On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis  

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-'''Carpocrates of Alexandria''' was the founder of an early [[gnosticism|Gnostic]] sect from the first half of the second century who used only the [[Gospel according to the Hebrews]]. As with many Gnostic sects, we know of the Carpocratians only through the writings of the [[Church Fathers]], principally [[Irenaeus|Irenaeus of Lyons]] and [[Clement of Alexandria]]. As the former strongly opposed Gnostic doctrine, there is a question of negative bias when using this source. While the various references to the Carpocratians differ in some details, they agree as to the [[Libertine|libertinism]] of the sect.+'''''On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis''''' (ἔλεγχος και άνατροπή της ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως), commonly called '''''Against Heresies''''' (Latin: ''Adversus haereses'', κατὰ αἱρέσεων), is a five-volume work written by St. [[Irenaeus]] in the second century.
-==Irenaeus==+==See also==
-The earliest and most vivid account of Carpocrates and his followers comes from [[Irenaeus]] (died 202) in his ''[[On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis|Against Heresies]]'' including an account of the theology and practice of the sect.+* [[Celsus]]
 +* [[Didache]]
 +* [[Polycarp]]
 +* [[POxy 405]]
 +* [[Tertullian]]
 +* [[Vladimir Lossky]]
-They believe, he writes, that [[Jesus]] was not divine; but because his soul was "steadfast and pure", he "remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God" (similar to [[Plato]]'s concept of [[Anamnesis]]). Because of this, Jesus was able to free himself from the material powers (what other Gnostics call [[Archon]]s, the [[Demiurge]], etc.). Carpocratians believed they themselves could transcend the material realm, and therefore were no longer bound by [[613 Commandments|Mosaic law]], which was based on the material powers, or by any other morality, which, they held, was mere human opinion.  
- 
-Irenaeus then goes on to provide his further, slightly different, explanation. The followers of Carpocrates, he says, believed that in order to leave this world, one's imprisoned eternal soul must pass through every possible condition of earthly life. Moreover, it is possible to do this within one lifetime. As a result, the Carpocratians did "all those things which we dare not either speak or hear of" so that when they died, they would not be compelled to incarnate again but would return to God. [[Borges]] depicts a fictional sect with the exact belief in his short story [[The Theologians]]. 
- 
-Irenaeus says that they practised various magical arts as well as leading a licentious life. He also says that they possessed a portrait of Christ, a painting they claimed had been made by [[Pilate]] during his lifetime, which they honoured along with images of [[Plato]], [[Pythagoras]] and [[Aristotle]] "in the manner of the Gentiles". 
- 
-==Clement== 
-Carpocrates is also mentioned by [[Clement of Alexandria]] in his ''Stromateis''. Clement quotes extensively from ''On Righteousness'' which he says was written by [[Epiphanes (gnostic)|Epiphanes]], Carpocrates' son. No copy outside of Clement's citation exists, but the writing is of a strongly [[Antinomianism|antinomian]] bent. It claims that differences in class and the ownership of property are unnatural, and argues for property and women to be held in common. Clement confirms claiming that at their [[Agape]] meaning an early Christian gathering. 
- 
-According to Clement, Carpocrates was from [[Alexandria]] although his sect was primarily located in [[Cephallenia]]. 
- 
-===Secret Gospel of Mark=== 
-Carpocrates is again mentioned in the controversial ''[[Mar Saba letter]]'', purportedly also by Clement of Alexandria, discovered in 1958 by [[Morton Smith]]. The letter mentions and quotes from a previously unsuspected ''[[Secret Gospel of Mark]]'', which Carpocrates had wheedled an opportunity to copy at Alexandria. A corrupted copy was circulating among Carpocrates' followers. 
- 
-==Miscelleous references== 
-Other references to Carpocrates exist but are likely to be based on the two already cited. 
- 
-[[Epiphanius of Salamis]] writes that 
- 
-{{Quote|Carpocratians derived from a native of Asia, Carpocrates, who taught his followers to perform every obscenity and every sinful act. And unless one proceeds through all of them, he said, and fulfils the will of all demons and angels, he cannot mount to the highest heaven or get by the principalities and authorities.}} 
- 
-Carpocrates is also mentioned by [[Tertullian]] and [[Hippolytus (writer)|Hippolytus]], both of whom seem to rely on Irenaeus; and also perhaps by [[Origen]] and [[Hegesippus]]. 
- 
-==References== 
-{{Reflist}} 
- 
-==External links== 
-*[http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/bible/carpocra.stm Irenaeus, ''Against Heresies''] Book i.xxv 
-*[http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book3-english.html Clement, ''Stromateis''] Book iii.ii 
-*[http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc02/htm/iv.vi.cxxxv.htm Carpocrates and the Carpocratians] (New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia) 
-*[http://www.antinopolis.org/carpocrates.html '’Saint Carpocrates''] (and The Libertine Companions of Antinous) 
- 
-==See also== 
-*[[Gnosticism]] 
-*[[Borborites]] 
-*[[Cainites]] 
-*[[Fathers of Christian Gnosticism]] 
-*[[Ebionites]] 
-*[[Salome (disciple)]] 
-*[[Epiphanes (gnostic)]] 
-*[[Neoplatonism and Gnosticism]] 
-*[[Theistic Satanism]] 
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On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis (ἔλεγχος και άνατροπή της ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως), commonly called Against Heresies (Latin: Adversus haereses, κατὰ αἱρέσεων), is a five-volume work written by St. Irenaeus in the second century.

See also




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