Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(Greek Kerinthos ).

A Gnostic-Ebionite heretic, contemporary with St. John ; against whose errors on the divinity of Christ the Apostle is said to have written the Fourth Gospel.

We possess no information concerning this early sectary which reaches back to his own times. The first mention of his name and description of his doctrines occur in St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., I, c. xxvi; III, c. iii, c. xi), written about 170. Further information is gathered from Presbyter Caius (c. 210) as quoted by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., III, xxviii, 2). Hippolytus, in "Philosophoumena", VII, 33 (c. 230), practically transcribes Irenaeus. Cerinthus is referred to by Pseudo-Tertullian in "Adv. Omnes Haeres", written about 240. A fragment of Dionysius of Alexandria , taken from "De Promissionibus", written about 250, is given by Eusebius after his quotation from Caius. The most detailed account is given by St. Epiphanius (Adv. Haeres", xxviii, written about 390), which, however, on account of its date and character must be used with some caution. A good summary is given by Theodoret ("Haer. Fab.", II, 3, written about 450). Cerinthus was an Egyptian, and if not by race a Jew, at least he was circumcised. The exact date of his birth and his death are unknown. In Asia he founded a school and gathered disciples. No writings of any kind have come down to us. Cerinthus's doctrines were a strange mixture of Gnosticism, Judaism, Chiliasm, and Ebionitism. He admitted one Supreme Being; but the world was produced by a distinct and far inferior power. He does not identify this Creator or Demiurgos with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Not Jehovah but the angels have both made the world and given the law. These creator-angels were ignorant of the existence of the Supreme God. The Jewish law was most sacred, and salvation to be obtained by obedience to its precepts. Cerinthus distinguished between Jesus and Christ. Jesus was mere man, though eminent in holiness. He suffered and died and was raised from the dead, or, as some say Cerinthus taught, He will be raised from the dear at the Last Day and all men will rise with Him. At the moment of baptism, Christ or the Holy Ghost was sent by the Highest God, and dwelt in Jesus teaching Him, what not even the angels knew, the Unknown God. This union between Jesus and Christ continues till the Passion, when Jesus suffers alone and Christ returns to heaven. Cerinthus believed in a happy millennium which would be realized here on earth previous to the resurrection and the spiritual kingdom of God in heaven.

Scarcely anything is known of Cerinthus's disciples ; they seem soon to have fused with the Nazareans and Ebionites and exercised little influence on the bulk of Christendom, except perhaps through the Pseudo-Clementines, the product of Cerinthian and Ebionite circles. They flourished most in Asia and Galatia.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 5:7-9
7 During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 15-16, 20
2 turn your ear to me, make haste. Be for me a ... Read More

Gospel, John 19:25-27
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 15th, 2014 Image

St. Valerian
September 15: The massacre of the martyrs of Lyons with their bishop, St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter