Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2372
Pope Alexander (the early 2nd c.) sends the presbyter Sabinianus to Sicily to refute heresy of Heracleon. Sabinianus is so effective that Heracleon escapes Sicily in the middle of the night and is no more heard of. Arnobius the Younger, Praedestinatus, probably c. 440 in Rome.
Praedestinatus 1.16
Sexta decima haeresis Heracleonitarum ab Heracleone adinuenta est, qua baptizatum hominem siue iustum siue peccatorem loco sancti computari docebat, nihil que obesse baptizatis peccata memorabat, dicens, sicut non in se recipit natura ignis gelu, ita baptizatus non in se recipit peccatum. Sicut enim ignis resoluit aspectu suo niues, quantaecumque iuxta sint, sic semel baptizatus non recipit peccatorum reatum, etiam quantauis fuerint operibus eius peccata permixta. Hic in partibus Siciliae inchoauit docere. Contra hunc susceperunt episcopi Siculorum, Eustachius Lilybaeorum et Panormeorum Theodorus. Qui que omnium qui per Siciliam erant episcoporum synodum exorantes, gestis eum audire decreuerunt, et uniuersas assertiones eius dirigentes ad sanctum Alexandrum urbis episcopum rogauerunt ut ad eum confutandum aliquid ordinaret. Tunc sanctus Alexander, ad singula quaeque capita hydri singulos gladios dei uerbi de uagina diuinae legis eiciens, librum contra Heracleonem ordinans, feruentissimum in ingenio Sabinianum presbyterum destinauit, qui et scriptis episcopi et assertione sua ita eum confutaret ut noctu media nauis praesidio fugeret et ultra ubinam deuenisset penitus nullus sciret.
(ed. F. Gori 2000, 16)
Praedestinatus 1.16
The sixteenth heresy is that of Heracleonites founded by Heracleon, which taught that a baptized man, whether he is just or a sinner, should be counted as a saint and it said that the sins of a baptized person bring no harm, saying that just as the nature of fire does not receive to itself ice, the baptized does not receive in himself the sin. Because as snow melts confronted with fire, so the baptized does not incur the guilt of sins regardless of how much his deeds were mixed up with sins. He started to teach that in Sicily. The bishop of Sicilians, Eustachius of Lilybaeum and Theodor of Panormos wrote against it. They also had summoned all the bishops of Sicily to a council, and when they did, they decreed that they should hear [Heracleon] out. They send all his statements to holy Alexander, bishop of Rome and asked him to do something to confute him. Then holy Alexander, drawing the swords of the Word of God from the sheath of the divine law against each head [=chapter] of the hydra, published a book against Heracleon. He dispatched Sabinianus, a presbyter of the most fervent intellect, who refuted him by the bishop's writings and with his own assertions so well that he escaped by the ship in the middle of the night and no one knew more about him, wherever he went.
(trans. M. Szada)


Heracleon was a Gnostic thinker active in the second century (but more probably its second half, and not the first, as the Praedestinatus claims making him the contemporary of Alexander). He is mentioned in connection with Valentinus by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Hippolytus of Rome (Refutation of all heresies). Hippolytus links him with Italy so the claim of Praedestinatus that Heracleon was active in Sicily is not in itself improbable. Augustine in De haeresibus - the work which was a template for Book 1 of Praedestinatus - also names Heracleonites in chapter 16 but he does not give any historical information about them. He only says that they are said to "so to speak redeem anew their dying, that is by oil, balm and water and invocations which they said in Hebrew above their heads." The opinions about baptism Arnobius ascribes to them are not attested elsewhere. We do not know from where Arnobius took his information about Heracleon and Heracleonites but it is not very probable that it has historical value.

Place of event:

  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily
  • Rome
  • Rome

About the source:

Author: Arnobius the Younger
Title: Praedestinatus
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian, Pelagian
The author named Arnobius (usually called Arnobius the Younger to distinguish him from the third-century author Arnobius of Sicca) is known only from the works attributed to him in the manuscript tradition: the so-called Praedestinatus, the Commentarii in Psalmos, and several others smaller works (e.g. Liber ad Gregoriam, a consolation to a woman in difficult marriage). From the evidence of these works we can say that their author was a monk who lived in Rome in the mid-fifth century. Praedestinatus was surely written during the pontificate of Sixtus III, ca 435 (but there are some who doubt attribution to Arnobius, see note in Clavis Patrum Latinorum 243). His most famous work is the Conflictus cum Serapione on the Christological positions held by the churches of Rome and Alexandria. This works assumes the positions promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon so it was written after 451.
The Praedestinatus is a treatise opposing the doctrine of predestination as formulated by Augustine during his involvement of the so-called Pelagian controversy. The cited passage comes from the first part of the work, the catalogue of heresies based on Augustine`s De haeresibus.
Gori, F. ed.), Praedestinatus qui dicitur, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 25B, Turnhout, 2000.
D. Stiernon, "Heracleon", in Di Berardino, A. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, vol. 2, col. 213


Travel and change of residence
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
Education - Theological interest
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2372,