Hymenaeus is a heretic mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20
in conjunction with Alexander (q.v.
) as one who had made shipwreck of the faith and, therefore, had been delivered to Satan. He is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17
in conjunction with Philetus as teaching a doctrine which ate into the body of the Church like a gangrene-the doctrine that the resurrection was past already. Nothing further is known of the three teachers mentioned in the two texts, and their sole importance to the student lies in the nature of their doctrine. It came from the masters of Gnosticism, who from Simon Magus onwards had taught the inferior or evil character of matter, in opposition to the fathers of the Catholic Church, who assigned to the world a sacramental character. According to Irenaeus (adv. Haer. ii. xxxi. 2), the followers of Simon and Carpocrates taught that ‘the resurrection from the dead was simply an acquaintance with that truth which they proclaimed.’ Tertullian (de Res. Carn. xix.) charged his adversaries with alleging that even death itself was to be understood in a spiritual sense, since death was not the separation of body and soul, but ignorance of God, by reason of which man is dead to God, and is not less buried in error than he would be in the grave.
‘Wherefore that also must be held to be the resurrection, when a man is re-animated by access to the truth, and having dispersed the death of ignorance, and being endowed with new life by God, has burst forth from the sepulchre of the old man, even as the Lord likened the Scribes and Pharisees to “whited sepulchers” (Matthew 23:27
). Whence it follows that they who have by faith attained to the resurrection are with the Lord after they have once put Him on in their baptism.’
The ground for this spiritualizing of death is given in a homily of Valentinus quoted by Clement Alex. (Strom. iv. 13):
‘Ye are originally immortal, and children of aeonian life, and ye willed that death should be your portion, that you might exhaust it and consume it, so that death might die in you and through you. For, when you release the world, you yourselves are not undone, but are lords over creation and over all corruption.’
According to Clement, Basilides also held that a ‘saved race’ had come down from above in order to remove death, and that the origin of this death was to be sought in the Demiurge. And a little later in the same chapter Clement tells us that the followers of Valentinus called the Catholics ‘psychical,’ as did the ‘Phrygians,’ the implication being that the Catholics thought, when death was mentioned, of the death of the body, and the Gnostics of the death of the soul. A further implication is that the moment of regeneration, or of passing through the third gate, overshadowed in the Gnostic mind the incident of physical death, as not merely giving a change of status, but as being an actual admission into the Divine world, and therefore into a world over which physical death had no jurisdiction. With this should be compared the passage in Revelation 20:5-6
which speaks of ‘the first resurrection’ and of the blessed and holy state of him who had part in it. ‘It is “the souls” of the martyrs that St. John sees alive; the resurrection is clearly spiritual and not corporeal’ (H. B. Swete, Apocalypse of St. John2, 1907, p. 266). In agreement with this we have John 5:21,
which says that both Father and Son quicken the dead and raise them up; and v. 24, which declares that he who has come to put his trust in the Son hath passed out of death into life. (The clause which refers the resurrection to the last day in John 6:40
; John 6:44
; John 6:54
may be suspected, with J. Kreyenbühl
, to be an interpolation.)
The delivering of Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan is to be understood as an excommunication from the fold of grace and safety, and a consequent transition into the world outside the Church where Satan has his throne-the world of suffering, disease, and death. It is not impossible that ‘Hymenaeus’ is an ironical nickname denoting that the bearer was one who shared the Gnostic dislike of marriage, or else scoffing at the Gnostic doctrine of the mystic marriage of the soul with the spirit. Cf. Antipas, Balaam, Nicolaitans.
W. F. Cobb.