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Priscillian and Nicolaitism

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

Priscillian was censured of both doctrinal heresy and sexual immorality by his accusers. On the question of his alleged sexual exploits, this issue merits a closer look than has been previously done by modern researchers. Some scholars believe the conciliar decrees of the Iberian Peninsula regarding relations between men and women are a response, directly and indirectly, to illicit relations in Priscillianist circles.1 It is further argued that these decrees reflect an episcopal attempt to bring women into greater submission to men within and outside of Priscillianist groups.2 There has been, moreover, some discord among some researchers as to whether Priscillian was ever accused of Nicolaitism.3 There are, however, other pressing questions that I will explore in this article that will shed light on these concerns in Priscillian scholarship. Specifically, my agenda is: (a) to identify precisely in the anti-Priscillian literature which writers were responsible for accusing Priscillian and his followers of sexual immorality; (b) In the same vein, to engage any evidence which identifies whether Nicolaitism was ever attributed to Priscillianists; and (c), Lastly, to distinguish between rumor based misinformation about sexual libertarianism as opposed to what was actually decreed officially in conciliar legislation.

Affiliations: 1: Seattle Pacific University


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