We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

Epiphanius

Source:
Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls What is This? Explores the history, relevance, and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Epiphanius

(c.315–403),

bishop of Salamis. Born in Palestine, Epiphanius was trained by monks from an early age to uphold Nicene Christianity. When he was twenty years old, he founded a monastery at Eleutheropolis (Beth Guvrin) in Judea. Appointed bishop of Salamis in Cyprus in approximately 367 ce, he was strongly against any teachings other than Nicene Christianity, especially the teachings of Origen.

Epiphanius's major literary work, written in less than three years (between 374 and 377), is the Panarion (“Medicine Chest”). It is a massive fifteen-hundred- page treatment of eighty sects from ancient times to Epiphanius's own time. Since Epiphanius viewed these sects as wild beasts or serpents, he regarded his Panarion as the medicine chest that would provide the antidote for those who might be bitten (Panarion Proem I 1.2).

The first twenty sects discussed by Epiphanius are pre-Christian. These are divided into five main groups: Barbarism, Scythianism, Hellenism, Judaism, and Samaritanism. Judaism is further divided into seven sects (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Hemerobaptists, Ossaeans, Nasaraeans, and Herodians), while Samaritanism has four offshoots: Gorothenes, Sebuaeans, Essenes, and Dositheans (Panarion Proem I 3.1–5). For Epiphanius, then, the Essenes are a sect of the Samaritans, not of the Jews.

Epiphanius's treatment of the Essenes is very brief. He states that they agree with the other Samaritan sects in matters of circumcision, the Sabbath, and other points of the Law. The Sebuaeans, however, changed the dates of the feasts (Unleavened Bread, Passover, Shavu῾ot, and Sukkot), but the Gorothenes did not. The Essenes who lived near the Sebuaeans went along with them, but Essenes elsewhere observed the normal feast days. Epiphanius also notes that the Essenes “kept to their primitive way of life without transgressing it in anything” (Panarion 10.1.1–12.1.2). As to the current state of the Essenes, Epiphanius writes that “there are no Essenes at all; it is as though they have been buried in darkness” (Panarion 20.3.4).

Epiphanius also mentions the Ossaeans, a sect of Judaism that originally came from the Transjordan region. He translates their name as “sturdy people” and describes them as hypocrites and skillful in their inventiveness (Panarion 19.1.1–3). He notes that they observe the Sabbath, circumcision, and keeping the whole Law, while forbidding the books of Moses (Panarion 19.5.1). Most of his description of the group is taken up with an unflattering portrait of Elxai, a man who joined the group later on, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan (98–117). Epiphanius notes that there exists in his day a remnant of Ossaeans who no longer practice Judaism but have joined with a sect called the Sampsites (Panarion 20.3.2–4).

Evaluation of Epiphanius's description of the Essenes and the Ossaeans is difficult. Much of his information is derived from earlier sources (including Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegesippus, and Eusebius), and scholars agree that his descriptions of sects closer to his own time are far more reliable than the others, especially the pre-Christian sects. [See Hippolytus.] It is strange that he does not mention the Judean Essenes known by other ancient writers, and instead links the Essenes with the Samaritans. Josephus, however, states that the Essenes “have no one city, but many settle in each city” (The Jewish War 2.8.4). [See Josephus Flavius.] Further, some biblical manuscripts from Qumran reflect the Samaritan recension (for example, paleo-Exodusm [4Q22]) though without the explicitly Samaritan sectarian variants. In light of our limited knowledge of the history and scope of the Essenes, it would perhaps be wisest to defer judgment on the existence of a Samaritan branch of Essenes at some point in their history. [See Samaritans.]

As for the Ossaeans, some scholars have suggested that they were the original group of Essenes at Qumran, who then migrated to the Transjordan region after the destruction of Qumran by the Romans in 70 ce. There is, however, little corroborating evidence outside of Epiphanius for this hypothesis.

[See also Essenes.]

Bibliography

  • Adam, Alfred. Antike Berichte über die Essener. 2d ed. Berlin, 1972.
    Greek text and brief commentary on all the ancient accounts of the Essenes
    .
  • Amidon, Philip R. The Panarion of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis: Selected Passages. Oxford, 1990.
    Most recent English translation of selected passages of the Panarion
    .
  • Black, Matthew. The Scrolls and Christian Origins: Studies in the Jewish Background of the New Testament. 1961; reprint, Chico, Calif., 1983.
    Though dated, Black's treatment of the reliability of Epiphanius's account of the Essenes and Ossaeans is still valuable
    .
  • Holl, Karl. Epiphanius. Erster Band. Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Bd. 25. Leipzig, 1915.
    The standard Greek edition of Epiphanius's Panarion, currently under revision by Jürgen Dummer
    .
  • Quasten, Johannes. “Epiphanius of Salamis.” In Patrology by Johannes Quasten, vol. 3, pp. 384–396. Westminster, Md., 1950–1960; reprint, 1983.
    Brief biography of Epiphanius and discussion of his writings
    .
  • Williams, Frank. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, 36. Leiden, 1987.
    Good introduction and English translation of Book I of the Panarion
    .

Todd S. Beall

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2022. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice