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Asceticism is a wide-spread phenomenon in nearly all religions. It is to
be found in apostolic Christianity. In the early Church it was regarded as
a matter in the option of the Christian who was aiming at the religious
life [see above, 16]. The characteristic of the Encratites was their
insistence upon asceticism as essential to Christian living. They were
therefore associated, and with abundant historical justification, with

Additional source material: Clement of Alexandria, Strom., III,
passim; Eusebius, Hist. Ec., IV, 29, cf. the many references
in the notes to McGiffert's edition, PNF.

(a) Hippolytus, VIII, 13. (MSG, 16:3368.)

See above, 19, c.

Others, however, styling themselves Encratites, acknowledge some things
concerning God and Christ in like manner with the Church, but in respect
to their mode of life they pass their time inflated with pride; thinking
that by meats they glorify themselves, they abstain from animal food, are
water drinkers, and, forbidding to marry, they devote the rest of their
life to habits of asceticism.

(b) Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I, 28. (MSG, 7:690.)

Many offshoots of numerous heresies have already been formed from those
heresies which we have described. By way of example, let us say there are
those springing from Saturninus and Marcion, who are called Encratites
[i.e., self-controlled], who preached the unmarried state, thus setting
aside the original creation of God, and indirectly condemning Him who made
male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of those
reckoned as belonging to them have also introduced abstinence from animal
food, being ungrateful to God who created all things. They deny, also, the
salvation of him who was first created. It is but recently that this
opinion has been discovered among them, since a certain man named Tatian
first introduced the blasphemy. He had been a hearer of Justin's, and as
long as he continued with him he expressed no such views; but after his
martyrdom [circa A. D. 165] he separated from the Church, and having
become excited and puffed up by the thought of being a teacher, as if he
were superior to others, he composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He
invented a system of certain invisible Eons, like the followers of
Valentinus; and like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was
nothing else than corruption and fornication. But this denial of Adam's
salvation was an opinion due entirely to himself.

Next: Montanism

Previous: Marcion

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