http://earlychristianwritings.com/text/ ... thias.html
(Question 1) Was Deacon Nicolas of Acts 6:5 the leader of the Nicolaitans or did they just name themselves after him?
"Nicolaitans" is a proper noun derived from "Nicolas". Clement of Alexandria says that Nicolaus offered his wife to the apostles, in accordance with the saying "One must abuse the flesh." Clement says that a group following his "heresy and action" indulged in passions but that he heard that this was not actually Nicolas' intent, that Nicolas was chaste, and that Nicolas' offer was sarcastic. Clement notes that a similar saying was passed down by Matthias:
Irenaeus on the other hand makes it sound like Nicolas founded the Nicolaitan sect:Stromata II.20
Such also are those who say that they follow Nicolaus, quoting an adage of the man, which they pervert, "that the flesh must be abused." But the worthy man showed that it was necessary to check pleasures and lusts, and by such training to waste away the impulses and propensities of the flesh. But they, abandoning themselves to pleasure like goats, as if insulting the body, lead a life of self-indulgence; not knowing that the body is wasted, being by nature subject to dissolution; while their soul is buffed in the mire of vice; following as they do the teaching of pleasure itself, not of the apostolic man.
We also mentioned the blasphemous immorality of Carpocrates. But when we spoke about the saying of Nicolaus we omitted to say this. Nicolaus, they say, had a lovely wife. When after the Saviour's ascension he was accused before the apostles of jealousy, he brought his wife into the concourse and allowed anyone who so desired to marry her. For, they say, this action was appropriate to the saying: "One must abuse the flesh." Those who share his heresy follow both his action and his words simply and without qualification by indulging in the gravest enormity.
I am informed, however, that Nicolaus never had relations with any woman other than the wife he married, and that of his children his daughters remained virgins to their old age, and his son remained uncorrupted. In view of this it was an act of suppression of passion when he brought before the apostles the wife on whose account he was jealous. He taught what it meant to "abuse the flesh" by restraining the distracting passions. For, as the Lord commanded, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and God. It is said that Matthias also taught that one should fight the flesh and abuse it, never allowing it to give way to licentious pleasure, so that the soul might grow by faith and knowledge.
John's Apocalypse doesn't openly specify that the Nicolaiatans eat meat sacrificed to idols and commit fornication, but ascribes those sins to those who follow Balaam's instructions. Still, Revelation could be setting up a dichotomy that compares the same kinds of groups and sins in Old Testament times:The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
— Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, i. 26, §3
(Question 2) Was the Gospel / Traditions of Matthias gnostic?Revelation 2
6 But this thou [the church of Ephesus] hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I [Jesus Christ] also hate.
14 But I have a few things against thee [the church in Pergamos], because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
The saying about the abuse of the flesh that Deacon Nicolas, the Nicolaitans, and the Gospel of Matthias used reminds me of Paul's statement, "I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself should be castaway" (1 Cor 9:27)
So the statement is not itself heretical or gnostic. Both similar statements, those by Paul and ascribed to Matthias, are ascetic. The saying ascribed to Matthias, however, sets the goal of "knowledge", which could indicate gnosticism. And Augustine ascribed to the Nicolaitans Cerinthian gnostic theories about the world's creation (Augustine, De haeresibus ad Quodvultdeum, v).
It's worth pointing out that Clement of Alexandria discusses the Nicolaitans in the context of a discussion on the Carpocratans, who indulged the flesh.
Even though Paul's statement about mortifying the flesh resembles the statement from the traditions of Matthias, the gnostics did have a major anti-material and anti-flesh focus. So the ideas of abusing the flesh and achieving knowledge/gnosis do overlap with gnosticism.
(Question 3) Was the Gospel of Matthias authored by gnostics like Basilides?
Here in Stromata VII:13, Clement of Alexandria says that the gnostics quote from the traditions of Matthias, but that what they adduce from Matthias isn't authentic because it contradicts Matthias' teaching. The book with Hort's 1902 translation has the Greek text and gives the Greek name here as "MatФiav", although Roberts and Donaldson redact this into Matthew:
Hort and Mayor's translation of Stromata VII puts these passages as: "In the Traditions of Matthias (MatФiav), it is written that 'if the neighbor... [etc.]'" and "...though they profess to cite the opinion of Matthias (Матфiov)" (https://archive.org/details/clementalex ... /page/n102)They say in the traditions that Matthew (Greek: MatФiav, Matthias) the apostle constantly said, that "if the neighbour of an elect man sin, the elect man has sinned. For had he conducted himself as the Word prescribes, his neighbour also would have been filled with such reverence for the life he led as not to sin."
Of the heresies, some receive their appellation from a [person's] name, as that which is called after Valentinus, and that after Marcion, and that after Basilides, although they boast of adducing the opinion of Matthew [(Матфiov, Matthias)] [without truth]; for as the teaching, so also the tradition of the apostles was one.
(William Wilson's translation from "Ante-Nicene Fathers", Roberts' and Donaldson's edition)
Hippolytus writes: "Basilides, therefore, and Isidorus, the true son and disciple of Basilides, say that Matthias communicated to them secret discourses, which, I being specially instructed, he heard from the Saviour."
Hippolytus summarizes Basilides' discourses on the time when there was nothing and on the meaning of this concept. Hippolytus says that they got their system from Aristotle and concludes: "And these heretics bring this (system) to light as if it were peculiarly their own, and as if it were some novel (doctrine), and some secret disclosure from the discourses of Matthias."
(Haer. 7.20 , J.H. MacMahon's translation in "Ante-Nicene Fathers", Roberts' and Donaldson's edition, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050107.htm)
(Question 4) Could the "Gospel of Matthias" or "Traditions of Matthias" be related to the gnostic Book of Thomas the Contender?
The references in Hippolytus and Clement of Alexanderia to gnostics using Matthias' supposed secret words of Jesus remind me of the Nag Hammadi "Book of Thomas the Contender", since one of the sayings in that book is:
An interesting thing there is that Matthias was chosen to replace Judas (although there is no mention of Judas being called Judas Thomas), and that there are gnostic gospels of Judas and of Thomas."The secret words that the savior spoke to Judas Thomas which I, even I, Mathaias, wrote down, while I was walking, listening to them speak with one another."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_T ... _Contender
About the Book of Thomas the Contender, Wikipedia says:
The last part about overcoming lusts also reminds me of the Gospel of Matthias.An additional consideration is that, since the scribe writing the text is named as Matthias, this work may actually be the lost Gospel of Matthias. The dialogue can also be read as an internal conversation between Jesus and his lower self, Judas Thomas, the twin (contender for supremacy of the soul). The New Testament's "doubting" Thomas and Judas "the betrayer" could also be symbolic and descriptive of this internal battle between the Christ Self and ego identity.
"The Book of Thomas the Contender" and its guidance in overcoming ego "lusts/attachments" differs markedly with Jesus' gentler, more practical psychological approach in the Four Canonical Gospels and The Gospel of Thomas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_T ... _Contender
A big problem with equating them is that even though Clement A. doesn't cite much at all of g.Matthias, his quotes aren't found in the Book of Thomas the Contender.
(Question 5) Is the apostle Matthew the same as the tax collector Levi as the Gospel of the Hebrews proposes, and is Matthias the tax collector Zaccheus as Clement of Alexandria proposes?
Maybe this is confusing because Matthew and Matthias are the same name in Aramaic and Matthew was a tax collector.
Matthew's and Mark's Gospels seem to equate Matthew and Levi:
Jerome agrees that Matthew is Levi:Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
Mark 2:13 Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
Based on Luke 19's claim that Zacchaeus didn't know who Jesus was when he climbed the sycamore tree, and Acts 1:21-23's claim that Matthias had been with Jesus since Jesus' baptism, it would appear that Zacchaeus is not Matthias.Matthew, who is also Levi, the ex-publican apostle, first composed in Hebraic letters the gospel of Christ in Judea on account of those who had believed from among the circumcision;
(From: Jerome, On Famous Men 3)
But Clement of Alexandria writes:Luke 19: 2. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
Acts 1: 21. “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22. beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And in Luke 19, Zacchaeus did become a follower of Jesus. Besides that, maybe Acts 1 does not mean that each man had been with Jesus since His baptism, but that this collection of men had been with Jesus since Jesus' baptism.So Zacchaeus, whom they call Matthias, the chief tax collector, when he had heard that the Lord had esteemed him highly enough to be with Him, said, 'Behold, half of my present possessions I give as alms, and Lord, if I ever extorted money from anyone in any way, I return it fourfold.' At this, the Saviour said, 'When the Son of Man came today, he found that which was lost' (Stromata 126.96.36.199).
Alternately, Didymus the Blind wrote:
(Question 6) Why should the Gospel or Traditions of Matthias be dated to the second century, but not potentially earlier?(Scripture) seems to call Matthew "Levi" in the Gospel of Luke. Yet it is not a question of one and the same person. Rather Matthias, who was installed (as apostle) in place of Judas, and Levi are the same person with a double name. This is clear from the Gospel of the Hebrews.(Didymus the Blind, Commentary on the Psalms 184.9–10)
The Early Writings webpage says:
Basilides is considered to have taught in Egypt from 117 to 138 AD, and died in about 140 AD, but I don't know the date of his birth. He probably wouldn't have lived past 80-90, putting his birth date as 50-60 AD at the earliest. And Matthias is considered to have been martyred, perhaps in Ethiopia, in about 80 AD. So Basilides could have learned teachings from Matthias at 20-30 years of age, and then taught them many years later in the early 2nd century. But this seems unlikely.Jon B. Daniels writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 4, p. 644):
...The quotations are not overtly gnostic, but according to Clement (Strom. 7.17.108) teachings of Matthias were used by Basilideans and perhaps other gnostic groups. According to Hippolytus (Haer. 7.20.1) Basilides and his son Isidore claimed to have learned from Matthias 'secret words,' which he had received in private teaching from the Savior.
Daniels also writes:
Traditions of Matthias probably was composed in Egypt in the first half of the 2d century.
(Question 7) Does the teaching below from the Traditions of Matthias sound like anything in the Bible?
Clement of Alexandria writes:
Leviticus 19:17 says: "You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him."They say that Matthias the apostle in the Traditions says at every opportunity, "If the neighbor of an elect person sins, the elect person sins. For if he had led himself as the word dictates, the neighbor would have been in awe of his life so that he did not sin."
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 188.8.131.52
The Russian theologian Lopuhin takes this OT verse to mean that one shouldn't hate one's neighbor, but should rebuke the neighbor directly instead of harboring hate or enacting revenge.
Walter wilson in his book "The Sentences of Sextus" (p. 199) relates this quote from the Traditions of Matthias to Sentence 174 from the Sentences of Sextus (c.180-230 AD), which goes "(174) The sins of those who are ignorant are the shame of those who have taught them."
In Mores Catholici: Books VII-IX (1891), Kenelm Henry Digby says that the quote from Traditions of Matthias differs from modern teachings, but he notes that St. Bernard said:
I have heard on several occasions that according to the Orthodox church, priests are considered responsible for their flocks' salvation and therefore also guilty if their flock is condemned. Someone on the Catholic Answers Forum commented, quoting St. John Chrysostom:Let no one, brethren, dissemble and flatter sins; let no one say, Am I my brother's guardian? Let no one be indifferent when he sees decay of discipline; for to be silent when you can admonish, is to consent to sin; and we know that they who commit sin, and they who consent to it, will be punished alike.
I don’t think the Catholic Church teaches that if a soul is lost it is automatically the bishop’s fault, but only if he did not do his due diligence–if he was negligent in his duties. I think ultimately that is what St. John Chrysostom intended as well (note his analogy with one causing another’s death). The Lord Himself may not save all.
Do you not see what a number of qualifications the Bishop must have? To be apt to teach, patient, holding fast the faithful word in doctrine. What trouble and pains does this require! And then, others do wrong, and he bears all the blame. To pass over every thing else: if one soul depart unbaptized, does not this subvert all his own prospect of salvation? The loss of one soul carries with it a penalty which no language can represent. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value, that the Son of God became man, and suffered so much, think how sore a punishment must the losing of it bring! And if in this present life he who is cause of another’s destruction is worthy of death, much more in the next world. Do not tell me, that the presbyter is in fault, or the deacon. The guilt of all these comes perforce upon the head of those who ordained them.