Noetus or Noetius

Noetus or Noetius a Christian philosopher of the 3d century, noted as the founder of a heretical body of Christians, monophysitic in tendency, was a native of Asia Minor-Hippolytus (Ref. 9:11) says of Smyrna; and so says Epiphanius (in Synopsis, , 2:11), but in the body of his work (Haer. lib. lvii) says he is of Ephesus. In all probability Noetus was a native of Ephesus and a presbyter of Smyrna. In his early life he was one of the most prominent advocates of the Patripassian heresy. In his views, which he published about A.D. 200, he appeals, like Praxeas, to Romans ix' 5, where Christ is called the one God over all. Being called upon to defend his doctrine before a council of presbyters at Smyrna, he denied or evaded the charge: but presently, encouraged by gaining about ten associates, he openly maintained the doctrine charged to him, and on a second summons before the synod avowed it, and claimed that it enhanced the glory of Christ. He was excommunicated, and then gathered followers, and formed a school for the propagation of his opinions; shortly after which he died (Hippolytus, Disc. against Noetus; Epiphanius, Haer. lib. 57). The author of Praedestinatus states that he was condemned also by Tranquillus, bishop of the Chalcedonians in Syria (Praedest. Haer. 36). From what Epiphanius and Theodoret say, it seems that the manner in which Noetus made Christ to be both the Father and the Son has been understood by the ancients, and the moderns too, in a worse sense than was necessary. For they tell us that Noetus believed the Father and the Son to be one and the same person; that this person bore the name of Father before he connected himself with the man Christ, but took the title Son after his union with the man Christ; so that he could be denominated both the Father and the Son, being the Father if viewed in himself and apart from Christ, but being the Son if viewed as coupled with the man Christ. From this exposition of his views consequences are frequently, and, as we think, unjustly drawn which are discreditable to the reputation and talents of Noetus; though his system, so far as it can now be ascertained from the writings of the ancients, was this:

1. Very explicit declarations of Scripture put it beyond all question that, besides that God who is called the Father of all things, there are no gods.

2. But those who distinguish three persons in God multiply gods, or make more than one God.

3. Therefore that distinction of persons in God must be rejected as being false.

4. Yet the Holy Scriptures clearly teach that God was in Christ, and that Christ was the supreme God, from whom all things originated.

5. To bring the two representations into harmony, therefore, we must believe that the God who is in Christ is that supreme God whom the Scriptures call the Father of mankind.

6. This Father, in order to bring relief to fallen men, procreated from the Virgin Mary a man free from all sin, who in a peculiar sense is called the Son of God.

7. That man the Father so united with himself as to make of himself and the Son but one person.

8. On account of this-union, whatever befell or occurred to that Son, or that divinely begotten man, may also be correctly predicated of the Father, who took him into society with his person.

9. Therefore the Father, being coupled with the Son, was born, suffered pains, and died. For although the Father, in himself considered, can neither be born, nor die, nor suffer pains; yet, as he and the Son became one person, it may be said that he. was born and died.

10. For the same reason, the Father being present in the Son, although he remains still the Father, he may also be correctly called the Son. According to Hippolytus, however, it would appear that Noetus taught the truly appalling doctrine that the Father, the One Primary Principle, suffered on the cross — not in the way in which the catholic faith teaches that Christ suffered, but from a passibility attributed to the Divine Nature itself. In stating the catholic doctrine that the Son of God suffered, it is not said that the Word is in his own nature possible, nor is it said that Christ suffered "ratione divinae-nature," but "ratione humane naturme quae sola passibilis erat." "But," says Blunt, truly, "do not the statements of Noetus's doctrine begin with ascribing passibility to the Divine Nature itself? The Noetians advance statements after this manner — that one and the same God is the Creator and Father of all things, and that when it pleased him He appeared to just men of old. Therefore it is that, according to the same account, as Neander says, 'there is one God the Father, who appears or reveals himself when he will, and is invisible when he will: he is visible and invisible, begotten and unbegotten;' and we may add, is mortal and immortal. The subsequent statements, it is true, refer these positions to the supposed incarnation of the Father, but it may be asked whether that supposed incarnation, with its consequences, is not in accordance with a presupposed attribute of passibility in the Deity itself." This charge seems reasonable, too, when we consider that "on no other supposition can the derivation of Noetianism from the doctrine of Heracleitus be made good, a derivation which Hippolytus insists upon very strongly. The original principle of the universe Heracleitus believed to be living ethereal fire, self-kindled and self-extinguished. In the following passage he asserted, as Hippolytus states, that the primal world is itself the Demiurge and Creator of itself: 'God is day, night, summer, winter, war, peace, surfeit, famine.' Noetus says that the universe is divisible and indivisible; generated and ungenerated; mortal and immortal; reason, eternity, Son, Father, justice, God. In this passage the manifestations or developments of the Primal Principle in time are contrasted with its nature and existence in eternity. The derivation of Noetian doctrine from the doctrine of Heracleitus will scarcely hold good unless Noetus be understood to attribute to the Godhead itself that which Heracleitus attributed to the Primal Principle. Whence, after quoting the pantheistic passages from Heracleitus, Hippolytus stated the Noetian doctrine that, according to the same account, the Father is unbegotten and begotten, immortal and mortal. It is not to be inferred that to be unbegotten and begotten, to be immmortal and mortal, was attributed by Noetus to the Godhead itself, independently of the supposed incarnation of the Godhead; in short, that he held the Father to be visible and passible, so that there was required the addition to the creed which was made by the Church of Aquileia, affirming the Father to be invisible and impassible. A further proof of this is found in the twelfth anathema of the Synod of Sirmium. A.D. 351, which, summoned to deal with Photinus condemned the various errors of the Sabellian school. It can hardly be doubted that the following words were directed against the Noetians, who were Sabelliani ante Sabellium: 'Si quis unicum Filium Dei crucifixum andiens dealitatem ejus corruptionem vel passibilitatem aut demutationem aut deminutionem vel interfectionem sustinuisse dicat: anathema sit.' The Monarchian controversy arose from the intrusion into Christian doctrine of heathen philosophy; and the affiliation of Noetus to Heraclitus is a strong proof of the truth of this assertion. In the Refitation no notice is taken of that which is mentioned in the Discourse, and by Epiphanius, namely, that Noetus alleged himself to be Moses, and his brother to be Aaronor, as Philaster gives the assertion, Elias; and it was probably nothing more than an arrogant comparison." From Hippolytus (Ref. 9:2; Wordsworth, Hipp. and his Age, p. 84-91) we learn that Epigonus, a disciple of Noetus. aided by Cleomenes, a disciple of his own disseminated the heresy at Rome in the episcopate of Zephyrinus, and that Zephyrinus, an illiterate and covetous man, was bribed into licensing Cleomenes as a teacher, and then became his convert. Irresolute, however, as well as ignorant — governed generally by his successor Callistus, who tried to hold a balance between the orthodox and heretics, but acted upon now by Cleomenes, now by Sabellius — Zephyrinus was swayed to and fro. There was an endless conflict and confusion throughout the remainder of his long episcopate (see Milman, Lat. Christ. I, 1:53, ed. 1867).

The time at which Noetus formed his heretical school at Smyrna must be gathered from this history, for the date assigned by Epiphanius is clearly inadmissible. The tenor of the narrative of Hippolytus leads to the conclusion that Zephyrinus fell into heresy some time' before his death, which was in A.D. 219. Allowance must be made for the action of Epigonus and Cleomenes before Zephyrinus joined them, and for that of Epigonus alone. Consequently the establishment of the Noetian school may be well placed at A.D. 205-210; and Praxeas, who came to Rome in the time of Victor (A.D. 192-201), was probably one of the early disciples of Noetus. Pope Callixtus, too, was guilty of the Noetian heresy, for he taught τὸν λόγον αὐτὸν εῖναι υἱόν, αὐτὸν καὶ πατέρα ὀνόμασι μὲν (δυσὶ) καλούμενον, ž ν δὲ ὄν, τὸ πνεῦμα ἀδιαίρετον. The one person is indeed nominally, but not in essence, divided (ἐν τοῦτο πρόσωπον ὀνόματι μὲν μεριζόμενον, οὐσία δ᾿ οὔ). Father and Son are not two Gods, but one; the Father, as such, did not suffer, but he "suffered with" the Son (Philos. 9:12: τὸν πατέρα συμπεπονθέναι τῷ υἱῷ οὐ. πεπονθέναι). It does not appear that there was any attempt to maintain the sect by a separate episcopal succession; and in Augustine's time the name of Noetus was almost unknown. See Hippolytus, Sermo contra hceresin Noeti, in Fabricius, Opp. Hiippolyti, 2:5 sq.; Epiphanius, Hceres. lib. vii, vol. i, p. 479; Theodoret, ficeret. Fabular. lib. iii, c. 3; Op. 4:227; Mosheim, Commentaries, 2:210 sq.; Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 1:291; Neandel, Ch. Hist. 1:584; ejusd. Dogmas, p. 164 sq.; Bull, On the Trinity; Ceillier, Hist. des Auteurs Eccles. 2:342 sq.; Pressense, Dogma, p. 174 sq.; Augusti, Dogmengesch. p. 43; Baur, Dreieinigkeitslehre, 1:254-256; Liddon, Divinity of Christ, p. 15, 425; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 1:60 sq.; Brit. and For. Evangel. Rev. Jan. 1863, art. 2. SEE NOETIANS.

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