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3. A Christian teacher, charged with heresy by Epiphanius and Augustin, and classed by Photius and Peter of Sicily with the Manichaeans. Tillemont and Cave agree in placing him at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, and their judgment is confirmed by the manner in which Epiphanius, writing about A. D. 375, refers to his death. Epiphanius writes the name Ἱέρακας, John of Damascus calls him Hierax (Ἱέραξ); in Augustin and the work entitled Praedestinatus it is written Hieraca. According to Epiphanius and John of Damascus, he was of Leontus (ἐντῆ Γεοντῷ) or Leontopolis, in Egypt, and was eminent for his attainments in every kind of knowledge cultivated by the Egyptians and the Greeks, especially in medicine : but he was perhaps only slightly, if at all, acquainted with astronomy and magic. He was thoroughly versed in the Old and New Testaments, and wrote expositions of them. The excellence of his life, and his power of persuasion, enabled him to spread his peculiar views very widely among the Egyptian ascetics. His abstinence was remarkable, but not beyond what his constitution could bear, for he is said to have lived to more than ninety years, and was distinguished to the day of his death by the undiminished clearness of his sight, and by his beautiful writing. His obnoxious opinions were a denial of the resurrection of the body, and of a heaven perceptible by the senses; the repudiation of marriage, for he believed that none of those who married could inherit the kingdom of heaven; the rejection from the kingdom of heaven of such as die before they have become moral agents, inasmuch as they can have done nothing to obtain admission, "quia non sunt illis," as Augustin expresses it. "illa merita certaminis quo vitia superantur." He held that the Son was truly begotten of the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was from the Father; but added that Melchizedek was the Holy Ghost. Hierax became the funder of a sect called the Hieracitae (Ἱερακῖται), into which, consistently enough, none but unmarried persons (“conjugia non habentes”) were admitted. Those who were regarded as his most thorough disciples abstained from animal food. The author of the work Κατὰ πασῶν τῶν αἱρέσεων, Contra omnes Haereses, usually printed along the works of Athanasius, says (100.9) that they rejected the Old Testament; but this must be understood to mean that they rejected it as a perfect rule of life, deeming it abrogated by the higher moral standard of Christianity. John of Damascus says they used the Old as well as the New Testament. John of Carpathus charges them with denying the human nature of Christ, and with holding that God, matter, and evil, are three original principles. But Epiphanius does not enumerate these among their errors.


The works of Hierax were numerous; he wrote both in the Greek and Egyptian (i. e. Coptic) languages : besides his Expositions of the Scriptures, or more probably as a part of them, he wrote on the Hexaemeron, introducing, says Epiphanius, many fables and allegories. He wrote also many psalms or sacred songs, ψαλμούς τε πολλοὺς νεωτερικούς. His works are now known only by the few brief citations of Epiphanius.

Hierax and his followers not Manichaean

Lardner has shown the impropriety of classing Hierax and his followers with the Manichaeans, from whom the earlier writers expressly distinguish them; but with whom Photius and Peter of Sicily, and, among moderns, Fabricius and Beausobre confound them.

Identity of Hierax the Manichaean and Hieracas, founder of the Hieracites

Some have attempted, but without just ground, to distinguish between Hierax, the reputed Manichaean, and Hieracas, founder of the Hieracites.

Further Information

Epiphan. Panarium Haeres. 67 ; Augustin, De Haeres. 100.47; Anonymi Praedestinatus, lib. 1. c.4, apud Galland. Bibl. Patr. vol. x. p. 370; Athanas. Opera, vol. ii. p. 235, ed. Benedictin; Joan. Damasc. De Hueres. 100.67 ; Opera, vol. i. p. 91, ed. Lequien; Cave, Hist. Litt. vol. i. p. 161, ed. Oxford, 1740-1743; Beausobre, Hist. du Manichéisnisme, liv. ii. ch. 7.2, vol. i. p. 430, &c.; Fabric. Bibl. Gr. vol. vii. p. 321, vol. ix. p. 246; Lardner. Credibility, part ii. bk. 1.63.7; Tillemont, Mém. vol. iv. p. 411, &c.


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375 AD (1)
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