2d-century Italian Gnostic teacher. Almost nothing is known of his life. According to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 4.71) and Hippolytus (Ref. 6.29, 35), he was, with Ptolemy, a leader of the Italian school of Valentinian Gnosis. He ranks as the first known commentator on the Fourth Gospel. Origen quotes some 48 passages of Heracleon's work in his own commentary on John, and Clement cites two other passages probably from the same work (ibid. and Eclogae 25.1). Largely on the basis of doctrinal similarities, H. C. Puech and G. Quispel have very plausibly assigned to Heracleon the Treatise on the Three Natures in the Jung Codex from the Chenoboskion manuscripts. At the core of Heracleon's system is the doctrine of the three natures and three classes of men: the material, associated with evil and the devil; the pneumatic, associated with the Father and the Pleroma; the psychic, associated with the Demiurge and capable of some purification by knowledge. The body of Jesus, the Italian Valentinians held, belonged to the psychic category.
See Also: gnosticism.
Bibliography: a. e. brooke, ed., The Fragments of Heracleon (Cambridge, Eng. 1891). w. vÖlker, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte der christlichen Gnosis (Tübingen 1932) 63–86. w. foerster, "Von Valentin zur Herakleon" Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche (1928) Beiheft 7. f. sagnard, La Gnose valentinienne et le témoignage de Saint Irénée (Paris 1947) 127–134; 480–520. g. bareille, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables Générales 1951–) 6.2: 2198–2205. h. c. puech and g. quispel, "Le Quatrième écrit gnostique du Codex Jung," Vigiliae christianea 9 (1955) 65–102. r. m. grant, Gnosticism: A Sourcebook … (New York 1961) 195–208.
[g. w. macrae]