33 Reynders ('Polémique, p. 27 ) says concerning the hardeninq of gnostic dualism in Irenaeus's description of it : 'Aurait-il été si difficile de rapprocher les points de vue en transportant, par exemple, le dualisme du champ de la métaphysique à celui de la psychologie? '. But Irenaeus has not completely neglected to do so and to reduce gnostic speculations to exercises in thought: see 11.12.2; II.13.1-10.



understanding, 35 or was fair to their profound

concerns. 3 ^

The fact is that in describing the mitigated dualism which is Gnosticism 37 Irenaeus perceived two essential aspects of its dynamic in system: the first, of its aeons emanat ion is t and, scheme its expressed doctrine secondly,

dualistic outlook. gnostic sources system, the exclusively. concentration Irenaeus's claims. second on

He describes both aspects, rely ing on But when he attacks their comes we to the have fore to almost look at In order to account for this shall for motives rejecting gnostic aspect


Why is it so? dualism


3 ^See verdict.


('Irenaus', of






35 For important elements see Brox, Offenbarung, passim.



3 ^F. Wisse, 1 The Nag Hammadi L i bra ry and the Heresiologists', VC 25, 19 71, pp. 20 5-23, thinks that

d iscourse and writings from the point of view of doctrine, while they propound rather a sort of 'mystical poetry' (p. 2 22). Further, Irenaeus would have too readily assumed that uni ty in doctrine is the only kind of unity. 'By taking the differences in mythological detai1 as doctrinal differences, Gnosticism came to look like an absurdly fragmented movement1 (p. 221). Also K. Rudolph (Gnosis, p. 16) says concerning Irenaeus 's knowledge of the Gnosties : 'Sein Wissen [ist] sehr begrenzt und einseitig gewesen'.
37 Mit igated dualism is opposed to absolute dualism, wh ich is more static and leads to withdrawal from the world ; the latter is found in Manichaeism, but is marginal in Gnosticism. The medieval Cathars will have both forms of dualism—mitigated and absolute. See C. Thouzellier, ed., Le livre des deux principes (SC 198), Paris 1973 ; C. Thouzellier, Catharisme et valdéisme au Languedoc, Paris 1969.



wisse, 'The Nag Hammadi Library', pp. 212-19.

3 0 3. Socio-political Motives

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

There are a number of incidental remarks found among Irenaeus's arguments which arquments mentioned extensively signif icant. Because of the arguments Irenaeus's to that the opposing temperaments of Irenaeus and not expect the Irenaeus suspicion as the to And present indeed by are exclusively reflects intellectual. Gnostics,we refutation such of a third cannot be considered These passages they In in some as having constitute they are are only is philosophical or theological character. kind. almost as a casually ; theme. others, But their

implicit in Irenaeus's refutation.

Never are they treated presence

harbored of

simple Christians of a theological speculation that seemed endanger bas ic truths unity God • Irenaeus imagines himself as the spokesman of the masses, in the tradition and in the faith of the Thus he reflects and propounds a form and is suspicious of those

strongly anchored average Christian. of


theology '

39»Deux temperaments incompatibles...' (Reynders, Polémique * , p. 27). See T. A. Audet, 'Orientations théologiques chez saint Irénée', Traditio 1, 1943, pp. 1554, who speaks of a spontaneous rather than an intellectual reaction to Gnosticism (pp. 33-39). 4 Owe take the problematic concept of 'popular theology ' to mean here the faith of the simple Christians as opposed to the speculations of the learned. Thus also Reynders, 'Polémique', p. 22: 'On trouvera sans doute qu'Irénée, soucieux de sauver les simples et les doux, a un peu négligé les meneurs'. On 'popular theology', see H. J , Carpenter, 'Popular Christianity'. Carpenter tends to find in the Apostolic Fathers themselves 'the bulk of popular Christianity throughout the second century and well on into the third * (p. 296 ). It is regrettable, though, that 'popular' is here left so loosely defined and only seems to mean the 'majority view ' . For Carpenter, popular Christianity is characterized by its interest in morals, discipline, and worship (see p. 300 and passim). On the question of popular faith and learned theology in the early centuries, see: J. Lebreton, ' Le de'saccord de la foi populaire et de la% théologie savante dans l'Église chrétienne du 11le siècle", RHE 19, 1923, pp. 481-506; 20,



'learned' theologicans, the Gnostics, with their dangerous science and eloquence, 41 who in his eyes are mere philosophers, and bad ones at that. for unity and unanimity discourse This e xpressed and behavior ; for they His natural propensity the had WG 1 *£. C I I R S already of

is shocked by their undisciplined endanger unity

individuals as well as of the Empire.42 concern peace and been in Irenaeus's intervent ion against rigoris t and

encratite tendencies that could divide the church ; Irenaeus s ided with those who favoured tolerance and indulgence for the lapsi. it is poss i ble that he even defended the and he was inclined to show them tolerance.

M o n t a n i s t s 4 4

1924, pp. 5-37, for whom also popular faith means the fai th of the s impie. I l e notes 'parfois opposition, plus souvent un désaccord ou du moins un malentendu entre la spéculation des savants et la foi des simples' (p. 481). See also J. Lebre ton, 'Le désaccord entre la foi popula i re et la théologie savante ' in Fliche-Martin, Histoire de l'Église 2, Paris 1948, pp. 3 61-374. Looking ahead to the upcoming evolution, it could be argued that the line of development will go from 'faith of the simple' to 1 common faith' (faith of the masses ) to orthodoxy. Further on simple faith and theology, see N. Brox, ' Der einfache Glaube und die Theologie. Zur altkirchlichen Geschichte eines Dauerproblems 1 , Kairos 14, 197 2, pp. 161-187, esp. 167-168 on Irenaeus,* A Komigl iano, ' Popular Religious Beliefs and the Late Roman Historians', Studies inChurch History, eds. G. J. Cuming and D. Baker, vol. 8, 1972, pp. 1-18.
41 For a typical statement of this suspicion, see Adv. haer. II.26.1.

42see in th is context A.H.M. Jones, 'Were Ancient Heres ies National or Social Movements in Disgu ise?', JTS 10, 1959, pp. 280-298. In the later Roman Empire 'the generality of people f irmly believed that not only individual salvation but the fortune of the empire depended on correct doctrine' (p. 296).
43 See Eusebius, HE V.1-2 ? 11-18. On this controversy and Irenaeus 's part in it, see P. Nautin, Lettres et écrivains chrétiens des Ile et Ille siècles, Paris, 19 61, pp. 33-61. 44 Eusebius, HE V.4.1-2. See N. Brox, 'Juden und Heiden bei Irenaus', MT2 16, 1965, pp. 89-106, esp. 105. See the "Excursus" below, pp. 34-40.

3 He was ready was not attack lies

0 to praise in beyond

Anti-Gnostic Polemics the Empire for favoring attacking his scope the and could unity and such an only have


'pagans ' ;


to jeopardizing

the peace of society.

In fact Why?

he showed himself to be much harder on the Gnostics than on the Jews and was altogether gent le with the pagans. 4 5 passionate rejection? Before writing against the Gnostics, Irenaeus enjoyed the reputation those unity groups was seen of a peace-maker,

Does the proximity of the Gnostics alone account for their

tolerant and permissive. generally emerged among and opposed Where was might i ndulgence where

(11 is signif icant that 'orthodoxy that as favoured already reacted rigorism.) challenged,

But his permissiveness went only so far. broken, Irenaeus strongly. Montanists


have represented and perceived it

the same threat as the Gnostics ; but they Irenaeus witnessed the gnostic preaching in the of Christian Church. the as a divis ive element endangered miss ion

were far from Gaul. communities wh ich

Irenaeus complains with that the it image of was

indeed that those who corrupt the truth the church' (1.27.4). that Concerned they bring as the church, he to take thinks

'affect the preaching of dishonor upon it (1.25.3). poss ible typically

Celsus had just (ca. 178) shown gnostic of extravagances Gnostics folly the cou Id


draw the attention of the civil author it ies.

' Men hearing

the things which they speak, and imagining that we are all such as they, may turn away their ears from the preaching of the truth ; or, again, seeing the things they practice, may defame us all, who have or in fact no fellowship or in our with daily them, either in doctrine in morals,

45 See Brox, 'Juden und Heiden ' : 'Die Juden sind ant igr.os t isches Argument ' (p. 9 6 n. 15a). 'Irenaus kennt die Heiden nur friedlich... ' (p. 104).

pp. 153-56. According to Ulimann, 1 gerade die gnöstische Haltung gegenüber Welt und Menschheit ist es, die er [Celsus] als die typisch christliche ansieht' (p. 155).

Irenaeus conduct' (1.25.3). at stake. 4 7

27 Clearly the reputation of the Church is these 'magicians' from (see 11.31.1-3) who time

It is imperative to stress that the Christians Likewise, it is essential that those radicals at a

have noth ing to do with Christians hold upon the dissociate martyrs

and instruments of Satan.


'unauthorized assemblies' (II 1.18.5;

(111.3 . 2 ) and pour contempt IV.26.3; IV.33.9)

when the church needs to offer a common front to a society still suspicious and not qui te ready to welcome Christ ians Irenaeus sees that, makes Irenaeus a long in addition to unity concerned complaints authority and to of in its own him effect. presbyters to

especially series of th e

urges that the

formulate Gnostics (V.20.2:


'Those...who desert the preaching of the church,

call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not

47 I n th is context one might look at orthodoxy in terms of 'ecclesiastical vested interest'. For a survey of this question, see R. A. Markus, ' Christianity and Dissent in Roman North Africa; Changing Perspectives in Recent Work', Studies in Church History, ed. D. Baker, Vol. 9, 1972, pp. 21-36. 48 T O be sure, Gnostics are generally seen by Irenaeus as Christ ians, since he calls them to repentance and conversion. He does not consider them to be clearly outside the church. At least they are close enough to the church as to represent a threat. He himself is so close to them that he cannot, for instance, say (as Tertullian will do in Adv. Val. IV.1-3) that Va lent inus was an intelligent person, without feeling that he would be conceding too much.

^Carpenter ('Popular Christiani ty ', p. 297 ) thinks that Irenaeus writes against the Gnostics at a time when they had already been overcome: i.e. when the 'masses' had already rejected them. ^ Is that so? It seems that the precisely because they teach 'inside'. Were they to teach 'outside', as Cyprian said concerning Novatian, Irenaeus should not be curious about what they say. See S. L. Greenslade, 'Heresy and Sch ism in the Later Roman Empire', Studies in Church History 9, 19 7 2, p. 8; N. Drox, Offenbarung, p. 22.


3 taking is a

0 into consideration simple but of sophist' ) ; Jesus.51 are mere share insinuate,

Anti-Gnostic Polemics of how much greater man, than a they criticize in the of consequence and Church's Church,
5 2


blasphemous the the

impudent Gnostics thus


Authorities servants

d e m i u r g e ;

these authorities and

in the demiurge's freely with

ambiguous and and

nature and have no power over the 'children of the Father'. Scripture misused. sacred tradition They are clash accommodated authorities Gncst ies crit i cize what the whole Church holds as (1.10.2). all 'They affirm that many of his disciples' If one adds to th is vs J L c i t z ion in his

undermine them.

were mis taken about Jesus (I.30.13). 53 mâ d lG to i nô n J ins t Gsd of

their understanding of revelation as a direct communication s G G I oÇ J G od his torical ocisf Geschichte der it might be said ist that they reject all niemals Gnosis

forms of mediation.

As N. Brox says, 5 5 for the Gnostics ünheilsgeschichte, Welt, welche den mit

Heilsgeschichte, denn sie ist ja das Markmal demiurgischen und Heil nichts zu tun hat...[Der Gnostiker] kennt ausschliesslich jenseitiger vertikalen Die ohne und Einbruch Of fenbarung.

Gnos is erreicht

ihn im Augenblick

Vermittlung wirk1 icher geschichtlicher Überlieferung oder Autorität.


^See Brox, Offenbarung, p. 119. ^See Brox, Offenbarung, p. 122.


52 Sec E. H. Pageis, '"The Demiurge and His Archons"—A Gnostic View of the Bishop and Presbyters?', HTR 69, 1976, pp. 301-24, esp. 315-16, 319-20. 53 See Brox, 'Antignostische' , Offenbarung, p. 122.



id. ,

54 S ee N. Brox, 'Offenbarung — g n o s t i s c h und christlich', Stimmen der Zeit 182, 1968, pp. 105-17, here 109-11. * 55 Brox, 'Offenbarung ', pp. Markus, 'Pleroma', pp. 219-24.






Irenaeus Irenaeus particular rooted in to a ist seems have to have been very the impressed by

29 the and und him

d isruptive attitude of the Gnostics in his entourage and in perceived gegen des undisciplined Geschichte und in To revolutionary character of their outlook. 'Revolte Negation it has Zeit, Welt...Sie Stehenden ' ; Vorhandenen This outlook is Geltung



Gnostics show radical tendencies. Without taking sides heresies strong were disguised (and acknowledged Irenaeus
i m p

on the issue of whether ancient social m o v e m e n t s , i t saw
e t u

has to be to

it) that Gnosticism had a
s . i




^ B r o x , 1 Ant ig nos tische ' , p. 277 . See H.-Ch. Puech, 'La gnose et le temps ', Eranos-Jahrbuch 20, 1951, pp. 57113 (now in En quête d e l a gnose, 2 vols., Paris 1978); K. Rudolph, Cnos is, pp. 7 2, 281-90, 310 . According to Rudolph the gnostic movement 'enthält eine Kritik an allem Bestehenden, die in der Antike kaum ihres gleichen findet' ( p . 2 8 1). Rudolph strongly emphasizes the 'gesellschafskritische und soz ialkritische Haltung der Gnosis ', its 'Ablehnung der diesseitigen Protest' (p. 310). Aga in, K.-w. Tröger, in Actes du Colloque international sur les textes de Nag Hammadi d'aou"t 1978 (ed. B. Bare), (forthcoming), develops a view close to Rudolph's. The gnostic religion, as it appears in the Nag Hammadi texts, directed its protest not only against the established Church, but more specifically against the Church's assertive view of the Old Testament as well as against the this-worldliness of the Jewish tradition.
57 See W.H.C. Frend, 'Heresy and Schism as Social and National Movements', Studies in Church History 9, 1972, pp. 37-56. A.H.M. Jones ('Popular', p. 295) writes about later heres ies: 'Modern h istorians are retrojecting into the past the sentiments of the present age when they argue that mere relig ious or doctrinal dissension cannot have generated such violent and enduring animos ity as that evinced by the Donatists, Arians, or Monophys ites, and that the real moving force behind these movements must have been national or class feeling '. Granted ; but it would be unwise to exclude a priori the impact of non-theological or non-religious factors in the emergence of the main stream in the Church. Moreover, the Gnostics' doctrines obviously had pract ical and political implications which were perceived by their opponents. 58


(Gnosis, p. 287) speaks of 'Sprengkraft'.

30 suggest socially whole that Irenaeus so. perceived in the

Anti-Gnostic Polemics gnostic movement to as

subvers ive

addit ion,




theologically church Why then

Celsus on the other hand, who saw the danger, only extended attack he to it the the The

as a social did

accusation that Irenaeus reserved for the Gnostics. Irenaeus almos t exclusively also describes . dualistic aspect of Gnosticism? He says little against its emanat ionist scheme, wh ich emanation pri nciple is not seen as socially subvers ive; it is only said to be arbitrary and absurd. outlook represents a social threat. criticizes what is the status quo. authority, challenges universally But the dualist received, for and It spares no mundane disturbing

Its potential

peace and order knows no limit and, consequently, Gnostics are seen as dangerous radicals. Since his that attack Irenaeus upon saw the It is greatest might of ten be

th reat that the the by



dualistic aspect tradition

of Gnosticism, he decided that. subversive

to concentrate dualist same way 'simple


e l e m e n t s





theology '


can here recall the inspiring statement found in E. Peterson, Mor.othe ismus, pp. 10 4-5 n. . 1 6: 'Die politischen FoIgen eines qnostischen oder dualistischen Weltbildes sind m. E. noch niemals in einem grösseren Zusammenhang dargestellt worden'. We do not pretend to carry out the task indicated by Peterson. But it seems appropriate to repeat here his invitation which should be seen as a complement to the repeated calls for the study of the sociology of gnosticism. See H. A. Green, ' Gnosis and Gnosticism. A Study in Methodology', Numen 24, 1977, pp. 95-134. ee H. Jonas, 'A Retrospective View', Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Gnosticism, Stockholm August 20-2 5, 1973, Stockholm 1977, p. 14 : 'Gnosticism has been the most radical embodiment of dualism ever to have appeared on the stage of history...It is a split between self and world, men's alienation from ^ nature, the the spirit and the nihilism of mundane norms ; and in its general extremist style it shows what radicalism really is'. The medieval Cathars can throw some light on the subversive aspect of the dualist tradition. They too were s trongly critical of the visible church and anticlerical ; 60S

Irenaeus believers' attack Irenaeus teachings have given of overthrowing exclusively elements He and the the on might faith.61 one aspect seen in focusing of in

31 his


Gnosticism, to gnostic dualistic that writing were his

neglected social him

that are essential have implications for

self-understanding. abhorrent to him. refutation.


These non-theological factors might well ultimate motivation

Irenaeus thought he was in a better position to answer the not such odds. gnostic succeeded a

threat in

than having

his the But

predecessors Gnostics he surely


(see and the at

condemned reinforced already


It is not certain that Irenaeus himself achieved overthrow. between the two groups that were



they res isted the structures of the church, especially the Gregorian structures. See C. Thouzellier and E. Delaruelle in Hérésies et sociétés dans l'Europe préindustrielle 1118e siècle (ed. J. Le Goff), Paris/La Haye 1968, pp. 111 and 153. 61-The tension between simple believers and learned theologians only reflects the tension, recurrent throughout the history of theology, between Amt and learned theology. This is not to say, however, that the masses had no share in the gnostic movement. See N. Brox, 1 Antignostische', p. 289, n. 69.
62 I t has long been fashionable to say that the impact of the conservative Irenaeus is limited to the West. It is attested that even the Middle Ages generally ignored Adv. haer. (perhaps because of the no longer acceptable eschatologica1 section in Book V) ; Augustine quotes Adv. haer. only a few times {see SC 152, pp. 46-8) . But there are now indications that Adv. haer. was known, quite early,

century as being a section of Adv. haer. III.9.2-3, indicates its presence in Upper Egypt at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. This leads Doutreleau to state: 'L'oeuvre d ' I renée...serait ainsi parvenue...à plus de 400 kilometres au sud d'Alexandrie, quelques vingt ans, et peut-être plus rapidement encore, après sa rédaction à Lyon 1 (SC 210, p. 128). Many passages of Clement's Str. are strikingly parallel to Adv. haer: Str. II .72-75 (Stählin); III.216-7; VI. 503.10-17 ; VI 1.18.

30Anti-Gnostic Polemics In trying to determine Irenaeus's motives and reasons for attacking Irenaeus1 s question the Gnostics, I do not mean to de-emphasize reasoning. Nor do I intend to contribution. I am theolog i ca1

the value of his theological

rather interested temperament

in finding out what decided Irenaeus to I th ink that his decision. The for part of his

oppose the Gnost ies in the way he did. accounts

subversive character of Gnosis represented an instance that he cou Id not see reconciled with the life in the

Irenaeus appears to have thought that Gnos is was aiming at destroying all that the apostolic tradition had transmitted and that constituted the foundation of the church. His attack was against a life-enemy. Irenaeus thus contributed 1ines. beyond although century were Church,64 only After the him, poi nt never he fixed. to the formation of battledid not step have Dual ist ideologies the Christ ian community

cons is tently have been combatted throughout the centuries, they completely not disappeared. the chief (Cathars for on In the 12th enemy of and threat the it of Bogomils gnostic dualism was still important small to an in numbers but based minorities), institution


represented authority.

the princ iple

Origen himself would have known Adv. haer. if one accepts A. Le Boul luec ' s hypothes is in ' Y a-t-il des traces de la polémique anti-gnostique d ' Irénée dans le Peri Archon d'Origène?', Gnosis and Gnosticism {ed. M. Krause), Leiden 1977, pp. 138-47. See K. Koschorke, Die Polemik der Gnostiker gegen das kirchliche Christentum, Leiden 1978, p. 247 n. 15. 63 N . Brox (Offenbarung, pp. 33-5) points to the ' versöhnliche Haltung 1 öf the Gnostics who did not see their Gnos is as d irectly contrad icting the church. 'Sie wollen nicht ausserhalb als Häretiker, sondern in der 1 Kirche als Pneumatiker gelten (p. 34). But Irenaeus refuses all compromise with them and insists on seeing in gnostic groups heretical 'Konventikel' ('unauthorized assemblies' or rival communities : see SC 210, pp. 223-36 on Adv. haer. II 1.4.2 ) . In that way he helped to force them out of the community. ^ 4 See J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Stuttgart 1959, col. 349. 'Dualismus', RAC 4,

Irenaeus Irenaeus ' s Theologians to bow rejection
a n t i s o m a t

33 contribution told to avoid and
t h a t





the and this and the that Such the In th is its in

Gnostics surely deprived the church of colorful tendencies. were also view dangerous speculations the be majority. But with gnos tic It plan ant icosmism further before author ity meant said of God 1 s were

i s m ^ S


irreconcilable meant of

Christian of all

salvat ion. universal struck that

discrimination among men was attacked before assertions simple time and retrospect, in identity prevented certainly the fact

in favor of equality salvation. chord among at save majority. forward That

a responsive the came Irenaeus helped melting being



cons t i tu ted

the way

he did from

Christianity pot.66 a marginal

in the Greco-Roman Christianity

in turn


the Western world. But with impetus was

the triumph of Irenaeus's itself felt.

ideas in Rome and in the to the An

of the Roman theology in the fourth century, a conservative to make Irenaeus's part rejection of gnos is in favor of pistis contributed choice of an authoritarian structure authoritarian
c h a l l e n g e s , 6 8

in Christisnity. to meet and

pattern of of



heretical that of

the essential features of this pattern being antiquity Christian (apostolicity ) was development, Th is pattern element to be the while obligato for

the for

criterion centuries became

consent style


Irenaeus'H polemic

a standard

in Christian


6 5 '...dann ist an der gnostischen Beschimpfung der Welt und i h re r Apos troph ierung als "Illusion, Sehe in, Nichts" sowie an den Protesten des Plotin der entscheidende Unterschied (mit Neupiaton ismus ) abzulesen 1 . N. Brox, 'Antignostische', p. 28 0 n. 42. Christi anity, London/Philadelphia 1972/1971, p. 240« 6 7 see K. Rudolph, Gnosis, p. 391«

S e e S. L. Greenslade, 'Heresy and Schism', pp. 1-20.

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics

Excursus :

Irenaeus and the Montanists

Since Irenaeus is eager to protect the faith from any deviation, his silence concerning Montanism is surpris ing. He voices no clear objection



'new prophecy'^ (according

that or ig i nated does not even

in his own As ia Minor in 156/7 (according us with provide any

to Epiphanius ) or 172/3 movement.

to Eusebius ); and he information on the

Could it be that he agrees with Montanist views Do we find elements of an answer easy to explain to Irenaeus's Baur and was the the to On

invo.1 ved in the movement? It gnostic would be

in recent stud ies of Montanism? relatively of s ilence if we were to follow F.C, Baur1 s view of an anticharacter between a final Montanism. the 'Jewish' versions of According conflict result (Petrine) Christianity

'Hellenistic' into



in early


this view, Montanism would clearly find its place along the Jewish line over against the Hellenistic Gnosis and thus be on Irena eus 1 s side. to Such a picture has of Montanism as a counter-movement Gnosticism prevailed until

-*-Adv.haer. IV. 3 3 . 6-7 may have been directed Montanism, but no explicit mention of it is made.


J. A. Fischer, ' Die antimontanistischen Synoden des 2. /3. Jahrhunderts ' AHC 6, 1974, pp. 241-273, favors the earlier date: 'Man darf daher ve rmu ten, da s s der Montanismus um 157 a u f t r a t und die Bewegung des erreichte,*" was zu führte' (p, 247). Gibson, 'Montanism Universi ty 1974.

ihrer Trennung von der Grosskirche The same position is found in Elsa and its Monuments', Diss. Harvard

Th e later date is p r e f e r r e d by D. Powell, 'Tertullianists and Cataphryqians', VC 29, 1975, pp. 33-54, esp. p. 4 1 ; and by T.D. Barnes, 'The Chronology of Montanism', JTS NS 21, 1970, pp. 403-408.



recently, taking its cue from the Montanist Tertullian who did fight the Gnos tics. K. Froehlich 4 app roach. has taken this a radically different as Questioning 'antithetical picture'

inspired ultimately by a Hegelian scheme, he has shown, on the basis of the Montanist oracles, how much Montanism and Gnosticism have in common. He pointed




'closeness of terminology and thought' (p. 108) in the two movements and concluded in which proximity Is He view Jewish that there is a common matrix part' (pp. 109elements played a major

of the two movements, local proximity been of

it becomes most the Gnostics wi th did a to

difficult I renaeus so

to explain Irenaeus ' s s ilence on Montan ism. the sufficient to account for his passionate rejection of them? would not have concerned movement geographically remote from Gaul as Montanism was. encounters difficulties. with counts Irenaeus valley ; heretics, little not he doctrinal primarily gnostic all worries groups to the Rhone local the for we all around although did But this limit his he was attack the plead and

concerned factor If it

Mediterranean have

geographical heresies. ignorance. was making

in a refutation of Irenaeus movement 17 2^, it



is granted

that the Montanist between 156 and

its strongest


would be dif f icult to see how Irenaeus could have ignored it unless he had already left Asia Minor at that time (he was in Rome under An i cetus, who was bishop there from 154 on ) . the But even if it. were granted that he had not known of movement while in Asia Minor, how could Montanist

Irenaeus have totally ignored the cris is that was echoed in

^K » Froehlich, 'M.ontanism and Gnosis', in The Heritage of the Early Church. Essays in Honor of the Very Reverend G.V. Florovsky, eds. D. Neiman and M. Schatkin, Koma 1973, pp. 91-111, TrTZ ^See Th. Baumeister, 'Montanismus und 87, 1978, pp. 44-60, here pp. 49-50. Gnostizismus',



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

T.yons itself a few years before he undertook the writing of Adv.haer.^ churches as witnessed by the letter he of wrote 7 the to the in Asia and Phrygia on behalf confessors

issue that occas ioned Irenaeus 1 s letter had to do with the laps i favored and the att itude to take entered toward them (Irenaeus indu lgence ) , and that th is letter does not prove the Rhone country ; it

that Montanism

as such had

only proves that the events taking place in Asia Minor were known to the churches of Vienne and Lyons.® If the geographical s ilence, can factor the alone cannot account for Irenaeus's quarter of third^. here with chronology be of some avail?

The ant i-Montan i s t literature was written during the last the second century and the first decade of the obviously alibi. leaves Montanism, At the time he at least writing early his that to Irenaeus who cannot be provided was This an

Montanism, contemporary ref u tat ion of

the Gnostics, he must have been aware

6J.a. Fischer, 'Die antimontanistichen' , p. 247 : Schon um 177/178 bezeugen die gallischen Gemeinden von Lyon und Vienne Kenntnis der "neuen Prophetie"'.


Lettres^ e^t écrivains




et " n i e

^Nautin, Lettres , p. 100 writes concerning the information that prompted the letter of the churches of Vienne and Lyons: 'La lettre que l'évêque d'Éphese lui l=Irénée] avait écrite signalait que les adversaires asiates de l'indulgence se réclamaient, en plus du titre de 'martyrs 1 , de révélations charismatiques. 11 est croyable que c'étaient celles de Montan, de Priscilla et de Maximilla; mais le nom des prophètes n'est pas donné'. See also pp. 39-43. 9p. Blanchet ière, ' Le mo n t a n i s me originel I', RevSR 52, 1978, pp. 118-134, here p. 132; Th. Baumeister, 'Montanismus', p. 52. J.A. Fischer, 'Die a n t i mon t a n i s t i s c h e n ' , p. 2 5 7 , holds that the first antimontanist synods (not identical with the earliest ant i montanist literature) met around 200.

Excursus others we re engaged wish to We leave roust it Montanists ? look more itself close ly if we at want the to nature of in debating about Montanisml^. to others to speak

37 Did he the the why





Irenaeus remained si lent. Christian the in world. prophetism, belief in in

There is wide agreement today on continuing or reviving early prophecy of of centered the the end around of the and proximity experience

the nature of the movement : intense a program the the


The accompanying eschatological exaltation resulted which Spirit

moral, rigorism occupied an important p l a c e ^ . s imilar generally to early been Christian eschatology p as . the movement

has as

or as

'conservative ,


' restorative 1 13f

' reactionary '

It has also been

declared archaic on the basis of formal similarities with early Christian expectations. Montanist and movement, was prophecy the But archaizing or not, the the original of a expectation for struggle in reviving

express ion

l^F. Wisse suggests that Irenaeus1 s silence may be expia ined by the fact that Justin's Syntagma (before 147 ) or a reworking of it, which he follows, was silent about Montanism. Usee K . F r o e h 1 ich , ' M o n t a n i s m ' , p. 9 2 ; Th . Baumeister, 'Montanismus', pp. 48-50 ; J.A. Fischer, ' Die antimontanistischen', pp. 241-244, 261-263 : all rely on standard presentations of Montanism in the last 100 years. l^c. Andresen, Die Kirchen der alten Christenheit, Stuttgart 1971, p. Ill : ' In gewisser Beziehung trägt der Montanismus Züge eines revolutionären Konservatismus'. 13 k . Aland, 'Bemerk ungen zum Montanismus und zur frühchristlichen Eschatologie' in Kirchengeschichtliche Entwürfe, Gütersloh 1960, pp. 105-148 ; ' . . .Versuch einer Restauration' (p. 143). Paulsen, ' Die Bedeutung des Montanismus für die Herausbildung des Kanons', VC 32, 1978, pp. 19-52, here p. 39. l^See F. Blanchetière, * Le montanisme RevSR 53, 1979, pp. 1-22, here p. 19. originel II 1 ,

3 identity in

0 remote geographical

Anti-Gnostic Polemics areas for which the

Thus eschatological exaltation, dramatic experience of the Spirit, and moral discipline seem to have characterized the the Montanist church. movement. No essential There

appears or

to be nothing subtraction'

in was

this picture that would be a departure from the doctrine of addition made to the beliefs held as orthodox. of the movement have generally that it was not its beliefs, but Th is is why students its eschatological block

been led to the conclus ion

attitude expressed in charismatic and ecstatic prophecy and in eth i ca1 rigorism wh ich const ituted the stumbling for the opponents of Montanism. S ince Irenaeus he would Elenchos beyond But even as and some the have Montanist noth ing to doctrine it say in was is not perce ived by The (Ref. objectionable^ 7 , Ep iphanius innovations did also

understandable the movement. of praxis f ind many



do not the



111.19 . 2 ;

Pan.haer. 48 .1.4) . I renaeus fail to discover
1 1

not. only


theoretically objectionable in the a certain congenial ity is at conservât ive shared with contexts, threatened sympathy element view recent play. the

new prophecy ; there is the two. Irenaeus In both a might have was had


the Montanists, beyond the by that

di fferences due to the Church 1 s He identity pos it ively


for the Montanist eschatological message. testifies with Montanist eschatology. Epideixis for

Book V 99 and

of Adv.haer. in keeping charisma.

to millenarian views that are well Irenaeus ' s respect prophetic

Adv.haer . II.32.4 . show

Further, if one grants the archaizing nature of

16g e e Th, Baumeister, 'Montanismus', pp. 52-53. l ? See J. A. Fischer, ' Die antimontanistischen ', p. 245 and note 26. It was only decades later that their doctrine of God and of the Trinity was questioned (see pp. 263273) .



Montanism, such a feature was not in itself a problem for the bishop of Lyons. also agreed with He had very strong feelings about the on the normative validity of normative character of the primitive, apostolic times, and Montanists
1 o

the written tradition-10, although they would not admit with him that the time of revelation was definitively over. Irenaeus was investigating systems of thought that put forward free interpretations and resulted of at from as the original in message of Christ ianity behavior. moral did times a reprehensible interest in matters in of

He was not concerned about refuting excesses in resulting to Irenaeus zealous In its origin at least, the Montanist view diverging

rigor ism appear

orthodox faith. not

faith, or as drawing practical demands from wrong premises. At times Irenaeus did oppose rigorism; but he saw no room for such an oppos i t ion in a work written to re f u te heresies. Be that as it may, a riddle remains. that Irenaeus knew of the Montanist noth ing object ionable in it. better, noth ing itself. it is dif f icult in could he We have assumed and found movement

We must now argue that he had Had he known it could of the have found to the doctrine How could how he

only a limited knowledge of the movement. to see some have object ionable How tenets



church leadership embedded in ecstatic prophecy?

Tertullian, to further a church of the Spirit over against a chu rch of the bishops?! 9 was this only a later


See H. Paulsen, 'Die Bedeutung', pp. 51-52.

1 ^See Th . Baumeister, ' Montanismus 1 , p. 50 ; J . A . Fischer, 'Die antimontanistischen', pp. 262-263. C. Andresen, Die Kirchen, p. 115, describes the Montanists as 'radikale Kritiker allen Kirchentums 1 ; bu t if this description is correct, and given Irenaeus's ecclesiology, it is difficult to understand how Andresen can make the following categorical statement concerning the Montanists : 'Man fand in Irenaus einen Fürsprecher' (p. 111). It is the martyrs of Lyons, rather than Irenaeus, who would be in agreement with the Montanist thesis, according



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

manifestation of the movement that Irenaeus could not have observed?

to H. Kraft, ' Die lyoner Märtyrer und der Montanismus', Les martyrs de Lyon (177), Colloques internat ionaux du CNRS (20-23 septembre 1977), Paris 1978, pp. 233-247. Among both groups, Kraft speculates, we observe the same ecclesiological vis ion and the same e mp h a s i s on the superiority of charismatic ministry against institutional ministry. He says concerning the martyrs : 'Sie [waren] dem institut ioneilen Amt gegenüber zurückhaltend' (p. 2 39). However, Kraft concludes (p. 24 3) 'dass wir die Lyoner trotz ihrer Anerkennung der montanistischen Prophetic, trotz ihrem Enthusiasmus und trotz ihrem Eintreten für den Montanismus doch nicht als Montanisten ansehen können'.






the to

arguments riddle



against the with

the name the to

Gnostics in the Elenchos3-, as any study of the Elenchos, is i nevitably become bound the Since associated to deal with here ' Hippoly tus1 . Every th ing concerning I I ippoly tus has indeed we wish


Elenchos to the exclusion of any other work attributed Hippolytus, connected Who with was the authorship of and scope of the The Soon to

a brief consideration of some of the problems Elenchos work was

should be enough to justify such a limitation. the author the Elenchos? in 1851. discovered the author, in 1842 in and published of a first Jacobi, Origen in the was

Duncker, Bunsen, and others were to suggest Hippolytus as spite attribution (Origen was proposed the end of Origen's because of references Jacobi's to him

margins of the manuscript; Migne still has the Elenchos at works 2 . ) suggest ion

•'•The work is referred to in the following ways r Elenchos, taken from the title of each of the ten Books (xoO uarà ixaawv alpêaEcov êAéyxou ßi'ßAoc... ) ; Refutatio omnium haeresium (abbreviated Ref., which is generally used ) ; Philosophumena, which strictly applies only to the first four Books (see Ref. IV. 51.14; IX.8.2. ) . The crit ica1 edi t ion is by P. Wendland, Hippolytus Werke III. Refutatio omnium haeresium. GCS 26, Leipzig 1916. English translat ion by J.H. Macmahon, ANE, vo1. 5, and bet ter, by F. Legge Philosophumena, 2 vols., London 1921. French translation (almost complete) with introduction and notes by A. Siouville, Hippolyte de Rome. Philosophumena ou refutation de toutes les hérésies, 2 vols., Paris 1928 . 2 German translation by K. Preysing in BKV . Rh. 1, Bd. 40, München 1922. - References are given here to Wendland 1 s edition. Our translation takes account of the abovementioned translations into modern languages.
2 PG 16 ter. The story of the attribution of the Elenchos is r e c o u n t e d by G. P i c k e r , Stud ien zur H ippolytf rage, Leipz ig 1893, where references are found. See also Wend land in GCS 26, p. xxiii, and Legge, Philosophoumena I, ff.5.8.

4 accepted Who was 1551 on by the

fc majority on of the

x Gno s t xc Polemics historians of of ancient found in in the and

Christian literature. represented the Via

But the riddle has other dimensions. the statue and a teacher since 19 59 placed


Vatican Library? martyr. writers Was from

In general it is said to be the statue of as well as father of the author Photius? of the church the many the writings diverse

H ippolytus, antipope

Hippolytus Eusebius to

mentioned on the sides of the statue or reported by later Despite character of these writings, he is generally agreed to be their author. Since has been 1947 P. Nautin by only first to by has a few faced anew the of problems Christian of a

surrounding H ippolytus. accepted in the 1iterature writings as surely

He has come up with a thesis that historians On the centuries.^ Hippolytus basis of

comparative analysis of the language and thought of various attributed written (especially he the two Elenchos and the Fragment against Noëtus, taking the latter Hippolytus), distinguishes authors 4 representing two very different types of mind and

3 From his Hippolyte et Josipc. Contribution a l'histoire de la lit térature chr¥tTen n e u trois i feme siècle, Paris 1947, through many other studies üp tö his contribution to Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (Hg. H. Tempor i ni und W. H a a s e ) , Berlin/New York (forthcoming), P. Nautin has not modified his thesis in any significant way ; rather he has substantiated it further. For a survey of the debate about Nautin's thesis, see R. Butterworth, Hippolytus of Rome: Contra Noëtum, Heyth rop Monographs 2, London 1977, pp. 21-33, where the debate is referred to in the context of a new look at the so-called Fragmentagainst Noëtus. - Incidentally, Butterworth's analysis of the structure of Contra Noëtum leads him to the conclus ion that it 'is no concluding fragment of an otherwise lost work ' . It ' stands well on its own ' {p. 117). Formally, the work 'appears to be an outstanding ... example of the Christian adaptat ion of profane diatribe for anti-heretical and teach ing purposes 1 {p. 141) . - See also M. Richard, 'Bibliographie de la controverse', PO 27, 19 54, pp. 271-272. 4 R.A . Lipsius , Die Quellen der ältesten Ketzergeschichte neu untersucht, Leipzig 1875, pp. 117 ff.

Elenchos between divided: the Roman elected 5 statue the whom the writings we know must be

4 5 respectively was his

Josipos and Hippolytus. clergy, who became and founded a sch ismat ic

Josipos was a member of community ; it is

antipope when Callistus

that was discovered of the

on the Via Tiburtina; he died of a De Universo, etc.

after 235 and was the pretentious and superficial author of Elenchos, Synagoge, H ippolytus lived in Palestine or in a nearby province and

wrote between 222 and 250; he was the author, traditional by character, of a Syntagma against all heresies, of which we possess the the final final (this part only, of the known of as the the is, Fragment as however, Elenchos a against being Noëtus identification Fragment

sect i on


ques t ioned I. prooem.

by many 1), of

scholars), wh i ch it

subsequent is but a

to the

( here Nautin departs from the common opinion based on Ref. rework i ng ; of


H ippolytus Nautin's


soon had

identified the merit

with of


homonymous some

Roman martyr. thesis introducing plansibi1ity into the problem of authorship^. But it was

and passim, also saw many difficulties in ident ify ing the author of the Elenchos w ith H ippolytus. See already his Zur Quellenkritik des Epiphanius, Wien 1865, pp. 70 and 26, n. 3, where such an ident if ication is said to be only 'wahrscheinlich' and the name 'Pseudorigenes ' is still preferred. However, for Harnack, Zur Quellenkritik des Gnosticismus, Leipzig 1873, pp. 170 ff, the identification of the author as being H ippolytus was ' zweifellos sicher'. F i n a l l y , A. H i l g e n f e l d , Die K e t z e r g e s c h i c h t e des Urchristentums, Le ipz ig 18 84, passim, quite wisely, we think, makes a consistant distinction between Hippolytus I and Hippoly tus II, the latter being the author of the Elenchos. The Elenchos attacks Callistus mostly for his tendency toward modal ism and his softening of church discipline, and only secondarily for presumed political ambitions (see Ref.IX. 11-12). 6 ' 1 ' h e controversy around Nautin ' s work has been at times violent. Many critiques, among them M. Richard's, were thought to have administered 'den schlagenden Beweis'

3 generally offered of rejected

0 without 'apories any

Anti-Gnostic Polemics new alternative to. being Recent

to solve the

he had pointed

authors have continued the Elenchos.

to regard H ippolytus as the author fresh studies of the problem are


made we shall find ourselves unfortunately bound to do the same and shall refrain from placing a question mark by the name of H ippoly tus every time we refer to the author of the Elenchos » When Elenchos without the therefore, alone. We in the following at this pages, work we write 'Hippolytus* we mean the author of the Elenchos, and of the shall other look as a whole to the considering related the writings attributed in

Hippolytus. Elenchos.

Our intention is to discover the character of against heret ics proposed But before tackling this task, we must mention


another problem that will help us determine the context of

(W. Schneemelcher, 'Notizen', ZKG 68, 1957, pp. 394-395) against his thesis. Others could not see its usefulness ('eine weitere überflüssige Auseinandersetzung', pronounced K. Beyschlag, 'Kallist und Hippolyt', TZ 20, 1964, pp. 103124, here p. 105, Anm. 11 ) . In the aftermath of the controversy, M. Richard was ready to make but one concession: The Fragment against Noëtus cannot have the same author as the Elenchos ; but he added, in agreement with some other scholars : It is the Fragment which was not written by Hippolytus, the Elenchos was his work ( 'Hippolyte de Rome', DS VII, Paris 1968, cols. 531-571, 1 here 533). Richard concludes (ibid.): Le pseudo-Josipe doit donc être éliminé de l'histoire de 1 ' ancienne littérature chrétienne'. However, the problems obviously persist. The discussions of H ippoly tu s's historical and literary identity have not yet produced any substantial unanimity among scholars, as is shown by V» Loi, 'La problematics storica-letteraria su Ippolito di Roma", in Ricerche su Ippolito, Studia Ephemeridis 'Augustinianura' 13, Roma 197 7, pp. 9-16. In the same volume ('L'identité letteraria di Ippolito di Roma', pp. 67-88), Loi reviews anew the literary witnesses and distinguishes, in a way similar to Nautin"s, two groups of works by two distinct writers; he refuses to postulate a unique author who would have gone through a profound psychological and cultural evolution as some have recently done in order to explain away the discrepancies. - In favor of Richard's position, see recently K.M. Kübner, 'Die Hauptquelle des Epiphanius (Pan.haer. 65) über Paulus von Samosata', ZKG 90, 1979, p. 57.

Elenchos our study of anti-gnostic arguments: what was the

45 real

purpose of the Elenchos? The goal of the Elenchos is no more obvious than the identity of its author. ) t As the title of each of the ten xou icata iractov

Books of the Elenchos recalls ( eXÉYX01J ßißAos ••• already proposed Koschorke^—that to confute Callistus occurs

aipeaewv to by was But it was


certainly more

intends recently

refute all the heresies that are known to him . by d'Ales and in 1906®--and secret group. his Hippolytus's

and main purpose The attack



in Book IX ; the previous Books would only 'genealogy' of that persona 1 enemy

set out the context and degradation of truth. work can c laim £ or

who appears as the final product of a long history of the Th i s view of the main purpose of the itself the formal di spos i t ion mentions, of the 'culminates' in the heresy it was a it is the to retroject contemporary

presentation of heres ies, wh ich of Callistus. well-known controvers ies deviants Moreover, polemical techn ique

as Koschorke

into heres ies of to

the past. h im and


clear that to find a place for an enemy amounts demystifying rests sure, on magic of his repu tat ion. Elenchos , indications. however, To be

in a catalogue of d issolving weak an

Such a view of the purpose of the rather internal important Callistus was

concern of the author of the Elenchos and for that reason

7 A . Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 68 saw the enterprise of the Elenchos as similar to that of Luke : 'Hippolytus II steht unter den ältesten Häresiologen ähnlich da, wie Lukas unter den synoptischen Evangelisten. Nach so manchen Vorgängern hat er es aufs Neue unternommen, allem von vorn an nachzugehen und neue Forschungen oder Erfahrungen angebracht... '.

® A. d'Ales, La théologie 1906, pp. 78, 104 and 211.





K • KosohoirJcG^ H x p^ojly t»s Kg t z or b ^ s j câ u n n i ^ ^f u n jPo J L j sn ixk gegen die Gnostiker : Ei ne Tendenzkritische Untersuchung seiner 'Refutatio omnium haeresium', Wiesbaden 1975, pp. 60-73. Callistus would be 'der Zielpunkt der Polemik der Refutatio'.

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics he is placed in the chain of heretics three times (Ref.

IX.7.Iff. ; IX.3 ; IX.12). are contemporary. said such to aim at

But the overarch ing idea of Book

IX lies in the fact that all the heresies mentioned therein The unity of the Book is broken if it is unmasking Cal 1 istus : why then wou Id (Ref. It

Hippolytus, after dealing with Noetus and Callistus, make a long report on the Elchasaites and the Jews IX.13-30, that is, more than half of the Book}, which would be completely alien to his presumed goal: whom the Elenchos wishes to unmask. C. Andresenll, for his part, thinks that Hippolytus 's refutation would have been conceived challenge logos. to Christianity of orthodox represented doctrine', Xoyos wherever and a as an answer by Celsus's therefore ) about would he have goes to the Alëthës Callistus^®? appears that Callistus remains only one among many heretics

Indeed one reads in Ref. X.34.1., at the end of the presumably Such is a he the Divine. developed beyond where his the conclud ing word { ctXriöns apparent to Andresen, particularly and of the Elenchos ;

'exposition expressing the According Vorlage, pagan one

true doctrine

Hippolytus Irenaeus, propounds But on


especially theory of

puts forward a proof for the priority of Christianity over ph ilosophy sect to is To the double from has and depravation of truth Hippolytus shown^, while again see (from philosophers both as following Elenchos entirely Irenaeus, lacks to heretics, of these as N. Brox

another) . the

accounts Logos',

' Anti-Alëthës



A1though, inventing a seemingly artificial link, H ippolytus does say that Alcibiades (a disciple of Elchasai) took occasion (Ref. IX,13) from the existence of the school of Callistus and disseminated his knavish tricks in the whole world. H e . Andresen, Logos und Nomos. Die Polemik des Kelsos wider das Christentum, Berlin, 1955, pp. 38 7-392.
1 1 2 N . Brox, Kelsos und Hippolytos . Zur frühchristlichen Geschichtspolemik', VC 20, 1966, pp. 150158.




5 would rest on

•geschichtstheologische [n] Hintergrund * too thin a bas is.

Moreover, why wouId the Elenchos contai n

detailed descriptions and refutations of heresies which are u tterly beyond Celsus's scope and quite indifferent to him? intended a refutation of all heresies/ i n c1u d ing the

gnostic heresies which are our main concern here. The discussions of the Elenchos. are IX, and with missing) with all just mentioned give but a slight idea of the intricate problems connected wi th the interprétât ion Some of its features, however, are clear. Books I-IV (II and III mysteries, pagan Books is It is Without problems, Gnostics? with pagan seen as ph ilosophy, For instance, its formal structure: deal

and astrology as being the ancestors of heres ies; Books Vheresies Book the X 'plagiates ' of the preceding Another concerned. argument doctrines ; expounds the clear: summarizes

orthodox point that to

doctrine. we the are


Hippolytus thought he was refuting heresies. latter a solution above-mentioned types of

presuppos ing can we find heretics, In order the

in this work

a central

against the



the many

to answer th is question we must first deal with refuting heresies that are encountered

three ways of

throughout the work.








its thesis^ , we find in Koschorke's study of the Elenchos


Brox, 'Kelsos', p. 157.

l^Koschorke, Ketzerbekämpfung, pp. 4-5, where the thesis is found: 'Hippolyts Quellenwert zur Kenntnis der von ihm dargestellten gnostischen Gruppen ist sehr viel niedriger, und seine absichtliche Umgestaltung vorgegebener Nachrichten sehr viel we itreichender, als weithin angenommen wird. Vor allem fällt Hippolyt aus als Zeuge über Erscheinungsbild und Artikulationsweise der christlich-gnostischen Häresien'. See also p. 94.

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

a very useful clarification of Hippolytus's ways of dealing with its heretics. au thor; Koschorke each of the distingu ishes in of to in the Elenchos thes is, on the of of the that but three types of refutation, which amount to three axioms of these, content Kos chorke ' s reports or definitely little biases what he Irenaeus these

heretics, dis torts the image of the Gnostics, and shows how Hippolytus we (contrary Clement methods of for Alexandria) had to do with them. analys is, refutation. way, they to argumentation reason, had already shall Although represent found be been in cons ider they the by th ree Starting from Koschorke's three reduced and to a unique

cou Id be Elenchos


aspects have, These

presented used

separately. Hippolytus's



less systematically.

A. heret ics supposed

Hippolytus ' s main have bee n recurs


is the




the is


G r e e k s

15 •

Th is


as a leitmotiv

in the Elenchos and

to disqualify all heresies as being un-Christian. [To show] the sources from which they drew their nothing they have attempts ; to the that holy the i r theor ies nor owe have scriptures, by holding in the their wisdom

The object ive of the Elenchos is s tated at the outset :

been concocted their source

fast to the theories of the in of the

tradition of any saint ; but Greeks, would-be By carry ing out

in the systems of philosophers, mysteries, and the vagaries (Ref. I, prooem. 8)


th is program, Hippolytus will unveil

heretics as godless (aQeous ).

!^We find a similar at temp t in Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum, 7 (ed. R. Refoule, CCL 1, pp. 192-193), and only incidentally in Irenaeus (e.g. Adv. haer. II.14.1-6).

Elenchos This objective determines th g p1â n of the

4 5 Elenchos:

first, to present the pagan doctrines ; then to present the heres ies as borrowings from them. It. seems, expose our are therefore, op i n ions that these advisable, advanced doctrines the f irst by are to the of the

philosophers of readers more to that

the Greeks, and to show to

greater antiquity than these [heresiesl, and august compa re the concerning each divinity ; with of the each then, show heresy champ ion

corresponding philosophical system, so as to earliest heresy availed himself of the theories [of a philosopher], appropriated these principles, and, impelled from these into worse, constructed his own doctrine (fioyyct ). (Ref. I, prooem. 8-9) The whole work It is expected

to the



heretics to

as link a

plagiatores (icAeiM Aoyoi X. 34. 2 ) . doctrine to philosophy the heres iarch with shown

Ref. I, prooem. 11 ; see IV. 51.14 ; in author ' s mind, This link throws by confronting IV. 46.1); he IX. 31.1 ). I and IV the Celts, to be in


or to astrology.

ipso facto the greatest suspicion upon it : in his miserable nakedness (see Ref. ( see Ref.

those who first held his tenets he is

has borrowed h is doctri nes from the Gent iles and viciously presented them as being from God displays much the Greeks,

Hippolytus ( Books 11 of doctrines astrologers, in the eyes

learni ng the Such

in Books the

III are and of

no longer

extant ) in present ing Indians, a presentation,

magicians. the readers.

sure, cou Id have a strik ing effect and accred it its author Hippolytus 's knowledge pagan matters, however, seems to be entirely second-hand.

He relies for Book I on a biographical compendium and on a summary of Theophrastus ' s î>uaiKÛv Ao'^ai , and in Book IV

l^on H ippoly tu s's sources in Book s I-IV, see P. Wendland ' s introduct ion to GCS 26, pp. xvii-xxi, and also

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics he is merely transcribing large sect i ons from Sextus

Expiricus, from a commentary on the Timaeus, etc. Even more problematic between heresy and than the af f irmation of a link is the way Hippolytus ph ilosophy

establishes a link between each heresy and a philosophical doctrine or a pagan practice in his attempt to show that it is not derived from scripture

(see e.g.

Ref. V.7.8 :

) .

Most of the time this link seems artificial. if the Naassenes they do teach so is that said have VII, said could the to serpent of us very on element, V.9.13). teaching from following Thaïes have to

For instance, is the humid (Ref. Miletus less

Basilides (Plato would (Ref.


Aristotle's uniikely ) his views


( Ref . VI1.24.1-2). Empedocles the

Marcion would have borrowed 29-31) , a to

disappoint ing the Greeks, from to a pagan in a more be better

s tatement since Marcion owes so little to Greek philosophy. Justin Gnostic on is depend his especially Hippolytus's Semi tic 'models'? positive he adds acquainted Herodotus, (Ref. the although Is than thought,

description, w i th It

just as well be long Hippolytus with their shows


V.23-28). he re t i cs he

is di ff icult Although

to answer

this quest ion

way. to

some times the views

acquaintance with pagan doctrines Irenaeus to concerning gnostic received with cons tant systems, does

than Irenaeus does, what Gnostics into must in his

the utmost caution since Hippolytus, force not hes itäte to distort them.










B. to " A.D. 220, London 1977, p. "414, h a s ^ a rather pos i t ive view of H ippolytu s's use of his sources; he writes concerning the summary of Platonic doctrines in Ref. 1.19: "Hippolytus* evidence (or that of his source), brief and sketchy as it is, nevertheless reveals a number of interesting formulations of doctrine of which we have no othe r evidence, and helps to round out our idea of what constituted the basic course in Platonism (at least in respect of Physics and E thics ) in the second century A.D.1

Elenchos 63

4 5

This way of establishing a relationship between heresy and philosophy might cast doubt on the Elenchos as a source of information shows Thus on heretics. the way However, the procedure just with examined heretics. emerges: way of between in which the Elenchos deals

the f irst feature of th is method the he ret ies was to es tabl ish

clearly a link

the author of the Elenchos thought refuting them and the pagan the th inkers

that a good

in a f ami ly tree of wh ich an argument

decreasing truth. f i1iat ion creates

In the mind of Hippolytus, this suspect context within

against the heretics can be launched. B. Hippolytus's effort to show the heretics as to

plagiarizing from the Greeks is an essential element of his overall program: to uncover the heretical doctrines, s trip away the ve i1 hiding their wickedness, to bring them into the full light of the day. This program itself, and

Irenaeus 1.31.3).





to them



doctrines of the Gnostics was to refute played a subordinate

(Adv. haer. distinct and th is We

But in Adv. haer. the "exposition1 as refutation role; it was always clearly the Gnostics What counted for Irenaeus was the and theology.

from the argumentation. discussion was based witness

'sachliche Auseinandersetzung 1 with

on reason, Bible,

in the Elenchos almost a complete disappearance of Even the presentat ion of how in a 'wicked ' way, 1.1-21). in fades out.

this type of argumentation. be sure, they interpreted

the heret ies based their doctrines on scr iptures, wh ich, to This presentat ion formed exegetical obviously the Hippolytus (see Ref. discussion have defeated origin a lengthy preamble H ippolytus's of heresy to Irenaeus's But it would to reveal


purpose: pagan

un-Christ ian


is unwilling VI.37.1;

to dignify heretical views, wh i ch

are only a juggli ng wi th ph ilosoph i ca1 or astrological bits VI.52.1-2).

3 In the verb

0 Hippolytus1 s means ad 'to exposition prove, to to of

Anti-Gnostic Polemics heretical to It views prove can the by a 'to

terms cXcyxui -ê'Xeyxos are given a specific meaning. disprove, reductio impossibile, refute ' .

Usually mean

expose' only the attack. prior. performed themselves discovering

in such a context, that is, to expose with a to make a complete inventory before In the Elenchos the meaning of 'exposition' is the did readers not as well the as real for the Gnostics of thei r

view to a refutation,

Such an exposition is thought to be an unmasking, for who it. know nature

doctrines and who should be amazed and even disgusted upon The exposition is actually the refutation and Hippolytus can dispense with proper argumentation. A good example of this role of the exposition is found in the conclusion writes, I consider to the notice on the Peratae stated where their H ippolytus after that having repeatedly

dependence upon astrology: I have clearly exposed the I have up Per a tic he resy ; by many always hi di ng to [arguments] and and

brought out in the light the heresy which is itself , mixes everything everything, is one that

advance any further accusation, the opinions propounded sufficient by for [the their heretics] own being condemn at ion.

(Ref. V.18 emphasis added) Four elements constitutive of Hippoly tus 1 s refutation' are present here; we shall look at them more closely. 1) precisely, Elenchos, part icular doctrines. elements absurd or To refute, for Hippoly tus, is to expose; more

it is to expose some tenets of a heresy and to In the of pagan most 1-10 ; th is usually elements by is that accompanied can be are e.g. by a select ion with the

point to its dependence upon non-Christian sources. linked

Often th i s amounts to a twisting; at least, the Hippolytus ones (see sometimes Ref. repulsive V.14,


E I X 6ncho s 17 f i 13< • m m ) by which, disgusted. 2) To re f u te is to unveil a secret doctrine. it is expected, the readers will be

Hippolytus makes much of the secret character of heretical doctrines and his program consists in breaking that secret (see Ref.I.prooem.2-5; 8). doctrines writings actually that were were It is hard to imagine that the since the heretics public and possessed even to to secret


inimical readers like Hippolytus. secret which Hippolytus intends

But more important, the to reveal resides in the

(presumably unsuspected) dependence of heretical teachings upon pagan views, a dependence that has been revealed to us through a problematic procedure. is found we ought A typical divulging of VII.30.1 : to them 'When, such a pseudo-secret the Demiurge, ... in Ref . to say

therefore, Marcion or some one of his hounds barks against that Empedocles announced such (tenets).* To point to Empedocles should automatically refute Marcion, 3) major Th is of type The the of expos it ion of At obviates the end further is of a an

â u^umentci t ion. feature

avoidance Elenchos.


exposition, precisely when the reader expects a discussion of what had just been presented, he is regularly confronted with the affirmation: r i ' v [ KOtvais fiXeyxÖoti i 3 £ j > " uywv 'I think we have sufficiently exposed doctrine...' (Ref. VII.31.8; see V.ll; V.18; V.28 etc.). in Ref. argumentation and a refutation. IX.31.102 the i r follows that from borrowed presented doctrines The concluding format : Gentiles and

voy { Çu . this VI.37.1? statement have then have


The expos it ion, in Hippolytus's eyes, amounts to an heretics

them as divine teachings, as Books V to IX are

thought to have demonstrated and refuted. 4) doctrines show how Finally, Marcion such by took an his expos i t ion their ideas from of heretical To Empedocles




3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

(Ref.VII.30.1) is all that the refutation is about; nothing else is necessary, discredited and Marcion 's the doctrine is thereby in

u tterly




Ref. V.7.8; 9.13; VI.29.1; 27.1; etc.). Could the heret ies It recognize doubtful themselves in such an the exposition^ 7 ? Gnostics That

is very by to

that the image of the real

presented seems

Hippolytus have been





in Hippolytus ' s

s tudy as a commod ity for the polemist. we miss here something a t temp t at gaining that we found some insight

Put more important, in Irenaeus : into the a real gnos t i c A rare

'hypothes is' through

a direct encounter with them.

insight of th is kind is found in Ref. the Basilidians; Their of and the whole theory turns

VI1.27.11 concerning







discrimination, into

the restoration of the mixed parts

their original place. (oXn yap auTÛSv n 0to9 eat s . . . auvKUai s . . . I^UXokp i vriai s . . . àvaKaïaaTacr i s . . . But th is sort of insight plays only a limited role )

in the

section on the Basilidians, and no role at all in the rest of the Elenchos. the

Hippolytus rule' or not a






perceiving To do so

' hypothes is' of gnostic necessarily of gnostic have a amounted ideas

thought. to into a a the

wou Id or to


distortion systematic necessary

reduction it

s c h e m e ^ ; rather hermeneut ical

wou Id of





based on the understanding of gnostic thought-processes and vision of the world.


The third way of refuting an adversary


to the Elenchos is to place him in the long chain of known

question with a clear no.



18j find quest ionable the way Kos c h o r k e , Ketzerbekämpfung, pp. 22-5 5, regularly and w i thou t qualification, equates 'régula' with 'system'.

Elenchos heretics the For Elenchos, H ippolytus ancestors (successio two and has are haereticorum) th is is

55 . is to Already present in in the way. when him:

£ irst


method applied thought

recurrent be

is sometimes Callistus

in an antonomous refu ted for forefathers




Noëtus and ... Heraclitus (Ref.IX,7-12). always pagan astrologists. explicit and all

Ultimately, these mystagogues, effort to Such is the


Here again we find a systematic of the Elenchos good to (Ref. show of

deprive heresies of their Christian content. objective means are deemed in the the

I. prooem. 8-9) un-Christian pure by

nature of heresy: partial select ion assertions, dénigration, Koschorke). The this truth truth wasted that first of

artificial construction of genealogies, teachings tw is t i ng (mos t heretics, of studied information,

stereotyping, innuendos



are assumed

to be closer

to the In

truth than those nearer or contemporary to Hippolytus. theory the degradat ion of revelation. in Judaism,

truth, Christ ian truth Some but of this clearly and original more was The

(or what H ippolytus holds for such) is ident ical with the of the primeval was already the lost among




heretics borrowed from the pagans and so lost even more of
t r u t h ^ O ,

And so, from one heresy

to the other ; the

"^Th 6 me t t i od is âlrBâdy £o u r ic i in Jud6 's Epistle ^ according to F. Wisse, 'The Epistle of Jude in the History of Heresiology', in Essays on the Nag Hammadi Texts in Honour of Alexander Böhl ig (ed. M.Krause )~ Leiden 1972, pp. 133-143. It also found an important place in Irenaeus, Adv. haer. I, and, without doubt, in Justin's Syntagma as far as his argumentation can be reconstructed.
20 I n Ref. I.prooem. 8-9 this view is clearly stated ; it is said that Greek philosophers propounded more ancient and more august doctrines than those of the heretics (see also ¥11.36.2: ' It has been proved that those philosophers of Greece who have talked about the divine, have done it with much more reverence than these [heretics] 1 ) ; but they also contained falsehood and errors to which the heresiarchs further added.

3 phenomenon is

0 seen as a descending

Anti-Gnostic Polemics genealogy, in which in

truth kept being degraded and lost. The three ways of refutation were already present Irenaeus. they did not replace ways argumentation to th e i r to of and refutation, haer. heretics, have made But in Adv. haer. they had a subordinate role ; wh ich Hippolytus for from the the and

occupies four of the five Books of Adv. develops looks borrowings sources. those for pagan these for precursors icXe^iAoyoi indications the

utmost ; he would



their pagan


The refutat ion stops with this denunciat ion wh ich

is typical of the polemics found in the Elenchos. 2. The Basic Disagreement with the Gnostics These polemical techniques give the Elenchos its form and reveal a specif ic understanding, is required goes to refute beyond an to on the part of the We in author, in this which and of what study the heretics. is explicit what

want now to raise the question which concerns us primarily and which the what what of H ippolytus's expos it ion. permeate expressed especially gnostic heresy, he Can we f ind in these techniques , idea be heresy, mos t is? Has the author perceived central and Has he stated what

Elenchos, takes

offensive in the gnostic


is wrong with the philosophers plagiarized by heretics, and if so does he counter his opponents with an interpretation of Christianity Writing 21—and the Does haer.? Elcnchos that really takes account of the gnostic heresy? in the first half of the third century, us ing especially Adv. haer. I.1in scope, the author of with role find Irenaeus. to the important comparison a work similar a some Irenaeus's Adversus haereses, — producing Elenchos the cannot escape assign


instances which functioned as norms and authorities in Adv. We have already the broad said that we do not and theological in the exegetical discussion

which we encountered in Adv. haer.

We do not even find any



real information on how the heretics intended to base their views on scripture. any real connect ion we he denounce Elenchos, The author systematically denies them with the Bible in the of his effort of to the

them as being heathens. might were have also expected the author author the if Apostolic


Tradition, not only to see the tradition of the apostles as normative, but to make it so. makes it totally unnecessary. But the Elenchos betrays no An important element of such a view, and the thesis of the alien origin of heresy Irenaeus's argumentât ion against the Gnostics is therefore missing here 2 1 ; there have departed from i t >• is that heretics it is no explicit attempt to establish that th e G nos tics do no t pos s es s the apostolic trad i t ion or The âu thoi» of the Elenchos does not His only comment about trad it ion a pagan tradition; they turn when they Christianity know of such a criterion. clothe


in a Christian garment,

into an extravagant philosophical game 2 2 . As
truth '


xns CUN0ETA£

icavova. . .




wh ich





'demonstrate' is



last in

Book. its



demons trat ion


sketch iness


2 ^A poss ible, but indirect, express ion of that view of tradition might be found in Ref. VIII.18.2 where it is said that the Quartodecimans, 'on all other points [bes ide the date of Easter] , agree with all that has been transmitted to the church by the Apostles'. Elsewhere (Ref. I.prooem.6) the author of the Elenchos seems to claim some authority for himself on the bas is of his being a successor of the Apostles. K. Baus in Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, I (Hg. H. Jedin ), Freiburg 1963, p. 283, states : 'Der S icherung der apostolischen Überlieferung i n der Lehre dienen die dogmatisch-antihäretischen Schriften Hippolyts 1 . Such a Statement not only pays too little attent ion to the problems of authorship, but obviously reads into the Elenchos concerns that are not

see) at his word when he saw the gnostic interpretation as an acute Hellenization of the Christian message. See h is Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, I, Tubingen 1931, p. 250.

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics X. 3 0 - 3 4 ) , the faith. a condition Moreover, the role of which rule in the the we may attribute appears to to have

H ippolytus's lack of interest in a positive vindication of itself played no significant the foregoing refutations. in

The rule seems to be an abstract entity in the Elenchos; it never has Adv. which is character 'rule of faith' found haer. — i.e. represented in to the and concrete, universal, apostolic, a rule faith at as the a 'Truth'

a real insight Elenchos to that

into the Christian 'hypothesis'. been is complete it used of

and was contrasted with the gnostic said have of beginning, criterion heresies. Should we then conclude that Irenaeus used to only to the






that the points of the truth of

reference his faith


( scripture, tradition, rule of faith ) are all absent from the Elenchos? Irenaeus knew how to find These points, Some for and him, became formed the in all qnost ic systems the the core of the gnostic of does his not 'blasphemia creatoris' and the implicit many-sided dualism. 'hypothes is' attack. privileqed target

two generat ions

later, Hippolytus

show the same sensitivity. Basilidian system this the potentially creator, (Ref.

We have seen that he complains 'emanationist circle ' of the element. little On the But specific at one in

once about what could be the interesting has

VI1.27.11); but he never develops

issue of the demiurge and the accompanying denigration of Hippolytus to say. point (Ref. V.27. 5-6) he does not hide his indignation at left to the God-Creator of of the Old Testament and Elohim appears to be at his degradat ion remains on its howe ver, Peratae, a and

the role the

the system of Justin the Gnostic; center upsets the Hippolytus. in the This section (Ref.

the sect ion on Justin point, on the

undeveloped. demiurge on implications. report omission,

He does not comment on the central place of The blasphemia creatoris is absent from the VII. would 29-30 ) , surpris ing there, and its mention be expected

Marcion since

Elenchos because sometimes say that the of the affirmation of the identity with the

59 of God church, the no the

and the Creator seems important to Hippolytus. Montanists, things ; again ' in agreement they this also acknowledge Creator X.31.6)? Let us

Does he not

the Father to be the God of the universe, and all But ask acknowledge (Ref. what Christ' VI11.19 .2 ; see rece ives most in

gospel testif ies concerning significant development. Hippolytus

aff i rmat ion upsets him


gnostic teachings. to say about its

Of course, he is impressed by the alien he might have had something relevant with astrology, about its V.6.6; connection

character of heresy ; proximity ( see

to anthroposophy and theosophy (see Ref. But two statements

V.8.38 ) , and something on its link with Orphic Ref . V.20.4-5).


in part icular,

because of their content and place in the work, might help answer our question. The first statement we should examine is found in Book X and probably doctrine find that (Ref. of conta ins the X,30-34) the and 'last word' of looking back the at Elenchos• his by long the S tart i ng from Hippolytus's final expos ition of the orthodox presentation 'many-headed was heresy' (Ref. V.11), we


part icularly


d ispersal and fragmentation of the divine which he thought he was encountering in all heretical doctrines. the heretics their the in own new, borrowed Whether posited the the the the philosophers summarized heres iarchs, beginning Ref. X. in (e.g. 12 ) or from whom Ref .

one or many principles at the beginning of the universe (as X.6-7), to itself, 9-19). their heresies 'olagiarizers', multiplicity is not the Pleroma by Ref » at (see tended the increase

f ire

for Simon,

simple :


recapitulation, Ref. X. heresiarchs together 'Others fancied many concocted existing or of

In addition to th is, some heresy (e.g. The combining X. from 29.1: all of the

introduced beings

someth ing


heresies...') multiplication

philosophumena. doctrinal tenets,

multiplication and the be due to

in the heretical systems, might




Anti-Gnostic Polemics but this is The Ref.

work of an underly ing emanationist principle ;

neither made explicit nor worked out in the Elenchos. to counter the heretical atomization of the divine. X.32.1 created contains this major, This and poss ibly truth was counter-statement; everything. it says: God

Elenchos stresses the point the author th inks most suited pass ionate, ignored by

is one, he was a lone, he


the philosophies which the heresiarchs followed. The second statement to be considered is similar in

nature and is found in Book I (Ref. 1.26.3; it reappears in a summary in Ref. IV.43.2). All [these at It concludes the exposition of being the doctrines of the philosophers. philosophers] ..., the magnitude of astonished itself. creation,

thought it [=the magnitude] to be the Divine They gave preference to th is or to that portion of the universe, but failed to recognize the God of these and Demiurge. This same view is echoed in Ref. X.32.5, where we read : I consider that, for the moment, subtle ignoring these, of vi ews I have words the the the suff iciently the parts of exposed the points with while the ignored by

the Greeks who glorified creat ion disguised Creator. Taking occasion


heres iarchs

Greeks under similar expressions and framed ridiculous heresies. It is clearly stated here that the 'Greek vice' upon which heretics built their systems elements cosmos. Both Surely, statements, because of th e i r place in the Elenchos, frame the entire work and mark out its main line. it can be said of that they constitute but a slight central concern. was To us they indication in his Hippolytus's and the failure is the divinization of cosmic the author of the to recognize

express Hippolytus's dismay at that which he found lacking gnos tic by counterpart. Irenaeus of particularly incensed the dualistic ou tlook the gnostic heresy ;

Elenchos but Hippolytus

61 is most offended by its divinization of the it, and by the ensuing of God is the dispersal of in The doctrinal consequence amalgamation encountered is no V. 2 0 .1 ) the they

universe or of parts of of this heretical tenets view view (see

and fragmentation of the divine. d isparate The Ref •

heretical systems and described at length in the Elenchos. heret ical the concerning to atheism. that show divine For, in small the in God mistake ; it pagans, amounts heretics following

'are without

their thinking, in their character, and in their behavior'
(Ref. I. p r o o e m . 8 : àôeous. . . K a x à yvwyriv kou xpoirov

KClV KOtTCX epyov ) . Does H ippolytus movement Or does th is bear from it displacement witness second to to the in the the vis ion changes third from in Irenaeus the when to it of



was increasingly divided reflect of by to gnostic sources (e.g. gnostic gnostic

into a plurality of small groups? increased so-called closer some to knowledge to the of the due Seth ians), pagan in the shift


especially philosophy? tactics bears used witness

1 i tera ture teachers. have the


it was

change his

Or perhaps from he virtually Church a

Hippolytus's already real when still knew time


gnostic his

opponents Irenaeus refutation engaged but to

who at

might a

disappeared. undertook was indeed a


Gnostics ; Great

in the process of overcoming the gnostic movement ; him Gnostics This represented threat—and is no longer the case two generations doctrine ; they to might his eventually case and, the church:

personal one. later. be a serve threat the

The gnostic opponents of Hippolytus have ceased to to orthodox as author and his a pretext if But further accepts

Possibly, Callistus d Ales's

to disqualify suggestion

an enemy well within one the Gnostics

group, .

Koschorke 's or themselves

23 A . d 'Ales, Theologie, p. 78 states : ' .. . destine' à confondre l'Église catholique comme secte callistienne, [ 1 ' Elenchos ] semble avoir été' surtout, dans la pensée de

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics This would deals with alien from

represent no concrete and immediate challenge, explain the the abstract and saying may way his in which derive from the the author on their Gnostics insistence

their doctrines in

character, But we

that also

they see,

pagan masters. change attitude present being encountered in the Elenchos that there is an evolution in

the style of Christian polemics. does not pretend to attack He

In retrojecting

controvers ies into heresies of the past, the heres iologist those past expresses a heres ies as new thems elves heresies aspect. continue present. concept ion :

are already to

anci ent, but a

they have a cumulative 'classical' and in in a succession, tradition Such possibility

Heresies of the past have become represent per man ent

interpretation; and, if seen as elements they also constitute a view already more clarity the between

a tradit ion, the heretical

which, as such, is alive in the particular heretics. from Epiphanius ' s and the work. Panarion The might

imp 1 icit in Justin, will emerge with sti 11 connection be only


i ndi rect.

But both share the view of a heret ical tradition

to Christian polemics.

1'auteur, une mach ine de guerre, savamment adaptée à ce but secret.'



The fact that the Elenchos very soon circulated under the use name it of Origen might explain why later polemists— o250 ) and c.380In particularly Epiphanius (310/320-402)—were not inclined to when fighting against adversus heretics. haereses, While before Tertullian Fi , lastrius of 3 90) order show to ignores Brescia (Diversarum of of hereseon liber, some find we a knowledge if one real wait use the the Elenchos, Elenchos Theodore t c.453) who, Epiphanius by of later Cyrus (Libellus

it totally,

is to follow Hilgenfeld.1 until

polemists2, (Haereticarum





ignores Epiphanius 3 ; for Theodoret was too liberal to join Epiphanius in collusion against Origen. reference to Irenaeus. has from They

All the polemists in general took to his

from the middle of the third century, though, share their also refer Hippolytus 's Syntagma. Lipsius documentation
s h o w n


Epiphanius heres iological



1A. Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte Urchristentums, Leipzig 1888, p. 73.


2 The many references to Ref. given by K. Holl in the GCS edition of Epiphanius (see note 8 below), it should be recalled, do not intend to indicate Epiphanius's sources, but parallels. That Epiphanius parallels the Elenchos is no indicat ion that he is quot ing it ; he might as well be following the same sources as the Elenchos. In that qualified sense we say that there is no 'real' use of the Elenchos by Epiphanius. 3 On these relationships, Ketzergeschichte, pp. 7 3-83, and Introduction above.

see our

Hilgenfeld, chart in the

4 R.A. Lipsius, Zur Quellenqeschichte des Epiphanios, Wien 18 65, p. 37. Lipsius's work Is a study of Pan.haer. 13 to 57.

3 (Hippolytus ' s sometimes preserving, orig inal for

0 Syntagma, instance, haer. 31 Irenaeus, them and word 34, large

Anti-Gnostic Polemics indi rectly for word of of Just in^), and thus Irenaeus 's

transcribing (Pan.

sections etc.), so on.

Hippolytus ' s

Syntagma (e.g. Pan, haer. 5 7 ) a n d

Epiphanius drew

from heretical sources as well, and he sometimes expressly mentions his own reading, investigation or experience; we might have not like the caustic to reject we have Samari tan so on tone of his narrative, but we the thank information for on he is to first-hand gnostic, no reason a priori him and

providing ; information

Jewi sh


Jewish-Christian, Montanist, Marcionite, Manichaean, Arian groups 7 , and important sections of their own literatures. The Panarion® represents an intensive piece of work if

^There is, however, no explicit reference in Panarion to Justin*s Syntagma. See Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschiehte, p. 73. % e e further on this point P. Nautin, 'Saint Épiphane de Salamine' in DHGE XV, Paris 1963, cols. 617-66631, esp. 627. ?See Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, pp. 80-82. ^Panarion ( ' E T Tic f > a v i ou ÉITICTICOTTOU Kara ai peaeuv fÔYÔonKOVTa ] TO e7TiicXn9ev iravapiov E ixouv KI B UTIOV) éd. K. Holl, GCS 25, 31 and 37, Leipzig 1915, 1922 and 19 3 3. Also ^G 41 and 4 2. It is re f erred to as Pan.epistola and Pan.prooem. for the f irst sections ; Pan.haer. for the sections on heresies; Pan.christ• for the sect ion on Christianity ; Pan. de f ide for the concluding exposition of the orthodox faith. Only very short passages have been translated into modern languages (e.g. by J. Horrmann in BKV 2 , Rh. 1, Bd. 38, München 1919, which contains Pan.prooem., Pan.christ., the recapitulations, probably not written by Epiphanius himself, and Pan.de fide 13.2-18.6 . G. A. Koch, ' A Critical Investigation of Epiphanius' Knowledge of the Ebionites: A Translation and Critical Discuss ion of Panarion 30. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1976). Very little» has been published on Epiphanius1 s heresiology; see P. Fraenkel, 'Histoire sainte et hérésie chez saint Épiphane de Salamine d'après le tome I du Panarion' (=Pan.haer. 1-20), RThPh 12, 196 2, pp. 175-191, esp. 176. A comprehensive study of Epiphanius's heresiology is expected to be offered by Mme A. Pourkier, maître-assistant at the University of

Epiphanius we consider that it that

65 it was written between 374 and 377^ and 1,361 pages in Holl's edition. But


Epiphanius had thought of the plan of the Panarion for some t imelO: the one Songs to describe and refute the eigh ty heresies facing truth like the eigh ty concubines of the Song of bride,

6:8-9, who surround and celebrate the unique no part with her. 8 0.10 and

but have is

The image of the concubines, (one exception in th e the Panarion 11), is developed of

while absent from the sections on heresies Pan. haer • introductory and concluding sections

(Pan.prooem., Pan.de fide); here the multiplicity of these ambiguous figures is contrasted with the one 'perfect dove' who and represents is called 'our holy mother and the church, (Pan.de its fide holy 21,1 doctrine, the one holy faith in truth' (Pan.de fide, 2,8), innocent simple •guileless') as opposed to the intricate forms of heresy. The image of the concubines recedes in the sections on heres ies, esp. in Pan.haer. 21 to 80, where it is replaced by that of serpents and reptiles to qualify the various is as heresies-'--'-. as much 1ikened their As a matter of fact, Epiphanius seems to know as about heresies ; each The image of heresy

about serpents

to one species of serpent and these are called by names 1 2 . the serpent


Dijon. - The translations given here are mine. A edit ion and translation of Panarion is being prepared SC under the direction of P~ Nautin.

new for

9p. Nautin, 'S. Épiphane ', col. 626, assigns the dates 374-376. Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 122 (PG 103, col. 4 04), remarks that Epiphanius's work is more comprehensive t h a n all those written ti 11 then against heretics.
10 Ancoratus 12-13 (ed. K. Holl, GCS 25) , which already enumerates the eighty heres ies wi th which Pan.haer. is to deal.

l^For an (unconvincing) at tempt to explain the transition from one image to the other, see C. Riggi, ' II termine 'hairesis' nell' accezione di Epifanio di Salamina (Panarion t. I; De Fide)', Salesianum 29, 1967, pp. 3-27, esp. 16-17. 12As his techn ica1 source on serpents, Epiphanius i ndicates a certain Nikandros of Colophon who wrote on

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

the symbol of a being in contact with the devil might have been suggested to Epiphanius by Genesis 3,

where and


serpent sect of

is related the and

to the or ig in of gnosis^ (see the Pan.haer • 37 ) who serpent-devi 1

is the the of

spokesman of the devil; or by Luke 10:19; or by the gnostic Oph ites saw in revered origin s erpent the

knowledge; or by his heresiological sources.

At any event,

Epiphanius saw the tide of serpent-heres ies as originating in Mesopotamia and, through Egypt, reaching Greece and the whole Med iterranean has world. Obviously character, the analogy while of the serpents a discredit ing it provides

the various sections with a unifying theme. It is with a view to this second image that Epiphanius gave which h is was work the t i tie with of Panarion. aga i ns t In the common bite. usage, a 'panarion' des ignated a box used by an apothecary, filled remed ies snake

serpents and reptiles, while others wrote on the properties of roots and herbs to cure their bites : Pan.prooem, II.3.1-5. He also refers to the works of the 'physiologists' ( oi «uoioXoyoi ) (Pan.haer. 64.72.6). He K.M. Grant ('Eusebius and Gnostic Origins', Melanges Simon. Paganisme, juda'isme, christianisme, Paris 1978, pp. 19 5-20 5) has drawn attention not only to earlier authors who att ributed heres ies to the devil, but also to the rather rare comparison between heres ies and snakes (pp. 19 6-197) made before the Panarion• How Epiphanius took his informat ion on serpents, reptiles, and antidotes from some form of 'Fachliteratur', is shown by J. Dummer, 'Ein naturwissenschaftliches Handbuch als Quelle für Epiphanius von Cons tantia ', Klio. Beiträge zur alten Geschichte 55, 1973, pp. 289-299, here p. 293. He suggests further that Epiphanius found his information already collected in a single scientific work, 'ein zoologisch-pharmazeutisches Handbuch' (p. 296). But the author of such a hand-book is said not to be Nikandros of Colophon, for Epiphanius says much more on serpents than Nikandros ' s ©hp i c t K O c . The au thor of Epiphanius ' s immediate sou rce would then be unknown ; he would have wri tten a compendium based on Nikandros and other physiologists. l^See C. Riggi, 'La figura di Epifanio nel IV secolo', Studia Patristica VIII, TU 93, Berlin 1966, pp. 86-107, here p. 104-105.



Epiphanius 1 s Panarion is thought to contai n the medications for all illnesses aids' threatening each are the of true faith. fide These found in 1-25 of a and 'medicinal accompany the sections in Pan.de in the

Pan. haer. 21 to 80 and which, returning of the commentary again, on venerable unicity is

summarized of Christ with

to the first image, sketches the features spouse form columba mea, perf ecta mea ' ; in it

'una est



polemical rejoinders season the exposition of the faith. The Panarion 1-20): with In this to opens which with a first group of or heresies protoin Col the to with stand to

(Pan.haer. heresies, continuity. Scyth ism, 3:11, some only

pre-Christian Christian group Judaism, the named

heresies, heresies four in f irst 8.3.3)




according alien

Pan.haer. thought

represent given birth

primordial religious

condit ions of mankind-^ and des ignate to have or, They are 1.5.2.?


Christian heresies, especially gnostic heresies. s ome t i m e s called heresies Samaritanism, see Pan•haer. heresies mother-heresies (Pan.prooem. 1.3.2?


80. 10.4)15? the rest of th is sect ion reviews The second group of composed of gnostic and arranged 21-56) is ch iefly

Hellenic, Samaritan, and Jewish sects. (Pan.haer. sects, presented

more or less chronologically The last group Christians

in some kind of f i1iat ion. divisions among the orthodox

(Pan.haer. 57Two

8 0) presents more recent heres ies, some of wh ich represent themselves.








Berlin 196 6, pp. 362-371. 1 5 These designations, as will be seen below, raise difficult problems as to Epiphanius's specific concept of heresy. One point is clear, however: while the Elenchos deals with philosophical schools only to the extent that they form the background necessary to the understanding of Christian heresies which depend on them, the Panarion clearly starts with pre-Christian groups, called, and treated as, heresies. Epiphanius 's concept of heresy encompasses pre-Christian philosophical schools as well as Christian groups.

3 0 are emphasized: groups, while a Origen and spanning negative

Anti-Gnostic Polemics the Arians. the course These of of heretical history, s a l v a t ion

geographically cover the whole oikoumene. constitutes history

Their succession

(Unheilsgeschichte), a counterpoint to the Heilsgeschichte; it is not without an eschatological overtone, suggested by the of fact that th e In number of e igh ty both heresies, histories long are predicted, has now been completed, and we stand at the end history. Pan.haer. 1-20 characterized by the symbols of Jerusalem and Babylon, but th is designation is not expressly carried through. general view of history seems to the have been the had Such a basic to be

presupposition of Epiphanius and to have provided him with a general pressed. Each of the eighty heresiesl6 ( arrived at, sometimes, rather 8 0, artificially presented by compressing according to many a heresies reçu rre nt or subd ividing some), especially is those found in Pan.haer. 21 to scheme framework into which information

(illustrated in the Appendix below) which generally goes as follows.




la ter

in what





To be su re, Epiphanius is fond of numbers, but his computations are not without confusion. Thus in Pan.haer. 80,10.4, wish ing to be more precise, he says the Panarion is about seventy-five heresies, of which there are five mothers ; he mentions, however, only four (Hellenism, Judaism, Samaritanism, Christianity) from which individual heresies developed, and it is curious to include Christianity at th is point. But we have to look at the preceding passage where Epiphanius, more correctly, lists Barbarism, Hellenism, Scythism, Judaism, Samaritanism. On the problematic number of 80 heresies, see S. Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à 1'histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles X, Paris 1705, p7 507 : 'Le P. Petau remarque qu'il {Épiphane) fait une faute dans cette supputation, en ce qu'il compte comme des espèces particulières de sectes les p a y e n s , les Samaritains, et les Juifs, qu 1 il met en même temps comme des genres qui en comprennent plusieurs ; et sans cela il ne trouverait pas son nombre de 80 hérésies'.

Epiphanius 1) back Introduction of the heresy by name. heresiarch, of the the author heresy, these heresy

69 When it goes

to a known 2)

asks who he was, its doctrine are and

where he came from, where he was active, what he taught. Expos ition First practices. 3) 4) refuted abusing invectives : this The and tenets lies, or to is be fictions, distortions.... Refutation ; by truth. the sane the of a heretics refutes contains by see way of the itself refutation is ending will apostrophes dilemmas, statement : the

questions with


embarrass ing ; expressions "Whoever 5) 6) As the has

reasoning judgment


that. . . " and

corresponding article of the orthodox faith. Further invective and analogy with one spec ies of Transition is clear to the next heresy with imploration unlike between true for serpents injecting the venom of heresy. for divine help. from th is outline, a cons istent the Panarion, distinct ion Elenchos, maintains

the expos it ion and the refutation, although the exposition itself is slr6d dy biased. Th is is part icularly the gnostic heresies to wh ich we give special attention in the following pages.


Epiphanius ' s Objective and Method Why did Epiphanius bother to establish a catalogue of

eighty the see




far back

in the 39.1.1.;

pre-Christian era, many of which had long disappeared from scene, also as he himself and 4) ? knows threat. confesses For that as not (Pan.haer. well all as of that the 20.3.1 author of be Is the

Elenchos represent Epiphanius Elenchos?

Epiphanius an actual then



Both know the

it would of

pointless to â 11 cick past heresies for their own sake. merely paralleling procedure

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics Epiphanius them there and more presents recent and refutes He heresies is that no as that

longer exist because, first of all, he sees a link between heresies. therefore interested as the author of the Elenchos in showing

is a successio haereticorum; the cumulative it would not have if isolated. The


of heres ies following density

upon each other gives each heresy a connection

between heresies might be at times loose, but it is firmly stated by Epiphanius: heresies, originating sections be tween (Pan.haer.9.1.1), between pre-Christian and Christian Hellenic and Christian heres ies beyond, heresies themselves Epiphanius Christian


from the Samaritans and Simon. to Bardesanes and

Throughout the

from S imon

stresses the genealogy of error : from Nicholas to the Barborites Valentinians (without certain could and Archontics how, arose ou t but as where to with the one showing Tat ian not f ind 58.1.1: (e.g. with

from S imon to Satornilus, and the Ophites, from the Cerdon a and Marcion; of came these from we then 'a he men1 (e.g. forced are which strong convict ion) that

successor rarely heretic 46.1.8;

(Pan.haer. Pan.haer. filiation confronted


Epiphanius Vales).

complains cases of 55.1.1)

Despite many


a global


of heres ies, of

the cumulative character clearly emerges. and those who came after, each heresy 'inanities ' (Pan.haer.

Christian heresy upon the thus

started with Simon, grew with Satornilus (Pan.haer. 23.2.1) following preceding building 37.1.1; 38.2.3 ),

up not only a mere success ion of heres ies, but a

real traditio haereticorum. Such



in the history



not only the It

bears witness to the fact that Ketzergeschichte' , from the as second development

Ketzerpolemik1 third

has become

Hilgenfeld to the

formulated century^ 7 .

also shows that

the very

idea of a tradition of heretics

has become a polemical weapon.

l^Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 2 and passim.

Epiphanius The origin of this development can be seen

71 in

Irenaeus 's source for the section of his work dealing with heretics from Simon to Tatian (Adv.haer. I.23-28, to which 1.11-12 should be added i8 ). the Elenchos where the the obscures the polemics between Bereits das The trend becomes manifest in in the history Elenchos sometimes and the Harnack of even saw here the interest author



previous heresiologists. in dem Werke des Hippolyt überragt ganzen Während bekämpfen liegt eine und der des in the geschichtliche Irenaeus Interesse und an der

Bewegung bei Weitem das polemische. Justin, es Tertullian am

und nur darstellen, um zu bekämpfen, Hippolyt, weit mehr Herzen, zu geben sachlich beleuchtete, genetisch


vollständige vor Allem der

Ketzerliste Widerlegung in eine

wahrend die Bestreitungen der früheren Väter irgendeiner dienen, Bestreitung apparent gnostischen Hippolyt's For Harnack this Hauptrichtungen Werk lauft

Noetus und Callistus aus 1 difference, clearly Elenchos, was a sign that Gnosticism for the church. More than a century was after even the Elenchos, th is in 'h istorical' tendency more clearly already evident in the first decades

of the third century had ceased to be a disruptive factor

Epiphanius's work, with The tradition of heresy

the difference now forms

mentioned, to the One

that the Panarion gives more room to the refutation itself. a counterpart history of salvation since the beginning of mankind.

function of this history of heretics in the Panarion, as in

18gee f # Wisse, 'The Nag-Hammadi Heresiologists*, VC 25, 1971, p. 213. l^A. Harnack, Zur Quellenkritik Gnosticismus, Leipzig 1873, p. 82.







3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics the Elenchos, has been a to provide of bad Epiphanius's companions, personal thereby Moreover, with its

enemies (Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Rufinus, even Bas il of Cesaraea 2 ^) discrediting through the with cohort them in the eyes of the orthodox. image of the eighty concubines

by interpreting

the whole tradition of the eighty heres ies

eschatological resonance, Epiphanius is stress ing how alien the heretical tradition is to the faith of the church and, for that reason, how firmly it must be opposed. emergence implies condemned serpents the devil. While such appears to have been Epiphanius's heresies readers things

Wh i1e the if




heresies same




expected had

scripture was to be fulfilled Epiphanius), them all. adds : all the

(now we have seen them all, scripture already by

To th is condemnation the analogy wi th those heres ies have been inspired

implicit these his these It is hate still

intention, he frequently states his goal in studying these throughout

the for

Panarion. it, shaming


enumerates and to who give do

'abominations a


to overth row


distaste to make


(Pan.haer.26.14.5; see Pan.prooem. intelligent To people those

1.2.3). conce i ve who might





) for the heretics and abominate their wicked



entertain doubts as to his intent ions in describing at such length reprehensible acts and ideas, he says: 'Although I am truly ashamed to speak of their disgusting practices... still I am not ashamed to say what they are not ashamed to do, { with the intention, by all means, of causing horror Such away is the that < J > p i Ç iv ) in those who hear of the obscenities they dare (Pan.haer.26,4, ; see effect of scandalous the 2 6,3,9; etc.). to frighten Epiphanius's the long catalogue of peculiar for all

to perform' thoughts readers, departs and from

the anticipated

practices : truth.

to horrify

th em, to

cause disgust




S e e P. Nautin, 'S. Épiphane', col. 627.

Epiphanius would have This been in vain if they do not produce method. look

73 this The

Abschreckung^!. objective- determines the author play. invect ive, Epiphanius's

Epiphanius, model of persiflage, regularly 24.1.6; opinions obscene.

of the Elenchos might Epiphanius abusive is a past language,

like a in are Their conduct

fair called are



foolish, their

insane, wretched talk babbling,

(see Pan,haer. their

24.2.1; 28.1.1; 44.3.1; 46.2.2 et passim.) silly, '0 foolish and vain fables I

For nobody who has

one ounce of judgment, would dare invent such th ings about man nor about god. been more 2} . Indeed even Homer appears to me to have (Pan.haer. 33.2.1-2; see 42.15.1heretical (e.g. intelligent1

Epiphanius has no equal in the h is tory of heres iology insulting. Pan.haer. with His descriptions of 47.1.6), gir1 :

for the art of out of virtue: had

sects give much room to slander (e.g. Encratites are not so ins inuat ions Pan.haer. women: Marcion corrupted travel a young 42.1.4; Pan.haer. 64.2.1 ff., even

Encratites who

disreputable [ airiare and one

47,3.1), calumny is called Christian: that

(e.g. of Origen: 64.66.1 he upon

Pan.haer. 5). devoted

unbeliever Pan.haer.

J in the sense of unEpiphanius to an in a section onanist

plays on ambiguities : immediately

introduces Origen


2iThat Epiphanius aims at Abschreckung (deterrence) was assumed by Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 2 : 'Da nun die bereits mehr oder weniger veralteten Häres ien in den Ketzerbestreitungen mindestens zur Abschreckung fortgeführt wurden, musste die Ketzerpolemik mehr und mehr zu einer Art Ketzergeschichte werden'. J. Dummer, 'Die Angaben über die gnos t ische Literatur be i Epiphanius, Pan.haer. 2 6', Koptologische Studien in der DDR, Halle 1965, pp. 191-219, writing on Epiphanius's gnostic sources, remarks (p. 209): 'Wir erfahren zwar eine Reihe von Titeln, aber sehr wenig Über den Inhalt der Schriften. Was Epiphanius weitaus mehr an Herzen liegt, ist die Schilderung der kultischen Veranstaltungen und Veranschaulichung der Gedankengänge, die diesen zu Grunde lagen - be ides zum Zwecke der Abschreckung'. Epiphanius's intent ion of causing horror is obviously not limited to Pan.haer. 26.

3 0 group (Pan.haer. 63) and nothing Beyond (e.g. on on

Anti-Gnostic Polemics is done to dissipate the

ambigu ity. of irony

all the use he makes of Irenaeus, what 32.6.7; scripture, and 24.8.1). he Where he

Epiphanius appreciates most in his work, is Irenaeus's use Pan.haer. use of their immoral reports gnostic insists almost



interpretations. (Epiphanius Pan.haer. 26.3.4For how could the by such scabrous

The lengthy descriptions of scandalous behavior claims that he does not delight in them: are believed innocent heretics? to form a sure argument. fail to be disgusted

6) are thought to constitute an uncovering of evil and thus readers

To be su re, it may be difficult to remain serene abou t Epiphanius ' s means and method. formulated of his harsh judgments unfairness has been punished heres iology. There Indignant historians and sty le ; a have his on his person is,

by a lack of attentive study however, pert inent Nautin, which is worth pas juges de sa Il ses force

portrait of Epiphanius drawn by P. Nous ne nous rendrons

quoting at this point for its well-balanced character. sainteté. a va i t Du moins était-il un ascète. la psych olog i e, ardente, avec la

en ava i t le phys ique impress ionnant....Il en aussi la quai i tés, conviction


sommaires la


définitifs, a s'aveugler

les sur

p a rt i s pris,


soi et sur les autres, au point de mettre au compte de l'amour de la vérité ce qui était pour une grande part du ressentiment, et de se tromper entre un Théophile et un Jean Chrysostome 22 .


P . Nautin, 'S. Épiphane', cols. 625-626.

Epiphanius 2. The Gnostic Heresies Epiphanius describes Pan.haer* 21 to 56. and refutes gnostic heresies



How does he conceive of them? of heresy since

It is

not poss ible to answer th is question without first looking at his general the Panarion heresies. After the middle of the second century, the concept of 'heresy ' underwent saw heresy Ebionites Cerynth, a process of increasing complexity 23 . Irenaeus the Ebionites, Hippoly tus's For Justin heresy was almost exclusively gnostic. as primarily (i.e. Tatian 2 ^) Jewish-Christian among the deviants : concept 'heresy' f inds in the gnostic an application that goes beyond

gnostic, but he also counted heretics.

Syntagma had, along with the Gnos tics, the patripassiani, and along with the the Ebionites, two groups of Montanists 2 ^. on come of the 'zu other einem and hand the Elchasaites; gave birth to Abschluss'. complexity As is rather he calls The Elenchos added on the one hand groups like the Docetes, Callistians; divisions and we development the f inally A a new within the church heresy of itself an




starts with the emergence of Manichaeism and Arianism. result, deals concept heresy in Epiphanius groups which

broad, if not diffuse, above all when one considers that he also with pre-Christian

As has been mentioned, of pre-Christian 'errors' rise to the problematic

it is precisely among the

the inclus ion that gives concept


character of Epiphanius's

23 Hilgenfeld, to this process.

Ketzergeschichte, passim draws


24see Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 342; see p. 162. 25 S

ee Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 163. ®Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 453.

3 of heresy. explained Hellenismus Häresien] contrasting there This are is

0 Following exactly und bezeichnet auch

Anti-Gnostic Polemics upon P. Fraenkel 27 , 'warum werden, als E. Moutsoulas 2 ® Scyth ismu s , solche [i.e. Then, that has of no one. "historische with

states the problem in the following way: Judaismus manchmal manchmal of "religiöse concept

Nobody has so far als als



Zustände"'. heresy

Epiphanius's cases in but for

Irenaeus and of the author of the Elenchos, he argues that Epiphanius rather the a first where four 'heresy' negative meaning, the case 'neutral-objective' religious

stages of

mankind ; when these are called of

"heresies', it is not in the

sense of 'Irrlehre' of a particular group, but in the sense Entfremdung von der Wahrheit' 29 of Christianity without The hypothesis has been of a neutral by sense C. of 'heresy' for in connection with any group or school. Epiphanius only means makes which, wide challenged Riggi 3 0 whom

'heresy' is always negative in the Panarion, even where it 'Entfremdung von der Wahrheit'. 31 use of to the images the the eighty eighty heresies, concubines His argument 'serpents' have a remain 'concubines ' and


always always

negat ive

meaning :


P . Fraenkel, 'Histoire sainte'.

28e. Moutsoulas, 'Der Begriff "Häresie"', p. 362.

E . Moutsoulas, "Der Begriff "Häresie"', p. 368.

30 C . Riggi, ' Il termine ", pp. 3-29. His thesis is found on p. 5: 'L'accezione è in Epifanio sempre negativa, sia come deviaz ione dalla condotta cristiana che come deviazione dalla retta dottrina, sia come errore dottrinale implicito (ne 1lo sei sma) che come errore dogmat i co esplicito (nell' eresia comunemente intesa), sia come male d ilagante per i 1 mondo in maniera confusa che come organizzazione diabolica di gruppo'. 31c. Riggi, 'Il termine', p. 5, n. 5: "Or questa non ci sembra più accezione neutra!". On the contrary, Riggi emphasizes that (according to Epiphanius) each heresy is a monstrous and venemous product conceived through a contact with the devil (pp. 6-7).

Epiphanius alien to the spouse, linked the eighty serpents are

77 always

monstrous and reference analogy

wi th the devil. with

Even th is point is

not without difficulty ; to serpents of the serpents

the exception of a general to heres ies from individually

in Pan.haer. 13.2.2 and 20.3.3, the is only appl ied It is not applied

Simon on (Pan.haer. 21 on).

to the first twenty heresies, much less to the first four. Thus, while the analogy of the concubines might generally apply to the eighty heresies, that of the serpents does not and is reserved seems for to the use heresies the term 21 to 80. in Therefore a double Riggi a Epiphanius sense. For this when he negative narrow such a reason we are more willing with in the in says point range of 'heresy1 sense 3 2 . when mark he the the to follow of a distinguishes, meaning generally between 8.9.1; hints at 9.1; 'heresy '


and a broad distinction stages)

Epiphanius himself ( Pan, haer. where his

see 2,3) that the Samaritans religious begins

(heirs of the four previous exposition

to deal with heresy proper, since they are at the If we consider broad or the that is

origin of all heresies based on scripture. poss ible any to say: for Epiphanius, of is Thus law wherever and is the life. revealed natural fide it

this statement, in spite of some remaining confus ion, it is 'heresy ' in the encountered, it is transmitted in its from sense means any fragmentation departure, truth truth with primeval primeval identical God's will sense means the primeval unity ; understood


orally, turn,

wh i ch,

identical with

'Christianity before Christianity' and with 6,8); primeval based truth on a became wrong moral The are 'Heresy' in the strict its of accompanying

(see Pan.de any of

manifest with the advent of Christ. erroneous scripture interpretation f irst with


aberrations; this sense applies to gnostic heresies. four religious conditions mankind, however,


C . Riggi, 'Il termine', pp. 12 and 15.

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics called Judaism 'heresies' in the broad sense, so that Hellenism and are counted as heresies only insofar as they have

been contaminated by the Babylonian virus and fragmentated. The first four religious conditions are affected by a

genera 1ly negative character, always being contrasted 'Christianity f ide 6,8), which existed since the beginning' fight with


Pan.de between and
3 4



the permanent they coexisted

1 ight and natural

d a r k n e s s

3 ;







coi ncided

w i t h

t h e m

and, by comparison, were always found lacking. How then does the character of the gnostic heres ies, description? of a

in the strict sense, emerge from Epiphanius's He operates accord ing to a fairly clear

definition s imply







false doctrine » but £ 3 1 s o incluci e wrong conduct. is always connected with heteropraxis. completely Elenchos. of heresy absent either


Such a view was not from the side of

from Irenaeus's work or

But only

in the Panarion emphasized. f ide will

is the practical The have

systematically faith on in Pan.de and

exposition same

orthodox emphas is


double to

faith The

practice, of


latter as







S e e E. Moutsoulas, 'Der Begriff "Häresie"', p. 370.

In general, 'heresy' seems to be synonymous with diversity itself, multiplicty, division: e.g. when it is said that, at the stage of Scythism, there was 'no heresy, no diversity of opinion' (ou* aîpeots, c& yvdm èxépa. xal èxêpa: Pan.haer. 2.3; see also 1.9; 3.9). In Pan, de fide 9-12, the emphasis is put on the multiplicity of sects and practices in India, Egypt, Greece, etc., providing an illustration of the view that outside the Christian Church the original unity is fractured. However, the state of affairs is not always so straightforward. E.g., after dealing with the first twenty 'heresies ', Epiphanius says (Pan.christ• 4.7): 'I have talked up to now about eleven heres ies *, meaning the divis ions among Samaritans and Jews only, and refusing in this case to call the first stages Th e s t>udy of Ep îph ân m s s concsp t of heresy / s i s one can see, is a frustrating one; Epiphanius's views were not always consistent, and his conflicting statements are d i f f i c u l t — i f not sometimes impossible—to reconcile.


Epiphanius heteropraxis personal might have with been prompted by

79 Epiphanius's or by better




information concerning mere polemical device.

gnostic rituals;

it can also be a

However questionable his view was

that heres ies originate in moral failure 35 , Epiphanius saw the essential connection between religious belief and moral conduct ; to his mind a doctrine would hardly be false if it were not accompanied by a wrong practice. Moreover, understand heresy. Gnos tics from the sections arbitrarily about on the Gnostics, we can scriptural divine passages, cosmic. what Epiphanius sees as the content of gnostic among genealogies, and

Selecting speculate they

They talk about heavens and archons, Hebdomad about which rein to vainglory fraudulent ( their curios ity, to their 24.10.6; (Pan.haer. love

and Ogdoad, and

imagine all sorts of myths to give free for disputes Through the 35.2.1-2). 26.1.2) their




deceive people.

They say that the world was made by angels

KO c r yo i r oi en. àyyéXox

this feature seems to be peculiar

to the Gnostics), not by the true God, so that the material world is seen as evil. On that basis some them ) abstain practice licentious advocating from immorality In it the seeds of light (or of the Soul ) have been scattered and must now be gathered again. (the Encratites and those who resemble the on world far is an and its elements. they the Others that soul, device the same from basis ; think

conduct, immorality


contributes to its liberation; these people know well that appealing propaganda (Pan.haer. 24.3.8; 25.2.1). Concerning Christ, they teach Finally they proclaim

one form or the other of docetism.

35 See C. Riggi, ' Il termine', p. 25. The connection established between heresy and libertinism is as old as Christian heresiology. See F. Wisse, 'The Epistle of Jude in the History of Heresiology', Essays on the Nag Hammadi Texts in Honour of Alexander Böhlig; ed. M. Krause, Leiden 1972, pp. 133-143, esp. 137 and 143; and 'The "Opponents" in the New Testament in Light of the Nag Hammadi Writings', Actes du Colloque international sur les textes de Nag Hammadi d'août 1978 (ed. B. Bare), Québec (forthcoming).

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics (or of the

that there will be no resurrection of the dead body),

This picture of the Gnostics might be the product of much fantasy on the part of Epiphanius and might result from a systematic generalization. Gnostics thus understood It does show, however,

that he had a clear picture of them and it is against the that he thought he had to launch his attack ; for, like Irenaeus, he perceived the disrupt ive character of those be1i e f s and was aware that Gnostics were discrediting the church 27.3.3-5). To Ep iphanius, gnostic heres ies are rooted in grounds alien shaped false bad sided false to the catholic he of saw faith. the Building views upon as previous been astrology, heres iologi sts, reading gnostic the having in the eyes of pagans incapable of (Pan.haer. distinguishing between true and false Christians

by a series of bad



scripture, he gave of the an

devil1 s

inspiration, to Greek the they

intellectual sickness, moral failure. influences, and the as ph ilosophy secular author of educa t ion.

Among the immediate role


Without be ing as oneEpiphanius with saw

the Elenchos, philosophers,

false doctrines of the Gnostics as running parallel to the doctrines which entertain some connection. 'their

For instance, for him the root 32.3.8) lies in arts and in the

of the heresy of the Secundians (Pan.haer. excess ive

educat ion


sciences, and in Platonic thought ' ( 6C mepßoX/jv 6c xfic éxeiîvou
ntowvuifis clearest

s tatements Origen 3 ^.


th is view wi 11 be found you have been

in the bit by

sect ion on a wicked

'You, Origen,

3 ^Strangely enough, Origen is seen as the father of all heresies and the instigator of Arianism (see Pan.haer. 64.4.2; 76.3.5; Epiphanius's letter to John of Jerusalem, in Jerome, Epistola 51, PL 22, cols. 517-526, or PG 43, cols. 379-390 ; see also D. Amand, Fatalisme et liberte~dans l'antiquité grecque, Louvain/Paris, 19 4 5, p. 451). Ep iphanius's relation to Origenism has been studied by J.F. Dechow, 'Dogma and Mysticism in Early Christianity. E p i p h a n i u s of Cypru s and the Lega cy of O r i g e n ' .

Epiphanius viper, I mean your wordly instruct ion. . . 1 ( ïïaiôeias education ( ) (Pan.haer. 64.72.5). 'EXXrvi i c r i s iron 5e iocs

81 Koay i i c f j s rpo-

'You too, the Hellenic ) has made you blind for

the truth...' (Pan.haer. 64.72.9). The thesis of the dependence of heresy upon Hellenic philosophy (Adv.haer. was 11 . only pointed who to marginally by Irenaeus to 14.1-6) positively resorted

philosophy throughout his Book II. received by Epiphanius. the Arians. Epiphanius devil's gnostic having

After being generalized

by the author of the Elenchos, the thes is is now willingly The thesis is now applied not only to the Gnostics, but beyond them, to Origen as well as to Without distinguishing between use and abuse, is not are far from counting philosophy Philosophic called divis ions rejected, and heres ies among but schools, men. all as Not links (Pan.haer. among well 5-8) only the as for is

inventions. sects, introduced thereby

philosophy Christian



though t



philosophical to attenuate

tradition 37 .

The ascetic Epiphanius can only see a sharp
Christentum' **;

opposition between 'Antike und

Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1975. Origen embodies mos t of the errors reviewed in Panarion. Epiphanius had been so manipulated by Theoph ilus of Alexandria that he conceived a most violent hostility against Origen and devoted to him his longest notice (122 pages in Holl ' s edition, more than are reserved to the Arians or to the Manichaeans). Accumulating massive distortions upon formulations taken out of their contexts, Pan. haer. 64 on Origen i s but an ampl i fication and aggravation of the De resurrectione of Methodius of Olympus, from which large sect ions are quoted ( 64 .12-62). On this see M. Villain, 'Ruf in d 1 Aquile'e. La querelle autour d'Origène', RechSr. 27, 1937, pp. 5-37, esp. p. 8. On Epiphanius's sources for the biography of Origen, see P . Nautin, Origène I. Sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris 1977, pp. 202-217.
37 Epiphanius's negative attitude toward images consistent with th is view. See Jerome, Epistola 51.9.


3 ®See W. Schneemelcher, 'Epiphanius von Salamis', RAC V, Stuttgart 1960, pp. 909-927, esp. pp. 910, 923-926. F. Wisse has proposed a further explanation for Epiphanius's nervousness toward Hellenism. He s u g g e s t s that



Anti-Gnostic Polemics

this opposition would amount to an illegitimate compromise. Such on an intransigent concrete attitude who, is in not the limited mind of to the a i ntellectual the spheres of heretical doctrine ; it also bears 'heretics1 no such have rights (Epiphanius is the one who


denounced a group of Gnostics in Egypt and had them driven out of the city: Pan.haer. 26.17.9 39 . Did some Does our discussion he really understand lead us to think that Epiphanius He surely perceived

had a clear insight into gnosis and gnostic doctrine? gnos is? important tenets of the gnostic sects.

But it is difficult

at th is point to say whether he was able to perceive their unifying principle, to relate the tenets to each other, and especially to a fundamental gnostic insight. freely applies For these tenets to different about He sometimes just in sects,

order to round out the picture and make it as repulsive as poss ible. instance, talking the Nicholaitans, but short of information on th em, he explicitly borrows the lacking informat ion from other sects This kind of of extrapolation of ten in character abstractions, (Pan.haer. 25.2.1-5). his of reports the the spite heavy gives

accumulation of odd sayings and scandalous details. At first glance, it seems that Ep iphanius is not

looking for a real insight gnostic views are utterly

into gnosis, the way irrational. He

Irenaeus, repeatedly

or even the author of the Elenchos, was.

To him, indeed,

Epiphanius's attitude might very well reflect the horror of the Christians in face of Emperor Julian's attempt at making paganism, or Hellenism in the religious sense, into the state religion (361-363). The revival of paganism that had taken place some fifteen years before the writing of the Panarion would have left vivid traces in the psyche of church leaders. Gregory of Nazianzus exemplifies how a Christian of a different character from Ep iphanius's could also ^ remain haunted by the f igure ^ of Julian and his Les invectives contre Julien de Grégoire de Naz ianze in L'Empereur Julien. De 1'histoire à la légende (eds. R. Braun and J. Richer), Paris 1978, pp. 89-98. 39see S. Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires X, p. 488.

Epiphanius returns feminine solid things to this judgment. The devi1 'always appeals

83 to

imaginations, pleasure and lust, that (Pan.haer. introducing 37.2.5). Gnostics

is to say, 'think the they )

to the feminine ignorance which reason...' they are

is in men, and not to the although

are mysteries,

are nothing but mockeries of mimes ( full of absurdity and nonsense. (Pan.haer. 37.3.1-2). of indicating


For these are truly myths"

Such judgments obviously fall short

the precise points to which Epiphanius took

exception in the gnostic doctrines. We can best discover what, for Epiphanius, constitutes the unacceptable core of gnostic teachings by following an indirect path. Instead of looking at his exposition of gnostic systems, we may find the points that offended him

by examining his refutation.


The Core of the Refutation In most sections is refute way : But - truth but is dealing by with two gnostic 'these refutes heresies opinions itself, the are and

refutation, 'These the





themselves ' , Madness

refuted by truth'. following

The first formula can be spelled out in

wickedness is broken in itself internally, turning into its own overthrow. need for aid, is always steadfast; it has no and is confirmed self-confirming,

2 6.3.2; 31.34.1; etc.).

The second formula is encountered ' 11 is evident, confidence; Each the

in many variations of the following form: the truth itself see time also the 21.5.1; formula is your refutat ion *. 24.8.8; not only 24.9.1; introduces

Bardesanes, how badly you have misplaced your

(Pan.haer. 56.2.11; and qualif ies

56.2.12; etc.).

refutation, but also amounts to a summary of it. consider them separately.


the contents of both formulae at times overlap, we should

3 0 'Heresy refutes itself' What need say, for no overthrow

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

is meant by such a formula, is that there is no any use sophisticated for any argumentation person to in order to the opinions just presented. intelligent 'There is, I dare refute these

things from scripture, or from examples, or any other fact. Their foolish fiction and adulterous action is obvious and easily detected by right reason' appeal to sound judgment argument by reason. especially when this the (Pan.haer. 26.3.2). The is but a weak echo of Irenaeus's

In Epiphanius's mind it is superfluous has just been presented it sufficient of the connected or with in an In

to develop a real argument in order to refute the heresy, the heresy inimical way that does part of the work of refutation. instance Epiphanius quality and are of of the deems opinions, to on be a of author of them. reading called

to point to these The of an

opinions, opinions laughable ; scripture. the like.

the behavior rest

said The The

incons istent, wrong these opinions is

contradictory, is



author related

impostor, a fraud, a deceiver, a fanatic, a sycophant, and behavior corrupt, obscene, filthy, insane.... Is it not right, then, to compare such

a doctrine to the spite of an evil serpent? 'Truth is your refutation' The formula, content of the second to grasp on of formula the meaning is is of less th is on a

straightforward. presupposition.

In order His attack

it is useful

to recall

Epiphanius's heresies

fundamental based The

vision of a universal history whole tradition of truth—truth

truth and error 4 ^.

that has existed since the

beginning as the truth of the Christian Church 43 -—is called


^See P. Fraenkel, 'Histoire sainte', pp. 188-191.

41gnly rarely does Ep iphanius mean rat ional or philosophical truth. As example, we might quote the notice

Epiphanius upon after to give the lie to the is tradition of error.

85 Thus, the (see the

saying the


you r that

refutation', is, to


regularly gospels,


to Moses,

the prophets,

the Savior, scripture

apostles ; of is by by

Pan.haer. 44.4.3). The first meaning truth such the a of scr iptu re refutation refu tat ion text, Irenaeus's the formula you r scripture. Epiphanius is a further is best from is therefore: thus refutation, will text 42). echoing a

The spelling out of then follow




their by the

interpretation. takes the

The procedure of quoting


long section of Marcion trouble scripture Marcion,


Here Epiphanius mutilated from Paul ) . Ep iphanius wh i ch


(78 passages from Luke, 40 passages or to 'from va r i a nts the very when needed, of

Then after pointing demonstrates, stands: creator,

to the changes made in these texts by remnants scripture

Marcion retains'

(42.9.5), the truth

for wh ich the ch u r ch

incarnation, agreement of the two Testaments, Godinspiration of the prophets, divinity of Christ.

The texts retai ned by Marcion suff ice to refute him; truth itself refutes him. When s ide with Of course, the rest of scripture which with the Gnostics is rather a of is rejected by Marcion confirms Epiphanius's position. the disagreement the li teral matter of interpretation of scripture, Ep iphanius tends to and "simple" interpretation

on Stoicism (Pan.haer. 5) which has been studied by D. Amand, Fatalisme, pp. 440-460. Amand shows how weak Epiphanius is when he engages on philosophical matters. His exposition is summary and inexact: Zeno of Elea is confused with Zeno of Citium; Stoicism appears to be prior to Platonism; the Stoics would believe in metempsychosis ( D. Petau has an indignant note on this mis representation in PG 41, col. 201, n. 46). Epiphanius is following textbooks, and bad ones. His refutation is made of arguments 'd'une incroyable banalité' (p. 4 58), peppered with heavy irony and cheap shots. His stronger arguments, such as the moral arguments against fatalism, go back, as Amand has shown, to Carneades and seem to have reached Epiphanius as fossilized commonplaces (pp. 458-460).

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics V „ \ For truth speaks in plain words (old y.iupcûv vox. Pan.haer. that the clearly 35.3.2); angels says are that for they instance, or his say Even do not are To does to not and say it creators,

scripture. scripture opposed more

cotAwv AÔYCOV f\ àAnôeL'A): God, but

administrators the allegorical condemnation stick by




or otherwise (see

is to imagine a fraudulent myth. is included Pan.haer. sense 64.4.11). Those who


in Epiphanius 's impious

the plain

of scripture abandon 69.71.1). says that of

are called

( Origen is called fi.TH.CTXE, as we saw), demons, prestidigitators , miserable.... Thus when They the simplicity of the truth itself refutes Holy Spirit (see Pan.haer. Epiphanius heres ies, he means

a statement

the faith based on the

literal sense of scripture. The council of Nicaea had as

Moreover, this truth was found produced Fraenkel such a creed, in and the

in the creeds which had been composed by Epiphanius's time. Epiphanius was an ardent defender of Nicaea 69.11.1). Furthermore, (see Pan.haer.

mentioned 4 2 ,

Äncoratus Epiphanius had already explained the faith on the basis of a creed that is one of the sources of the creed of Constantinople, attacks gnostic (TTILAXIC dAnôeiac 381 (see or D 42-45). states the Moreover, 'fai th when of he tenets


Pan.haer. 24.10.7), Epiphanius repro(the 'parts' of the faith: TO T C S L V in of uépoç the God, birth (see sometimes and even and

duces the articles of the faith Trie order TtCcrcetüC; found of Pan .haer. in the all beings, 9.2.3),

ÂAACÙV uepœv TFIC NCOTEXOG : Pan.de fide 21.1; creeds : trini ty

unicity of

creation e.g.

Christ 's divinity the resurrection


from Mary,

the church,

the dead

Pan.haer . with

36.6.3-5; Pan.de fide 14-18). the articles of the creeds that will

It is the combination, then, of a literal reading of scripture confound heresy. The venomous doctrine can be stopped with

P . Fraenkel, 'Histoire sainte', p. 178. This had already been noticed by S. Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires X, p. 505 (on the two cr66cls conc 1 uding the Ancoratus).


Epiphanius the ant idote of Christ's teachings stated by the Church. and cast

87 (Pan.haer. 23.7.1-3) as spelled out

This contrast hardly amounts to an

argument; it is, rather, an assertion briefly in a mold of invectives 43 .

The preceding analysis should have made clear how the style of refutation has changed since Irenaeus. by means of philosophical, scriptural, and Epiphanius theological to determine no longer carries on any serious debate with the Gnostics arguments. There is no longer any wrestling

where the authentic tradition is.

What we find, aside from To is

a virulent attack on all opponents, is a dogmatic appeal to a static truth formulated in the articles of the creed. point out an inadequacy by means of the creed, it thought, is ipso facto to perform a refutation. we have here the answer what Ep iphanius was fou nd low teachings explicit doctrines 1 ies in the mos t esteem of from the the his offens ive in own which faith. in His hardly as the

We think above : gnostic held the in

to the question we raised they

formulations different reasserting

interest goes

beyond by the

indicating them in a reproachful tone. one truth Church. such from From Epiphanius does so with pronouncements and

His real interest formulated

the firmness of one who with the Church that It is to the that

completely identif ies himself with the Church that has made official receives derive these pronouncements strong same feeling at of times with submissiveness. that his Epiphanius the sty le representing arrogant

this double the the

identification identif ication



receives character



singles him out among Christian heresiologists.

43 F o r an illustration of Ep iphanius 1 s style argumentation, see the Appendix to this Chapter.


3 Append ix :


Anti-Gnostic Polemics

The Style of Argumentation in Pan.haer.27

We shall illustrate our comments on Epiphanius1 s style of argumentation by present ing a paraphrase and summary of the It section should be 25 on the Carpocratians that, wh ich (Pan.haer. 27.1.1-8.4). are of recalled and 26, for Epiphanius, heresies deal with many groups

cumulative and build upon one another. Pan haer.

Thus, coming after

herctics (Nicholas and those connected with him) the heresy of t.ie Carpocratians The refutation is is seen as a climax ; it is presented too, in the sense against that it as having the most deceitful beliefs and immoral practices. cumulative, already refers to arguments advanced other sects

and still valid in the present case. The 1) section, reduced to its essential structure a and

content, goes as follows: Introduction appeared. (27.1.1-2) . He established Then an certain Carpocrates illegitimate His ways are

school in which to teach his pseudo-doctrine. the worst of all. heresy. 2) Exposition of

He contributed his share to the gnostic the doctrine and practices of the Carpocrates splits the world

Carpocratians world.1


above into an unnameable Father and angels who created the Jesus was born like all other men, i.e. from Mary In and Joseph, and was essentially like them, but his sou 1 had more power since it remembered what it had seen above. order to show his power and to escape the angels who made the world, he underwent all earthly experiences, including lawless ones 2 . These experiences liberated his soul which

the Gnost ies, the world is evil (and the angels as well). But this is not the Carpocratian interpretation, according to which nothing is evil in itself as Epiphanius himself reports below: Pan.haer. 27.5.8.
2 Coming after Pan.haer. 26, th is passage seems to mean that Jesus taught the same licentious practices as those attributed to the 'Gnostics-Borborites'.

Appendix reascended to the unknown Father.


Other souls will have the same destiny if they also go through all experiences. the Jews Jesus strength magical and of and perform their did, they might souls If they despise the practices of actions through To that Because than the end, these even thus rise above him even more sacrilegious manifes ted. are welcome.

occult practices the Church and pe rform with

instruments of Satan call themselves Christians, they heap scandal upon the pagans. debauchery and discredit her in the eyes of they spend of of their the time body, in and all all every kinds homosexual Furthermore,

heterosexua i action


kinds of filth and unnameable crime, thinking that if one performs all these act ions during th is 1 i f e and leaves no deed undone, his soul will not have to be reincarnated ; it will will by escape from the body-prison and be free. The body not be saved. nature. They They dare to base such use They painted worship pictures them and and teach ings on statues of

Jesus' words.

Nothing is evil to them since no act is evil

philosophers, and claim to have portraits of Jesus made by Pontius rites. 3) of such Invective impostors. foolish? foolish by (27.7.1). Some I say: We must resist these people are But not not these only are teachings fools led are astray Pilate. perform heathen

by all means and refuse to pay attention to the teachings evidently seduced 4) The of that agree.

things; even

wise men

unless their minds are established in truth. Refutation (27.7 .1-8 . 3 ) . 4a) arguments creation such p ract ices Reasoning angels. They are refuted by themselves. (27.7.1-8) already again angels by opposed here. is to full Simon of and his the magical doct r ine affirms than the Moreover,

apply through

inconsistencies. weaker

a chain of dilemmas, Epiphanius the true God (The truth

a doctrine makes

Th i s is myth and fable.

is that God

himself created all things, visible and invisible.)

3 They evil. say

0 that the world

Anti-Gnostic Polemics and a X X it contains is the

But again they contradict themselves.

For since a

part of the world, be saved, can the comes-3.

i.e. the soul, attains salvation,

whole cannot be said to be utterly evil. angels themselves be bad, from

If the soul can whom the soul

it cannot be bad, though created by angels ; nor

3 As D. Petau remarked (PG 1, cols. 375-376, n. 92), the refutation is not clearly in line with the exposition. From the refutation it appears that Epiphanius attributes two doctrines to the Carpocratians: 1. The world and all created th ings have been made by angels, not by the good supreme God. 2. The world and all that is contained in it are counted among the evils. - Epiphanius refutes both points. First, th is would make God weaker than angels ; s econd, since a part of the whole universe attains salvation, the whole cannot entirely be excluded from the good. - But the second statement contradicts the exposition according to which Carpocratians hold that nothing is evi 1 by nature. This shows that this refutation is thought to apply to other groups as well. Epiphanius attacks elements he has not clearly stated ; similarly, he fails to attack many elements he has presented. The inconvenience implied in such a procedure loses some of its substance if we keep in mind the cumulative character of both heres ies and refutations. However, th is procedure obviously does not lend itself






Epiphanius1 s

incons istencies that we are often confronted with the impossibility of unders tanding what he is say ing. Some of the problems connected with Epiphanius ' s method are analysed by R.M. Hübner, 'Die Hauptquelle des Epiphanius (Pan.haer. 65) über Paulus von Samosata', ZKG 90, 1979, pp. 5 5-74. Hübner states, after comparing Epiphanius and his main source for Pan.haer. 65, Pseudo-Athanasius: 'Diese Gegenüberstellung [von Epiphanius und Ps-Athanasius] zeigen immerhin, warum man den Epiphanius an vielen Stellen nicht verstehen kann. Das dürfte auch für andere Kapitel des Panarions ... lehrreich sein' (p. 69 ). The result of Hübner's analys is, a contribution to 'eine umfassende Quellenanalyse ' (p. 58), is that Pan.haer. 65 is 'ohne Quellenwert 1 (pp. 58, 71). ' Au f die Berichte des Epiphanius [ist] kein Verlass, solange er uns seine Quelle nicht nennt ' (p. 72 ) . Hübner even thinks he has caught Epiphanius in the act of 1 Fälschung' (p. 72) of documents, thus concluding a severe analysis with a negative verdict.

App© Il cl X3£ 4b) The case that same of They are refuted by truth is illustrated has more by (27.8,1-3), and by


argument Jesus. is lies.

scripture mind


Whoever noth ing For

a solid foolish was



there of


Carpocrates 1 and


if Jesus


from Joseph

Mary, as they only must

say, and and is

if he attained Mary the themselves angel for who

salvation, be saved,

then not but the no


demiurge longer

also--that be calied from


them—can them

def icient;



proceeded f rom the

the Father. th is

If it is said that Jesus came is reduced to the same



absurdity as was shown above. born of the virgin Mary, etc.) 5) Invective and

(The truth is that Jesus was




(27.8.3). It is

Such mythmaking

( ôpctuaTUpyriya

) will not stand up.

f ilied with spite and poisonous (\w6ous ) doctrine. 6) Transition to the next heresy (27.8.4). We will

return to this heresy again xatei, like the head of a dragon wi en

After throwing it down of the stick of

the help

their destruction as promised

(with the help of God).

CONCLUSION: CHRISTIAN POLEMICS AND THE EMERGENCE OF ORTHODOXY The writers angry Great idea that the polemical works of early resulted We in the overth row that of Christian wouId some of

heresies had

doubtless betray an inflated confidence in words -- and in words. can concede refused, name Irenaeus in influence on relegating Church ; he to grant counter and even Justin, used the to the Gnostics to the margin of the probably of imitation 'Christians '. at times But he quite his that is,

them the his

enjoyed such sophisticated broad attack. was

inf luence less by the force of the arguments opponents he (arguments in the difficult to appreciate fully) than by course of



Furthermore, even before he started his work the in the victorious process of a main stream. That to the triumph

Church was already engaged to lead

orthodoxy did not develop directly or exclusively from the polemics against heresies. If we look at the period and the situation in perspective, we can state that orthodoxy developed out of a network of concrete decisions which the Church made in s i tu at ions of conf1i ct Harnack 1 s itself such as the confrontation with the Gnostics. With the this we subscribe to judgment the that book





of historyl.

Assuredly our judgment, as well as Harnack's,

1A. Harnack, Zur Quellenkritik des Gnosticismus, Leipzig 1873, p. 81: 1 Diese (= die gnostische Spekulation) hat sich selbst, freilich einem zwingenden Entwicklungsgesetze folgend, ausges trichen aus dem Buche
G îne h same e view was expressed by E. Schwartz in 1908: 'Diese (antignostische) Polemik ist es nicht gewesen, was ihr (der Kirche) den Sieg brachte, sie setzt sogar, wenn die spärliche und chronologisch unsichere Überlieferung nicht täuscht, mit vol 1er Kraft erst ein, nachdem der Kampf entsch ieden ist' (quoted by K. Koschorke, Hippolyts Ketzerbekämpfung und die Polemik gegen die Gnostiker, Wiesbaden 1975, p. 93). deC

Conclusion is to some extent conditioned heresiologists. whether Gnostic incorporated

93 by the presentation of the in genera 1, howeve r,


in patristic writ ings or encountered

in the Nag Hammadi library, lends support to that judgment. gnostic movement did not appeal to large segments of the population. retrospect, center. of its It was incapable of—and perhaps uninterested a ma i ns tream of for position. was Seen in a principle f ragmentation too active a rallying and because to its was in — r e p r e s e n t i n g with in the gnostic message

movement its

it to become stages, an gnostic

Because Christianity was aware of the universality from earliest as the perceived Gnosticism religion, obstacle

Christianity becoming forced own

a universal


to recede. It is

But the movement did not wane without with this point that the following

having allowed Christian polemics to find and develop their style. 1. observations are concerned. The first observation that our analys is sugges ts concerns the evolution of the style of Christian polemics. In considering the sequence of three centuries of polemics, represented here by our three Irenaeus authors, had for one cannot the help being struck by the decline of argumentation (of 'sachliche Auseinandersetzung1). pattern of f ixed his and general of exposition-refutation of views The to be discussion was

compendium somewhat


already developed

bi ased.


however, was

for its own sake and had a broad basis anchored in rational and scriptural elements, the conjunction of which resulted in to theological serve a argumentat ion. problemat ic views in the to In the Elenchos that but of the the A as than refutation is included in the expos it ion which is thus made highly of does thes is, pagan reducibility refutation invective—the reminder of gnostic appear philosophy. either


content of which Church doctrine

is no more rational formulated in

the heretical doctrines just exposed by Epiphanius—or as a as offical

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics pronouncements conform. However fail to We to wh ich the can therefore such 'stubborn' heretics refused to say that the might the write development be, it of

Christian polemics is marked by dialectical impoverishment. disappointing be a result It mirrors heresiologist who were cannot in the instructive. made the changes an

situation that occurred i ncreasingly attack against enemies

from the time of Irenaeus and that impressive and less more abs tract

threatening, rather than ponder over an argument and put it to use in an actual debate. 2. s tudied their of There is no doubt the not, that the of sure, three works in the we have battle of the cut to We reflect is emergence to be cliches an

against heretics. views

The caricaturing of one's opponents and invention But in their works it receives a role The polemists maliciously they are not of averse manifestations heresy. context ;

Christian polemists. increasing on s tatements focussing from

importance. their questionable

shall not enumerate all the cliches thus encountered ; most of them can easily be gathered from the previous chapters. But we do wish (and been to emphasize here of by the the the portrait heretics) beginning of as of the it the heresiarch 11 has consequently argued that,

appears at the end of three centuries of polemics. second century, the tendency of Christian polemists was to identify the heresiarch with the traditional picture of the eschatological the second false prophet 2 . century, and this Starting with the end of aspect of eschatological keeps his

progressively fades out. devi 1 remains false prophet

But a certain connection with the character This dark side will be Increasingly, in

the heresiarch

and false teacher.

developed to its ultimate possibilities.

the writings we have considered, the heresiarch is regarded

2 F . Wisse, "The Epistle of Jude in the History of Heres iology" in Essays on the Nag Hammadi Texts in Honour of Alexander Böhlig, ed. M. Krause, Leiden 1972, pp. 133143.



as demented, anxious to make himself conspicuous by his odd ideas. give by He is filled rein to It with evil intentions etc.). In (to break this way the the he the unity of the community, to make other people sick also, to free their pride, heresiarch does the devil 's will; he is inspired, possessed the devil 3 . This heresiarch debased complete; to the is not with surprising the devi 1 then that when explains why speaks, he can only utter blasphemies, connection is not only The from of a a mentally immorality advocating 'morbid' sick person ; through a is declared of the sexual a morally is even heresiarch licence, and

•procès d'intention' the heresiarch being. it goes

full-fledged libertinism, human sacrifice and ritual crime, furthering rigorism encratism. itself Heresy is always the product of contamination of the soul soul expresses of the with The features been heresiarch the same

by the devil, and this contaminated in endless deviant ways. followers alike; they

are shared in varying degrees by both innocent and vicious have injected contagious virus. The portrait of the heretic thus becomes a caricature of darkness and evil. 1 imb. Difference unity, understood increasingly He must be removed like an unhealthy is taken to be a break of uniformity Church was a of the as in opinions by

as uniformity; doctrinal leaders


strength amidst the vanishing Roman institutions. The connection of heresy with moral failure heresy by is it) only and with mental or weakness suspected 4 . will (whether be a is born out of moral failure or merely accompanied henceforth this

permanent feature of Christian polemics, though at times it insinuated While feature

3 'Organa satanae', as Justin already to Irenaeus, Adv. haer. V.26.2.



4 Such cliches were not invented by the heresiologists. They had already been alleged against the Christians by their first opponents (accusing them of atheism, impiety, debauchery, p r o m i s c u ity, child-murder.. . ) , The heresiologists only received those categories.

3 0

Anti-Gnostic Polemics

reflects the decline of argumentation in the works we have studied, it will remain characteristic of Christ ian polemics even when argumentation reappears in the 12th-13th and in the 16th century. 3. polemics, One s igni f icant characteristic of early Christ ian with a cons iderable that had the import for the following In it, against against against others.

centuries as well, appears clearly in the Elenchos. the very weapons known heretics with in brothers been developed are now bluntly in the for use turned among or pagans,

Church :



in the Panarion

against Origen,

The use of such a heavy arsenal against brothers who merely differed with an author on unsettled matters seems to have been an irresistible those temptation weak for some authors, Once could to particularly initially eas ily be who were of in argumentation. as Christians, who it

this arsenal had been used against thought turned themselves any against

'gnostic brothers' who happened


This phenomenon has its corollary: of Ketzerpolemik into Ketzergeschichte heresies ; these

the transformation during be the third easily

century. refuting

Heresiologists become less interested in properly individual can most

d isqualif ied if by some way they can be ass igned a place in the traditio haereticorum. par excellence. and of Then polemics as such tend to the polemical weapon recede and deterrent history becomes

This peculiar kind of history subordinates them this from type an following of heretics. freely The uses

every th ing to the goal of scaring people away from heresy dissuading who writes to polemist history



impress ive

genealogy :

P. Nautin has promised a study on the sources of heres iology, wh ich he th inks will be found in the 1iterature {primarily ph ilosophical ) of compendia and epitomae. As we saw above, these are the terms used by A. Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums, Leipzig 1888.

Conclusion attributions authors. 4. can look of recent opinions to ancient authors the

97 and,

vice versa, attributions of past positions to contemporary That done, an essential part of refutation itself is viewed as complete. As a consequence of the change just mentioned the 'heresy' is broadened to an extreme degree. field represented in this monograph as having a triple We at the polemical in the three front— concept of

works studied

against sectarian Christians, against Jewish sects, against pagans (to which the Elenchos and the Panarion add a fourth front against some fellow orthodox Christians). 6 distinguished all Christian deserve counted these three fronts most clearly : then some Chris tian Jewish the Gnostics sects, that are but called finally In the as well. heretics, only Elenchos, Irenaeus first of Jewishare diss idents sects 'heresy ' is 'heresy'


among heresies

The concept

then extended the concept

in the Panarion to pagans (although is used to embrace any departures

has here a double sense as we indicated) ; that is to say, whatsoever Such a Likewise (as in f rom the position of the author and his fellows. process made it necessary revelation Christ's always further revelation back is in history. back

to postulate the event of God's pu shed


Epiphanius) in order to make Adam the first Christ ian from whom all heretics, past and present, stand in a position of departure. 5. A few remarks of each can be made here on the different The accounts in a certain measure temperaments of the three polemists we have studied. temperament we cannot author for the differences claim in their polemica1 styles.


to be exhaustive

on this topic, but wish

6we could visualize the situation as follows : is called heretic?' Irenaeus Elenchos Epiphanius pagans Jewish sects sectarian Christians X X X X X X

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics to emphasize We shall the not differences repeat what that we appear said to be most

telling. about Irenaeus, except that he tended to be, if not clearly by temperament, at least decidedly moderate. 'conservative1 He knew how In

to oppose the extremes of moral and disciplinary rigorism, as well as of doctrinal and speculative free-for-al1. bring the Christian movement to ru in. Because of the problems of attribution mentioned above, the author of the Elenchos remains more elusive, for we have to rely exclusively his character. pope his and against and moral on internal evidence to reach He hardly to hides his his But clearly he has a grudge against a lax compromise. in has order both extremes he suspected a subversive element that could

ecclesiastical ambit ions and does not hes i täte to show off learning S imilarly, have an extreme virtue legitimize feelings authority. Epiphanius dislike s trong against The Origen and the Origenists. In the Panarion he appears to for doctrinal compromise.

bishop of Salamis was very respected in his life-time; when he writes against all those who disagree with the official Church, he cannot hide a patriarchal view of himself. strongly his side feels that he has the majority and shows that he wou Id not tolerate He any in the Church on


He seems to be more interested in crushing his lead to the futile our polemists. that from It is to a

opponents than in persuading them. To cont inue th is reflect ion would e xercise a role of in the analyzing the area the of psyche of

might be fruitful to see how such temperaments came to play ecclesiastical of normative politics called emergence of orthodoxy. However, we want





the dialectics of emerging orthodoxy. use the content of the preceding departure.

These remarks will as a point of


Conclusion We said above that orthodoxy that wouId historian the developed shape with out

99 of

s ituations of conflict in which the Church was called upon to make concrete decisions If we try the percept ions we the f irst of the Christianity. combine of the running did face and an those themes to say more about these decisions 7 and can mention four seen in following

participant, through these A.


Christ ianity the

conf1icts; of the

retrospect, of

crucial with

underlying issues can be formulated as follows: Some situations conflict, accompanying challenge for Christianity, were . encounter with Judaism: danger of remaining encounter wi th the Gent iles : danger of a sect ; its its danger of losing its Christological distinctiveness; losing monotheistic dist inctiveness; . encounter with identity gnostic groups : danger of losing religion; danger of as historical becoming

elitist and esoteric; . encounter with Graeco-Roman cults: danger of idolatry and syncretism; . encounter down with the Roman Empire: religious danger of play ing its distinctive with characte r; danger of danger of

overadaptation; . encounter Hellenistic ph ilosophy: being dissolved into philosophic doctrines; danger of losing its historical character; . encounter with Roman law: danger of losing its prophetic and eschatological character; danger of structural assimilation. B. Some of the concrete decisions that had to be made

pertained to . membership: . discipline: limitation or universality; rigorism or 'indulgence1;

The decisions we have in mind here are those that the Church was forced to take before being able to account for them in a fully rational way.


3 0 . authority : . doctrine :

Anti-Gnostic Polemics scripture-tradition or Spirit ; hierarchy, college or people ; positivism or free speculation; esoteric or exoteric ; elitist or popular; . adaptation: partial or total ; rejection of Zeitgeist or coming to

terms with it. The option of for universality, present the in the original to the

message (women,

Christianity, civil

determined of f icers, Such

miss ion

Gentiles and provided an impetus for the admission of all slaves, nationals, a movement illiterate might have became a people, philosophers, 2nd etc.).

been favoured by the denationalizing and 3rd centuries.8

of the Empire in the truly

But Christianity

mass-movement when the Church decided, around the middle of the 3rd century, to re-admit the lapsi9. the second half in was of the to could the 4 th it (e.g. 3rd century, a s tate-church universality prevail. groups extent, reactionary the Encratites, enthusiastic Montan ists), wh ich century. have been If It triumphed in becoming drive had the to the toward before


'centrist ' mood otherwise? had to and, drive


Extremist ret reat: to (e.g. some the

jeopardized Montanists ) ,

th i s


Judeo-Christ ians rigor i s t


those opposing extravagant

the readmission of the lapsi ), enthusiasts or (e.g. the speculators 'pessimistic

radicals or optimistic

enthusiasts' (e.g. the G n o s t i c s —

in a word, all groups

8 S e e F . W . Kantzenbach , Christentum in der Gesellschaft, Bd. 1, Alte Kirche und Mittelalter, Hamburg 1975, p. 90.

9see Kantzenbach, Christentum, pp. 74, 85-87. l^The Gnostics are characterized in this way by F. Wisse,'"The Opponents" in the New Testament in the Light of the Nag Hammad i W r i t i n g s ' , in A c t e s du Colloque international sur les t e x t e s d e Nag Hammadi d'août 1978, ed. BT Bare, Québec (forthcoming).

Conclusion opting concerns umbrella for some be in form of elitism. 11 re-admitted so But under that even the

101 elitist Church 's no

will (e.g.




barrier will be put to universality once effective control is established. century, that language.^ It was not only the drive toward universality that led to the building of a wide centrist position. base is always toward concerned necessitated some form of with both by the society those This broad of any To development Progressively, as can be seen in the 4 th control becomes reducible to a control of

institutional stability, upon universality and stability,

which the continued existence of that society depends. plural ism is intolerable. agreement is a necessity. The considered the crisis development of a centrist pos i t ion can

The formation of a wide basis of be

from a different perspective. of existence, arbitrarily, the crisis dates of

In the life of a relevance, the these

social group, three moments of cris is can be distinguished: crisis of could, of early Christianity, we to each of

i d e n t i t y . T h i n k i n g



U s e e Kantzenbach, Christentum, p. 52. l 2 ït would be instructive to compare the emergence of orthodoxy to the contemporary formation of unanimous communities and art if ical societies, such as the communist party, the societies of psychoanalysis, etc. This idea is suggested to us by V. Descombes, Le même et l'autre. Quarante ans de philosophie française, Paris 1979, pp. 124130. In such societies the function of a common language is decisive to the point that the ascendency of the institution over the individuals can be reduced to the domination of a language. The social bond is so grounded in language that altering the language is perceived as a subversion of the community. l^These moments are suggested by J. Moltmann's analysis of the contemporary scene in terms of relevance and identity in The Cr u c i f ied God, London 1974, pp. 7-21, and by Th. Baumeister*s application of Moltmann's analysis to early Christianity in Montanismus und Gnostizismus , TrTZ 87, 1978, pp. 44-60. Baumeister thinks (pp. 44-45) that our time of rap id social change presents many similarities with the beginnings of Christianity.

3 0 moments: the time

Anti-Gnostic Polemics the year 70 (the loss of the home-base), the year of Hadrian), from the year 150 on (need for

13 5 (adaptation to the Zeitgeist and ecumenical momentum at strengthening cohesion brought about by an adaptation that might go too far, accompanied by the temptation to form a ghetto against the dangers of dispersion in the surrounding world). them as Instead of thinking and of these moments in of an the historical sequence, however, it seems more accurate to see complementary permanent features That Christian movement in the f irst centuries. is, the

existence of the Christian movement is always threatened by persecutions ; the need for adaptation is present as soon as the movement turns to the Gentiles and becomes aware of its universal character ; the awareness of being different


well as being most 'ancient ) is expressed in the original message and will be constantly affirmed. While the drive toward orthodoxy is realized through Once

moments determined by both the crisis of relevance and that of identity, it seems to stand closer to the latter. the Christian movement succeeded in establishing once it reached a large social basis in maintaining itself and in the Roman world, certainty distinctiveness

a degree of self-confidence and

about its future, the need to af f irm this was felt in a renewed way. spec if ic difference and

Excessive concern for relevance

had to be tempered by an insistence on what constitutes the the unique character of movement. In other words, the drive toward relevance and universality is limited by the drive toward identity. In movement Total the second rejecting to and its third centuries, through to be and felt the a too Christian series into of the extreme. asserted difference elements the world

exclus ions,



ghetto were both seen as threats to the very existence of the movement. A number of possibilities on both extremes had to be ruled out; again, but this time for the sake of the movement 's distinctiveness, a centrist position had to be developed.

Conclusion In order not to yield to a spatial view of

103 the

emergence of orthodoxy, we may express the same idea «Dre accurately in other words. a

Identity is constituted through whereby from it is affirmed 'truth* that from 'dream',



partitions to be 'old' from it

reality' has


'arbitrariness', those

'new', ' reason' from have talk reached about a

'folly * — stage of and

in short, 'we' from 'others'. partitions, which must the development allows

In order for a group to make majority

consent to have meaning and to correspond to truth-claims. This is not the case in early stages of a movement, nor are these stages the times in which concerns for orthodoxy prevai1. impressed of slowly Such concerns do prevail when the group, which its relevance upon masses and is in the process becoming depends an on institution. The strength of the the strength of its social basis;

might have had charismatic features in its beginnings, has


its authority truth is

is expressed on

and enhanced by appeals to its agreements. It its truth But resides the all in

'antiquity' as well as to the 'majority' it represents; its founded is as doctr inal institution d isagreement also hypersens it ive. Since interprets

oppos ition.

consent, dissent forms obstruction to truth. to disappear. Naturally of the criterion of doctrinal

If the truth

is to recover its integrity, the deviant has to recant, or



consent is the ground of intolerance.

Dissenters, because

the vital threat they represent to the integrity, even They are in league with the arch-enemy who of the movement ; they sell out the

to the very existence of truth, have to be depicted in the blackest terms. wants the ruin

distinctive character of Christianity to the pagans and the surrounding world ; they exclude the majority subtle, and so on. Because of the by being too of the seriousness

threat they represent, dissenters have lost their rights to exist in the Church, even to exist at all. Orthodoxy was thus born in the wake of Christianity's search for its difference and identity. Heavy sacrifices

3 0 Anti-Gnostic Polemics had to be accepted as well as unfortunate losses. not easily cease even after the search had achieving normative self-definition. They did in


In this light, it is

but a slight consolation to assert that it is indeed a curious quirk of history that western Rome was destined the determinative to begin to exert influence upon a religion

which had its cradle in the Orient, so as to give it that form in wh ich it was to ach ieve worldwide inflexibly recogn i t ion. orders life But in as an otherwith a wordly religion that despises this world and accord superhuman standard religious and as a tide that has descended from

heaven, or as a complicated mystery cult for intellectual connoisseurs, or fanatical have enthusiasm ach ieved that su c h of

swells today and ebbs tomorrow, Christianity never could recognition. The more conf idence it of to a rigid orthodoxy appears, the more it loses to for the it is that the all

that new for of

the movement opening to the

is sufficiently world. and The

powerful concern in

maintain itself,3-5 u nt il renewed search for relevance cal Is orthodoxy thus appears as a dialectical moment (the moment care distinctiveness identity ) or development In a social movement ; sooner the temptation form of consists later

accompanied by another moment, that of care for relevance. this process and in thinking achieved to wh ich orthodoxy, perfect in one historical final situât ion, has realization

subsequent forms have to be measured and reduced. lure.


to say, such a temptation has never failed to exercise its

1 . Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy Christianity, Philadelphia 1971, p. 240.



S e e Moltmann, Crucified God, p. 19.

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