Ophites

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Ophites (ō´fīts) [Gr.,=believers in the serpent], group of Gnostic sects notorious for extreme cultism and inverted morality. Certain of these sects were known as Naasseni. Almost all that is known of Ophitism has been gleaned from St. Irenaeus, Origen, and other writers opposed to Gnosticism. The Ophites carried to extremes the teaching of Marcion that an essential hostility exists between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. The Ophites held that the Old Testament villains were actually heroes and revered Cain, the Sodomites, and the Egyptians. Specially worshiped was the serpent, as the creature in Eden that tried to give Adam and Eve the knowledge withheld from them by Jehovah. Much of the serpent worship and the occult ritualism was probably symbolic of certain esoteric knowledge. The Ophites acknowledged Jesus as the savior, but rejected the importance of the crucifixion; Christ came to reveal gnosis (knowledge), not to die for people's sins. One Ophitic hymn, the Hymn of the Naasenes, survives.

See E. Buonaiuti, Gnostic Fragments (1924); R. M. Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (1959, rev. ed. 1966).

views updated

Ophites

This sect of Gnostics appears to date from the second century. A system of initiation was popular among the members and they possessed symbols to represent purity, life, spirit, and fire. Beliefs were based on mysteries of the Egyptian goddess Isis, concepts of Oriental mythology, and Christian doctrine.

According to the theologian Origen (ca. 185-ca. 254 C.E.), the sect was founded by a man named Euphrates. The sect was believed to have given special prominence to serpents in their rituals.

Sources:

Legge, Francis. Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity from 330 B.C. to 333 A.D. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.

views updated

Ophites (Gk., ophis, ‘serpent’). A group of gnostic sects. According to them the wise serpent (Genesis 3. 14 f.) symbolized a higher god, who acts to liberate humanity and give illumination. Some sects worshipped the serpent, regarding the fall as God's denying of promised wisdom. They were also known as Naasenes.