NICOLAITANS (nileo-Wi-tanz), (Gr. NocoXcaral, nikh-ol-ah-ee-tah-ee', followers of Nicolas), occurs twice in the New Testament (Rev. ii:6, 15).
(1) Conduct and Doctrine Condemned. In the former passage the conduct of the Nicolaitans is condemned ; in the latter, the angel of the church in Pergamos is censured because certain members of his church held their doctrine.
(2) Practices. Various traditionary accounts have been given by the fathers of the origin and practices of this sect. Many of the primitive writ ers believed that Nicholas was rather the occasion than the author of the infamous practices of those who assumed his name, who were expressly con demned by the Spirit of God himself (I2ev. ii :6). And, indeed, their ()pinions and actions were highly extravagant and criminal. They allowed a community of wives, and made no distinction be tween ordinary meats and those offered to idols. According to Eusebius, they subsisted but a short time ; but Tertullian says, that they only changed their name, and that their heresies pa,sed into the sect of the Cainites (3) Gnostics. It is evident from these counts that the Nicolaitans with whom they were acquainted were Gnostics; since they impute to them .the distinctive tenets and practices of the Cmostics. But in the short allusion in Rev. ii :6, is, there is nothing to identify the tenets or con duct alluded to with Gnosticism, even supposing that Gnosticism, properly so called. existed in the
Apostolic age, which to say the least, has not been provcd to be the case. So that the conjecture mentioned by Mosheim, and which Tertullian ap pears to favor, may be regarded as probable, that the Ntcolaitans mentioned in Revelation had er roneously been confounded with a party of Gnos tics formed at a later period by one Nicolas.
Theingenious conjecture of Michaelis is worthy of consideration, who supposes that by Nicolaitans ( Rev. :6, 15) the same class of persons is intend ed whom St. Peter (2 Pet. ii :15) describes as followers of the way of &loam; and that their name, Nicolaitans, is merely a Greek translation of their Hebrew designation. The only objection which occurs to us against this very ingenious and probable supposition arises front the circum stance that, in the passage in ReV. ii :14, 15, both 'they that hold the doctrine of Balaam,' and 'the Nicolaitans,' are specified. and are distin guished from each other: `So hast thou also,' the Nicolaitans, as well as the Balaamites, mentioned in the previous verse. So that whatever general agreement there might be between those twc classes of heretics—and their collocation in the passage before us seems to imply that there was such agreement—it appears equally evident that some distinction also must have separated them the one from the other. R. L.