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§ 122. The Nicolaitans.


Irenaeus: Adv. Haer. I. 26, 3; Clement Of Alex.: Strom. III. 4 (and in Euseb. H. E. III. 29); Hippolytus: Philos. VII. 24; Epiphanius: Haer. I. 2, 25.


The Nicolaitans are mentioned as a licentious sect in the Apocalypse 2:6, 15. They claimed as their founder Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch and one of the seven deacons of the congregation of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). He is supposed to have apostatized from the true faith, and taught the dangerous principle that the flesh must be abused,836836    Δεῖ καταχρῆσθαι τῇ σαρκί.36 that is, at least as understood by his disciples, one must make the whole round of sensuality, to become its perfect master.

But the views of the fathers are conflicting. Irenaeus (who is followed substantially by Hippolytus) gives a very unfavorable account.

"The Nicolaitanes," he says, "are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, where they are represented as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: ’But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.’ "

Clement of Alexandria says that Nicolas was a faithful husband, and brought up his children in purity, but that his disciples misunderstood his saying (which he attributes also to the Apostle Matthias), "that we must fight against the flesh and abuse it."837837    He adds the curious statement (Strom. III.c. 4) that on a certain occasion Nicolas was sharply reproved by the Apostles as a jealous husband, and repelled the charge by offering to allow his beautiful wife to become the wife of any other person. Extremely improbable.37



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