APELLES (Greek ’Απελλης)—a Gnostic of the second century, the founder of the sect of the Apellites.

Apelles studied in Rome under Marcion, then in Alexandria where he became familiar with Platonic philosophy. After returning to Rome (probably in the reign of Commodus) he taught and engaged in philosophical disputes (with Rhodon and others). He was the author of philosophical and religious works: Revelations and Syllogisms, which have perished; it is thought that he based his views on the visions of his student Philomena. We learn of Apelles’ work and doctrine from the accounts of Eusebius (HE V 13, 1–7); Origen (in epistolam ad Titum—PG 14, 1303 D) and Pseudo-Tertullian (Adversus omnes haereses, 6) speak of him, and St. Ambrose in De Paradiso (PL 14, 291–332) cites fragments of the Syllogisms.

Apelles rejected Marcion’s dualism and taught that one eternal and good God exists who created angels and other spiritual beings; the terrestrial world is modeled after the perfect celestial world and is the work of one of those spiritual beings—a demiurge identified with Yahweh of the Old Testament. The world, however, turned out to be very imperfect, and so God sent his Son, Christ, to correct to work of the demiurge and save souls who were lured to earth by the creator of the world. Apelles rejected the Docetism that was characteristic of most Gnostics but he did not believe that Christ was born of Mary, for the Son of God possessed a true body “woven” of four astral elements and he cast the body aside after his resurrection. Apelles did not believe in the resurrection of the body, rejected the Old Testament, and only accepted certain books of the New Testament.

A. Harnac, De Apelles gnosi monarchica, L 1874; C. Gianotoo, DPAC I 226; J. Quasten, Patrologia, Tn 1992, I 240–242; 253, 524, 555.

Anna Z. Zmorzanka

<--Go back