Epiphanius’ Alogi and the question of early ecclesiastical opposition to the Johannine Corpus
Manor, Timothy Scott Calhoun
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The Johannine literature has been a cornerstone of Christian theology throughout the history of the church. However it is often argued that the church in the late second century and early third century was actually opposed to these writings because of questions concerning their authorship and role within “heterodox” theologies. Despite the axiomatic status that this so-called “Johannine Controversy” has achieved, there is surprisingly little evidence to suggest that the early church actively opposed the Johannine corpus. This thesis is a detailed study of the primary evidence recorded by the fourthcentury Church Father, Epiphanius of Salamis, which is the earliest record to explicitly note ecclesiastical opposition towards the Gospel and Apocalypse of John, taken together. In his Panarion, Epiphanius states that a group called the “Alogi” rejected the Gospel and Apocalypse of John, and attributed both to the heretic Cerinthus. He does not record any identifying features of this group’s provenance, theology or constituency; rather he only notes two objections that these Alogi had against the Gospel of John, and three against the Apocalypse. The identity of this group remained a mystery for centuries until consideration was given to the testimonies of two later Syrian writers who indicate that a certain “Gaius” made similar criticisms against the Gospel and Apocalypse of John in a debate with Hippolytus of Rome. As a result, the consensus view throughout modern scholarship is that an early churchman, Gaius of Rome, was the leader of this group that sought to eradicate the Johannine corpus from the church, and that Epiphanius as well as the later Syrian writers used a work of Hippolytus, now lost, as the primary source of their information. This thesis is a careful examination of the evidence that supports the theory that the early church actively opposed the Johannine literature. Thus, particular attention is given to the testimony of Epiphanius concerning the Alogi. It is demonstrated here that when priority is given to the early evidence, the Alogi is a fictional heretical sect, created by Epiphanius from various testimonies to account for what he believed to be antagonism primarily against the Gospel of John, and secondarily the Apocalypse. The later Syrian evidence is also examined in light of the early evidence, not the other way around, as is often the case. As a result, these sources are shown to be less reliable in their portrayal of the early reception of the Johannine literature than has previously been recognized. The first section of this thesis engages the question regarding the likelihood that Epiphanius derived his knowledge of this group from an earlier work of Hippolytus. The internal and external evidence about this group suggest that it is Epiphanius’ own creation. The second section explores the testimonies of earlier writers, namely Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius and Dionysius of Alexandria, and the way in which Epiphanius used these sources in the construction of this heresy. The third and final section critically examines the reliability of the later Syrian evidence concerning Gaius and his supposed ties to the Alogi. I argue that these later sources are not as reliable as many scholars maintain, and that Gaius of Rome was not associated with the Alogi, nor was he a heretic.