Culpepper on
the Alogoi

Excerpt from: R. Alan Culpepper,
John, the son of Zebedee: the life of a legend, (T&T Clark Edin., 2000)

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Culpepper: - The Alogoi:

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Culpepper on
the Alogoi


Attempts at a later dating for John's Gospel revolve around associating it with heretical Gnostic fringe groups from the 2nd and later centuries. It is also portrayed as "Hellenistic" (i.e., Pagan) in nature, and its Semitic features are downplayed. Claims that it was a core document for a mysterious group called the "Alogoi" have been made; however, Culpepper examines the evidence and finds that there is no primary historical evidence that such a group even existed under that name in the 2nd century. Rather, this was a term coined in the late 4th century by Epiphanius.

Taken from:
R. Alan Culpepper,
John, the son of Zebedee: the life of a legend, (T&T Clark Edin., 2000)

Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.

Use of the Fourth Gospel
in the Latter Half of the 2nd Century

pp. 121 fwd

The Montanists and Gaius

"By about 170-180, the Montanist movement made its presence felt in Rome.

Gaius, a presbyter and noted orthodox scholar, opposed Proclus, a Montanist, attacking Montanism as a heresy. (86) As one facet of his polemic, Gaius rejected both the Gospel of John and Revelation, and denied the Apostolic authorship of both writings. The Gospel was the authority for the Montanist claims regarding the Paraclete and for their own prophetic enthusiasm; Revelation was the authority for their millenial views.

Gaius sought to discredit the Gospel by carefully noting its historical discrepancies and its contradictions of the Synoptics. He did not challenge it on theological grounds.

Irenaeus, whose work is treated below, was apparently the first to respond to Gaius (about 185 A.D.) 1 In the course of his defense of the fourfold Gospel, Irenaeus condemns both those who take away from the four Gospels and those who add to them. He did not mention Gaius by name, however, -- probably because of Gaius' reputation in the church.

If Irenaeus was responding to others besides Gaius, we have no knowledge of them. The supposition that Irenaeus was responding to the Alogoi mentioned by Epiphanius, or any activity of such a group in Asia Minor, is not supported by the primary sources.

Gaius's standing as a leader of the church at Rome shows that the authority of John and its apostolic authorship were not so firmly established (at least in Rome, from which we have the most evidence for the use of the Gospel in the mid-2nd century) that it could not be challenged by one of the scholars of the church.

Some years later (c. 202-203) Gaius wrote down his arguments against Montanism in the form of A Dialogue with Proclus. In this treatise Gaius explained his rejection of the Gospel and Revelation on literary-historical grounds, arguing from such a basis that they could not be apostolic and that even Cerinthus had appealed to Revelation to establish his chiliastic views.

Hippolytus, also of Rome, was incensed by Gaius' attack on the apostolic authority of the Gospel and any hint that Revelation contained Cerinthian heresy. He immediately (c. 204-205) wrote a Defense of the Gospel of John and Revelation.

(Still debated, however, is the question of whether Hippolytus wrote more than one apologetic work. )

Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, and also Eusebius knew of Gaius' work.

Epiphanius (who wrote c. 374-376), however, was dependent on Hipplolytus.
It was Epiphanius, [in the 4th century] in fact, who coined the term 'Alogoi' for those who rejected the Logos:

"Therefore the 'Alogoi' claim, for this is the epithet which I myself am applying to them; from now on then so they will be designated and thus, Beloved, let us apply this name to them, that is, 'Alogoi'. For indeed the heresy which they held is appropriately so called because it rejected the books of John. Since therefore they do not accept the Logos preached by John, they shall be called 'Alogoi'. 2

Epiphanius, therefore, had no independant knowledge of a group, either in Asia Minor or in Rome, who had rejected the Gospel of John.

Rather, he labeled as 'Alogoi' the views of Gaius which he learned of through Hippolytus. 1

Recent scholarship has therefore dismissed the 'Alogoi' from the stage of history. We have no evidence of such a group. The figure of Gaius has emerged with greater clarity, however, and shows us that the authority of the Gospel of John was still quite tenuous [in Rome] up to the time of Irenaeus."3

- R. Alan Culpepper, John, the son of Zebedee: the life of a legend,
(Columbia, 2000) pp. 121-122.

Original Footnotes:

1. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.11.9. (ANF 1:429)

2. Epiphanius, Panarion 51:3.1-3, See further Joseph Daniel Smith, "Gaius and the Controversy over the Johannine Literature", 217-18.

3. See J.D. Smith, ibid, 206-262, esp. 259.

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