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The Encratites ("self-controlled") were an ascetic 2nd century sect of Christians who forbade marriage and counselled abstinence from meat. Eusebius says that Tatian was the author of this heresy.[1] It has been supposed that it was these Gnostic encratites who were chastised by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-4[2][3]

The first mention of a Christian sect of this name occurs in Irenæus[4] They are mentioned more than once by Clement of Alexandria,[5] who says [6] that they are named from “Temperance”. Hippolytus refers to them as "acknowledging what concerns God and Christ in like manner with the Church; in respect, however, of their mode of life, passing their days inflated with pride"; "abstaining from animal food, being water-drinkers and forbidding to marry"; "estimated Cynics rather than Christians". On the strength of this passage it is supposed that some Encratites were perfectly orthodox in doctrine, and erred only in practice. Origen says they did not acknowledge St. Paul’s Epistles.[7]

Somewhat later this sect received new life and strength by the accession of a certain Severus,[8] after whom Encratites were often called Severians. These Severian Encratites accepted the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospels, but rejected the Book of the Acts and cursed St. Paul and his Epistles. But the account given by Epiphanius of the Severians rather betrays Syrian Gnosticism than Judaistic tendencies. In their hatred of marriage they declared woman the work of Satan, and in their hatred of intoxicants they called wine drops of venom from the great Serpent, etc.[9] Epiphanius states that in his day Encratites were very numerous throughout Asia Minor, in Psidia, in the Adustan district of Phrygia, in Isauria, Pamphylia, Cilicia, and Galatia. In the Roman Province and in Antioch of Syria they were found scattered here and there. They split up into a number of smaller sects of whom the Apostolici were remarkable for their condemnation of private property, the Hydroparastatæ or Aquarians for their use of water instead of wine in the Eucharist.

In the Edict of 382, Theodosius pronounced the sentence of death on all those who took the name of Encratites, Saccophori, or Hydroparastatæ, and commanded Florus, the Magister Officiarum, to make strict search for these heretics, who were Manichæans in disguise.


  1. Eusebius, iv. 28, 29
  2. Transitions and Transformations in the History of Religions, by Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa, Frank E. Reynolds, Theodore M. Ludwig, 208
  3. 1 Timothy 4:1-4: 1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
  4. Irenæus(I, xxviii)
  5. Paedagogus, II, ii, 33; Stromata, I, xv; VII, xvii
  6. Stromata 7
  7. cont. Cel. v. 65, p. 628
  8. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, IV, xxix
  9. (Hær., xiv)

External linksEdit

12px This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Encratites". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. de:Enkratiten es:Encratismo fr:Encratites id:Encratit it:Encratismo nl:Encratisme pl:Enkratyści pt:Encratismo sh:Enkratiti fi:Enkratismi

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