BASILIDIANS: So-called after Basilides, a native of Alexandria who flourished under the Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius from about 120 to 140. Of his life we know nothing except that he had a son Isidore who followed in his footsteps. One of the maxims of Basilides was: "Know others, but let no one know you".
      The Basilidians held fabulous views on the Deity; rejected Revelation and claimed the God of the Jews to be only an angel; held that angels created the world; denied the humanity and miracles of Jesus; denied the resurrection of the body, and believed that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in place of Christ who returned to His Father unharmed.

CARPOCRATIANS: Followers of Carpecrates, an Alexandrian philosopher, who flourished during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138). They are also called "gnostics", that is, learned or enlightened.
      The Carpocratians held that everyone has two souls; believed in the transmigration of souls; maintained that the world was created by angels; denied the divinity of Christ, and advocated the practice of immorality as a means of union with God.

VALENTINIANS: A sect named after Valentine, an Egyptian, who separated himself from the Church because he was disappointed in not obtaining a bishopric. He came to Rome during the pontificate of Hyginus (136-140) and remained until the pontificate of Anicetus (155-166). At first he abjured his errors but again embraced them, and persevered in them until his death, which occurred in Cyprus about 160. The religious system of Valentine was extremely comprehensive and the most widely diffused of all the forms of Gnosticism. His school was divided into two branches, the Oriental and the Italian. The former was spread through Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor; the latter in Rome, Italy and Southern Gaul.
      Valentine invented an absurd genealogy of Eons and gods; denied that Mary was the Mother of God; taught justification by faith alone; held matter to be eternal, and denied free-will and the resurrection of the body.

MARCIONITES: Followers of Marcion, the son of the Bishop of Sinope in Pontus, born about 110. For some fault not definitely known to history he was excommunicated by his father. At this time it appears that he was suffragan bishop to his father, to whom he appealed for re-admission into the Church. Reconciliation being refused him, he travelled to Rome where he united with Cerdo and began propagating heretical doctrines. Tertullian relates in 207 that Marcion professed penitence and accepted as condition for his re-admission into the Church that he should bring back to the fold those whom he had led astray. But he died before he could carry out his good intentions.
     Marcion taught the existence of two gods, the one good and the other evil; denied the Incarnation of Christ, and rejected the Old Testament.

CERDONIANS: Disciples of Cerdo, a Syrian, who came to Rome about the year 139 under the pontificate of Hyginus (136-140).
      He taught that there were two gods, one good, the other evil; denied the resurrection of the body, and prohibited marriage, wine and the eating of flesh.

EBIONITES: Followers of what modern critics hold to be a suppositious character known as Ebion. It is doubtful whether such a person ever existed.
      The Ebionites denied the divinity of Christ; rejected all the New Testament except the Gospel of St. Matthew, which they mutilated; taught that some men were created by good angels, others by bad ones; considered St. Paul a heretic, and practiced free-love.

DOCETAE: According to Clement of Alexandria a distinct religious sect founded by one Julius Cassianus, about whom little is known except that he was a disciple of Valentine.
      They practically denied the Incarnation of God in Christ. Some affirmed the body of Christ to have been a mere deceptive appearance, others only denied its fleshly character, but the object of all was to render the conceptions of Christ's life on earth less material and more spiritual.

MONTANISTS: So-called after Montanus, a Phrygian who appears to have been a priest of Cybele. He was converted about the year 150 and soon after began to fall into fits of ecstasy and to utter "prophecies". He was joined by two women of wealth and high social position, Maximilla and Priscilla, who deserted their husbands and became "prophetesses". Expelled from the Church, Montanus set up for himself, organizing a body of preachers to be supported by the voluntary contributions of his followers. Eusebius says that he died miserably by hanging himself.
     Montanus claimed to have received a new revelation from God, the Mosaic and Christian dispensations having failed. He prescribed at first two, and afterwards three, annual fasts of a week instead of one such fast; forbade all second marriages; refused restoration to all such as had been guilty of murder, adultery or idolatry; required the veiling of virgins in the assemblies of the Church. The novelty of Montanus' teaching was not so much in the things themselves as his prescribing them under obedience to a new express revelation.

ENCRATITES: A religious sect supported by Tatian, a Christian apologist, who was born in Assyria about 110. Later he went to Rome where he taught rhetoric. He enjoyed the friendship of Justin Martyr and was converted by him to Christianity about 152. His work, "An Address to the Greeks", is one of the earliest apologies directed against the pagan philosophers. After the death of Justin, about 167, Tatian returned to the East and adopted very strange ideas of the gnostic variety, identifying himself with the Encratites. One of his best known disciples was Severus, Bishop of Gabala in Spain, who added new life and strength to the sect as well as differed from his master in a few essential points. Due to him the Encratites are sometimes called "Severians".
     They held that matter was uncreated and eternal; attributed creation of some things to God, but only through the instrumentality of an inferior Eon; denied the resurrection of the dead and free-will; rejected the Law of Moses; condemned matrimony, the use of flesh and wine, and used only water in the Eucharistic rite. For this reason they are sometimes called "Aquarii."

ALOGI: The members of this sect rejected John's authorship of the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse, and in general all writings in which the Logos is mentioned. Hence their name, which, according to their enemies, also proclaimed them to be without reason. It is difficult to trace their origin to any one individual.

MONARCHIANS: The word" Monarchian" was first used by Tertullian as a nickname for a group of heretics known as Patripassionists in the West and Sabellians in the East, but was seldom used by the ancients. In modern times it has been extended to include an earlier group of heretics known as Theodotians. Thus there are two branches of what are now known as Monarchians, the Theodotians and the group comprised of the Patripassionists and the Sabellians. These two branches are also sometimes classified as Dynamistic and Modalist Monarchians respectively, and at other times are united under the single name of Antitrinitarians. Their founder was Praxeas, a native of Phrygia and an early anti-Montanist. He is known to us only through Tertullian's book "Adversus Praxeam", where he is described as being inflated with pride as a Confessor of the Faith because he had spent a short time in prison. He was probably the first of the Monarchians to visit Rome, where he was well received by the Pope about 190-198, with whom he used his influence against the Montanists.
       The Modalist Monarchians, the Monarchians properly so-called denied the Mystery of the Trinity, and held that God the Father and God the Son were one and the same person.

ADOPTIONISTS: The sect originally called Theodotians after their leader, a leather-seller of Byzantium, who came to Rome under Pope Victor about 190-200, or earlier. In later years they have been called "Adoptionists", or, as stated under "Monarchians", are sometime classed as Dynamistic Monarchians, though they have no logical claim to the latter title.      . The Adoptionists denied the divinity of Christ and apparently made a distinction between Jesus and Christ.

ADAMITES: A very immoral sect whose origin is traced to a certain Prodicus.
    They rejected the worship of an invisible God; practiced idolatry, condemned marriage and believed their church to be Paradise.

ANTIDICOMARIANITES: An eastern sect which has been so designated because they were opponents of Mary. It is difficult to trace their origin to any particular individual.
     They denied that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ.


©1997-1998, Catholic Truth Publications
Last edited March 17, 1998