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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

Nicolaitanes

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This word occurs twice in the New Testament (; ). In the former passage the conduct of the Nicolaitanes is condemned; in the latter, the angel of the church in Pergamos is censured because certain members of his church held their doctrine. Various traditionary accounts of the origin and practices of his sect have been given by the fathers, but none of them are entitled to any credit.

It is evident from the accounts which they give, that the Nicolaitanes with whom they were acquainted were Gnostics; since they impute to them the distinctive tenets and practices of the Gnostics. But in the short allusion in; , there is nothing to identify the tenets or contact alluded to with Gnosticism, even supposing that Gnosticism, properly so called, existed in the Apostolic age, which, to say the least, has not been proved to be the case. So that the conjecture mentioned by Mosheim, and which Tertullian appears to favor, may be regarded as probable, that the Nicolaitans mentioned in Revelation had erroneously been confounded with a party of Gnostics formed at a later period by one Nicholas.

The ingenious conjecture of Michaelis is worthy of consideration, who supposes that by Nicolaitanes (; ) the same class of persons is intended whom St. Peter () describes as followers of the way of Balaam: and that their name, Nicolaitanes, is merely a Greek translation of their Hebrew designation. The only objection which occurs to us against this very ingenious and probable supposition, arises from the circumstance that, in the passage, , both 'they that hold the doctrine of Balaam,' and 'the Nicolaitanes,' are specified, and are distinguished from each other: 'So hast thou also,' the Nicolaitanes, as well as the Balaamites, mentioned in the previous verse. So that whatever general agreement there might be between those two classes of heretics—and their collocation in the passage before us seems to imply that there was such agreement—it appears equally evident that some distinction also must have separated them the one from the other.

 

 

 

 

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Nicolaitanes'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/n/nicolaitanes.html.

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