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(ō`fīts) [Gr.,=believers in the serpent], group of Gnostic sects notorious for extreme cultism and inverted morality. Certain of these sects were known as Naasseni. Almost all that is known of Ophitism has been gleaned from St. Irenaeus, Origen, and other writers opposed to GnosticismGnosticism
, dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.
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. The Ophites carried to extremes the teaching of MarcionMarcion
, c.85–c.160, early Christian bishop, founder of the Marcionites, one of the first great Christian heresies to rival Catholic Christianity. He was born in Sinope. He taught in Asia Minor, then went (c.135) to Rome, where he perfected his theory.
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 that an essential hostility exists between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. The Ophites held that the Old Testament villains were actually heroes and revered Cain, the Sodomites, and the Egyptians. Specially worshiped was the serpent, as the creature in Eden that tried to give Adam and Eve the knowledge withheld from them by Jehovah. Much of the serpent worship and the occult ritualism was probably symbolic of certain esoteric knowledge. The Ophites acknowledged Jesus as the savior, but rejected the importance of the crucifixion; Christ came to reveal gnosis (knowledge), not to die for people's sins. One Ophitic hymn, the Hymn of the Naasenes, survives.


See E. Buonaiuti, Gnostic Fragments (1924); R. M. Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (1959, rev. ed. 1966).

References in periodicals archive ?
Because of its hardness, ophite has occasionally been mined for road metal in the Archidona area.
A few years later it was found in the Spanish province of Huesca, near a village named Caserras, where it occurred filling fractures in ophite, associated with scolecite and prehnite.
In 1982 Besteiro and Lago described specimens from a Pyrenees ophite.
The Antequera occurrence described here consists of distinctive, fibrous masses on and in quartz crystals, and as sky-blue coatings to 3 mm thick on fracture surfaces in ophite.
By these lights Ahab is a Blakean-Byronic-Shelleyan hero of the type of Cain or Prometheus, implicitly identifying "the accuser who is God of this world" with a malignant, prosecutorial demiurge, or even the devil himself (as in Ophite readings of the Old Testament).