Hymenaeus ( ῾Υμέναιος, hymeneal), a professor of Christianity at Ephesus, who, with Alexander (1Ti 1:20) and Philetus (2Ti 2:18), had departed from the truth both in principle, and practice, and led others into apostasy (Neander, Pfianz. 1, 475). The chief doctrinal error of these persons consisted in maintaining that "the resurrection was past already." The precise meaning of this expression is by no means clearly ascertained: the most general, and perhaps best-founded opinion is, that they understood the resurrection in a figurative sense of the great change produced by the Gospel dispensation. See below. Some have suggested that they attempted to support their views by the apostle's language in his Epistle to the Ephesians (νεκροὺς - συνεζωποίησεν - συνήγειρεν, etc., 2, 1-5); but this is very improbable; for, if such misconception of his language had arisen, it might easily have been corrected; not to say that one of them appears to have been personally inimical to Paul (2Ti 4:14), and would scarcely have appealed to him as an authority. Most critics suppose that the same person is referred to in both the epistles to Timothy by the name of Hymenaeus (see Heidenreich, Pastoralbr. 1, 111). Mosheim, however, contends that there were two. He seems to lay great stress on the apostle's declaration in 1Ti 1:20, "Whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." But, whatever may be the meaning of this expression, the infliction was evidently designed for the benefit and restoration of the parties (comp. 1Co 5; 1Co 5), and was therefore far from indicating their hopeless and abandoned wickedness. See below. Nor do the terms employed in the second epistle import a less flagrant violation of the Christian profession than those in the first. If in the one the individuals alluded to are charged with having "discarded a good conscience" and "made shipwreck of faith," in the other they are described as indulging "in vain and profane babblings, which would increase to more ungodliness," as "having erred concerning the truth," and "overthrowing the faith" of others. These can hardly be said to be "two distinct characters, having nothing in common but the name" (Mosheim's Commentaries, 1, 304-306). For other interpretations of 2Ti 2:18, see Gill's Commentary, ad loc., and Walchii Miscellanea Sacra, 1, 4; De Hymenaeo Phileto, Jen. 1735, and Amstel. 1744. Two points referred to above require fuller elucidation.
1. The Error of Hymenaeus. — This was one that had been in part appropriated from others, and has frequently been revived since with additions. What initiation was to the Pythagoreans, wisdom to the Stoics, science to the followers of Plato, contemplation to the Peripatetics, that "knowledge" (γυῶσις) was to the Gnostics. As there were likewise in the Greek schools those who looked forward to a complete restoration of all things (ἀποκατάστασις, see Heyne, ad Virg. Ecclesiastes 4:5; comp. Gen. 6, 745), so there was "a regeneration" (Tit 3:5; Mt 19:28), "a new creation" (2Co 5:17; see Alford, ad loc.; Re 21:1), "a kingdom of heaven and of Messiah or Christ" (Mt 13; Re 7) —and herein popular belief among the Jews coincided unequivocally propounded in the N.T.; but here with this remarkable difference, viz., that in a great measure it was present as well as future-the same thing in germ that was to be had in perfection eventually. "The kingdom of God is within you," said our Lord (Lu 17:21). "He that is spiritual judgeth all things," said Paul (1Co 2:15). "He that is born of God cannot sin," said John (1Jo 3:9). There are likewise two deaths and two resurrections spoken of in the N.T.; the first of each sort, that of the soul to and from sin (Joh 3:3-8), "the hour which now is" (ibid. 5, 24,25, on which see Augustine, De Civ. Dei, 20, 6); the second, that of the body to and from corruption (1Co 15:36-44; also Joh 5:28-29), which last is prospective. Now, as the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was found to involve immense difficulties even in those early days (Ac 17:32; 1Co 15:35: how keenly they were pressed may be seen in Augustine, De Civ. Dei, 22:12 sq.), while, on the other hand, there was so great a predisposition in the then current philosophy (not even extinct now) to magnify the excellence of the soul above that of its earthly tabernacle, it was at once the easier and more attractive course to insist upon and argue from the force of those passages of Holy Scripture which enlarge upon the glories of the spiritual life that now is under Christ; and to pass over or explain away allegorically all that refers to a future state in connection with the resurrection of the body. In this manner we may deride the first errors of the Gnostics, of whom Hymenaeus was one of the earliest. They were spreading when John wrote' and his grand-disciple, Irenaeus, compiled a voluminous work against them (adv. Haer.). A good account of their full development is given by Gieseler, E. H., Per. 1, Div. 1, § 44 sq. SEE RESURRECTION.
2. The Sentence passed upon him. — It has been asserted by some writers of eminence (see Corn. a Lapide, ad 1Co 5:5) that the "delivering to Satan" is a mere synonym for ecclesiastical excommunication. Such can hardly be the case. The apostles possessed many extraordinary prerogatives, which none have since arrogated. Even the title which they bore has been set apart to them ever since. The shaking off the dust of their feet against a city that would not receive them (Mt 10:14), although an injunction afterwards given to the Seventy (Lu 10:11), and one which Paul found it necessary to act upon twice in the course of his ministry (Ac 13:51; Ac 18:6), has never been a practice since with Christian ministers. "Anathema," says Bingham, 'is a word that occurs frequently in the ancient canons" (Antiq. 16, 2, 16), but the form "Anathema Maranatha" is one that none have ever ventured upon since Paul (1Co 16:22). As the apostles healed all manner of bodily infirmities, so they seem to have possessed and exercised the same power in inflicting them-a power far too perilous to be continued when the manifold exigencies of the apostolical age had passed away. Ananias and Sapphira both fell down dead at the rebuke of Peter (Ac 5:5,10); two words from the same lips, "Tabitha, arise," sufficed to raise Dorcas from the dead (Ac 9:40). Paul's first act in entering upon his ministry was to strike Elymas the sorcerer with blindness, his own sight having been restored to him through the medium of a disciple (Ac 9:17. and Ac 13:11), while soon afterwards we read of his healing, the cripple of Lystra (Ac 14:8). Even apart from actual intervention by the apostles, bodily visitations are spoken of in the case of those who approached the Lord's Supper unworthily, when as yet no discipline had been established: "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and a good number (ἱκανοί, in the former case it is πολλοί) sleep" (1Co 11:30).
On the other hand, Satan was held to be the instrument or executioner of all these visitations. Such is the character assigned to him in the book of Job (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7). Similar agencies are described 1Ki 22:19-22, and 1Ch 21:1. In Ps 78:49, such are the causes to which the plagues of Egypt are assigned. Even our Lord submitted to be assailed by him more than once (Mt 4:1-10; Lu 4:13 says, "Departed from him for a season"); and "a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet" the very apostle whose act of delivering another to the same power is now under discussion. At the same time, large powers over the world of spirits were authoritatively conveyed by our Lord to his immediate followers (to the Twelve, Lu 9:1; to the Seventy, as the results slowed, Lu 10:17-20). SEE SATAN.
It only remains to notice five particulars connected with its exercise, which the apostle himself supplies:
1. That it was no mere prayer, but a solemn authoritative sentence pronounced in the name and power of Jesus Christ (1Co 5:3-5);
2. That it was never exercised upon ally without the Church: "Them that are without (God judgeth" (ibid. 5, 13), he says in express terms;
3. That it was "for the destruction of the flesh," i.e. some bodily visitation;
4. That it was for the improvement of the offender: that "his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (ibid. 5, 5) and that "he might learn not to blaspheme" while upon earth (1Ti 1:20);
5. That the apostle could in a given case empower others to pass such sentence in his absence (1Co 5:3-4). SEE ANATHEMIA.
Thus, while the "delivering to Satan" may resemble ecclesiastical excommunication in some respects, it has its own characteristics likewise, which show plainly that one is not to be confounded or placed on the same level with the other. Nor again does Paul himself deliver to Satan all those in whose company he bids his converts "not even to eat" (1Co 5; 1Co 11). See an able review of the whole subject by Bingham, Ant. 6, 2, 15. SEE EXCOMUNICATION.