Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online

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Among the most venomous of false doctrines constructed by the relentless heresy hunters of the early church were groups that supposedly worshipped snakes. Two imaginary Christian groups with imposed reptilian names received such a questionable honor: the Ophites and the Naassenes (from the Greek and Hebrew words for snake, ὄφις, and nāḥāš, respectively). While such groups probably never existed – let alone formed a coherent movement – texts with developed snake mythology and ingenious exegesis of biblical…

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Rasimus, Tuomas, “Ophites/Naassenes”, in: Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online, General Editor David G. Hunter, Paul J.J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte. Consulted online on 27 September 2023 <>
First published online: 2018

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