« Carpocrates, philosopher Cassianus, Julius, a heretical teacher Cassianus, bishop of Autun »

Cassianus, Julius, a heretical teacher

Cassianus (2) Julius, a heretical teacher who lived towards the end of the 2nd cent., chiefly known to us by references to his writings made on two occasions by Clemens Alexandrinus. In the first passage (Strom. i. 21, copied by Eusebius, Praep. Ev. x. 12) Clement engages in a chronological inquiry to shew the greatly superior antiquity of Moses to the founders of Grecian philosophy, and he acknowledges himself indebted to the previous investigations made by Tatian in his work addressed to the Greeks, and by Cassian (spelt Casianus in the MS. of Clement, but not in those of Eusebius) in the first book of his Exegetica. Vallarsi (ii. 865) alters without comment the Cassianus of previous editors into Casianus, in Jerome's Catalogue 33, a place where Jerome is not using Clement directly, but is copying the notice in Eusebius (H. E. vi. 13). Jerome adds that he had not himself met the chronological work in question. In the second passage (Strom. iii. 13, seq.) Cassian is also named in connexion with Tatian. Clement is, in this section, refuting the doctrines of those Gnostics who, in their view of the essential evil of matter, condemned matrimony and the procreation of children; and after considering some arguments urged by Tatian, says that similar ones had been used by Julius Cassianus whom he describes as the originator of Docetism (ὁ τῆς δοκήσεως ἐξάρχων), a statement which must be received with some modification. [Docetae.] He quotes some passages from a treatise by Cassian on Continence (περὶ ἐγκρατείας, ἢ περὶ εὐνουχίας), in which he wholly condemned sexual intercourse, and referred its origin to instigations of our first parents by the serpent, alleging in proof II. Cor. xi. 3. Cassian quoted Is. lvi. 3, Matt. xix. 12, and probably several other passages which are discussed by Clement without express mention that they had been used by Cassian. Cassian also uses certain alleged sayings of our Lord, cited likewise in the so-called second epistle of the Roman Clement to the Corinthians, cap. xii., as well as in the Excerpta Theodoti, lxvii. p. 985. Lightfoot notices (Clement, l.c.) that Cassian, by the omission of a clause, makes the Encratite aspect of the passage much stronger than it appears in the citation of the Pseudo-Clement. Clemens Alexandrinus makes no complaint of unfairness in the quotation; but while he remarks that the sayings in question are not found in our four Gospels, but only in the Gospel according to the Egyptians, he gives a different explanation far less natural than that of Cassian.

Another specimen of Cassian's arguments in this treatise is preserved in Jerome's Commentary on Gal. vi. 8. Jerome there answers an Encratite argument founded on this text, viz. that he who is united to a woman soweth to the flesh, and therefore shall of the flesh reap corruption. This argument is introduced with words which, according to the common reading, run, "Tatianus qui putativam Christi carnem introducens, omnem conjunctionem masculi ad foeminam immundam arbitratur, tali adversum nos sub occasione praesentis testimonii usus est argumento." There is little doubt that we are to read instead of Tatianus, Cassianus. The Benedictine editor who retains the old reading notes that Cassianus is the reading of two of the oldest MSS., while Vallarsi says that Cassianus was the reading of every MS. he had seen.

The Docetism of Cassian was closely connected with his Encratism, for it was an obvious answer of the orthodox to his doctrine on Continence, that if the birth of children were essentially evil, then our Lord's own birth was evil, and His mother an object of blame. This was met by a denial of the reality of our Lord's body. Cassian also taught that man had not been originally created with a body like ours, but that these fleshly bodies were the "coats of skin" in which the Lord clothed our first parents after the Fall. This notion, probably derived from Valentinus (Iren. I. v. p. 27), had considerable currency. References for it will be found in Huet's Origeniana, ii. Qu. 12, viii., and Beausobre, Manichéisme, ii. 135).

Theodoret (Haer. Fab. i. 8) enumerates among the followers of Valentinus one Cossian, by whom, no doubt, Julius Cassianus is intended; for many greater inaccuracies in the names are in the present text of Theodoret, and Theodoret would have found authority in Clement for classing Cassian with Valentinus.

The coincidences between Tatian and Cassianus seem too close to be accidental, but we have not data to determine their relative priority. If Cassian were really the founder of the sect called Docetae, he must have been some time antecedent to Serapion (Eus. H. E. vi. 12). His country may have been Egypt (cf. Harnack, Gesch. der Alt. Chr. Lit. pp. 201–204). [Docetae; Encratites.]

[G.S.]

« Carpocrates, philosopher Cassianus, Julius, a heretical teacher Cassianus, bishop of Autun »





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