Nicolaism

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Nicolaism is a Christian heresy, first mentioned (twice) in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament. According to Revelation 2, vv. 6 and 15, they were known in the cities of Ephesus and Pergamon. In this chapter, the church at Ephesus is commended for "hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" and the church in Pergamon is blamed for "having them who hold their [the Nicolaitans'] doctrines". There is no other first-hand evidence to give us certainty about the nature of this sect.

Several of the early church fathers, including Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Theodoret mentioned this group. Irenaeus discusses them but adds nothing to the Apocalypse except that "they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence."[1] Hippolytus of Rome states that the deacon Nicolas was the author of the heresy and the sect.[2] Victorinus of Pettau states that they ate things offered to idols.[3] Bede states that Nicolas allowed multiple men to marry his wife.[4] Eusebius said that the sect was short-lived.[5] Thomas Aquinas was of the belief that Nicholas supported either polygamy or the holding of wives in common.[6]

Contents

Interpretations

Nicolaism (also Nicholaism, Nicolationism, or Nicolaitanism) is a Christian heresy whose adherents are called Nicolaitans, Nicolaitanes, or Nicolaites. Nico means "conquer" in Greek, and laitan refers to lay people, or laity; hence, the word may be taken to mean "lay conquerors" or "conquerors of the lay people". However, "Nicolaitan" is the name ostensibly given to followers of the heretic Nicolas (Greek: Nikolaos)—the name itself meaning "victorious over people," or "victory of the people," which he would have been given at birth.[7]

The common statement, that the Nicolaitanes held the antinomian heresy of Corinth, seems not to have been proven. Another opinion, favoured by a number of authors, is that, because of the allegorical character of the Apocalypse, the reference to the Nicolaitans is merely a symbolic manner of reference.[8]

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