Christian Churches of God

No. 202z




The Nicolaitans

(Edition 1.1 19970524-19970722)

Rev 2.6 condemns the doctrines of the Nicolaitans and in Rev 2:14,15 Christ states He hates these doctrines. Who were they and what were their doctrines?



Christian Churches of God





(Copyright ã 1997 Wade Cox)

(Summary by Patti Gambier, ed. Wade Cox)

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The Nicolaitans

Revelation 2:6 - The Church at Ephesus hates the doctrines of the Nicolaitans.

Revelation 2:14,15 – The Church at Pergamos was guilty in that some of them held the doctrines. Christ stated in both cases He hated the doctrines.

The answer to who they are, and what are the doctrines regarding the Nicolaitans is found in a maze of history. Ignatius, a disciple of John (30-107 CE) is credited with the first mention of them.

He says: "Flee also the Nicolaitans, falsely so-called, who are lovers of pleasure and given to calumnious speeches" (ANF).

There are three points here: (1) The Nicolaitans were incorrectly named – the deductions made about them, as disciples of Nicolas, one of the seven original deacons of the Church, are false. (2) They are lovers of pleasure as the end of all activity (a Hedonist view). Also in an epistle to the Philadelphians he says they see unlawful union as a good thing. (3) They were given to writing accusatory works.

They also had a problem with the incarnation, in that the Word dwelt in the human body as a soul (which Ignatius denied) and so the Nicolaitans were the precursors of the Trinitarians in this regard.

Irenaeus, next in line of succession, disciple of Polycarp, writes of the Nicolaitans, but seems to accept that the sect originated with Nicolas – thus ignoring Ignatius.

John had to address the matter of the incarnation to correct the doctrines regarding the separation of the humanity and divinity of Christ. This emanated from the eastern Gnostics, from Simon Magus and into the Nicolaitans. The Trinitarians altered the text of 1John 4:1-3, but the original text appears in Irenaeus, and is confirmed by Socrates the Historian.

The other doctrine attacked the law concerning love. So the elements of the elevation and separation of Christ were absorbed in the Trinity, and anti-nomianism became the "grace eliminating law" argument, promoted by mainstream Christianity.

Clement, in his writings, saw the Nicolaitans as misusing the teachings of Nicolas, the deacon, and that they were classed with the profligate sect of heretics.

The next time we see the doctrines of the Nicolaitans is in writings attributed to Tertullian, and he describes the most foul behaviour of the sect, which is a development of licentious Gnosticism. By the fourth century this development is attributed to Nicolas, one of the original deacons (although denied by the early disciples). John had to combat the heresies that were entering the Churches, fostered by Gnosticism.

Hippolytus also mentions the Nicolaitans.

From Clement of Alexandria we see that an adage of the good man Nicolas was perverted by the Nicolaitans, and was misused by the Gnostic intruders into the Church. By attacking the nature of God and the Law, they regressed to sin (Rom. 1:1-32).

The Trinitarians have not adequately expounded the grace/law doctrine because of self-exposure. John had to write on the nature of sin (1Jn. 3:4) and the doctrine of anti-Christ in his epistle of love, in a refutation of the Gnostic doctrines, later called Nicolaitan, which first split the Church.

Eusebius says the so-called sect of the Nicolaitans lasted a very short lime. One can only question that statement as Christ asserts twice that it is a doctrine He hates, therefore it must have had substance and some footing. By the time Eusebius made this statement, Gnosticism had syncretised with the emerging Christianity, in the west.

They worshipped the Mother Goddess and as the Goddess of Heaven. This view developed into Mariolatry. Later the proponents of celibacy attacked the married priests as immoral.

The apostles were married men with families and history refutes celibacy in the elect apostles and elders. Judas, the brother of Christ, was married and had sons. John 19:25 clearly states Mary, wife of Clopas was the sister of Mariam, wrongly called Mary (see also Miriam SGD 3137), the mother of Messiah. The blood relatives of Jesus Christ were called the "desposyni" – Greek for "Belonging to the Lord". Most were martyred, or hounded to extinction by the Catholic Church in Rome. (See Malachi Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, Secker and Warburg, London, 1981, p.42) By 318 CE the discrepancies between the original Church of God and the Roman model were glaring. From 318 CE the Nicolaitans had emerged victorious over the descendants of Messiah, and a new system of government was inflicted on the Church.

The original Church was forced underground as the Paulicians and the Vallenses etc. See the paper Role of the Fourth Commandment in the History of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170).

The Mystery Cults entered Rome ca. 64 BCE. The Mithras system and sun cults were introduced to Rome, and later to Christianity. The term "Father", the Mother Goddess, the god Attis, loved by the Mother of the Gods, the decoration of the sacred pine, and other attributes, doctrines and practises from the Mystery Cults have been grafted into mainstream Christianity, such that this current Christianity bears no resemblance to the Church of the first century, or indeed, to the Churches of God in these last days.

From the Gnostic system adopted, and from the Phrygians, we are dealing with an entry to heaven on death and no physical resurrection, which is contrary to Scripture. Easter has taken over the Passover system. Christ as the risen Son (sun) replaced Attis.

Angels are regarded as a lower order of elohim or theoi. The entire system replacing true Christianity with the Mystery Cults is not readily understood by the uninitiated. The Nicolaitans did not die out, but were rather absorbed.

The meaning of the name Nicolaitan is derived from two words – (1) "nike" meaning "conquest" or more particularly, "personified victory"; (2) "laos" meaning people – other people rather than one’s own people).

Nike is a name used to define a concept of a deity, which in itself can have many names in Greek, Roman and Chaldean mythology. Nike emerges as another name for Athene, goddess of war, where Nike is goddess of victory, and this combination had an altar on the bastion south of the Acropolis – so she was not a low-grade divinity.

The name, therefore, is a combination of two words that convey the concept of the victory over the people. This process developed the division into discrete classes and the terms ministry and laity were derived.

The Sabbath-keeping churches from the time of Christ and his immediate family in the Church have not accepted such a system.

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, therefore is much more involved and longstanding than we might have imagined.