Alogi (Greek: a, privative and logos, “word”; sc. “Deniers of the Word”). St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., III, ii, 9) makes a brief reference to persons who denied the manifestation of the Paraclete, and refused, in consequence, to admit the Gospel of St. John, wherein it is announced. He gives the party no name. St. Hippolytus combated such an error both in his Syntagma and in a special work entitled “In Defense of the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse.” These works are lost, but a good share of their contents is believed to have been preserved by St. Epiphanius. St. Epiphanius (Haer. LI) gives a long account of the party of heretics who arose after the Cataphrygians, Quartodecimans, and others, and who received neither the Gospel of St. John nor his Apocalypse. He calls them Alegi (deniers of the Word) because, by rejecting the Gospel of St. John, they rejected the Logos which was revealed in that Gospel. Playing on the term, he observes, with a touch of sarcasm, that they are well named, “alogi”, i.e. “without reason”. These heretics would seem to answer to the description of the obscure persons mentioned by St. Irenaeus, and this is in fact the prevalent opinion about them. The Alogi, accordingly, may be described as a party which arose in Asia Minor towards the end of the second century. They doubtless embodied a radical protest against the abuse which the Montanists made of the promised Paraclete, and of the Paraclete‘s outpourings in visions and prophecies. This would explain why they were led to deny the Gospel of St. John, which foretold the coming of the Holy Spirit, and why again they refused all credit to the Apocalypse, which, with its description of the Heavenly Jerusalem and of the reign of a thousand years, fed the imagination of the enthusiasts of Phrygia. The Alogi attributed these two books to Cerinthus. It is not altogether clear that they denied, in addition, the Godhead of the Son and His eternal generation. St. Epiphanius does, indeed, say that they rejected the Logos preached by St. John, but he is evidently perplexed by their stupidity in attributing to Cerinthus a Gospel which was written against him. For Cerinthus taught that Christ was mere man, whereas John, in this very book, preaches His Godhead. It may, therefore, well be that the Alegi did not reject the doctrine itself but only the Logos form under which the doctrine was presented in the Gospel. And St. Epiphanius seems to imply as much, “for,” he says, “they themselves seem to believe as we do.” Be this as it may, the interest of scholars attaches not so much to their christology as to the biblical criticism they developed. It was, doubtless, a doctrinal prepossession which impelled them to reject the Gospel of St. John and the Apocalypse. But they endeavored to maintain their contention by arguments drawn from an examination of the hooks themselves. The Gospel of St. John contained, they said, what was untrue; according to them it was not in accord with the other Gospels, mixed up the synoptic order of events, and was, moreover, docetic in doctrine. They made still less account of the Apocalypse, which, they claimed, was often unintelligible, not to say puerile and false. Apropos of Apoc. ii, 18, they asserted that there was no Christian church in Thyatira at the time. This anti-Catholic movement has been closely studied, since the Johannine question was broached in the last century, for further light on the position and authority of the Fourth Gospel in the early church.
FRANCIS P. HAVEY