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Epiphanius of Salamis on the Hymenaean Heresy

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. AD 320 to 403) was a bishop of Salamis, Cyprus. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy. He is best known for composing the Panarion, a very large compendium of the heresies up to his own time, full of quotations that are often the only surviving fragments of these texts. He was also an early critic against contemporary uses of iconography in the Church.

I post this for those who are interested in Full Preterism (Hyper-Preterism). Some of my Full Preterist acquaintances have objected that Hymenaeanism refers only to the teaching that the “resurrection is past” around the time of Paul’s writing of his two Epistles to Timothy in the early to mid-AD 60s. They insist this cannot refer to the resurrection of the saints or the Second Coming of Jesus in AD 70 – which is when many Full Preterists claim these events occurred. Since Paul was writing prior to AD 70, they claim this heresy cannot apply to today’s Full Preterists who say the Second Coming and Resurrection occurred in the past.

On the contrary, in Panarion, Epiphanius provides some useful information on how the early Church viewed the Hymenaean heresy as a form of Docetic Gnosticism. The Docetic sect embraced pseudo-spirituality, denying anything good in the material world and held that Christ only appeared to have a real birth, death and resurrection.

Full Preterists are repeating elements of this Docetic Gnostic error – at least in the way that Epiphanius recorded the points of Hymenaeanism.

And again, to hint that there will be a resurrection of the dead, the Son of this God says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But by “temple” he meant his own body, which would be “destroyed” by the hands of men — that is, killed. But something which was not a body but an apparition — as these people in their turn say — could not have fallen into someone’s hands and been raised the third day, as he promised. By such a provision it is plainly proved that the resurrection of the dead is undeniable, and the soul does not need a speech of defense to give before each authority — this too is a fabrication of theirs, as we have said — but needs the Lord’s deed of lovingkindness, sustained by works and faith. So says the most holy Paul, writing to Timothy with these words: “That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of the Lord, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, which the many having deserted have turned unto fables and words of folly, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.”

In his second epistle, moreover, he says that Hymenaeus and Philetus have gone wrong about the truth. They were followers of this sect themselves, proclaiming another God and endless genealogies, implanting fresh error in men by saying that the world was not made by God but by principalities and authorities, and that the resurrection has already come in the children who are begotten by each of their parents, but that there will be no resurrection of the dead. And see the character of the truth, brothers, and the refutation of their disorder! (Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 8.1-6).

Note the following points in Epiphaius’ summary.

  1. Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. Although this was His glorified body, He was not a ghost or an apparition.
  2. Likewise, the future bodily resurrection of the dead is undeniable (1 Corinthians 10:12-58).
  3. Proto-Gnostics, such as Phygelus and Hermogenes, apparently taught that the souls of the departed need to ascend through a series of Aeons giving a defense of their works and faith before each authority. Followers of this sect have thus departed from the Church as heretics. They have departed from the true Gospel that teaches that the souls of the dead need only the finished work of grace, which was “sustained by” (or affirmed by) their good works and faith (James 2:14-26).
  4. Hymenaeus and Philetus were also part of this Proto-Gnostic sect. They taught “endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4) meaning this chain of authority made up of “lesser gods,” or Aeons, that ascend in the spiritual realm.
  5. Like the later Gnostics, Hymenaeus and Philetus proclaimed another God who was the Father of many lesser gods, and that the world itself being evil matter was not created by God, but instead by these principalities and authorities.
  6. The Hymenaeans taught that the resurrection of the dead was a past event and that children born of believing parents have received this spiritual resurrection. There will therefore be no future bodily resurrection of the dead.

Although Full Preterists like to say that the Hymenaean heresy refers only to the resurrection of the dead as past at the time of Paul’s writing, Epiphanius’ description shows otherwise. The Church Fathers were creedally orthodox. For them, the resurrection was a future event and linked inextricably to the Second Coming of Christ. As the Apostles and Nicene Creeds stated: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.”

Epiphanius affirms this truth by making the following points:

  1. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a bodily resurrection and so too the resurrection of the righteous dead “will be” a bodily resurrection in the future.
  2. The Hymanaean heresy is linked to the Gnostic denial that Jesus had a physical body and that His resurrection was spiritual only.

Epiphanius also links the Hymenaean error to the contemporary Gnostic error that said the world was created not by God, but through a chain of Being – with numerous Aeons – or “principalities and authorities” who made the evil material world. Similarly, many modern Full Preterists deny a literal six-day Creation, but God worked through the stages of evolution over numerous ages. They also deny that physical death came into the world through Adam’s sin, but death existed as part of the natural order for millions of years.

In contrast, the Nicene Creed states:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (aeons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; both in heaven and on earth.

Since the Gnostics taught a spiritual resurrection of Jesus and thus a denial of a bodily Second Coming of Jesus and a denial of a future bodily resurrection of the saints, they in reality believed the world would continue in a state of death and decay until it was destroyed. There will be no New Heavens and New Earth because that too exists in the spiritual realm only.

So we can see that ideas have consequences. Modern Full Preterists commit a heresy very similar to the ancient Hymenaeans. The “New Heavens and the New Earth” (which many moderate preterists, such as me, agree now exists as a spiritual reality) will never become a physical reality in their scheme. On the contrary, the Word of God teaches that death itself, the last enemy of God, will one day be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

Your comments are welcome!

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Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan

Running time: 85 minutes

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(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Why Creeds and Confessions? (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 219 pages

Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy

Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.

Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.

Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

$12.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

$4.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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