views updated


Early second century Gnostic teacher in Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 3.59) states that Carpocrates's son Epiphanes founded the sect of Carpocratians, wrote a work On Justice, and died at the age of 17, highly revered by his followers. Other sources mention only the name of Carpocrates (Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 1.25, and Hippolytus, Philos. 7.32). Origen (C. Cels. 5.62) speaks of a sect of Harpocratians, and many modern authorities deny the existence of a heresiarch Carpocrates and assume that the name originated in the adoption by the sect of the Egyptian god Horus-Harpocrates [see H. Kraft, "Gab es einen Gnostiker Karpokrates?" Theologische Zeitschrift 8 (1952) 434443]. A disciple, Marcellina, brought the sect to Rome in the reign of Anicetus. The Carpocratians taught the creation of the world by lower angels and successive reincarnations until the soul ascends to God. Strongly influenced by Hellenistic philosophy, the sect was noted for its magical practices and its antinomianism.

See Also: gnosticism.

Bibliography: Texts . w. vÖlker, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte der christlichen Gnosis (Tübingen 1932) 3338. Studies . h. liboron, Die karpokratianische Gnosis (Leipzig 1938). g. bareil le, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 2.2:180003. g. salmon, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, ed. w. smith and h. wace, 4 v. (London 187787) 1:407409.

[g. w. macrae]

About this article


Updated About content Print Article Share Article