Simple enough. Starting with early church and patristic fathers what was the historical interpretation of Nicolaitans in Revelations 2:15?

2:15 In the same way, there are also some among you who follow the teaching of the Nicolaitans [NET Bible]

Upon what hermeneutic is their interpretation based?

  • 1
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    – Frank Luke
    Jun 18, 2014 at 13:45
  • @stefan Are you addressing both Rev 2:6 and Rev 2:15? Jun 18, 2014 at 13:49
  • Hi @JohnMartin it is the same word in each case, so feel free to include.
    – stefan
    Jun 19, 2014 at 14:51
  • @stefan I edited the title. Jun 19, 2014 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


Two church fathers alluded to Rev. 2:6 when they wrote:

"And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols."(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies VII-103)

"Enough it is for us that this heresy of the Nicolaitans has been condemned by the Apocalypse of the Lord with the weightiest authority attaching to a sentence, in saying "Because this thou holdest, thou hatest the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which I too hate."(Pseudo-Tertullian, Against All Heresies 24)

Concerning the Nicolaitans, Alford remarked:

"There is no sort of reason for interpreting the name otherwise than historically. It occurs in a passage indicating simple matters of historical fact" (cited in Vincent's Word Studies).

Vincent personally explained that there are two explanations of the name Nicolaitans, one historical, and the other not historical. Historically:

  1. "A sect springing ... from Nicholas ... one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), who apostatized from the truth, and became the founder of an Antinomian Gnostic sect. They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity." (Vincent, Word Studies)
  2. "The Nicolaitans taught that, in order to master sensuality, one must know the whole range of it by experience; and that he should therefore abandon himself without reserve to the lusts of the body, since they concerned only the body and did not touch the spirit. These heretics were hated and expelled by the Church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:6), but were tolerated by the Church of Pergamum (Rev. 2:15)." (ibid.)

Non-historically, according to Vincent:

"[T]he name [is] symbolic, and Nicholas [is] the Greek rendering of Balaam, whose name signifies destroyer or corrupter of the people." (ibid.)

  • Thanks for your answer @Pat Ferguson. Very interested to know if historically the grammatical interpretation was considered. Ie. Did early church give any weight to the grammatical interpretation you mention at the end of your answer.
    – stefan
    Aug 18, 2014 at 1:34

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