Eusebius writes of adoptionist corruptions by Theodotus - Asclepiades , Hermophilus , and Apollonides - Little Labyrinth - Artemon

Steven Avery


In saying this I am not slandering them, as anybody who wishes can soon find out. if anyone will take the trouble to collect their several copies and compare them, he will discover frequent divergencies; for example, Asclepiades’ copies do not agree with Theodotus’. A large number are obtainable, thanks to the emulous energy with which disciples copied the ‘emendations’ or rather perversions of the text by their respective masters. Nor do these agree with Hermophilus’ copies. As for Apolloniades, his cannot even be harmonized with each other; it is possible to collate the ones which his disciples made first with those that have undergone further manipulation, and to find endless discrepancies. The impertinence of this misconduct can hardly be unknown even to the copyists. Either they do not believe that the inspired Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit - if so, they are unbelievers; or they imagine that they are wiser than He - if so, can they be other than possessed? They cannot deny that the impertinence is their own, seeing that the copies are in their own handwriting, that they did not receive the Scriptures in such a condition from their first teachers, and that they cannot produce any originals to justify their copies. Some of them have not even deigned to falsify the text, but have simply repudiated both Law and Prophets, and so under cover of a wicked, godless teaching have plunged into the lowest depths of destruction.

Orthodox Corruption

Theodotus and His Followers

In external appearance, the Roman adoptionists of the second and early third century do not seem at all like the Ebionites. They claimed no Jewish roots; they did not follow the Torah, nor practice circumcision, nor revere Jerusalem. But in other respects they appear strikingly similar: Theodotus and his followers believed that Jesus was completely and only human, born of the sexual union of his parents,30 a man who, on account of his superior righteousness, came to be adopted as the Son of God at his baptism. They also maintained that their views were apostolic, advocated by the disciples of Jesus and transmitted through true believers down to their own day.31

The patristic sources provide a relatively sparse testimony to the views of Theodotus the Cobbler, which is somewhat surprising given his distinction as the “first” to claim that Christ was a “mere man” (Greek), Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. V, 28). Of his two principal disciples, Theodotus the Banker and Artemon, little more is known than that they perpetuated their leader’s heresy with intellectual rigor and, as a result, were evidently separated from the Roman church. As might be expected, later heresiological sources supply additional anecdotal material, resting more on pious imagination than on solid evidence.32

The earliest accounts are provided by Hippolytus and the so-called Little Labyrinth—three anonymous fragments preserved by Eusebius that are often ascribed, perhaps wrongly, to Hippolytus.33 Both sources are contemporaneous with their opponents, and despite their differences, provide a basic sketch that coheres with later portrayals.34 Theodotus the Cobbler came to Rome from Byzantium in the days of Pope Victor (189-198 C.E.). He claimed that Christ was not himself divine, but was a “mere man.”35 Because Jesus was more pious than all others, at his baptism he became empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform a divine mission. According to the report of Hippolytus, Theodotus denied that this empowerment actually elevated Jesus to the level of divinity, although some of his followers claimed that Jesus did become divine in some sense, either at his baptism or at his resurrection. The Little Labyrinth reports that Theodotus’s followers insisted that the view of Jesus as fully human but not divine was the majority opinion in the Roman church until the time of Victor’s successor Zephyrinus, who “mutilated the truth.” The author of the fragment argues quite to the contrary that the belief in Jesus’ full divinity is attested both in Scripture and in a wide range of ancient Christian authors, naming in support Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, Clement, Irenaeus, and Melito. Moreover, the author insists that Victor himself had excommunicated Theodotus for his heretical views, a claim that became standard heresiological fare in later times.

The Little Labyrinth also attacks Theodotus s followers for their adoptionistic views, although, as one might expect, it provides some evidence that their theology developed over time. In particular it denounces these trouble-makers for preferring secular learning (syllogisms and geometry) to the rule of faith, and secular scholars (Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Gaien) to Christ. Furthermore, as we have seen, it accuses them of corrupting their texts of Scripture in order to make them conform to their own views.36

Need footnotes p. 313 ..
also check 101-102

Lost Christianities
Bart Ehrman

The Theodotians as Corruptors of Scripture (2006)
Bart Ehrman

4 pages online .. last 2 not

Marcion of Pontus proved to be a favorite target of the charge, in view of his conscientious decision to expunge portions of the Pauline epistles and of the Gospel according to Luke when these did not coincide with his theological system8.

8 As to whether his ‘Gospel' was in every respect the same as the canonical Luke even prior to the application of his penknife, see now David Salter Williams. ‘Reconsidering Marcion's Gospel'. JBL 108 (1989). 477-496.
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Steven Avery

Little Labyrinth
Theodotus and Artemon

Eusebius, EH.5.26-28: Orthodox Writers & the Artemon Heresy of Theodotus the Cobbler (2019-12)
Jeffrey Riddle

Chapter 28 begins with a discussion of a treatise written by one of the anonymous orthodox writers against the heresy of Artemon, which consisted of a denial of the deity of Christ. Eusebius notes that this heresy was being revived in his day by Paul of Samosata.

This heresy made a historical argument against orthodoxy, saying that Christ deity only began to be taught during the Roman bishopric of Zephyrinus, who followed Victor.

Eusebius points out that this argument is faulty since the apostles and the earliest Christian authors (including Justin, Clement, Irenaeus, and Melito) all affirmed Christ’s deity.

The founder of this movement is identified as Theodotus the cobbler, who was excommunicated by Victor.

Several other anecdotes from the anti-Artemon treatise are shared, including an account of a man named Natalius who was deceived by the disciples of Theodotus the cobbler. This Natalius was seduced to become a “bishop” in this sect when offered a large salary, but he was warned against this sect in visions and even scourged all night long by holy angels, until he repented before Zephyrinus and was restored.

The same treatise notes how those in this sect were not afraid “to corrupt the divine Scriptures.” They apparently tried to use Greek learning, even the geometry of Euclid, and Greek philosophy to “correct” Scripture.

An evidence of their error was that they could not produce”originals [antigrapha] from which they had made their copies [metagrapho].”
One of the marks of their error was that their teachings did not agree with one another.

Steven Avery

Textual Mechanic - Timothy Mitchell

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption

Exposing Textual Corruption: Community as a Stabilizing Aspect in the Circulation of the New Testament Writings during the Greco-Roman Era

4.1 The Theodotians

Eusebius preserves an account in Hist. eccl.5 of Asclepiodotus and Theodotus, who were followers of Theodotus the Cobbler, who denied the deity of Jesus. This occurred when Zephyrinus was Bishop of Rome at the end of the second and into the first years of the third century. Not only were Asclepiodotus and Theodotus accused of leading the faithful astray, they were charged with altering and ‘correcting scripture’ in order to support their divergent Christology. As evidence for this accusation, Eusebius’s source points to the manuscript tradition:

if any are willing to collect and compare with each other the texts of each of them, he would find them in great discord, for the copies of Asclepiades do not agree with those of Theodotius … the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these, the copies of Apolloniades are not even consistent with themselves, for the copies prepared by them at first can be compared with those which later underwent a second corruption, and they will be found to disagree greatly.
εἰ γάρ τις θελήσει συγκομίσας αὐτῶν ἑκάστου τὰ ἀντίγραφα ἐξετάζειν πρὸς ἄλληλα, κατὰ πολὺ ἂν εὕροι διαφωνοῦντα. ἀσύμφωνα γοῦν ἔσται τὰ Ἀσκληπιάδου τοῖς Θεοδότου … πάλιν δὲ τούτοις τὰ Ἑρμοφίλου οὐ συνᾴδει. τὰ γὰρ Ἀπολλωνιάδου οὐδὲ αὐτὰ ἑαυτοῖς ἐστιν σύμφωνα· ἔνεστιν γὰρ συγκρῖναι τὰ πρότερον ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν κατασκευασθέντα τοῖς ὕστερον πάλιν ἐπιδιαστραφεῖσιν καὶ εὑρεῖν κατὰ πολὺ ἀπᾴδοντα. (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.28.16-18) (Lake 1926: 522-25)

Eusebius, and the source he cites, are sometimes charged with creating baseless accusations in order to incite polemical rhetoric towards dissenting Christian communities.50 To be sure, it was not uncommon for early Christian apologists and church leaders to accuse those who did not fall in step with their theological persuasion of altering the text of the NT writings.51 Nevertheless, there are grounds for accepting as authentic the account of the Theodotians’ textual corruption of ‘scripture’. Due to the informal nature of ‘publication’ in antiquity (as outlined above), textual tampering of a writing would have been revealed to the wider community through the networks that circulated these same texts.
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Steven Avery

The Secession of Dynamistic Monarchianism or Adoptianism.
Theodotus’ form of teaching was, even in the life-time of its author, held in Rome to be
intolerable, and that by men disposed to Modalism — e.g., the Bishop himself, see under —
as well as by the representatives of the Logos Christology. It is certain that he was excommu-
nicated by Victor, accordingly before A.D. 199, on the charge of teaching that Christ was
“mere man” (ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος). We do not know how large his following was in the city.
We cannot put it at a high figure, since in that case the Bishop would not have ventured on
excommunication. It must, however, have been large enough to allow of the experiment of
forming an independent Church. This was attempted in the time of the Roman Bishop
Zephyrine (199-218) by the most important of the disciples of Theodotus, viz., Theodotus
the money changer, and a certain Asclepiodotus. It is extremely probable that both of these
men were also Greeks. A native, Natalius the confessor, was induced, so we are told by the
Little Labyrinth, to become Bishop of the party, at a salary of 150 denarii a month. The at-
tempt failed. The oppressed Bishop soon deserted and returned into the bosom of the great
Church. It was told that he had been persuaded by visions and finally by blows with which
“holy angels” pursued him during the night. The above undertaking is interesting in itself,
since it proves how great had already become the gulf between the Church and these Mon-
archians in Rome, about A.D. 210; but still more instructive is the sketch given of the leaders
of the party by the Little Labyrinth, a sketch that agrees excellently with the accounts given24
of the ‘λεξιθηροῦντες’ in Asia, and of the exegetic labours of the older Theodotus.39 The
offence charged against the Theodotians was threefold: the grammatical and formal exegesis
of Holy Scripture, the trenchant textual criticism, and the thorough-going study of Logic

Mathematics, and the empirical sciences. It would seem at a first glance as if these men were
no longer as a rule interested in theology. But the opposite was the case. Their opponent
had himself to testify that they pursued grammatical exegesis “in order to prove their godless
tenets,” textual criticism in order to correct the manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, and
philosophy “in order by the science of unbelievers to support their heretical conception.”
He had also to bear witness to the fact that these scholars had not tampered with the inspir-
ation of the Holy Scriptures, or the extent of the Canon (V. 28. 18).40 Their whole work,
therefore, was in the service of their theology. But the method of this work, — and we can
infer it to have been also that of the Alogi and the older Theodotus — conflicted with the25
dominant theological method. Instead of Plato and Zeno, the Adoptians revered the Empir-
icists; instead of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, the grammatical was alone held
to be valid; instead of simply accepting or capriciously trimming the traditional text, an at-
tempt was made to discover the original.41 How unique and valuable is this information!
How instructive it is to observe that this method struck the disciple of the Apologists and
Irenæus as strange, nay, even as heretical, that while he would have seen nothing to object
to in the study of Plato, he was seized with horror at the idea of Aristotle, Euclid, and Galen,
being put in the place of Plato! The difference was, indeed, not merely one of method. In
the condition of the theology of the Church at that time, it could not be supposed that reli-
gious conviction was especially strong or ardent in men who depreciated the religious
philosophy of the Greeks. For whence, if not from this source, or from Apocalyptics, did
men then derive a distinctively pious enthusiasm?42 It is also little to be wondered at that