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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Epiphanes, a Gnostic Writer
Epiphanes , a Gnostic writer about the middle of the 2nd cent., or earlier. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. iii. p. 511) gives the following account of him. He was the son of Carpocrates, by a mother named Alexandria, a native of Cephallenia. He died at the age of 17, and at Same, a city of Cephallenia, a handsome temple and other buildings were raised in his memory; and at the new moon the Cephallenians were wont to celebrate his apotheosis as a god by sacrifices, libations, banquets, and the singing of hymns. He had been instructed by his father in the ordinary circle of arts and sciences, and in the Platonic philosophy. He was the founder of the "Monadic Gnosis," and from him flowed the heresy of those afterwards known as Carpocratians. He was the author of a work on Justice, which he made to consist in equality. He taught that, God having given His benefits to all alike and in common, human laws are censurable which instituted the distinction of meum and tuum , and which secure to one as his peculiar possession that to which all have an equal right. This communistic doctrine he extended to the sexual relations. Whatever may have been the origin of the phrase "Monadic Gnosis," the doctrine here described seems the direct opposite of Dualism. Instead of accounting for the existence of evil as the work of a hostile principle, this theory would represent moral evil as a mere fiction of human laws, perversely instituted in opposition to the will of the Creator.
There is a passage in Irenaeus (I. xi. 3, p. 54) which, it has been contended, gives us another specimen of the teaching of Epiphanes. In giving an account of the doctrines of some followers of Valentinus, after stating the theory of Secundus, he goes on to mention the description which another "illustrious teacher of theirs" (clarus magister ) gives of the origin of the primary Tetrad. In this the first principle is stated to be one existing before all things, surpassing all thought and speech, which the author calls Oneliness (μονότης ). With this Monotes co-existed a power which he calls Unity (ἑνότης ). This Monotes and Henotes constituting absolute unity (τὸ ἓν οὖσαι ) emitted (though not in any proper sense of that word) a principle the object of thought only, which reason calls Monad. And with this Monad co-existed a power consubstantial with it, which the author calls Unit (τὸ ἓν ). From this Tetrad came all the rest of the Aeons. Pearson conjectured (see Dodwell, Dissect. in Iren. iv. Â§Â§ 25) that the "clarus magister" of the old Latin translation represented ἐπιφανὴς διδάσκαλος , and that this Epiphanes was a proper name, or at least that there was a play upon words referring to that name. The doctrine of the extract, then, which seems an attempt to reconcile the theory of a Tetrad with strong belief in the unity of the First Principle, might well be a part of the Monadic Gnosis, of which Epiphanes was said to be the author. Pearson's restoration of the Greek has since been pretty nearly verified by the recovery of the passage as reproduced by Hippolytus (Ref. vi. 38), where it runs ἄλλος δέ τις ἐπιφανὴς διδάσκαλος αὐτῶν . Here the word in question is plainly an adjective, and Tertullian so understood it, who translates (adv. Valent. 37) "insignioris apud eos magistri." On the other hand, Epiphanius understood the passage of Epiphanes. On examining what he tells of that heretic ( Haer. 32), it is plain that Epiphanius has been following Irenaeus until, on coming to the words ἑπιφανὴς διδάσκαλος , he goes off to Clement of Alexandria, and puts in what he there found about Epiphanes. But Neander has made it almost certain that he person to whom Irenaeus really refers is Marcus (17). He points out that these four names for the members of the primary Tetrad, Monotes, Henotes, Monas, and Hen, which the "illustrious teacher" (c. 11) speaks of as names of his own giving, occur again with a καθ᾿ ἃ προείρηται in a passage cited from Marcus by name (Iren. i. 15, p. 74).
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Epiphanes, a Gnostic Writer'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hwd/e/epiphanes-a-gnostic-writer.html. 1911.
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