CHAPTER II. HERESIES OF THE SECOND CENTURY. – l.-Corpocrates. 2.- Valentine. 3.-Epiphanes. 4.-Prodicus. 5.-Tatian. 6.-Sevems. 7.-Cerdonius. 8.-Marcion. 9.-Apelles. 10-Montanus. ll.-Cataphrigians, Artotirites, Peputians, Ascodrogites, Pattalorinchites. 12.-Bardesanes, 13.-Theodotus the Currier, Artemon, and Theodotus Argentarius. 14.-Hermogenes.
- Corpocrates was a native of Alexandria, or, as others say, of Samosata. His followers were called Gnostics that is, learned or enlightened. He said that Jesus Christ was the son of Joseph, born as other men are, and distinguished from them by his virtue alone, and that the world was created by angels. Another blasphemous doctrine of his was, that, to unite ourselves with God, we should practise all the unclean works of concupiscence; our evil propensities should be followed in everything, for this, he said, was the enemy spoken of in the Gospel (1), to which we should yield, and, by this means, we show our contempt for the laws of the wicked angels, and acquire the summit of perfection; and the soul, he said, would pass from one body to another till it had committed all sorts of unclean actions. Another of his doctrines was, that every one had two souls, for without the second, he said, the first would be subject to the rebellious angels. The followers of this hellish monster called themselves Christians, and, as a distinctive mark, they branded the lower part of the ear with a red iron. They paid the same veneration to the images of Pythagoras, Plato, and the other philosophers, as to that of Jesus Christ. Corpocrates lived in the year 160.
- Valentine, who, it was supposed, was an Egyptian, separated himself from the Church, because he was disappointed in obtaining a bishopric. He came to Rome in 141, and abjured his errors, but soon again embraced them, and persevered in them till his death (2). He invented a fabulous genealogy of Eons or Gods; and another of his errors was, that Jesus Christ did not become incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, but brought his body from heaven. He admitted in man a continual exercise of spirit, which, uniting with the flesh, rendered lawful every sensual pleasure; and he divided mankind into three classes the carnal, the animal, and the spiritual. His followers, he said, were the spiritualists, and, on that account, were exempt from the necessity of good works, because, having arrived at the apex of perfection, and being certain of eternal felicity, it was useless for them to suffer, or observe the law. The carnal, he said, were excluded from eternal salvation and predestined to hell (3).
(1) N. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 2; Flemy, l. 3, n. 20; Berti, t. 1, c. 3; Bernin. t. 1, c. 2. (2) Van Ranst, His. p. 20. (3) Fleury, t. 1, l. 3, n. 2627; Bernin. t. 1, c. 5; Graveson, t. 3, . 49; N. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 6.
Three sects take their origin from Valentine. The first were called Sethites : These paid such honour to Seth, that they said Jesus Christ was born of him, and some went so far as to say that Jesus Christ and Seth were one and the same person. The second sect were called Cainites : These venerated as saints all those who the Scripture tells us were damned as Cain, Core, the inhabitants of Sodom, and especially Judas Iscariot. The third were called Ophites : These said that Wisdom became a serpent, and; on that account, they adored Jesus Christ as a serpent; they trained one of these reptiles to come out of a cave when called, and creep up on the table where the bread for sacrifice was placed; they kissed him while he crept round the bread, and, considering it then sanctified by the reptile, whom they blasphemously called Christ, they broke it to the people, who received it as the Eucharist (4).
Ptolemy and Saturninus were disciples of Valentine; but their master admitted thirty Eons, and they added eight more. He also had other disciples : Heraclion, whose followers invoked over the dead certain names of principalities, and anointed them with oil and water; Marcus and Colarbasus taught that all truth was shut up in the Greek alphabet, and, on that account, they called Christ Alpha and Omega (5); and Van Ranst adds to the list the Arconticites, who rejected the sacraments Florinus, who said that God was the author of sin and Blastus (6), who insisted that Easter should be celebrated after the Jewish fashion. The disciples of Valentine made a new Gospel, and added various books to the Canon of the Scriptures, as ” The Parables of the Lord,” ” The Prophetic Sayings and the Sermons of the Apostles.” It is needless to add that all these were according to their own doctrines.
- Epiphanes, the son of Carpocrates, besides defending the damnable opinions of his father, openly rejected the law of Moses, and especially the two last precepts of the Decalogue. He also rejected the Gospel, though he pretended to follow it (7).
(4) Fleury, t. 1, 1. 3, n. 30; Bernin. t. 1, c. 2; Van Ranst, p. 20.
(5) Fleury, l. 3, n. 30, l. 4, n. 9 & 10.
(6) Van Ranst, p. 22. (7) Fleury, l. 3, n. 20; Bern. t. 1, c. 2.
- Prodicus taught that it was lawful to deny the faith to avoid death; he rejected the worship of an invisible God, and adored the four elements and the sun and the moon; he condemned all prayers to God as superstitious, but he prayed to the elements and the planets to be propitious to mankind (8). This impious worship he always performed naked. Noel Alexander and Theodoret assign to this heretic the institution of the sect called Adamites; these always performed their religious exercises in their churches, or rather brothels, as St. Epiphanius calls them, naked, pretending by this to imitate the innocence of Adam, but, in reality, practising every abomination (9).
- Tatian was born in Assyria, and was a disciple of St. Justin Martyr. He was the founder of the sect called Encratics, or Continent; he taught, with Valentine, that matter was uncreated and eternal; he attributed the creation to God, but through the instrumentality of an inferior Eon, who said let there be light, not by way of command, but of supplication, and thus light was created. He denied, with Valentine, the resurrection of the dead, and human flesh, he said was too unworthy to be united with the divinity in the person of Christ. He deprived man of free will, saying he was good and spiritual, or bad and carnal, by necessity, according as the seed of divine grace was infused or not into him; and he rejected the law of Moses, as not instituted by God, but by the Eon who created the world. Finally, he condemned matrimony, prohibited the use of flesh-meat and wine, and, because he used nothing but water in the consecration of the chalice, his disciples were called Hydroparastati, or Aquarii (10).
- Severus was a disciple of Tatian; but differed from his master in some essential points, especially in admitting the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Gospels. Julius Capianus, a disciple of Valentine, joined with Severus, and was the founder of the heresy of the Doceti, who said that Jesus had not a real, but an apparent, body. He wrote a book on continence, in which he quoted a passage of the spurious gospel used by the Egyptians, in which Jesus Christ is made to curse matrimony. In his commentaries on Genesis he says marriage was the forbidden fruit (11).
(8) Bern. loc. cit. (9) N. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 12; Gotti, Ver. Eel. t. 2, c, 27, s. 1; Bernin. loc. cit.
(10) Orsi, t. 2, l. 4, n. 11; Fleury, t, 1, l. 4, n. 8; Baron. An. 174, n.3, 4; N. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 7. (11) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 8; Orsi, loc, cit. n. 12.
- Cerdonius followed the doctrines of Simon, Menander, and Saturninus; besides, he taught, with Maims, the existence of two first principles, or Gods, a good and a bad one, and admitted the resurrection of the soul, but not of the body. He rejected all the Gospels, except St. Luke’s, and mutilated that in several places (12).
- Marcion was a native of the city of Sinope, in the province of Pontus, and the son of a Catholic bishop. In his early days he led a life of continence and retirement; but for an act of immorality he was cut off from the Church by his own father. He then went to Rome, and endeavoured to accomplish his restoration; but not being able to succeed, he, in a fit of rage, said ” I will cause an eternal division in your Church.” He then united himself to Cerdonius, admitting two principles, and founding his doctrine on the sixth chapter of St. Luke, where it is said a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruits. The good principle, he said, was the author of good, and the bad one of evil; and the good principle was the father of Jesus Christ, the giver of grace, and the bad one, the creator of matter and the founder of the law. He denied the incarnation of the Son of God, saying it was repugnant to a good God to unite himself with the filthiness of flesh, and that his soul should have for a companion a body infected and corrupt by nature. He also taught the existence of two Gods one, the good God; the other, an evil one, the God of the Jews, and the creator of the world. Each of these Gods promised to send a Christ. Our Christ appeared in the reign of Tiberius, and was the good Christ; the Jewish Christ did not yet come. The Old Testament he rejected, because it was given by the bad principle, or God of the Jews. Among other errors, he said, that when Jesus descended into hell, he did not save Abel, or Henoc, or Noah, or any other of the just of the old law, because they were friends of the God of the Jews; but that he saved Cain, the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, because they were the enemies of this God (13).
(12) Fleury, l. 3, n. 30; Nat. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 4; Orsi, t. 2, l. 3, n. 44. (13) Orsi, t. 2, L 3, n. 45; N. Alex. t. 6, c.
3, ar. 5; Baron. Ann. 146, n. 9, &c.; Fleury, t. 1, l. 3, n. 34.
- Apelles, the most famous disciple of Marcion, was excommunicated by his master for committing a crime against chastity, and felt his disgrace so much that he fled to Alexandria. This heretic, among other errors, said that God created a number of angels and powers, and among the rest a power called the Lord, who created this world to resemble the world above, but not being able to bring it to perfection, he repented him of having created it (14). Van Ranst says that he rejected the Prophecies, and said the Son of God took a body of air which, at his ascension, dissolved into air again.
- Montanus, as Cardinal Orsi tells us (15), was born in Ardraba, an obscure village of Mysia. He first led such a mortified life that he was esteemed a saint; but, possessed by the demon of ambition, his head was turned. He began to speak in an extraordinary manner, make use of unknown words, and utter prophecies in contradiction to the traditions of the Church. Some thought him possessed by a spirit of error; others looked on him as a saint and prophet. He soon acquired a number of followers, and carried his madness to the utmost excess; among others who joined him were two loose women of the names of Prisca or Priscilla and Maximilla, and, seemingly possessed by the same spirit as himself, they uttered the most extraordinary rhodomontades. Montanus said that he and his prophetesses received the plenitude of the Holy Ghost, which was only partially communicated to others, and he quoted in his favour that text of St. Paul (I. Corinthians, xiii, 9), ” By part we know, and by part we prophesy ;” and they had the madness to esteem themselves greater than the apostles, since they had received the Holy Ghost promised by Jesus Christ in perfection. They also said that God wished, at first, to save the world, by means of Moses and the prophets; when he saw that these were not able to accomplish it, he himself became incarnate; but even this not sufficing, he descended in the Holy Ghost into Montanus and his prophetesses. He established nine fasting-days and three Lents in the year. Among other errors he prohibited his disciples to fly from persecution, and refused to admit sinners to repentance, and prohibited second marriages (16).
(14) Fleury, loc. cit. . 35, (15) Orsi, t. 2, l. 4, n. 17. (16) Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 5, c. 15.
Eusebius tells us that he died miserably, having hanged himself (17).
- The heresy of Montanus shot forth different branches, as the Cataphrigians, Artotirites, Peputians, Ascodrogites, and Pattalorinchites. The Cataphrigians were called from the nation to which Montanus belonged. The Eucharistic bread they used was made of flour and blood taken from the body of an infant by puncturing it all over; if the infant died he was considered a martyr, but if he survived he was regarded as high priest. This we learn from Noel Alexander (18). The Artotirites were so called, because in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, they offered up bread and cheese. The Peputians took their name from an obscure village of Phrigia, where they held their solemn meetings; they ordained women priests and bishops, saying there was no difference between them and men. The Ascodrogites were no better than the ancient bacchanalians; they used bottles which they filled with wine near the altars, saying that these were the new bottles Jesus Christ spoke of ” They shall put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” The Pattalorinchites were so called, because they wore a small stick in the mouth or nose, a sign of strict silence; they were so called, from pattalos, a stick, and rinchos, the nose (19).
- Bardesanes, a native of Edessa, in Syria, lived in this age also. He was celebrated in the time of Marcus Aurelius for his learning and constancy in defending the faith. He told the Philosopher Apollonius, the favourite of the Emperor, who endeavoured to pervert him, that he was ready to seal his belief with his blood. He opposed the errors of Valentine; but, being educated in his school, he was infected with some of them, especially disbelieving the resurrection of the dead. He wrote many works in refutation of the heresies of his day, especially an excellent treatise on fate, which St. Jerome, in his catalogue of ecclesiastical writers, praises highly. We may truly say, with Noel Alexander, that the fall of so great a man is to be lamented (20).
(17) Baron. An. 173, n. 20; N. Alex. t. 6, sec. 2, c. 3, ar. 8; Fleury, t. 1, 1. 4, n. 5; Bernin. t. 1, c. 8; Orsi, t. 2, L 4, n. 18.
(18) Nat. Alex. cit. ar. 8, n. 11; St. Angus. & St. Cyril. [St. Epiphanius says it is the Peputians.]
(19) Van Ranst, His. Heres. p. 24; Vedia anche Nat. Alex. loc. cit.
(20) Nat. Alex. t. 6, c. 3, ar. 9; Van Ranst, p. 24.
- Theodotus the Currier, so called on account of his trade, was a native of Byzantium, and he, along with Artemon, asserted like Ebion and Cerinthus, that Christ was mere man. Besides this there was another Theodotus, called Argentarius, or the Banker, who taught that Melchisadech was Christ, or even greater than Christ, on account of that verse of the Psalms ” Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisadech ;” and his followers were afterwards called Melchisadechites (21).
- Hermogenes said that matter was uncreated and eternal. Tertullian, Eusebius, and Lactanctius refuted this error. He also taught that the devils would hereafter be united with matter and that the body of Jesus Christ was in the sun (22).
(21) N. Alex. loc. cit. ar. 10; Fleury, f. 1, l. 4, n. 33, 34. (22) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 21; N. Alex, loc. cit. ar. 15.