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Ancient & Medieval References To The Nicolaitanes

Edited By Daniel R. Jennings, M.A.


            Modern Christians will occasionally come across references to an ancient group known as the Nicolaitanes. This group is usually encountered while reading through the book of Revelation which mentions them but offers little information as to where they came from or who they were. They are, undoubtedly, one of the lesser known early heretical groups. While they are not that well known by the average Christian today we do, however, have information from early Christian literature which details the origins, beliefs and practices of this group. Everything that we know about the Nicolaitanes comes from these early Christian writings so if we want to discover who the Nicolaitanes were we must turn to these ancient documents. This page incorporates references to the Nicolaitanes made by ancient Christian writers from the first to the ninth centuries. It is hoped that by giving the reader original documents relating to this group that they will be able to form a correct opinion as to who they were, how they started and what they believed. Click on either an ancient writer below or scroll down.  Also don’t forget to read some Final Thoughts at the end.


1.      New Testament References

2.      Nicolaus (1st Century)

3.      Irenaeus Of Lyons (c.120-202)

4.      Clement Of Alexandria (d. c.215)

5.      Pseudo-Tertullian (Circa Early 3rd Century?)

6.      Tertullian (c.160-c.230)

7.      Pseudo-Hippolytus (2nd Century)

8.      Hippolytus Of Rome (d. c. 236)

9.      Victorinus Of Pettau (2nd-3rd Centuries)

10. Eusebius Of Caesarea (c.260-c.337)

11. Gregory of Nyssa (d. c.387)

12. Pacian Of Barcelona (c.310-391)

13. Epiphanius Of Salamis (c.311-403)

14. Ambrose Of Milan (339-397)

15. Constitutions Of The Holy Apostles (Late 4th Century)

16. Pseudo-Ignatius Of Antioch (Late 4th Century)

17. Jerome (c.340-420)

18. Augustine Of Hippo (354-430)

19. John Cassian (c.360-c.435) & Abbott Piamun (4th Century)

20. Gelasius I (d. 496)

21. Gildas The Wise (c. 500 – 570)

22. Andrew of Caesarea (7th Century)

23. Venerable Bede (c.672-735)

24. John Of Damascus (c.676-c.770)

25. Photius of Constantinople (c.810-c.897)


New Testament References

“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:1-6)


“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast born, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7)


“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 2:12-17)


Nicolaus (1st Century)

“…that the flesh must be abused.” (In Clement Of Alexandria’s Stromata, 2:20)*


“Unless one copulates every day, he cannot possess eternal life.” (In Epiphanius Of SalamisPanarion, Heresy 25:1:5)**


*For the quote in Clement’s context see his entry below.

**The authenticity of the quote is questionable. The evidence suggests that a group of people may have falsely attributed this to Nicolaus.


Irenaeus Of Lyons (c.120-202)

“The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: ‘But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.’” (Against Heresies, 1:26:3)


“John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word; and not, as they allege, that the Creator was one, but the Father of the Lord another; and that the Son of the Creator was, forsooth, one, but the Christ from above another, who also continued impassible, descending upon Jesus, the Son of the Creator, and flew back again into His Pleroma; and that Monogenes was the beginning, but Logos was the true son of Monogenes; and that this creation to which we belong was not made by the primary God, but by some power lying far below Him, and shut off from communion with the things invisible and ineffable. The disciple of the Lord therefore desiring to put an end to all such doctrines, and to establish the rule of truth in the Church, that there is one Almighty God, who made all things by His Word, both visible and invisible; showing at the same time, that by the Word, through whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” “All things,” he says, “were made by Him;” therefore in “all things” this creation of ours is [included], for we cannot concede to these men that [the words] “all things” are spoken in reference to those within their Pleroma.” (Against Heresies, 3:11:1)


Clement Of Alexandria (d. c.215)

“I know that I have come upon a heresy; and its chief was wont to say that he fought with pleasure by pleasure, this worthy Gnostic advancing on pleasure in feigned combat, for he said he was a Gnostic; since he said it was no great thing for a man that had not tried pleasure to abstain from it, but for one who had mixed in it not to be overcome [was something]; and that therefore by means of it he trained himself in it. The wretched man knew not that he was deceiving himself by the artfulness of voluptuousness. To this opinion, then, manifestly Aristippus the Cyrenian adhered — that of the sophist who boasted of the truth. Accordingly, when reproached for continually cohabiting with the Corinthian courtesan, he said, “I possess Lais, and am not possessed by her.”

            Such also are those (who say that they follow Nicolaus, quoting an adage of the man, which they pervert, “that the flesh must be abused.” But the worthy man showed that it was necessary to check pleasures and lusts, and by such training to waste away the impulses and propensities of the flesh. But they, abandoning themselves to pleasure like goats, as if insulting the body, lead a life of self-indulgence; not knowing that the body is wasted, being by nature subject to dissolution; while their soul is buried in the mire of vice; following as they do the teaching of pleasure itself, not of the apostolic man.” (Stromata, 2:20)


“Of the heretics we mentioned Marcion of Pontus as forbidding the use of this world's goods on the ground of opposition to the Creator. The Creator himself is thus the reason for continence, if this can be called continence; for this giant who thinks he can resist God is not continent by an act of free choice, in that he attacks the creation and the process by which man is formed. If they quote the Lord's words to Philip, "Let dead bury their dead, but do thou follow me," they ought to consider that Philip's flesh is also formed in the same way; body is not a polluted corpse. How then could he have a body of flesh which is not a corpse? Because he rose from the tomb when the Lord killed his passions, and he began to live unto Christ. We also mentioned the blasphemous immorality of Carpocrates. But when we spoke about the saying of Nicolaus we omitted to say this. Nicolaus, they say, had a lovely wife. When after the Saviour's ascension he was accused before the apostles of jealousy, he brought his wife into the concourse and allowed anyone who so desired to marry her. For, they say, this action was appropriate to the saying: "One must abuse the flesh." Those who share his heresy follow both his action and his words simply and without qualification by indulging in the gravest enormity.

          I am informed, however, that Nicolaus never had relations with any woman other than the wife he married, and that of his children his daughters remained virgins to their old age, and his son remained uncorrupted. In view of this it was an act of suppression of passion when he brought before the apostles the wife on whose account he was jealous. He taught what it meant to "abuse the flesh" by restraining the distracting passions. For, as the Lord commanded, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and God. It is said that Matthias also taught that one should fight the flesh and abuse it, never allowing it to give way to licentious pleasure, so that the soul might grow by faith and knowledge.” (Stromata, 3:4:25-26)


Pseudo-Tertullian (Circa Early 3rd Century?)

“A brother heretic emerged in Nicolaus. He was one of the seven deacons who were appointed in the Acts of the Apostles. He affirms that Darkness was seized with a concupiscence — and, indeed, a foul and obscene one — after Light: out of this permixture it is a shame to say what fetid and unclean (combinations arose). The rest (of his tenets), too, are obscene. For he tells of certain Aeons, sons of turpitude, and of conjunctions of execrable and obscene embraces and per-mixtures, and certain yet baser outcomes of these. He teaches that there were born, moreover, daemons, and gods, and spirits seven, and other things sufficiently sacrilegious. alike and foul, which we blush to recount, and at once pass them by. Enough it is for us that this heresy of the Nicolaitans has been condemned by the Apocalypse of the Lord with the weightiest authority attaching to a sentence, in saying ‘Because this thou holdest, thou hatest the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which I too hate.’” (Against All Heresies, 1)


Tertullian (c.160-c.230)

“John, however, in the Apocalypse is charged to chastise those “who eat things sacrificed to idols,” and “who commit fornication.” There are even now another sort of Nicolaitans. Theirs is called the Gaian heresy. But in his epistle he especially designates those as “Antichrists” who “denied that Christ was come in the flesh,” and who refused to think that Jesus was the Son of God. The one dogma Marcion maintained; the other, Hebion. The doctrine, however, of Simon’s sorcery, which inculcated the worship of angels, was itself actually reckoned amongst idolatries and condemned by the Apostle Peter in Simon’s own person.” (Prescription Against Heretics, 33)


“The flesh is not, according to Marcion, immersed in the water of the sacrament, unless it be in virginity, widowhood, or celibacy, or has purchased by divorce a title to baptism, as if even generative impotents did not all receive their flesh from nuptial union. Now, such a scheme as this must no doubt involve the proscription of marriage. Let us see, then, whether it be a just one: not as if we aimed at destroying the happiness of sanctity, as do certain Nicolaitans in their maintenance of lust and luxury, but as those who have come to the knowledge of sanctity, and pursue it and prefer it, without detriment, however, to marriage; not as if we superseded a bad thing by a good, but only a good thing by a better. For we do not reject marriage, but simply refrain from it. Nor do we prescribe sanctity as the rule, but only recommend it, observing it as a good, yea, even the better state, if each man uses it carefully according to his ability; but at the same time earnestly vindicating marriage, whenever hostile attacks are made against it is a polluted thing, to the disparagement of the Creator. For He bestowed His blessing on matrimony also, as on an honorable estate, for the increase of the human race; as He did indeed on the whole of His creation, for wholesome and good uses. Meats and drinks are not on this account to be condemned, because, when served up with too exquisite a daintiness, they conduce to gluttony; nor is raiment to be blamed, because, when too costly adorned, it becomes inflated with vanity and pride. So, on the same principle, the estate of matrimony is not to be refused, because, when enjoyed without moderation, it is fanned into a voluptuous flame. There is a great difference between a cause and a fault, between a state and its excess. Consequently it is not an institution of this nature that is to be blamed, but the extravagant use of it; according to the judgment of its founder Himself, who not only said, “Be fruitful, and multiply,” but also, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife;” and who threatened with death the unchaste, sacrilegious, and monstrous abomination both of adultery and unnatural sin with man and beast. Now, if any limitation is set to marrying — such as the spiritual rule, which prescribes but one marriage under the Christian obedience, maintained by the authority of the Paraclete, — it will be His prerogative to fix the limit Who had once been diffuse in His permission; His to gather, Who once scattered; His to cut down the tree, Who planted it; His to reap the harvest, Who sowed the seed; His to declare, “It remaineth that they who have wives be as though they had none,” Who once said, “Be fruitful, and multiply;” His the end to Whom belonged the beginning. Nevertheless, the tree is not cut down as if it deserved blame; nor is the corn reaped, as if it were to be condemned, — but simply because their time is come. So likewise the state of matrimony does not require the hook and scythe of sanctity, as if it were evil; but as being ripe for its discharge, and in readiness for that sanctity which will in the long run bring it a plenteous crop by its reaping. For this leads me to remark of Marcion’s god, that in reproaching marriage as an evil and unchaste thing, he is really prejudicing the cause of that very sanctity which he seems to serve. For he destroys the material on which it subsists; if there is to be no marriage, there is no sanctity. All proof of abstinence is lost when excess is impossible; for sundry things have thus their evidence in their contraries. Just as “strength is made perfect in weakness,” so likewise is continence made manifest by the permission to marry. Who indeed will be called continent, if that be taken away which gives him the opportunity of pursuing a life of continence? What room for temperance in appetite does famine give? What repudiation of ambitious projects does poverty afford? What bridling of lust can the eunuch merit? To put a complete stop, however, to the sowing of the human race, may, for aught I know, be quite consistent for Marcion’s most good and excellent god. For how could he desire the salvation of man, whom he forbids to be born, when he takes away that institution from which his birth arises? How will he find any one on whom to set the mark of his goodness, when he suffers him not to come into existence? How is it possible to love him whose origin he hates? Perhaps he is afraid of a redundant population, lest he should be weary in liberating so many; lest he should have to make many heretics; lest Marcionite parents should produce too many noble disciples of Marcion. The cruelty of Pharaoh, which slew its victims at their birth, will not prove to be more inhuman in comparison. For while he destroyed lives, our heretic’s god refuses to give them: the one removes from life, the other admits none to it. There is no difference in either as to their homicide — man is slain by both of them; by the former just after birth, by the latter as yet unborn. Thanks should we owe thee, thou god of our heretic, hadst thou only checked the dispensation of the Creator in uniting male and female; for from such a union indeed has thy Marcion been born! Enough; however, of Marcion’s god, who is shown to have absolutely no existence at all, both by our definitions of the one only Godhead, and the condition of his attributes. The whole course, however, of this little work aims directly at this conclusion. If, therefore, we seem to anybody to have achieved but little result as yet, let him reserve his expectations, until we examine the very Scripture which Marcion quotes.” (The Five Books Against Marcion, 1:29)


“But how far (are we to treat) of Paul; since even John appears to give some secret countenance to the opposite side? as if in the Apocalypse he has manifestly assigned to fornication the auxiliary aid of repentance, where, to the angel of the Thyatirenes, the Spirit sends a message that He “hath against him that he kept (in communion) the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophet, and teacheth, and seduceth my servants unto fornicating and eating of idol-sacrifices. And I gave her bounteously a space of time, that she might enter upon repentance; nor is she willing to enter upon it on the count of fornication. Behold, I will give her into a bed, and her adulterers with herself into greatest pressure, unless they shall have repented of her works.” I am content with the fact that, between apostles, there is a common agreement in rules of faith and of discipline. For, “Whether (it be) I,” says (Paul), “or they, thus we preach.” Accordingly, it is material to the interest of the whole sacrament to believe nothing conceded by John, which has been flatly refused by Paul. This harmony of the Holy Spirit whoever observes, shall by Him be conducted into His meanings. For (the angel of the Thyatirene Church) was secretly introducing into the Church, and urging justly to repentance, an heretical woman, who had taken upon herself to teach what she had learnt from the Nicolaitans. For who has a doubt that an heretic, deceived by (a spurious baptismal) rite, upon discovering his mischance, and expiating it by repentance, both attains pardon and is restored to the bosom of the Church? Whence even among us, as being on a par with an heathen, nay even more than heathen, an heretic likewise, (such an one) is purged through the baptism of truth from each character, and admitted (to the Church). Or else, if you are certain that that woman had, after a living faith, subsequently expired, and turned heretic, in order that you may claim pardon as the result of repentance, not as it were for an heretical, but as it were for a believing, sinner: let her, I grant, repent; but with the view of ceasing from adultery, not however in the prospect of restoration (to Church-fellowship) as well. For this will be a repentance which we, too, acknowledge to be due much more (than you do); but which we reserve, for pardon, to God.

            In short, this Apocalypse, in its later passages, has assigned “the infamous and fornicators,” as well as “the cowardly, and unbelieving, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters,” who have been guilty of any such crime while professing the faith, to “the lake of fire,” without any conditional condemnation. For it will not appear to savor of (a bearing upon) heathens, since it has (just) pronounced with regard to believers, “They who shall have conquered shall have this inheritance; and I will be to them a God, and they to me for sons;” and so has subjoined: “But to the cowardly, and unbelieving, and infamous, and fornicators, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, (shall be) a share in the lake of fire and sulfur, which (lake) is the second death.” Thus, too, again “Blessed they who act according to the precepts, that they may have power over the tree of life and over the gates, for entering into the holy city. Dogs, sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, out!”of course, such as do not act according to the precepts; for to be sent out is the portion of those who have been within. Moreover “What have I to do to judge them who are without?” had preceded (the sentences now in question).” (On Modesty, 19)


Pseudo-Hippolytus (2nd Century)

“[The names of the seventy apostles are:] 1. James the Lord’s brother, bishop of Jerusalem. 2. Cleopas, bishop of Jerusalem. 3. Matthias, who supplied the vacant place in the number of the twelve apostles. 4. Thaddeus, who conveyed the epistle to Augarus. 5. Ananias, who baptized Paul, and was bishop of Damascus. 6. Stephen, the first martyr. 7. Philip, who baptized the eunuch. 8. Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia, who also was the first that departed, believing together with his daughters. 9. Nicanor died when Stephen was martyred. 10. Timon, bishop of Bostra. 11. Parmenas, bishop of Soli. 12. Nicolaus, bishop of Samaria. 13. Barnabas, bishop of Milan. 14. Mark the evangelist, bishop of Alexandria. 15. Luke the evangelist.” (On The Seventy Apostles)


Hippolytus Of Rome (d. c. 236)

“There are, however, among the Gnostics diversities of opinion; but we have decided that it would not be worth while to enumerate the silly doctrines of these (heretics), inasmuch as they are (too) numerous and devoid of reason, and full of blasphemy. Now, even those (of the heretics) who are of a more serious turn in regard of the Divinity, and have derived their systems of speculation from the Greeks, must stand convicted (of these charges). But Nicolaus has been a cause of the wide-spread combination of these wicked men. He, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols.” (The Refutation Of All Heresies, 7:24)


“The origin of the heresy of the Nicolaitans. Now this was Nicolas, one of those deacons who were chosen at the beginning, as he makes known in the Acts. This man first introduced this way, being moved by a strange spirit, saying that there had been a resurrection to him, for he thought this, that the resurrection was that we should believe in Christ, and be washed, but he denied a resurrection of the flesh. Since from him many took occasion, heresies they set up, but especially arose from them those who are called Gnostics, of whom were Hymenaeus and Philetus, concerning whom the Apostle wrote, saying: 'They say that the resurrection has already happened, and overthrow the faith of many.’” (Discourse Upon The Resurrection To Mammea, The Queen*)


*Mammea was the mother of Roman Emperor Alexander and this discourse is believed to have been delivered to her while Alexander was reigning as Emperor.


Victorinus Of Pettau (2nd-3rd Centuries)

“6. ‘This thou hast also, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes.’ But because thou thyself hatedst those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, thou expectest praise. Moreover, to hate the works of the Nicolaitanes, which He Himself also hated, this tends to praise. But the works of the Nicolaitanes were in that time false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus, had made for themselves a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day. Therefore He extols those to whom He is writing; and to these men, being such and so great, He promised the tree of life, which is in the paradise of His God.” (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Notes On Second Chapter)


“14-16. ‘Thou hast there some who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught in the case of Balak that he should put a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat and to commit fornication. So also hast thou them who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; but I will fight with them with the sword of my mouth. That is, I will say what I shall command, and I will tell you what you shall do. For Balaam, with his doctrine, taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the eyes of the children of Israel, to eat what was sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication, — a thing which is known to have happened of old. For he gave this advice to the king of the Moabites, and they caused stumbling to the people. Thus, says He, ye have among you those who hold such doctrine; and under the pretext of mercy, you would corrupt others.” (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Notes On Third Chapter)


Eusebius Of Caesarea (c.260-c.337)

“At this time the so-called sect of the Nicolaitans made its appearance and lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John. They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus, one of the deacons who, with Stephen, were appointed by the apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor. Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his Stromata, relates the following things concerning him. “They say that he had a beautiful wife, and after the ascension of the Savior, being accused by the apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that saying of his, that one ought to abuse the flesh. And those that have followed his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said, commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until old age, and his son remained uncorrupt. If this is so, when he brought his wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the apostles, he was evidently renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, ‘to abuse the flesh,’ he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Savior, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that Matthias also taught in the same manner that we ought to fight against and abuse the flesh, and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge.” So much concerning those who then attempted to pervert the truth, but in less time than it has taken to tell it became entirely extinct.” (Church History, 3:29)


Gregory of Nyssa (d. c.387)

“For after those high-wrought aeons in which, by way of disparagement of our doctrine, he names as its supporters a Valentinus, a Cerinthus, a Basilides, a Montanus, and a Marcion, and after laying it down that those who affirm that the Divine nature is unknowable, and the mode of His generation unknowable, have no right or title whatever to the name of Christians, and after reckoning us among those whom he thus disparages, he proceeds to develop his own view in these terms: — “But we, in agreement with holy and blessed men; affirm that the mystery of godliness does not consist in venerable names, nor in the distinctive character of customs and sacramental tokens, but in exactness of doctrine.” That when he wrote this, he did so not under the guidance of evangelists, apostles, or any of the authors of the Old Testament, is plain to every one who has any acquaintance with the sacred and Divine Scripture. We should naturally be led to suppose that by “holy and blessed men” he meant Manichaeus, Nicolaus, Colluthus, Aetius, Arius, and the rest of the same band, with whom he is in strict accord in laying down this principle, that neither the confession of sacred names, nor the customs of the Church, nor her sacramental tokens, are a ratification of godliness.” (Against Eunomius, 11:5)


Pacian Of Barcelona (c.310-391)

“If it be not a carnal intention, my lord, but as I judge, a calling of the Spirit, that thou enquirest of us the faith of the Catholic verity, thou, before all, taking thy rise as far as appears, from a streamlet at a distance, and not holding to the fountain and source of the principal Church, shouldest, in the first instance, have shewn what or how different are the opinions which thou followest. Thou shouldest unfold thyself as to what cause more particularly had loosened thee from the unity of our body. For those parts, for which a remedy is sought, should be laid bare. Whereas now (if I may so say) the bosom of correspondence being closed, we see not on what members more especially we have to bestow our care. For such are the heresies which have sprung forth from the Christian head, that of the mere names the roll would be immense. For to pass over the heretics of the Jews, Dositheus the Samaritan, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, it were long to enumerate how many grew up in the times of the Apostles, Simon Magus, and Menander, and Nicolaus, and others hidden by an inglorious fame. What again in later times were Ebion, and Apelles, and Marcion, and Valentinus, and Cerdon, and not long after them, the Cataphrygians, and Novatians, not to notice any recent swarms!” (Epistle 1:1 Of The Catholic Name)


Epiphanius Of Salamis (c.311-403)

“Nicolas was one of the seven deacons who were picked by the apostles alongside of Stephen (the saint and first person to be martyred), Prochorus, Parmenas and the rest. He was originally from Antioch and became a convert to Judaism. After he heard Christ preached he became one of the disciples himself and was at the beginning considered among the foremost of them. Because of his standing in the early Christian community he was a part of the group chosen at that time to take care of the widows. Afterwards, though, the devil entered into him and tricked his heart with the same masquerade of the ancient people whom we have been discussing. The effect was that he was wounded worse than his immediate predecessors had been.

He had a very beautiful wife and he had withheld himself from having sexual intercourse with her trying to imitate the behavior of some people that he had seen doing so out of devotion to God. He was able to do this for a time but in the end could not exercise self-control. Instead, because he wished to return to relations with his wife as a dog returns to its vomit, he looked for pathetic excuses to do so, and came up with them in defense of his own state of incontinence. (Being ashamed of his behavior and turning from it would have been better for him!) Then, failing to remain celibate, he just started having intercourse with his wife. However, because he was ashamed of losing the battle against his passions and thinking that people had found out that he was having relations with his wife again he ventured to say that, “Unless one copulates every day, he cannot possess eternal life.”

Now he went from one façade to the next. He noticed that his wife had a beauty which was unusual for women yet behaved with humility, and he envied her because of this. He also began to act offensively towards her on every occasion making slanderous accusations against her in speeches. He did this because he thought that everyone else was as wanton as he was. Finally, he not only degraded himself to natural sexual activity, but also to the holding of blasphemous opinions, to the damage that comes from bad habits and to the masquerade of the stealthy entry of wickedness.

It was after this that the founders of what is falsely called “Knowledge” started their evil growth in the world—I am referring to the ones called Gnostics and Phibionites, those referred to as disciples of Epiphanes, the Stratiotics, Levitics, Borborites and the rest. For, in order to attract his own heresy with his own desires, each of these people came up with innumerable ways of doing evil.

Some of them pay homage to a Barbelo who they claim is on high in an eighth level of heaven. They say that she has been sent out by the Father. Some maintain that she is the mother of Ialdabaoth but others say that she is the mother of Sabaoth. Her son [according to these people] has ruled over the seventh heaven in a kind of insolent and autocratic manner. He says to those beneath him, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no other God besides me.” Barbelo [they say] has heard this said, and weeped over it. Barbelo continually appears to the archons in a beautiful form and, by way of their climax and ejaculations, takes their seed in order to recover her power (for lack of a better term) which has been sown into various of them.

 So this was how and this was the reason why he subtly brought the mystery hidden in his dirty talk to the world. And as I said, some of the previous heretics use many base arts to teach their adherents to get involved in promiscuous sexual relations with women and to do unnatural acts that are incurably vicious. It is not right to tell how they do it though. Like the holy apostle says in one place, “It is a shame even to speak of the things that are done of them in secret.” However, if any person would like to see the Holy Spirit’s refutation which deals with the sect of Nicolaus, he will have to learn it from the Revelation of Saint John. In the name of the Lord John writes to one of the churches (that is, he writes to the bishop placed there with the power of the holy angel at the altar) and says, “One good thing you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Still others honor a certain Prunicus; and in turn, to please their own desires, they also say in a mythological type of language of their way of thinking about this repulsive behavior that, “We gather power of Prunicus from our own bodies and by way of their emissions.” What they mean is, that they believe that they gather power of semen and menses. In a while, when I endeavor to talk about them in particular, I will describe this exactly (not because I want to dirty the ears of those who are listening or reading, but to stimulate enmity in the wise against these people and to prevent these evil deeds from being committed. I will not falsely accuse the guilty groups but make a public and factual disclosure of the things that they do.

Still other people give glory to the Ialdabaoth that we talked about previously. These people claim, as I said previously, that he is Barbelo’s oldest son. They say that he should be honored because he had made many revelations. So, they make up certain books in Ialdabaoth’s name and create any number of ridiculous names for the archons (as they call them) and authorities, which are against the human soul in every heaven. And, simply put, the plot which is created against humanity by their fraud is a serious one.

In the same way, other people glorify Kaulakau, naming an archon with this word, and try hard to impress innocent people to accept their teachings by presenting a disquieting attitude towards the names, and at the supposed foreignness of Kaulakau’s name. But how can the doctrines of their fraud and myth not be exposed at once as foundationless by those who have experience and have been given grace from God about every name and subject of his true knowledge?

Now if they use the term “Prunicus,” this is just a burp of lavishness and lack of self-control. Anything that is called “prunicus” suggests something that is named for copulation and for the business of seducing people. This is because there is a Greek expression which is used by the men who deflower slave women. The expression is “He wantoned so-and-so.” The Greek con artists who write erotica also record the word in legends by saying that beauty is “wanton”.

In addition to all of this, how can anyone who has learned about Kaulakau not laugh at it? To plant their fraud in the simple-minded through something that is made up, they change the good Hebrew expressions (which have been correctly translated into Greek and still clear to those who can read Hebrew and which contain nothing obscure) into images, shapes, real principles making them practically statuary, based upon the model of the things that their shameful, fake profession plants.

The word “Kaulakau,” is from the book of Isaiah, and is an expression in the twelfth vision of that book where it says, “Expect tribulation upon tribulation, hope upon hope, a little more a little more.” I am going to give the actual Hebrew here completely, word for word as they are written. “Tsav l’tsav, tsav l’tsav,” is Hebrew for “tribulation upon tribulation.” “Qav l’qav, qav l’qav” is “hope upon hope.” Z’eir sham, z’eir sham” means, “Expect a little more a little more.”

So where does this leave their legends? Their desire for daydreams? How did these tares get into the world? Who forced men to bring destruction on their own selves? Now if they changed the above terms into a fictitious thing and knowingly did this, then they are clearly responsible for their own destruction. However, if they said what they did in ignorance, speaking things which they did not know, then nothing in the world is more pitiful than they are. The reason for this is because these things are truly foolish, as anyone who has had understanding given to them can see. They have destroyed and are destroying both themselves and those who trust them for the sake of luxury.

Now realize that there is a spirit of fraud which directs every fool to move against the truth with an assortment of motions in the same way that breath works in a flute. Truly, the flute is a copy of the snake through which the evil one spoke and deceived Eve. Now realize that the flute was created to deceive men and it was based upon and in imitation of the model of the serpent. Take notice of what the flutist represents, for he throws his head back and forth and leans right and left like the snake as he plays his instrument. Now the devil also makes these same movements too as a way to blaspheme the heavenly army and to annihilate the creatures of the earth while he gets the world into his work. He does this by causing chaos and destruction “right and left” upon those who trust in his fraud and are charmed by it as if they were charmed by the notes of a musical instrument.

Some of the other ones come up with new names saying that there was “Darkness”, “Depth” and “Water” but that the Spirit who was in-between them fashioned their boundary. Darkness, however, became angry and infuriated at Spirit and it jumped up, held it, and begat something called “Womb”. After “Womb” was born it began to desire the Spirit for itself. Four aeons came out of the “Womb” which in turn produced fourteen more and this produced “right” and “left” and “darkness” and “light”. After all of these a dishonorable aeon was emitted. It had sexual relations with the “Womb” that we were talking about and these two produced gods, angels, demons and seven spirits. Now, it is not hard to perceive the poor acting of their masquerade. They have betrayed their falsities by first declaring that there is one Father and then after this declaring many gods. This happened to prove that error destroys itself and uses its own falsehoods against itself while the truth in every circumstance remains consistent at every point.

So, Nicolaus, how should I respond to you? What arguments should I use against you? From what place did you originate to bring to us a dishonorable aeon, a root of wickedness, a “Womb” that is fertile, and a whole group of demons and gods? When the apostle says, “Though there be that are called gods,” he is intimating that they really do not exist. By using the words “”are called” he demonstrated that they are gods in name only, not in actual existence but only in the opinion of certain peoples. He says “But to us” (clearly meaning to us who are acquainted with the knowledge of the truth) “there is but one God.” He did not say, “called god,” but actual “God”. That being said, if “there is one God” for us then it stands to reason that there cannot be many gods.

The Lord also says in the Gospel, “that they might know you, the only true God.” He said this to refute the idea of those who speak of mythology and believe in the idea of multiple gods. For our God is one—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three existences, one Lordship, one Godhead, one Praise—and not many gods.

And, Nicolaus, from your way of thinking how do we apply the words of the Savior which state, “There are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there are some which were eunuchs from birth, and there are eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”? If there are eunuchs who exist for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, why have you deceived yourself and those who trust in you, by holding God’s truth in unrighteousness in connection with your intercourse, unnatural vice, and by teaching licentiousness?

And in what way do you apply the statement “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that has attained mercy, that it is good so to be”? And also the statement, “The virgin cares for the things of the Lord, how she may please the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit.” And there is so much to say about purity, self-control and celibacy (you really shamelessly spell out the entire filth of uncleanness in what you say!). However, my purpose is served here with these couple or so of texts that I have placed before the reader to refute this ridiculous sect.

The next thing that I am going to do is to describe the heretical group that is closely associated with Nicolaus. This group is like a wooded area that is overgrown with field grass, a group of thorns that are inter-tangled in every way, or a big pile of trees that are dead and scrub grass in a field, ready to be placed in the fire to be disposed of. I describe them in this way because of their union with the heretical group of the wretched Nicolaus. Now just as human bodies catch sickness from other human bodies by inoculation, a really bad itch, or leprosy so the ones who are referred to as “Gnostics” are somewhat connected to and with the Nicolaitans because they took their promptings from Nicolaus himself and his precursors—I am talking about Simon et al. They are referred to as “knowledgeable” but people know them all too well for the evilness and obscene behavior that they promulgate in the business of their unclean trade.

Now we have taken the reed that was placed in Christ’s hand and we have truly hit and destroyed this man also who practiced sexual self-restraint for a short time and then gave it up. His behavior is similar to the animal called the newt who comes up from the water to the dry land and then returns again to the water. Let us now go on to the heresies which follow.” (Panarion, Heresy 25)


“And he was brought up to heaven in his own body, soul and mind, putting them together as one unity and perfecting them as a divine and spiritual unit. He took his seat at the right hand of the Father after he sent messengers into the whole world: Simon Peter, Andrew his brother, and James and John (the sons of Zebedee) whom he had chosen at the beginning. Also Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Judas, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot. Now even though Judas Iscariot had been one of the twelve to begin with, he became a traitor and was taken off of the sacred roll of the apostles.

And he sent out another seventy-two people also to preach. Among these seventy-two were the seven who had been put in charge of the widows—Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, TImon, Parmenas and Nicolaus—but before these was Matthias, who was given a place among the apostles in the stead of Judas. Following these seven and Matthias who came before them, he sent Mark, Luke, Justus, Barnabas, Apelles, Rufus, Niger and the rest of the seventy-two. After all of these, and along with them, he chose the holy apostle Paul to be immediately apostle and herald of the gentiles and the one who would complete the doctrine of the apostles. He did this with his own voice from heaven. It was Paul who found Saint Luke (one of the seventy-two that had been scattered) and brought him to repentance making him his own follower—a co-worker in the Gospel and an apostle.” (Panarion, De Incarnatione 4:1-6)


Ambrose Of Milan (339-397)

“How could John say that we should not pray for the sin unto death, who himself in the Apocalypse wrote the message to the angel of the Church of Pergamos? “Thou hast there those that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to put a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. Repent likewise, or else I will come to thee quickly.” Do you see that the same God Who requires repentance promises forgiveness? And then He says: “He that hath ears let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.”” (Two Books Concerning Repentance, 1:10:46)


“In advising fornication and sacrilege, Balaam proved himself unjust; even in the Apocalypse of John the Evangelist this is plainly written, where the Lord Jesus says to the Angel of the Church of Pergamum: ‘Thou hast there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, that they might eat and commit fornication. So thou hast also some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaites.’ Hence comes the sacrilege of the Manichaeans and of Manasse, who mingle and unite sacrilege with impiety.” (Letter To Bishops, Letter 14 To Chromatius)


Constitutions Of The Holy Apostles (Late 4th Century)

“But when we went forth among the Gentiles to preach the word of life, then the devil wrought in the people to send after us false apostles to the corrupting of the word; and they sent forth one Cleobius, and joined him with Simon, and these became disciples to one Dositheus, whom they despising, put him down from the principality. Afterwards also others were the authors of absurd doctrines: Cerinthus, and Marcus, and Menander, and Basilides, and Saturnilus. Of these some own the doctrine of many gods, some only of three, but contrary to each other, without beginning, and ever with one another, and some of an infinite number of them, and those unknown ones also. And some reject marriage; and their doctrine is, that it is not the appointment of God; and others abhor some kinds of food: some are impudent in uncleanness, such as those who are falsely called Nicolaitans.” (Constitutions Of The Holy Apostles, 6:2:8)


Pseudo-Ignatius Of Antioch (Late 4th Century)

“Do ye also avoid those wicked offshoots of his, Simon his firstborn son, and Menander, and Basilides, and all his wicked mob of followers, the worshippers of a man, whom also the prophet Jeremiah pronounces accursed. Flee also the impure Nicolaitanes, falsely so called, who are lovers of pleasure, and given to calumnious speeches. Avoid also the children of the evil one, Theodotus and Cleobulus, who produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies, and that not a mere temporary death, but one that shall endure for ever. These men are not the planting of the Father, but are an accursed brood. And says the Lord, “Let every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted be rooted up.” For if they had been branches of the Father, they would not have been “enemies of the cross of Christ,” but rather of those who “killed the Lord of glory.” But now, by denying the cross, and being ashamed of the passion, they cover the transgression of the Jews, those fighters against God, those murderers of the Lord; for it were too little to style them merely murderers of the prophets.” (Epistle To The Trallians [Longer Version], 11)


“If any one confesses the truths mentioned, but calls lawful wedlock, and the procreation of children, destruction and pollution, or deems certain kinds of food abominable, such an one has the apostate dragon dwelling within him. If any one confesses the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and praises the creation, but calls the incarnation merely an appearance, and is ashamed of the passion, such an one has denied the faith, not less than the Jews who killed Christ. If any one confesses these things, and that God the Word did dwell in a human body, being within it as the Word, even as the soul also is in the body, because it was God that inhabited it, and not a human soul, but affirms that unlawful unions are a good thing, and places the highest happiness in pleasure, as does the man who is falsely called a Nicolaitan, this person can neither be a lover of God, nor a lover of Christ, but is a corrupter of his own flesh, and therefore void of the Holy Spirit, and a stranger to Christ. All such persons are but monuments and sepulchers of the dead, upon which are written only the names of dead men. Flee, therefore, the wicked devices and snares of the spirit which now worketh in the children of this world, lest at any time being overcome, ye grow weak in your love. But be ye all joined together with an undivided heart and a willing mind, “being of one accord and of one judgment,” being always of the same opinion about the same things, both when you are at ease and in danger, both in sorrow and in joy.” (Epistle To The Philadelphians [Longer Version], 6)


Jerome (c.340-420)

“Not all bishops are bishops indeed. You consider Peter; mark Judas as well. You notice Stephen; look also on Nicolas, sentenced in the Apocalypse by the Lord’s own lips, whose shameful imaginations gave rise to the heresy of the Nicolaitans. “Let a man examine himself and so let him come.” For it is not ecclesiastical rank that makes a man a Christian.” (Letter 14:9)


“Such being the state of the case, what object is served by “silly women laden with sins, carried about with every wind of doctrine, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth?” Or how is the cause helped by the men who dance attendance upon these, men with itching ears who know neither how to hear nor how to speak? They confound old mire with new cement and, as Ezekiel says, daub a wall with untempered mortar; so that, when the truth comes in a shower, they are brought to naught. It was with the help of the harlot Helena that Simon Magus founded his sect. Bands of women accompanied Nicolas of Antioch that deviser of all uncleanness. Marcion sent a woman before him to Rome to prepare men’s minds to fall into his snares. Apelles possessed in Philumena an associate in his false doctrines. Montanus, that mouthpiece of an unclean spirit, used two rich and high born ladies Prisca and Maximilla first to bribe and then to pervert many churches.” (Letter 133:4)


“Have mercy I beseech you upon your soul. Consider that God’s judgment will one day overtake you. Remember by what a bishop you were ordained. The holy man was mistaken in his choice; but this he might well be. For even God repented that he had anointed Saul to be king. Even among the twelve apostles Judas was found a traitor. And Nicolas of Antiocha deacon like yourself — disseminated the Nicolaitan heresy and all manner of uncleanness. I do not now bring up to you the many virgins whom you are said to have seduced, or the noble matrons who have suffered death because violated by you, or the greedy profligacy with which you have tried through dens of sin. For grave and serious as such sins are in themselves, they are trivial indeed when compared with those which I have now to narrate.” (Letter 147:4)


“When the blood of Christ was but lately shed and the apostles were still in Judæa, the Lord’s body was asserted to be a phantom; the Galatians had been led away to the observance of the law, and the Apostle was a second time in travail with them; the Corinthians did not believe the resurrection of the flesh, and he endeavored by many arguments to bring them back to the right path. Then came Simon Magus and his disciple Menander. They asserted themselves to be powers of God. Then Basilides invented the most high God Abraxas and the three hundred and sixty-five manifestations of him. Then Nicolas, one of the seven Deacons, and one whose lechery knew no rest by night or day, indulged in his filthy dreams. I say nothing of the Jewish heretics who before the coming of Christ destroyed the law delivered to them…” (The Dialogue Against The Luciferians, 23)


“As we have made mention of that distinguished saint, let us show also from his Apocalypse that repentance unaccompanied by baptism ought to be allowed valid in the case of heretics. It is imputed (Revelation 2:4) to the angel of Ephesus that he has forsaken his first love. In the angel of the Church of Pergamum the eating of idol-sacrifices is censured (Revelation 2:14), and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (ib. 15). Likewise the angel of Thyatira is rebuked (ib. 20) on account of Jezebel the prophetess, and the idol meats, and fornication. And yet the Lord encourages all these to repent, and adds a threat, moreover, of future punishment if they do not turn. Now he would not urge them to repent unless he intended to grant pardon to the penitents. Is there any indication of his having said, Let them be re-baptized who have been baptized in the faith of the Nicolaitans? or let hands be laid upon those of the people of Pergamum who at that time believed, having held the doctrine of Balaam? Nay, rather, “Repent therefore,” he says, “or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.”” (The Dialogue Against The Luciferians, 24)


Augustine Of Hippo (354-430)

“But it will be urged that the bad outside are worse than those within. It is indeed a weighty question, whether Nicolaus, being already severed from the Church, or Simon, who was still within it, was the worse, — the one being a heretic, the other a sorcerer. But if the mere fact of division, as being the clearest token of violated charity, is held to be the worse evil, I grant that it is so. Yet many, though they have lost all feelings of charity, yet do not secede from considerations of worldly profit; and as they seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s, what they are unwilling to secede from is not the unity of Christ, but their own temporal advantage. Whence it is said in praise of charity, that she ‘seeketh not her own.’” (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 4:10:16)


John Cassian (c.360-c.435) & Abbott Piamun (4th Century)

“Finally if we bear in mind that Satan was chosen among the angels, and Judas among the apostles, and Nicholas the author of a detestable heresy among the deacons, it will be no wonder that the basest of men are found among the ranks of the saints. For although some maintain that this Nicholas was not the same man who was chosen for the work of the ministry by the Apostles, nevertheless they cannot deny that he was of the number of the disciples, all of whom were clearly of such a character and so perfect as those few whom we can now with difficulty discover in the coenobia.” (The Conferences Of John Cassian, Conference Of Abbott Piamun On The Three Sorts Of Monks, Ch. 16)


Gelasius I (d. 496)

 “The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognised by heretics or schismatics the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below a few which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics…These and those similar ones, which Simon Magus, Nicolaus, Cerinthus, Marcion, Basilides, Ebion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus and Bonosus, who suffered from similar error, also Montanus with his obscene followers, Apollinaris, Valentinus the Manichaean, Faustus the African, Sabellius, Arius, Macedonius, Eunomius, Novatus, Sabbatius, Calistus, Donatus, Eustasius, Jovianus, Pelagius, Julian of Eclanum, Caelestius, Maximian, Priscillian from Spain, Nestorius of Constantinople, Maximus the Cynic, Lampetius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, Peter and the other Peter, of whom one disgraced Alexandria and the other Antioch, Acacius of Constantinople with his associates, and what also all disciples of heresy and of the heretics and schismatics, whose names we have scarcely preserved, have taught or compiled, we acknowledge is to be not merely rejected but eliminated from the whole Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church and with their authors and the followers of its authors to be damned in the inextricable shackles of anathema forever.” (Gelasian Decree, 5)


Gildas The Wise (c. 500 – 570)

“As I beheld sheep of one fold unlike one another, I called Peter, with good reason, most blessed on account of his sound confession of Christ, but Judas most unhappy because of his love of covetousness; Stephen I called glorious, because of the martyr's palm; Nicolas, on the contrary, miserable, owing to the mark of unclean heresy.” (The Ruin Of Britain, Preface, 1)


“For what is so impious and so wicked as, after the pattern of Simon Magus, though meanwhile no indiscriminate sins intervene, that any one should wish to purchase the office of bishop or presbyter for an earthly price, an office that is more becomingly obtained by holiness and upright character? But the error of those men lies the more grave and desperate in the fact that they buy counterfeit and unprofitable priesthood, not from apostles or the successors of apostles, but from tyrants and from their father the devil. Nay, furthermore, they place upon the edifice of an infamous life a kind of roof and covering for all sins, in order that admitted desires, old or new, of covetousness and gluttony should not be easily placed to their charge by any one, seeing that, having oversight of many, they carry on their pillage with greater ease. For if truly such a stipulation of purchase had been presented by those shameless men, let me not say to the apostle Peter, but to any holy priest and pious king, they would have received the same answer as the originator of the same, the magician Simon, received from the apostle when Peter said: Thy money perish with thee. But perhaps, alas! they who ordain those candidates, nay, rather, who abase them and give them a curse for a blessing, because out of sinners they make, not penitents, which would be more befitting, but sacrilegious and irremediable offenders, and in a way appoint Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, to the chair of Peter, and Nicolaus, the founder of a foul heresy, in place of Stephen the martyr----perhaps they were summoned to the priesthood after the same manner. For this reason, in the case of their sons, they do not greatly detest (they rather approve), that it is a matter of utmost certainty that things should come to pass afterwards as with the fathers. Since, if they could not find this kind of pearl, because fellow-labourers resisted them in a diocese, and sternly refused them so profitable a business, they are not so much grieved as delighted to send messengers before them, to cross seas and travel over broad countries, so that in any way such display and incomparable dignity, or to speak more truly, such diabolical mockery, be acquired, even by the sale of all their substance. Afterwards, with great state and magnificent show, or rather foolery, they return to their own country, and show their haughty gait more haughty. While hitherto their gaze was at the tops of mountains, they now direct their half-sleepy eyes straight to heaven, or to the light fleecy clouds, and obtrude themselves upon their country as creatures of a new mould; nay, rather as instruments of the devil, just as aforetime Novatus at Rome, the tormentor of the Lord's jewel, the black hog, their purpose is to stretch forth their hands violently upon the holy sacrifices of Christ, hands worthy not so much of the venerable altars as of the avenging flames of hell, because they are men placed in a position of this kind.” (The Ruin Of Britain, 4:67)


Andrew of Caesarea (7th Century)

Rev. 2:2-5a 1know your works and your toil and your patience and that you cannot bear evil, and you have tested those calling themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them false. 3And you have endurance and patience on account of my name and did not grow weary. 4But I have against you that you have left your first love. 5aRemember, therefore, from where you fell and repent and do the works (you did at) first. Accepting the church in two ways, he reprimands it in one way. He has put the one (reprimand) in the middle and the achievements on either side. He praised the hard work and patience for the faith and estrangement from the wicked ones, because, not believing every spirit, she (the Church) tested the false apostles and, having determined them to be false, dismissed them, and besides this because he has hated the works of the shameful Nicolaitans. He complained that the love of neighbor and beneficence had grown lukewarm, and he called her to return to this (love) by those (words) which follow, on account of which he says, do the works you did at first.” (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Note On Revelation 2:2-5a)


Rev. 2:5b- 6 If not, I will come to you soon and I will move your lampstand from its place, if you do not repent. 6But this you have: that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. The movement of the church (means) to deprive them of divine grace, by which he brings down upon them swells and waves of evil spirits and evil men ministering to them. Some understood the removal of the lampstand (to refer to) the archpriest's throne of Ephesus, because it was moved to the seat of the King (the imperial capital). Anyone who comes upon the works of the Nicolaitans, which are hated by God, will know their detested heresy.” (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Note On Revelation 2:5b-6)


Rev. 2:14-15 But I have a few things against you: that you have (some people) there keeping the teaching of Balaam, who in Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to practice fornication. Thus, you also have those who keep the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which I likewise hate. So it seems this city had possessed two difficulties: First, the majority was Greek, and second, among those who were called believers, the shameful Nicolaitans had sown evil tares among the wheat. For this reason he recalled Balaam, saying, "who in Balaam taught Balak," through these words signifying the Balaam of the mind, the devil, by means of the perceptible Balak, to teach the stumbling block to the Israelites, fornication and idolatry. For by means of that pleasure (fornication) they were thrown down into performing this (idolatry) to Beelphegor.” (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Note On Revelation 2:14-15)


Rev 2:19-20 19I know your works and your love and faith and service and your patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20But I have this very much against you, that you allow the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet, to teach and to lead my servants astray to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. "Even if I accept your piety by reason of faith, service to the needy and endurance, yet I justly find fault. For you allow the heresy of Nicolaitans" — clearly identified as 'Jezebel' on account of the impiety and licentiousness — "to speak freely, thus placing a stumbling block before my servants through their simplicity of thought and attracting them toward food sacrificed to idols, which they rightly renounced. You are obligated to silence her, also because, animated by an evil spirit, she pretends to be a prophet." (Commentary On The Apocalypse, Note On Revelation 2:19-20)


Venerable Bede (c.672-735)

“15. Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans are named from Nicolas the deacon, of whom Clement relates that when he was reproved for his jealousy of a most beautiful wife, he answered that whoever would might take her to wife, and says that, on account of this, unbelievers taught that the Apostles allowed to all a promiscuous and common intercourse with women. And the Nicolaitans are reported to have put forth some fabulous and almost heathen statements concerning the beginning of the world, and not to have kept their meats separate from things offered to idols.” (Explanation Of The Apocalypse, Note On Revelation 2:15)


John Of Damascus (c.676-c.770)

The Nicolaitans stem from Nicolas, who was ordained to serve by the Apostles. Because of jealousy for his wife, he was motivated to teach his disciples the practice of immorality with others. He also introduced to the world the doctrine of Caulacau, Prunicus, and other barbaric names.” (The Fount Of Knowledge, On Heresies, 25)


Photius of Constantinople (c.810-c.897)

“The author reports some suspicions that Hippolytus and Epiphanius encouraged concerning Nicholas, one of the seven deacons, whom they condemn energetically.  On the other hand the divine Ignatius and Clement, the author of the Stromateis, and Eusebius Pamphilus and Theodoret of Cyr condemn the heresy of the Nicolaitans but deny that Nicholas was connected with it.” (Bibliotheca, Codex 232)




Final Thoughts


After reading the ancient references to the Nicolaitanes it becomes clear that the ancient writers generally held to one of either two diverging understandings of who the Nicolaitanes were. As noted in the references above, the early Christians all seem to agree that the Nicolaitanes were somehow connected to Nicolaus the deacon (a man who apparently displayed some very ascetic and jealous behavior towards his very attractive wife and ended up being interviewed by the apostles for this). They diverge in what happened beyond this with some seeming to indicate that he continued on in his Christian faith and service with later individuals creating a cult of sorts based upon a warped view of his asceticism while others imply that his behavior went from bad to worse and that he himself was the creator of the cult. Modern interpreters have offered an alternative suggestion. They look to the Greek composition of the word Nicolaitane and speculate that it is a compound word composed of the two Greek words Nicao, meaning “to conquer” and laos, which refers to “people” whom they maintain are “lay-people” or “laity”. Hence, according to this interpretation, the Nicolaitanes had nothing to do with Nicolaus but were instead “conquerors of the lay people”. This suggested interpretation has been used to paint pastors who tried to exercise authority over their congregations in a negative light, indicating that the Nicolaitanes were really overbearing and authoritative pastors who would not submit to a congregational form of government which places the lay people in authority over the pastor. Several problems exist with this application of the term Nicolaitane. First, no early Christian writer held to this view but they were universal in their belief that the Nicolaitanes had something to do with Nicolaus the deacon. Second, many of these early Christian writers spoke Greek as their native language, yet none of them broke down the word Nicolaitane into two compound words or implied that the Nicolaitanes were individuals who resisted congregational authority over their pastor. Thirdly, even if Nicolaitane were a compound word meaning “lay people” and “conquer” it could just as well mean lay-people who tried to conquer the church by usurping the God given authority of the pastor. Indeed, if Nicolaus as a deacon started his own heretical cult then that would perfectly describe him—a lay person (which is what all deacons were in the New Testament times) who tried to conquer the church of Christ by starting his own rival group to that of the Apostles and Elders/Bishops (pastors) who had been established as caretakers of Christ’s Church on earth.

            For my own part I would like to believe the best about Nicolaus—that his teachings on asceticism were taken out of context and became the basis for the Nicolaitanes and hence the basis for them being referred to as Nicolaitanes. Clement of Alexandria and Pseudo-Hippolytus (although itself a questionable document) seem to support this position. History teaches us that religious groups (especially when named after a person) do not usually pick their names but are instead derisively referred to by their enemies by the names of those whom their enemies understand to be their founders. And history also teaches us that just because someone is referred to by the name of their group’s founder it does not necessarily mean that they teach the same thing that their founder did. For example, followers of Martin Luther did not choose the name “Lutheran”. This term was given to them by their enemies and even today many people are referred to or refer to themselves as “Lutherans” but do not hold to the same doctrines that Martin Luther taught. This way of viewing Nicolaus would seem to be in line with his description in Acts 6:3 where it states that he was “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”. While I do not think that it would be impossible, I do feel that it would be unlikely that a man of his character would fall into the gross immorality and false teaching that later writers attributed to him but in the end I suppose that we have to acknowledge that anything is possible. If we can learn anything from the life of Nicolaus it would be to 1.) Remember that the things that we teach need to be explained thoroughly to our listeners in order to keep them from coming to wrong conclusions in a way perhaps similar to how the followers of Nicolaus did and 2.) “let him who thinks that he stands take care lest he fall (1Cor 10:12).”




New Testament

          King James Version

Clement Of Alexandria

            Stromata (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 2)

            Stromata (The Library of Christian Classics: Volume II, Alexandrian Christianity: Selected Translations of Clement and Origin with Introduction and Notes by John Ernest Leonard Oulton, D.D., Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin; Chancellor of St. Patrick’s and Henry Chadwick, B.D., Fellow and Dean of Queens’ College Cambridge, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1954)

Irenaeus Of Lyons

            Against Heresies (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 1)


            Against All Heresies (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 3)


            Prescription Against Heretics (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 3)

            The Five Books Against Marcion (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 3)

            On Modesty (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 4)


            On The Seventy Apostles (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 5)

Hippolytus Of Rome

            The Refutation Of All Heresies (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 5)

            Discourse Upon The Resurrection To Mammea, The Queen (B.H.Cowper, Syriac Miscellanies [1861])

Victorinus Of Pettau

            Commentary On The Apocalypse (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 7)

Eusebius Of Caesarea

            Church History (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 2)

Gregory of Nyssa

            Against Eunomius (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 5)

Pacian Of Barcelona

            Epistle 1: Of The Catholic Name (The Extant Works of S. Pacian, Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, C. H. Collyns, Tr., Vol. 17 [1842])

Epiphanius Of Salamis Panarion (Daniel R. Jennings)

Ambrose Of Milan

            Two Books Concerning Repentance (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 10)

            Letter To Bishops, Letter 14 To Chromatius (Saint Ambrose Letters, 1-91, Mary Melchoir Bevenka, Tr., Fathers Of The Church, Vol. 26)


            Constitutions Of The Holy Apostles (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 7)

Pseudo-Ignatius Of Antioch

            Epistle To The Trallians [Longer Version] (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 1)

            Epistle To The Philadelphians [Longer Version] (Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds., Vol. 1)


            Letter 14 (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 6)

            Letter 133 (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 6)

            Letter 147 (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 6)

            The Dialogue Against The Luciferians (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 6)

Augustine Of Hippo

            On Baptism, Against The Donatists (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 4)

John Cassian

            The Conferences Of John Cassian (Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Vol. 11)

Gelasius I

            Gelasian Decree (Roger Pearse, Tr.

Gildas The Wise

            The Ruin Of Britain (Honourable Society Of Cymmrodorion Pub., Hugh Williams, ed., [1899])

Andrew of Caesarea

            Commentary On The Apocalypse (Eugenia Constantinou, Tr., Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation. PhD thesis, Quebec: Université Laval [2008])

Venerable Bede

            Explanation Of The Apocalypse (Edward Marshall, Tr., James Parker & Co., [1878])

John Of Damascus

            The Fount Of Knowledge, On Heresies (Saint John of Damascus: Writings, Fathers Of The Church, Vol. 37, Frederic H. Chase, Tr.)
Photius of Constantinople

            Bibliotheca (Roger Pearse, Tr.,




**All texts are either in the public domain or used in accordance with the fair use clause of United States copyright law.**
























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