Epiphanius Against all Heresies 63

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Against the first type of Origenists, who are shameful as well. 

1,1 There are people called Origenists, but this kind of Origenist is not to be found everywhere. I think, though, that the sect we are now discussing < arose > next after these [others]. (2) They are named Origenists, but I am not sure after whom. I do not know whether they < are derived > from the Origen who is called Adamantius the Author, or from some other Origen. Still, I have learned of this name.

1,3 The heresy they profess might have been modeled on the heresy of Epiphanes, whom I described earlier in the Gnostic Sects. But these people read various scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. And they reject marriage, although their sexual activity is incessant. Some have said that the sect originated in the region of Rome and Africa.

1,4 They soil their bodies, minds and souls with unchastity. Some of them masquerade as monastics, and their woman companions as female monastics. And they are physically corrupted because they satisfy their appetite but, to put it politely, by the act of Onan the son of Judah. (5) For as Onan coupled with Tamar and satisfied his appetite but did not complete the act by planting his seed for the God-given [purpose of] procreation and did himself harm instead, thus, as <he> did the vile thing, so these people have used their supposed <female monastics>, committing this infamy.

1,6 For purity is not their concern, but a hypocritical purity in name. Their concern is limited to ensuring that the woman the seeming < ascetic* > has seduced does not get pregnant—either so as not to cause child-bearing, or to escape detection, since they want to be honored for their supposed celibacy. (7) In any case, this is what they do, but others endeavor to get this same filthy satisfaction not with women but by other means, and pollute themselves with their own hands. (8) They too imitate the son of Judah, soil the ground with their forbidden practices and drops of filthy fluid and rub their emissions into the earth with their feet, so that their seed will not be snatched by unclean spirits for the impregnation of demons.

2,1 But as I said, they use various scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments and certain apocrypha, especially the so-called Acts of Andrew and the others. Indeed, they themselves have often freely boasted of doing this thing. (2) Yet they accuse the members of the church, if you please. who have beloved “adoptive wives,” as they call them, of doing this too— but secretly from respect for public opinion, so as to engage in the wickedness <in fact>, but in pretence preen themselves on the name [“virgin”] from regard for the public.

2,3 But some have told me of certain persons, now dead, who supposedly also did this, having allegedly heard the information from women these people had forced into it. (4) Among them they used to mention a bishop who had exercised the episcopate for a number of years in a small town in Palestine and had had women of this sort, I mean adoptive wives, to wait on him. Indeed, I have learned even from confessors that he was that sort of person. (5) All the same, I do not believe the persons who have said this and claim to have heard it from the women. For the strong evidence of the speakers’ malice led me sometimes to believe, but at other times to disbelieve their evil report of the aged bishop after his death. (6) For the charge against him was something like this: “So-and-so was caught in sin with a woman, and his defense when we confronted him was that his partner in pollution had told him about the vicious practice”— although she was already along in years and in her old age!—“and taught him to use her but scatter his dirty fluids outside, on the ground.”

3,1 And this is their filthy act, which deceives their own minds and is blinded by the devil. (2) I see no need for me to cite the texts which have been their downfall. Otherwise I might seem to be using the texts which I mean as criticisms, to discourage the evil practices of each sect, as an incentive to those whose minds are always unstable and vain, and who pursue evil for themselves rather than desiring good. (3) Rather than this I shall offer a few sample arguments as protection against this frightful, snake-like sect.

3,4 Where have you gotten the idea of your vile act, you people? For to begin with, who cannot see that your teaching is entirely the teaching of demons, and the mischief you have contrived is the behavior of deluded, corrupt persons? (5) If conception is in any way evil, this is not because of childbearing but because of carnal relations. Why, then, do you give in to lust and have carnal relations?

3,6 And if carnal relations are not evil, neither is it evil for the one who has them to consummate what he has done. Or < must > an ascetic not cultivate the fruits of the soil, as “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground?” (7) But if one tills the ground, like Noah who “became an husbandman and planted a vineyard”—Noah did not plant a vineyard in order for it not to yield vintage. He planted it and “drank of the fruit thereof and was drunken,” as scripture says.

3,8 But the aged man is excus<able>; he was pleasing to God, and did not fall to drink from intemperance. Perhaps he was overcome with grief and fell into a stupor, and succumbed to weakness from infirmity and old age because he could not bear them; [in any case] it was not to be mocked by his son. (9) But the son who mocked him received his curse, for the punishment of those who offer insult to their parents, and of thoughts in us that rebel against the knowledge of God and the ordinance he has rightly decreed.

4,1 For even though marriage is not as highly honored as virginity and virginity is superior to it—for true virginity is called glorious and virtu- ous, not unclean—marriage is respectable too, < if one > employs God’s good creatures for procreation, not shame, and does not misuse God’s appointed method of conjugal intercourse. (2) For in fact, virginity is the state the apostle commends because he says, “The virgin, and the unmar- ried woman, careth for the things of the Lord, how she may please the Lord, that she may be holy in body and soul”—showing that even though the unmarried state is open to suspicion, it is no cause of faults.

4,3 Indeed, <propriety must be preserved in marriage>. We know that Abraham sired children although he was dear to the Lord, and Isaac, Jacob and the rest. And they did not sully themselves with vile acts by touching filth and <slime>, or oppose God’s good ordinance of procreation through lawful wedlock. (4) Nor did those of them who practiced chastity and virginity debase the contest and make something else of it, as though to evade by trickery the virtuous mode of competing. (5) Elijah too never lightly entered towns or associated with women, but lived in deserts. Elisha, John, and all who <exhibited> this great mark of the imitation of the angels, made themselves eunuchs in the right way for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, in accordance with the Lord’s ordinance in the Gospel.

4,6 And although I have a great deal to say about them, and could expose the devil’s mockery of their minds with many proofs from scripture, I rest content with these few. (7) For anyone can see that their behavior is not sensible, and that such knowledge is not from God; their ridiculous activity, and their fall into the practice of iniquity, are diabolically inspired.

4,8 And now that we have maimed this sect too—like the horrid snake we call the viper, which has a short body but breathes a breath which is fearful for its venom, and blows destruction at those who come near it—let us go on to the rest since we have crushed it, calling on God to help us keep the promise of our whole work in God.